DALE JARRETT YOU MUST HAVE LEARNED SOMETHING IN YOUR TEST. "My dad always told me if you pay attention you might learn something. I was here with three good road racers in Robby, Boris and Ron and when I wasn't in the car, I was able to see...
YOU MUST HAVE LEARNED SOMETHING IN YOUR TEST.
"My dad always told me if you pay attention you might learn something. I was here with three good road racers in Robby, Boris and Ron and when I wasn't in the car, I was able to see and listen to things they were doing a little differently. We had people around the track that were telling me what they may be doing a little different, plus we worked on our equipment a lot -- not just here testing but last year and even at Sears Point they said, 'They're out-braking you here.' I said that I was going as far as I could with the braking system we have right now, so we went back and went to work and worked on that and made our car a lot better. Certainly I improved in the test session and that helped me a lot, but we just made our equipment a whole lot better."
IS THERE MORE SATISFACTION WINNING A POLE HERE VERSUS DAYTONA OR TALLADEGA?
"Yeah, certainly. I think it means a lot as a driver because you know you have a lot to do with it here. Just like at Sears Point when I ran bad. I had a lot to do with that too. Yeah, it's very satisfying and gratifying as a driver to know that you come into a place like this where it's more than just four corners we're used to. You really have to do your job 10 or 11 times here, so it says a lot, but you've got to have a good car and good equipment and the same thing that wins poles at these other places -- horsepower certainly helped win it today too."
WHO WILL GET TURN ONE ON SUNDAY, YOU OR RICKY?
"We probably both have a different answer to that. I do know one thing that with me being the polesitter, he can't beat me to that start-finish line so he better be ready to take off when I am. It could be interesting, but I don't think it will. We're racing for a win here on Sunday, but we're also racing for a championship and we're teammates. We're gonna be smart about this. Whoever gets there first will have it, but I'm sure, hopefully, we'll both lead a lot of laps and gain some points back."
WHAT ABOUT PASSING HERE COMPARED TO AN OVAL?
"There are very few ovals that you make a pass off by out-braking someone. It occasionally happens, but most of the time there you're setting people up to pass them out of the corner, but here, you've got a couple of different opportunities to outbrake, so that's an important part of the equation. Handling is gonna be the key here and when I talk about handling, it not only means being able to make the tires last for the 30 or so laps you're gonna run until you put on tires -- we'll obviously look at making this a two-stop race for track position. Hopefully our car handles well enough to do that -- but outbraking getting into one up to the inner-loop and even back to the left-hander here is important. Some of that you set up with getting off of corners like 11, but braking is a key component to having a good race here. Again, it's so totally different than what we do on the ovals that you have to go in with that mindset as the day starts."
DOES JEFF GORDON'S HYPE AT A PLACE LIKE THIS FIRE YOU UP?
"Yeah. I mean, you always want to beat the best. That was the case when Dale Earnhardt was with us. I considered him to be the best and we used him as the benchmark as to how we were doing and how we were performing. Jeff is at the top of the game right now. He's a tremendous talent. They have a great race team. They have the whole package. They run well at every single venue we go to, so that gets us excited when you see things like that. We can't try any harder than what we always do in trying to win and beat Jeff and his team. But for anybody that thinks this points race is done, they don't know much about our racing. Maybe from the outside looking in -- to new fans or observers of our sport -- yeah, 160 points may seem insurmountable, but you have to realize that he got that lead in just two weeks and it can go away just that quick too."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE ORLANDO SENTINEL STORY TODAY WHERE IT TALKED ABOUT THE CARS BEING TOO RIGID?
"It's hard to comment on something that we don't know if they have the facts yet. I think we should all pretty much wait and see what the facts really are. I've been convinced from the beginning that the seatbelt wasn't what created Dale's death. I think that's fair to say that that didn't happen. I think Bill Simpson and his company have probably gotten a raw deal out of this. Did the seatbelt break, yes it broke. I saw the seatbelt myself. I know that did happen. Did that create the death? I never believed in my mind that was what created Dale's death. I think we'll see that and that will come out. As far as the cars being too rigid, we build these race cars and we build them to specifications. Are they too rigid? We don't put them through crash tests like the automobile manufacturers put passenger cars through crash tests before they're put on the road, so we don't know exactly what happens there. All we have is that when we do have accidents is to look and take all of that into consideration. I do know one thing that I saw in the article that I will totally agree with, and that is that the guys that are wearing the HANS device, that have had accidents this year -- and my name wasn't even included. I've had two pretty hard hits that I know of -- one in an IROC car at Talladega and then the other week at Pocono after we had already been in one wreck when I blew a tire and hit the wall. At least the wreck at Talladega was hard enough to do the very same thing, but me wearing the HANS device and the other guys that I've talked to that have had hard hits say the same thing -- that right now is the best thing that we have and I encourage the rest of the guys to get a HANS device. Whether they think it feels good to them or not, learn to wear it because that's what the rest of us had to do. As far as the cars being too rigid, I think that there are things we can learn there. How much they can be implemented into our cars, we'll look at that and see what we can do. But it's the same principle as us talking about the soft walls. We have to lessen that blow to the driver's compartment, however that's done. Soft walls are not gonna work everywhere, it would work in some places, but we don't even have that in place yet for that to happen. The Humpy Bumper or whatever it was being called, it's taking away some of the forces in the driver's compartment and if we can do that, if we can do that by doing something different in our chassis, everybody is gonna have to look at that and realize that we have to work on that together.
"This is not a Ford, Chevrolet, Pontiac and Dodge issue, this is an issue of NASCAR Winston Cup cars and we have to work at this together and that's what we'll do. When we get the final report and know what direction we need to go in, we're all gonna be looking at that to make our sport safer."
WHAT ABOUT THE NEW COMPOSITE SEAT BEING DEVELOPED?
"There is a new seat being designed and has been tested now. In the very near future it could be something that we'll have in our cars and it will be available. I think it's something that certainly could make a real difference in the safety issues. I liked what I saw. There's been a lot of work put into it and the thing that I liked was that it was something that was worked on by everyone. Drivers from different teams, from different makes of cars, different manufacturers, everybody worked at this. What I see is something that I like. It may be a little more like an Indy car tub. You see those guys walk away from some pretty serious accidents, so I think we're looking in the right direction in a lot of different areas and our sport is gonna be much safer in the coming years."
EVEN IF THE BELT DIDN'T PLAY A SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN DALE'S ACCIDENT, WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN WHY IT BROKE?
"Yeah, and we've had meetings about that. We think we know that before all of this comes out as to what created that problem with the seatbelt. It's not a manufacturing defect or anything like that. I've always used Simpson belts and, as far as I know, always will. I have the utmost respect and confidence in that company. This was something that is just a matter of paying attention to what you have in and how your belts are mounted an everything. So, yeah, we were very interested in that whenever it happened and NASCAR has helped us as they have all the teams in looking in that direction."
THE SECOND ACCIDENT AT POCONO. DO YOU EXAMINE THAT? DOES IT BOTHER YOU?
"I would imagine I just ran over something. It wasn't like there was a fender up there that could have rubbed a hole in the tire or anything like that because we didn't have anything left on the front end. I think that I just ran over something -- just bad luck. But we did look at how our car held up, what it did when it hit the wall, and that was in the worst possible conditions because there was nothing else there to lessen the blow. We look at that and, hopefully, learn from it."
DO YOU FEEL THE CARS YOU'RE DRIVING ARE SAFE AND HAVE YOU FELT THAT WAY ALL ALONG?
"The car that I drive is extremely safe and I've felt that way the entire time. I feel very confident in the race cars that Robert Yates puts me out in, and all the specifications that NASCAR puts us through. I think it's just up to us as drivers and teams to look in other areas to make this safer for ourselves."
SO YOU DON'T FEEL WITH WHATEVER THE SO-CALLED DESIGN FLAW IS, YOU DON'T FEEL ANY HESITATION?
"No, I don't feel like that at all. I feel very confident in what I'm in. Can we make it better? I think that possibly we can and I think that's something that we have to look into in the near future."
THIS MUST FEEL GOOD AFTER THE LAST TWO WEEKS.
"Yeah, it does. It makes you feel good and gives a boost to the team, especially to come to a difficult place like this and both cars perform well. I think we'll certainly be looking at Sunday as an opportunity for us even though we know Jeff's record here, but right now it has us feeling much better about our program."
WHAT ABOUT THE DIFFERENTIAL IN SPONSORSHIP DOLLARS BETWEEN TEAMS?
"It's no different from other major league sports, where some teams are in great market areas and can pay out huge salaries -- especially the ones that don't have a salary cap. Even the ones that do, they're in a better position to make money at what they're doing. Ours is no different. As you perform, the opportunity is there for you to gather more sponsorship dollars. Unfortunately, this business is not getting cheaper to do. It is expensive for the sponsors. It's still a great deal for them, but in a time where some companies are finding it a little bit of a struggle for themselves, they're finding it hard to take a majority or half of their marketing dollars and put it towards one thing. Hopefully, that will turn around some and these guys that are looking for sponsors will find adequate dollars to continue to run and run well."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE A ROAD RACE ACE NOW WITH THIS POLE?
"No, we won't go that far. I had a good car and got in a good lap, so we won't carry it any further than that."
HAVE YOU HAD ANY TESTING WITH AN ALUMINUM FOAM CRUSH BOX?
"No, not to my knowledge we haven't. Not to this point."