Restrictor plate races have not been kind to the Ford teams in 2001. After posting top-five sweeps in the Daytona 500 and Pepsi 400 in 2000, Ford teams have struggled to lead laps at Daytona and Talladega this season. In the three events...
Restrictor plate races have not been kind to the Ford teams in 2001. After posting top-five sweeps in the Daytona 500 and Pepsi 400 in 2000, Ford teams have struggled to lead laps at Daytona and Talladega this season. In the three events already completed, Ford teams have led only 39 out of a possible 548 laps. Dale Jarrett has led only one lap in the three events while Ricky Rudd has led two laps and Rusty Wallace three. NASCAR held a test session at Talladega on August 27-28 in which 19 cars tested a number of different aerodynamic configurations. After considering all of the data compiled, NASCAR decided to keep the aerodynamic specification it has used at restrictor plate tracks since last October, and make minor changes to both the Ford Taurus (narrower rear spoiler, 57" to 55 ½") and the Pontiac Grand Prix (shorter roof spoiler).
--88-- UPS Taurus
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON GOING BACK TO TALLADEGA WITH THE SAME RULES PACKAGE AS THE LAST RACE THERE? "I've been told after every restrictor plate this year that we were gonna make a change. We knew from the first time that we put the roof spoiler on in October of 2000 that it hurt the Fords more than it hurt any other car. It was a dramatic change right then that affected the way the car drove and it slowed it down tremendously. What they've tried to do now is not really going to affect anything because that roof spoiler already deflects enough air. It's not the rear spoiler that's creating the problem, so we're basically going there the same way that we were. There wasn't a Ford there that had a chance, so it's a little disappointing. I sat with Jeff Gordon in the NASCAR trailer at Richmond and he said that he felt we should go back and take the roof spoiler off. He knew the Chevrolets were going to suffer some in qualifying, but he felt like it would be better for racing. Anyway, here we have it."
IS IT TOO MUCH ASK FOR ANOTHER CAUTION FREE RACE AT TALLADEGA? "I would think. Each time we go it's just testing the luck. There were a number of times in the first race that things could have happened and been really big, but they didn't. Maybe they will again this time. There's a better chance of being able to go through a race with nothing taking place at Talladega, but if anything takes place it's gonna be big especially there because there's no possible way of anybody getting away at all."
IS IT A CASE WHERE THERE SHOULD BE ONE RULES PACKAGE FOR DAYTONA AND ANOTHER FOR TALLADEGA? "I thought that was the direction we were heading when I sat and talked with NASCAR about it. I felt that they were the ones who were saying, 'Hey, we may be to the point where we don't want two different cars for those places, but the rules could be a little different.' I was hoping that's kind of what we were gonna get to, but this is what we've got to work with and we'll just have to do what we possibly can. I don't know what they'll do. We know from the wind tunnel that what they took off of our rear spoiler hasn't changed our car at all, so maybe it'll be better on the race track."
--21-- Motorcraft Taurus
ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT AFTER TAKING PART IN THE TEST THAT THE RULES ARE BASICALLY THE SAME? "There are a few different ways you can look at it. We ran a caution-free race there in the spring, so, if we do make a change and, for some reason, go there and have the big wreck, I think NASCAR would be scared that some of the media people would be asking, 'Why did you change it? You had a safe race there in the spring that was caution-free. Why did you change it? Now you've had a wreck, now what are you gonna do?' As far as the drivers, when we practiced down there during the test that was the closest we raced -- with the aero packaged rules we have now. We were really tied together and couldn't go anywhere.
"It was like somebody had double-sided tape stuck between all the cars because we just couldn't go anywhere. The new rules that they tried down there seemed to spread the cars out a little more, but they're still facing the fact that the last time we raced at Talladega we had a caution-free race, so why change it. I think that's the big dilemma right now. I think they're gonna get criticized on both sides of the fence from some of the media. Some will say that you should change the rules and some will say you shouldn't because you had a safe race. I think NASCAR is just trying to do the safe thing and walk down the middle to try to keep everybody happy."
WHEN YOU SAY NEW RULES PACKAGE IS THAT WITHOUT THE ROOF SPOILER AND FLANGE ON THE REAR SPOILER? "Yeah, and that seemed to spread the cars out a little more. We still could pass pretty good. We were still running two-wide, but, then again, when you get 43 cars out there that always makes it a little bit different. There are always gonna be a big pile of cars, but I really think that the reason we're not gonna try something different this time is because we had a caution-free race last time. NASCAR really likes the rules we have now for Daytona. They thought we had a good race there in July and they were even flirting with the idea of having two different types of packages -- having one for Daytona and another for Talladega. A lot of the drivers and especially the car owners would not want to do because that's just more money, more speedway cars you have to build and more wind tunnel time to be competitive. They really want to race the Daytona 500 with the rules we have now. They don't want to have the same Daytona 500 race they had a couple of years ago where nobody could pass and it was a boring race. That's our spotlight race of the year and we need that to be a good and exciting race. There are a lot of different situations, but I think they're gonna give us one more run at it at Talladega, see what happens and then go from there."
Crew Chief --99-- Citgo SUPERGARD Taurus
WILL THIS SPOILER CHANGE HAVE ANY MAJOR EFFECT TO THE CAR? "You will barely be able to notice a difference, at least not enough to say so."
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST PROBLEM YOU FACE AT THESE TRACKS? "Our car was built before the Chevrolets and before the Dodges and it's unfortunate that we've been boxed into a corner. They've been able to make cars newer and probably take more advantage of areas that they could and it's been given to them. That's the problem we're facing right now."
IF YOU HAD THE POWER, WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO THE TAURUS? "We needed a half-inch off the top of the rear spoiler all the way across and we needed a half-inch off the top of the roof spoiler. That was the only thing that was gonna give us an opportunity to lead laps at Talladega, but at least NASCAR is looking at it. I'd like to believe that what they're doing right now is looking at it and saying, 'Okay, we realize we've made some mistakes in the past. We've given Dodge way too much on the nose. We've given Chevrolet too much and given Pontiac too big of a spoiler.' It seems the only one that's never really gotten anything beneficial is the Ford. That's not to say we've never gotten anything, but there's never been a mistake made in our favor. That's a little disappointing, but on the plus side of that, hopefully NASCAR realizes the mistakes they've made in the past. They gave Dodge two inches and they've won three of the last seven races. Ford has won one in that time span and that was on a short track where it didn't even matter whether you had front fenders on the car. Hopefully, they're seeing that and they're gonna creep up on it. If it doesn't work out for us at Talladega, they'll recognize that and we'll make some more modifications going into Daytona."
Crew Chief --77-- Jasper Taurus
WHAT KIND OF DIFFERENCE WILL THIS REAR SPOILER CHANGE MAKE? "It's a small difference. I think it's something that we need, but we need all of that and probably a little more. I just found out about it on Sunday. I'd heard rumors of it, but I just found out for sure on Sunday. I don't know if it will be enough, but it's a case where you've got to be happy with anything you get."
WILL YOU GO TO THE WIND TUNNEL THIS WEEK? "Since I heard that on Sunday, I'm going to the wind tunnel on Tuesday just to make sure everything is as good as we can get it. We'll tweak on it a little bit because we've kind of struggled ourselves in qualifying for the plate races. The car seems to race really good, but qualifying doesn't seem to be as good as it needs to be."
WOULD SOMETHING OFF THE ROOF SPOILER BE MORE BENEFICIAL? "Yeah. From what I've seen in the past, the difference on rear spoiler is gonna be very, very small. I was really hoping we were gonna get something off the roof spoiler, but I think they feel the rear spoiler is more effective than it is. In the past it hasn't done much and any change in performance is really small."