Winston Teleconference Highlights Tuesday, June 3, 2003 Bill Elliott and Ray Evernham BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid) "Right now we're looking at several options (for Sunday's race at Pocono). I have been able to ...
Winston Teleconference Highlights
Tuesday, June 3, 2003
Bill Elliott and Ray Evernham
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid)
"Right now we're looking at several options (for Sunday's race at Pocono). I have been able to right-foot brake in the past at some places, but it's not the normal way of what I'm looking for. To have driven as long as I have and try to change all of a sudden, as competitive as things are today, you just can't up and change what you're doing in the middle of the stream. It's difficult to do, and I've not been able to do it. Until I get to Pocono and make a few laps and see what I can or can't do, and if I don't feel I can be 100 percent... That's always been a physical race track within itself. You do a lot of shifting and a lot of different stuff. It's not hardly as bad as Sears Point or Watkins Glen, but it's a long day because it's a 500-mile race. Right now I don't know what we're going to do, whether we try to look at it when we get there or what. I'll know more tomorrow. I've got a doctor's appointment tomorrow. He's going to re-X-ray my foot and see where it is. The last X-ray showed the same as the one before which they tell me X-rays lag behind until your bones kind of bridge together and that shows a sign of healing. I've not seen that yet, but I'll know more when I go see the X-ray tomorrow.
"I wish there was some sort of formula where you could throw out X number of races. The rookie points fall under something similar to that. Why couldn't there be a formula to do that? Sterling (Marlin) was the same way last year, and the problem is and everywhere we're going to, if you look at the span of the last five years, look at how much faster we're running. We do wreck and nine times out of 10 you are hurt in some way. You've got to be 110 percent to get in the race cars every Sunday or you're not competitive. If you're off half a tenth, that could be the difference between fifth or 25th or 35th. There ought to be some way to work around what we're trying to accomplish.
"(Toyota entering Winston Cup Racing) It's going to turn our world upside down. It's going to be interesting. They're going to throw a lot of money at it.
"Pocono and Indy are kind of similar. They're still not 100 percent the same. I consider it kind of like going back to the IROC cars. It's the way some things balance out might compliment one driver and take away from another driver. There's no clear cut answer, but what I see it's so hard and you work around so many different areas. It's hard to make everything fit. All the drivers are different. We all do things different.
"Right now I don't really reminisce on that stuff very much because I've been so caught up in what I'm doing today. I don't really think about it. When I'm sitting there sometimes getting interviewed and I say, 'man, I've accomplished a lot.' I've been very lucky, very fortunate to be where I'm at. That's one thing I look at. There'll be time to reminisce when you go back and look at some of this stuff, but right now my focus is on getting better and getting this team back where it needs to be and trying to get Ray back where he needs to be. I think that's the thing that concerns me today. It has been a great career. I'm sure I haven't done as much as some, but one thing I'm so proud of when I look back is we kind of did it our way. We were kind of out here in the middle of nowhere and became competitive and won races.
"I can remember the first time I went there (Pocono) in '76. It was a lot of fun. I went up there and didn't have a clue as to what I was doing. They've done a lot there, and I enjoy racing there."
RAY EVERNHAM (Owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepids)
"They made a pretty big deal about all of that. It would have been great to go home. The people there at the track tried hard to put that show on. One thing I want everybody to remember, even though that was an appearance to help our Dodge Dealers, my No. 1 priority is to get the 9 and 19 back on track. It's OK with me if my driving career is on hold.
"Obviously we have special conditions with Bill, but it (Pocono) is a great place for Jeremy and the 19 team to turn around their season. I felt like they had a good race last week as a team. They didn't get the finish they should have, but they qualified and they progressed and made some changes through the race that were both bad and good for them. I think they're really starting to come together as a team. They've found some things recently that Jeremy likes to feel in a car, and I think that's helping him. As far as Bill's situation, we're obviously concerned. Our big push is to make sure we get Bill healthy for the second half of the season. Pocono is a very physically demanding track, and we're very concerned about the progress he's made with the broken bones. We'll know more about that tomorrow, but we are going to have ARCA champion Frank Kimmel standing by at Pocono for Bill.
"He goes every Wednesday and they re-X-ray and check the progress of his bones, but Pocono is a very physical place, and we are looking at whether Bill will run the whole event on Sunday or not. We want him in shape for Michigan and some of the upcoming events. The two places coming up now he could struggle at are obviously Pocono and Sears Point.
"It's nothing new. We've all had to adjust to it (schedule). We've add more personnel. We've add more tractor trailers. It is hard on the truck drivers. It's no different than any other program you get in to. You just condition yourself to it. We've been doing it for several years. It is tough, but we actually have tougher stretches. When we start that 20-race stretch it makes it tough no matter where you're going. Everyone has changed their operation a little bit. We try to take some of the load off the truck drivers. We have three truck drivers you rotate, so we're keeping everybody safe out on the road.
"I think it's probably good to start looking at something like that when you're running 38 races. When you were running 30 or 32 races, there was some time in there for a guy to get a break. It is something I'd like to see them look at. If a guy is out, maybe you take the top 35 races or 33 races for the drivers' point championship. The owners point championship would be on all the 36 races. That could get complicated for NASCAR if there were a different Winston Cup championship owner and driver. You could equally argue on both sides of it, but it would be nice to not have to put a guy in the car who could make his injuries worse or just not heal up properly.
"A guy who's competitive, whether it's baseball or football, the guy is never going to tell you how sore he is. That's just athletics.
"I think it's going to be good for everybody because nobody has got an advantage. I think that's the way a championship should end. Everybody goes in with a clean slate and it's based on the talent of the race team and the driver to adapt to a new situation. If we do go in there (Homestead) and the points are close, I think that could show the strongest team would win the championship. It's something that will only happen this year. After this year some people will have experience there. I think it's a good thing.
"You look at the springs and shocks and swaybars and chassis setups, but you look at things now like what we're doing for the gearing and engine combination. Every time you put down new pavement or even go test and come back and they put new rubber down, it's still not going to be the same thing. There's a lot of different challenges. To my understanding they're changing the race track completely and they're going to have different degrees of banking. You're going to have to make a choice at one point which groove you're going to run in and you'll have to gear your car specifically for that.
"It tears me up. I spent way more money here than I ever did at Hendrick. Believe it or not, at Hendrick I was pretty much in control of the budget for the 24 team. I knew what it took We were on a budget, and it was my responsibility to look after it. It's two to three times more expensive. When we won our first championship in '95 I know what we spent and we easily spend three times that now. It's hard. It really is hard. I was not spending my own money as a crew chief and I was making money. Now I'm spending my own money and I might have to get a part-time job. I don't know that it's out of control, but the sport has changed. We run more races. We're putting more technology in the cars. The level of performance has come up. If you look at NASCAR throughout the years, you know maybe in the 60s there were five competitive cars, then the 70s 10 competitive cars and then 15 in the 80s. Now there's 25 competitive cars. You can be just a little bit off and be running 25th. The time we're taking to prepare everything to the smallest degree has raised the cost, the travel, the number of people you have to have. I feel like it's going to level out, but NASCAR has to keep a close eye on that. We've got to stop cutting the bodies off these things because we're spending way too much money doing that.
"How much effect Toyota is going to have coming in, I really can't answer that. If NASCAR keeps control of the rules much the same way they did with Dodge, they could spend a million dollars and it could still come down to what you do with the pieces and that's going to come down to the people. Hopefully Toyota doesn't come in and raise the labor rates on everybody, but I still believe in this sport you can take good grassroot racers, get them some experience and they can do this. Even if Toyota were to cherry pick everybody, you could still build back up. The big question is what are they going to do with drivers because right now we're in the same situation with Bill. If Bill were hurt, who would we put in the car? I guess you've still got to have a driver to drive these things. Maybe we'll bring Michael Schumacher over. I just don't know.
"I do work hard on budgets. I really try to help maintain sponsors. I don't go out and search for sponsors. I do have people that do that, but I work with sponsor maintenance and make sure I do appearances and shake hands and I do touch base with all my sponsors and make sure we're doing a good job and they're getting what they want out of the program. I still sign every check that goes out of here. It does not leave me a lot of time to be hands-on with the cars. I have competition meetings where I try to give my input. I give Kenny (Francis) and the 19 guys all the help I can on Sunday at the track. Everybody always asks me what the most difficult thing about being a car owner is, and honestly the most difficult thing about being the car owner is not having time to work on the race cars. That's what I love to do.
"I don't know if I could pick what kind of problems they (Toyota) are going to face, but the issues they are going to face, NASCAR controls this series, so they are going to have to go through the same templates and the same engine approval issues and the same testing and all of the same type of developing processes all the other manufacturers had to go through. I don't think they're going to get an advantage. I don't believe they can come in and work harder at it and be more organized and do some of the things better than Dodge. I feel that Dodge has done an excellent job of coming into NASCAR Winston Cup racing. They did the right things. They did their research on their cars and their motors and they had good success. I'm sure Toyota can have good success if they do those things, but they're not going to come in and find an advantage in technology as much as they think. NASCAR is a tough sport. I think people come in from the outside and think it's easy sometimes, but they find out when they get here it's not what it seems.
"It is a lot less expensive than Formula One, but it also requires a lot less technology to build a good car and to race it. They can spend a million dollars on technology if they want, but I believe a team right now that has the potential that this one has or has the potential of a Hendrick or a Penske, they're not going to come in and walk over those guys. You can come in and spend money unnecessarily. I don't think they're going to have access to any more technology that's going to give them a solid leg up.
"We had a good balance last year. We had good fast race cars. We're still struggling trying to get Jeremy what he wants. We've had some personnel changes over there, but Bill's team had a pretty good handle on setups, especially through the summer last year. I think it threw us a loop and gave a leg up to some of the other competitors. I always thought we had a good car aerodynamically. Maybe the cars now with the body placement will act a little bit more like some of the other people were used to. That's no excuse. That's just the reality of it. We're working hard at it, but right now I'm looking at like my motor program has stepped up. My bodies are as good or better than some other guys. We're having good pit stops, so we're missing that balance in our race setup versus our aero setup and we're working really hard trying to get it back.
"Pocono and the Brickyard act a lot alike, even though Pocono is a different shape and a little bit bumpy. We're going to be testing some engine things in the No. 91 car this weekend. We'll be running Casey (Atwood) in the Mountain Dew Live Wire car, and a lot of the things we'll be testing on that car are things we hope we can put on the other cars. We'll probably do another test in the final Pocono race in preparation for Indy."