Bill Elliott No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid RACING AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY "Yeah, I've been up and down at California. I had a real bad wreck one year when Jarrett blew up (1998), and I went into the wall headfirst in turn one. But...
No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid
RACING AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY
"Yeah, I've been up and down at California. I had a real bad wreck one year when Jarrett blew up (1998), and I went into the wall headfirst in turn one. But then last year I had a real good run - I was very pleased with the way we came out of there. I like Michigan so well, but it seems like I haven't been able to apply Michigan to California too well except in the last race that we ran there. I enjoy the racetrack and I enjoy the facility, but it just seems like it takes something a little bit different than what we've learned at Michigan. But you know, we're continuing to get better and I think we'll be pretty good when we get out there."
GETTING FIRST WINSTON CUP WIN AT A CALIFORNIA RACETRACK
"I've always liked coming to California. I ran part of the Riverside races in '82 and then started all of them in '83 and we came out of the last year with a lot of things on the line (running for the championship in 1988). We had Unocal money that year ('85) if I could pull off a win. A lot of things unfolded there. I think Darrell (Waltrip) and Tim Richmond were racing for the lead in '83, and I believe they spun themselves out or something and Benny ended up in the lead. I was able to get by Benny in turn nine, and then passed him a couple of laps later and it started to rain and it rained the race short. I was not the best car, but I was good enough to put myself in position to win. It was a good day. We really enjoyed it."
HOW RACING HAS CHANGED AND INFLUENCE OF NEW DRIVERS
"I think the drivers who haven't been able to change with the times and the teams that haven't been able to change with the times, you don't see any more. I know I've had to rethink the way I drive a racecar over the last couple of years from the standpoint of how things have changed. I've tried to stay with the standards that I had in the early 80s and early 90s, but it can pass you by and you've got to be able to go to the next level. That's where I think some of these guys are coming in and looking at things differently. You've got to understand that when we started we had no downforce. We had bias-ply tires. The cars were dinosaurs, so to speak, compared to how things have evolved today. I'm just proud I've kept up the way I have. The older you get, the more you realize how little you knew five or 10 years ago. I think as time continues to go on, they keep refining this stuff. I remember going to a place like Michigan where you used to qualify in the 160 mph bracket, now you're qualifying in the 190 mph bracket. It's just a whole different world, a whole different atmosphere. Every time these young guys come in they do things a little bit different, and you've got to be graceful enough to work around it and try different things."
WEST COAST TRAVEL ON TEAMS
"I think it's gotten better over the years. You know, the teams have gotten more organized, gotten more people. They understand it and know how to deal with it a lot better than they used to and that's become more of a part of it than anything."
ADDING A SECOND CALIFORNIA RACE TO THE SCHEDULE
"I think it would be great. I think the market's there. I think it would benefit us in a lot of ways, and as far as what you'd get out of it as a sponsor, and all of the people on my car: Dodge, UAW, Valvoline and Coca-Cola, it'd be great on their side. But yet, we've got to give up something to have something, because I look at these guys week in and week out and I can't not wear my car owner hat when I say you can wear these guys out running them up and down the road. The problem with going to California twice is logistically, all the shops are in North Carolina and it takes a day in and a day out. If you've got to be there on Friday then you have to leave the shop on Wednesday and not get back in the shop until Tuesday morning. It doesn't give you much of a work week. We've got to have some flexibility for the team guys."
Elliott is scheduled to drive chassis No. 38 this weekend at California. Elliott put this car on the outside pole at Atlanta this year, and qualified fourth and finished 11th with it in the 2002 spring race at Michigan.
CAREER AT CALIFORNIA
* Elliott has started in all six Winston Cup races at California, earning his sole top-five/top-10 finish at the track in 2002 when he moved from a 39th place start to finish fourth - the best Dodge Intrepid finish at California to date. Elliott's best qualifying effort at the track is a 12th place starting spot, which he earned in 1998. He has led two races ('00 and '02) for a total of four laps at California.
ALWAYS FAST ON FRIDAYS
* Elliott's average qualifying position through the season's first nine races is 13.67, tying him with Jimmie Johnson for the fifth-best average on the Winston Cup circuit. Elliott's qualifying average this year is also nearly five positions better than it was after the first nine races of 2002.
* Elliott, who made his 601st career start at California Speedway in 2000, became one of only seven Winston Cup drivers to reach the 700-start mark when he qualified 25th at Darlington this year. This weekend's race will mark his 705th career Winston Cup Series start. If he continues to start every race of the 2003 season, Elliott will surpass Bobby Allison to rank sixth on the all-time start list in the fall race at Michigan Int'l Speedway. Currently, Elliott ranks third in overall starts among active drivers.
MOST RECENT RUN AT CALIFORNIA
* In last year's NAPA Auto Parts 500, Elliott started the day in 39th place after his fender and tire came into contact during his qualifying run. Within the first 10 laps of the race, Elliott had advanced 10 spots. He continued his assault on the field, working his towards the leaders. Elliott reported little trouble with the car and spent the first half of the race advancing through the field. By lap 60, Elliott had broken the top-10. After a pit stop on lap 142, Elliott returned to the sixth spot. However, Elliott reported trouble with his right rear tire and was forced to pit as the race restarted. He went a lap down, but got it back after a caution on lap 156. The Dodge Squad elected to stay out to get the lap back and restarted in 12th. Elliott, in desperate need of another caution to close the gap with the lead lap cars, was the fastest car on the track during the green flag run. Unfortunately, Elliott was able to move in on the leaders when teammate Jeremy Mayfield stalled on the backstretch, forcing a caution. The No. 9 Dodge came in to take four tires and top off on fuel. Elliott began making up ground and was driving in the seventh spot when an accident involving the No. 8 and No. 29 cars forced the Dodge Squad to make a strategic call for track position. The team elected to stay out during the caution, and Elliott earned the track position that enabled him to finish fourth on the day.
TWO WEEKS AGO...
* In the season's last race at Martinsville, Elliott reported early on that his No. 9 Dodge was handling well. Unfortunately, track position hurt Elliott at the difficult to pass .526-mile paper clip shaped track. Elliott relied on four tires throughout his stops and was sent out quickly by the Dodge Squad, who won the McDonald's Drive-Thru Pit Championship for the second time this season. Efficient stops along with good pit strategy also allowed Elliott to spend the least amount of times in the pits at Talladega. Elliott patiently picked off spots throughout the day, managing to stay only one lap down from the leaders. He finished as the first car one lap down, ending the day in 13th place. He gained three places in the Winston Cup points race, and currently ranks 29th in the points standings, just six points from the next spot and 103 out of 20th place.