Highlights of Tuesday NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference with: Bill Elliott Ray Evernham Part 1 of 2: Bill Elliott NOTE: Elliott completed Dodge's weekend motorsports Grand Slam by winning the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway. Elliott's No....
Highlights of Tuesday NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference with:
Part 1 of 2: Bill Elliott
NOTE: Elliott completed Dodge's weekend motorsports Grand Slam by winning the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway. Elliott's No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid R/T scored Dodge's fifth victory of the season on the NASCAR Winston Cup Circuit. It was also Dodge's first back-to-back victories since returning to the circuit in 2001. Ward Burton won in the No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T on July 21 at New Hampshire.
Dodge teams also won this past weekend in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series with Robert Pressley in the No. 18 Square D Dodge Ram at Michigan International Speedway, Casey Atwood in the No. 19 Dodge Intrepid R/T in the Pepsi ARCA 200 at Pocono Raceway, and Hank Parker Jr. in the No. 36 GNC Live Well Dodge Intrepid R/T in the NetZero 250 Busch Grand National race at Pikes Peak.
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"Indy has been good to me since we started going there in the mid 90s. If you can start up front and stay up front it's a whole lot more enjoyable than being in the middle or the back. It is a fun race track, and it puts on a pretty good show for the fans. That's a real good point from our standpoint. Ray and this Dodge team has done so much to put this effort together. I'm proud to be a part of it. They've busted their cans week in and week out trying to get this program up to speed. They've done an excellent job from Mike Ford (crew chief) and all the other guys and motor guys to Ray. Dodge and UAW supports this deal, and it's been a lot of fun being with them.
"We'll take it a step at a time. First we'll see where we end up qualifying. Then you'll just have to see how the race unfolds. Other than Pocono, there's been different strategies for different races. It depends on when the cautions fall and how they fall within your pit window and fuel mileage and so on and so forth. Gordon last year stayed out. He qualified kind of in the middle and he stayed out and got track position and was able to come out and do what he needed to do. I think that's going to be a crucial part of this Sunday. It seems like a lot of places we go that track position is very critical. These cars are so equal. A guy gets that little bit of lead advantage and you have to be very good to run him down. As close as the cars are, you can nip at it a little bit, but it's hard to gain the time if they get enough of a lead and you have to fight traffic for a period of time.
"You're still the end result sitting in the race car. You've got to be responsible for your actions right, wrong or indifferent. Everybody makes mistakes. It was early in the race and a lot going on and it's easy to make a mistake. If you get pinched off or whatever and everybody is trying to scramble for track position as the first laps unfold. Sometimes things just happen, and I don't know how you can really blame anybody. You try to use what the spotter tells you, yet you've still got to use your own judgment.
"I think the confidence has been an on-going thing. Back when Ray started this deal last year we ran decent. We were nipping and tucking from 10th to 20th and every now and then we'd get a top 10. We just kind of kept stepping it up. Ray would call me on Monday or Tuesday and say 'you're doing your job. We'll get you a better car next week.' The people started coming together and the cars started coming together and I started giving good feedback. They started putting real good stuff under me and that's just kind of been an on-going evolution. It's been a building block. First you've got to get your confidence back of what I need to do. The years that were lean and I was trying to run my own deal, I couldn't keep up with the technology. I think when you're running on a limited budget, it's just hard to keep up. Everybody's got a budget, but some are bigger than others. I didn't have a lot of things to fall back on, and Ray doesn't, either. He was able to have enough resources within Dodge and the people around him to keep building this deal. That's the most important part.
"I'm on the shorter end of the stick than the longer end of the stick. I'll put it that way. I'm not in my 20s or 30s. I'm in my mid or later 40s (46). The evolution clock is ticking along, and you're not going to do it forever. Nobody does anything forever. You live, you die and what you do in the middle you make the best of it. I want to make the best of this. I want to focus on the racing and give Ray everything I can. Then there will be time to do other things, take care of the fans, take care of everything else. If we run good, everything else will take care of itself, and that's going to be the most important part.
"We tested two cars at the Brickyard. The one I ran Sunday (at Pocono) and another one. I think the one I ran at Michigan. Mike and the guys will make the decision. Which ever one they decide to take (Pocono Dodge Intrepid that's won two poles and two races in two starts).
"The road courses are difficult for a lot of reasons. Several teams bring in the so-called road racing gurus. They don't race with us week in and week out, most of them. Robby Gordon has done a good job on the road courses and he races with us week in and week out. That does help. Some of them guys are not far enough up in the points that it matters and they can make those big moves and take the chances. The rest of us have more to lose than those guys. On the flip side of that coin, we have caught up to a lot of tricks of the trade that they use, and I feel like we've all got better as road racers. My preference is it'd be nice if we could find those two races and go oval track racing. It would be more acclimated to the cars we run and stay more along the lines of what we do week in and week out.
"Other than just the experience of doing it (referring to 1985 season). Things have changed so much over the last number of years. The cars have changed, the people have changed, the times have changed. It's just made it different. It's a lot more competitive. Back then we ran bias ply Goodyears and now we run radials. The seteups are so much different. Aerodynamics are so much different. We make more power than we made back then, so there's just so many things that dictate what we do.
"My deal has always been that I try to put things in perspective. I've said this a number of times. There's a time and place for everything. I don't try to go looking for attention. I'm the guy who likes to stay back hidden, out of the limelight so to speak. I've never been a secure enough person to go out and seek that kind of stuff, which some people thrive on it. I've just never been that kind of guy. It's just been an on-going learning process, and I try to take it a step at a time. As Ray said, if we run good enough on the race track, the rest of the stuff will take care of itself. That's what we're trying to do right now, take care of the racing and the rest of the stuff will take care of itself. There'll be a time for the media and there'll be a time for the fans and a personal time and a time to race. As long as you keep those things separated and keep your time at what you feel like you need to do, I think you've got a good handle on the day to day stuff.
"When he first started this deal, I told him (Evernham) a lot of things, what to look for, what not to look for, how hard it was for me. For each person it's different. Some things he listened to and some things he didn't listen to. You've got to make your own mistakes. I think he's made some mistakes and I said, 'yeah, I told you' but it's not as black and white as people make it out to be. That's the hardest part of this sport. You try to get a group of people together for a common goal and try to keep 'em together and keep everybody happy and try to use your resources in the best possible way. There's always a crossroads there, and there's always a number of roads to take. Two or three of them might lead you in the right direction, but the others might lead you in the totally opposite direction. That's the hardest part of it, to keep the stuff in perspective.
"You've got to look at it as a twofold deal. Maybe it (Indy) is not the most perfect place for a Winston Cup race as far as competition goes. You look at the facility itself and the history behind it and what it can do for the sport and what it can bring in and it's kind of a twofold deal. It's still for the most part puts on a great event. Maybe the racing can give or take a little, but there's still a lot going on. There's still gong to be points that race tracks are going to be good and bad, regardless of where you go. There's going to be good races and bad races. Whether it's good races from the aspect that maybe I win or bad races and ones that I don't win. I think overall what it weighs out, the facility and what it brings to our sport way outweighs the competitive side of the deal.
"No longer than we've been going there, I don't think it favors either one (young or old drivers). It favors the guy who gets his car worked out the best. He who has the best equipment for that particular day and/or uses the best strategy like Jeff did last year.
"I don't know if it's the most important. To me, they're all important. I'd like to have Indy on my resume, but it's not the end of the world if it doesn't happen. I've had some real good runs there. I've had some very, very good runs there. I'm proud of my record there. We'll just go there with an open mind knowing we had a very good weekend last weekend and we'll go there and try to make it again this weekend.
"I just know what I've seen and been told. Tony George and the guys at Indy seem like they're on the leading edge of whatever it takes. NASCAR has done a good job of giving us information as far as what we can better do for our cars. Even in the last safety meeting we had, when we first started in this deal about a year ago or a little better, everybody thought we needed to re-design the cars and we needed to do this and do that. In fact, we just needed to tweak around on what we've got. I think everything they do is better. It's going to be an on-going evolution. I feel like whatever we learn today and tomorrow is going to just help maybe not my generation but the next and the next generation. What I'm most impressed about is how far we've come in such a short period of time. Soft walls are going to be incorporated in, and I think the more we learn about it the better it's going to be for the generations to come.
"I was among the group that went there (IMS) for a Goodyear test back in 1992. I hadn't heard much about it prior to that. When we got invited to come to that test, I was driving for Junior (Johnson) at that time. Tim Brewer was my crew chief and we went over there and it was a lot of fun. I think we impressed the guys about how well we got around that race track. We're kind of the hillbillies of racing so to speak, but I think all in all for a stock car to go to Indy we impressed them pretty well, and I think we were able to hold our own as times have progressed.
"I thought it was a great deal. We've been a lot of different places. It just goes back to the history of Indy. I think that was kind of put cold chills down your back because it has so much history behind it. It has been around for so many years. It's always the event that everybody was comparing to, the Indy 500. For us to go in there and be able to compete on the same race track was I think something that I'll always remember.
"I drove one (Indy car) back in Michigan, I think back in 1990. I drove one of (Chip) Ganassi's cars just a little bit. I ran 210 at Michigan in it. It'd be neat to do it. Somebody asked me why I didn't go do that. I said, 'by biggest deal is we run 30 some odd Winston Cup races a year. It's hard to go back and forth. If you do what you do to the best of your ability you need to totally focus on it.' I'm not as young as them boys that have been trying to do both.
"I think I'm going to take that a step at a time. I've really made no concrete decisions about the point I want to go to. Basically, I've got another year on my contract with another two-year option after that. I'm just going to take it a step at a time. Depending on how I feel next year, will depend on what I do from there on. Right now, I want to focus on the rest of this season on a race by race deal and get this year out of the way and see how I feel next year. Your health is probably the most important part of this deal. You've got to stay healthy and have enough stamina to keep these things going all day long. I admit, Sunday I was used up. We drove the wheels off that thing almost all day long. It's a part of the sport. You can't expect to do it forever, and that's just part of evolution and the evolution is younger kids are going to come along and they can attract the deals and sponsors. Everybody is always looking for the next Jeff Gordon or Ryan Newman or Kurt Busch or whoever else is coming along, Jimmie Johnson.
"From my standpoint, I was probably staring it (retirement) right in the face. Had a good enough deal not come along, I wasn't having any luck getting sponsorship for my own deal. Owner/drivers in the sponsorship world was not a viable deal. Now, here I was. I had had several lean years. You look at the people and who was going to look at you to come drive a race car. You could have probably found a lot of undesirable deals, yet when Ray came along I about fell over. I didn't know why he wanted me or if he had gone totally crazy. Ray has done a lot for me. He's really supported me, and I think that's done more for me than anything in the world.
"It crosses your mind. You're at the point in time whether it's two years down the road or five years down the road, you're on a short end of the stick. For the people who go much over their early 50s, I don't see it. Who knows? Gant went on to win when he was in his earlier 50s, but still, there comes a point where you're going to have to lay it down, whether you're a pro golfer, race car driver, basketball player, football player, baseball player, there comes a time when you're going to have to cross that bridge. What I do from that point, I've been thinking about it and I have no idea."
Ray Evernham Part II