FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES NAPA 500 Alanta Motor Speedway November 20, 1999 Even though Dale Jarrett has clinched the NASCAR Winston Cup championship and Ford has claimed the manufacturer's title, there is...
FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES NAPA 500 Alanta Motor Speedway November 20, 1999
Even though Dale Jarrett has clinched the NASCAR Winston Cup championship and Ford has claimed the manufacturer's title, there is still a lot on the line in tomorrow's NAPA 500. There are a number of close point battles throughout the top 25 and some of those drivers involved talked about what their thought process will be once the green flag drops.
Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Taurus, is probably in the most high-profile points battle as he holds a slim two-point advantage on Jeff Gordon for fifth place in the standings. Burton is bidding for his third straight top five finish after being fourth in 1997 and fifth in 1998.
JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus -- SOME PEOPLE MAY FEEL THAT SINCE THE CHAMPIONSHIP IS DECIDED THAT THIS RACE IS JUST A FORMALITY, BUT THAT'S NOT THE CASE IS IT? "There is no formality to any race. One position in the points has been determined and that's the champion, but there are still an awful lot of spots that are still to be decided. We're in a really tight battle for fifth, there's a possibility for fourth but we could go to sixth. We take a lot of pride in finishing in the top five in points and this is an opportunity to win a race too. I mean, that's why we go to every race is to win and this gives us another chance to do that. We're not about to worry about Dale Jarrett already winning the championship. There are a lot of things going on this weekend other than just the championship. To me it may even be more exciting because a lot of teams will throw everything out to win because some people can't go up and down either way in the points. Ward (Burton) for example or Mike Skinner for example, they might do some real gambling on Sunday to try to get a win here and, to me, that makes it even more exciting." WILL YOU WANT TO KNOW WHERE GORDON OR THE OTHER GUYS ARE AT DURING THE RACE TOMORROW? "I'll be aware of it. I won't be aware of it early in the race, we'll just worry about racing our race early but as the race goes on and it starts to wind down toward the end, then certainly we'll pay attention to what Gordon's doing and what Tony Stewart's doing as well."
Kevin Lepage, driver of the No. 16 TV Guide Taurus, will start from the pole tomorrow which is a big bonus for him considering he is currently 24th in the standings. He trails Elliott Sadler by only three points for 23rd, but has a narrow 61-point lead over 26th-place Kyle Petty.
KEVIN LEPAGE --16-- TV Guide Taurus -- HAS YOUR THOUGHT PROCESS GONE FROM TRACKING THE GUYS AROUND YOU IN POINTS TO WINNING THE RACE NOW THAT YOU'RE ON THE POLE? "Winning is always our goal everytime we go to a race, but it is very critical that we stay in the top 25 in points going into next year -- both in owner points and driver points. I think the driver points are fairly decent, if we run all day long we'll end up in the top 25. Owner points are questionable, so we'll have to pay attention to where people are running. But we came down here and tested a few weeks ago and Pat Tryson wants to win this race. He's worked on cars here that have run well, but for one thing or another hasn't been in victory lane here. The setup that he has found that works at Atlanta for him has worked for us in this TV Guide car. We would like to go out with a bang, but just because we're starting on the pole, we're just gonna go out "and do the best job that we can and let the cards fall where they may and at the end of the day we'll see what kind of hand we have." WILL YOU WANT TO KNOW WHERE GUYS LIKE ELLIOTT SADLER ARE OR WILL YOU JUST RACE AND NOT WORRY ABOUT IT? "That's it. We're gonna do the best job we can. We've done the best job we can all year long. If we end up 21st in points that's great. If we end up 26th well that would be disappointing. But we feel that we've got a team that can at least hold where we are in the points right now, maybe gain a spot or two. We could lose a spot or two, but I don't care where they're running because they may be a lap ahead of me and all of a sudden they come into the pits, have a bad pit stop or cut a tire down and that laps no longer there. I've never worried about points or where people are running because it just doesn't pay off." CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT IT WILL BE LIKE TOMORROW LEADING THE FIELD TO THE GREEN FLAG FOR THE FIRST TIME? WILL YOU BE EXCITED, NERVOUS? "I think it will be a relief. I mean, how many guys come into this series that is so competitive and never get a pole? We've gotten it in sixty-some starts, so it's happened pretty early in my career. I think what's gonna be in the back of my mind taking the green will be my pride for the state of Vermont, being the first Vermonter to sit on the pole and the last guy in the century to be on a pole. There's just a lot of history going on with that one lap we did yesterday that will be with us forever and ever and ever."
Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 21 Citgo Taurus, stands 23rd in the point standings and trails 22nd-place Bill Elliott by 78 points. He holds a scant three-point lead over 24th-place Kevin Lepage and is only 28 points ahead of 25th-place Chad Little and 64 points in front of 26th-place Kyle Petty.
ELLIOTT SADLER --21-- Citgo Taurus -- WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN LOOKING AT THIS RACE? "I tell you what, we're feeling a lot of pressure. We're 23rd in points and that's been one of our goals for the last half of the season is try to get in the top 25 and stay there so we're having a pretty good points race. We're only three points ahead of Kevin Lepage, who is in 24th, and we're only 11 points ahead of Kyle Petty as far as car owner points for 25th, so we're looking at trying to finish ahead of those guys as much as we can. Not only for this year for bonus money to be in the top 25, but also for provisionals going to Daytona. There are gonna be a lot of good race cars going to Daytona next year and we want to have provisionals if we can to fall back on." HAVE YOU TALKED ABOUT KNOWING WHERE THOSE GUYS ARE AT ON THE RACE TRACK AND ARE YOU RACING FOR FIRST PLACE OR JUST FIRST PLACE AMONG THE GUYS YOU'RE BATTLING? "We've really been racing against those guys. The last five or six races Len (Wood) gives me a sheet before every race and it shows the points of everyone around me and how many positions I need to beat them by or how many positions if they beat me by they'll pass me in points. So we've been doing a lot of points racing here the last five or six weeks and Len does a great job on showing me exactly where they need to finish and exactly where we need to finish. We keep up with those guys during the race, so we're kind of racing those guys to try to stay ahead of them in points and that's where a good experienced race team comes into play tomorrow." IS IT MORE STRESSFUL KNOWING LEPAGE WILL START ON THE POLE AND YOU'LL BE IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE FIELD? "We thought about that because we feel like we're gonna have just as good a race car as he is or anybody else, but he's gonna lead and get five bonus points so that's gonna put him ahead of us. So we do need to finish one to two positions ahead of him in the race and we feel like we can do that, we've just gotta make the right calls and get the right breaks. We feel like we can do it. I'm glad to see a Roush car on the pole, don't get me wrong, but that does put him a pretty good ways in front of us, but we've gotta do what we can to race him and catch him and stay in front of him the whole race."
RICK MAST --98-- Universal Studios Taurus -- NOTE: MAST WAS SECOND-ROUND FASTEST QUALIFIER FOR TOMORROW'S RACE AND WILL START 26TH.
YOU OBVIOUSLY FOUND THE PROBLEM THAT PLAGUED YOU YESTERDAY. "The recirculator system on the water system, the deal everybody uses for qualifying, the little valve was stuck and it wasn't circulating water when we were running so it was basically sitting there running the motor. In essence, it was the same as no water in it and that's what burnt both motors up. We found that and fixed it. It's pretty disheartening because they were two good motors, of course, but the disheartening part is from the green flag -- the start-finish line to the exit of turn two our car was very, very good in segment speeds. I knew through one and two we had a good lap going and then, of course, we messed it up. And then today we went out and it was like I was out on a different race track. I went out twice and we were like a second off of what we had run yesterday, but I told the guys not to mess with the car. All we did was just put a set of tires on it and make a lap and the car really stuck a lot better than I thought. I left a good bit out there, but I thought the track was gonna be slicker than it was and it wasn't, so we'll take it and go on to Sunday."