This Week in Ford Racing June 11, 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup The NASCAR Winston Cup Series heads west for one of its two road-course races of the season as Sears Point Raceway will host the Dodge/SaveMart 350 on Sunday. Ford drivers Ryan Newman...
This Week in Ford Racing
June 11, 2002
NASCAR Winston Cup
The NASCAR Winston Cup Series heads west for one of its two road-course races of the season as Sears Point Raceway will host the Dodge/SaveMart 350 on Sunday. Ford drivers Ryan Newman and Ricky Rudd tested at the facility a few weeks ago while Dale Jarrett is coming off a pole-winning run in the last road-course event at Watkins Glen. Ford has gone winless over the last nine road-course races with its last victory coming at Sears Point in 1997 when Mark Martin took the checkered flag.
RYAN NEWMAN --12-- ALLTEL Taurus:
HOW DID YOUR TEST AT SEARS POINT GO? "It went pretty well, we thought. It's just one of those deals where I had to keep getting used to the race track and the race car all at the same time. It was fun. I was out there with Jimmie Johnson, Ron Fellows and Ricky Rudd and, I think, at the end of the day we just about had the fastest lap of testing. I enjoy it. I think it's fun. Even though I don't know what it's like to race yet, it's fun to drive."
CAN YOU LEARN ANYTHING FROM WATCHING GUYS LIKE FELLOWS AND RUDD ON A ROAD COURSE? "We watched them a little bit, but you can watch people and still not be able to do the same things they do, so it's just a matter of adjusting my driving style to a road course. That's just the way we did it. It's gonna be like trying to go up on the truck at Bristol and watch Rusty and then figuring out how to qualify. It's easy to do, but then you go get in the car and it's like, 'Wow, how did he do that?'"
WHAT'S YOUR ATTITUDE ABOUT ROAD COURSES? "I'll tell you after Sears Point (laughing). I haven't raced them yet, so I don't know, but I think they're fun. I haven't been to Watkins Glen yet, but I do wish the two tracks were a little bit wider and had a little bit more room to pass. You go through the esses at Sears Point and there's really no way you can pass a car there, unless he hangs a tire off the race track or something. At a place like the airport at Cleveland, that would be neat to just try and see. Everybody talks about Pocono running five-wide down the straightaway, but we could do it there too."
DID YOU GO TO A DRIVING SCHOOL TO PREPARE FOR THE ROAD COURSE? "I went to Kershaw, South Carolina, and there's a driving school down there on a road course. I went down there and got some lessons from Ben Burrell. He's no super-professional, multi-winning champion driver, but he understands road courses and tires and things like that, so he helped me out a lot. He helped me with that course in particular and then we brought an old Rusty Wallace road-course car down there, tested that, and then we took our race car up to Sears Point. So I've done some things, maybe not to the depth of what other drivers have done in the past, but I haven't eliminated other people's knowledge from the equation."
DALE JARRETT --88-- UPS Taurus:
HAVE YOU BEEN PRACTICING YOUR HEEL-TOE TECHNIQUE FOR SEARS POINT? "I don't have it down pat, but we went to Kershaw with our new car last Wednesday and just ran for a while. Yeah, I got back into the heel-and-toe side of it, but I need more work."
YOU WON THE POLE AT WATKINS GLEN SO THAT MUST HELP AS FAR AS CONFIDENCE? "Yeah, we had a good car and we learned a lot there, and then Ricky went to Sears Point and tested. Those two race tracks are totally different. The things we learned at Watkins Glen, for them, didn't seem to work at Sears Point, so we're relying a good bit on what they learned during their test. The setups are totally different because you've got a lot more low-speed corners at Sears Point than what you do at Watkins Glen, so you really have to work on forward bite a lot. But we've got a new car and, hopefully, it'll be good for us."
SO YOU'RE TAKING A NEW CAR AND NOT THE ONE THAT WON THE POLE AT WATKINS GLEN? "Yeah. We're keeping that other car to run at Watkins Glen. Even though I ran it off into the sand a couple times, that didn't hurt it. We first discussed taking that car, but like Robert said, 'Why not just keep that car and have it for Watkins Glen next time because we know it runs well there?' We're gonna have two cars anyway, so why not build a new one and build something that would be a little bit more track specific for Sears Point."
RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus:
HOW DO YOU LIKE SEARS POINT? "It's been a good race track for us over the years. We probably haven't taken it serious enough, I think, until this year. We went out and tested there for the first time in many, many years about a month ago and they've made some pretty good changes to that race track. It has a whole different look than it has before and I'm glad we went out there and tested because I think guys that haven't are gonna have a few problems."
WHAT MAKES SEARS POINT SO TOUGH? "There used to be quite a bit of difference between Sears Point and Watkins Glen. If you rated them on a scale of one to 10 with 10 being the most difficult, it used to be that Watkins Glen was about a five and Sears Point was about an eight or a nine. But with all the ongoing changes with the race track to put more grandstands in and make more straightaways, they've taken that track from a level eight down to about a level four or five. I think they've made it very easy and what you're gonna see from that is the racing continue to get a little closer and closer because it doesn't take as much skill level to run up front as it used to a few years ago. So I think it's intended to even the competition up and I think the fans see more cars challenging for the lead because of that."
WHAT KINDS OF CHANGES DO YOU MAKE FOR A ROAD RACE? "It's a night and day difference from what we normally do. You just have to go out there and spend a few laps getting re-adjusted because there are very few places that compare to the road courses. Since we only go to them twice a year, it's nice to have a little tune-up, whether you go out to Sears Point or to one of your favorite road courses like at Kershaw, South Carolina, to tune up. Something like that is just as much for tuning the driver up as it is getting the equipment dialed in, so the fact we went there about 30 days ago and tested is good. It will still probably take a couple of laps to settle in, but then you've got guys like Ron Fellows and others that do it every week. They come in and I wouldn't say they have a tremendous advantage, but they do it all the time and it's kind of hard to beat those guys at their own game."
SHOULD ROAD COURSES STAY ON THE SCHEDULE? "I enjoy the variety and I enjoy road racing. I'd like to see a few more road courses scattered in there, but right now we follow what NASCAR says and we don't have a lot of say so. At 38 weekends a year right now, it's a pretty hectic schedule. If they add more dates, I'd personally like to see them take some of these twice-a-year dates away from some of these race tracks. I think it's exciting going to new places, but I wouldn't want to be racing 52 weekends a year."
ARE THERE MORE RUNOFF AREAS ON THE TRACK? "I didn't see a lot of it. I saw more grandstand area and there's a whole different look to it. There is probably a little more runoff area up through the esses. You usually don't get off track through the esses and the places where you do get off the race track, there really isn't any difference. As a matter of fact, they've probably created an extra hazard by the new turn one they've got. It used to be a real wide-open sweeping corner down there and now you've got a distinct turn. If you happen to make a mistake and run off, the consequences will probably be pretty severe. They've certainly added some runoff area through the esses, but you normally don't use it and the areas where we need it, it's not there."