Sunday, Feb. 25, 2001. North Carolina Speedway. Rainy-day at the Rock STACY COMPTON (No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Compton is leading the Dura Lube 400 after 51 laps. "You always want to race. You get pumped up and get ready for the...
Sunday, Feb. 25, 2001. North Carolina Speedway. Rainy-day at the Rock
STACY COMPTON (No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Compton is leading the Dura Lube 400 after 51 laps.
"You always want to race. You get pumped up and get ready for the race and come here and sit around for four or five hours, that's tough. We needed to race today. We've got Las Vegas coming up next week, and it's going to be tough for the truck drivers to race Monday and get back home and get everything switched over and get to Vegas. I wish we could have raced today and got at least half of it in. We needed to get the show on the road and get ready to go to Vegas."
COMMENT ON ALL THE EARNHARDT CAPS
"I think it was a great tribute. I think everybody here misses him. I think everybody here realizes it was a tremendous blow to our sport to lose him. I think everybody is showing a lot of support this weekend for him and his family and for Richard Childress' team as well."
DO YOU RECALL THE FIRST TIME YOU MET EARNHARDT?
"We were in Martinsville in 1996 and I qualified ninth, right behind him and in front of Terry Labonte. They were running for points, and I wasn't. I went up there and tried to get in the show. I walked up in Earnhardt's hauler and asked Richard Childress where Earnhardt was. He told me he was up in the front. He said to go on up there. I went up in the hauler and he was sitting back watching a western on TV. He had the volume wide open. I walked up in there and he said, 'what do you want? or come on it' for something. I forget exactly. I went in and sat down and talked to him. I told him I'd try to stay out of his way. He said, 'you wouldn't be here if you didn't deserve to be here. You get out there and race as hard as you can race.' It was pretty neat. After that, we probably talked about 20 minutes after the initial meeting. It was a neat deal. He was by far the best in the business, the best this sport has ever seen. He'll be missed."
WERE YOU INTIMIDATED THE FIRST TIME YOU MET HIM?
"I think everybody was. The door was closed and he was in there by himself and you're thinking, 'do I want to go up in here.' He was a good guy. He played the part of The Intimidator and it worked. He played the part with everybody from NASCAR to the media to the fans to the drivers, everybody and it worked. He knew exactly what he was doing. We ran pretty good in that race. We actually ran on the lead lap for about 200 laps and raced with them all day long. We ended up having some brake problems, but we ran behind Earnhardt for probably the first 30 laps and raced with them all day. I think it was Terry Labonte's Iron Man start."
DID YOU GROW UP WATCHING EARNHARDT RACE?
"I think every driver in here grew up watching Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough. He was a pleasure to watch, when you were racing against him or when you weren't. He did things with a race car that a lot of people couldn't imagine. People that's in the business that know what it takes to do that, he could amaze you on a daily basis. I learned a lot just sitting back watching at Daytona, watching how he drafted up on people, watching how he loosened some people up without touching 'em, just watching him on the short tracks, getting in there and rooting and gouging. You watch races and you can learn a lot. He was the best in the business at getting by you, no doubt. If your cars were equal, he was going to get by you. If his car was faster, you'd better get out of the way. He was the best in the business."
WAS IT HARD FOR YOU TO COME HERE THIS WEEKEND?
"I don't think it was really hard for anybody to come here. Everybody wanted to get back to business. Everybody wanted to get busy and stop seeing the tributes and memorials and get back to the job at hand to where we didn't have to think about it anymore. I was glad to get back here, and I think the majority of the race teams and drivers were the same way. We were ready to get back to racing. We needed something to keep us busy, and racing is the best medicine."
DISCUSS THE DODGE EFFORT AT ROCKINGHAM
"Daytona sort of made it look easy. We all know that it's not. It's a tough business, any way you look at it. We didn't qualify as well as we wanted to. We couldn't get the car like we needed it. I overdrove it a little bit in the corner in qualifying, just tried too hard. I'm not so sure that Sterling or Ward might not win the race. Some of the other Dodges struggled, and we were one of them. We ran 150 or 160 laps in Happy Hour yesterday, probably the most we've ever run in Happy Hour. We got the car decent. We got it where it's going to race good. We just can't run real fast early. We're an awful long way back. That's the only bad thing about it. If we were starting in the top 10 and raced good, we'd be happy. We're not where we need to be right now, and we've got a long way to go. We ran a lot of laps and we know what the car is going to do. We made a lot of changes, some pretty significant changes from yesterday. Of course, all the rubber is off the track. The first 50 or 60 laps is going to be interesting. After we get some rubber back on the track, it will get back closer to the way it was yesterday, but at the start of the race, it's going to be interesting. It's going to be a lot different than it was yesterday just because we didn't have rubber on the track."
HOW QUICK DID THE TIRES GIVE UP IN PRACTICE?
"About the third lap. You better not leave pit road hard because if you do when you get down to turn four the tires have given up. This whole place is an old track that's got a lot of sand in the asphalt. It's abrasive. The asphalt is wore out on it. It makes for great racing, but it's a handful to get around in. We've got a different tire than we had here last time. It's a new tire that Goodyear has come up with. Supposedly it's a little bit better. I don't think our tires feel off as bad as they did last year, but we've got a little bit of learning to do with 'em. They are a different configuration. Jeff Gordon is going to be tough. He's tough anywhere he goes any time. No doubt. They've got their act together, but so does Bobby Labonte, so does Tony Stewart, so does Dale Jarrett, so does Jeff Burton. Ward Burton is going to be good. Sterling Marlin is going to be good. It's the same old deal. If you've got a good team and good people and good equipment, and if you have a little luck, you're going to run with these guys week in and week out. That's where we need to get this Kodiak team. We need to get this Kodiak team where we can run with them week in and week out. We were awful happy with Daytona, but we know we've got a lot of work to do to be able to do that week in and week out. It'll take a little while to do that. It's not going to happen overnight. We know that. We're all disappointed with our qualifying effort here. Chad (crew chief Knaus) and I talked about it. We don't want to use any more provisionals this year. It may happen, but we were pretty down about it and we know where we've got to get better. I don't think we can try any harder. Hopefully we can just approach it a different way. "If you looked at the way they graded us before the season started, they would have graded us about F. If you look at the statistics before Daytona, we were about at the bottom of the chart. We were below Buckshot Jones and Kyle and everybody. I think people realize with what Chad has put together and with Dodge and Kodiak and (owner) Mark Melling, this team has got a lot of potential. I think A-minus is a good grade for us at Daytona. The guys did a great job in the pits. Chad made some great calls. We had a good, smart run all day. We went to Daytona with the plan to qualify in the top 10 and get a top 20 finish. We came away with the outside pole and a top-10 finish. That was better than our expectations. We certainly hope to do that, but we want to be realistic. We know this team is a new team, and we've got a long way to go. It's going to take a little while to rebuild this team, but to start the year like that certainly doesn't hurt.
"There's only a handful of A-plus teams week in and week out. We were an A-minus last week, and we're probably a D so far this week. We're not where we need to be. The driver made a little mistake, and we couldn't get the car like we needed it. We're pumped up and excited about the race. We made a lot of changes yesterday. We were able to run a lot of laps. We've got Vegas coming up and we're really confident about that. We tested good out there, and that place has always been good to me. We sat on the pole out there and we've got the track record out there in the truck series. Chad's got us a really good car to take out there. It's a brand new car. We tried a lot of stuff when we went out there and tested, and I think Ernie (engine builder Elliott) has got us a great big pony to take back. I'm pretty happy with it. I'm looking forward to Vegas probably as much as any track we go to."
WHAT WOULD YOU BE HAPPY WITH AT ROCKINGHAM?
"Our goal is to come away from every track with a top 25. That doesn't sound like a lot, but if you look at the teams that were running 25th last year... Jerry Nadeau, that's one of Hendrick's teams. He sat there and ran 25th to 33rd in points all year. We want to get a top 25 every week. If we can do that, then we can stay up in points and stay where provisionals don't come into play. We can stay up in points where it will benefit Dodge and Kodiak and this team. If we can get a top 25 finish every week, it'll be a successful year."
IS YOUR CAR OWNER, MARK MELLING, HERE THIS WEEK?
"He's on his way. He got hung up in an ice storm this morning in Michigan. He has plans to be here. I expect to see him. This rain actually helped him a little bit, but it hurt everybody else. I know he'll be here Monday."
HAVE YOU PLAYED GOLF WITH HIM SINCE DAYTONA?
"No, I haven't had a chance since we took the north's money (in golf course bet). I've still got his money in my wallet. It's still got his name on it. I made him sign it. He signed it, 'I want to be back with Mark.' I'm going to frame it. He ain't never going to get that $20 back. We're going to try to play some in Vegas. As hard as the guys have worked this winter, we're going to go out a day early and give the guys a day to lose all their per diems and paychecks. We're going to play Thursday, I hope. Vegas is a bad town for me. I like to play Black Jack. I've been known to sit at a Black Jack table way too long. The best thing to do when you go to Vegas is go to the race track and stay out of the casinos. All those lights are burning because somebody is paying the bills."