Atlanta Saturday Ford Notes

FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES Cracker Barrel 500 Advance March 13, 1999 Atlanta Motor Speedway The weather forecast is calling for inclement weather this weekend, which has made crew chiefs and drivers think...

FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES Cracker Barrel 500 Advance March 13, 1999 Atlanta Motor Speedway

The weather forecast is calling for inclement weather this weekend, which has made crew chiefs and drivers think about their options as far as race setups during practice. Ford crew chiefs and drivers spoke about how they plan for such weekends.

ROBIN PEMBERTON, Crew Chief -2- Miller Lite Taurus -- HOW MUCH DOES THIS WEATHER AFFECT YOUR WEEKEND ROUTINE? "Hopefully you've got enough notes to go by from the previous races. If you do, and you had a decent showing or thought you had the potential to run a top five, then you basically take that same setup and maybe try to improve on it a little bit. For those who were lucky enough to win the race, run well or come away with some positive outlook on the previous race, that's a good thing. For some people who left here struggling, they're in here and they're trying to be real aggressive. Chances are they didn't qualify well and those are the people that are really behind the eight-ball, when you don't have anything to build on. Right now, when weather is staring you in the eye like it is in Atlanta, you tend to fall back on what you thought worked well in the past."

DID YOU START PREPARING FOR THIS POSSIBILITY EARLIER IN THE WEEK? "Every Monday or Tuesday before the race we have a meeting with the 12 car and then there's three or four of us that get together and discuss what we're gonna do in the up and coming race as far as setup. It's a plan, but it's really just and outline that is real vague in some areas."

DID YOU CHANGE ANY PLANS WHEN YOU SAW THE FORECAST? "No, not really. It always comes up, but there's nothing you can do about it. You still have to rely on the success you had or lack of it. The only thing you might do is change engines at a different time to get some time on a race engine or something like that, but that's basically it."

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN TODAY PRACTICE-WISE? "I think everybody needs at least one practice today. You'd like to see two practices, but at least one. For those that are locked into the race, it's pretty easy for them to just work on the race setup. Like at Las Vegas last week, we didn't make the first-round qualifying and we spent over an hour of our hour-and-a-half practice in the morning trying to get ready to re-qualify or at least look in that direction, so we lost valuable time and it definitely hurt us in the race. So, hopefully, you get at least one practice in today."

PEOPLE ALWAYS TALK ABOUT THE RUBBER BEING WASHED OFF THE TRACK WHEN IT RAINS. DOES THAT HAVE A MAJOR EFFECT ON SETUP? "I think a lot of it's blown out of proportion. Basically what happens is when the race track gets washed out like that and takes the rubber off the surface, the tires will wear a lot quicker early on in the race. The track is more aggressive on the tires. Generally by midway, the race track is about where it needs to be or about where it was the day before."

TODD PARROTT, Crew Chief -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- WHAT'S YOUR PLAN OF ATTACK WHEN YOU SEE WEATHER LIKE THIS COMING IN? "Obviously, we want to get on the race track as soon as we can because if there's any chance to get any practice, we want to be one of the first cars out there in case it starts raining halfway through the practice. With the weather being as cool as it is, the car is probably gonna be a lot like it was back in November, so we've made adjustments to our car because of the way the car acted in November. We raced at night instead of during the daytime, so the car was tighter. These cool conditions are similar to the way it was back in November, so this is a pretty important practice for us."

DID YOU THINK ABOUT THOSE CONDITIONS HERE DURING THE WEEK? "Yeah, I mean when you come here in March you expect it to be cold, windy and rain, snowing, you just never know what might happen, so we try to plan for it before we ever get here."

BILL INGLE, Crew Chief -10- Tide Taurus -- HOW MUCH HAVOC DOES THIS WEATHER PLAY WITH YOU GUYS? "Not only the rain, but for us, not getting in the top 25 on the first day. We're sitting here looking at if we should re-qualify or not. We've gotta get some race practice in because the race is more important. You're not gonna sit on the pole now, so even if you have to take a provisional, we're going out in race trim first thing and get that out of the way. We'll watch and see what other cars do. If the guys that are gonna re-qualify run quicker, then we'll probably choose to come in, get it in qualifying trim right quick, and go back out and see how fast our car will go. But the main thing right now is to get some practice in before that rain would come in race trim so you know what to expect if we don't get any more practice before the race starts."

HOW FAR AHEAD TO YOU CONSIDER SOMETHING LIKE THE WEATHER? "I won't say it was something earlier this week that we thought about the weather, it was probably sometime in February. That's when we thought about Atlanta and looked at our past records. We saw that it usually rains here, so you try to have two or three different setups already prepared to go into the car for different scenarios that may occur."

JEFF BURTON -99- Exide Batteries Taurus -- HOW MUCH DO YOU TAKE WEATHER INTO CONSIDERATION? "You certainly have to take it into consideration, but, really, the weather is what we always seem to have here, cloudy, damp and cold. So, compared to what we normally have here, that's kind of what we have here. So, as far as looking at your notes and things like that, I think the track will be real similar to what it normally is. The thing that it does do, because we believe that there's a really good chance the last practice will get rained out, then we won't even attempt to try to make a second-round qualifying attempt. We'll work all morning on the race setup because it will be imperative to get your car setup and with only a 45 minute practice, if you try to make a qualifying run, by the time you cool the engine down and put tires on it and make some chassis changes, you've got about 20 minutes to do that, at least. That ends up giving you 20-25 minutes of practice to get ready for the race, so we might get beat in second-round qualifying by some people, but we can't give up that race practice. That's a nice luxury to have, that we're high enough in the points and know that we have a provisional and aren't gonna miss the race. That's a luxury we have that we may not always have, but we have it now and we need to take advantage of that."

YOU CHANGED ENGINES THIS MORNING FIRST THING, SO WAS THAT A DECISION YOU MADE RIGHT AWAY? "Well, a little bit. We changed engines to put our race engine in. We wanted to get our race engine in because we do think that second-round practice won't happen. What we may even do is after morning practice, we may take the race engine out and put the qualifying engine back in, in case we do get practice this afternoon. We'll run on that rather than our race engine and not put anymore miles on it than we have to. We may possibly do that, but the change was more about getting the race engine in and making sure there's nothing wrong with it, that we don't have any leaks in it, and run it this morning."

BILL ELLIOTT -94- McDonald's Taurus -- "The problem is we're still trying to sort through a couple different setups and that will kind of hurt where you need to be if it rains here. We always have had a good shot at trying to get our race setups squared away. Normally, you don't learn a lot until the afternoon after the race, that's when they're saying it's gonna rain. This morning, you can run a little bit, but, normally, once the track gets the rubber in it and you go out and run in the afternoon you can get a good feel for what's going on."

THE LAST TWO RACES HAVE BEEN SIMILAR AS FAR AS CONDITIONS, DOES THAT HELP? "It does, but the only race we can go on is last fall because of the spoiler height and air dam height. Prior to that it's hard to get a good idea of what it's gonna do."

WHEN DID YOU START TAKING THE FORECAST INTO ACCOUNT? "We talked about that yesterday (Friday) afternoon as far as what we were gonna try to look for, but you just never know. You've got to take it a step at a time."

DALE JARRETT -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- CAN YOU BEAT JEFF GORDON AT THIS TRACK TOMORROW? "I think we've made our car better in some areas. I think we saw where we were getting beat here the last race of last year and I think we're learning some things that are gonna help us be more consistent each and every week."

WHERE WERE YOU GETTING BEAT AT THIS TRACK? "After about 10 or 15 laps our car would start sliding the front end in the center of the corner and he really could motor on from there and that's where we were getting beat, so we talked about it after that race and before we came down here about some things that we thought would make our car better in those places. That's also where we got beat by Bobby Labonte. That's where Bobby could seem to really be able to go good was the center of the corner and off the corner, so we've tried to improve our setup just a little bit."

HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR CHANCES FOR TOMORROW? "The car is good we're just trying to make that next step to where the 18 and the 24 seem to be the two cars that beat us here, so, hopefully, we can get just a little bit better and enhance our chances of getting into victory lane. We've had a lot of good runs here and a lot of them have ended up in second-place finishes. That's not so bad, but we would definitely like to get back in victory lane."

NEWT MOORE, Crew Chief -77- Jasper Engines Taurus -- NOTE: THIS MARKS THE SECOND STRAIGHT RACE THE NO. 77 TEAM HAS NOT QUALIFIED. WHAT SEEMS TO BE THE PROBLEM? "Basically, me and Robert aren't getting it done. We're not connecting. I don't think it's the cars. I think the motors are good, the cars were good. They're basically almost proven, we're just not getting it done."

IS THIS JUST ANOTHER CASE OF HOW COMPETITIVE QUALIFYING IS THESE DAYS? "Yeah, it is but our best qualifying effort's been 36th this year. We've yet to qualify for a race. At Rockingham they gave us a provisional. At Daytona we raced our way in. We've proven we can race. I mean, the two races that we ran we've been in the top 20 both times and have been competitive. We just haven't gotten this qualifying act down yet, and we're gonna have to work on it."

DARRELL WALTRIP -66- Big Kmart/Route 66 Taurus -- "We started this team in December, so that in itself tells you where we are. We didn't give ourselves a fair chance to get going. Most of these teams, even the first-year teams, have been preparing over the latter part of last year for this season and we didn't have that luxury. We're behind with our cars, we're behind with our people. We don't have any time for testing, we don't have any time to do anything other than just pretty much show up and it shows. Our racing is pretty good and that's just because of me, I think, and my experience and what I can do on Sunday. But where we're hurting is what we do on Friday and having to start at the back every week that makes it very difficult to expect to get anything other than a top 25 finish. I think we can usually finesse our way to the top 25 or so, but right at this point we've just gotta work on qualifying. We were gonna go to Darlington this past week. We had six sets of tires and we were gonna go there and just practice qualifying runs and see what it took to get the car fast enough to make the field without having to take a provisional. But, then our crew chief quit and that's the last thing you need. That happened and threw us behind again. It's nobody's fault. I'm not pointing fingers, I'm not blaming anybody, we're just behind. We're trying to make quick changes, quick adjustments to fix things. We're putting band-aids on things and it's just hurting us right now."

MARK MARTIN -60- Winn Dixie Taurus -- "We just about recovered from my goofball strategy that I had. We had a tough pit stop that got us behind the wreck. We came in running third, so we had recovered from a bad call on getting tires or not getting tires, so we were OK on that, but sometime you just can't miss the wreck."

DESPITE THE DAMAGE YOU HAVE TO BE HAPPY ABOUT BEING ABLE TO COME BACK AND FINISH SIXTH, RIGHT? "Well, we had a good car, but after the wreck we were tore up. We couldn't go down the straightaways because it was blocking too much wind from the damage."

ELTON SAWYER -98- Lysol Taurus -- "It was a great effort for the whole Lysol Taurus team. We had some misfortune there, we got hung up behind a lapped car and lost a lot of track position, but the guys did a great job. Jack Roush gave us a great motor, the car was good but we just weren't quite as good as we needed to be. I abused the right-front a little bit too much and it kind of went away, but I saved it and tried to make a run at Jeff and Mark there at the end but we didn't quite have enough for them. It's a good effort for my whole team. I'm real proud of them."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Jack Roush