Dodge Saturday notes at Martinsville

Saturday, April 7, 2001. Martinsville Speedway. Virginia 500 JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T) "We tried a lot of different stuff yesterday before qualifying. I've heard a lot of other people had to change their regular setups...

Saturday, April 7, 2001.
Martinsville Speedway.
Virginia 500

JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We tried a lot of different stuff yesterday before qualifying. I've heard a lot of other people had to change their regular setups here, but we never got that far. We didn't feel good about what we had. We were fighting other problems besides handling. We never got the car exactly right. We've got a lot of plans today for the setup. We think we've got a pretty good idea. We don't think we're that far off, but we're starting so far we've got to be right on it from the start. This is the same car we had at Bristol (runner-up finish -- Andretti's and Dodge's best of the season). Only the cracks in the frame are fixed."

WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We weren't going to set a speed record yesterday, but this is the same car we qualified fifth with here last year and we were running fourth. The car was coming on to me. The guys in front of me were getting a little bit out of shape, and my car was going to show up better on the long run. Obviously it was early in the race, about 75 laps in. The car qualified good, it was reacting good. Yesterday in qualifying it felt decent, but it wasn't a pole car by any means. I figured it was a top-20 car. To me, it didn't feel like I had any torque coming off the corner. It was like timing was retarded, or I had way, way too big of jets and the carburetor was loaded up. I just think we're off on the torque.

I know Terry (engine builder Elledge) and his guys are doing a great job, but I just think it's going to this new deal. Obviously I've got to adjust my driving style a little bit for the new tires. The team's got to adjust what they're doing to be a little bit better on some of these other tracks. "We start off with the identical setup we had here last year. We had to get away from it, and then we came back to it. Every lap we ran during practice was from a .52 to a .58, no matter what changed we made. Normally that points in one direction. With all those changes, you'd think we'd go slower or faster. I just think we've got to get our homework done. It's not from a lack of effort. No one believes in my engine guys more than I do, but I just think yesterday it showed up at this torquey little race track.

"We haven't run the way we need to run, there's no question about that. I'm not blaming motors on anywhere else other than what I saw yesterday. I haven't adjusted to the tire well, and the team hasn't adjusted to the tire well. Us together aren't getting the job done right now. The 93 has run better on some of the mile and a half tracks. They've done a good job there. The way I've tried to drive and the way we've set it up and some of the lack of practice we've had, some different scenarios that's played out in Happy Hour, we just haven't been that good. Last week, there were times we were running really well at Texas, but we got a lap down early, got a lap back. Cut a tire and Jeremy ran over me. It was just one thing after another last week, but there were times we were on of the quickest cars there. I know we can run good. I think we can run good here or next week or the week after.

We're behind the eight ball right now. We've got a lot of work cut out for us tomorrow. A lot of things will pan out. We'll use our head and have a little luck and work as hard as we can work all day."

STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We went to Greenville-Pickens the other day, and I thought we ran real good. You usually bring what you ran there here, and you're pretty close, but we were terrible yesterday when we started. We'll try to get it driving better today. We're going to start off with what we ran here last fall. We had a top three car last fall. We'll see how that works first. We started 34th last fall and could have won the race. We ended up eighth. We put on two tires at the end and everybody else put on four. I think with these tires you might run just as fast with two tires or no tires. It seems like 100-lap tires are just as fast as new tires. I think you might see some gambling here. We might just stay out instead of pitting and see what happens. "We had a fifth-place car last week, and we've had a good car every week. I think if we can get our car driving better, we'll be OK here Sunday. The best Dodge qualified 14th, and I think there's three in the top 25. I don't know if it's the weight of the motor or what. You've got to get slowed down here in the middle of the corner, so I don't know if that's a problem or not. I thought we'd really run good here with the Dodge, and we might still be. We'll just have to wait and see."

BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I think the car's pretty good. We'll probably try a couple of different setups in Happy Hour. We should have been better in qualifying, but we'll be all right. Each track has its own characteristics. What might be OK one place isn't OK somewhere else. One guy will get his act together and get is combination right. We've just got to keep working on these cars and get 'em better. There doesn't seem to be as much premium on a hard tire. You can stay out and run. You can go 50 or 60 laps and still be OK. Track position, track position, track position is the only strategy. I don't know if we'll gamble on a pit stop and stay out or not. We'll have to wait until the situation presents itself. I just hope we're in position to gamble."

DAVE BLANEY (No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"Ward qualified real good here last fall, so we came with that basic setup. Both of us weren't any good, so I guess we didn't find the right setup. We didn't like our engine combination. We haven't run at tracks like this with super slow corners. We're working on it. "You're going faster through the corners at Bristol and it's more of a momentum thing there. This is a stop and go track, and the engine has to be smooth and drivable and it has to have lots of torque. If you don't you're in trouble. We're a little bit that way. Sometimes you can't tell if the engine is affecting the car or the car is affecting the engine. We're just working on both and trying to sneak up on both of them. We worked a little bit on our engine yesterday trying to get it to run better off the corner. I felt like I never got the car hooked up good enough. The last practice run I thought we were going to be close. Then I went out to qualify, and I didn't have near enough grip in either end of the car to make a good qualifying lap. I was hoping to qualify better than we did for sure, but we'll go from there."

"There's going to be some crazy stuff going on Sunday, whether to stay out or come in and pit for tires. We'll try to make the right calls. We'll watch Happy Hour real close and see what the tires do and how far you can go and how fast they'll go at the end of 70-100 laps. We'll decide from there what to do. It'll dictate what everybody else does, too. You've got to be ready for everything. "We took two tires last week on the last stop. If I'd got four, I would have been behind Jarrett and Park and I know I would have never passed them. That was our best shot. I got close. With about 10 to go, we were sitting third and had a shot to do something, but it got too tight. Maybe we should have made a few adjustments with the tires, but as far as taking two, that was the right call. It could have won you the race if the car had been right. "You see tire strategy every week. You saw it at Bristol. I didn't think Johnny Benson had a chance to run third at Texas when he stayed out on that last caution, but he hung on pretty good. We saw it in Happy Hour down there. You'd make a run and they'd slow down a little bit, but you'd go back out and the tires would be at almost the same speed. It's a pretty awesome tire, and I think we're seeing some pretty good races because of it. I don't think a guy is going to gamble and pit here and give up track position. It's going to be crazy. You could see guys running a full fuel stop on tires."

"The guy that stays out of trouble and does the right thing is going to be in control. If you do the right thing, you could take yourself from 30th to third. We didn't do a lot of two-tire stops at Bristol. Our car really wasn't really good enough. We kept working on it and got it pretty good before we wrecked it. It was off enough where we felt like we had to get four tires at first. "We had a really good car all day last week, and really couldn't get caught up. We banged up the car in the pits on the first stop. I was slow for a long time, got lapped and then we finally got the front end straightened out and took off again. We got caught back up and got our chance at the end, but we couldn't quite capitalize when it was on the line. That's a little disappointing, but at the same time to come out of there with a sixth-place finish, we were happy. We regretted not coming out of Atlanta with a good finish, so we had to get one at Texas. "We're doing a dirt modified race tonight at Charlotte. Tony Stewart and Jerry Nadeau are going to run, too. We're just going to play around."

-Dodge Motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jerry Nadeau , Johnny Benson