This Week in Ford Racing
April 16, 2002
NASCAR Winston Cup Series
The second restrictor plate race of the 2002 season will take place this weekend as the Aaron's 499 is scheduled for Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Ford hasn't won at the biggest track on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series since Dale Jarrett's triumph in the 1998 DieHard 500. Jarrett, along with Rusty Wallace and Elliott Sadler, spoke about the race and the extra quarter-inch that has been added to the Taurus spoiler since Daytona.
RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE TAKING A KNIFE TO A GUNFIGHT? "No, I feel good about Talladega, I really do. Our cars have been to the wind tunnel and our guys are happy with what they're seeing from those numbers. We built a brand-new car and took it to the wind tunnel and didn't like it, so we took our old stand by -- the 18 car. I've run so good with that at Daytona, but I tore it up in the 125 and had it rebuilt. We took that to the wind tunnel and with the new rule, including the new nose template, it had the lowest drag we've ever seen out of our shop. That's the car we're taking and I feel good about it."
SO THE QUARTER-INCH THAT WAS ADDED WON'T BOTHER YOU? "Well, we sure didn't need another quarter-inch added to us. I thought the five-and-three-quarter made for a good race at Daytona. I didn't see us blowing anybody away, but NASCAR took it back away. It was upsetting that they did that, but they did give us some nose template relief. I'm not sure if we see anything there yet or not because we rebuilt the whole car with all the new changes and put it together as one package. When we took it to the wind tunnel, the overall drag number was all that we saw. We weren't able to compare what the new nose template versus the old nose template was able to do for us because we just went by that overall drag number that we see in the tunnel. I'm hoping that will be good."
DALE JARRETT --88-- UPS Taurus
"Obviously you have to have a good enough car to draft with and to be near the front. You have to have a lot of patience, but, more than anything else, positioning yourself towards the end of the race. You can race there for 470 miles and it doesn't really make any difference -- it's those last 30 miles -- that's when you have to get yourself in the right position."
DO YOU THINK WE'LL SEE AS MUCH BLOCKING AS DAYTONA? "You're gonna have people that realize and think this is their one opportunity to win a race or even just their best opportunity to win a race, so they're gonna do whatever they can do to put themselves in that position."
YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RULES HEADING INTO TALLADEGA? "It doesn't really matter what I think because they're not gonna change them. I guess they added a little back to our spoiler. I don't know why they would have done that, but we'll just go and see. I don't think you'll see many Fords being very fast in qualifying, but maybe things will work out for us during the race."
WHAT WAYS CAN YOU USE THE DRAFT AT TALLADEGA? "There are ways of slowing cars down that you're racing up against. That's why you see people pull over against other people or getting really closed up. There's stuff you can do with air."
LIKE WHAT? "That's for those guys to figure out. If I thought just the race fans were gonna read it, I'd say that, but I've worked long and hard to figure out these things. There are ways you can effect other cars without hitting them or anything like that."
HOW DID YOU LEARN THAT? "By watching Dale, Jr's. dad -- that was the best way. He'd tend to figure it out before anyone else would and if you just paid attention to what Dale was doing, then you could learn a lot in a short period of time."
WOULD YOU WATCH ON THE TRACK OR ON TAPE? "Both. I would watch him on the track and then kind of verify what I thought I was seeing on tape to make sure that's what I was seeing."
THERE SEEMS TO BE LESS NOISE ABOUT TALLADEGA THIS TIME. WHY? "I think everybody is maybe a little more comfortable with the rules change. I'm sure we'll be three-wide at times, but it's not gonna be like it was the last couple of times we've been there. I think everybody is just kind of comfortable. We're more comfortable with our safety situation inside our cars -- that's another big thing. Hopefully, that means guys are thinking more because we're not talking about it as much and we're all gonna use the common sense that we were given."
ELLIOTT SADLER --21-- Motorcraft Taurus
IT SEEMS DAYTONA HAS BEEN FEAST FOR YOU BUT TALLADEGA HAS BEEN FAMINE. WHY? "I don't know. It just seems like every bad-luck accident we can get into at Talladega we seem to find. Man, it's just bad luck. I remember two years ago I was running fourth on the last lap and ended up 17th. I just can't seem to catch a break at that place and I don't know why. I think handling comes more into part at Daytona and we usually have a pretty good handling race car on speedways. I know what kind of feel I'm looking for at Daytona. Talladega, it's just straight out who is gonna work with you the best. We usually struggle in qualifying, which means our car is not up to speed like we need to be there, so maybe that has a lot to do with it as well."
AS SOMEONE WHO FINISHED UP FRONT AT DAYTONA, WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS QUARTER-INCH ADDITION TO THE FORD SPOILER WILL DO AT TALLADEGA? "It's gonna kill us, especially at Talladega. At Daytona I know I out-handled a bunch of race cars and that's the reason we finished second. I could just stay on the gas the whole time and keep it wide open all the way around, but at Talladega everybody is gonna be wide open so that quarter-inch is gonna kill us. I don't suspect you'll see but maybe three or four Fords in the top 20 when we get to Talladega, so I think it's gonna be tough. We'll see what happens, but that was the first quarter-inch they cut off at Daytona and it didn't do anything. That last quarter really did a lot for our race cars, but what everybody is forgetting is that there were a lot of good Chevrolets in the race at Daytona, but they just got in wrecks. We didn't. We were able to miss the wrecks. The other thing is we didn't lead any laps. I think Kurt Busch led 10 or 11 laps and that was it. It's gonna be tough, but I think all of the Fords have got to work together. That's the only chance we've got is if we help each other."
THE KEY IN THE RACE IS GETTING IN THE RIGHT POSITION AT THE END, RIGHT? "It is. It's a chess game and we were just as lucky as we could be the last two races at Datyona because we were in the right place at the right time. That's a big part of it. It's a chess game. You've just got to be in the right line at the right lap and some of these guys are very good at it, especially these veterans. That's something we need to learn, and hopefully get better."