Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace Talladega II interview

Ford Racing October 20, 2001 Talladega Superspeedway Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace are two of the No Bull 5 drivers for tomorrow's EA Sports 500 at Talladega. The two, who are both in the top six in the NASCAR Winston Cup points standings,...

Ford Racing
October 20, 2001
Talladega Superspeedway

Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace are two of the No Bull 5 drivers for tomorrow's EA Sports 500 at Talladega. The two, who are both in the top six in the NASCAR Winston Cup points standings, spoke informally in the infield media center about the aero rules package in effect at the track, safety issues and the competitiveness of the series.



REALLY? "Absolutely. As bad as it was, it's worse now. Before, three-wide was about the most that you would get yourself into. When you got in that position, you just kind of held on until you could yourself out of it. Now, people put themselves in that position. People put themselves of position of four-wide, and putting themselves in the middle of that. You have no time to relax whatsoever with this. And, obviously, you're closing up quicker on cars so you really have to pay more attention. So, it's much more nerve-wracking."

ARE THE CULPRITS IN THE FOUR-WIDE THE SO-CALLED "AUDITIONING" DRIVERS OR THE DRIVERS WHO NEED A WIN? "Most of the time, but at the end of the race I'm going to do the same thing. If I know that's the lane that's moving, I'm going there, too. I going to try not to put myself in that position early in the race, but late in the race I'm not going to hesitate, if my car feels good enough to put myself there then I'm going to go there."

CAN THAT CREATE A SITUATION THAT, FOR THE FIRST 470 MILES, THE EXPERIENCED DRIVERS GO TO THE BACK AND THE INEXPERIENCED DRIVERS ARE AT THE HEAD OF THE FIELD? "That's highly possible. I've heard and talked to Jeff (Gordon), and he says as long as he can run up there and can feel good about what he's doing, but as soon as he gets himself in a position that he's not comfortable with, he's going to the back and hang out - of course, he's got a points championship to protect here. So this is his biggest hurdle right now. I mean, all of the races anything can happen, but this one right now is the wild card in his quest for the championship. Yeah, it's very possible. The guys I've been hanging out with in the back are Tony (Stewart) and Bobby (Labonte) and these guys who do have experience, so, yeah, that's highly possible."

NO CAUTIONS IN THE APRIL RACE MAKE YOU FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE ABOUT THIS ONE? "A stroke of luck. The thing that it does that maybe allows for a little more of that and has allowed people to be a little more patient with it in give and take is the fact - that's the one thing about the rules, if we're going to say you don't like them you also got to say one thing about the aero package that we have is that you know you can't lose the draft, so people are more apt to give a little bit more in the situation, where before when passing was more difficult and you really had to put a premium on making the right move, now you know that if you can't get in that hole or something, you're going to get another chance. You just don't take that opportunity because you can't lose the draft again. You might shuffle back and lose 10 spots, but I've gone from 35th to fifth here in about three laps, so it doesn't take any time to make those moves and go. That's the one thing about the package is that you can a little more patient, and I've seen people give others opportunities to get in holes instead of creating a problem."

WHAT IS THE SPOILER HERE? "We wanted a 60-degree spoiler without a roof flap, and we still got 70 degrees. You know, they cut an inch and a half off the Fords, but with the roof deflector, it knocks all that air on the Fords because of the shape of our roof it's not hitting the spoiler anyway. We took our cars to the tunnel, and it did very little. I mean, it was so little that it doesn't even make a difference. The changes they made didn't really do what we wanted or were hoping they would do."

WHEN THIS SET OF RULES DRAGS ON AND ON, DOES THAT CREATE FRUSTRATION? "If I had the total answer as to what would be better, then I think I could probably go complain or feel like they're not making an effort, but they did make the effort. They came down here and they did the test, and unfortunately we couldn't be a part of it because we had something else already planned. They are making efforts. The problem that they have is what does it do to all four makes, and that's the problem is finding something that doesn't hurt one make more than the others. Although, when we came with this aero package, as soon as they put it on at Daytona, I told them that this hurt my car, which was a Ford, and it showed it on the watch and it showed it driving the car, what you could do with it. I think that there's thing we could go to and still have a good race, I think I'm speaking a little selfishly, that give the Ford a better chance at being up front and winning here, and right now we really don't have that opportunity. It would take something big to happen for us to really have that chance. In that respect I'm a little frustrated that some change hasn't been made, but, again, I don't have the answer. I still would like to see us try a smaller cubic-inch engine and see if we can't so something there. You can make it as small as you want to keep the speeds down, and that maybe not have to use a plate."

HOW MUCH SMALLER, LIKE A 305? "Yeah, that's what Robert Yates has been talking about for a number of years and so, obviously, I think he knows and that, apparently, must make sense for him to able to talk about it that much."

HOW CHAOTIC IS IT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RACE? "I don't know that you can describe it. There's a lot always going on up front, so if you're in the middle, you're having to watch there and then you've got cars closing on you in a hurry from the back. So, you can't stay aware enough of what's happening all around you, so that's why you don't want to get yourself put in that position. A lot of the time you might find yourself in a three-wide situation in the middle and in the middle of the pack, again, you've got to be aware of what's happening right on you, and then you got guys closing from the rear and they're ready to take any small hole that they can take. You can't keep up enough. You don't have enough eyes and enough feel to know everything that's going on. Because of the package now, the cars from the back are closing on you and a much more rapid pace."

NOW THAT HEAD AND NECK RESTRAINTS ARE MANDATORY, IS THERE STILL CONCERN THAT THERE ARE OTHER TYPES OF INJURIES THAT CAN OCCUR HERE? "The head and neck restraints, there are still injuries that you can suffer from getting in an accident, and obviously at the speeds we're traveling here, thing could happen. You don't want to wreck, period, for obvious reasons. So, that's why you're nervous about it because anything is possible. And as safe as we know the Hans device and the Hutchens device are, we don't know for an absolute fact that it's the cure-all, that it's absolutely going to keep you from suffering that severe injury. So that's why you're tense here. You don't want to get into an accident, and you know that's highly possible here with the way that we're running the cars. It was a good call by NASCAR to mandate that, but there still others ways of getting injured in an accident."

WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN IN THE EVOLUTION OF SAFETY SINCE FEBRUARY, AND WHERE DOES IT NEED TO GO FROM HERE? "We'll I'm not sure where they need to go. I've seen a lot of changes. Just looking around at a lot of different race cars, how far some have taken it and others that didn't seem before to have very little if anything in the way of safety other that what was required in the inside of their cars, that they've made those changes. So, it's nice to see. I think the thing that we have to do now, and I think I heard Jeff Burton talk about this, in mandating these head and neck restraints that we don't want to stop there. We don't want this to be the end of it. We want it to be a way that others continue to work and develop something new that would be even better. I think it's been pretty neat to see all the manufacturers work together in the name of safety. That's been to me probably the most impressive thing that I've seen take place here. It didn't matter if were Chevrolet, Pontiac, Dodge or Ford, everybody gave out the information that they were finding to make this a safer sport."

HOW IS NASCAR INVOLVED IN COMMUNICATING THE INFORMATION? "Information is there. It's your fault if you don't get it. They have it there and they're willing to discuss it with you, give you everything that they have, what they've learned. Again, we've had a couple of meetings to where they talked to us about safety and certain situations, but they can't do that with everything, but they do have that information and it's available to every team. So, if you don't go in the trailer and get it or sit down and talk to them, it's your own fault. They've done a tremendous job of gathering that information and they're very knowledgeable about it and willing to discuss it with you."

THIS HAS BEEN A VERY COMPETITIVE SEASON WITH 16 DIFFERENT WINNERS, INCLUDING FOUR FIRST-TIME WINNERS. IS IT TOUGHER THIS YEAR TO WIN A RACE? "I believe that it's tougher. I just think that the competition is closer. There's a lot of factors there. You have more money in the sport now, you have more teams that are staying together and getting that experience that they need and working together to become a team capable of winning races. You've got people now willing to make chances, and what I mean by chances, not necessarily chances on the race track, but pit strategies - they're willing to roll the dice. With the tire that Goodyear has now that allows us to be able to run on older tires that don't wear out as much because they're harder, it's put people in position more. Because of the tire, too, I think that's an opportunity there for people to hit on something and when they do, it shows up more. Before, you had so many people, because the tires would wear out, even if you hit on it good, you could still get out-run in a short run or something like that. Now, you see people taking advantage of the tires and how good they are and putting themselves in a position to win. It's harder to win now. You have to do everything right or really make a good call at the end to make that happen."

RUSTY WALLACE-2-Miller Lite Taurus

ON THE STRATEGY OF DROPPING TO THE BACK OF THE FIELD. "There's been a lot of guys try hanging out in the back, thinking there's going to be a big wreck and stuff like that, and that wrecks just don't seem like they have happened, although we all know that everybody's got lucky the last four times, that's a fact. So, hanging out in the back, the wrecks can happen in the back, they can happen in the middle, so you might as well get on up there and get after it."

IS IT BAD FOR THE SPORT THAT DRIVERS WILL GO TO THE BACK, AND SAY SO? "I don't thin k it's bad. I think if a driver's uncomfortable with the current rules package, and think that it could cause a helluva wreck, with four or five deaths happening right now, if they want to do that, it's probably smart on their part to hang back in the back in the pack if they think there's going to be a wreck, but there hasn't been one. I was talking to Jeff Burton, in fact, I wasn't talking, I was listening to his interview the other day and it said that him and I were going to lay back in the pack and let the wrecks happen, because we were confident it was going to happen. Well, it didn't happen, and we ended up getting stuck in the back and have to drive our rear ends off to get back up to the front, and I got up there and I don't know if he made it, but he said last night, 'I think the racing gods have punished me for laying in the back, so I just got to get my rear end up to the front and drive hard.' So, that's my plan. My plan is I've had a real conservative outlook in the race in the past, but I'm kind of pissed off now, because I hate the rules."

WHAT ABOUT DAYTONA 2002? "All I can tell you is that 19 of us came here and tested. All 19 loved the 60-degree spoiler. Nobody liked the rear strip, nobody liked the reverse gurney flap. The 60-degree spoiler was great. We really enjoyed the way the cars drafted. And, I think all of us were completely blown away when NASCAR came back and said that the rules were going to be status quo. I know I just couldn't believe it. As good as it felt and as good as they drafted - not so tight, but tight enough that you could still pass and be comfortable - I don't see any rhyme or reason for it, but I just got to have faith in the leadership, if I do question it a lot every now and then."

SO YOU'D WANT DIFFERENT RULES? I would hope to God we would go to different rules. I would hope that we would go to the 60-degree rear spoiler. That really worked good."

MORE ON THE TEST. "In fact, I'm the one that kind of got this thing started, this 19 test, I pleaded with Helton, let's go do another test so we can prove to you that we can do something better, and then when he granted the test and we all came down here and tested. And the reason was to get it right so when we start off the 2002 season it's right. And I really think the 60-degree spoiler is right. I'm just lost. I think there's just so much fear over what happened three or four years ago when we had a bad race at Daytona, and all these races have been real good, they're gun-shy - which you can't blame them for that. Because the rating have been sky-high, everybody's loved it, but that's good for the fans and good for everybody else, but we hate it. We're trying to prove to them we could still put a great race on without the cars being so compact."

NOTE: Rusty Wallace was involved in a multi-car wreck during Happy Hour. He was uninjured, and the No. 2 team was forced to go to its backup car.

-Ford Racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Dale Jarrett , Rusty Wallace , Robert Yates