Dave Blaney will be making his debut with the No. 77 Jasper Motorsports team next month in the Daytona 500 after replacing Robert Pressley. Blaney spoke about the first two days of testing and how he and crew chief Ryan Pemberton are ...
Dave Blaney will be making his debut with the No. 77 Jasper Motorsports team next month in the Daytona 500 after replacing Robert Pressley. Blaney spoke about the first two days of testing and how he and crew chief Ryan Pemberton are communicating.
DAVE BLANEY --77-- Jasper Motorsports Taurus
HOW HAVE THINGS GO TO THIS POINT? "I think it's going good. I really like Ryan and the whole team. That part of it is no problem, but we just need a little bit more speed and we'll be fine. We're making some small gains, but we need a pretty big chunk here to get caught up.
IS THERE ANY KIND OF LEARNING CURVE SO FAR AS FAR AS SWITCHING FROM A DODGE TO A FORD? "Maybe, slightly. I ran the Dodges all of last year and I think that's pretty close to what the Fords are, I don't think they're far off, so I don't really expect much change. I think there will be more change within the team and working with Ryan than there will be in the makes of cars."
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST THING YOU GUYS ARE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH WITH THESE THREE DAYS? "All you're doing here is throwing different things at the car to see if you can find a little speed for qualifying. That's really all you're doing. The driver isn't much of a part of things here, so there's not much to work on except mechanical things.
DO YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE THOUGH WITH THE SITUATION? "I've been here a few years now and we're just trying to zero in on what will help this race car.
HOW IS IT TO START A NEW SEASON WITH A NEW TEAM? "I've been looking forward to this. We've got maybe two or three more tests before we start racing, so we're gonna give ourselves a little time to get to know each other and run together. I'm looking forward to this year a great deal."
Brett Bodine, driver of the No. 11 Wells Fargo Financial Taurus, was among the fastest Fords in today's first practice session. Bodine spoke about his test and the importance of posting a solid qualifying speed for the Daytona 500.
BRETT BODINE --11-- Wells Fargo Financial Taurus
YOU ENDED PRACTICE EARLY YESTERDAY AND SAID YOU HAD A GOOD IDEA OF WHERE YOU ARE AND TODAY YOU WERE IN THE TOP 10 IN SPEED. "I think we've got a good race car. Compared to the Fords, I think we're as good as any Ford here. We'll find out about next week, but we're behind. The Chevrolets can run consistently fast at will, so there is definitely a discrepancy here in the aero rules. I'm sure NASCAR is going to look at it and try to get the field as level as possible for the 500.
THE CHEVROLET PEOPLE SAY THERE IS SANDBAGGING GOING ON. HOW DO YOU RESPOND? "The fastest teams are always gonna say the other group is sandbagging and the slower group is gonna say they need some help. I just know what my car is doing and that's all we've got. I don't know if that's all they've got, but they're still faster than I am. In the wind tunnel, we were told that we had as good, if not the best, Ford so we should be one of the best cars here. It translates that if we're the best car, then we definitely need some help.
IF YOU WERE SANDBAGGING WOULD YOU TELL US? "Absolutely. I don't have anything to gain by it. I still need sponsorship. I've got to do the best I can to try and make our package for our sponsors look the best. That's what I'm up against as an owner. If I was just a driver, I don't know if the owner is telling them to sandbag, but in our case that's not happening because this is all we've got.
YOU HAVE ONLY ONE CAR HERE WHILE EVERYONE ELSE HAS TWO. WHY? "That's all we had time to build. We wanted to concentrate on one good piece. We feel like we need to come down here and try to qualify as good as we can to help ourselves get in the Daytona 500. Hopefully we've got a car that can qualify in the top 20. We were the 20th-fastest here last year and that wasn't fast enough, so we've got to be somewhere in that top 20 and, hopefully, we've got a race car that can do that."
WHAT ABOUT HAVING THE MIXED TEST SESSION? "I think NASCAR is gonna get a lot more information out of this. I think this is the best thing they've ever done because we're here on equal days at the same time and they get a chance to look at what's going on. People are going to point the finger and say certain cars are sandbagging and some aren't, but I know one thing, the 11 team isn't."
During the final practice session this afternoon, a number of teams decided to draft in packs of three, four or five cars in preparation for next month's Daytona 500. Two of the Ford drivers who participated were Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Pfizer Taurus, and teammate Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Sharpie/Rubbermaid Taurus. Both gave their impressions on the draft and how the current rules package will impact the race.
KURT BUSCH --97-- Sharpie/Rubbermaid Taurus
"We wanted to mix it up with some other cars so we could get a judgement off of where we needed to be. All day we tried to get the car up to speed for qualifying trim and it doesn't seem like anything really worked. We modified a couple of things in the rear of the car to try and hide it out of the air, but it's been tough to work on because of the extra height we have on it. It's been a challenge and even though we got up to speed a little bit, we still need two or three-tenths more.
YOU DIDN'T HAVE BENEFIT OF THIS RULES PACKAGE A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, SO HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOU EXPERIENCE LAST YEAR IN THE DRAFT? "It's really kind of boring. There's no dramatic draft or dramatic wind buffets that move the car around. It's real stable. The rear end kind of jumps around with the springs and shocks that NASCAR mandates, so it's going to be more of streamlined type of race. It's going to be very critical getting in and out of the pits and when you do go to pass somebody, you need to have help and you're gonna need to have a run to clear somebody. You don't want to get stuck next to somebody because the car in front of you will drive away. It's different to say the least and I think it's gonna take a lot more patience to get used to."
MARK MARTIN --6-- Pfizer Taurus
"We've had a lot more time to sort through a lot of things and we're getting used to each other quite a bit. We did some drafting practice today and that's the great equalizer. That makes you feel a lot better a lot of times if you've got a car that handles real good and keeps up in the draft good. We've got our share of work to do, but we're not in a panic mode. This isn't the only race of the year. We're gonna put all the effort we can into it, but we want to keep our focus on the entire season and not just this one race. I think we've discussed it and decided that we're gonna go back and do the work that we can, but we're not gonna jeopardize the rest of the year by focussing these last three or four weeks solely on Daytona. We've got another test to do and other cars to build.
WHAT ABOUT THE DRAFT? "We were looking for trends that the car was gonna give us and things we tried to confirm the things that we thought and expected out of the handling of the car. Afterall, if you qualify fifth or 35th, it doesn't really matter because on Thursday when that checkered flag falls at the end of your 125, that's where you're gonna start the 500. If you're not gonna get the pole, and we're certainly not with the kind of speeds we're able to post in qualifying trim, then we need to be getting ready to go racing and that's what we did.
IS A FIVE-CAR DRAFT REPRESENTATIVE OF WHAT YOU MIGHT SEE IN THE 500 WITH THIS NEW RULES PACKAGE? "I don't think you'll see a five-car pack in the front. You might see one somewhere in the middle of the pack, but I don't think the front pack will get that small. I think today's competition is too tight for that, even though this is going to string the cars out and separate them somewhat. I still expect pretty large packs here.
WAS IT LIKE 2000 AS FAR AS HANDLING WENT? "It's definitely not as dicey in a five-car pack, but I think when that pack becomes 25 cars or 30 -- which it will -- it will be plenty dicey and there will be plenty of passing going on. There's not a whole lot happening in three, four and five-car packs with this package, whereas there was a little bit happening with the other package. You don't really get the full effect of that thing until you throw 25-30 cars out there in one pack. It's gonna be fine. I believe it will be safer, but it will have its own set of frustrations just like the other package had."