NASCAR announced yesterday that beginning with tomorrow's Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying races a new "no zone" will be in effect, where drivers could be subject to a pass-through penalty if deemed to be too aggressive with their bump...
NASCAR announced yesterday that beginning with tomorrow's Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying races a new "no zone" will be in effect, where drivers could be subject to a pass-through penalty if deemed to be too aggressive with their bump drafting in the corners. Ford drivers Dale Jarrett and Elliott Sadler spoke about the new rule before Wednesday's practice sessions.
DALE JARRETT -- No. 88 UPS Ford Fusion
DO YOU THINK THINGS WILL BE A BIT CALMER THAN THE SHOOTOUT TOMORROW? "Honestly, no. You can talk about it all that you want, but to say that you're gonna put somebody on the inside or outside of the race track and monitor bump drafting at the right or wrong places, I don't know how you can do that. They can attempt to do anything, but until we do something that is physically hurt the design of the car whenever you hit someone too hard, then we're not gonna get much accomplished. It just seems that everybody realizes that it's a tool that they have, especially on Thursday because you're gonna have people that have no choice but to make this race by trying to win it or being as close to the front as they can, so I don't see how Thursday is gonna change. Will it change any when we get to Sunday because it's a 500-mile race? You'd like to think so, but I still don't think it's gonna do much."
IT WOULD BE HARD TO SEE AT THAT SPEED WOULDN'T IT? "Yeah, there's no way that you're gonna be able to tell with the naked eye. And there's no way of knowing what was intentional and how are you gonna judge what was too hard when the cars are running 190 miles an hour? To me, it's kind of interesting because if anybody is gonna get a penalty it's probably gonna be after they've caused a big wreck. So, I don't know, I guess maybe it would help in that case if the person that created the wreck is penalized after the fact -- especially if they miss the wreck that they created. It's gonna be very interesting to see. They (NASCAR) could definitely determine who makes the Daytona 500 and then on Sunday who has the chance to win it."
WILL IT HELP STARTING UP FRONT TOMORROW? "Well, much of the stuff that happened on Sunday was right up front as anywhere, so that's what's gonna be critical for the 500. As hard as the racing is taking place right up front, and I've said it a number of times, you can't continue to run into each other for 500 miles and something not happen at some point in time. You're just gonna catch somebody at the wrong place on the race track or with their steering wheel in the wrong place and you're gonna have a big mess because the competition is so tight now. We're so limited in what we can do with the cars. You have so little in your tool box that you can change that would be different from what somebody else does, so that puts all the cars right together and has helped to create all of this."
ELLIOTT SADLER -- No. 38 M&M's Ford Fusion
WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE 'NO ZONE' CONCEPT? "I hope that NASCAR steps in. They have to do something. Drivers all complain about different stuff all the time, but when we're all complaining about the same thing, then there must be a problem. We're always asking for help for the Fords or the Chevy guys are always asking for help for their Chevys. But when we're all complaining about the same thing for our safety, then I think NASCAR needs to step in and do something. I think they need to take away these bumpers. It's crazy. We have more stuff done on the front of our car than you would have on a bulldozer and it's made for that because you've got to get in where you fit in. You've got to bump-draft if they're allowing it to try to make passes, but I think if you weaken up the front ends on the stuff and make us take out some bars and all this metal plating that everybody is running behind the noses so they don't crack -- just put a normal nose on these cars and get to Talladega -- it will make it a lot safer for everybody involved. The Shootout was crazy last week. It was like Martinsville at 190 miles an hour and that was only 20 cars, so I have a feeling the twin races and the 500 is gonna be pretty crazy."
YOU THINK IT WILL BE JUST AS AGGRESSIVE? "I think so. I think they're gonna be as crazy as they can be because there is so much competition nowadays. The field is not gonna split up. We're gonna run in a big pack and everybody knows now that the quickest way or the best way to pass people is bump-drafting. We're nailing each other. My helmet just about got knocked off a few times on Sunday during the Shootout, so it's pretty rough racing. You can't police who bumps and who doesn't, but I think if you come up with a rule change to weaken the front ends a little bit, I think that would help us a lot."
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 National Guard Ford Fusion, did not participate in the Sunday's Budweiser Shootout, but he offered his opinion on that race and the new bump-drafting rule after Wednesday's first practice session.
GREG BIFFLE -- No. 16 National Guard Ford Fusion
"Coming off the corner and pushing the guy before he's quite straight. Maybe bumping a guy right going into the tri-oval or right coming off the tri-oval or getting in the corner, those are areas that we don't need to be pushing each other. If it's on the straightaway and everybody is straight and in the line and you come up and you shove the guy a little bit and get a little advantage, that's OK. But to constantly be jamming a guy's bumper all the way around is just not safe."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE CHAD KNAUS SITUATION? "I really didn't see exactly what went on there. I went home for the two days and took a little time off and just have been reading what I saw on the internet. I really don't know what happened. There's some kind of device or what not that changed the aerodynamics. If it's on purpose, that's a real black mark on us. We try and get what we can through tech and then NASCAR officials say, 'Hey, bang that in a little bit,' or 'Make that a little straighter.' That's fine, but if you have something that changes it after you go through inspection, they get a little unhappy about that."
WHAT IS CHAD'S REPUTATION IN THE GARAGE? "I think he has a decent reputation in the garage about being very smart and getting the most out of his race cars and that's what it is -- optimizing the rules. That's what I like to call it. That's the word I love -- optimizing the rules -- meaning taking it to the maximum point without getting in trouble. There are two sides to that. It's like trying to get a driver to speed up. If you can't get a driver to stay on the gas, that's harder than to get a driver that's too aggressive to back off a little bit. If you don't have a crew chief that's trying and pushing that envelope, you're never gonna be at the same competition level as all of your competitors. So it is a necessary evil, but we have to watch also what type of things we're doing."
AS SOMEONE WHO WAS NOT IN THE SHOOTOUT. WHAT WAS YOUR TAKE WATCHING IT? "Man, they should have had the blood pressure cuff on my arm when I was sitting in the bus watching the thing on TV. It was incredible. I was on the edge of my seat couching down like I was hanging on because I thought the wreck was coming. It looked aggressive. I think that's why NASCAR is putting into effect some of these bump-drafting rules and hoping that guys will calm down a little bit. Let's respect one another and not cause a big accident, plus these cars -- the older this race track gets and the more years on it, the harder these cars are to drive. I was just out there and it's a handful to drive and I was around 15 cars and not 40, so it's a big deal."
DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE A CALMER DUEL TOMORROW? "Possible. After the Shootout, yes, and with NASCAR kind of putting their finger on it, I think that we're gonna maybe see guys take it a little more easy. Plus you've got to remember that this is our 500 car. Everybody that has a car here wants to race that car in the 500. They know if they get a little over-anxious and get the thing torn up that they're gonna have to go to a backup and not have any laps on it and that's not gonna be good."
WHO IS THE FAVORITE FOR SUNDAY? "As of right now after that practice I wouldn't say I'm a favorite, but we're working hard on the National Guard car getting it better to drive better. It's the guy that gets his car to handle well and drives really well in traffic. That's gonna be the guy to beat. I haven't been around a lot of cars yet that I've seen real strength out of. Obviously in the Shootout we saw that the 20 was good, the 8 was good and the 55 looked good, so those are some guys that have their cars handling well. You would think their 500 car is probably handling as good as their Shootout car."
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion, was in the middle of all the action Sunday during the Budweiser Shootout. He spoke about the changes in store for tomorrow's Duel 150s.
CARL EDWARDS -- No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT BUMP-DRAFTING? "I was just talking to the guys at NASCAR about it. It's a tough call on their part. You know, cars running into each other at 190 miles an hour is inherently dangerous. I think anything they can do to limit it and still keep subjective rulings out of the equation will be awesome and they're trying to do their best. I think they'll do a good job."
SPOTTERS IN THE CORNER IS WHERE YOU NEED THEM, RIGHT? "Yeah. Man, this is a tough place. I had the chance to spot the other day for Jason Hedlesky, who is my spotter in the Busch Series. He ran the ARCA race and I'm telling you after standing in that spotter's stand and watching, I don't believe a word those spotters say. It's hard to see those race cars. My point is, there are so many variables here. A spotter can say you're clear and accidentally be clearing you for the wrong car. There are a million ways to cause a wreck. I think that if the drivers just take it in their hands to be a little bit calm, everything will be fine."
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO THE CHAD KNAUS SITUATION? "I'm not certain but I think the ruling and the penalty was pretty much in line with what NASCAR has done in the past. I don't think it's out of line. Chad is a great guy and the 48 team is doing their very best. They got caught with something. I'm sure it's no more than anyone expected."
WILL IT HAVE A RIPPLE EFFECT? "All of these crew chiefs and teams know what they're doing. They take risks in all different ways, but I don't know if it really effects anyone else. I can only speak for our team and say that it's unfortunate it happened to him, but we're gonna keep doing the same job we're doing."
ANY THOUGHTS ON WHETHER OR NOT YOU WOULD VARY FROM THE BACKFLIP IF YOU WON SUNDAY? THIS IS A BIG RACE. "I don't even know what I'd do if I won the Daytona 500. I don't know. It might deserve more than a backflip, but I'm not calling that right now. I'm not saying I'm gonna do that. We've got to win the race first. That will be the toughest part."
RYAN NEWMAN SAID IT MIGHT BE ONLY A COUPLE OF DRIVERS RUINING IT FOR EVERYONE. DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT? (Laughing) "I don't know if he's talking about me or not. I'm not a real experienced guy at this Nextel Cup speedway racing. I know there are times when I'm so thankful that someone bumped me in the rear because it helps me. I've never been turned around or wrecked at these places and other guys have, so all I can say is it's in the driver's hands. We can lift off that gas pedal and we could take it easy. If we all just try to be a little bit better, there won't be an issue."
THE POSSIBILITY OF A SUBJECTIVE PENALTY. WILL THAT MAKE YOU MORE CAUTIOUS SUNDAY? "Let me just say I've learned a lot about NASCAR's penalties and their way of thinking since I've been down here, and what I've learned is that we're all in this together. We're trying to create a great sport, and it is a great sport, and somehow somebody has to be able to say, 'Hey look, here is the penalty. This is what it is,' and you have to move on. I think that's important, but anytime you leave a door open for subjective rulings and judgment calls, it becomes a little more emotional because it's one person judging a certain thing. I just talked to the guys up there in the hauler and they don't want to make those calls anymore than we want them to make the calls. There's just no easy solution."
SO IT MIGHT MAKE YOU MORE CAUTIOUS? "Oh yeah, I will be more cautious. If there are more ways for someone to rule against you, and it's subject to a judgment call, then I think inherently I'm gonna be more cautious. That's for sure."
HOW WAS THIS LATEST PRACTICE COMPARED TO OTHERS THIS WEEK? "This practice was pretty calm, I thought. There are a couple of variables because it's hot right now and the track is really slippery, so it's really hard to stay in that pack. When you're tucked in right behind someone two-wide there's not enough air right now, enough grip to have no downforce, so everyone is kind of strung out a little bit. I think that could be the biggest factor on Sunday to keep things in order."
HOW FREQUENT IS BUMP-DRAFTING IN RACE CONDITIONS LIKE SUNDAY? "On Sunday night there was a lot of bump-drafting. We had a lot of grip Sunday night and I think that was one of the things that let guys make more moves and put their cars exactly where they wanted them. I think as long as a driver makes a conscious effort to minimize and be careful, it'll be great."
HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE SUNDAY'S BUMP-DRAFTING TO YEARS PAST? "I haven't been doing it long enough, but people who have said that Sunday night was pretty crazy. I only got to race about half the race in the group and I thought it was pretty fun."
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
ON THE NEW BUMP-DRAFTING RULE. "The whole Sunday thing, in my opinion, got blown way out of proportion with some of the stuff that got said and that went on and all that stuff -- in my opinion. This kind of racing since I started in the Busch Series in '97, unless we got really, really, really lucky on a plate weekend and didn't have a big wreck, you had the same conversation after every race and we still have the same conversation after every race. 'What are we gonna do to fix it? What's wrong?' Well, it's really easy to fix it. Make it boring. Put the small spoilers on like we had here in 2000 or whatever and everybody can be single-file, three car lengths apart. You can't hit each other because there's not a big enough hole in there, but nobody likes to watch that, so you put big spoilers on and put a big hole in there and you get everybody wadded up in there two and three-wide. You have a chance to bump-draft and do that stuff. But from what I saw in the seat I was in on Sunday, I thought the wreck that happened on the backstretch and some other near wrecks and bouncing were hits side to side. I didn't see any bump-drafting. I saw somebody that was three-wide and then the guy on the outside only left room for two-wide and there was still somebody in there three-wide. Well, that has nothing to do with bump-drafting. I didn't see anybody run into to somebody in the corners. It might have happened and I didn't see it, but from where I was I didn't really see that. The big bump-draft thing is more of an issue, in my opinion, at Talladega than it is here because you can get a big run and run into somebody, whereas here you still have to handle pretty good after a few laps. But I don't know about the rules too much, yet. I'm sure they'll fill us in in the driver's meeting."