Jeremy Mayfield, driver of the No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus, will start on the pole for tomorrow's DieHard 500, marking the third time in his NASCAR Winston Cup career he has started from the top spot. He spoke about his chances of winning and...
Jeremy Mayfield, driver of the No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus, will start on the pole for tomorrow's DieHard 500, marking the third time in his NASCAR Winston Cup career he has started from the top spot. He spoke about his chances of winning and how he feels the cars will react with the new shock and spring rule.
JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus -- WHAT ARE YOUR CHANCES TO BE THE NINTH DIFFERENT DRIVER TO WIN A RACE THIS YEAR?
"Man, they're real good. We feel good about it and I'm just excited about the way we've been running all year. This is a big breakthrough for us and we've worked hard over the winter, the whole team has, and we're right on the edge of being better than we've ever been. I feel like we already our, but our results haven't shown it yet. This is definitely the best team I've ever been with and the best combination we've ever had at Penske-Kranefuss Racing."
DO YOU FEEL YOUR DRAFTING SKILLS ARE AT THE SAME LEVEL OF YOUR RESTRICTOR-PLATE PROGRAM?
"I hope. It's tough. It just depends on who wants to work with you determines how good you draft and also how good a car you've got. I know we've got a good car and that's gonna be a big part of it. If you're not handling or not running fast, nobody's gonna run with you. But if you've got a good car, then they really don't have a choice. That makes you look good then."
YOU SEEM SO CONFIDENT?
"I've been confident all year with the way our car's been running. We've come of three, four or five good runs here. At Atlanta we were running good and broke a transmission and didn't really show all we had and at Darlington we were awesome and got wrecked early on into it. >From then on we've been top five or top 10 every time and we've been leading laps. When we start running like that the confidence in everybody comes up and that's been a big part of this improvement."
DO YOU FEEL PEOPLE OVERLOOK YOUR TEAM ON RESTRICTOR-PLATE TRACKS?
"We've kind of been up and down a little bit. In '98 we were really good, we finished top five in all four of the speedway tracks, but we went into '99 and weren't as good. We fell off a little bit, but both teams have been working hard on getting that back where it needs to be. Everyone in the engine shop has done their part, they've stepped up. It's just tough to stay ahead in this business. When you're good you've gotta keep working hard because if not, somebody else will and then be in front of you."
CAN YOU PASS EASIER IN THE DRAFT NOW WITH THE NEW RULES?
"I don't know if it's easier, it's about the same. When you get out there and it's a big pack, again you're only as good as who you're around, and you've just gotta keep working on your car and try to get it better and better. You want to try to find something little that will help give you that extra edge, but it's still all about being in the right place at the right time."
COULD YOU NOTICE A CHANGE IN THE FEEL OF THE CAR DURING PRACTICE TODAY IN THE DRAFT?
"That's probably the first time you felt we didn't have the horsepower that we had. Still, it wasn't bad. Everybody is pretty even and it seemed like it tightened the packs up again. You're gonna see a lot of three, four and five, and maybe even six-wide racing on Sunday. But, I think everybody will realize that and be as careful as we can. It's not a big difference, you've just gotta do the same stuff you do every week -- just keep working on your car and making it better."
SOME GUYS HAVE SAID THEY GET NERVOUS THE NIGHT BEFORE A PLATE RACE. HOW DO YOU FEEL?
"Probably the same way. It's not like you're scared or anything, but it's just a part of not knowing because you're in control like everybody else. A lot of places we go to, at least we've got a little bit of control over our own destiny. I mean, you can be running good here and get in a big wreck and, there you go, you're done. We're all in this thing for the points and to win races and finish good, but you never know what's gonna happen. That's the part I think we all dread and hate going into Sunday is not knowing what's gonna happen and what the outcome is gonna be."
Peter Sospenzo, crew chief of the No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus, earned the first pole of his career. He spoke about the feeling of that achievement and his expectations for the race.
PETER SOSPENZO, Crew Chief --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus -- HOW BIG IS THIS FOR YOU?
"It's gratifying to get that first pole as a crew chief, that's for sure, especially at a place like Talladega. It takes a great effort from everybody to get the best you can out of your race car, so it feels great. We've been fast in a lot of places and usually have one of the fastest cars in practice, but we could never seem to put it together in qualifying. Finally though we were able to do it and it feels good."
DO YOU FEEL A WEIGHT HAS BEEN LIFTED OFF YOUR SHOULDERS BY WINNING THIS POLE?
"It's definitely a big weight on everybody's shoulders, not just one individual because it takes everybody to make it work, but it feels better. The most important thing now is to win a race."
WHAT'S THE KEY FOR YOU GUYS TOMORROW?
"We just need to try to keep it in the front all day long. If we can keep it in the front, hopefully there won't be any wrecks, but if there is a wreck we won't be involved in it. That's the key here. We've been fortunate lately that there hasn't really been that big pileup and, hopefully it won't happen tomorrow. If it does, hopefully, we'll be in front of it."
WINNING IS REALLY THE LAST GOAL TO COMPLETE THE TRANSITION SINCE YOU TOOK OVER AS CREW CHIEF, RIGHT?
"Yeah. I mean, if we could win a race here pretty quick that will definitely put us one more step up that ladder. But, as long as we can finish in the top five or top 10 that would be good too."
Car owner Jack Roush held a question and answer session in the Talladega infield media center this morning during NASCAR Winston Cup practice. Mark Martin was Roush Racing's highest qualifier for Sunday's DieHard 500 with a fifth-place starting position. Following are some excerpts from that Q&A.
JACK ROUSH, Roush Racing Car Owner -- WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT QUALIFYING YESTERDAY?
"I was surprised, I guess I shouldn't have been because Mark qualified fifth at Daytona, but I was surprised that he qualified as well as he did based on the way we practiced. I thought Jeff Burton had a real chance to do very well. We had an infant mortality problem on an oil pump that had an aluminum section divider that grabbed onto a shaft and locked it up and shucked his belt. If that hadn't have happened, I had hopes that he would do even better. The 17, the 97 and the 16 were all snared by NASCAR's spoiler checking process. Some of the teams think they understand how NASCAR is going to tech something and they come back and prepare for that. Those three cars, without my knowledge, had taken some liberties in the spoiler area that it proved the way NASCAR contacted the spoiler and checked their angles that showed them to be actually lower than they were. They all three had to stand their spoilers up more than they would have, if they'd had straight-up spoilers rather than spoilers that were deviated some from the intent of the rule. NASCAR took those and I support and applaud that. I'll have conversation with all the crew chiefs that what they did was ill-advised, but that's primarily the reason that those three cars didn't do well is they had to carry more spoiler than NASCAR would have allowed if they would have had the spoilers on that NASCAR intended."
CAN YOU TELL ANYTHING FROM PRACTICE IN REGARDS TO THE NEW RULES?
"There haven't been enough cars on the race track at one time to see if the result is gonna be having all the cars get stuck together or if they will still separate themselves. There are really two variables. One, that we've lost about 25 horsepower in the engine, and we've got half a program on the shock absorbers rather than a whole program or no program. The effect of the shock absorber thing may be bigger than the effect of the reduced restrictor plate. I try to think "many times, swap my hat back and forth with what's going on in NASCAR's trailer, not just to try to think how I can take advantage of where they're going, but also try to participate in what's good for the sport and what creates the greatest amount of excitment in the fans. What the fans, I think, all want to see is close competition and that means to my way of thinking that means seeing that a number of cars contend for the win and you don't have just dominant cars race after race or even single races with dominant cars. Those aren't good races for us or for the fans of the sport. I don't think we have to have all the cars close to have close competition and I think that the problem with Daytona and Talladega is that you've got cars that, based on the format of the rules, you've got cars that really aren't close in terms of their crew chiefs capability, their driver's capability, the prowess of the team generally, that are able to run with the really sharp drivers, the really sharp crew chiefs, the drivers whose time has come. That makes for closeness that's unsafe, it makes for closeness that can certainly be frustrating and in some ways boring. I hope that we will have a situation on Sunday where cars will be able to pass for the lead, where drivers that are able and understand how to use the draft will be able to use the draft and where the best programs wind up being the most competitive. That has not generally been the case in recent restrictor plate races."
IS THE PREP FOR THE ENGINES DIFFERENT WITH THIS NEW PLATE?
"I think that all the teams, certainly our teams, spend as much time as we had to be able to go back and survey headers and cam shafts, which are about the only things you could meaningly effect in the time that was available. We didn't find that the reduction of air-flow intake capacity required a different cam shaft, a different intake manifold or a different exhaust system. I think in a close inspection, the kind of which we would do if we had two or three months, I think that we may have found that some part of our combination...may be significant but to go find those things you have to run huge matrixes of variables within that area to be able to see where the sweet spot is. We went back and tried some big changes and none of the big changes were effective."
WHAT ABOUT THE TEST HERE MONDAY?
"I'm gonna reference back to the truck race at Daytona, which I think was the best race at Daytona or Talladega in terms of cars being able to make moves that appeared to be gutsy. Drivers having to check themselves in terms of their enthusiasm of they could get themselves in trouble. Fans that were drawn to their feet or kept on their feet by the spontaneous action. Let me give you some numbers and then I'll talk just a little about them, but I think they're the key to the thing. A Winston Cup car today, after the change that NASCAR's made in the restrictor plate, has got about 380 horsepower available at peak. The standard for measuring the drag for the car is 200 miles per hour, that's the standard they use for the wind tunnel. At 200 miles per hour, the car has about 380-drag horsepower, so it would run into a wall if it didn't have losses in the tires or whatever. It probably stalls out about 190 or so and there's no available power. When you get in the draft that gives you the collective energy to run the effect of 190 or 195 miles an hour, everybody is stalled out. Nobody has got one horsepower available to deal with the wake. The only thing you've got going for you is if you suck up on another car you've got momentum. You can have a couple mile per hour more because the fact you're in the other car's wake and it's still air, but when you hit that wake and try to go out into the air that is not being carried along with the car, you have no available horsepower. The cars have about 500 pounds force of total downforce -- 500, 380, 380 -- that's about what they are. The trucks had about 700 horsepower, they had about 700 horsepower drag, and they had 1000 pounds of downforce. Now that means when this truck was running along in somebody elses wake and he pulled out into the air that was not being carried along, he had 700 horsepower to go deal with that wake, whereas the Winston Cup car only had 380. That resulted in a couple of things. First of all, the speed of which they closed on one another in the wake area was much greater -- the trucks pulled up much faster -- and when they hit that wake, not only did they have more momentum going for them in terms of speed, they also had more horsepower to "buck the air. Man, that made the trucks jink and junk and shoot and dive, it was wonderful, it was racing. The size of the wake that comes from that amount of drag is wider, is more nearer perpendicular to the car where the wake on these 380-horsepower cars is really a tight angle. So, you run into the wake much further back than you do with the bigger cross-section. Anyway, with that in mind. NASCAR actually gave me those numbers because they've done all the wind tunnel work and had that comparison. I only had pieces of it, so, with that in mind we're gonna come back here to Talladega on Monday and we're gonna drill some holes in the front of the car, we're gonna raise the roof on some cars, we're gonna make the A-pillars wider, we're gonna do some dumb things to the wheel wells, we're gonna try to dirty up these cars and see what we can do to put another 100 or 200 pounds horsepower of drag in them. If we accomplish that, I think NASCAR will be receptive of coming back and opening the restrictor-plate up and putting another 100 or 200 horsepower back in the engine, which I think will make the racing more exciting."
HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT THE WAY INSPECTION WENT FRIDAY?
"I went down to see Buster (Auton) right in the middle of the deepest part of it in terms of the 3 car having the back end cut off his car and threats being out to take some people's decklids and some other things that were going on. They should have taken three of my spoilers early, but, anyway, I went down to see Buster to find out what I had done to upset him and I was just about there. Buster was not in a great mood and at that point I wasn't either, but one of the inspectors grabbed me and said, 'Man, are you lucky.' I said, "Am I lucky?' And he said, 'Yeah, they've only approved five cars so far and two of them are yours.' So I switched gears and went up to Buster and I said, 'You know, I've come down here to find out if you were mad at me, but I guess I should thank you. Forty percent of what you've approved so far is mine. Thank you very much.' So I turned and walked away. I think Buster had been pushed further than he might have been on a lot of things that were not subject to black and white. He and the staff had told the teams, 'Don't bring this back. We don't want to see more of that. Don't do this,' and they brought half of it back or they gave him a glimpse of it and not an eye shot full, so he just said enough is enough, it's raining, we're gonna stop and fix this junk and from time to time that's probably the thing he needs to do."
WOULD YOU BE IN FAVOR OF DIRTYING UP CARS FOR OTHER TRACKS AS WELL TO SLOW THE SPEEDS?
"There's been absolutely no discussion in my presence nor speculation on my part about dirtying the cars up other than Daytona and Talladega. There are naysayers and critics who would say that we go too fast at a lot of places and there are others who say that the racing is borderline in terms of being exciting enough. There's a delicate balance there. I for one think that our cars are safe. I think that Goodyear does a nice job with the tires. I think that, except for Daytona and Talladega, the race tracks are configured with enough variance and enough variety to provide a really nice balance in measuring driver ability and team ability. To bring restrictor plates to other places or do things that would change that balance, I think, would be very risky."
WHAT ABOUT COMMON TEMPLATES?
"I think this common template thing provides an opportunity, I think, to do many things for us. NASCAR has looked at a Ford, they've looked at a Chevrolet, they've looked at a Pontiac and said, 'Yeah, we understand what this car is and we want to approve it, but we really don't want it to change.' In order to do that, they look at the areas of the car, increasingly numerous areas of the car, and they bring on more templates and more templates and more templates because they're really trying to keep the car the same in relation to other cars. If we're able to come back and say that the things in the car that are significant from an aero point of view are the cross-sectional frontal area, the greenhouse area, the height of the car, the ground clearance of the car, the windshield angle and the rear spoiler angle, those are probably the key things. And they come back and take something that needs to be on all the cars that is not subject to individual manufacturer distinction like the roof and say, 'OK, we're "gonna put a NASCAR roof on this car.' And the NASCAR roof may be a blend between a Monte Carlo, a Pontiac and a Ford, but it's a NASCAR roof and you can put whatever you want to in the greenhouse, well then all the unique templates that you wind up having are Pontiacs, Chevrolets and Fords to try to keep them the same, you only need one set of those templates. By the way, there may be some areas that you can go back and relieve yourself some on. A Ford C-pillar may have a different distinction and may have a different problem than a Chevrolet and, if they use the Chevrolet, they may be able to do the job with two templates rather than three. If NASCAR came back and approved an overall template for everybody and all the templates for the back window and the front window for everybody and the side door templates for everybody and had a similar spoiler on the car for everybody, they could come back and get an example of each person's car with their unique hood on it, with their unique decklid on it, with their unique nose panel and back panel, and when a manufacturer came along and wanted to bring out a new car -- they say, 'What's different about the car?' Well, we've changed the hood and the front end. 'OK, bring us an example of the hood and the front end and then put those things on the car that they had and find out what the effect was. Rather than look at the whole car, they'd only have to look at a few things for changes. By the same token, I'm anxious to have NASCAR come back and nail down where the body goes on the car. I like for the crew chiefs and the drivers to be able to move the bodies back and forth and to move the hood back and forth, left and right, in order to be able to balance off some traits. Mark Martin, for example, likes a lot of front downforce and Jeff Burton would rather not have as much front downforce and more rear. To effect that in their driver styles, well then it's an inch or so of different location on the body and I would like for the crew chiefs and the drivers to continue to be able to do that and to make that where the competition is rather than the competition of trying to get in between NASCAR's two templates on a Ford and three templates on a Chevrolet and chase all that stuff around and have everybody mad all the time. Plus, whenever you come out with a new car, you're not looking at something easy to police like a front fascia or a rear, you're looking at the whole darn car. If NASCAR gets it wrong, and they've had more cases where they've got more wrong than right, well then we've all gotta argue over it and suffer over it for a year. And then in another year another manufacturer comes out with something and we're back into it again."
ELLIOTT SADLER --21-- Citgo Taurus -- YOU SEEM PRETTY PHILOSOPHICAL ABOUT THIS.
"I don't know how you're supposed to look at it. I've never been in this situation before and never thought this day would come, but racing is a tough deal. Sometimes you're on and sometimes you're off. A lot of good teams are back there with us this weekend, we just picked the wrong weekend to be slow. We're just struggling. Our speedway stuff is not where it needs to be and we know that. I'm glad we've got a week off coming up. We need to sit back and see what we need to do and get going in the right direction for Daytona. That's really gonna be right around the corner. We've got to get us a brand new car going and we can't let this happen again. We think we'll be good on the intermediate tracks and the short tracks, we've just got to get better on this speedway stuff."
YOU GUYS STRUGGLED AT DAYTONA, BUT YOU WORKED HARD TO GET READY FOR THIS RACE.
"We put all our time in a brand new car for here, but it tested awful. This is a car from last year and we got back and painted ourselves in a corner and couldn't get out of it. That's something we need to try and not do again, but the guys have worked hard. They really tried to do the best they could as far as making it work, but no matter what we did the car would run the same speed. I don't know what it is. I'm not gonna say it's the body, I'm not gonna say it's the engine, I'm not gonna point fingers at anybody. As a team we've just gotta assess what happened and what we think the right direction is for us to go in."
NOTE: This marks the first time the Wood Brothers have not qualified for a NASCAR Winston Cup race since the 1998 season when Michael Waltrip did not make the field at Phoenix. He later served that weekend as a relief driver for Dale Jarrett, who was suffering from gall stones.
KEVIN LEPAGE --16-- FamilyClick.com Taurus -- WHAT HAPPENED?
"I can't answer it. We were the eighth car to go through inspection yesterday and got our sticker. I mean, NASCAR thought the car was good. I mean, everything was good, but for some reason we just missed it. We'll go back and look at the car. We'll try to figure out what we've got to do. We'll do all the things that we have available to Roush Racing and we'll dissect it and figure out what we've got to do. We've got 25 more races, so it's a void but not one that we can't overcome as a team."
ARE YOU SHOCKED?
"Dumbfounded, lost for words, disappointed more for the team, they guys who put a lot of effort into the program, the guys at the shop, the hours that were put into this car. We're just lost for words. I ran a .67 and a .75 this morning with no help, clean laps, and we go through the inspection room and we come back on the race track and run a .20. Where did we lose a half-a-second? That's beside me. It's definitely disappointing, it's a heart-breaker, but I've gone home from these races before. We've got a week off and we'll just re-evaluate our program and find out what went wrong."