JARRETT PUTS FORD ON THE DAYTONA 500 POLE * Dale Jarrett registered his third Daytona 500 pole (1995, 2000 and 2005) with today's run. * Ford is on the Daytona 500 pole for the second straight year (Greg Biffle, 2004) * It...
JARRETT PUTS FORD ON THE DAYTONA 500 POLE
* Dale Jarrett registered his third Daytona 500 pole (1995, 2000 and 2005) with today's run.
* Ford is on the Daytona 500 pole for the second straight year (Greg Biffle, 2004)
* It marks the 11th time that a Ford has been the fastest qualifier for the Daytona 500.
DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus
DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER? "Yeah, that helps matters. This was a great effort by Mike Ford and his team of people. They started working on this car quite a while ago and a lot of time in the wind tunnel, testing here in January and then back home and back to the wind tunnel and some changes there. It's been an effort that has taken a lot of time and certainly Doug Yates and his 100 people at our engine shop made a great effort, too. It's basically been day and night working there, so it's just a tremendous effort on their part. This is a very good race car. We brought it for the 500 not only because it was fast when we were here testing, but when we got into drafting practice the car drove extremely well in the draft. So that right now tends to be the main focus on Sunday. The effort that has been made here and the turnaround of this team are really because of these two guys sitting beside me, Mike (Ford) and Eddie D'Hondt. With the effort that they've put forth over the last 18 months has been incredible and helped make this fun again for me."
MIKE FORD , Crew Chief - No. 88 UPS Taurus
YOU HAD A POLE WITH BILL ELLIOTT. WHAT ABOUT THIS ONE? "The effort was very similar. With a two car team last year was kind somewhat of a rebuilding year for us and I feel like this is the first time we got a full team effort. We shared information with the 38 during the test here. They helped us and we helped them and collaborated with the engine department and they gave us some good engines for this event. To compare back to 2001, there are a lot of similarities. We had a very good test and you could work at a little bit different pace. Rather than try to catch up, you could work on detail and to sit on the pole here you have to have an extremely detailed race car."
EDDIE D'HONDT , General Manager, Robert Yates Racing
ARE YOU SURPRISED BY THIS? "No, I'm not surprised. I actually worked with Mike in 2001 and I know the intensity he brings to the table each week. That's one of the reasons I made him the first guy I hired to try and bring this team back to what it once was. I know Dale's intensity to end his career as he moves on in the next few years on a high note, so none of this surprised me. Not at all."
IS THIS A LITTLE REMINDER THAT YOU'RE NOT DONE YET? "Yes. I mean I haven't thought of it like that, but, yeah. You sit and watch and read and listen to everything that's talked about for the Daytona 500. Probably, and for good reason, you haven't really seen the 88 car or my face or my name mentioned that much about it and I think, even though we haven't contended the last couple of years for wins, we still know what it takes to win at this. So it's kind of nice to say that we're not finished with this yet. We may be getting on up there in age, but that doesn't really make any difference. When you get out here you have to have the car to do it and, obviously, I think we've shown in the past that we had the talent that's needed to win at these places. So it's kind of a nice reminder that we're not finished with this year."
IS THIS A SIGN THAT YOU'RE BACK? "I think we can be considered a car and a team to beat on Sunday. You know, one thing that always helps is that if you have a fast race car, people tend to want to go with that car. I know that in the past when we haven't been the quickest here, I look and figure out who had the faster cars and those are the people that I tend to want to get hooked up with. I think that will be beneficial to us. I think this car, by what I saw in the test session, drives much better in the draft than the car that we had last night. We fought a tight situation all night and it seemed that everytime I tried to go and make a move and get to a position where it was faster, I just lost the front end. It wasn't worth taking the chance of tearing up our car and somebody else's at that point, but, yeah, I think we'll show on Thursday that we have a good race car and it's one that will draft well and then, come Sunday, I believe that we will be a team that will be right there to win this race."
IS THIS RACE WIDE OPEN WITH DEI SEEMING TO HAVE FALLEN OFF A BIT? "You can't take away the fact of what DEI has done here over the last few years. I'm sure when we get into drafting situations you have Junior and Michael are both very good in those situations, but I'm not sure the dominance that they've showed is going to be there. I think you have to look more at the Hendrick stable that seems to be on top of their game in all aspects, but certainly for here. Jeff Gordon is a past champion of this race and Jimmie Johnson has shown that he can win anywhere and everywhere, and I think they'll be the team that we're gonna have to contend with if we're gonna have a chance at winning this."
IS THIS TRACK MORE SUITED FOR EXPERIENCE? "I hope so, and I think that experience does play a big part in this - knowing when and where to make your moves and such. We saw a lot of things last night in that race with just 20 cars out there, but bump drafting at certain places on the race track was a bit eye-opening to me and some others. I'm not sure that's gonna work really well. I'm not afraid to bump-draft anybody or get it in the right places, but when you're knocking the hell out of people in the center of the corners, come next Sunday that's not gonna be a very good idea. That's a recipe for disaster, so I think that experience in those type situations will be more beneficial than having all of that energy that some of these guys bring. You look around and most of the time at the end of these Daytona 500s it's people that really have been here a few times and understand the importance and learn how to understand that you might have a great car and you might have a ton of talent, but if you can't put that to good use at the end of this race, then you're not gonna have a chance."
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH ON THURSDAY? "I think the thing we need to work on from what we saw last night, which was the whole reason for building this car for the 500, we ran that car three times last year and had the same result that Dale was mentioning about being tight through the center of the corner and off was the reason we built this car. So we have to get a little bit of experience. It does have a different aero balance than what we've raced and we need to learn that and what setup goes in that. A majority of the setup is regulated by NASCAR, so there isn't a whole lot chassis-wise to work on, but we'll work on trying to get the car to pull up in traffic and be able to complete passes."
HOW BADLY DID YOU FEEL TODAY AND LEADING UP TO DAYTONA? "Today and the last couple of days have been about the same. It's just kind of reached the point that I don't feel like I'm getting a lot better, but I don't feel that bad right now. My energy level is down a little bit and my voice goes away. I think the biggest thing that I'm fighting right now is trying to get enough rest at night because of coughing. That kind of keeps me up and it's hard to get the rest that I need, but that seems to be getting a little bit better with the antibiotics that I'm on, so, hopefully before the end of the week I'll be able to think straight like I need to and have all the energy that it's gonna take to get through this next week. But I feel quite certain that it won't be a problem."
ARE YOU GOING TO CURTAIL SOME THINGS THE NEXT FEW DAYS TO GET THAT REST? "Not really. We're going testing sometime tomorrow with our short-track program. We still have work to do. We realize that even as big of a race that this is, we have two off days here so we're going testing with the new short-track stuff and see if we can get that program on-track a little bit better. But I'll try to take good care of myself here and, obviously, there are gonna be more opportunities media-wise for us to get some good coverage for our great sponsors, so you can't let those things go by the wayside. So it's gonna be a busy schedule, but we'll make it through it."
DO YOU EXPECT THE INTENSITY WE SAW LAST NIGHT AND DURING THE CHASE LAST YEAR TO CONTINUE? "Yeah, I think that's what you can kind of expect. I think that it may not be quite that much because what we had were perfect conditions last night - a very cool race track at night where the track wasn't very slick. You didn't ever have more than 25 laps on your tires, so that was probably a best-case scenario for the pack to stay together and people being as aggressive. If anything did happen, it wasn't gonna cost anybody any points. I think when we get to Thursday and Sunday those situations are gonna be quite a bit different, especially the fact we're gonna see a much slicker race track on Thursday and then on Sunday as the sun shines and we have to put more laps on the tires, so handling is gonna come more into play. But I still see things being very aggressive. That's the way the business has got and you have to be willing and ready to be a big part of that, so that's why it's so important to get cars that you can be that way. Every driver wants to be aggressive like that. You might look at somebody and say, 'He's not being very aggressive.' It's not because he wants to be or you might look at somebody and say, 'He's hanging around at the back. Why is he doing that?' It's because his car won't allow him to get there. Everybody wants to be up there running 1-2-3 and whether you're the guy on the bottom or in the middle or on the top, that's where you want to be. But sometimes your car doesn't allow you to do that, so that's why we've worked extremely hard on these cars to get to the point to where I feel like that's not a problem because I can get in there and mix it up like that."
WAS THAT ONE OF THE CHANGES FROM LAST YEAR? "I think we worked hard and struggled a little bit with that at the first of the year in trying to get that feel and at certain race tracks we did, too. At a lot of the tracks we did get that worked out. We worked extremely hard and we became much more competitive and much more aggressive at a number of the tracks, but there were still tracks where we couldn't get to that points, so we've worked extremely hard in the off-season in trying to make that happen at all the race tracks."
THE LAST TIME YOU WON THE POLE HERE FIVE YEARS AGO YOU WON THE RACE. "If you look at some of these guys, they were still in high school five years ago so it didn't really matter to them what I was doing - winning the pole or the Daytona 500. I'm not even sure they were paying attention at that time. It's great to talk about and to think about that possibility being there to happen again, but as far as getting any momentum or anything from that, no, there's really nothing that you can draw. On top of that, in those five years the racing here has changed drastically. It's always been very difficult restrictor-plate racing, but it's become even more so as NASCAR has tightened the reins on what you can do, and the teams have gotten better at doing this, too. It's put everybody together, so you have to make all the right moves at the right time now."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WIN THIS POLE? "It means a lot. I think since I came to Robert Yates Racing in 1995 and we won the pole for the Daytona 500, which was my first pole, I saw from that very first test session just how much this race meant to Robert and Doug Yates. That was probably as intense a test session as I'd ever been at. Larry McReynolds and his people were doing things I had never seen done before to get ready for the Daytona 500. I saw right then that they work all winter to get themselves in a position for this race - to try to win the race. They want to be the fastest car when you get here and they want to be the fastest car when you leave. I've understood that and I've been the beneficiary of that hard work and effort many times since then. You like to be with a team that puts forth that type of effort and you know is going to be doing that each time you show up for the Daytona 500."
CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE TEAMS THAT HAVE TO GET IN ON TIME OR IN THE 150s? "My first comment is I'm glad I'm not a part of that who has to be in that desperate category. I think that it tells you that those guys that did run fast and have solidified themselves a position in the Daytona 500 that they realize their position. Obviously, one of those is our competitor as far as sponsors go, but those guys realized that they had to maybe sacrifice a little bit when it comes to the racing side of it, and it'll be interesting to see if indeed that's what happens on Thursday and then Sunday - if to make their cars go fast they had to give up something as far as drafting abilities go with their race cars. So they did what they had to do to get themselves and their sponsors in the biggest race that we have. Thursday should be interesting to see what takes place back in those transfer spots to get them in."
ARE THE DEI CARS BEATABLE ON PLATE TRACKS NOW? "Yeah, probably so. We're a proud bunch with pretty big egos. I don't know that we've ever come here anyway thinking that they were unbeatable. We always felt like that we had worked hard and that we had probably caught up to them enough that when it came time to race that we could put ourselves in a position to beat them. But they beat us more than we beat them recently. I'm not speaking just of Robert Yates Racing, I'm speaking of the rest of the garage area too. This is a smart group of people in this garage area and when you're getting beat by one organization for a certain period of time everybody pays attention and it's not gonna be that way for long. We had a run from the time that I came to Robert Yates Racing through 2000 that everytime we came here we had a good chance at winning the race, too. That's a fun way to be, but the competition is gonna catch up to you eventually. I still would not count Dale, Jr. and Michael Waltrip out of this by any stretch. I don't even know where they qualified, but I know they're both very good racers when it comes down to drafting and using their abilities and their cars there, so I would look for them to still be a part of the mix come Sunday."
WITH THE NEW QUALIFYING FORMULA IS IT EASIER OR HARDER? "With the impound rule it to an extent makes it more difficult than being if you have a two-hour practice prior to practice. You have to hit your setup, so being prepared before you leave the shop is more difficult. The weight that the guys at the shop have on their shoulders is becoming greater and having a strong person at the shop to organize the group. A lot of times we're gone and we just show up and the cars are on the hauler and you have to have confidence that they're assembled properly and set up properly. I think it shifts the weight some off of the road guys and onto the shop guys."
WHERE WAS EVERYBODY IN THE GRANDSTANDS? "Unless I missed something, watching those cars go around there two laps at a time is not very exciting (laughter). I think always before there has been an event along with qualifying and that's what attracted the people more than the qualifying for the Daytona 500. Yeah, sure the race is a big event and as Speedweeks goes on here we'll have plenty of people here and that's what it's about, but I think just saying we're gonna have qualifying on that day - there are a lot of other things people would rather do than just sit there. I don't know how long that took - six or eight hours? (laughter). I watched three basketball games and a golf tournament while it was going on (laughter), and the main one was Carolina beating Connecticut in case you haven't seen that. But I think you have to have another event along with that."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN JEFF GORDON AND JIMMIE JOHNSON AND THEIR INTENSITY? "You see the intensity. Obviously Jeff is a multi-time champion so you expect to see that in him, but what gives them that excitement is what they see within their race team. You see it in other champions, but they're very excited because of what they see within their race teams. Jimmie Johnson and his team have proven over the last couple of years that they're a team that's gonna be a force. He has a tremendous amount of ability. You see a talk and a walk with those guys that are very reminiscent of past champions, so I think Jimmie has someone very good to watch and follow there in Jeff Gordon. If he'll pay attention to Jeff and the things that he's done through his career, he'll be better off throughout his career in not only being Jimmie Johnson, but be a little bit of Jeff Gordon, too."
WHY HAS CHEVROLET HAD SUCH AN EDGE HERE OF LATE? "It's a combination. Obviously DEI has been a big part of that dominance with those Chevrolet victories, but I think along those same lines they have had the better car during those times. As we built Fords along those times, we kind of hit a point in time there where, as Chevrolet built their new car, they went for a total package, which was a downforce, good aero package, that didn't create a lot of drag. We seemed to be able to run up to the front with the Fords, but they wouldn't let us hang around up there very long. When it came time to really go racing, we didn't have what it would take at that time. So I think you can't take away from what they've done as teams - with Hendrick and DEI - but I think that they certainly had a very good package to work with through Chevrolet. That's not to say that Ford was bad, but our package seemed to serve us better on the downforce track and not so much at these two restrictor-plate tracks. That's the area that we went in for a long time and I think it's just over the last two years that Ford made changes that were able to help us compete at these places a little bit better."