Talladega: Pontiac Racing - Benson, Zipadelli interview

Teams gearing up for ultimate aero test at Talladega. DETROIT, Mich., April 15, 2002 - In order to win at Talladega Superspeedway, a team has to make the most of two things: its car and the air that surrounds it. A number of NASCAR Winston Cup...

Teams gearing up for ultimate aero test at Talladega.

DETROIT, Mich., April 15, 2002 - In order to win at Talladega Superspeedway, a team has to make the most of two things: its car and the air that surrounds it. A number of NASCAR Winston Cup teams, including the Pontiac teams of Johnny Benson and Tony Stewart, tested at Talladega last week to get a leg up in both those areas.

The Talladega event marks the second restrictor plate race of the 2002 season and the second event since NASCAR adjusted the aerodynamic rules for races run at Daytona and Talladega.

Johnny Benson, No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac Grand Prix:

AFTER EXPERIENCING THIS RULES PACKAGE AT DAYTONA IN FEBRUARY, WHAT KIND OF RACING DO YOU EXPECT AT TALLADEGA?

"It's not going to matter which package you run at Talladega. You could use the old rules or the current rules. You're going to have the same type of race at Talladega. Daytona and Talladega are so different. You're still going to see a lot of three-wide racing there because handling isn't near the issue that it is at Daytona, so it's still going to be that way. Maybe you won't be able to go up through the middle as good as you did with the [roof] blades, but it's still going to be a good race for the fans."

WILL DRIVERS AND CREW CHIEFS PLAY MORE OF A ROLE AT TALLADEGA THIS TIME AS OPPOSED TO THE PAST COUPLE OF RACES THERE?

"I don't know if it's going to change much. It's the same race every time there. It's always tight, it's always packed together and that's what you're going to have."

DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT GETTING QUALIFIED?

"I don't think we're going to qualify good and that is the only thing that scares me. With the aero rules as they are right now, I don't expect any of the Pontiacs to qualify well and that could possibly mean we'll go home (fail to qualify) because of our points position. But, if we get in the race, I think it will race great.

"This car raced extremely well there last year. It's the same car that we were running fourth with until the wreck on the backstretch [on the last lap], so I know it's going to race good. You just can't get through the air yourself without having any drafting help.

"The Pontiac will race awesome. It's just a matter of getting them qualified."

Greg Zipadelli, Crew Chief, No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix:

HOW DID YOUR TEST GO AT TALLADEGA LAST WEEK?

"It went alright. We picked up a little speed. We kind of gave up three-quarters of a day because of the rain, so we really only had a one-day test. I wish we had been there Thursday to carry out what we started, but we still made a lot of progress.

"We'd been working on some stuff and wanted to see the results of it - what are thought process was, what we'd been doing, some wind-tunnel stuff. It was just more of a fun, educational test, as opposed to a 'high-pressure, got to go fast or we're going to miss the race' kind of test."

YOU RACE IN THE DRAFT AT TALLADEGA, BUT YOU DON'T GET TO TEST THAT WAY...HOW MUCH CAN YOU GET OUT OF A TEST THERE?

"The way the rules are now, it's back to a situation where if you have a fast-, low drag-, high horsepower-car, you go fast. You can pass cars. That's what it's back to now - what it was a couple years ago. It's not as fast-paced, four and five wide, passing for the lead every lap - like it was the last year and a half. I think the drivers are a little more comfortable. It's a little more racey. Your car has got to handle. You've got to work hard on your car and if you do, you'll probably be rewarded by the way you finish. Before it was just a case of which driver wanted to be the most aggressive at the end of the race. Obviously, you still had to have a decent car. But, with the rules package like it was, it equalized the car so much. Now, it's back to the motor room doing their work, chassis guys doing their work and the driver do ing his job - thinking about where he needs to go, when he needs to go. It definitely puts a little bit more racing and a little more strategy back into. The fans probably don't see that part of it. But, for racers, it's what we do and it's what we want."

THIS RULES PACKAGE SEEMS TO BE VIEWED AS HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION...DO WE NEED TO TAKE ANOTHER STEP IN THAT DIRECTION?

"There are some things in the works - the big 'greenhouses' and some other things like that they're looking at. Those things will make cars safer and hopefully take some downforce away from them, which will make them handle a little bit worse than they do now.

"The biggest thing to remember is that there is no easy answer. There isn't. If there was, I swear my life that NASCAR would have found it, but there isn't any. They've gotten all of us together - crew chiefs, drivers, owners - and had meetings and let everybody put in their suggestions.

"But, you're playing with a double-edged sword. If you do too much stuff and you pick up all kinds of speed, that's not what we need. NASCAR can't take a chance on having us go 200 miles per hour again. That's just a recipe for disaster. And, the only way to control the speed is with a restrictor plate.

"I think some of these new ideas might be a another step and then we'll take a little step after that. But, you're never going to turn it into an Atlanta. It's just a different style of racing. The technology has changed. The cars are so good and so efficient, and the motor rooms are doing so well in the horsepower area, the sport has changed a lot.

"You've got probably 30 good cars now where back then you only had five or eight cars that were good, so that broke up the pack. They're working on it and that's what they need to keep doing. They are changing things and are trying different things, and that's all you can ask."

-pontiac-

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Series NASCAR SPRINT CUP
Drivers Tony Stewart , Johnny Benson