BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid) NOTE: Elliott will make his 696th NASCAR Winston Cup career start on Sunday in the 45th annual Daytona 500. Even more impressive, it will be Elliott's 25th career start in the Daytona 500. In...
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid)
NOTE: Elliott will make his 696th NASCAR Winston Cup career start on Sunday in the 45th annual Daytona 500. Even more impressive, it will be Elliott's 25th career start in the Daytona 500. In 51 career starts at Daytona, Elliott has four victories, 15 top fives and 24 top 10s. He won the Daytona 500 in 1985 and '87 and the Pepsi 400 in 1988 and '91. The 47-year-old driver from Dawsonville, Ga., started 29th and finished 11th in last year's Daytona 500.
"I've had some good races at Daytona through the years. When I first started out here we didn't have a lot of luck and then we got cranked up in the middle stages of my career. I won the pole here in Dodge's first race back in 2001, and we had a good run (fifth). The Daytona 500 is always an exciting race. It's a great way to kick off the season and I couldn't think of a better way to start the year than by winning the Daytona 500. It's been a long time since I've won it. Daytona USA wasn't here the last time I won it, but I sure wouldn't mind seeing that No. 9 Dodge in there come Monday morning.
"NASCAR has done a great job in the past, doing the right thing at the right time. We'll have to wait and see where we end up with these rules. I don't know what to say until we get through Atlanta and Texas and some of those places. Daytona and Talladega are two different animals. I think you're going to have to go to all those tracks and then we'll see how the aero stacks up between the different manufacturers.
"This could put one guy out front all the time. Look at Tiger Woods. What are you going to do with him? You can't take his golf clubs away from him and make him hit the ball with something else. He dominates his sport. We won't know if the new NASCAR rules favor anyone or not until later on in the season.
"It looks to me like it's been a manufacturers problem in the past. This guy has the advantage brand wise or that guy has the advantage brand wise. Now that everybody is suppose to be the same, will it be the engine or the driver? I'm not sure what they'll say.
"We've got positives and negatives with everything we do. It's been a great sport for me. I've enjoyed it for a lot of years. I feel like the sport has changed for the better in a lot of ways. We've come a long way in the past several years. It's become a fun-filled family-oriented sport. Where it's going to grow to, I have no idea.
"When I first started racing, you didn't have the pressure you have today. Back then it was more like the grassroots of racing. Today it's got a little more hype and showbiz side to it. You've just got to understand that part of racing.
"You've got to use different things to win. It's just like we saw last year. If you've got a good car and have a bad pit stop, you're not going to win. You've just got to have it all fall into place to win races. We won Pocono and Indy last year. We ran real good at both places. We faltered a little bit after that, and now we've got to regroup, come down into another season and look down every avenue we possibly can. We've got to focus our energy and make sure we've done our homework. We've got to get things going in the right direction. Everything's got to work and work right to win races."
JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid)
"We've changed a lot of people and moved a lot of people around. From the last race last year until now, I've seen more changes to the race team than I've ever seen in my career. Ray knew the changes he wanted to make at the end of last season, and they were all for the good. You wouldn't believe how much better the teams are working together. We have a lot of the season people. They've just been moved around.
"Ray used the Rubik's Cube the other day to demonstrate how it all really works. There's not a better way to describe it, especially if you've been in house watching everything go on. When you're involved and are right there in the center of it, you know exactly what he means. I feel like the 9 and 19 are one team now. They're working real hard, and communicating real good back and forth. We came to Daytona to test and ran good and the 9 team didn't, and we went back and they learned what we learned and then went to Talladega to test. They had a good test down there. This is the first time I've been in a situation where both teams are helping each other.
"You've got a football team and they're out there in the huddle and the quarterback calls the play. If one of the team members doesn't do his job right, then the play doesn't work. If the guard goes left instead or right, that messes up the whole play. About the time everybody does the right thing, the quarterback goes back and gets ready to pass and the ball slips out of his hand. That's the way it is on the race team. Everything has to be perfect. It's a team effort and the driver is just a small part of that.
"It's all about chemistry, and I think that's where Ray shines. In a short amount of time he's done a ton. I feel like after this year, it's really going to be good. It's going to show he's got the right people in the right places. I'm ready right now to go at it. I don't let bad years or bad races get to me. I'm over that stuff. I know I didn't forget how to drive. I know guys like Bobby Labonte haven't forgotten how to drive. When the year is over and you go home and sit on it for a few weeks, it gets to you. I never lost confidence in the team or in myself. We're pumped up more than we've ever been, and I'm ready to go more than I've ever been.
"I feel like we're going to have the best Daytona 500 we've ever had. If we got to Rockingham and don't run good, we're going to pop back up and try again. We're not going to let anything get us down. It's all about people and having good people. I'm trying to learn everything I can. I'm watching last year's tapes. I want to know how to get around the track and if there's anywhere on the track I can get better."