BUCKSHOT JONES (No. 44 Georgia Pacific Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Buckshot Jones will compete in his second Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday. In the 1999 edition of the NASCAR marathon, Jones started 18th and finished 29. He qualified 13th this...
BUCKSHOT JONES (No. 44 Georgia Pacific Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Buckshot Jones will compete in his second Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday. In the 1999 edition of the NASCAR marathon, Jones started 18th and finished 29. He qualified 13th this year -- the only Petty Enterprises entry to make the race. A 30-year-old Tucker, Ga., native, Jones can empathize with his two teammates because he failed to for the past two races at California and Richmond.
"I don't even like to think that the other two cars went home. I hate it when we had to go home. I know how it feels. You just feel like going home and sit down to cry.
"Right now we're not as good as we need to be. It kind of hurts not having my two teammates (Kyle Petty and John Andretti) here. I always go to those two guys and ask them what they're doing. A lot of times John and Kyle can help me out. We're going to try a few more things in practice. We'll talk to a couple of other drivers. It's kind of hard talking to someone else because it seems everyone's setups are a little different if they're not driving a Dodge. It's almost like we're playing a guessing game here.
"It seems like this place changes so much. I know it's going to change a lot from the time we start tomorrow. It'll change every hour. We're trying to find something right now to get the car pretty neutral. If it's overcast tomorrow like it is now, if we can get it going right now I'll be pleased with it. Right now we're just too tight. That's not going to be good for tomorrow night. I think the track is going to tighten up even more when it gets more grip. We've got to find a way to get it freed up.
"Kyle's helped me out a lot here. He's taught me a lot about driving here. We were in the Winston Open and he was behind me. He saw some things I was doing wrong. I was pulling away from him and started running a different line. He told me that he ran me back down when I started running that new line. Even though he's not here in the race, he's still a big benefit.
"That first 600 (1999) was a long race. It wasn't so much it wore you out in terms of sweating and things like that. It was just a long race. In the middle of the race, I ate two little Snickers and that got me back going. I'll drink some stuff to give me more energy tomorrow, so I'm not worried about it too much. It doesn't take a long time to wear us little guys out. People like Jimmy Spencer, huge guys like that, they've got a little bit extra I guess. Us short guys have to work out a little bit more.
"The biggest thing I want to do is finish the race. If I can just stay on the lead lap, we'll get a good finish. The biggest thing for us is to finish. We've had some mechanical problems and missed a few races. We just want to finish.
"I'm still pretty pumped up after qualifying. Even though we're not running as good as we need to right now, I'm confident we'll work things out. We've got a couple of things left to try to see if we can't get it a little bit better."
STACY COMPTON (No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Compton turned 34 years old on Saturday. The Grit, Va., native will be making his second Coca-Cola 600 start. He started 40th and finished 33rd here last year as a rookie.
"I've got some pretty good birthday presents so far. I got golf balls from my crew chief (Chad Knaus). He lost all mine, so he decided to get me some more. I haven't seen the car owner (Mark Melling) yet. He'll probably wait until Sunday and see how we do in the race. Maybe I can give him a present.
"I got a big stuffed fish pillow from a friend because I took him fishing for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I've got all kinds of good stuff.
"I feel a year younger today. A great birthday present would be a top 10 finish Sunday. We're not bad right now, but we're not where we need to be. Come 8 o'clock tomorrow night, it's all going to be different anyway. The extra hundred miles isn't a big deal. It's just another 30 minutes or so. At that point, it's not that much difference. If you're running good, you wouldn't mind a 700-miler.
"I think all the Dodge teams are struggling a little bit right now when they untape these things. I just don't think we've got enough downforce. I haven't seen any Dodge lightning fast in race trim. We're working on it as hard as we can. Dodge is working on it, too, but we're all struggling a little bit.
"We're a little tight getting in and we get a little loose in the center of the corner. When we get in yaw, we get a little bit loose.
"We'll see how the day goes. I haven't thought about what I'll do tonight for my birthday. If we don't have to sit down and talk about what we have to do tomorrow, we might go out and do a little celebrating or catch a movie or something. We've got a 600-mile race tomorrow, so we won't do a whole lot of celebrating.
"I can't go to bed very early. I'm not an early person. We go over the race enough before we leave the track. We've stressed over it enough. I usually go right to sleep the night before a race. If we have a bad weekend, it's tough to go to sleep the night after the race. I keep thinking about what we need to do to get better."
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"Our bodies are real good now from our own fab shop. You look at the chassis dyno numbers from California, we're a little behind there, but Ernie (Elliott) and his guys are not giving up. We're working hard right now to get a little more power. That may be where we're behind just a tick. We'll just have to work hard and try to overcome it.
"I feel like this morning is pretty close to night time (weather conditions). We finally got started a little bit after 9:30. It was real overcast and real cool. I think that gave you a good look at what tomorrow night is going to be like. In the final hour of practice, the sun came out and a lot of us just wasted our time out there.
"We've been real close all year (to winning). A little part here and a little part and get it all put together and we'll be right there. Our car has been off a little bit the past couple of weeks. We're running good here and it looks like we've got a good combination. The early practice stuff is going good. The key here is it's a handling track. The best handling car is going to win the race.
"As a kid, you kind of kept up with the Indy 500. I'm driving for Chip Ganassi now, and there's a lot more interest than what it has been. He's got four cars in the race, and we'll definitely have the TVs on and keep up with it. I just hope Tony wins the race and he stays up there and be late here.
"Our car is driving good, and that's the key thing here. We've got a little different setup than we've ever had here before. You've got different tires. We're way different than what we were last year.
"We started fresh. We were one of the last teams to get going with Dodge. The guys have done a great job working on it. The one thing about it, they don't quit. The body stuff and Ernie and the motor guys never give up. I think we'll just keep getting better and better.
"It'd mean a lot (to get first win for Dodge). I hope they give us a Viper.
"I haven't heard a word (from owner Chip Ganassi in May). He's been tied up at Indy. We like him being around. He's still learning Winston Cup. Stuff is a lot different here than in CART.
"With all the testing we did in the winter, it seemed like we were better. I felt like if we didn't have any trouble the first 10 races we could be in the top five in the points. I think we fell out of two. If we had them back, we'd be pretty close to leading the thing. We've run pretty good all year.
"I remember in '89 or '90, I ran second here to Darrell. I finished about 10 car lengths away. His tire went flat in victory lane. If it could have done that a lap or two earlier, we would have had our first victory. I like Charlotte. It's a good track to run side by side on. It's not one of them old flat tracks.
"That's what we were working on this last practice. When practice first started it was kind of overcast. The sun came out later on. We were trying to work on deals you could adjust the car with through the night. Normally you're going to tighten up through the night. You've got to have the car where you can adjust on it."