Saturday, March 31, 2001. Texas Motor Speedway. Harrah's 500. WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Burton wrecked in Saturday morning's Happy Hour. "The back end just came around. I saved it two or three times, but it ...
Saturday, March 31, 2001. Texas Motor Speedway. Harrah's 500.
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Burton wrecked in Saturday morning's Happy Hour. "The back end just came around. I saved it two or three times, but it finally got in the wall with the left rear. The last two sets of tires yesterday the car was extremely tight. I guess we just freed it up this morning. It didn't have any grip in the rear. We'll fix it. We hadn't hit on anything yet, but we've got a long race tomorrow so maybe we can make some adjustments during the race." CASEY ATWOOD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Atwood led all Dodge drivers in qualifying on Friday with a lap of 188.996 mph, good enough for a 10th-place starting spot. It was Atwood's best qualifying effort of the season. The 20-year-old Nashville, Tenn., native is now tied for third in the Raybestos rookie standings, 16 points behind leader Kevin Harvick. Atwood is 32nd in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings.
"I went to the Outlaw races with Ray (car owner Evernham) for a little bit last night and then came back and went to sleep. We were real happy with qualifying, but we've still got a big job to do this weekend. Qualifying is just the first step of it. We're definitely excited about qualifying, but we've got to get the car ready for the race now. "It's a tough track. You've got to have your car really good. We tested at Kentucky before we came down here, and I think that really helped. It's a long way from over. All those guys who didn't qualify good will be there in the race.
We finished seventh in the Busch race here last year. We had a good car. We should have finished third or fourth. We had a problem with some lapped cars with about 12 to go. That makes it a little more exciting. I don't particularly like the track a whole lot, but I've run good both times I've been here and that's a good confidence booster. "It's a simple track, but it's hard to race on because there's pretty much only one groove. It's a bottom groove race track from the last two years I've been here. They've ground it and it's a little smoother. Maybe it'll open up and have some good two-wide racing. "I want to start getting some top 10 finishes. I think the team is ready for it. I think we're getting better and better. If we can start getting some top 10 and top 15 finishes, maybe we can get back up there in the points. "We had a pretty good day last Sunday at Bristol. We finished 20th on the lead lap, but to tell you the truth I was a little disappointed. We stayed around 12th all day and felt like we had a shot at the top 10. I don't know what happened at the end. We couldn't get the hang of it. "We stayed out of trouble and kept all four fenders on the car. We learned a lot and ran all 500 laps. That was the main thing. We learned from it, and that's what we're going to try to do every week. If we can stay out of trouble tomorrow, I think we can have another good finish."
STACY COMPTON (No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Compton will start 26th Sunday. Compton and company came to Texas without their crew chief, Chad Knaus. Knaus has been suspended for two races by NASCAR for accidentally cutting the dates off Compton's seat belts. Dean Johnson will serve as crew chief Sunday. "Dean is doing a good job. Chad and Dean have worked together so much up to this point that they think alike. We think it was a bad call on NASCAR's part, but there's not a whole lot you can do about it. We'll do the best we can do the next two weeks and Chad will be back at Talladega. We talk to Chad on the phone and we ran some ideas past him last night. We've all worked together enough that we all pretty much think alike not. It hurts not having him here and it will hurt when the race starts. Your crew chief coordinates everything. Dean has been gassing for us, and we're going to have to change some things around on pit road now. They talk about a safety issue. My biggest safety issue is we're at a track where somebody got killed last year and a key part of our team is sitting at home. That to me is a bigger safety issue than cutting the excess off of a seat belt. "If the seat belt had been over five years old, then we were wrong. Our seat belt was 2001. It was a brand new seat belt, and we showed it to them. They knew it wasn't old. They knew it had just been cut to take the excess off of it. If it's a technicality with something like that, then you need to use a little common sense. I don't feel like they used a lot of common sense in this particular instance.
"I think we need to talk to NASCAR a little bit. The Fords have been whining and griping all year. They got some changes made. It's pretty obvious we (Dodge) need some changes made. Four Dodges took provisionals and one of them went home. That tells me we need a little help in some different places. If the Fords can whine as much as they whined all year, then I think it's time NASCAR takes a look at our package at Texas, California, Michigan, Charlotte, places like that. We're going to need a little help. They talk about parity and want to make these things as equal as possible, if they want to do that then I think we need some concessions. "I'm not sure what we need. Our car felt good. We just can't get any speed out of it. It looks like we could use a little downforce. If we had a little more downforce, we could probably get through the corners a little quicker. We were three-tenths off through the corners yesterday. I think the bottom line is we need a little more downforce.
"We need to get consistently in the top 25 and after we do that we need to get consistently in the top 15. We haven't got to that consistent 25 yet. We're close. It would be awful nice to come out of here with a top 20 tomorrow. The only problem with this track right now is you've only got one groove. You get out of the groove and you've almost got to stop to keep from getting into the wall. Hopefully as the Busch race goes on, it'll get worked in, but it's kind of tricky right now. "I looked back at qualifying last night. Tony Stewart qualified 47th don't if it's whether some people can get around it and some people can't. It's obvious Tony is a heck of a race car driver. There's no doubt about that. Maybe they just missed the setup, I don't know. It's a tricky place to get around. Bobby Labonte had a good lap, but there's a lot of Pontiacs back in the back, too. It looks like NASCAR needs to look pretty hard at the parity and figure out where we need to make improvements.
"I like this track, but I think we probably run a little bit too fast here. I think they should slow the cars down a little bit. Our cars are too good now. If anything, they should take some downforce away from some of these cars to make you slow down a little bit. Everybody's got opinions, but when you get to running 195 mph, that's a little bit too fast. It makes the races boring. If you're running 170 mph, the races are a lot better because you can get in there and battle with people. "We need to see what the tires are going to do and how they're going to fall off and get our car working. If we can get our car working, it makes the strategy a lot easier. We're still struggling a little bit on figuring out what these cars need with the new tire, but I don't think it's going to be a lot different."