Darrell Waltrip, driver of the number 66 Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus, held a question and answer session this morning at Martinsville Speedway and spoke on a variety of issues. DARRELL WALTRIP --66-- Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus YOU'VE...
Darrell Waltrip, driver of the number 66 Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus, held a question and answer session this morning at Martinsville Speedway and spoke on a variety of issues.
DARRELL WALTRIP --66-- Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus
YOU'VE BEEN VOCAL ABOUT SECOND-ROUND QUALIFYING AND THAT YOU FEEL IT NEEDS TO BE CHANGED. IT SEEMS TO BE GAINING SOME MOMENTUM.
"I've been beating on that drum and, of course, the thing I like about the big red truck down there is that whatever I say well they'll probably do just the opposite because they always look at not what the problem is but who is making the noise. The squeaking wheel gets the grease. One wheel squeaking don't make a lot of noise, but if we can get enough wheels squeaking, then we might get a little grease through to it. They know, I know, you know that second-round qualifying is a joke. It's out of control, it needs to be fixed. We can go down there and fix cars. We can give Chevrolet another two inches on the nose or we can move the spoiler, we can fix cars but we can't fix procedural things that need fixing. That's what they need to take a hard look at. We've got a problem there. It's not fair for those same guys to go home every week, it's not fair and they need to fix it. That's the bottom line."
ARE THERE TOO MANY PROVISIONALS?
"I'll be the first to tell you there shouldn't be any provisionals -- 43 cars start the race. Now, with that said, I can understand what if Jeff Gordon or Dale Jarrett or Dale Earnhardt had a problem and they didn't make the race. Whoa, that would be big news wouldn't it. But other guys don't make the race, why should they have preferential treatment over somebody else. With that said, start 42 cars with one provisional for an emergency situation -- always have that championship provisional available for those guys or, if they don't need it, somebody else could use it. Start 42 cars and let's quit this second-round qualifying. If we go to Daytona, what do we do the two times we go there and test? We see how fast we can go for two laps...don't ever even think about racing. What do we do here? We come here and test to see how fast you can go for two laps. Everywhere you go you spend all your time, effort, money, energy...we spend a fortune on these cars to make them go fast for one or two laps. Trick transmissions, trick spindles, trick engines, trick everything to make them go fast for one lap and then you've got to change all that and get ready to race. Well, if we don't have happy hour, that's a joke. We should never start a race without some sort of warm up, if it's Sunday morning then so be it. If we don't get happy hour Saturday afternoon, we have a 30-minute warm-up on Sunday morning. Guys change everything on their cars...motors, springs, setups...they start the race and they don't know what they've got. They don't know if they're close or not, so what's wrong with having a Sunday morning warm-up it we don't get a happy hour. That, to me, is just common courtesy to the teams, to the sponsors, and to the fans."
IS SECOND-ROUND QUALIFYING A WASTE OF TIME?
"Oh yeah. I'm 36th and I ain't going over (to attempt second-round qualifying). I could get bumped out, but traditionally over the last year and a half that hasn't happened."
CAN YOU GIVE AN OVERVIEW OF YOUR SEASON SO FAR?
"We're not anywhere close to where we need to be. We have Yates engines and it's been good news, bad news. The cars run very well. When we get everything right, we obviously qualify decent now when we get the car pretty good, but we just haven't been able to get the thing ready to race. We haven't had a good race setup yet. Larry Carter is my crew chief. He's never been a crew chief before and I'm not throwing any rocks at anybody, it's just what drivers and crew chiefs go through whether you're at the top or the bottom. We just haven't been able to get our communication really where it needs to be and every driver goes through that with a new crew chief, I believe. I'm not making any excuses. Our racing is pitiful. We haven't even been competitive anywhere we've been. I thought we were gonna be really good at Bristol and you saw what happened there and I thought we'd be real good here, but our qualifying effort is saying we may not be, so we just know that's our biggest problem and we've got to correct that. We've got to get the car more comfortable on Sundays, it's just not been something I've been comfortable to drive. One of the things that we're fighting is the tire situation. I've been coming here 25-30 years, whatever it is, and we've basically had the same tire here ever since we've been coming here -- a great tire. We've never had a tire problem here. They changed the tire. We've got that new generation and I ain't too much in to new generation. They've got the new generation tire here with the tricked up sidewall and the car don't drive good on it. We have not been able to fix our car to drive it. We've had that tire at several races already, Texas was one of them and a couple others...Atlanta. To tell you the truth, they started that tire at Michigan last year and the races I missed last year were on that tire. I have not been able to get a feel for the tire. It does weird things. It drives different. The setups I'm accustomed to using are not working. We haven't had an opportunity to really test enough to fix the car to accommodate the tire, so we have to get over that hurdle and we haven't been able to do that."
IS THE TIRE THAT MUCH DIFFERENT AND ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT ALL YOU DID BEFORE THESE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS WILL BE FORGOTTEN BY THE FANS?
"Well, unless they quit writing books and unless they quit keeping records I'm not worried about it. I believe the fans today, and it's another one of those good news, bad news, I think you look at Jeff Gordon -- and I don't like to compare myself to anybody else -- but you look through what he's going through with a people change...not a driver change, not a car change, but a people change and he's working to get himself pulled back up. I have gone through continual people changes over the last three or four years. I've had no continuity and no consistency. I've gotta tell you, you can take an A driver and put him in a B situation and pretty soon he has a B personality. I think I can rise to any occasion. I think I'm like a lot of golfers -- you put me in a bad foursome I play bad, you put me in a good foursome I play good. I think that's just kind of how it goes. I love my guys. I like the guys I've got working on my car, they're all heart and they do anything I ask them to. One good weekend would really make a big difference, I believe, to kind of get some wind in our sails. We're out there floundering around and we've got no wind in our sails. One good weekend will help that. Maybe that's not answering your question, but, no, I'm not worried about that. I think the people understand. Some people may criticize or downplay what I have done, but not very many. Most people are very appreciative of what I have done. The tire, I'm telling you, the tire is incredibly different. It's not what we're used to and that's an issue as far as I'm concerned. Making a change to a tire, and that's where the rubber meets the road, that's the thing that controls the speed of these cars, that's the thing that controls the handling of these cars, that's the thing that you feel as a driver. When they make a change, and the call if minor, but, again, minor to where the rubber meets the road is a big change. Every team should have the opportunity to tire test...use the same teams over and over and over to develop tires and then give them to the rest of us. I remember in the seventies and the eighties I did all the tire testing, me and Bobby Allison, and I won a lot of races because when I showed up at the race track I was ready. I didn't have to figure anything out. I already knew what I was gonna do. I already knew what the tires were gonna do. A lot of teams have that advantage right now. When they make a tire change, there should be an open test for every team to come and run the tire, give feedback, and tell the Goodyear engineers what everybody thinks about the tire not just a couple of people."
IS YOUR FINAL YEAR TURNING OUT TO BE TOUGHER THAN YOU THOUGHT?
"The year ain't over yet. This is our eighth race and I'm still optimistic that we can get some good results before the year is over with. I know with the power we have, I'm very comfortable with the engine program. That really raised the level of professionalism on our team. When Robert (Yates) and his people stepped in and started doing the engines and the people I've got working under the hood, my guys and I are very confident that if we can get the car better we'll run better. So we know that's an area that we don't have to worry about. We've just gotta continue to work on our shock program and that's probably the area we need the most work in -- that and aerodynamics. Wind tunnel testing is out of control. Every team that has any kind of a budget at all spends about one million dollars a year going to the wind tunnel. There should not be any wind tunnel testing unless NASCAR is involved in it and they're looking for it. Just taking a car to the wind tunnel every week and cutting the body off and putting another body on to get a little bit of an aero advantage, it's killing the small teams because we can't do it. We've been to the wind tunnel once this year. Some of these guys go every week. So, yeah, it's available to them and they can afford it, but I believe it should be controlled. If you're gonna control testing, if you're gonna control everything else we do, then I think they should control wind tunnel testing."
YOU'VE COME FROM TWO LAPS DOWN HERE AT MARTINSVILLE TO WIN, DO YOU THINK THAT'S STILL POSSIBLE TODAY?
"Nowadays it's pretty difficult to do. Certainly with double-line restarts, if you've got a pretty good car and you get up near the front, anything is possible. But it's more difficult now than it's ever been because every weekend somebody has a very dominant car. Every weekend somebody will have a car that's just really hard to keep up with and if you don't have that dominant car, even if you start side-by-side on a restart, that dominant car is gonna keep you a lap down pretty much all day long. So, unless you do something pretty drastic to get yourself back on the lead lap or get those laps back, it's almost impossible to do."
WILL YOU CONTINUE TO BE OUTSPOKEN IN YOUR TV DUTIES NEXT YEAR?
"Well, unless they wire my jaws shut I will. No, I plan and want to be the best TV analyst I can be. I want to be fair. I want to tell it like it is. You know, this is the age of instant replay. Everybody knows, you can look at something over and over again. You can't sugarcoat it. The fans in the stands are very smart today, they're educated people. They look at TV, they listen on the scanners, they know what the drivers say. How would you like to be listening on a scanner and the driver says, 'Man, I'm sorry I got into that guy.' And on TV they're saying, 'Well, I don't believe there's any contact.' Now, give me a break. I've always said if a right-front fender is caved in and the left-rear quarter panel is caved in, there may have been contact. It ain't too hard to tell. So, nobody wants to burn anybody but this is a sport where it needs a little freshening up, I think. I think the TV people for next year will do an incredible job. I think the fans are gonna see things they've never seen before, they're gonna hear things they've never heard before, and they're gonna enjoy it more than they ever have before. I think the TV package, once it gets up and running, will be the best thing that's ever happened to this sport."
IF YOU COULD DO IT OVER AGAIN WOULD YOU HAVE LEFT JUNIOR JOHNSON?
"That's pretty much a no-brainer -- no. I keep trying to get Junior to come back to the track and help me. I asked him at Bristol, I said, "Junior, just come over and stand in the pits with a headset on and stand on the wall like you used to.' And he said, 'Boy, you ain't runnin' good enough for me to help you." (LAUGHTER) He's not the only one that's told me that, that's kind of how all my friends feel so I guess I'm gonna have to pull myself up some way. No, I loved driving for Junior. It was an incredibly time in my life and my career. It made a big difference in the way I approached racing and how I thought about everything and that was a great time in my life. I'm just glad I got to do it."
WHAT ABOUT GUYS WHO GO HOME ALL THE TIME?
"See, there are two ends to this thing. There's this end down here where all these cars are and then there's that other end down there where we are. And these guys on this end, they don't feel no pain for them guys on the other end down there. You come down here and ask them about provisionals and second-round qualifying and they're gonna blow that off as, 'Well, I don't know what you're talking about.' But you go down on the other end down there and that's a whole different story. Mr. France told me 20 years ago when I was out here getting run over every weekend. I said, 'Man, I can't stand this. I've gotta get going. I don't like this.' He said, 'Just remember, we've gotta have some slow cars for the fast ones to pass.' Well, from about the middle of this little oval here on down, I guess that's the role the rest of us are supposed to play. But, the guys on the other end down there they know. Everybody down there might as well just load up and go home. If you ain't in the show, if you ain't 36th right now, you might as well load up and go home because you're probably not gonna make the show unless you have a provisional. I guess everybody got one back here, so it'll change things a little bit, but normally that's the deal. They've gotta fix that. They've just got to do that. Why is it fair...if I've got to go out there to make this race today, why shouldn't everybody else have to go out there to make this race today. Lock in the top 25 just like we've been doing and let the rest of us go over second round. It'll add a little excitement, there'll be more fans in the stand...pay some money...put up 10 grand to be second-round quick. Let's add a little excitement to second round. If we're gonna have it, we oughta at least capitalize on it. It's just a token thing right now and that's not fair."