KEVIN LEPAGE --16-- TV Guide Taurus (Qualified 1st) -- "I was hoping we'd catch the cloud cover, I really did. This TV Guide Taurus has been loose since we got here and I just put it down on the mat and, I tell you, it was pretty exciting out...
KEVIN LEPAGE --16-- TV Guide Taurus (Qualified 1st) -- "I was hoping we'd catch the cloud cover, I really did. This TV Guide Taurus has been loose since we got here and I just put it down on the mat and, I tell you, it was pretty exciting out there. The car stuck, I couldn't believe how good it stuck, and I just can't say enough for all the guys. They did a great job and we're pretty excited about it."
YOU RAN WELL WITH THIS CAR AT CHARLOTTE, SO YOU MUST FEEL GOOD ABOUT SUNDAY, RIGHT? "I'm pretty happy with the car. We've worked real hard since we've been here to get the car a little bit tight because it's been too free and Pat did a great job there. I was pretty excited to see that I was number one. I didn't know how good the lap was, but it was a pretty good lap."
JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus (Qualified 14th) -- "That's a good lap for us, no matter where it ends up. That's four-tenths quicker than we ran in practice. We really struggled today and kept throwing stuff at it and finally got it to do what I wanted it to do. It certainly won't be on the pole, but I think that'll get us in first round and I'll be happy about that."
THE GOOD NEWS IS THIS IS THE LAST QUALIFYING SESSION OF THE YEAR. "That's a shame to think like that, but, unfortunately, we're not the best qualifying team in the world. We made some changes and they helped and I made a change in my driving style and that seemed to help too, so, hopefully, that'll get us in today."
BILL ELLIOTT --94-- McDonald's Taurus (Qualified 26th) -- "I didn't think I was that bad, but we ran it and we'll see where that ends up. That's all I know."
RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus (Qualified 19th) -- "We were not fast at all throughout the day and we made some big changes, a lot of right-front camber changes and spring changes and air-pressure changes and rolled the dice and went out there and it picked up quite a bit of time. I hope that qualifies good, I hope we get solidly in the field, I'm being pretty optimistic that if we can get a good top 15 we can get the job done from there. It's a good car and a brand new paint scheme. The 3 car, the 2 car and the 88 car, we've all got real bright blue and bright black paint schemes to commemorate the last lap of the century here at Atlanta, so the fans will probably like that. It's a good run for us. I've gotta get better, I know that, but I feel really good about this race."
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus (Qualified 10th) -- HOW WAS YOUR LAP? "It was OK. I got a little bit loose going into turn three. We made a shock change and that got me a little bit loose. It was good down in one and two and got a little loose entering there, but not a bad lap. That's the fastest we've been, so that was OK."
ELLIOTT SADLER --21-- Citgo Taurus (Qualified 33rd) -- "It's a pretty bad feeling. I bottomed out real bad in one and two and tried to make up for it in three and four and just got really loose. Instead of trying to drive through it, I was scared I'd lose the car and I just backed out of it and took our beating. It's just driver error. The guys did everything they were supposed to do, I just messed up again. I tell you, I've really gotta get my head in the game on this qualifying deal. I've put my team in a hole too many times this year, but it's something I'm gonna need to work on this winter and, hopefully, we'll do better at it next year."
JOHNNY BENSON --26-- Cheerios Taurus (Qualified 17th) -- "The car felt real good, I didn't lift both ends. I actually thought it was gonna be better than that speedwise, but it's 12th right now and I hope like heck that makes first day so we can work on the race setup. The car feels really good, so we're looking forward to it."
JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus (Qualified 23rd) -- "That's as fast as we can go. That's as fast as we've been all day and it's just a good race car. We tested here and did all race stuff, we didn't do any qualifying stuff and that probably bit us a little, but we'll be alright."
RICK MAST --98-- Universal Studios Taurus (Qualified 49th) -- "That's the second one (blown motor today). We've got something wrong with the car. These motors never blow up, ever. We've never had trouble and both of these motors are qualifying motors we've run this year. We burned a piston in the first motor earlier today and didn't get much practice. This motor here I ran one lap in practice and I qualified and it did the same thing. I don't know if we've got a gas line plugged up, but we've got something wrong with the car that's causing a problem with the engine. The car handled perfect. I was real happy with that. Handling-wise it would have been a good lap, but we'll see."
MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline-Cummins Taurus (Qualified 3rd) -- "That was a real good lap. My car's been working really well since we got here. We tried a few different things during practice and were really looking at race setup stuff. We had a great lap there, I was pretty happy with it. We had some sun there and it was kind of shining on three and four and I was pretty optimistic with what I thought I could do down there and I got away with it but it wasn't the best that it could have been there." DID YOU LEAVE ANYTHING OUT THERE? "No. Kevin ran real fast. Under the right conditions with the right cloud cover and everything we might have gotten another tenth out of it, but Kevin Lepage put a lap down that other guys could just shoot at."
PRESS CONFERENCE Q&A: WE'VE SEEN DRIVERS WHO AREN'T NORMALLY UP FRONT QUALIFYING THERE OF LATE. IS THERE ANY REASON FOR IT? "This is a race track where youthful skill and enthusiasm and fearlessness...there's a payoff for that. There's not a payoff at a lot of the race tracks that we run, but this is a particular race track where there is a payoff. You have certain folks that are willing to really lay it on that edge out here and that shows. Kevin Lepage laid it out there on the edge today. Dale, Jr. was doing it today. Geoff Bodine was doing it as usual. Todd Bodine did it today and he's done it here in the past, so I've seen a lot of the same drivers who don't mind really putting it right up there on the edge. There's a little bit more payoff here than at some race tracks. But when it comes down to race setup you still have to have that excperience. Most of the time the long-term experienced knowledge base for the chassis setup over the long haul seems to overcome any kind of other desire that you might have."
RICKY RUDD --10-- Tide Taurus (Qualified 15th) -- "That's better than we had practiced and, like I say, anytime I can run better than I practiced I'm happy. We'd like to be a little farther up the grid, but it's not bad. We fought a push since we got here and it's still pushing. We just need a little more practice time."
KEVIN LEPAGE PRESS CONFERENCE
KEVIN LEPAGE --16-- TV Guide Taurus -- "The TV Guide Taurus was a little free this morning. I had to get out of two mock-up qualifying runs because the car almost wrecked getting into turn three. I came in and said to Pat Tryson and the guys, I said we've gotta do something I can't drive this car. We put our heads together and we came up with a setup that was good for qualifying. I watched my teammate Chad Little go off into turn one and he went in a little bit different than I had, so I tried it and when I got through where he went in the car just stuck real good. That Roush powerplant pulled me down the straightaways and I just can't say enough. This is a brand new race car. We came here a few weeks ago and tested and we weren't sure if we were gonna be decent in qualifying. We thought we'd be a top 25 car, but I never in my life thought we'd be sitting here on the pole."
YOU'VE BEEN A 20TH-PLACE QUALIFIER MOST OF THE YEAR. WHERE DID THIS COME FROM? "I think two weeks ago when we tested down here (helped). This car is a brand new race car. I ran it one other time which was at Charlotte and had a ninth-place finish there and it's our new latest creation of a Liberty race car. I was really happy with the way the car performed at Charlotte, so we figured we'd bring it here. We tested very well, but when I got here I was too loose. To know what we had in the setup for qualifying it should have stuck and it did. Pat made the right decision and the car was good. Also, I think the clouds helped us. We went out and it was cloud covered, which tightened the race track up and we were just hoping we could stay right there."
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF TV GUIDE'S SPONSORSHIP? "This may secure our sponsorship, but right now we have no commitment from TV Guide for next year. We still have two more appearances that I have to do with them in December, but, right now, we do not have a sponsor for next year."
SO PEOPLE COULD SAY HE'S QUALIFIED 20TH-25TH ALL YEAR AND WHEN HE NEEDS A SPONSOR THE LAST RACE OF THE YEAR HE SITS ON THE POLE. "Well, no because if you look at Darlington I think I qualified in the top 10. At Dover we qualified fourth or fifth, so there have been race tracks this car has run well at. For me coming here testing two weeks ago, I think, was the deal. We came here and we tested a lot of things and we were pretty happy when we left here. To say they gave me the best motor this week or the best car, I've been hearing that all year long. The 16 team is not an R&D team. We have the same equipment week in and week out that Mark and Jeff has and everybody else, but I don't have the experience as a Winston Cup driver that they do. I don't have the years of experience with my crew chief Pat Tryson that they have with Jimmy Fennig and Frankie and Buddy. I have nine weeks with Pat Tryson and if you go back and look at what Pat Tryson's done for our race team in the last nine weeks, this would not be a surprise to you."
WITH ALL THOSE TEAMMATES, HOW DO YOU NOT GET LOST IN THE SHUFFLE? "Because the man in the hat comes and sees everybody every week and several times during the weekend. He's there to be a springboard to lean on if you're struggling. He's there to pat you on the back when you're doing well and he's the guy who is a straight shooter. He's not a guy that just wants to have five, six, seven, eight race teams, he wants to make sure that the drivers that driver his cars week in and week out will be the guys that will represent Roush Racing in the right way for a sponsor. We're not lost in the shuffle."
JOHNNY BENSON TALKED EARLIER THIS YEAR ABOUT BEING BASED IN LIBERTY AND HOW HARD IT IS BEING SO FAR FROM MOORESVILLE. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? "There's no doubt that being an hour and a half from Mooresville to Liberty, North Carolina is a hindrance for our race team. Personnel is an issue. Being lost and out of the loop is an issue and Jack is working on that. Our shop right now is under construction, our new shop, which will be by the Concord airport will be right across from the 97 and the 17 shop that's already built. They moved in this week. It'll be just down the road from the 6 and the 99 shop, about 20 minutes, so Jack realizes that there's always been a little bit of a problem being up in Liberty and he's working on it. We expect to be in our building probably when we go to Daytona."
MARK SAID THIS TRACK REWARDS DRIVERS WHO HANG IT OUT. DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF THAT TYPE? "I've never been known to hold anything back that's for sure. If you go back and look at last week in Homestead, we were the third or fourth fastest car in Happy Hour and wrecked the race car. We hit the wall pretty hard. Again, I contribute a lot of my success here today setting up the car with all the guys, watching Chad's line into turn one, and I never lifted. This was the first time I never lifted here in practice because when I got up to speed going into three and four coming to take the green the car stuck. And I knew if I could get through three and four coming up to speed as good as it was the car was gonna be real good. We got over the bump (in turn one) and the car was perfect so it was a good lap for us. It was nerve-wracking, believe me. I wouldn't want to do it again, not today anyway."