FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES COCA-COLA 600 May 30, 1999 Lowe's Motor Speedway, Charlotte, N.C. JEFF BURTON -99- Exide Batteries Taurus -- "I tell you what, to race Bobby Labonte at Charlotte that's racing the best. They...
FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES COCA-COLA 600 May 30, 1999 Lowe's Motor Speedway, Charlotte, N.C.
JEFF BURTON -99- Exide Batteries Taurus -- "I tell you what, to race Bobby Labonte at Charlotte that's racing the best. They were actually a little better than we were at the end, but my pit crew got us out in front of him and that's what won the race. Bobby and I raced real hard but we never once touched. I love racing with Bobby. He's a great racer and he deserved to win this race just as much as we did."
DID YOU HOLD BACK AT ALL BECAUSE YOU LED EARLY AND THEN FELL BACK. "No, the 18 got better. They were better than we were and we kept working and working. I don't know what happened to the 20, he fell off there at the end, but the 18 was even a little better at the end but we just got out in front of him. These guys won this race. This pit crew won this race, no doubt about it."
MARK MARTIN -6- Valvoline Taurus -- "I don't know where Bobby Labonte came from. Boy, he just shot out like a cannon all of a sudden. It didn't come to us, it went away from us. We ran really good in the sun, not as good as Burton, but as good as anybody else. But when it got dark it should have come to us and it went away. We ran third. I'll take it. We weren't running third with 20 to go, so that was a good run for us."
WHAT ABOUT THE TWO-TIRE STOP? "It worked out great. I didn't need four tires, I needed for the race to be over, but as it turned out we picked up a couple spots. We were running fifth with 20 miles to go, so it was a great run by the Valvoline team. We couldn't keep up with Jeff Burton tonight."
PRESS CONFERENCE -- ON TWO TIRES. "Well, we didn't have a shot to win, but we certainly didn't need four tires the way the car had been working. Our car, not being in the hunt with the 99 and as far as that goes the 18, the 20 or the 88 there at the end, we were just dropping back more and more and I didn't have any idea how to make it better. We put two tires on and went from fifth to third." "We had our car setup for night and my car worked better during the day. We were all compromised up to beat the band for the start of the race and that's when I ran the best until it got dark. I don't have it (the track) figured out." ON TONY STEWART. "He was spectacular and he's been that way all year. We've just gotta get Matt Kenseth out there so he can race with him. We're all gonna be chasing Tony here before too long it looks like."
JEREMY MAYFIELD -12- Mobil 1 Taurus -- "We had a long night tonight, but I'm just proud of these guys who kept fighting back and got us a top 10. That's about all we can ask for."
WITH THE CHANGES YOU SEEM TO BE OFF TO A GOOD START. "It's working out real good. We've got a long way to go, but we'll be alright."
BILL ELLIOTT -94- McDonald's Taurus -- "Man, I was so loose at the start of the race that I couldn't go anywhere. Then I'd run good for about 25 or 30 laps, but the car would get so hot I just couldn't go anywhere. Those first 25 or 30 laps it wasn't bad, but then I'd give all my time up. I was running 275-280 oil temperature and I thought it was gonna blow up, but it didn't. I'm amazed."
DALE JARRETT -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- "That could have been ugly. It was ugly for a long time. I just missed it. I thought it was gonna be a lot looser than it was and we just plowed. It took us all night to get it loosened up and finally got it reasonable, but we just couldn't get going on new tires and never could make it go on a long run. It was a lot better than what it looked like it was gonna be." "We couldn't compete with the 99 and the 18. I got there at the end that I passed the 3 and the 6. We weren't sure about the four tires or two tires. I think we made the right call with our car because with the handling being the way it was, we were just a little skeptical about putting two tires on it. That benefited Mark, but the way the day started out and the way it looked through the mid-portion of the race, we'll take a fifth." SO YOU TOOK FOUR TIRES THERE? "Yeah, we got four on the last stop. Again, with 30 laps to go...if it would have been just 15 we probably would have just gotten two, but with that many to go and with our car being a little bit finicky all night, we really couldn't take that chance. We were pretty much assured of finishing fifth and we didn't need to finish any worse than that after battling back." "The last 25 or 30 laps of a run, you had to be so loose the first 10 or 15 that you were literally just hanging on. Every lap you almost wrecked. It was a night's work for sure."
ELLIOTT SADLER -21- Citgo Taurus -- "We wanted to run 600 miles, that's what I've been telling everyone the last couple of days. We had a great qualifying run and we've been qualifying great all year. We wanted to run 600 miles. I've never done that before and I wanted to see what it feels like. It was pretty tough. It was fun. The last couple laps you could kind of feel your muscles go away a little bit, but we had a great run and finished 17th. We'll take that."
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE START OF THE RACE? "We got too tight. The first 15-20 laps of the race I said, 'Man, we're gonna be good.' That was so much fun running up there with Jeff (Burton) and Bobby Labonte at the beginning when I was third. I was saying, 'Man, this is what it's all about.' We just got tight and fell back a little bit, but we've gotta start somewhere. This was my first race. I'm still learning how to tell these guys each Happy Hour how to make our cars better for the race and it's showing. We're showing improvement each and every week on our finishing positions and we're gonna be there before the year is over with. We're gonna end up surprising people, we think, before the year is over with."
DARRELL WALTRIP -66- Big Kmart/Route 66 Taurus -- "We had trouble with this motor yesterday and debated on changing it. We didn't do it. We worked on it and thought it would be alright. It blew all to pieces. It just disintegrated. It wasn't a good day for the Big Kmart Ford."
BURTON REACHES VICTORY LANE FOR THIRD TIME IN '99
Jeff Burton's victory in tonight's Coca-Cola 600 was his third of the 1999 season and eighth of his NASCAR Winston Cup career. Ironically, Burton has won all three races with this same car, which also made it to Victory Lane at Las Vegas and Darlington. The car also led the most laps at Rockingham before finishing fourth.
Burton's win was the sixth this season for Ford, one more than and five more than Pontiac. In addition, Ford extended its lead in the manufacturer's standings to 13 points over second-place Chevrolet. Ford has 88 points compared to 75 for Chevrolet and 65 for Pontiac.
JEFF BURTON -99- Exide Batteries Taurus -- "It was a great night. We led a lot of laps and had great pit stops all night. Most of the time we made the changes we needed to make on the car. It's a pretty big night for us. To win Darlington and to win Charlotte all in the same year is a pretty big obstacle for us because we've struggled with Charlotte. This is a tough race track. It gets slippery and it takes a great team and a driver that communicates with the team to win here. To run with Bobby Labonte at the end of the race was stressful because I know how good Bobby and that car are at Charlotte. They are really good here. Here and at Atlanta those guys are really good. They're good everywhere, but they're great here. He's the one guy I really didn't want to see behind me because he and Mark Martin are the best at Charlotte and I was real nervous about it."
HOW DID YOU GET AHEAD ON THE LAST PIT STOP? "Obviously, we must have had a better pit stop. I tried my best to get on pit road as quick as I could. The stop before that I ran through the grass getting on pit road and had both right sides on the grass. I came in a little too fast and I wheel-hopped it to get it slowed down. I just about wrecked and that wouldn't have been very pretty. I backed it down just a little bit from there. I got it to the pits as fast as I could. They had a great pit stop. That's what won the race."
HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO FINISH STRONG AFTER RICHMOND? "I think coming into the 600 that's where our focus was -- to get back on track. Not only did we have a bad race at Richmond, we had a bad race here last week. Not that points were paid last week, but when you wreck a race car...that was a brand new race that we wrecked last week and that sets us behind. We really needed to come out of here with this car in one piece and with a good finish because those bad finishes have a way of getting on top of each other and keep happening. I thought going into this race that it was time to start getting back what we lost because you're not gonna get it back in one race. You're not gonna fall out of a race and then go the next week and make all of that back up. The only thing you can do is make it back a little bit at a time. When you finish 38th and go finish 38th again, that's a lot of ground to make up. Even if we didn't win tonight, we needed a good top five and to lead some laps and that's kind of where our focus was."
FRANK STODDARD, Crew Chief -99- Exide Batteries Taurus -- WHY WERE YOU FAST ALL NIGHT DESPITE THE CHANGING CONDITIONS? "I think we learned a lot last week. We did a lot of work in testing and last week. We brought the same type of race car back here this week and the things we learned we tried to apply. We had a gameplan of what we thought the race track was gonna do. If it had done something else, we would have been running 20th all night, but we stuck to our gameplan and it turned out right for us."
JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -99- Exide Batteries Taurus -- WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS WHOLE THING? "We had a little engine problem yesterday. We had to change an engine this morning based on something I did that screwed it up, but I feel extremely fortunate that we managed to get through here. Other things being equal I don't think we'd be able to win this race, but it fell for us tonight and I'm happy to be here with him."
JEFF BURTON CONTINUED -- YOU GOT JARRETT A LAP DOWN, DID YOU THINK ABOUT RACING HIM TO KEEP HIM A LAP DOWN? "I raced him, but he got in front of me on the restart clean. I probably would have let him get back in the lead lap. I let the 12 get back in the lead lap because they'd do it for me too. A couple of years ago I got a lot of dirty mail for letting Mark Martin get his lap back and he went on to win the race. Well, we let other people get their laps back too, and when you know they're gonna let you get your lap back, then you'll give them their lap back. The guys that won't give you a lap back, you can't give them a lap back and that's kind of the way it works. Dale earned his lap. I probably would have worked with him anyway, but he earned his lap back and, really, that's the way you have to race."
WAS IT AN ADVANTAGE TO BE LEADING DOWN THE STRETCH? "Being in front at a race track like this is an advantage. These cars, when you get behind somebody they push pretty badly. In the Busch Series, the Tauruses are terrible about pushing behind people. They don't have enough front downforce, so in the Busch race it was really bad to be behind somebody. In these cars it's bad too, but in the Busch Series it's worse. What won this race tonight was the pit stop we had. Those guys won the race. We came in and we were a good second behind and two laps later we were a second ahead. That's a two-second swing. It's hard to make up two seconds on a race track, we made it up on pit road. Once we got that second advantage we were good enough to hang on to it. Had we come out behind him, I was already tight and I would have been even tigher and probably would have never got back around him."
WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT BOBBY GETTING AWAY FROM YOU? "I had decided we were gonna finish second. I turned my attention to where Tony Stewart was and I saw we were OK with him. Then I started thinking about the pit stop and who would take two tires and who would take four. I looked at the guys behind me as a threat to take two and get by me. I didn't think we'd catch him (Labonte) because he was out there on us. When I came out on the back straightaway and he was coming out of the pits, I made it three-wide. I was all the way down almost touching the grass on the back straightaway, and that's hard to do, because I knew I had to get by him. I thought we were gonna finish second until the pit stop sequence was over."
DID YOU SEE THE BODINE-WALLACE INCIDENT? DID YOU BACK OFF? "I didn't back off before it happened, but going into each corner I didn't run right up behind the guys. When there's a guy on the bottom and there's a guy on the outside, you run up behind the guy on the bottom and he loses all the air and it makes him hard to drive the car. I tried to give them plenty of room. I wasn't going anywhere anyway. Two cars running side-by-side, running right up on them doesn't get you anything. I kind of saw the 60 when he went into the corner you could see the back end was outrunning the front end and I checked up then. I could tell if they didn't wreck something was gonna happen and they at least were both gonna run up the race track, so I just started backing off there. They were the right distance away from me to miss it. Any closer and I probably would have been in it and any further back I probably would have been in it."
HOW ABOUT WINNING THE MILLION DOLLAR BONUS? "Obviously, that's a pretty neat deal. I suspect we would race for no purse because it's what we love to do, but Winston has done wonders for this sport. Without Winston this sport wouldn't be what it is. Their involvement in the Winston No Bull program is incredible. We got an opportunity to see a guy (Wade Smith) that just for us winning the race won a million dollars and that's pretty cool because he said he hasn't slept in a month. Now his accountant won't sleep for a month. I think that was the coolest part. We get excited whether we win a hundred dollars or a million dollars, but to see that, that was pretty cool."
DO YOU FEEL YOU'RE ON THE VERGE OF DOMINATING NOW? "We're a long way away from what Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett and Terry Labonte, we're a long way away from what those guys have done. I have a real clear understanding of that. We could end this year up winning three races and 15th in points and we wouldn't feel too good about ourselves. We feel pretty good about ourselves right now, but we have an awful lot of respect and reverance for the fact that this is hard. We're not gonna get too excited about how well we do on a given night because I promise you, when you start thinking that you've got it all figured out, you'll realize that your dumb as dirt. It happens quick. I've struggled with my Busch car. Last year, every race I was in I led and this year I've led very few races. It takes concentration. It takes 100 percent effort. It takes everything to win races in Busch and Winston Cup. I think we're a long way away from being considered a great team or me being a great driver. We're on the brink of being able to do some great things, but we're a long, long, long way away from being a great team and a great driver."
JACK ROUSH CONTINUED -- WHAT'S IT LIKE TO FIELD THE WINNING ENGINE AT INDY AND THE WINNING CAR AT CHARLOTTE IN THE SAME DAY? "A.J. Foyt did a great job. He's motivated now to be an owner as he was to be a driver. He's got a great program. It's a class act over there. We were just fortunate enough that he gave us a chance to put our engine in his car for testing a couple of months ago and it proved to be a little better than what he had. Then we lucky enough to keep them together all month. He actually had one car with our engine in first, one in third and one in sixth, so I'm real proud of that. Our engines in the Treadway cars qualified one and two the year before last and also won the race with Arie Luyendyk, so we've had pretty good luck with that Aurora engine. It's important to me that our engines and the quality of our chassis and the other things we do is recognized not only by folks in Winston Cup racing, but other places as well. We need that in order to support our engineering business."
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE ENGINE PROBLEM YOU HAD SATURDAY? "I jumped in and did something before I thought about what I was doing. We had a problem with harmonic dampers spinning, so we campaigned all of our engines and changed all of the dampers. The boys that did the changing didn't check the top dead-center and we went out and ran Jeff's engine with way too much ignition timing in its final practice yesterday. It detinated it fairly hard. I was agonizing over whether we should change the engine and I checked the piston for the center of the damper and while I was doing it I bent a valve in the engine because I forgot to unhook the rocker arms. We might not have changed the engine. We probably needed to, but after I bent the valves with my own hands turning the engine over, it sure had to come out."
FRANK STODDARD CONTINUED -- DID YOU ADJUST ON THE LAST STOP? "We did make a bunch of adjustments on the last pit stop. The car was too loose before to run with the 18 and it was a short run, so we put some stuff in it to make a 30-lap run rather than a 70-lap run like we had been doing all night. I really didn't want to talk a lot about on the radio to him and give away our hand, so Buddy and I got together and we just made the calls we thought we needed to make. With about three or four to go I didn't think we made the right calls, but Jeff did a great job to hold him off, so I guess it was close to being the right call."
JEFF BURTON CONTINUED -- WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO BE CONSIDERED A GREAT DRIVER OR GREAT TEAM? "Win about five championships and 100 races. That's about what it would take. That's just the truth. The Bulls were a great basketball team. The 49ers were a great football team. That's what great is. You can be really good for a short period of time. That's not greatness, that's being good. Greatness is way up here and we're not way up there. You have to have results. Sport figures and teams are judged by results and not by potential. We have a lot of potential right now and we're getting some results, but for us to really feel like we're getting everything we need to get, and for Jack to be happy and Buddy to be happy and Frank to be happy and for myself, we have to win a lot more races and we have to win some championships. If we do those things, then we'll have a conversation about greatness, but we're a long way away from that right now."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT TONY STEWART? "He is better in a Winston Cup car than he was in a Busch car. Some people do that. Some people are better in a Winston Cup car than they are a Busch car and he's one of them. He's been a contender to win quite a few races. They have a great team. I believe that we have helped that team become better by being an example of how a two-car team can operate. Mark and I and Frank and Jimmy, underneath Buddy and Jack, have, in my opinion, set the standard for what two teams in one shop should be. They have done a great job of getting to where we are very quickly, so I think we've helped them a little bit. Tony is a smart guy, he's a good guy and he's a clean racer. He's gonna go a long way. He's gonna be someone we have to deal with next week and next year and into the future. It won't surprise me a bit for him to win some races this year. Not one race, but some races. That, as far as I'm concerned, is the ultimate compliment for a rookie."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT HE TRIED TO DO TODAY RUNNING BOTH RACES? "I think he's crazy as hell."
HOW COMPETITIVE IS THE RACING NOW? "The spoilers and air dams have made racing better. We've had better racing this year. I know I've been involved in some great races and it's different than last year. Last year when you got to a guy you got him and you passed him and you went on. This year, you have to race him more. It's better racing. I don't know why. It has to the spoilers and air dams because it's certainly better racing. It's what Winston Cup fans deserve. It's what's made Winston Cup racing what it is. I know tonight got a little boring there for awhile and that's the way we like it, but at the end of the race you could not ask to have a better race. Two guys going for a million dollars. Two young drivers willing to lay it out. Two young teams willing to go after it. It's a pretty neat deal."