BUSCH: qualifying notes 96-02-13

BUSCH QUALIFYING -- ROUND THREE FOR THE DAYTONA 500 BRETT BODINE (No. 11 Lowe's Ford) -- It's a step in the right direction, that's for sure. We were mired for two days at the same speed. To gain what we did is a credit to the team. They ...

BUSCH QUALIFYING -- ROUND THREE FOR THE DAYTONA 500

BRETT BODINE (No. 11 Lowe's Ford) -- It's a step in the right direction, that's for sure. We were mired for two days at the same speed. To gain what we did is a credit to the team. They worked really hard. We've just got to keep plugging. We've got something now that we can race them with. That's the thing. We changed motors so we've got a stronger horse in there. What we had prior to this just wasn't going to get the job done so we had to go out on a limb and do some major changes. We got a motor from Jack Roush. It definitely helped our program. The fire that ruined our best car definitely set us back. The other car was at least a half-second faster than this car. If you believe in numbers then the other car could have run 48 (seconds) flat. Here we are at 48.50, but we'll take it.

RUSTY WALLACE INTERVIEW -- SELECTED QUOTES

RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Ford) -- The last half of last year we had incredible finishes. We won two races and had a lot of seconds and thirds. I feel really comfortable coming into the season. The team is getting along good, the engines are running good. I'm disappointed with our qualifying because we've been practicing really, really good. We changed a set of tires and did some adjusting on the car and killed it. I thought it would speed it up. We've been running good in the draft for the past two days. We've just got to stay optimistic.

(On the Gatorade 125's) Our qualifying has always been sub-par down here and the 125's have always been good for me. We've had a second and fourth in the past two years. In the 500 we've had the handling go away and we've slipped back in the pack and gotten into accidents. I'm not paying attention to what's happening. We've had a lot of good races since then. A lot of good things have happened since then. This car doesn't have any of the bad tendencies so I feel real good about it.

(On the restrictor plate engine program) We're not exactly where we need to be at yet. When I hired Mark Ege to replace David Evans at the end of the year Mike had three races with us. He's only had about one month to get the Daytona and Talladega engines prepared to where they need to be. We've got two engines that are darn good. We've sent the Daytona 500 engine back to North Carolina for them to take a look at it and it's on the way back. We need more development time. As soon as the 500 is over our research and development program is really going to kick in and stay going. I feel we've concentrated more on the unrestricted engines and when it comes time to go to Talladega we've hurried with the motors and that hurts me. We've had meetings and we've said we're not going to let that happen again. We've hired a couple of guys from Junior Johnson. The restrictor plate development will not stop. In the past it has. We can't let that happen again.

(On Ford versus GM.) I think the Fords are going to be fine. I've said before that you can't use Daytona to judge things. I'm not complaining. We've got some concession on the roof. Now, we've got to go out and run them and see how it goes. I thought I ran strong the last 10-15 races of the season. I don't know if I can say that about the rest of the Ford teams, but I think we pretty well have our act together. It's going to be hard to put any type of judgement about things from the Daytona 500. I can't look at the Busch Clash and say it was a sign. The Fords always run great down here. Let's get the 500 over with and start judging things when we get to Atlanta. Atlanta, Michigan and Charlotte are the three race tracks where you can judge whether these cars are equal or not.

(How does the car handle on long runs?) There is one thing which is definitely positive about what's happening this week. I haven't talked to hardly anybody who says their car is handling bad. The cars are handling good, even side-by-side. We've been out there drafting and I've seen guys get into three-wide situations. It's because we're running a lot slower. Last year we were in 196 mile-per-hour drafts, this year it's 188. The cars are sticking better because we're running slower. The cars are running closer. I think the 500 will look more like Talladega, where the cars are bumper-to-bumper.

(On Ernie Irvan's comeback.) I honestly didn't think Ernie would be back this soon. I did feel that when he came back he would be running strong. I talk to him almost every day. We get along wonderful. Every time I look at him I see his eye is open more and more. We keep putting him to the test. We put him to the test in Phoenix and Atlanta. He came through both of those with flying colors and led both races. This morning he was running in a 20-car pack, cars all around him, and he says: 'No problem.' I think he's 100 percent back -- I really do. I think it's one helluva comeback.

(On Sterling Marlin's chances of winning three straight Daytona 500s.) I think Sterling's chances are wonderful. I watched him in the Clash and was impressed. I know (crew chief) Tony (Glover) and he does a good job. He's a hard working guy. Just from watching what has been happening I think Sterling has the strongest car. I think he has the best chance to win the 500 right now. I saw how he came from the back in the Clash and rode to the front. Dale Jarrett looks good, Ernie Irvan looks good. We're all running the same speed right now.

(On Jeff Gordon.) I think he's a natural-born talent. Some people are born to be drivers and some aren't. I grew up in a racing family, Dale Earnhardt did and so did Mark Martin. Those are the drivers to beat. I think Jeff is doing a wonderful job in his career. He's got good people working with him to manage his time. Let's face it, when you're young and there are a lot of neat things in your life things happen quick. I know they did for me. I did a lot of things that I've learned that you shouldn't do. After you win that title and it sinks in, you kind of push that reset button and go out the next year with a new lease on life.

INCIDENT IN NASCAR WINSTON CUP PRACTICE TUESDAY MORNING

WALLY DALLENBACH (#15 Hayes Modems Ford) -- I felt something at the end of the backstretch and into turn three it started to come around on me. I wanted to get it to the bottom of the track, but there was too much traffic so I kind of let it slap the outside wall and got it slowed down. The guys are looking at it now. It looks like we've got some minor sheet metal damage. The right rear wheel-well is torn out from when the tire went down. (Upon being shown the right front tire, which had two quarter-size gouges in it.) Wow, I guess I did run over something! I didn't hurt it too badly, but for a second I thought I was going to. 

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