WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Burton was fourth fastest in practice Friday but wrecked on his qualifying lap and was forced to take a provisional starting spot. A former Darlington winner, Burton will start 37th...
(No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Burton was fourth fastest in practice Friday but wrecked on his qualifying lap and was forced to take a provisional starting spot. A former Darlington winner, Burton will start 37th in Sunday's 43-car field.
"We had to redo the whole bottom crush panel on the right side, redo the suspension on the right front. It bent the lower A-frame real bad, but we didn't take any chances. We replaced all of it. We worked on it all day yesterday. It was purely cosmetic. Now we're getting ready to put it in race setup. This car was running good before we got in the wall, and we feel like we can fix it so it's as good or better. It's a whole new day today.
"We had three sets of tires yesterday, and the stagger was different on all three of them. We saved the last set and hoped it would be the best set (for qualifying). I'm not really sure what happened. It didn't look like the right front went down, but it certainly felt like it. I don't know if it was something in the tire, or I just got in the wall or what. It's not normal to get in the wall right there.
"You've got to pay attention here. I thought I was. Maybe I wasn't.
"It doesn't help us if it rains out practice today. We've got enough time if Mother Nature will play with us. I'm not worried about starting that far in the back. The only thing I'm worried about is something happening in front of me. Starting in the back won't be that significant. We've just got to take our time and get the car right. By 50 laps we'll be where we need to be if everything goes right.
"This is one of my favorite tracks. Still, we've got to get the car to handle. I can't do it by myself. Hopefully we can accomplish that today and be ready to go tomorrow.
"We haven't helped our cause any this year, but we've had so many people wreck us when we were running good. Pocono, California, Daytona, every time we've had a shot at winning we've had people run over us. The whole year has been a transition year. We switched to Dodge, adjusted to the new tire. Obviously if we could do some things over we would, but it's taken three-quarters of this year to get a handle of where we were the past two years. We'll be ready to start 2002.
"The car does most of the management with the tires here. The driver can do a little bit, but I don't think the driver has as much to play with as people think. It's the balance of the race car, not to wear out the right front before the right rear and vice versa. It's the balance that keeps these cars under you. When I've run good here, I've run as hard as I could about every lap.
"Yesterday most of the times when guys went out a second time, they were half a second slower. The magic key around here is around lap 20. That's when you're going to see who's got their act together and who doesn't. These tires are harder than they used to be, but I don't think they'll last a whole fuel run here. The leader dictates what everybody does as far as pitting most of the time. If the leader is short pitting, you'll see everybody else doing it. Obviously, if you're not running very well, you're going to do it anyway to try to gain some track position. If you come in three or four laps before someone else who's faster, those laps that you've gained are pretty significant. It comes into play sometimes here at the end of the race to see if you've got a shot at winning or not.
"We've got a shot, there's no question about it. We've just got to get the car handling and have some luck. I've got to drive smart and stay out of trouble. Hopefully the things we can control or that are within our control, we'll do them properly. Maybe the racing gods will look favorably at us for a change."
(No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"The track seems a lot slicker than it was in the spring. Plus, we've got a new nose, so it's hard to go back to the same setup you had. It looks like the tires are going to give up a lot. A lot of people lost half a second a lap yesterday from one lap to the next lap. The way they look, the tires will fall off but they'll level out. Used to, they kept falling off. What we saw in the spring, they'd slow down but then you could run pretty consistent.
"Pitting is a gamble. Do you short pit to gain track position? If a caution comes out, you're screwed. It's just a gamble.
"We've got the same guys to beat tomorrow. The 24, 88, 20, etc. The 24 is hot right now just about everywhere. They've got a good team and Jeff is a hell of a driver. They've got it going. He's got a real good record here. We've just got to work harder. Jeff is real good on slick tracks, so he'll be there. I really like Darlington. It'll reach out and grab you if you let it.
(No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Blaney was second fastest in Saturday morning's practice.
"I think we were pretty decent. We made enough changes to stay good. We got on the loose side. We got on the tight side. I think we've got a real good place to start. A good handling race car is the trick. That'll keep the tires on it and keep you going. We don't have it yet, but we're not that far off. The tires gradually fall off about a second and then kinda level out. I feel good about our chances tomorrow. You can have the best handling car here and drive it into the wall real easy without even trying. You've got to do a lot of things right to win here. It's slippery and you're running right next to the fence. The corner exits are tight. It's an easy place to overdrive and make a mistake."
(No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Andretti was third fastest in Saturday morning's practice.
"That doesn't mean anything here. Usually when I'm 36th in practice that means I'm pretty good. The car won't be quick to start off with, but it'll stay pretty quick. Right now, the car feels pretty good. We went through some changes and got it worse and then got it better. Now we've got to decide what we're going to do later on today if we get that practice.
"I think after listening to everybody else yesterday, they were feeling the same thing in the car that I was feeling with the tire and everything else. You're not getting a lot of feedback with the car to tell what's going on. I guess I was just one of the lucky ones yesterday. I was able to step on it and the guys gave me a car that was capable of handling that. In some ways we were lucky and in other ways it was because my guys did such a good job.
"The tires right now just don't give you that good of a feel to the track. I don't know if it's the compound or construction or what it is. The r eason why they're consistent is because the first lap doesn't feel that good, either. The guy who kinda knows where his car is going to go, whether it's tight or loose, and can feel that, will be the guy who's toughest to beat, not necessarily the guy who's the quickest.
"You have to have the car setup that's going to help manage the tires for you. You can manage the tires easily around here if you go really, really slow. Nobody gains from that. Tire management is a fine balance between your driving style and the car setup.
"We always have plans for A-Z plus double that, but then we'll narrow it down to three or four plans in the second practice and we'll figure out where we want to go on racing morning.
"I like Darlington. It's a challenge. I hate places that are just high grip mile and a half ovals. I think they're boring. All they're about is horsepower.
"This is the one place you can hit the wall and when you go into the corner, you have no idea you're going to. We never start any race without thinking we've got a shot to win, but guys like Gordon and the Burton Brothers run really good here. Dale Jarrett is really good, too. If we can hang with them, then we've got a shot. If not, there's not a hope or prayer."