>From NASCAR and Ford Motorsports FORD MOTORSPORT NOTES AND QUOTES Tuesday, March 12, 1996 DARLINGTON ADVANCES--IRVAN/YATES After making a remarkable return to NASCAR late in 1995, Ernie Irvan was reminded how quickly life can turn a bit...
>From NASCAR and Ford Motorsports
FORD MOTORSPORT NOTES AND QUOTES Tuesday, March 12, 1996
After making a remarkable return to NASCAR late in 1995, Ernie Irvan was reminded how quickly life can turn a bit cruel. Even after winning a 125-mile qualifying race for the Daytona 500, Irvan hit a bump on his road to full recovery "When I'm battling Earnhardt for the championship in August, like I was when I got hurt, then I'll feel like I've completed my comeback," said Irvan in February. Three poor finishes in the first three races of 1996 had Irvan stuck 35th in Winston Cup points, but his first top-five finish at Atlanta propelled him to 19th in points and answered some who were beginning to question whether Irvan truly was "back."
ERNIE IRVAN -28- Texaco Havoline Thunderbird -- "I don't think I needed to answer any questions. I think we answered them all last year. We could make excuses but whatever it is, hell, if you look down the qualifying order, there are guys who run in the back all the time and nobody says anything. This is just part of it. There are times when you just don't hit on things and we just haven't hit on much. At Atlanta, we did. We had a two-race slump, and at Rockingham, we had a flat tire that cost us two laps. Otherwise, we'd have run 10th or something.
"It's really important to have a good run, though. Obviously, some of the stuff that's happened to us we die to ourselves by adding another team, but we chose to do that and now we're behind. It's going to take some time to regroup. And with us tearing up stuff with the 28 car, that wasn't good because you have to go home and fix stuff instead of work on your stuff to make it better. But nobody forced us to do anything. We did it and we're proud of it, and we'll keep working until we make our stuff better.
HOW WAS YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL? "You always think, 'Well, maybe I'm doing something wrong,' or, 'Maybe it's the guys doing something wrong.' But Larry's not the kind of guy who comes in and says, 'You've got to drive harder,' and I'm not the kind of guy who says, 'You guys have got to work harder.' We look at our problems and try to figure them out. Robert's been racing for a long time, Larry has, I have -- I didn't forget how to race, and Robert didn't forget and Larry didn't forget. It's just a matter of making all things right, We went to Atlanta with the same car we ran so well with last fall and qualified 36th. Why is that? Obviously we have to work on our qualifying program and I think everything else is in place. Our chassis program is good. Obviously it is or the 88 car wouldn't be running so good. It's just a matter of putting all our ducks in a row.
"You make your own circumstances. It's like bowling pins, You qualify bad, and bam, the ball hits the pins and then it just goes ding, ding, ding, ding. Wherever there's an action, there's a reaction, And the first action is qualifying, and if you don't get that right, you fight all weekend long."
"The guys needed Atlanta, We all did. People start wondering, 'Man, what are we doing wrong?' But Atlanta was a big plus. We knew we had the capability, but until you do it, you wonder."
WHAT'S YOUR DARLINGTON FORECAST? "I haven't run Darlington except that one test I die last year. If we get our stuff right we'll be competitive. If we're slipping and sliding and trying to figure it out, we'll probably run in the back. But everybody's fighting the same deal. It's not like we have to race something nobody else races. We just have to get our program right."
ROBERT YATES - 28- Car Owner for Irvan -- "Right before you get ready to jump off a stool with a rope around your neck, all of a sudden the rope falls off the beam.
"You sort of feel like you're jinxed in this business sometimes, but as long as things don't fall off the car, and as long as things aren't breaking, we're OK. We know Ernie Irvan can get the job done. When you're a hero in any sport, and you get down, people love to kick you. After Atlanta we can put a11 that aside. He drove as good a race as he did in the fall. With the week off, the guys can get caught up a little bit, finally.
"You know and I know people were talking about this race team. Until Jeff Gordon won Richmond, people were talking the same way about him. And we're not any different. We really like everybody we race against, but we never feel too sorry for them when they hit a slump because it won't be too long before they get back on top. That's the way our team has been. We knew if we gave Ernie something good to drive, and we still have work to do, but we know he can flat get the job done. That we knew, but you have to play this sport in front of grandstands, and that means people are going to speculate when things don't go 100 percent your way. If you get an ill- handling car, you're going to hit everything on the race track. At Daytona, we had an awesome car, capable of winning --he did win his qualifying race -- and we got in a spot where the guy in front of him slowed down, Ernie slowed down and he got hit from behind.
"It's still the greatest thing that's ever happened to have Ernie Irvan come back from the situation he was in. It says so much about him. Who else under the sun would ever do it? How could anybody kick him after what he's done so far? He's Still going to come back and kick their butts. We've got to get him a little bit better cars, and maybe this latest wind tunnel test will encourage NASCAR to make some changes to those Chevrolets just a tick more. Hopefully we'll be able to win some races. I think everybody saw at Atlanta that any questions about Ernie's driving ability are history."
LARRY McREYNOLDS -28- Crew Chief for Irvan -- "It's been an atrocious start. It's like the monkey wouldn't get off us, and there was nothing we could so about it. We kept digging. I don't think there's anybody in the world that can accuse us of accepting defeat. The guys on this race team have shown as well as or better than anybody in the world that when everything is pushing them into a hole and piling more aria more on top, that they'll keep scratching and clawing their way back up and out of that hole and find the way back to the top. We don't give up."
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