STACY COMPTON (No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Bill Cooper, a noted road racing instructor, has been coaching Stacy Compton and the Mark Melling team this weekend at Watkins Glen. Compton discusses working with Cooper, NASCAR road...
STACY COMPTON (No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Bill Cooper, a noted road racing instructor, has been coaching Stacy Compton and the Mark Melling team this weekend at Watkins Glen. Compton discusses working with Cooper, NASCAR road racing, the struggles of a single-car team and trying to find a new sponsor.
"Bill helped me this year at Sears Point. That's probably the best I've ever run at Sears Point. He's probably the best there's ever been at Sears Point. He was an instructor out there for 18 years. Bill really helped us out there. If you look at the guest qualifiers and guest racers we've got out here now, with all the road course guys coming in. We went out there (on track) earlier and talked about some stuff. I certainly think it's going to help. Bill is a road racer, and I'm an oval racer. He gave me some pointers that I feel like will help. We just rode around the track, and he pointed out some things.
"I went out and did a deal at Sears Point for the Urban California Dodge Dealers. We took a passenger car out there and probably spent an hour making laps and picking out some points, picking out where we needed to hit our mark and things of that nature. It certainly helped.
"I won a road course race at Topeka in the truck series. Bill has made his living running road races. I've made my living running ovals. I wouldn't say I'm not a road racer. I like 'em, and I've won on 'em. There's not a lot of oval drivers who can say they've won on a road course track. I like 'em, but it certainly doesn't hurt to get someone in here who's got more experience than I do.
"I think I'm a smooth road racer. I think in the past I've been smoother than some of the other drivers who toss them around. Every time you crank up a race car it's a rush for me. It doesn't matter if it's a road course or an oval track or just cranking it up to drive in through the pits. It's still a rush. The fast way around it (last turn at Watkins Glen) is not to lift, but I don't know if you can make it around that way or not. The sooner you can get on the gas, the faster you can run. You're putting it on the edge. If the track was five feet wider, you'd still be running off. You're using all the track you can use.
"I don't think it takes any more talent to run a road course than it does an oval track. I think if you're here in Winston Cup racing, you've got the talent to be here. It certainly takes a lot of talent to run an oval, and it certainly takes a lot of talent to run a road course.
"You can't blame 'em (for bring in road course specialists), but personally, I don't think it's right to pull somebody out of a car and put somebody in the car for a road race. If they want to bring an extra car in, that's fine. I don't think it's right to pull a driver out and put a road racer in for a race or two races and then put the regular driver back in. These guys who work on the cars every week are working on the cars for the regular drivers the majority of the time. They've got confidence in the drivers, and me as a driver, I don't think it's right. As an owner's business decision, maybe it is the right decision. Fortunately, I've run well enough on road courses that I've never had an owner that wanted to do that, but I don't think it's right. "I think you've got more passing spots at Watkins Glen than you do at Sears Point. Bill (Cooper) says it's easier. I love Sears Point, but traditionally we've always run pretty good up here in the truck series. We ran in the top 10 three different times. It's beautiful country up here. I like the way the track is laid out, and I think you've got a few more passing areas than you do at Sears Point. Bottom line, if you get your car working pretty decent, you can run pretty good.
"I don't think you've got to get in a different frame of mind for a road course race. This is the most intense sport there's ever been, and if you don't get psyched up or pumped up before qualifying or before a race, you're not going to run good. You should have one thing on your mind, going out and doing your job. I think everybody gets psyched up. "I love road courses. I look forward to coming to these two road courses. I know road courses are places where we can run good. The aero is out of it, some of the things we've had our hands tied on are out of the equation. I feel like when we go to Sears Point and Watkins Glen, those are two races where we have the potential to go out and finish in the top 15. I look forward to both of them. I think some drivers come to road courses thinking, 'man, I'll be glad to get out of here this weekend.'
"I think cost wise, two is enough. If you have more than two, then you have to have more than two road course cars. For the sponsorships and teams, two is probably enough. It's two major markets we need to go to, but if we start going to more road courses, then you're going to have to have specialized cars. Now, we've got some cars we can use at five different tracks. Cost wise, as expensive as the sport has gotten, I think two road races should stay on the circuit, but I think two's enough."
DISCUSS COMPETING AS A SINGLE-CAR TEAM
"It's tough. It doesn't make any difference if you're a Dodge or Chevy or Ford or Pontiac team. If you're a single-car team, you're pretty much getting your clock cleaned on a consistent basis because of the resources. Mark Melling and Kodiak are spending the money, but the resource end of it is where we're getting beat. When you've got teams that have R&D teams that just go out and learn things, when you've got 15 engineers working on aero programs and things along that line, we're getting beat by resources. I think we're doing a great job with what we've got.
"Mark is giving the guys everything they're asking for, but still yet, there's so much more stuff out there that we could use, and there's so many more resources we could utilize if we had a multi-car team or if we had $10 million sponsors. We're thankful for what we've got, no doubt, but we also realize it's going to be pretty tough to get up running in the top five every week.
"It'd be tough (for Jeff Gordon to win with a single-car team). Did Jeff Gordon forget how to drive last year or two years ago when he was 13th or so in points? It's people. People make the difference. He's got the people back together, and the communication is there and they're back on track. He's winning races again.
"Dale Earnhardt is a perfect example. Everybody was saying he needed to retire. You're washed up. All of a sudden he comes out of the box, the team got their act together and he won races again. Drivers don't forget how to drive. You've got to have it all. You've got to have the team, the resources, the sponsorship, good pit stops, you've got to have the desire. If one part of that is not there, you're not going to win races.
"Jeff Gordon is going to be tough here. Ron Fellows is going to be good. Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin. Steve Park won this race last year. There's a number of drivers out there, but if you look back all those are multi-car teams. All those guys have won races on ovals as well as road courses.
"You've got to be a multi-car team to be competitive on a weekly basis. We had four straight top 15 finishes earlier in the year. We're a single-car team. We did it then, but we can't do it consistently. I think as the teams get dialed in, I think the resources start to show themselves. When the season first started, maybe we were closer to a level playing ground. As the season progresses and all these teams get to go test and build resources and build notes, then we start slipping back.
"It just keeps eating at you where eventually the resources pay off. We're not the only ones out there doing it. Brett Bodine is doing a great job. Other single-car teams out there are higher than us in points. We've got to step up our program. We need to at least be the highest-ranked single-car team. That's not a good goal, but we should at least be as high as any other single-car team.
"What do you classify a single-car team? You've got Elliott Sadler, but they've got the Roush equipment, motors, chassis. Jack Roush is part owner with the Wood Brothers, so I don't know if they're considered a single-car team. You've got A.J. Foyt, you've got us, Brett Bodine. Robert Pressley has Penske stuff now since Jasper and Penske merged. Ryan Pemberton is doing a great job with that team, but do they have the resources? They probably have more because they are aligned with Penske."
WHAT'S THE OUTLOOK FOR THE 92 TEAM?
"Kodiak is on board the rest of the year, and our goal is the same as it's always been. We want to do the best job we possibly can. We're not changing anything or doing anything different. We're trying to finish as high as we can and qualify as high as we can. If we do that, hopefully it'll attract some attention and we'll get sponsorship. We're not changing anything. We're not changing any strategy. We're still going at it as hard as we can every week."
BILL COOPER (Consultant No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I trained nearly every Winston Cup driver who went to school at Sears Point. Dale Earnhardt hated road courses. I forget what year he won out there, but whenever it was, he called me up and thanked me. I think other than Daytona, winning on a road course meant the most to him. It's amazing what he did here when he was hurt a few years ago.
"I ran a Cup race out there at Sears Point myself in 1989 in a West Coast car. I couldn't do that now. I'm 55, but it's not so much that. These guys learn pretty quickly. Out of everybody I've worked with, and I've been in motorsports for 25 years, these guys, no question about it, are the best to work with and pick things up the fastest.
"There's a lot of teamwork in road racing. It's important I think when you've got a driver that you stick with that guy and try to help him. Everybody works on everybody else's weak points. You work together as a team, and I don't think it helps to bring anybody in. To add a driver is fine, but to replace a driver isn't good.
"Technically, I think Stacy knows what he has to do. Racers are racers, so it's just a matter of getting a different focus of what you've got to do on a road course versus an oval. The hard part is they do instinctive things that always work on an oval. Sometimes those things are contradictory for what you need to do on a road course. You mentally understand that, but when you're in the car, you tend to fall back on what you're used to.
"I think I can help there even if it's just something in the brain cells. I can help him focus on the things that need to be different. We're talking about subtleties, getting your mindset on what you need to do, where you need to be aggressive, where you don't need to be aggressive.
"You just need to try to make sure you beat the track every lap and don't worry about beating somebody else on the track. That's a little different than on the oval tracks. I think it's a little more complex. You're a little busier with different speeds and radius of the corners, higher speed, lower speed, braking. There's so many things to consider, and it's just not making a mistake.
"I'll be out in the corners watching. I can tell where his line is and the attitude of the car. I can't always tell whether it's him or the car. At least I can tell what the car is doing, and we can decide whether the driver can fix it or if it's something we've got to fix mechanically."