Dodge Talladega II preview

A total of 19 NASCAR Winston Cup teams tested at Talladega on Aug. 27 trying different configurations for possible rule changes. As a result of the tests, the Ford rear spoilers have been trimmed from 57 to 55.5 inches. The roof air deflector on...

A total of 19 NASCAR Winston Cup teams tested at Talladega on Aug. 27 trying different configurations for possible rule changes. As a result of the tests, the Ford rear spoilers have been trimmed from 57 to 55.5 inches. The roof air deflector on the Pontiac has been cut .125 inches, from 1.375 inches to 1.25 inches. Roof air deflectors on the other three models remain at 1.375 inches.

STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Marlin won the pole for the Pepsi 400 at Daytona and finished 39th. He qualified second for the Talladega 500 and finished 23rd after leading the most laps -- four times for 51 laps. "I thought we did the test to try to make it better for drivers so they wouldn't be piled on top of each other. You could probably talk to everybody and some Chevrolet drivers would want a change, but they didn't change anything. We just wasted our time going down there because I thought they were going to change something. They didn't. It's pretty ridiculous when some of the top drivers say they're going to go to the back and ride 450 miles and not race until 50 to go so they'll miss the big wreck. It ain't racing. Whoever thinks it is is wrong. "When they drop the flag you're supposed to go as hard as you can all day long. If you're not, it's not racing. We had to drop back this spring because we were so loose. We had to drop back until we could fix it. I almost wrecked a couple of times. We had to go to the back at Daytona because we were so loose, and again, they didn't change anything. "All the Dodges qualify good and they put the wicker on and all it does is knock the air off the spoiler. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you take the air off the spoiler you're going to run faster, but you can't race. "I think they ought to take the plates off and let you race. That'll be the last thing they ever do. Those tracks are built to run 200 or 195 mph. Here we are qualifying at 183 or 184. That's ridiculous. They're worry about the lift rate it the car gets around sideways. How fast are we running at Atlanta, Michigan and some of these other tracks? You're probably running faster than you are at Talladega. I don't understand all I need to know about it I don't guess. "A bunch of drivers are just going to go to the rear to try to dodge the big wreck. We just had a little wreck at Daytona, and we got in the middle of it. We almost wrecked during the test chopping and hacking each other. Chip and Felix spent a lot of money testing the speedway stuff to try to have a good team for Daytona and Talladega. Qualifying is one thing, but you can take a car that's a second and a half off and if you got in the race, you could be leading in 10 laps if you started 40th. That's how ridiculous the rules are. "It only takes half a hole for a kamikaze driver to root their way in. I've let people go, and let people go and let people go. A lot of these other guys have, too. You've got to. You'll wreck yourself and take out 10 or 15 cars if you don't. A few guys don't care. "You ride there three deep and hope nobody messes up. You watch 'em swarming like a bunch of bees. I'd rather lead the whole race, but you ain't going to do it. That big wicker we've got on the Dodge roof, it knocks such a big hole in the air, you get the lead and they can draft right back up through there. It's just knocking a bigger hole in the air. "I've talked and talked until I'm blue in the face. They're going to do what they want to do anyway. Hopefully they'll change something for Daytona next year. They took the roof wickers off when we tested and at least when they did that it took out a lot of the wild driving. Guys couldn't get a good run on you to do anything, and you had to think a little bit before you passed like you used to. "You try to set somebody up and work and pass 'em. With what they've got now they could go to the 12th grade class at Spring Hill High (Tenn.) and get the seniors and let them race. Maybe one of them would win. "I think we can win our share of these last races. We haven't got a bad track coming up except New Hampshire. Maybe they'll cancel that."

STACY COMPTON (No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Compton started second in the Daytona 500 and finished 10th. He won the pole for the Talladega 500 and qualified third for the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. "It just depends on which line you get in at Talladega. Think about Sterling Marlin last time. He had one of the best cars down there. He got in the wrong line and finished 23rd. If you can get in the right line and avoid the big wreck we can come out of there with a good finish. We blew up at Talladega last time. At Daytona we ran out of fuel. If you get in the right line, avoid the big wreck and team up with the right people at the end of the race we can improve our finish. "I actually broke a shock first at Talladega the last time. We came in and sat on pit road with the motor idling trying to get the shock fixed and ended up burning the pistons. From first to worst, it wasn't very good. You can start dead last at Talladega and be leading it in 10 laps. It doesn't make any difference where you start at Talladega. You can start anywhere and win. "I think you'll see a lot of cars running in the back of the pack next weekend. Everybody wants to avoid the big wreck. It's going to happen. We didn't have it at Daytona for the July race. We didn't really have it at Talladega. We did have it at Daytona in February. The rules are the same. Odds are, we're going to have it again. Running that close with that many cars, it's a pretty good possibility it's going to happen. "That's the reason everybody runs around in the back until 20 laps to go. They want to miss the big wreck. I think you're going to see the same thing this time. Drivers don't have that much intelligence for all of them to lay back. They're too competitive. That's the reason we're here. "Hey, let's ride around in the back. OK, let me lead. No.' "It's the mentality. I think any of them you ask would say that. Bobby and Tony ran around in the back last time. They're teammates. They work good together. Whether someone else would work with them that well, probably not. You get to running back there and you think you can run better and faster and you run up through the pack and all of a sudden somebody pulls in front of you and blocks you. You've gotten a little sideways and you want to get back by them, and you're back in the middle of the pack racing people. Drivers don't have enough sense to get back there and run smart with each other. "Nobody has anybody to work with. I think Bobby and Tony worked together better than anybody else last time. Nobody is going to work with anybody. When it comes down to 20 laps to go, you don't have any friends. If it's your brother, you don't have any friends. "It's always been that way. I don't think it was quite that bad when there wasn't millions and millions of dollars involved, but it was still pretty competitive. This sport has gotten so competitive. Everybody is looking for sponsorships or rides or whatever. You don't have any friends out there. "They've just got to put some drag in the cars and take off the restrictor plates. They've looked at a lot of different things. Right now, the restrictor plate isn't the best way but it's the only way we know. I think NASCAR is looking at ways to fix it. I think it's going to take a couple of more big wrecks before a major change happens. Talladega isn't the fastest place we go to anymore. When you're building places like Texas, Chicago and Kansas, Talladega isn't that big of a deal anymore. Texas, Atlanta, Charlotte, Kansas, California are fastest. Talladega is on down the line. If we took the plates off, we'd run 230 mph, but that'll never happen again. "We're looking and talking to sponsors. I've got to go to Detroit to meet with Mark Melling this week to meet with a sponsor. We're talking with people. I've starting talking to other teams a little bit, but my goal is still to stay here. We're still digging as hard as we can, but we don't have anything lined up real good just yet. "I'm always optimistic, but I'm realistic, too. We're going to have to find something pretty quick. We were fortunate enough to find Kodiak late, late in the year, so maybe it can be done again. I really haven't pursued anything else a lot, but there's nothing else much out there. I don't have a lot of prospects in either direction now."

BUCKSHOT JONES (No. 44 Georgia Pacific Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Jones scored his best finish of the season and led the way for Dodge with a 16th-place finish earlier this season in the Talladega 500. "It seemed like at Talladega, after what happened in the Daytona 500, that everybody tried to give and take a lot. It didn't seem that bad to me. We had a really good car. It seemed like anywhere you wanted to go, you could go. A lot of times things happen so quick at these superspeedways where you run so close together and you can get loose quick or get tight and you can cause a big wreck. It didn't matter if someone got up in front of us or behind us, we ran good the whole time. That makes you feel a little bit more comfortable. "You work with whoever is there. I worked with Andy Houston one time and pushed him to the front. It just depends on who you can get hooked up with. Early in the race, nobody is going to help you, especially if you're kind of a rookie at this. Maybe at the end of the race if they see you've run good and have a good car, they'll go with you. I don't think you can make any friends or talk to anybody before a race. I've seen it tried before and then they leave each other out to dry. "This will be my third Cup race at Talladega. I've always like the track. We've run good there in our Busch cars, too. I don't know what it is about that track that I like so much, but we've always had pretty good success at it. "If you've got a good car, you can kind of lay back there. It seems like you can go from the back to the front in one lap, and you can go from the front to the back in no time. Guys are being more cautious there than anything. You know there's going to be a wreck. There wasn't one earlier this year at Talladega. "I like superspeedway racing. It's intense, but people seem to be racing different after what happened in the Daytona 500. That makes you feel a lot better, but in the back of your mind, there's the thought of having that one big wreck. I don't think that will ever go away. You run so tight there, you don't have any other choice. I'd be happy with a top 10 or top 15. I think we're going to have a good car. You've just got to be at the right place at the right time at the end. "You learn stuff all the time. Even when you run bad or miss the race, you don't just go home. You've got to go back and analyze everything that happened. From the time the car left the shop, you've got to go back and analyze if anything could have been done differently. "I think the new engine program (for Petty Enterprises next season) is going to be really good. I hate to see anybody lose their job, but they did a pretty good deal. They just didn't come in and say in two weeks you're gone. They gave these guys a chance to find another job. With this new engine program, there's so many resources and things over there, I think it's definitely going to be better. It should be. It wasn't like the guys at Petty's weren't doing a good job. You're just kind of confined to the resources you have there."

WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Burton qualified second and finished fourth in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona in July. He led the most laps in the Daytona 500, nine times for 53 laps. "With the current rules, the last race we ran at Daytona in July, we saw it promotes the middle groove and also promotes a fourth groove. We saw that when we went to something similar to what the Busch cars run (at Talladega test in August), that it did away with the middle groove. The middle groove was the one that used to be like it was a couple of years ago when you slid back until you could get back in line. It promoted two abreast racing instead of three to possibly five. I felt we had made significant progress. We tested Busch rules with three and a half inch valence with 60 degree spoilers and no wind deflectors. I liked that. It was racing like it was a few years ago. It just did away with the middle groove being a groove that you make progress with. It just eliminated that. I don't know why we went down there and tested. Obviously we didn't learn what they were looking for. "I know it did what I said it did. The problem is for one of the makes in particular, it didn't help them at all, and I think that had some bearing on the decision. I know Daytona and Talladega are completely different, but Sterling and I qualified in the front row and within a lap and a half we started sliding back. Somewhere around lap 20 or 25 we were in the rear of the field because of lack of downforce. The Pontiac, Chevrolets and Fords were running better in race trim than we were. I don't know if our new nose will help us at Talladega. It could possibly help us at Daytona. "It's fun to go to Talladega and race. Everytime I think about going down there and race, I think we can run well, but I think about running three abreast and it makes me be somewhat concerned. I don't think many people in here who haven't done it a couple of years aren't that way. It's not just drivers and their families, it's crew members, car owners and everybody. It's an awful difficult atmosphere to be in for the length of time we're in it. "We dropped back in Daytona and we didn't mean to. We got the car a little bit better and had a late dash and were able to get some track position. That helped us, but I know that Bobby Labonte and another guy was holding back at Daytona. Bobby still got caught in a wreck, so you're going to have to hold back quite a distance. It's so hard to say what's going to happen. I don't think it's a bad decision to hold back. "With the rules they've got now, you could get from the back to the front in two laps if you had somewhere to go. We've done it in two or three laps. Our guys have done a tremendous amount of work on our superspeedway car. The problem is everybody kind of uses their head until we get to the end of the race. It's the nature of the beast. The last time we were at Talladega, some wrecks should have happened that didn't. We finished fourth at Daytona. Had I not been able to get down on that last lap, I would have probably finished 35th. "I don't lose any sleep before I go to Talladega, but I make sure I've got my insurance in place."

-Dodge Motorsports-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Sterling Marlin , Andy Houston