BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T) Comments from Saturday morning's Winston Breakfast Club. "Things are going pretty well so far. I really didn't know what to expect when this season started. When you look at these...
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
Comments from Saturday morning's Winston Breakfast Club.
"Things are going pretty well so far. I really didn't know what to expect when this season started. When you look at these deals and say I'd like to be a little farther along than I am today, but I look at the whole program and Dodge has been out of it for quite a number of years and trying to build a program. You look back a couple of years ago when they started on a clean sheet of paper and put an engine together and everything they've accomplished to this point, I'd say we've come a long way. We've had some ups and downs, and that can come with building a team and getting everything organized. I think Ray has got a lot of things in the direction he wants and I think that's going to be the next step. I think Mike Ford (crew chief) and myself are starting to get a little better handle on the Dodge. We came up here and had a real good test, probably one of the best tests we've had all year. We came back and we ran good in all the practices and qualifying yesterday. We'll see how the race transpires, but from the standpoint of getting a good handle on this deal, and I think we're coming up on race tracks that I like real well -- Pocono, Indy, Michigan and some of those places -- we'll see if we can get things turned around. At least we've got a dialogue of where we're at and also not only are we throwing a different car at it this year, but Goodyear has come with a little different tire and I think that's made it difficult for some guys to get a handle on the tire. I think between the car and tire, it's given Mike and I a little fit to get things sorted out. The more we test and the more we understand it, the better it will be for us. All-in-all I'm looking forward to the second half. I feel like I do better in the second half of the season and with Mike Ford and myself and Ray getting the organization like he wants it, and getting started, I think we'll be in a lot better shape.
"They did a real nice job with this facility. I had an opportunity to go to Kansas City and run that race track. Kansas City and here are very similar. It's a little higher banked here and the way you enter three because of the banked straightaway and the curve in it, you get a little better angle in three and you can run a little better speed here than at Kansas City. Kansas City reminds me a lot of Kentucky. I've just been to Kentucky once, but those two race tracks are pretty similar. They have done a good job at this place. We went to Vegas and didn't have any problems. Texas has probably been one of the worst we've been to and I think they just miscalculated some things when they built it. As the races transpire over the next weekend, we'll go into it... just like the first time we went in to Darlington. Darlington is a tough race track, but once you learn the things to do and not to do... I'm sure there'll be a learning curve for the guys today in the Busch race and tomorrow in the Cup race. Once we figure out what you can get away with and what you can't, there'll be a little bit of a learning curve, but other than that, it's a pretty straight forward facility.
"We'll have to see what the Busch race does today. I think that'll dictate what happens tomorrow. When we get in practice in a little while, we'll learn more about the race track. I think a lot of the guys will be cautious. It is a high speed race track and you need to be cautious here for a bit and see what your car is capable of doing and see where you can make your passes and be a reasonable amount of safety in it as far as what you feel like you need to do.
"Daytona has always been a handling race track. I don't care how fast or how slow you go. I think some part we missed the setup (for Pepsi 400), but on the other side of the coin, I think with the current roof blade height, it takes the air off our rear spoiler and lets the car qualify well but don't let the car race well. After Daytona in February, Casey (teammate Atwood) ran my car at Talladega and we ran a different car. Then he ran that car again at Daytona. He ran pretty much what I ran in February, and I was pretty decent in February. He was so loose he couldn't go anywhere either Saturday night. There's something that's happened there, and I don't know what it is. You can get away with a looser car at Talladega, but you can't at Daytona. The corners are too tight. It's just too hard to run. You can't run wide open.
"I think the pressure is a given on the team and the driver. The driver is a part of the team and vice versa. You come to these places and yeah, it is a big market area for us. You look at this from the Dodge standpoint being in Chicago. For us, I think you come to these facilities and say we'll unload and see how things transpire. One good thing is we did have a good test up here, and I was very confident once we came back what we needed to do. We did more race runs when we were here. We didn't do any qualifying runs. We decided we'd do that when we came back because we were coming back a day early.
"It's getting tougher. I'm not getting any younger, either. It's harder physically on people today than it was five years ago. Somebody asked a question to Ray about being out of the garage for a short period of time. I've been in the garage and I can't believe how much things have changed in a short period of time. From what I ran setup wise a year ago to two years ago, you virtually throw it away. It's a different ballgame today, and I don't understand what's dictating it all, whether it's the tire or the aero or whatever. As this sport continues to grow, you look at it from the standpoint of what is the future going to bring? I guess that's why I'm not a car owner anymore. I've not been able to go in all the directions it takes to keep up with all the changes in this sport. I think that's going to be the hardest thing for Ray or any other car owner in this sport to really look at and realize to say, 'what am I going to have to do to be better? What am I going to have to do to win races? What is it going to take to get to the next step?
"Back to the physical side of this stuff. I think we need to look at this deal. You keep adding races, and I know it from a car owner's side. Well, it's just two more weekends, but I look at the faces on these guys in the garage each and every week. You get along about September or October in a year and you can cut the tension with a knife a lot of times, especially if things aren't going well or you're not running well or whatever. I can look at it from a car owner's side and say, we'll you add another race or two, but you understand what it takes on the families that encounter testing that encounters this or that or more travel. Even a number of years ago you look at the schedule and we went to North Wilkesboro and here and there. When North Wilkesboro went away we went to New Hampshire and Texas. That's another day out of the shop for the guys just from the traveling standpoint. Now we come to Chicago and California twice... The point I'm trying to get at, you can't add two or three people to try to make up the void to add two or three races. Now you're going to have a whole separate crew. Instead of hiring two people, you're going to have to hire 20 people to be able to keep up. If it gets to a point where you can't go any further with this group of people, we're going to have to train a whole new group of people and cycle them back and forth. Your cost doesn't rise a little bit. It doubles or triples. That's what you get from the car owner's side. Yeah, we can do it. We've done it to this point. They ran more races years ago, but they didn't change engines, they didn't go through the technology they're going through today and so many things were different than they are today.
"As far as them (McDonald's) coming back to sponsor me or anything else there's been no dialogue, no conversation, no anything. That really surprises me. They chose to leave me. I don't know why they'd want to come back. Oh well, that's life.
"When everybody came here and tested, I think they felt the race track had a lot of grip. Maybe the race track gets heat in it and loses a little grip. You heard people say after qualifying they didn't get into the race track like they felt like they could. I think heat is going to dictate that. Whether you're in a groove or out of a groove, you're still going to have to lay a groove of rubber down for it to be a fast place to run. That's where the car wants to run. If you run the car where it wants to run to make the fastest time. That's the groove around the race track. Typically on a new race track, the groove is usually on the bottom and it's usually a one groove deal. For whatever reason, just like Texas, California, the first surface it's always been tough to get hooked up on top. Atlanta has gotten better. They've gone to the top. This is the best I've seen 'em race at Texas. They've been able to get a little bit higher and run a little bit better. California, the first couple of races were totally on the bottom. The last couple of races they've gone up top. I see this being the same way. I think you're going to have to be on the bottom here and you're going to have to be cautious. I think it's a race track you're going to have to run your car freer than a lot of places. I'm talking about on the looser side, yet you get around it, aerowise it's really going to affect the car because you're running that extra speed.
"I think it's going to be a good race. I think enough people run this particular race track well enough that can make a good race out of it. The key is if somebody gets a handle and gets hooked up, they're going to go. That's just the way it is. I think there's been enough rubber laid down on the track that we can get a pretty good assessment of what the race is going to be. I think if you went much later, it would get so late in the afternoon that what you learned wouldn't be accurate information. To me it's better to to it in the middle of the day. We've run here a day early and there's a lot of rubber on the track.
"I feel like we (Dodge) need a little help in an area or two. I don't know all the technical side. They take these cars to the wind tunnel and they do this and that.
"I think the race track will change more than we anticipate it changing. I think a lot of the guys think it's going to stay the same all day, and I think yesterday is a good example of how this race track is going to change. It's going to be the guy that's flexible enough that can change his car during the day or have enough adjustability in it to when the race track changes he can stay hooked up to it all day."