BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I think it was probably NASCAR saying they'd had enough. He kind of did it to himself. Nobody brought it on. He knew the consequences, and I think maybe Kevin (Harvick) failed to realize that whenever you're on probation it doesn't matter what series you're running in. It's across the board. You've got to look at everything. You've got every other racing sport looking at what you do as far as NASCAR is concerned each and every Sunday and they can only let so much stuff go on. When you start doing blatant stuff, if you start spinning people out or getting even or whatever, it's time the controlling body take action. Obviously that's what they did. I think like Ray (Evernham) said up there at Martinsville, You get called to the NASCAR trailer once, the second time they're going to do something.
"We race every weekend for 38 weekends. You're going to make mistakes and have problems. You just can't blatantly keep beating on somebody and tearing up equipment. The guys in the shop work too hard to put this stuff together. I don't care where the guy comes from, if he's from California, Georgia, Tennessee or wherever, he's got to understand that people's lives are at stake. If you make too many mistakes or blatantly do things, it tends to be a bad situation. There's enough risk in it as is without adding to that.
"The problem is that Talladega is a place where the restrictor plate forces you into doing things that you shouldn't be doing. You start cutting people off. People take it for awhile, the guy gets mad and he ain't going to take it anymore. It puts you in a bad situation. That's the one thing that's always tough about going to Talladega, especially in today's scenario. NASCAR has tried to change things around over from what it was last year. I like this a little bit better with what they've got, but whether we need to tweak it around more, we'll know more after this weekend. I think Daytona was a good race for 'em, but we'll just have to see what happens.
"I would look at something a little different. From the standpoint of what could you do to make it better for everybody? That's where you'd have to sit down and get it across the board. You've had people who say we need to take banking out of the tracks, people say we need to put it all back the way it was, I would look at taking some of the banking out of the race track. Then you wouldn't have to build speciality cars for two races a year as far as your restrictor plate stuff. Then you'd have an across the board deal. I'd try to make everything constant where you'd have to go down in the corner and after a period of time lift. Whether you took downforce out of the car, or whether you changed the way you did your stuff. Whether you put a lot of motor in it or you did something different to make it where you had to back off when you got in the corners. That seems to be the determining factor. Most of our races have got to the point, even Texas and Atlanta, have got to be where you run the corner pretty hard and it's a shorter race track. You can only run the corner so hard for so long, then you've got to change the way you do it.
"They've come in and they've got good equipment. They seem to be doing the right things and there's no bad habits. Some of us older guys have created bad habits throughout the years, whether it's the way the car was working at the particular time dictated it. I've had to throw out everything I knew about the race car and relearn the race cars the last couple of years because the technology has changed so much. It's not that the chassis has changed that much. It's just that it's changed. I've had to relearn how to drive the race car and pay attention to how we go in and do our tasks and concentrate on getting our stuff right. I'm constantly looking at different ways to do things because that's the only way you're going to stay ahead.
"I was hoping I'd run faster (when he ran 212 mph in '87). I thought we had a car capable of running faster than that. I still say my most impressive thing was running 210 at Daytona because Daytona was so much more a handling, tougher race track to run 210 there as it was to run 213 at Talladega. Talladega had the capability of running a lot faster. I went over there in a car that we did for Ford for Lynn St. James at that time and I think I ran 218, and it had potential to run even faster and the track had potential for more. Unstricted, these cars today, with the technology they've got today, they'd be running in the 220s relatively easy. To come back and run those speeds at that time with as crude a race car as we had back then and the lack of technology as we had back then, I still say it was an impressive thing, especially for us. People just don't understand how hard we worked to get where we're at. We didn't go out and buy into a Hendrick Motorsports or buy into this or that. We did it in a little shop in Dawsonville, Ga., all on our own. I think looking back on all of that, that's the most impressive thing that happened. I think that's where people fail to realize the story that happened throughout that decade.
"It was just one of them unfortunate circumstances. I can't remember exactly what happened in the tri-oval, but Bobby's car got up and almost got in the grandstands. That would have had a tremendous impact on our stuff if that had happened. Now, we've got other things we had to realize and work through. It took money to run that fast. Once they put restrictor plates on, it took money to figure them out. It became a different, but the sport couldn't withstand another deal like that if the car hadn't got in the grandstand. A lot of factors were involved. Looking back on it, I didn't agree with restrictor plates, but I did realize that this was a definite critical period for our sport..
"I don't think there's any rules. It's just what ever you can get away with at that point in time when you need to do it. The closer it gets to the end of the race, you see it. I pray it goes a race that doesn't have a caution because the pit stops seem to spread the cars out. If you can do that and get the cars spread out, it's like you start the race and give the guy a foot. By the end of the race, you're beating fenders with him and you're trying to occupy the same spot he's in. I think the Earnhardt thing at Daytona put things in reality check for a long time. As time passed and we had this situation that happened this past February at Daytona, it's like, 'yeah, we're safe for a little while and then everybody goes back to their same tactics. It's hard for me to race like that. It's just hard to do. The way I approach things in the 80s, if a man was faster let him go. I'd go home and figure out my stuff and make it faster and then I'd come back and outrun him. That's what this stuff is all about. Now you've got the cars so equal, nobody has that luxury anymore.
"I'm all for any safety stuff. That stuff is just going to help us down the road. From what I've talked to all the people who are in the know, it's probably going to be a little trial and error until we get all this stuff worked out. I'm for any of that stuff. I worked hard trying to get answers from questions years ago that finally I'm getting answers to. Now we're starting to implement them into the cars and make the cars better. I keep hearing they're going to change the roll cage in the car and make them a little wider. That's something that should have been done years ago.
"I hadn't heard much (about soft walls). They've been good putting together what's coming up and what changes and what works better and so on and so forth. The flow for answers to a lot of questions is a lot better now.
"I think he's Loony-Toony for staying in it as long as he (Brett Bodine) has. You can control some of your stuff, but the sport has gotten so big you just can't keep doing it. You might run good every now and then, but to constantly do it and be as competitive as you need to be, it's just beyond me. He's been fortunate enough to continue on. More power to him, but the further we keep going and the bigger this sport gets, the harder it's going to be. I'm sure others will probably come along and make things work for a period of time, but it's just too hard to do. You just can respond to change. You don't have the resources to do everything you need to do. There's more to it than just running and owning the team. I'm not saying it could never happen again. You might find the person who could come in and run your deal and make it work and do the things you need to do. If you don't, it's poor misery. That's the problem I had, to keep the people and trying to keep things going in the right direction and it's just too hard to do and still try to concentrate on driving. You've got too many other things that are dictating what goes on during the day. I thought I could control things better. If I disagreed with what somebody did, say the car owner wanted it black and I wanted it white, at least I had the control over what I did. That control takes a lot of responsibility and that's where it tends to draw the line. You have too many things that tend to bleed over that you can't really control. You think you can control, but they tend to start controlling you, like in any business.
"It seems like our program has got a lot better on the midsize tracks. Mike (crew chief Ford) and all the guys have worked hard. Ray's put a lot of effort into the stuff. We've been qualifying well, running well. California has kind of eluded me. It's supposed to be like Michigan, but it's not hardly like Michigan. I've not been able to get exactly what I want. I think with the technology and where we are today, I feel a lot better coming out there this time than any time in the past. It'd be good for the sponsors and I think the market can justify it, but the problem is logistics. That's the hard part. Everybody deserves and could use another date, especially the tracks that just have one date. You're going to get to the point where the teams and the drivers aren't going to be able to handle the load. Logistically, you lose a day going in and a day coming out any time we go to the west coast. Then you keep adding races and you've got 38 weekends a year now, if something does glitch, like the Sept. 11 deal and we had to make up a date at the end of November, so it gives you less and less time to react to things if you do have a problem. The Winston is not a week at home for me. I live in Georgia. I thought that's what they were going to do to start with with The Winston. Whether it goes somewhere else, we'll go wherever it goes and deal with it from there. Right now, it's where it is and we'll deal with it.
"He can say it doesn't bother him, but I'll guarantee you at the end of the day it will. You can start out in these deals and it's like owning your own team. You can deal with things for awhile, but the longer it goes on and the more things start becoming reality, the harder they're going to be to deal with. Different people can weather different things. Sometimes racing can help take your mind off that stuff. Sometimes you'll get overloaded and nothing will help you. That's just going to come down to the person. How he can handle the pressure of all the things that's going to go on around him. It will get harder. I can guarantee you that. I know I've been through it. I really just know it now in retrospect. At the time, you don't think nothing. Reality finally sets in."