Daytona International Speedway NASCAR Winston Cup Test Session Thursday, Jan. 16, 2003. BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid) "Ray (Evernham) has given me a great opportunity. With Dodge coming in almost three years ago and ...
Daytona International Speedway
NASCAR Winston Cup Test Session
Thursday, Jan. 16, 2003.
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid)
"Ray (Evernham) has given me a great opportunity. With Dodge coming in almost three years ago and putting together a great program and Ray backing that up with what he's put into the equation has really made it a fun effort for me and for the race team. It's been great to see Mike Ford (Team Director), I brought him on my deal in 2000, and he's really grown and shown to be a great leader. It's just like Mark (Martin) said, you encircle yourself with good people. That's what brings out the best in you. It's not every time you can put it all together and win races. If you can just do it once or a couple of times in a year's time you've done a heck of a job.
"I've always said if you come here in February and leave with a good weekend and a good run it always kind of sets the stage for the rest of the year. I still feel that way. You work all winter to come to this one event. It's the Super Bowl or World Series or whatever you want to call it, but Daytona is the place. It's where you want to come. It's where you want to win.
"It seems like in the past, just like the DEI cars have found whatever it takes to win restricted. Whether they do it with this new body change, I don't know. Restrictor plate racing is a whole different deal. I like to go run where you run. If you've got a car, you've got a car. I don't care where you go you've got to have a car under you. That's one part of the equation. Here you could have a good car and end up in the middle or the back and you're not going anywhere. At least at Pocono or Darlington or wherever, if you've got a pretty good car you can work your way back to the front and do it in a systematically type situation. Here, you just can't run up through the pack and pass a bunch of cars because you're three or four deep and you get to a point and there's a stopping point. It's just different. I don't know how to describe it. You go into these races and you know something is going to happen. You hope it's not to you, but you know there's probably going to be a big one sometime during the day because we run so close together.
"I think back then (before restrictor plates) if you were off a little bit you could back off, reassess it and go back. For example, if you were running up on a pack of cars, you could back off and have the luxury of coming back and let the cars get lined up as the race progresses and kind of pass one car at a time. Now, you've got to make big moves or you've made a big mistake. That's what has seemed to transpired over the last few years. Either you're a hero or you end up in the infield care center. There's no in between. I didn't realize it back then, but at least at that point we were running fast but you could systematically strategize where you were going to go and what you were going to do. Now, it's harder to do.
"I would hope we would have been a little better to this point (in testing). The first year Mike Ford and I went to Talladega, that was the very end of '99, we had one of the worst tests I've ever had. It's a wonder Mike Ford just didn't run the other way. I don't think he had been working for me a month. They swept the floor at the shop and built new cars. We came down here and qualified third and won the 125 and finished fourth in the race. That just shows the dedication of these guys. This is a test. We'll go back, evaluate where we are. If they've got to cut these cars up and go in a different direction, I'm sure they will. That's what we're here for. We'll just take it a step at a time, and that's about all you can do when you come to these deals.
"We made several mistakes (last third of 2002). Not only situations that happen on the race track, but I guess we made some team growing mistakes. It's a young team. In Atlanta, we changed the rear gear right before the race. The one we put in had never been run. We had a problem with it. We had a real bad vibration in the race. We tried to fix it. There's just certain things you can't overcome. A few times we shot ourselves in the foot. I made some mistakes and just kind of ended up falling off the cliff before the end of the year. You get that momentum going and it's hard to keep it going. You had some teams that could do no wrong. I don't know how you explain it. I think you see it in any other sport we go to. Everybody gets momentum and they can carry it to the end of the year and sometimes we can't. Last year we learned a lot about where we need to be this year. Now we've got to apply it.
"We had a pretty good roll, but there again I still think we're a young team and that's where you make your mistakes sometimes. We had some things happen that I'd never even heard of. One of the Loudon races, we had a float hang in the carburetor and it quits running. I've never had that happen in my career, just some crazy stupid stuff, some stuff that never should have happened. It wasn't anybody's fault. It was just circumstances.
"I can't imagine what he's going through. To live it every day, at least looking back on what I did from '95-2000, probably my saving grace was getting in Ray's car and racing because I could forget about the other stuff. There again, the problem is you never could get away from it. I see what he's trying to build and what he's trying to do and it's a tough task in today's world. I don't know if a single guy can do it. I'll give him a lot of credit. He's come a long way. Where it leads him, I don't know. The problem I see is where's this sport going to go. From what I started with my own deal in '95 versus where it's at in 2003 and where's it going to be in 2005 or 2006 and trying to keep the type sponsorship and the level you've got to have and the monster you've grown to this point and keep all that going and prospering in the right direction. That's what I see as the most difficult challenge. It's all about people and keeping those people together and keeping those people happy. From what I've seen of these race teams, if you don't have sponsorship and you don't have people, you don't have anything. It's 10 cents on the dollar at the end of the day.
"That's pretty much what's left right now. That's it. That's what you've got. You look what dominated this past year, and that's it. I guess the Roush cars won the most races last year. It's there. That's what this evolution is going to be (multi-car teams).
"We ended up Homestead on a good note. We didn't win, but we ran well all afternoon. We didn't have any problems. I think we addressed a lot of the issues we had in the latter part of the year. We made some people changes, some people moved around. I hated to see Kenny (Francis) go over. I guess he's crew chief for the 19 car now. That was a tough loss for us, but Mike Ford and Derek (Jones, Evernham Motorsports Senior Engineer) and all the guys, we've still got a lot of stability there. Ray knows what he's doing.
"I think Kenny will bring a lot to that (19 team). I think that will help Jeremy and we can both worth together for a common goal. That's the way it's got to be. You've not only got to use the resources within your team, but if you've got multi teams, you've got to use all the resources. That's what I keep seeing about more teams. That's what's going to dictate this sport down the road.
"From what I understand with all the aero numbers, everybody is about the same. I don't know what you're going to change. (Smaller fuel cell) kind of achieved its purpose at Talladega, eventually, right down at the end of the race. The problem at Talladega was there was so much inconsistency in fuel mileage. We were getting terrible and the GM guys were getting good at that time. Some of the guys were good, but we just couldn't get very good mileage that day and we had to end up making an extra stop. Some of the guys could make it to the end, and that kind of got everything out of whack there. Until you can be equal, where you can run the same laps and do the same thing... I think that's going to be the strategy of the 500, fuel mileage and how well you can run. There again, you're banking on the race going green the whole way, which is highly unlikely."