Dover II: Dodge - Bill Elliott interview

BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid R/T) COMMENT ON FANS IN GARAGE AREA "We have got to get a balance. I agree the fans need to stay accessible to some extent. I don't go into your office in the middle of your work and ask for...

BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid R/T)

COMMENT ON FANS IN GARAGE AREA

"We have got to get a balance. I agree the fans need to stay accessible to some extent. I don't go into your office in the middle of your work and ask for autographs or do things to interrupt you. I know it's a fine line, and I understand that, and we've got to work through that. NASCAR has got to help and decide how they want to deal with this. The problem is in today's world we do a three-day weekend. The guys go in there and bust their rear ends and qualify. Bust their rear ends again in practice, then race Sunday. The problems I see is nine times out of 10 most of the drivers are pretty accessible through as much dealings as they do with their sponsorship. There's got to be a way we can satisfy both well and make it work for everybody.

"I can take care of 10 or 15 or 20 fans in the garage. This is my work place. The fans expect a lot out of us, but everybody needs to give us a little bit of respect. That's a problem I've seen over the last year and a half or so. We have absolutely no respect in the garage as far as what we do and what all these guys do as hard as they work. We do this every weekend, and we see it every weekend. That's hard for me and all the other drivers to deal with. You come in here and have a bad day. I'm no different than anybody else. I have good days and bad days. Some days things don't bother me and some days they do. I can let things roll off. We've got to create an environment that's fan friendly yet let these guys do their job and get everything we need to accomplish by Sunday afternoon."

COMMENT ON RACING AT DOVER

"Dover has been both bad and good to me. Mike (crew chief Ford) and I have had a good rapport there the last several races. We need to concentrate on each and every race, whether it's Dover, Richmond, wherever. I like the race track. I liked it better when it was asphalt, but I've got the hang of the concrete now, and I understand Goodyear is coming with a little different tire. That's going to determine a lot of things come Friday morning."

COMPARE YOUR SITUATION NOW TO RUNNING YOUR OWN TEAM

"You've got to have a stable crew around you. I've had so many instabilities all through the 1990s. Now I've got a stable platform under me and I can start worrying about the race car and what I need to be doing as far as going fast instead of worrying about the people involved. I just went out and did what I could do with what I had. Whatever it was, so be it. You've got to be able to deal with that, and that's what people have got to understand about this sport. It's just an up and down roller-coaster sport. If it's bad you've got to understand it and forget about last week.

COMPARE RACING AT DIFFERENT TRACKS

"Martinsville and Bristol are both half-mile race tracks. You get a car loose at Bristol and nine times out of 10 it's gone. If you get a car loose at Martinsville, you can save it. You can get it pretty out of shape at Martinsville and save it. You've got less of a barrier to get the thing hung out. There are just different circumstances.

"It all feels the same, but nine times out of 10 your speed is a lot greater. If you're driving on ice or snow, you're going maybe 40 mph. At Daytona or Talladega you're 200 mph. You don't really think about it. You deal with the circumstances that come along. I think what you need to do is do one of the driving schools where they've got a wet track and it simulates what a loose car (feels like).

"I think all of them (race tracks) are easy and hard in their own way. You can always get away with something at different places. Atlanta Motor Speedway today versus when they first repaved it and you had to run hard tires on a fresh surface, you had less of an error factor where it was harder to save a car. Today, the speeds are down just a little bit, but yet we're on an older track with a little softer tire and it makes it more and more manageable if the car does get out of shape. You might go to the same race track five times and deal with five different circumstances, depending on the tires, the aero specs for that day, the surface temperature and the surface of the race track whether it's new or used.

"As long as you get the car back under you, it's a deal of near misses when you're on the edge of that fine line between a passenger and a driver."

COMMENT OF NASCAR ROOKIES

"Some very good drivers are coming along. It's all a different era. That's just a part of evolution. Most of the guys are very good or they wouldn't be there. Then on top of that, they've got excellent equipment. It seems like now there's no difference in equipment from top to bottom. With just a few at the end lacking a little bit, but nine times out of 10 you can go out and buy the parts and pieces. Looking at the guys that are running good today, Ryan Newman has been running awfully well the last number of races. You knew it was just a matter of time before he won a race. You look at Kurt Busch, he's run good, Jimmie Johnson, you go right on down the list."

WHY SO MANY DIFFERENT WINNERS?

"One simple reason, NASCAR rules. Everything's the same. Right now you're so confined with the template. Track position is everything. It's hard for one guy to be dominant with everything being so equal. That's what I see. I'll give you an example. Sunday at Loudon, at points in time everybody was running the same time. How you going to pass anybody if you catch somebody? If you're catching them half a tenth a lap, how are you going to pass 'em when you get to 'em? That's the direction NASCAR is looking for, even competition."

COMMENT ON NASCAR POINTS' SYSTEM

"They're trying to close up the stacks too much. It isn't like it used to be where if a man was innovative enough.... Now if you tear down an engine, everybody can buy the same part. Before, you could go out and buy the parts and pieces to have that edge over the other competitors. I think looking at '85 and what we accomplished, the point system has always been based on consistency, not wins. That's the way it's always been. I don't argue for it, and I don't argue against it. It's just the way it is. That's the way NASCAR set it up and you've just got to understand that when the year starts."

COMMENT ON RUNNING 212 MPH AT TALLADEGA

"If you look at it at Daytona and Talladega, I was disappointed that I didn't run faster that day because of what we accomplished at Daytona. We ran 210 at Daytona, and I was hoping for 214 or 215 at that particular time. If you unrestricted the cars today, I'd dare say they'd be running 220 if not better over what we've learned the last four or five years. You never have an idea because too many things change. Had they not gone restricted from that point on, they yeah, it'll never be beat. There again if they decide to unrestrict them, I think we could beat it easily."

CAN YOU DRIVE CONSERVATIVELY?

"Nowadays you can't afford to drive conservatively, but you can't afford to make mistakes, either. I think that's what you've got to look at. You've got to be able to be aggressive, but I still think it's coming down to taking it a race at a time. You've got to be aggressive and you've got to be lucky to some extent. That doesn't necessarily have to be in every race, but in some circumstances you do because of how close everybody is. Whenever you go over the line, it costs you a lot. It's how far you push that line."

COMMENT ON POINTS' RACE

"I think it's going to go down to the final deal. There's been so many different winners. I won two races in a row and then come back and finish in the 20s. Jeff Gordon wins two races and then he's out of the top 10 or 15. It's hard to be consistent. It's going to be the guy who has the least amount of bad luck with five races to go. That's who will win this deal. There's too many guys who have to have problems. We're coming up on some of the track I run well at. You go into all of them knowing you can get caught up in somebody else's mistake or you make a mistake. You've got to hit that fine line, and as competitive as everybody is..... That's just like at Indy with my deal. We had a good race car and it was up to me all day long not to make a mistake. That's what you've got to look at in this business. You look at some of the guys with fast cars that have either made a mistake on or off the track."

IS THIS YEAR'S POINTS' RACE LIKE '92?

"1992 was a whole different era. Several of us were in the hunt, but we were leading late in the year and gave it away at the end. We almost came back and won it. We went to Charlotte and broke a track bar. That never ever happens. It was just a flat bad day. We went to Martinsville and Phoenix and had motor trouble. We came back at Atlanta. We didn't have anything to lose. Davey had more to lose. Davey has problems and then it was between Alan and myself. At that point in time, we did what we could do. We won the race and did what we could do. Alan had everything going in his direction."

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE?

"You look at all of them and they deserve it. Mark has been running a long time. Sterling has been around a long time. Gordon has won enough, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't deserve it if they get in that position. Tony Stewart has run awful well. It's going to be the guy who has the least amount of bad luck. You look at the performance of the 40 car and several other cars and everybody has been all over the board. The guy who has been the best in the last several races has been Ryan Newman. There's a lot of racing left. You could easily have a 100-point swing in no time flat."

COMMENT ON DRIVING FOR RAY EVERNHAM

"Ray (Evernham) supported me whole heartedly since this deal started. I was about ready to throw in the towel at the end of 2000 with all the circumstances that happened in '98 and '99 and beginning of 2000. Ray has helped me focus more on racing. Ray is a good enough personality himself, he can take a lot of the PR stuff. Mike Ford and myself do what we need to do and that's to try to make the car perform on Sunday afternoon."

COMMENT ON TEAMWORK

"You have to become one, and I think having Dodge and UAW, they have to be teammates within themselves. Somebody's got to put the money out to build the cars, and there's got to be somebody there to build the cars. We've got to be partners to make all this work. We need to run good at the end of the day, and it's all about teamwork. We're all in this together from the standpoint of the guys on the race team and the people back at the plant building these cars. It's just like me on Sunday afternoon. We need to build a good, quality car where I can beat the competition.

COMMENT ON LAST YEAR'S WIN AT MIAMI

"Miami was a good day last year. It gave this team a good boost. It sent them in the right direction. It brought the Evernham Umbrella together, and I think that's what you've got to look at. Ray went into this deal after he left Hendrick to build an on-going program. That says a lot. The first year out with Dodge coming with a clean sheet of paper, they've come a long way."

IS THE DODGE AT A DISADVANTAGE?

"I can't tell you who's at a disadvantage, but to help argue the point, yeah, they (Dodge) are at a disadvantage. It seems like the Ford stuff right now on a short track has a little bit of an advantage for whatever reason - whether it's motor combination or whatever. The last number of races, give or take a few, we've been the best Dodge. Other than the middle size tracks, we've struggled on some of the other stuff. We haven't had anything go our way, I'll put it that way. GM has had a change and why they aren't running better at this point in time, I can't answer that. Whether it's team or car related or how they act at a particular race track, I have no idea."

HOW DIFFERENT IS RACING NOW COMPARED TO THE '80S?

"If we ran what we ran in the '80s, you wouldn't even be an honorable mention (today). You probably wouldn't even make the race. It's just brought it to another level, and it's going to keep refining and keep bringing it to new levels and that's all there is to it."

HOW MUCH LONGER WILL YOU DRIVE?

"Like I've said in the past, my deal is I've got one more year on my contract with Ray with a two-year option. We'll run next year and see how I feel and then take it a year at a time. Right now, I feel good. I'm healthy. I'm doing what we need to be doing. As long as you can say that, that's another direction you need to go into. I'm just going to take it a year at a time after next year."

WHAT MAKES A GOOD RACE CAR DRIVER?

"It's more instinct than anything, learning the car control, plus learning what you want the car to do to make maximum speed around the race track."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson