THE SECOND AND FINAL ROAD COURSE RACE OF THE NASCAR WINSTON CUP SEASON IS SCHEDULED TO TAKE PLACE THIS WEEKEND AT WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL. FORD DRIVERS TALK ABOUT THAT RACE, ALONG WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF USING RAIN TIRES DURING THE...
THE SECOND AND FINAL ROAD COURSE RACE OF THE NASCAR WINSTON CUP SEASON IS SCHEDULED TO TAKE PLACE THIS WEEKEND AT WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL. FORD DRIVERS TALK ABOUT THAT RACE, ALONG WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF USING RAIN TIRES DURING THE EVENT. DALE JARRETT -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- DO YOU THINK YOUR PROBLEMS AT WATKINS GLEN COST YOU THE CHAMPIONSHIP LAST YEAR? "You can't look at one race and say that it cost you. This is a whole series of races and we had problems at other places besides Watkins Glen. It just comes later in the season and you look at that. We run well there, we just haven't had much racing luck. If we can go there and continue to run well, those things will equal out." LOOKING BACK AT THAT RACE, WAS IT HARD NOT TO LOSE CONTROL WHEN NASCAR BLACK-FLAGGED YOU DUE TO THE SMOKE COMING FROM YOUR CAR BECAUSE THAT COULD HAVE GIVEN YOU THE TITLE? "That's easy to say, but they've got a tough decision to make, too. They see a car smoking and they've gotta figure something is going on. Until we came in and they saw that we didn't have anything leaking onto the race track, it's a tough decision. I'm sure there was somewhere during the season where I messed up and cost us some points too, so you can't blame it on anyone. We don't look back at it. We just say that when we go to Watkins Glen and these other places that we're gonna try to be better there than the time before." HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF USING RAIN TIRES? "I just think it's not the thing for us to do in Winston Cup. We don't race anywhere in the rain. The weather may affect us there, but no more so than a lot of other place we go and we wait it out. Yeah, maybe it's a little selfish on my part thinking like that, but I'm honestly thinking more about the race fans that we've been able to accumulate because of good, hard racing and that's not what they're gonna see I don't think." GEOFF BODINE -7- Philips Taurus -- YOU'VE DONE WELL AT WATKINS GLEN THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT TRACK? "Actually, I've always run well there and should have won a few more races than what I have, but that's racing. I always like to go back to Watkins Glen and I love road racing. I hope that's obvious. We've won at Riverside, Sears Point and Watkins. We were second last year to Gordon after he jumped me on the last restart, which he didn't get penalized for. "We're taking that same car back, actually, that same chassis with the new Taurus body on it. We had a pretty good run at Sears Point going until I had a rear brake problem and the rear brakes locked up. We would have had a good finish there, so we feel good about going to Watkins Glen. We think our effort is gonna be good there. We're gonna have fun and drink a little wine up there in the wine country. I have a friend who has a winery up there, so I'm gonna go get some bottles of wine and put them in my wine cellar at home." DID YOU GO TO WATKINS GLEN A LOT BEFORE GETTING INTO WINSTON CUP? "No. I went there a lot to watch. I watched Grand Prix and Grand Nationals run there, which is us now. I've raced a snowmobile there and modified there, but never thought we were gonna get this opportunity to race Winston Cup. When they announced that, of course, that made me real happy knowing we're going back there to race these cars because that is home. I have a lot of good memories there, a lot of friends and relatives that still live in that area." WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE POSSIBLE USE OF RAIN TIRES? "I really enjoyed practicing and qualifying in the rain last year in Japan. Now, not everyone was there and not everyone got that opportunity. I thought it was great. It adds another dimension to your resume, I guess. I don't think NASCAR road racers have been given as much credit for their talent and ability on road courses, so, by having to run in the rain, I guess it showed everyone we could do it and do it quite well. "The good thing about Japan, though, was that we didn't have to race in the rain. It was just practice and qualifying. We raced in the dry. I'm not sure I'd want to race in the rain. We have windshields to scrape the water clean. Indy cars and Formula One, they just have little windscreens. It's tough for them to race in the rain with all the spray and that's the problem, I think, we would have. The spray and defrosting the windshield. Of course, we learned in Japan how to do that. "I hope we don't have to. I saw the rain tires sitting out at Indy on display. I don't know if that was to show everyone the rain tire or a warning to us that we might have to race in the rain. But, whatever it is, I hope we don't have to use them in the race. But, if we do, we will and that's the new policy. We have windshield wipers on the car, defrosters in the car and tail lights so people can see us from behind." BRETT BODINE -11- Paychex Taurus -- WATKINS GLEN IS YOUR HOME RACE TRACK, SO YOU HAVE TO BE EXCITED ABOUT GETTING BACK THERE, RIGHT? "It is. This year it's kind of a double bonus with it being my home track and it's also our sponsor's home track. Paychex is based out of Rochester, New York, so this is a really big weekend for us going back to the Glen. I can't wait to get there." HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT POSSIBLY HAVING TO USE RAIN TIRES? "I don't think it's really in the best interest of our sport for us to be racing in the rain. I understand the reasons for it, but I really feel like it will jeopardize the show and the show is the most important thing for the race fans. I just hope that we won't have to race in the rain, but we'll be ready if we do." YOU'VE BEEN IN THE TOP 20 IN POINTS MOST OF THE YEAR, BUT DO YOU FEEL NOW IS THE TIME TO TAKE IT UP ANOTHER LEVEL? "We really do. We need to take it to the next level. We really have struggled on this flat track swing, so to speak. Between Pocono and Loudon and back to Pocono again, and then Indianapolis, that's the weak part of our program. We've gotta get something figured out that we can be more competitive. I can't wait to get back to the Bristols and the short tracks like Martinsville, places that we know we're gonna go there and run good. But Watkins Glen is a place we feel very confident about. We feel like we can go there and be awfully competitive and when you're enjoying the homecourt advantage, you never know what could happen." MARK MARTIN, DRIVER OF THE NO. 6 VALVOLINE TAURUS, IS SECOND IN THE NASCAR WINSTON CUP POINT STANDINGS, 72 POINTS BEHIND LEADER JEFF GORDON. MARTIN HAS FOUR VICTORIES THIS SEASON AND IS A THREE-TIME WINNER OF THE BUD AT THE GLEN, WINNING EACH TIME FROM THE POLE IN 1993, `94 AND `95. HE SPOKE ABOUT THE SEASON AND OTHER TOPICS DURING THE WEEKLY WINSTON TELECONFERENCE. WINSTON TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR BRICKYARD EFFORT? "We had a good run...a little bit disappointing to be that close and not be able to close the deal, but we gave it everything we had as a team. We put a lot of effort into it as well as our competition and we came out of there with a strong run." THE POINT CHASE IS EXTREMELY CLOSE. WHAT'S IT GONNA TAKE FOR SOMEONE TO MAKE A MOVE NOW? "DNF. That's how you do it. It's real close right now, the competition is real close, and that's what creates the significant changes in the deal." HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE CHANCE TO WIN AGAIN AT WATKINS GLEN? "Everywhere we go is another chance to score another victory. We have a great race team and the guys are doing a really nice job. They're pumped up and each race is another opportunity. I don't view Watkins Glen as a better opportunity than anywhere else at this point. I expect to be competitive there. I don't expect to dominate." FOLLOWING SEARS POINT, THERE WAS SOME TALK ABOUT THE FUTURE OF ROAD COURSES. DO YOU FEEL THEY'RE AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE CUP SCHEDULE? "I don't know. I don't care. It's not a big deal to me. Road course racing is not hard. I'd rather go to Watkins Glen than Martinsville to be honest with you. I mean, we got to more than one race track that isn't my favorite and we probably go to more than one race track that everybody on the circuit feels that same way. Some people don't like one and some people don't like the other. It's a great area. It's a great race they have up there. It's a great race in Sears Point. Personally, I don't mind. For me, it's easier for me to pass at Sears Point than some of the other race tracks we run, so we'll just have to go with it and see what NASCAR decides to do with it in the future. I don't foresee those races coming off the schedule just like I don't foresee any of the others. Everywhere we go it's strong...strong markets...sell-out crowds. I don't know why they would be considering taking them off the schedule." AS A VIEWER IT WAS HARD TO SEE THE BRICKYARD END UNDER CAUTION. DO YOU AS A DRIVER FEEL NASCAR NEEDS TO LOOK AT THAT AND TRY TO FIND A WAY TO END UNDER GREEN? "No I don't. I don't think there's anything wrong with the way it is now as long as it's consistent, which at least the Brickyard finish was consistent with a typical NASCAR Winston Cup race finish. Quite possibly Richmond wasn't." IF YOU'RE DALE JARRETT YOU MIGHT WONDER WHERE THE CONSISTENCY IS ON THIS ISSUE. "Saturday's was consistent with what we've seen in the past and I don't think there's anything wrong with it. It works in some people's favor and against other people and you just have to hope you're on the receiving end instead of the losing end. I'm not in favor of stopping races unless there's a major, major problem. There's too much strategy that goes into NASCAR Winston Cup races to be extending them. Saying, `Well, they would have run three more laps...restart the race and run three more laps.' Well, somebody might run out of gas and that wouldn't be fair. I think the policy is just fine the way it is. Unfortunately, it wouldn't end under caution if somebody wouldn't wreck. It's just unfortunate that you have an accident that close to the end of the race, but once in a while you do. Most of the time you don't." HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT POSSIBLY HAVING TO USE RAIN TIRES THIS WEEKEND AT WATKINS GLEN. HAVE YOU HAD TIME TO THINK ABOUT THAT AND HOW YOU WOULD GO ABOUT PIT STOPS IN THE RAIN? "Just as we would pretty much in the sunshine. I have a very negative opinion on racing in the rain. I actually wish it would rain on qualifying and we'd qualify in the rain. I have a little bit of experience driving in the rain and most of the guys don't. I don't plan on starting in 30th position, but if you started the race in the rain in 30th position, you may as well pull over and quit because of the spray. To me that's somehow not quite fair and it's not quite what we're trying to accomplish in NASCAR Winston Cup racing, which is parity. You just wouldn't be able to see. A lot of the races are endurance races, they're run in the rain, or races with 20 cars in the field or something, not 43. With the Winston Cup championship on the line, I think everybody would much rather see it be sunny than raining." DO YOU SEE IT A PROBLEM WITH THE WEIGHT OF THE CARS AND THE STRAIN ON THE BRAKES? "No. No problem at all. Great tires, great cars, great everything...visibility poor. When you have something as important as the Winston Cup championship riding on the line, it would just be much better if you didn't have to deal with the visibility problem and that's the only problem that you really face with the thing. There's nothing you can do about that. The best thing to do would be to have it not rain. Now qualifying, that's a different story. You've got one car on the race track at a time. Driving in it is not a problem. Goodyear has a fantastic rain tire, so driving in the rain is not a problem, but visibility is when you try to race 43 cars around that race track." HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF GIVING OPEN-WHEEL CARS A TRY AND HAVE YOU EVER HAD THE OPPORTUNITY? "I've had the opportunity to drive Valvoline's CART car a number of times and have passed on it. As a successful Winston Cup driver, I absolutely see no attraction whatsoever in that direction. Why would you? If you were successful in Winston Cup, I don't know why in the world you would ever look at going Indy car racing." WHEN YOU WERE MUCH YOUNGER HAD YOU THOUGHT ABOUT IT ANY? "I grew up in Arkansas. Stock car racing was a lot more close to home. The Indy 500 was the grandest race of all time because of it's recognition and history and heritage, but those kind of cars were not attracted to me because I'd never saw them. You saw stock cars race on dirt in Arkansas, you didn't see sprint cars or any open-wheeled stuff. That never crossed my mind, and, then, people are different. There has been talk of Jeff Gordon in Formula One or whatever opportunities. If you were as young as Jeff Gordon and as successful as Jeff Gordon, you might consider Formula One but I would speculate that he wouldn't even consider it because NASCAR is where it's at. But Formula One, to me, is very intriguing. It's pretty incredible. It's world championship stuff, but I think that's all just a bunch of people talking and pipe-dreaming. I would assume that Jeff Gordon wouldn't even consider going anywhere but NASCAR racing. This is where it's at. The stands are full, they're packed. The sport's healthy. There's more sponsors and more teams than you can put on the race track, so I can't imagine anyone going anywhere if they had a shot at being successful in Winston Cup."
IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A GOOD ROAD COURSE DRIVER? "That's real difficult for me to answer. You could ask me that same question of a flat track or a short track or a restrictor-plate speedway. You're asking a guy who has always had a lot of success on road courses, so my answer to me would be, `It's just plain driving.' It's just like when I grew up in Arkansas and I drover the car. The roads were gravel roads and they were hilly and curvy and had ditches on the side. You just drove as fast as you could go and stay out of the ditch. Well that's road racing. I would oversimplify the answer because to me it's just driving a car." IS MORE MENTAL THAN ANYTHING ELSE? "To me it's driving a car. You know what driving a car was when I was 14 years old? It was getting in it, starting it up, and going down the back road and driving fast. That included turning left and turning right and shifting gears, and going over hills and coming up on blind curves and all that stuff. Really, what is road course racing? It's exactly the same thing. You go as fast as you can and you figure out how to go through each curve as fast as you can. That's all road racing is. Oval racing is not the same as driving down a country road because you don't really shift and you go around in a circle and go through the same turns over and over again without hills and different banking. To me, there's nothing more natural, no more natural driving, than just getting in a car and going on a road course. That is how almost everybody learned how to drive a car was on the road. Probably a road with curves and with some hills and you had to shift some gears and then you started driving faster. The next thing you know you're road racing." IT PROBABLY DOESN'T HURT TO HAVE THE ROAD RACING EXPERIENCE JACK ROUSH HAS DOES IT. "Jack has been a lot of help through the years, as much as I'd let him be by asking the right questions and making me think about things. He's a great guy. He's an awesome racer." WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JEFF BURTON AND HOW HAS THAT SWITCH GONE BEING IN THE SAME SHOP TOGETHER? "Jeff Burton is the most awesome race car driver on the circuit in my opinion and if I owned a race team there wouldn't be anything to get in the way of me hiring him to drive my race car. He's the man. He's just real talented and real smart and real driven. He's really got it going. He's been a big help to me and I've been the benefactor of his experience and drive and determination. He's made a better racer out of me and there's no question he's benefited from my experience and I think I've made a better racer out of him too. So, it's a good combination and he and his brother both are really fine people." IT SEEMS LIKE THE 24 TEAM HAS PICKED UP SOME ENGINE POWER ON THE STRAIGHTAWAY. WHAT'S YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THAT SITUATION? "They're on top of their game right now on their engine program. Even the 36 team had one that worked well for them at Indy. They've got that cylinder head working for them right now, which is really what we expected from the beginning of the year. We were afraid of that cylinder head. They started off the year with some things to learn about it and it looks like they've learned their lessons well now." IS THERE SOMETHING TO FEAR FROM THAT SB2 CYLINDER HEAD? "Yes, because now that they have it that means that all the rest of the teams that run it will follow along behind that as well and they'll keep making progress and then so will all the competition. There seems to be quite a bit of potential there." HOW IS YOU BACK INJURY AND HAS IT SLOWED YOU DOWN AT ALL? "When it originally flared up two months ago it slowed me down considerably. I even had to miss working out about a week, but the pain was indescribable. I've been doing acupuncture and it has just saved my life. It's turned my life around. The pain is 90 percent gone right now and all I have to do is be very careful with it, but I'm lifting weights just as hard and heavy as ever. I know what does hurt it and what doesn't hurt it and I've been real successful at avoiding the things that really throw it out. I just can't pick up things like furniture, my son's quarter-midget, and stuff like that like I would like to. I'm able to do all my weights and all that stuff, but there are some things that leave me feeling pretty incomplete because I don't like to have to rely on someone to help me do things. When it comes to picking stuff up I have to be quite a bit guarded about that." WILL THERE BE ANY MORE STRESS ON YOUR BODY THIS WEEKEND WITH A ROAD COURSE RACE? "No. I've done Sears Point with it. I've had at the Watkins Glen test. I've done everything. I'm not gonna have any problems with it. I'm a pretty determined person and from the onset of this it wasn't gonna be an obstacle in the performance of my racing, other than the misery and pain that it caused which we have under control now." ARE YOU STILL PLANNING ON HAVING THE OPERATION AT THE END OF THE SEASON? "Yes I am. I would really like to get to where I could do the lifting thing and pick stuff up. I don't like having to be as careful as I am right now. I could live with the level of pain that I have, but I want to get more back to normal." IS THERE ANYTHING DIFFERENT IN THE WAY YOU FEEL ABOUT THE CHAMPIONSHIP RUN THIS SEASON COMPARED TO PREVIOUS YEARS? "I don't feel a lot different. We're racing fierce competitors that are on top of their game. The same as we were last year and the year before. Things don't feel that much different right now. We've got a great race team and we've had a great year and we're just going on. We're gonna see what happens over the next few months." DOES IT GET FRUSTRATING TO BE SO CLOSE TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP AND NOT WON IT. "It hasn't been yet." WHAT KEEPS YOUR SPIRITS UP? "What keeps a guy in 15th up. I'm not the only guy that's ever gotten beat. You've gotta think about that. You can ask that question and make a guy feel like he's not any good because he can't win the championship and then you can ask about 40 Winston Cup regulars if they'd like to be a contender every single year week-in and week-out or year-in and year-out and they'd say `I'd give anything to be.'" ITS BEING IN CONTENTION THEN? "It's about winning, but it would be much harder for me if I didn't have a chance. I do have a chance. We've got a great chance and we had a great chance last year. We've had a great chance most of the years, so you have to be thankful for what you have." HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO VISIT THE GUYS IN THE SHOP EVERY WEEK AND BE THERE WITH THEM? "It's nice to spend time with your guys and the amount of importance varies somewhat. I've spent time with my guys in the past and, on a bad day when I've stubbed my toe, they've run me down the road about it. Then I've had spells where I haven't been able to be around these guys and they didn't know me very well and I stubbed my toes and they were the first ones to defend me. Chemistry is very important. I happen to be at the shop right now and I like spending time with these guys because they're winners. They want to win bad and that's the most important thing to them. Those are the kind of people I want to be around and I think they probably feel the same way about me, so we have a real good relationship. How they feel about me and how I feel about them makes all the difference in the world when it comes to performance because everybody on the race track has the same stuff. They've got the same amount of horsepower. They bought their chassis from the same guy. They've got the bodies hung on by the same templates. The same tires. Everything is the same. The only way you beat your competition is by squeezing more out of the same piece of iron and when you've got good chemistry you're able to do that. And when you don't have it, no matter how much talent you have, you can't get the job done. Everybody in the sport is good enough. Every driver is good enough to win that's in Winston Cup right now and every team is good enough to be competitive to win. But the ones that aren't getting the job done have more to do with the chemistry than the ability." JACK ROUSH, CAR OWNER FOR MARK MARTIN, JEFF BURTON, TED MUSGRAVE, CHAD LITTLE AND JOHNNY BENSON, WAS ANOTHER GUEST ON THIS WEEK'S TELECONFERENCE. FOLLOWING ARE SOME OF HIS COMMENTS: HOW HAS THE FIVE-CAR OPERATION WORKED OUT SO FAR? "If I was willing to relegate myself to being cannon fodder to other folks who could go win championships, I guess this would be enough for me but Mark is a quality driver. The IROC performances over a period of time speaks for itself. If I can get him in a competitive car, he'll have all that Jeff Gordon can deal with and he'll win his share of championships for the foreseeable future, so I'm still trying to get it right. Johnny Benson in the new Cheerios car is a tremendous driver. He can do anything that anybody out there is doing today. I haven't got it right for him yet. Chad Little has taken a step with the John Deere car and we've gotta keep that going. We've struggled some places more than I think we should and we've been better at others than I thought we could be. We're obviously trying to improve the 16 car's ability to do what it can do. Early in the races we couldn't figure out how to stop from losing these laps early in races and we're gonna try to see if we can give Kevin Lepage what he needs. Ted Musgrave is a great driver and, for whatever reason, I couldn't manage to get him what he needed and we tried desperately for a long time. "Now we're gonna take those same pieces and see if we can get Kevin to do a little better. Jeff Burton in the Exide car is doing a good job. The first half of this year isn't what we expected exactly. Jeff had a couple of wrecks and we broke a part or two and he isn't in contention, which he should be. So I've got a lot to do. I'm much more unhappy about my year than I am satisfied with it."
ARE YOU GUYS GETTING BEAT RIGHT NOW BY THE 24 TEAM BECAUSE OF THE SB2? IS THERE A HORSEPOWER DIFFERENCE? "Over a period of time my engines have been durable, we've always gotten good fuel mileage, but we haven't historically dazzled the whole field with blinding speed. I may not be the right guy to ask that question, but on the other hand, we have had a look at this SB2 engine and the cylinder head in particular is better than anything that I've ever seen...that I believe you could configure out of a Ford head. And, if they haven't already found enough power...certainly it's there for them. There are a couple of areas, as I've looked at the engine and I had a chance to look at all the components some time ago and to do some air flow work, there are some areas of weakness that either General Motors has left there for the teams to develop, so it wouldn't be so outrageous to start with or if they hadn't left it intentionally, the teams have very quickly figured out because there are just a couple of glaring things that they need to do to that engine to bring it to life. In Jack's world, it'll be 15 or 20 horsepower out of any potential that I'd see getting out of my Ford stuff. And, if they haven't got all that, that will keep moving the mark out in front of where we can be engine-wise until we Ford interest guys do get a new cylinder head and intake manifold. "The Monte Carlo is a great car. It's a great balance between downforce and drag. And with this Taurus thing, when we had an advantage on downforce which we did to start with, we were horrible on drag. And when you get back to competitive downforce as we are now with the way NASCAR has cut the spoiler on the top and then on the sides, the downforce is very similar on these cars I believe front to rear. But the Taurus still has more drag. It has a rounder shape and doesn't separate the air in some ways the Monte Carlo does in my opinion. The Monte Carlo is a great car. The Taurus is a good car and maybe NASCAR can never get it closer than it is. I don't have an answer. I don't have three things that I need to be done to make the world just right for Jack Roush, or for the Ford guys, or for the fans. NASCAR is doing a great job with it and it's pretty close. But the Taurus still does have to carry a bigger spoiler for Daytona and Talladega that's just gonna cripple it because it's got more downforce than it needs with that at those tracks and the drag is just horrendous. And, of course, we're down on the engine now as well."