Darrell Waltrip on Bristol



Darrell Waltrip - 66 - Big Kmart Taurus: "We were just up there (Bristol) this past week testing for a couple of days. It just fascinates me how fast you can go. That's always been a fast race track. It's always been a fast little half-mile race track. High banked, similar to the tracks - Nashville, Salem, those types of race tracks. I think the thing that blows my mind is these cars have so much power, then they have the downforce they have and then tires we have. It's just how fast and how hard you can drive around that place. With that said, what really fascinates me is that you go out and run two or three laps and you come in and you are out of breath. You go out and make a qualifying run which is two laps at Bristol, brand new tires and motor, and you are out of breath. And you say to yourself how in the world am I going to make 500 laps around this thing. How does a man physically going to do that. And then I sit there and think, I've run 500 laps around this joint, as hard as I can go with no power steering. I've run 500 laps around this thing, and led every lap but two or three, and got out and was happy and jumping up and down like a kid. I guess what I'm trying to say is that race track unlike some of the others is not only physically demanding but it also takes a lot of mental preparation just getting yourself psyched up for going there. I think they ruined the race when they started running 43 cars there. I looked at some old tapes of Bristol through the week, and they started 36 cars there, and the racing was great. There was a lot of great racing. There wasn't a lot of cautions. There were some like any Bristol race, but there wasn't one right after another, right after another. There wasn't those big old multi-car crashes, and the leader lapping cars all the time. It was more of a race. Then I looked at some of the recent races where they started 43 cars. The leader takes the green flag, and the 43 guy is in the middle of the back straight-away. In 20 laps the leader is lapping the back of the field. That's not good racing. The fans like it because there is a lot of action. You get the leader with no traffic, and you get the back of the field with 40 cars in front of you, and he's going to catch you pretty quick and you've got to try and hold him off. That's where all the trouble starts. But I think they really hurt the race when they started all those cars there, as far as the competition is concerned. But at least with all those cautions you get to catch your breath a little bit."

YOU WON SEVEN STRAIGHT RACES AT BRISTOL. WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF THAT TIME? "The biggest thing was, I didn't think I could lose a race there. I drove for Junior, and Junior just kind of instilled that in you. That was the kind of race track where he wanted you to excel. That was a tough track. He wanted a tough driver and a tough car, and he didn't want you to leave anything on the table. He wanted you to wear the car out. He wanted to drag you out of the car when it was over with. He didn't want anything left in the car. He didn't want anything left in the driver. He wanted it all, and he wanted to win the race. You knew that going in. I had crew chiefs back in the 80's who said I'd rather beat you at Bristol than win Daytona. And there were many a nights there and many a days there when I didn't have the best car. I was just tenacious, and I wouldn't quit. I'd stay after them right to the bitter end. I remember winning a race there when Earnhardt was beating me pretty good this particular night. I was running second to him, but he had me pretty well covered. It was getting late, and I didn't know how we were going to win it. In the distance you could see the lightning flashing and you knew it was probably going to rain, but you didn't know when. We all come down pit road and made pit stops. This particular time my crew got me out in front of him. We came out of the pits, up into the turn, started down the back straight-away and when we got to the third turn it started raining so hard you had to get down on the apron to keep from wrecking. And I won the race. And it was one of the seven. It wasn't like I always had the dominant car, but I always had the dominant luck."

CAN ANYBODY DUPLICATE THOSE SEVEN WINS IN A ROW AT A SINGLE TRACK? "Well I don't know. I think (Jeff) Gordon is going for four or five of the spring races in a row, but as far as winning seven consecutive races there. That's three and a half years of nobody else getting a trophy there but me. That's a pretty amazing feat. If you look at all the things I've done that's probably right there at the top of the list. And that was at a time when competition was very tough, and it was very hard to do. I don't know if anybody can do it again or not. I guess if they can, Jeff Gordon will, but that'd be the only one."

WILL BRISTOL BE BETTER FOR THE TEAM SINCE AERODYNAMICS AND DOWNFORCE ARE NOT AS IMPORTANT AS THEY ARE AT THE SUPER SPEEDWAYS? "I've seen cars there run better with the front end knocked off of them than the cars that are all in one piece. You see a lot of cars running around there like that on any Sunday afternoon. It's not the car. It's the man. And I think the guy with the biggest heart, the guy that can run the hardest the longest ... I've got to believe, I honestly believe that if they started that race and it went green flag to checkered flag with no cautions, there's not a handful of guys in the garage area that could make it. They would be literally laying on the floor. I think they'd have to have relief drivers for two thirds of the field. It would be interesting to see because you can literally run yourself to death there. If you knew it was going to go green, white, checkered then you would pace yourself because you could not drive your car as hard as it would go for 500 laps as fast as these cars go there now."

HOW MUCH OF A CONFIDENCE BUILDER WAS IT FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM TO QUALIFY AT TEXAS? "Well, it was kind of one of those things that proved a lot to all of us, me included that when we have to, and unfortunately we should have been looking at it that way all along but we didn't, but when we have to - driver, car, crew, the whole package when we put everybody together, and we get the most out of everything we can be right there. I needed to prove that to myself. I think I needed to prove it to the team. I think they needed to prove that we do have a car that should be able to qualify in the top 25 or 30 every week. If we all do our jobs, get the best motor, get the best package under the driver then he can do it as well. It was good for all of us. It was a good move for all of us. It came at a good time. That was the good news. The bad news is that we have to do it again. We're still not out of the woods. We've got to go to Bristol and get it done again this week. Hopefully we'll be able to do it every week and provisionals will be a thing of the past. I said it at Texas. I'll say it again. I think it was one of those things got abused. I think it was there. You didn't have to worry about it. So if you didn't get a fast lap in, so what. If the car wasn't that fast, so what. We're gonna be in the race. Let's get ready to race, so don't worry about qualifying. I think that was my attitude, and I think it was the crew's attitude. It almost ended up hurting us and biting us."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ALL THE CHANGES THAT HAVE BEEN MADE A BRISTOL? "The Saturday night race to me exemplifies what has made Winston Cup racing what it is. The night racing under the lights. The cars. The drivers. The conditions. It is truly a test of skill. It is a test of nerves. It's a test of endurance, of patience. I don't think there is any other race we go to, Darlington included which we all know is a very tough race track, but when you condense everything down into a half-mile circle, high-banked in 15 seconds, 15 and a half seconds, make things happen that quickly. I don't know why the fans buy seats. They never sit down. There's no reason to. They stand up from the time we start until the time it's over with. You can hear the people there screaming at times. Something could happen to Gordon or Earnhardt or somebody and you can hear the people. That's how close they are to you. So it exemplifies the best of everything that makes Winston Cup racing as exciting and as popular as it is. They've moved mountains literally to make the place what it is today. When you look at it from an overhead, I love the aerial shot of the place. It looks like one of the football stadiums we are accustomed to seeing, and when you are racing around there at night all those people, all those eyes are staring down at you because they are looking down at the hole you are running in. It just doesn't get any better than that. I don't think there is a race on television, I don't think there is a race that's run that's any more exciting than that one."

Ford Racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip