February 24, 2001 North Carolina Speedway BRETT BODINE --11-- Ralphs Supermarkets/RedCell Batteries Taurus "We had a big problem this morning. We burned up a transmission and a gear this morning and lost a whole bunch of...
February 24, 2001 North Carolina Speedway
BRETT BODINE --11-- Ralphs Supermarkets/RedCell Batteries Taurus
"We had a big problem this morning. We burned up a transmission and a gear this morning and lost a whole bunch of practice time, but that's a real good pickup for us. We picked up over two-and-a-half tenths and that's a little bit more than I expected. That will get us in solid and we'll be OK for the race."
RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus
"That's about what we ran in practice. I don't think the early draw helped us any and it may not hurt us either, we'll have to wait and see. But that's pretty much what we ran in practice, so we're pretty well pleased with that."
HARD TO FOCUS THIS WEEKEND?
"You get here and sort of block things out from last week and you pick up and go on. Again, it's not easy. You have to keep thinking back to last week a little bit, but when you're in the car that's actually the best time -- when you're buckled up in the car driving the race track. That's all you've got to think about then is driving that race track."
KURT BUSCH --97-- Roush Racing Taurus
"That's a great pickup from where we were in practice. It's a good thing we're learning everytime we go out, otherwise I'd be a little miffed. But this is what Winston Cup racing is all about, you have to keep working at it and trying different things. Right now we've got the 97 car pretty comfortable and we're comparable to the other Roush cars. We want to stay close to them because we know they're doing it right."
ROBERT PRESSLEY --77-- Jasper Engines Taurus
"We unloaded really fast, but we've been just a little bit tight ever since. In my qualifying lap the car just would not turn, but I think we'll get this thing ready and be ready to race."
YOU WORE THE HANS DEVICE DURING YOUR ATLANTA TEST EARLIER THIS WEEK. WHAT
DID YOU THINK ABOUT IT?
"I worked with it today too and I think it's something I'm gonna stay with in the future. It's not that bad. The only bad thing is getting in and out of the car, but other than that it's something I'm getting used to. I actually put one on at Indy last year and it just didn't feel good, but I never tried it on in the car. When I put it on at Atlanta, we made some modifications to it and tested with it on for two days and now when I get in the race car I can't even tell I've got it on."
ELLIOTT SADLER --21-- Motorcraft Taurus
"We were pretty good at the end of practice, but I was just way too loose there. I was loose the whole time and we just never could get it tightened up, so it's been kind of a struggle. I hope we don't have to take a provisional because that would kill us if we had to do that."
MATT KENSETH --17-- DeWalt Tools Taurus
"I don't know what's going on. We're about the slowest car here and I don't know why. I didn't think it was handling that bad, but it must be. I don't really know. We've been a little bit too loose since we got here, but I don't think we're that far off. I don't know what we're doing wrong."
IS IT HARD TO FOCUS?
"Not really. I mean, once you get to the race track you're just doing the same stuff you always do, and you just try to go on the best you can."
DALE JARRETT --88-- UPS Taurus
WAS THAT A COMFORTABLE LAP?
"Anything but. We made an adjustment to try to free the car up a little bit and we did that. We accomplished that part. We were loose in and loose off, but we'd been a little tight in the center and we thought if we could help it there we'd be better. It's unfortunate. We just made a wrong choice there and we'll have to get ready to race now."
YOU RACE BETTER HERE THAN QUALIFY.
"We had a time here when we were qualifying pretty well, but I don't know. It's tough to make the laps around here and to get the car freed up just right but not too much. We had a good car this morning. I felt really good with it, but Todd and I got together and felt we needed to make a little bit of a change. Unfortunately, it heated up a little bit and we just made a wrong choice today."
IS IT GOOD THERAPY TO GET BACK OUT ON THE TRACK AGAIN?
"This is what we do. This is the place to be. I'm glad to be here, I just wish Dale were here too."
HOW TOUGH HAS THIS WEEK BEEN?
"You can't put it into words. You lost a good friend. It's bad enough that this was the person that drove our sport, but being a good friend, that's more than anything else. It's just been tough. My mind hasn't been on a lot of other things, but it's good to be here doing this. This is what he would want us to be doing. It upsets me a little bit to read some of the stuff people have written, not people that generally cover our sport, but regardless of what they may think looking from the outside about our sport -- that we're here on a deathwise anyway -- that's not the case. It's more dangerous for that person to drive to work everyday than it is for us to do what we do. Nobody makes us get in these things. We do it by choice and if they don't like what we do, then they should stay the hell away from it and not watch it and not be concerned with what we do. We do this because we love to do it, and if it's not for them -- this isn't for everybody. This is for the people that love this sport and Dale Earnhardt brought a lot of people to love this sport and now we've got to find a way to keep those millions of people here excited about this sport and that's what we're gonna try to do."
WILL THE RACE CAR BE LIKE A SANCTUARY SUNDAY?
"Well, you certainly have to take your mind off of everything else and just think about racing."
AT TIMES LIKE THIS DO YOU QUESTION WHAT YOU DO?
"Never. I never question what I do. No, not at all -- not one bit. That has never even been a question. I enjoy this. As I've said, I fear more getting in my car everyday and driving to my office than I do getting in this race car. This is what I do. We have work to do in the safety area, but that's an ongoing thing and if everybody works together -- the drivers, the teams, the safety people, NASCAR -- if we all work together we'll make this a very safe sport."
WHAT ABOUT THE HANS DEVICE AND SIX-POINT HARNESS?
"I had both of those at Daytona. I'm available and listening to everything that everybody has and then we try to make the most from that, but what we have to do is get something that pretty much everybody in here can be comfortable with."
SO YOU USE THE HANS DEVICE?
"Yes I do."
IS IT UNCOMFORTABLE OR DO YOU GET USED TO IT?
"You get used to it. It's a different feel, but the people worked with me and adjusted mine and showed me things I could do to make it more comfortable in the car, so it's fine."
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN USING IT?
"I started testing it over the winter and Daytona was the first time I used it."
WERE YOU SHOCKED AT THE REVELATION ABOUT THE SEAT BELT YESTERDAY?
"Absolutely, yeah. I think we all have a tremendous amount of trust in the equipment that we're provided with through Bill Simpson and his people. I still have the utmost respect for them and the quality of work that they do. I'm sure somewhere down the road we're gonna find that this was a very freak accident. Something happened there to make this happen because Bill Simpson and his people are very, very good at what they do."
IS DALE IRREPLACEABLE?
"Yeah. I mean, there's no way to replace him. Will the sport go on? Yes. Will there become another superstar in here? Yeah, there will. But will it be Dale Earnhardt? No, never. As much as Junior is like him, he may be bigger than Dale but he won't be like him. There are gonna be differences. Dale Earnhardt was a very special individual on the race track and off."
SOME DRIVERS HAVE TALKED ABOUT A DRIVER'S SAFETY COMMITTEE. WHAT DO YOU
"I think NASCAR has always been open to listening to everybody's ideas and I think they still are. Everybody has to be willing to express their ideas if they have something that can make this better. Everybody has to be willing to do that. Is it up to a committee? I don't know if that's the best way to do it. I think it's worked very well for a long time as long as everybody continues to listen and continues to have ideas."
ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF GOING BACK TO TALLADEGA WITH THE
"Everybody is gonna have a different idea on that. I'll be quite honest. I haven't been a fan (of this rules package). The last two races to me, have taken hard work and effort, spending money, being a better race team and even being a better race driver in some cases, it's taken all of that away. It made no difference at Daytona how many Daytona 500s I might have won or what experience I had there. Anybody and everybody could stay up in that pack. It's a matter of how crazy you wanted to get and I'm not a fan of that. I think that experience and hard work and effort should play a part somewhere. It didn't matter if we spent three million dollars to go to the Daytona 500 or one of those cars that spent maybe only five hundred thousand dollars, they could run right up there. The rules made it to where your efforts didn't count. It was just a matter of what you did. I tried to play a game all day of waiting until that happened because you knew it was gonna happen. Sure, at Talladega we've got more room to do that, but it wasn't fun at Talladega and, to me, that's not what racing is about. I realize there were lead changes and that's what we need to do. Yes, we need to find something that will work, but as far as the same rules I would personally be against them. But there are gonna be people that are for them, so everybody is gonna have an opinion here."
JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo SUPERGARD Taurus
"That was a good lap, but it's been real hard to concentrate today. I think I got all I could. Frank and I got a little bit off of what we wanted to do there and went the wrong way on what we wanted to do on the chassis, but that's just because I hadn't had my head in the game. We got all we could. It didn't drive real good, but I'm real proud. I got up on the steering wheel and got a decent lap out of it. I'm real proud of that."
HOW DIFFICULT HAS THIS WEEK BEEN?
"It's been real hard. We not only lost a father and a race car driver, we lost our leader. We lost a living legend. We lost our guidance is the best way to put it. I'm not trying to over-dramatize it, but that's what Dale did for us was a lot more than what a lot of people realize. He had a major influence on what happened on and off the race track with our sport and I always respected him a lot for that and I still respect him for that, and we've lost that. Obviously, we have some problems we need to address. It's hard to try to focus on your racing, to try to focus on a friend and a colleague getting killed, and also to try to focus on how to make things better for everybody. It's just a lot to absorb in a week. Today has been real hard."
WHAT ABOUT THE KIND OF RACING AT DAYTONA?
"Well, the kind of racing that we're doing at Daytona and Talladega isn't, and I've said it all along, isn't what we should be doing in my opinion. I do understand that we need to go a certain speed so we don't hit as hard. We also don't need to get up in the grandstands. I just don't think we need to do it in big packs. I took a lot out of Daytona. The biggest thing I took out of Daytona as far as the kind of racing that we do is that Tony Stewart was running fifth and Bobby Labonte was running 26th on the lap of the big wreck. Tony Stewart landed on top of the 26th-place car. The fifth-place car landed on top of the 26th-place car. That's not the kind of racing we should be doing."
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE THIS SPORT TO GET OVER THIS?
"I don't know. Life has to go on and we have to regain our focus. I almost cried the other day when I discovered there are 37 races left. I can't imagine that there are 37 races left. I feel like this has been a year already. We have to go on. We have to focus on what we're doing. Like I said, it's more than just Dale getting killed, it's how do we resolve these problems. We obviously have some problems and we've got to figure out how to resolve it. Everybody is gonna be working hard to resolve it, but that takes away from our focus of what it is that we went into this year hoping to focus on."
WHAT ABOUT A DRIVER SAFETY COMMITTEE?
"I don't know. I think we need to have some discussions. We need to get into it together and try to make it better. I don't think the drivers can do it by themselves and I don't think NASCAR can do it by themselves. I think we've got to figure out a way to do it together. We are a wonderful group of people that have a lot of information because we drive everyday. They're a good group of people that want it to be safe for us. I believe in my heart they want it to be safe, so we need to come together a little bit and do something that's a little bit different than what we've seen in NASCAR. We need to include the owners, the drivers, the sponsors, the sanctioning body, the manufacturers -- everybody. Let's get together and work together to try and help a problem that we obviously have. The problem isn't here because we want it to be here, it's snuck up on us. This has been the safest form of motorsports in the world for a long time and it can get back to where that is, but right now it's not where we ought to be."
RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus
"It's been out of control ever since we unloaded it to tell you the truth. It hasn't been handling even close. We're gonna put our race setup in, which was real good for us the last race here. I feel comfortable with getting the car right to go racing, but for qualifying I ran out of time. We're gonna have to take that qualifying setup and throw it away and do something else. This is a brand new car. I feel real good about the car, I just have to get working on the setup."
HOW DIFFICULT HAS THIS WEEK BEEN?
"It's been a real difficult week, there's no doubt about that. It's something that nobody is gonna get over for a long time. We're all trying to learn from it -- how to make the cars safer and what failed on Dale's car and get it so that'll never happen again. It's a tough one, but I tell you, when you get in the car and you end up fighting the same old stuff like fighting the chassis and fighting not running the way you want to, your mind goes back in the car. But as soon as you get out of the car it's back on what happened to Dale. So, I don't know. We're just gonna have to work our way through it and that's about it."
HOW MUCH WILL HE BE MISSED?
"He'll be missed a lot. He'll be missed a ton, no doubt about it. He was a hard competitor on the race track, but away from the track he was one of my best friends. We got along really, really good and had a great time whether it was doing this or doing that or hanging out in boats or whatever. We did a lot of cool things together."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO GET BACK TO WORK?
"It feels pretty good to get back to work. It hasn't been that long. We got out of Daytona after a hectic two weeks and now we're down here and we're struggling right now trying to get our car going as quick as we can. I feel like at race time I'll be right there, but right now I'm trying to put my attention in making the car go quick because that's the important thing at the moment. I grieved all last week and I'm gonna grieve for a long time. That's not gonna stop, but you've got to get back in the game some time."
WHAT ABOUT THAT STYLE OF RACING?
"I think we're all a little critical on what the current Daytona and Talladega rules are now. They need to be altered. The cars are too tight. We don't need 'em that tight. We don't need to put that big of a show on. I think what happened at Daytona in particular, with the crashes and what happened to Dale, I hope we can have some concessions for Talladega to give us some more breathing room. I think some of the rules need to be changed a little bit, but NASCAR is all over that right now. I'm confident that with a little bit of pushing from us, that some rules will change."
WHAT ABOUT A DRIVER'S SAFETY COMMITTEE?
"That's the first time I've heard of that, but it might be a way. I think right now everybody needs to be concerned about safety, but I also think there are some knee-jerk decisions going on right now based on the tragedy we've had. Everybody who is anybody has an idea. NASCAR's got like 500 ideas about what to change and, obviously, there are only a couple of them we need to do right now. The HANS device would have never did anything in the Earnhardt crash, but it might have done something in the other two crashes. Their talking about making the door opening bigger so it's easier to get in and out of the car in case of fire and stuff like that. That's one thing that kind of got out of control -- the door openings in all these cars are way too tight now, so I expect them to make a change rapidly -- maybe even for Atlanta. They're listening to everybody and they're just trying to evaluate everything. As far as a driver or drivers, it's not a bad idea. A lot of guys might be uncomfortable talking to the NASCAR fellas, but I don't. I've been around for a long time. If they want to do something like that, I'd be happy to be involved with them in it. We'll see."
WOULD YOU BE COMFORTABLE LEADING A GROUP LIKE THAT?
"I'd be comfortable bringing the ideas and talking about different things to NASCAR. If they'd like me to do that for them, yeah, I'd have no problem doing that."
ARE YOU WEARING THE HANS DEVICE?
"I have a HANS and I might try it in practice a little bit today. I didn't get it until right before we came here. I haven't had the time to set it up or nothing and to be quite honest, I probably won't wear it here just because I haven't had time to get the thing fitted up properly."
WHEN SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPENS DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT NOT DRIVING AGAIN?
"No, not really. There are spurts that go through you when you think about it occasionally. I'd be lying if I said I haven't thought about it. Yeah, I have thought about it. I don't need to race any longer. I enjoy racing. Patti would probably be just as happy if I didn't race at all right now, but this is what I do for a living. I've been pretty fortunate my whole life and been real successful on the track and off the track, so I'm gonna continue on. I've probably got three to four years left in me before I don't want to do it. I just hope when I quit that I quit on a high note and that's it. I hope I don't get hurt or mangled or something stupid happens to me."
JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus
"We were trying to get the Mobil 1 Ford kind of like the 24 did out there -- slow down the first lap and I think it helped us. The track has slowed down and we were worried about going out and falling way off, so we took the gamble. We kept the tires hot on that first lap and we were pretty good the second lap. It wasn't as good as we were in practice, but the track is slowing down and we're happy with that."
MARK MARTIN --6-- Pfizer Taurus
"I really thought we could do a little bit better than that. We were fifth-quick in practice and even though I didn't expect to do fifth, I thought we could maybe do tenth. The car just didn't work good. It was nothing like the lap I had in practice. It just wasn't there for me."
WHAT'S THE FEELING THIS WEEKEND?
"It just feels different."