Robert Yates, Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin spoke about Ernie Irvan's decision to retire from NASCAR Winston Cup racing. ROBERT YATES, Car Owner --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- NOTE: Irvan drove 95 races for Yates from 1993-97 and won...
Robert Yates, Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin spoke about Ernie Irvan's decision to retire from NASCAR Winston Cup racing.
ROBERT YATES, Car Owner --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- NOTE: Irvan drove 95 races for Yates from 1993-97 and won eight times during that span. "He's definitely the toughest. He accomplished and he conquered. It's smart. He's got all the things he needs. He's financially in good shape. He's got everything to live for outside the race car, so he's smart in making this decision." WHAT ABOUT THAT DAY IN MICHIGAN WHEN HE WON? "That was probably the best race of my life." WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU HEARD ERNIE WAS GOING TO RETIRE? "I talked to Ernie last week and he was saying the same thing he said before -- 'I want to drive. I'm gonna do good. I'm gonna win.' But he didn't say it with that enthusiasm that he's said it with before. He talked to me about that and I knew right then that he was searching his soul. He wanted to know what I thought. He's just the toughest guy and he's done it all. He's conquered it all and doesn't have anything to prove. Certainly this is a sad but glad day."
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- "I'm glad it's a decision that Ernie was able to make on his own. We're gonna miss him here. He was a good friend and a great competitor to a lot of us, but I'm also glad that he'll be able to just carry on with his life normally. Hopefully, he can stay involved and can be around us, but it's unfortunate for him because he was a great competitor. We're gonna miss him, but I'm glad he and Kim and Jordan and Jared can go on with their lives." HOW WAS HE AS A TEAMMATE? "He was great. Ernie is so knowledgeable about a race car and had a really good feel. It was fun working with him. We had a great relationship and we both had a lot of success whenever he was there."
MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline/Cummins Taurus -- "I think most of us are relieved and have a lot of compassion for the decision and how hard it has to be. He's accomplished a tremendous amount and he's had tremendous success in the sport. He dug deep to get there and he got there. He's done just about all of it, so it's a good time to take that and take a new direction with his life. It's pretty scary to take another chance when he's had so much trouble in the same area with the head injury." DID HE TALK TO YOU AT ALL FOR ADVICE ON THIS DECISION? "He has talked to me and then he told me Wednesday what he had decided to do. It's just something that it was time."
STANTON BARRETT --90-- Donlavey Racing Taurus (Qualified 42nd) -- "That's better than we did in practice. I hope it's good enough to get in the race, especially for Junie Donlavey -- it's his 50th year and for Darlington's 50th anniversary also. I just held on the best I could. We were quite a bit loose and it didn't really get the grip in the front tires over in three and four, but it's better than what we've been doing."
RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus (Qualified 24th) -- "I picked up a lot. I ran like a 29.33 in practice and we picked up quite a bit, so I'm pretty happy with that run. He said a .15 and then I came in and it was on oh-five, so I'm happy with it. The car handled great, the motor ran strong. Benson ran an oh-two right after I did and I said, 'Man, I can't believe that because I thought I was pretty quick around there.'"
JOHNNY BENSON --26-- Cheerios Taurus (Qualified 20th) -- "I'm real excited about that. We started second here in the spring and we were kind of hoping we could do that again. Tommy Morgan has come on board and is helping us out and all the guys on the Cheerios Taurus are really doing a good job. We just want to make sure we end this year on a good note and we're trying everything we can to win some money." WAS THAT A PERFECT LAP? "There's no such thing as a perfect lap unless you're on the pole."
JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus (Qualified 11th) -- "That was a good lap for us. The motor turned a lot of rpm's, the car was perfect and just free. It didn't push any at all and it was a good lap for us. We needed that as a team. We made a few changes right before qualifying and only got a couple laps of practice, but it worked out for us."
JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus (Qualified 15th) -- "It was a decent lap. I think the cars are gonna keep getting faster here. The cloud cover is coming in pretty big and you can feel it cooling down, so I think that's going to be a tremendous advantage going late. We had a decent lap, but a decent lap added with going early might not be good enough." WERE YOU FASTER THAN THIS MORNING? "We were definitely faster than what we had been. The car stuck a lot better and I think that's only gonna get better."
KEVIN LEPAGE --16-- TV Guide Taurus (Qualified 9th) -- "That's big. Everybody in our shop has been behind me all year. We've gone through a bunch of changes and this week we made another change with Pat Tryson coming over to help us out. I just can't say enough for this TV Guide Taurus. Everybody is working real hard. Nobody has given up all year long and it just shows what kind of dedication we have in Liberty to get these cars running up front. I don't think it will be a pole, but it will give us a good starting spot for Sunday. I love Darlington."
DARRELL WALTRIP --66-- Big Kmart/Route 66 Taurus (Qualified 35th) -- "The car was way, way, way too tight. Actually, we tightened it up a little bit from practice, got the cloud cover and I was just too tight. That hurt me. I got through one and two good, died in three and four. That's the best I've run, but it should have been a little better."
KENNY IRWIN --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus (Qualified 1st) -- "We got through one and two real good and I struggle in three and four here every time we come here. I knew we got in three good and hard and we didn't hit nothing, so I figured we had a good lap going on. All the guys on the 28 team work hard and, hopefully, today we get a good starting spot." THIS IS OBVIOUSLY A GOOD CAR. YOU HAD IT HERE IN THE SPRING WHEN YOU WERE RUNNING 10TH AND THEN GOT CAUGHT UP IN AN ACCIDENT. "I really like running here at Darlington. We've never really run that good and I just enjoy running here. I think it's a driver's race track and I think if you can run good here, it does something for your own confidence."
STEVE GRISSOM --9-- Cartoon Network Taurus (Qualified 18th) -- "That's faster than we ran in practice, but these guys never give up. We had a deal there in practice where the car was bottoming out and they kept working and got it to where it didn't bottom out. We were able to bring good speed through the corner and got us a decent lap."
BILL ELLIOTT --94-- McDonald's Taurus (Qualified 10th) -- YOU SAID YOU HAD TO HOLD IT DOWN HARDER? "I felt like I got through one and two really well, but I felt like I gave up just a little bit of time in three and four. It's easy to sit here and say that, but to go out and do it again would be hard enough. I really felt good in one and two. I felt like the car was really hooked up in one and two. I mean, we came here and were about 25th-fastest in second practice. Wayne asked me what I wanted to do and I told him to let's just get it ready to qualify. Ernie tuned on the motor a little bit and we got everything going, so we'll just see how it holds up. At least we'll be on the front side, that's the good thing.
MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline/Cummins Taurus (Qualified 16th) -- "That's picking up from practice, but we didn't do better than anyone else as far as that goes. I kind of new we weren't in too good of shape when we wound up 14th-quick in practice. We've just gotta try to get it wired in for the race. We picked this car for race setup based on what we saw in the test, not on its qualifying ability, so we'll just hope that we've done the right thing here and brought a car that will stay on its tires."
RICKY RUDD --10-- Tide Taurus (Qualified 26th) -- "This is a new car and maybe we missed it a little bit. We didn't get a chance to run it or test it on a speedway. I think we're a little bit slow on the straightaway, but I think it's gonna race really good. At least that's what everybody says, I guess, when you run slow that you're gonna run in the race, but it has a real good feel. It stuck to the race track real good and I think it will run good in the race. We knew when we got here that we were gonna be struggling on the body a little bit."
ELLIOTT SADLER --21-- Citgo Taurus (Qualified 6th) -- "I tell you what, this team has really turned the corner here, we feel like, in the last few months. We've been running great on race setups. We told everybody when we come back to these race tracks for the second time we're gonna be a whole lot better race team and it's showing. I'm getting more comfortable and we're starting to bring some new race cars for me. This is a new one we haven't run yet, sister to the car we had at Bristol that was very fast, so we're really looking forward to Sunday."
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus (Qualified 45th) -- "The left rear tire was going flat. I knew it was going flat going down the backstretch. I thought something was wrong and I was hoping it might stay up enough to get me through the corner." WAS IT A GOOD SAVE? "I don't know." IT LOOKED LIKE A GREAT CAR. "Yeah, had a great car, but that's the second flat tire we've had today." WHAT HAPPENED? "The left rear tire was going flat on it. It was down about 10-12 pounds whenever we got in there. I felt it going down the backstretch but was hoping it might stay up to get me through that last corner."
Kenny Irwin earned his second pole of the season and gave Ford it's fifth overall in 1999. Those five have come from three drivers -- Irwin, Rusty Wallace (2) and Ricky Rudd (1). The pole was the third of Irwin's NASCAR Winston Cup career.
WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS WITH YOUR TEAMMATE GOING INTO TURN FOUR WITH A CHANCE TO BUMP YOU OFF THE POLE? "After I qualified I was walking by their hauler and he was standing up on top. I pointed to the scoreboard and pointed to two, saying that's what he needed to qualify was second. I was up on top of the 88 when he qualified and Robert told me that he got through one and two just as good as I did and you could see when he went into three he was hustling it and he got back in the throttle hard and just was pushing and got loose on the right rear tire. He wanted the pole too, which is good to see because he could have just went out there and run and probably finished in the top five, but he wanted the pole. He didn't really need to do that and he was really pushing for it." BECAUSE OF YOUR SITUATION, ARE YOU ABLE TO HOLD YOUR BREATH A LITTLE LONGER AND DRIVE ON THE EDGE A LITTLE MORE? "I think you're saying am I trying harder. I think you can ask any race car driver, I think they race as hard as they can every time they go on the race track." WHAT ABOUT YOUR LAP? "I got through one and two, which I felt was pretty good, and then I got into three. Last year that was where I always had a problem was getting through three and four and I got through three without hitting the wall getting in. That's where I've had the problem and I knew it was gonna be a good lap then. That might have been the only hesitation I had." DOES YOUR SITUATION SERVE AS MOTIVATION? "You could say it's motivation to get a new job or you could say it's motivation to run better. I don't know. I'm just out there running as hard as I can, which I've been doing for the last year and a half." WHAT ABOUT TIRES. HOW IMPORTANT IS TAKING CARE OF THEM? "All week I've been talking to Doug Richert and the only thing we've talked about is our race setup. Never once did we talk about how we were gonna qualify setup-wise. Obviously, that's what we want -- to run good in the race. The changes that we're gonna make from the last race here was only race setup. We've pretty much got the same qualifying setup and that's because the tires go away. From one lap to the next in practice this morning, they drop off three to four tenths, so it's who can keep their tires under them the longest is gonna win the race." WERE YOU SURPRISED TO WIN THE POLE? "We unloaded pretty good and the first time I was here we qualified fourth or fifth and hadn't qualified that good since then. This is a track where I probably strive to run good at more than other places. Atlanta and Texas are big horsepower tracks. That is a place where holding your breath actually kind of works better than what Darlington or Rockingham does. It was nice to get a pole on something that wasn't a high-speed superspeedway you might say." WHAT ABOUT THE RACE? "I'd much rather be starting on the pole than anywhere else. Wearing you tires down, Doug Richert will let me know what's going on and the pace we're setting. Hopefully, we're setting the pace. That would be nice, but it just comes back to how quick you can run with 40 or 50 laps. That's the benchmark tomorrow morning when we're out there running laps. We'll make 30-40 lap runs and see where we compare to the competition. That'll really tell how good we're gonna be tomorrow." WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS 50TH ANNIVERSARY AT DARLINGTON? "I remember the first time we came here and tested, it was Robert Yates and a couple of his buddies` were talking about me coming here testing and just hoping we were able to roll it back in the trailer -- that we were gonna have that much trouble. Actually, we didn't tear up anything that day, so I felt pretty good about it. To see how much it actually means to people like Robert Yates and the others who made Darlington what it is. It obviously means more to them because we haven't made as many stories." WHO WERE YOU MOST AFRAID MIGHT KNOCK YOU OFF THE POLE? "For me it was Jarrett. Obviously, I think Gordon always runs good here, but I thought about Jarrett the most because I felt like he was probably hungrier for a pole here than anywhere because they don't have a pole yet this year. They unloaded good and so I felt like him going last that it was destined that he was gonna win the pole here today."