RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus (Finished 3rd) -- "I've got a good car, it's running really good. It's just a little bit too tight, but it looks like the rest of the field got a lot tighter than I got, so I'm real happy with the team. ...
RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus (Finished 3rd) -- "I've got a good car, it's running really good. It's just a little bit too tight, but it looks like the rest of the field got a lot tighter than I got, so I'm real happy with the team. The new 2000 Taurus seemed like it ran real well, our engine combination was good, and we ran 50 laps on the thing without the front end getting away from us too bad. It got a little pushy." DO YOU HAVE A SHOT ON SUNDAY? "Yeah, we've got a shot at the 500. We were right there rock solid all day."
CHAD LITTLE --97-- John Deere Taurus (Finished 15th) -- IS THIS A RELIEF? "It's a relief alright. It's good to know that we were able to draft our way up in there and not take it by a provisional, if that's what it came to. The car handled. We learned enough and this will help us a lot for the 500. It's a big relief for everybody." YOU SEEMED TO MOVE RIGHT THROUGH AND ONCE YOU GOT PAST THE 75 YOU WERE HOME FREE. "We ran 15th. That's all we needed."
JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus (Finished 10th) -- EVEN THOUGH YOU SEEMED TO COMFORTABLY IN, YOU STILL RACED PRETTY HARD THOSE LAST FEW LAPS. "You've got to. You have to see what you've got. The car worked good and I'm pretty happy with it. We just need to make a few more adjustments on it and cool down a little bit. We ran a little hot and probably had too much tape on it, but, other than that, we would have been in real good shape." WHAT ABOUT THOSE LAST FEW LAPS? "We all knew we were in pretty good shape, but we wanted to try and get a little bit better. You know how that goes, but we knew we were in, it was just a chance to see what you've got."
ROBBY GORDON --13-- Duracell Ultra/Turtle Wax Taurus (Finished 9th) -- "I've got a lot of respect for Scott Pruett and their team. I think they're doing a great job, they just finished one position ahead of us, so if we can keep doing that together being, I wouldn't say Indy car teams, but Indy car drivers coming into Winston Cup we can keep pushing each other towards the front and race each other clean that would be fun." IS THIS A RELIEF? "It's a relief to get through the 125, it's a relief to have a clean race, especially after some of the things Tony (Stewart) said right after the incident, that a lot of guys don't respect me down here. I think we gained a little respect today." HOW DID THE CAR REACT TODAY? "We had a really good race car. Our car was really good. I'm sure it's gonna take a little while to get the guys to run with me, but it was good to race clean and show that we could run on the bottom by ourselves. If I had just a little bit of help I think we could have climbed up towards the front a little faster."
SCOTT PRUETT --32-- Tide Taurus (Finished 8th) -- WHAT DID YOU LEARN TODAY? "I got 125 miles of drafting. I mean, the Tide Taurus ran good. It was a good car, not a great car, but we're gonna make some changes to it, but for my first introduction to it...I worked great together with Bobby (Labonte). He and I were just pretty much hooked up once things settled down. We ran around guys and moved forward and had some fun." HOW IS IT TO FINALLY HAVE THIS BEHIND AND OFFICIALLY BE QUALIFIED? "We were qualified with our lap time, but it's nice to race into the race. Getting those miles under our belt are valuable. We're gonna get 250 more miles with Busch and then throw everything at it in the 500."
MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline Taurus (Finished 5th) -- "That's the best Thursday afternoon drive I've had in a long time at Daytona. The car was really good. I missed the handling a little bit yesterday. I got myself in a position out on the race track that I thought I needed to adjust the car for and it was the wrong call. That's why I couldn't stay with that lead three. The car's plenty good enough to do it and it's one adjustment away from doing it, so, if we put it back the way it was in practice yesterday we would have been there with them. It's gonna be a pretty good race because handling is gonna be key enough that it doesn't put cars that shouldn't be up there in front of you up there in front of you as much. So, I think this is the greatest looking Daytona 500 I've ever been a part of and, also, I just may have one of the better chances I've ever had at being a contender to win this one."
BRETT BODINE --11-- Ralphs Supermarkets Taurus (Finished 27th) -- "It's not just about here, it's about running bad last year and being 37th in points to where you don't have a provisional. It's about a lot of things. I can't put 100 percent of the blame on these guys because that wouldn't be fair. It's about having a sponsor go away and not getting one until December. You just don't get ready for one of these seasons in a month because the competition is too good. It's about a lot of things that we have to address and make this race team better and we're gonna do it. We have to do it. The next important thing for us right now is we've got a test scheduled for Atlanta and we need to go down there with two good race cars and come out of there feeling real confident about Atlanta and Rockingham. That's what's most important for us in our future."
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus (Finished 2nd) -- "We came here to win everything and we came up a little short right there. Bill had a good car. He beat me off the go. It was a good safe race and got 50 laps under our belt here to know what we need to do. Bill Elliott's got a great race car and just couldn't mount anything. You can't make a pass just by yourself, it doesn't matter how good a car you have. Rusty's car, I think, was running a little warm and he couldn't get up and push me like I needed." THE CAR IS IN GOOD SHAPE. "We did what we needed to do. We got in 50 good laps of racing and got to see what our car was gonna do on hotter tires and out of fuel and that's what we found out. We can make it a little bit better, but our car is awful good. I know what to expect know, of course, I didn't have anybody really tucked right up under me but what I could tell is we have a little work to do. It was a little bit tight there at the end, but Bill's car was great. He could do whatever he wanted to and I just didn't have any help to pass him. I wanted to win, but Rusty's car was running a little warm and he had radioed and said he was already up too high and he didn't want to hurt the engine. That's understandable, so he couldn't get there and give me the push I needed. I kept trying different things to see where I might get a run on Bill, but he was just awful good." HOW DO YOU FEEL NOW ABOUT SUNDAY? "Good. I know what this car is gonna do and what to expect from it...what we can change to make it just a little bit better and that's all we need is just a little bit." IS THIS AS GOOD AS YOU'VE FELT GOING INTO A 500? "Yeah, probably so. Everything has gone great for us and just like we thought about this race car, it's gonna be awful good. It drives good and doesn't give up on tires, so I'm excited." WERE YOU TRYING TO SEE WHAT THE CAR WOULD DO IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS? "If I could have gotten the lead off the start I'd have gone to the lead, but Bill beat me off the start. We might have to look at transmission ratios a little bit there because he did get a jump on us. But once we got in line that's what we wanted to do was stay in line and see if we could just make this a pretty smooth race. We wanted to keep this beast for Sunday and it worked out. It was nice to see what it did behind other cars and now we know what to do."
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- "We kind of saw what we needed to see. The main objective today, especially for us but for most of the guys, was to get 50 laps under our belts and see what was gonna happen as the tire pressures got up and the fuel got out of the car. That's what we needed to see. The best way to do that is to just stay in line and not get out dicing around. NASCAR is gonna listen to what everybody's gotta say and if something needs to be done to help, I don't know. Our car was pretty good, a little bit tight, but other than that we didn't have enough for Bill Elliott. His car was great from the start." YOUR THOUGHTS ON BILL ELLIOTT? "It's great to see him back in victory lane. We knew going in that he had a car that was capable of winning the race today and winning the 500. Bill is one of the best at drafting. We always here a lot about Dale Earnhardt being one of the best, but Bill knows as much about the draft as anybody here and does a great job. Man, his car looked great. The 50th lap didn't look any different from what I saw the first lap. He could take it in wherever he wanted, cut the car down, and it just looked like it drove really, really well. It's good for the sport, I can tell you that. It's great that he gets back up there, but we don't him to have too much glory. He got his on Thursday and now Rusty and I will fight it out for Sunday (laughing)." WITH THE POLE WRAPPED UP FOR SUNDAY, DID YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT MINDSET? "Only if things would have gotten a little bit wild would I have had a different mindset. I wanted to try to get the lead and Bill beat me on the start and then they let me in line. Rusty actually pushed me back to second as Mark went on the outside. From that point on I was just trying to see what my car was gonna do and if I could get a push there at the end to try to get by Bill I was gonna try to, but I wasn't gonna take any chances if I didn't need to. The reason is the car that I have is a car that I've won with, one that I know drives good, drives good on old tires, and that's what I'm gonna need on Sunday." HOW ABOUT THE FORD-CHEVY STUFF? "I think that it's a matter you've gotta work on the cars. This race is about handling now. As far as talking about drag and everything, that doesn't have anything to do with who is gonna win this race, it's a matter of getting your car to handle. You do that by changing the things they allow you to change, swaybars, trackbars, spring rubbers and things like that. They have that same opportunity that we do. We opened up the front end like Rusty said, you saw the other day, they could run up there. It's just a matter that today it was a little hotter and things were a little bit different. That's the first time anybody has been out and ran 50 laps. It was there for what happened to happen because everybody wasn't exactly sure of what they needed in these cars to make them go for 50 laps and not make them push terribly."
RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus -- WERE YOU SURPRISED THE GM CARS DIDN'T CHALLENGE? "I'm not surprised at all. I mean, it's all handling. They proved in the Bud Shootout that they had plenty of horsepower and plenty of aerodynamics to get the job done. One thing I want to say about that is that I think one thing everybody has forgotten is that most of General Motors' cars have been unable to block their front ends off for qualifying. I guess you guys have paid attention to that. They kept saying we can't get the cars blocked up, they won't run fast and slow down, but once everybody was unblocked. Once the Chevrolets are unblocked and the Fords are unblocked, these cars are almost identical, so that squabble between Ford and Chevy is gone. To tell you the truth, there are just a bunch of pushing race cars out there. Mark's car started pushing and Stewart's car started pushing and us three in the front just stayed lined up real tight and we just kind of got out of there. That's what got us away from everybody." HOW ABOUT BILL ELLIOTT? "I'm real proud of Bill Elliott right now. I'm really, really excited. It's a morale booster for him. Every driver knows they can get the job done if it's in their heart and Bill's been fighting some chassis and cars the last couple of years. It looks like he's got it right now. But I think the biggest reason we all finished where we finished is that, if you look back, we're all 43 years old and that's what it takes to get the job done (laughing)." ON FORD-CHEVY. "Talking about that is like watching paint dry. That issue is over. There's no basis whatsoever on it. I really think the Fords and Chevrolets are equal and I told you I think the reason they're not equal in qualifying is because the Chevrolets haven't been able to block their front ends off. They must have designed their nose wrong or something. When they unblocked, as you saw in the Bud Shootout, they both ran great, so there's nothing to the Chevrolet-Ford thing. It all had to do with the way they prepared the car and this shock absorber rule. There are a lot of different things. The guys who finished in the top three have got it figured out pretty good. My car was pushing off of turn four and I've gotta fix that. I had the front end taped up pretty much today and I need to take a little tape off, which, when I do that I know it's gonna make the front end push worse, so I've gotta counteract that. It was a good solid run, though. I mean, I ran 50 laps and just pushed a little bit, but I pushed enough that I couldn't get up there on Dale's bumper and push him off turn four. I could catch him in the middle of the back straightaway and that was it." THE CHEVY DRIVERS ARE SAYING THEY'D LIKE HELP WITH THE REAR SWAYBAR. "Well, hell, I'd like to have a glass of ice water too. We don't have to talk about that stuff anymore."
BILL ELLIOTT --94-- McDonald's Taurus (Finished 1st) -- THIS MUST GIVE YOU SOME CONFIDENCE. "It does, but still, looking at the whole deal -- Dale, Rusty, Mark -- we all lined up and let the other guys race and we were able to run away from them. It seems like you can run 10 to 15 laps on the tires and then from there they start going away. I knew if you could get 20-25 laps in the run and I could stay on the bottom of the race track I felt like I'd be in pretty good shape. Watching some of those other guys. Mark's handling went away. Rusty's car started running hot and then he really couldn't help Dale because Dale could have probably gotten me had Rusty or Mark been able to help him. But, still, you look at these cars and you get to racing side-by-side. We were kind of in a unique situation. We got lined up, we stayed lined up and we got away from everybody else because we caught them racing. That's typical of the way it goes in restrictor-plate racing." WAS IT IMPORTANT WITH THE OFF-SEASON CHANGES TO START THIS STRONG? "I think it was very critical. For our team, as hard as they have worked through the winter to be able to come out and qualify third and win the 125 and do what we needed to do from that standpoint. It was a crucial point for us. I really thought we had some good new guys on the team that we had acquired over the winter, but i really didn't know how talented they really were until we came here to test in January and started putting stuff together for this year." ALOT OF THE FAVORITES WERE IN THE FIRST RACE, HOW MUCH DOES THAT TELL YOU ABOUT SUNDAY? "I don't know. You still only race against half of the cars and there are a lot of good cars left in this race. Here the cars have got to handle and that's probably the most critical part. This racetrack has gotten another year older and gets greasy and it's hard to stay on the bottom. You can watch here where there is several cars that are working together and they have gotten away from everybody else. That's kind of the way it is. If you get enough cars that are handling and can work together, they can break away from the rest of the cars." YOU WERE THE KING OF THE NON-RESTRICTOR PLATE ERA HERE AT DAYTONA AND TALLADEGA; HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE IS IT WITH THE RESTRICTOR PLATES AND WINNING RACES? "Well restrictor changed things so much because with fresh tires, everybody can run together. If the racetrack was 6 lanes wide that's how wide we'd be racing, just like Talladega. It puts you in a different mindset because you just don't have the power to jump out and pass somebody. You've really gotta work them to get what you need to do. That comes back to the car and it's got to handle at the end of 20-25-30 laps or you're not gonna beat anybody." CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE THREE GUYS CALLING THE SHOTS ON YOUR TEAM? "I don't know that it won't work, but it's an opportunity that we're trying to put...if you look at a team and if a team's made up of critical people thoughout the organization, everybody has a hand in putting their input into what ultimately goes in that car Sunday afternoon and that's all we're trying to do. Not necessarily name a person and say you're the crew chief, but to go to all the people who have critical input into the deal where you can unanimously make a decision to say this is gonna work. You're gonna have days it's gonna work and have days it's not gonna work, but still, from the standpoint of what we're trying to do, I mean, I think it's probably where teams are going to later on down the road." DO THE SHOCKS AND SPRINGS MAKE IT HARDER TO PASS NOW? "I don't know if it makes it harder to pass. You guys don't realize how good you've gotta have a car handle here to run a corner wide open. That's as critical point as taking a shock combination or whatever they give us and match the springs and the rest of the car where you can balance it and run the car wide open the whole run through the corner. That's where it starts becoming critical. I don't know that restrictor-plate racing here is as hard as it is at Talladega per se. The biggest thing that separates this place from Talladega is you've got to handle here, you've got to run the corner wide open and that's why here separates it from everywhere we go. This is kind of a unique circumstance to everywhere else because you'll probably see on Sunday several cars breakaway because they'll have handle on everything. They'll be able to run a full gas stop and never back off and be able to blow away from the rest of the guys." WE'VE SEEN 64 LAPS WITHOUT A LEAD CHANGE. "I didn't think it was dull from where I was sitting. It's pretty exciting from that side of the coin, but, maybe for the race fans it might be a little bit. But, still, the cars are so equal everybody is afraid to jump out until they get themselves in the right position and all those guys are trying to do is get themselves in a position to get far away from everybody else to where when they do duck out they don't have 25 cars racing them for the lead. That's what these guys are trying to do -- it's strategy." WHAT IS YOUR VERDICT ON THE SPRINGS AND SHOCKS? "Give us a race or two under our belts and NASCAR will tweak it out a little bit better and I'm sure we will too. We've got a lot to learn. This is our first time under the belt, but if we know the parameters we've gotta work under, then we can kind of work through it. My hat's off to them for what they're trying to do anyway from the standpoint it did get out of hand, I felt like, from where we were at a year ago. The springs and shocks we were trying to run made a pretty bad deal on the race track, but, still, we'll tweak through it and get a little bit better. I feel like NASCAR will learn from this, we'll learn, and all it will do is get better." ONLY ONE GM IN THE TOP FIVE, ARE YOU SURPRISED? "They didn't work together. I got a little help from my friends." HOW HAVE YOU KEPT YOUR SPIRITS UP THE LAST SIX YEARS? "As I recall in '97 I almost won this 500 again and it's stuff like that. You have years where things come together. You're gonna ride that rollercoaster. I've had a lot of inconsistency within the team over the years and that's what I feel has hurt me, but if I can get that consistency I believe I can put everything together." CAN THIS TEAM WIN ON SUNDAY? "I feel like they can. There's a new group of people there we've got that can do it. That's if everything else can come together because you've got a lot of teams running well right now, very well funded, and that's what you're gonna find all year long. Plus, you've gotta have a little bit of luck on your side." WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO GET BACK TO VICTORY LANE? "It means a lot, especially, I feel like this is more for the guys that worked to put this car together than me because they made it easy for Bill Elliott to sit in victory lane. All the guys with the long hours and the hard work and the weekends they didn't have off, to come down here that's a reward for those guys to be able to put it all together and sit in victory lane." YOU'RE THE FIRST ONE TO BEAT DALE EARNHARDT IN THIS RACE IN 10 YEARS. "Like I said, I had a little help from my friends. It feels good. Dale, he's always tough in these restrictor plate races, but you still have to have everything together. The car's gotta work, it's gotta handle, you've gotta have all the right pieces to the puzzle or you're not gonna make it." WERE YOU WAITING ON THE 88 AND 2 TO MAKE A MOVE? "What I was watching when Mark finally fell back and then Rusty was having problems, his problems were trying to stay back, I knew if they couldn't get an effort together, at least two or three cars, it was gonna be hard to beat me. Then, I was catching those slow cars right there at the end and that was everything that kept us together. I kept seeing Dale run on me and where he was running on me and what he was trying to do, but he could never put up a unified effort with the 2 car to beat me to a position, plus I caught those slower cars and that just helped me that much more." WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO BUILD ON NOW? "I've always said that this race seems to kind of put things together and it makes a year start well. If you come here and run good it keeps momentum going. I was probably a little bit apprehensive to think that I could come down here and do well with as many people as we changed over the winter, but we went to Talladega in the first part of January and I was the worst car there. They turned around, built a new car, and I was fourth fastest overall just in a matter of weeks. I said, 'These guys are pretty good. They know what they're doing.'" WILL YOU ADDRESS THE DODGE RUMORS? "What rumors. I'm in a Ford, man. I don't know what you're talking about." WAS THE MCDONALD'S DEAL A WAKEUP CALL? "Things happen for a reason and I don't really know that that was a wakeup call. Nobody needs to tell me that I need to run better when I'm running bad. I want to run better when I'm running bad, nobody has to tell you. But I do feel like for us to continue on for what we need to do, we need to make this year count. If ever a year counted, this year needs to count. Ford's made a lot of good changes over the winter. They came down here with a great race car. Just as we came down here two years ago with a race car that wasn't that good. They've turned it around. It's a good race car, it's a competitive race car and we'll just see where all that falls as the year progresses. But, yes, it is critical for us to run well this year."