STACY COMPTON (No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Compton, a 34-year-old driver from Grit, Va., clocked the fastest speed in a recent multi-car test session at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Driving the Mark Melling Racing Dodge, Compton enters...
STACY COMPTON (No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Compton, a 34-year-old driver from Grit, Va., clocked the fastest speed in a recent multi-car test session at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Driving the Mark Melling Racing Dodge, Compton enters race No. 29 of 36 on the 2001 schedule ranked 34th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings. The team is looking for a sponsor for 2002, and Compton discusses the ups and downs of his season, outlook for the future and Sunday's 500-miler at the 1.5-mile layout that's considered the home track for many NASCAR Winston Cup teams.
"I don't know if being fastest for the test at Charlotte means much. I guess it just means that we're better than we were there in the spring. It's just the sign of the way we've been running lately. We've run really good. We can't capitalize on it. We can't produce the finishes because of cut tires or rain or cautions coming out when we're in the pits. We can't buy any luck right now, but we've run good. We ran as fast as we ever had at Charlotte a couple of weeks ago when we were there testing. We had this Melling Dodge hooked up. I think that shows that the team has gotten better. Hopefully we can qualify good and have a good race.
"We'd love to win at Charlotte, but it doesn't make any difference whether it's Charlotte or Martinsville or Indy. You go out every week trying to win, trying to get that Kodiak Melling Dodge up front. Charlotte is close to home and a lot of the family members are there. At this point in the game with the competition we've got in Winston Cup, it doesn't make any difference where you win.
"We need to find a sponsor for next season, and that causes a concern on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday we've got a job to do. You sort of put it in the back of your mind and go out and do the best we can. We've got to do the best we can for Kodiak. They're with us the rest of the year. They've supported us for two years now, and we've just got to do the best we can. If we do that, we're going to run good. If we run good, hopefully we'll get some attention and get some meetings and talk to some sponsors.
"All we need is some luck. That's all we need. At this point, we just can't buy any luck. We were running 16th at Dover and got mixed up with another car and broke a fender brace and got it in the tire. We were pulling off pit road, and Dave Blaney blew a tire. We lost two laps on pit road. It's one of those deals where we can't buy any luck. We ran up front at Michigan all day. We were sitting on pit road and it starts raining. Mark Martin was the only car that hadn't pitted. We lost a lap and couldn't get it back. Indy was the same way. We were running good at Indy. Jeff Burton didn't pit. We had pitted and the caution comes out. It's no one thing in particular. We're not having tremendously bad luck. We're finishing races, but we're just not having any good luck.
"It's almost impossible (to compete) for a true single-car team. If you look, all the true single-car teams are 30th or worse in points. The 77 isn't really a single-car team. The Pembertons are working together with Penske. Elliott Sadler is working the Roush. The 4, 11, 14 and us are all single-car teams and are all 30th or worse in points. It's pretty tough to compete. We've worked with the Pettys real well. It's not so much with equipment. It's more the people end of it. We've worked with a couple of crew chiefs over there and exchanged some information. I think that's helped us, and hopefully we've helped them some. We're still a single-car team, and it's pretty tough.
"We've stepped up qualifying, but it's not just qualifying. We've raced well. We haven't finished well, but we've raced well. It's been a combination of things. I think Ernie Elliott and the guys have done stuff in the motor department that's improved our motors. I think the nose change for the Dodge has helped. I think we as a team are starting to figure out these tires a little better. I think it's a combination of things. Our qualifying is a direct result of our racing, and our racing is a direct result of our qualifying. We've been better everywhere. You just don't see it as much on Sunday sometime as you do on Friday.
"It's a long race Sunday, but it's not as long as the 600. Compared to the 600, Sunday will be a sprint race. Some of these tracks, like Dover, a four-hour race is too long. It's too long for the fans. It's too long for TV and the drivers and crews. I think some of these races should be shortened a little bit.
"There's a lot more races at Charlotte than places that have just one groove. Charlotte is starting to get old and it's starting to lose a lot of grip. You're going to see people go slam to the top of the track. You're just hunting for grip. There's a couple of grooves at Charlotte, and it's lightning fast. There's a couple of grooves where you can go out and race.
"I'm learning as a driver every week, and we're learning as a team. We switched manufacturers and everything else you're not supposed to do coming into the year. Everything we could have switched we did, and it's been a learning process for everybody. I think it's gone well. If you look at the first half of the year, we were decent. In the middle of the year, we really stumbled. The last half of the year, we've really turned it up. We were expecting to be better that this in the points at this stage of the season, but if we could have had any luck at all, we could have possibly been a lot higher.
"We've had some bright spots this season. Winning the pole at Talladega was a huge boost. Starting on the front row at Daytona and finishing 10th was a huge boost. The last few weeks have been a huge boost. I'm not so sure Michigan wasn't one of the highlights for us. We ran good there. We didn't finish that great, but we needed to go to Michigan and run good and we did. Especially after not making it the first time, to go up there and run in the top 10, that was pretty big for us.
"This series is really competitive. When you're where we are in points, it's easy to miss a race. The way the point situation is right now, missing a race can happen at any time. The way the point situation works right now, it benefits the top 25 in points. It doesn't benefit the guys 26th and back. I don't necessarily agree with. If they're going to do one round of qualifying, they need to provisionals the same way they do qualifying. They used to do first round with the top 25 qualifiers and then have second round. Now they take the top 36. I think they need to work on provisionals more. You need to take care of the guys that run with you every week. I think a lot of cars out there right now have used more than their allotted amount of provisionals, but they're in the top 25 in points and it doesn't hurt. If you're going to use provisionals, then everybody from first to 36th needs to have the same amount. It's tough when you're this far back in points. You dig yourself in a hole and it's tough to dig out.
"I think mentally, the racer in you is stressed a little bit. You've won in everything you've ever raced and you've run up front. You come to Winston Cup and you don't run the way you feel like you want to. I think it's mentally tough for the team and driver. The majority of the team members have come from winning backgrounds. The majority of these guys have raced themselves or come from teams that have won. I think it's tough. It's tough to come into Cup and run mediocre at best. That's tough on anybody. Still, you've got to put it in perspective where you're at and what you're doing. You're in the elite group, and not just the drivers. The team members, even to the guy who is sweeping the floors, comprise an elite group. It's probably more mentally tough to not be able to go out and compete top 10 every week.
"I've said many times, and I'll continue to say it. I've used Bill Simpson's product since I was six years old. I've worn his suits, his belts and helmets. I think he's got a great product. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. Our race cars are safe. They could be safer, but I feel safer in that race car than I do driving to the track. You know what people are g oing to do on the track. You don't ever know when a drunk driver is going to run into you head on on the highway.
"We need to find a sponsor. If not finding a sponsor, then certainly finding a ride. I'd like to find a sponsor so we could continue our season the way we're going right now. If we can continue qualifying up front and get to where we can consistently run top 15, that would cap off the year pretty good and give us a lot of momentum going into next year. I haven't looked a lot right now at all. We're more concentrating right now on trying to find sponsors than I am on trying to find a ride. By the 15th of next month, if we don't have something concrete, then it's time to hit the panic button a little bit and start really searching. This is a great group of guys and Mark is a great owner and I want to stay here if possible. If we don't find a sponsor, I certainly don't want to be standing when the music stops."