Ford Atlanta qualifying notes

ANDY HOUSTON --96-- McDonald's Taurus (Qualified 29th) -- "That's real close to what we ran initially right off the truck. The McDonald's Ford has been pretty decent all day -- decent enough to get into the race anyway. We're just looking ...

ANDY HOUSTON --96-- McDonald's Taurus (Qualified 29th) --
"That's real close to what we ran initially right off the truck. The McDonald's Ford has been pretty decent all day -- decent enough to get into the race anyway. We're just looking forward to racing hard on Sunday and doing a good job with McDonald's and helping those guys out, they've been real patient with us. We've struggled the last few weeks, but I feel like we're heading in the right direction now."

HOW HAVE THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS BEEN?
"It's been pretty tough. It's tough on you mentally and emotionally. All of these guys have to keep their chins up. They're starting to doubt themselves like I'm starting to doubt myself. We know we've got a good race team and we know we can overcome it. We just don't have any points or any provisionals, so that makes it tough on a rookie team, but we'll be OK."

JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus (Qualified 6th) --
IS THAT WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED?
"That's all the doctor got right there. That was a good lap for us and that's all I could do. The motor ran good, the car handled great. I was running on the edge all the way around, so I'm pretty happy with that."

YOU PICKED UP ON THE SECOND LAP?
"I was a little loose on the first lap and kind of eased up to speed and got more out of the second lap. We felt like that earlier today and ran a little quicker on the second lap."

SUNDAY IS KEY FOR YOU GUYS ISN'T IT?
"If we finish, we're gonna finish good. That's the main thing. We're working hard on that, trying to get the consistency down. So far we haven't gotten there yet, but we're working hard on it."

MARK MARTIN --6-- Pfizer Taurus (Qualified 4th) --
"We had a little bad luck earlier this year, but we had a great car and a great run last week and this car has really felt like a race car this weekend so far. That's not anywhere near the pole, but it was a good lap. If I was a little younger and little dumber, I could have gone faster yet."

HOW MUCH DID YOU CHANGE THIS CAR FROM THE FALL?
"We changed the paint job since November, but it's actually running a lot better than November. I didn't expect it to run this good. I really look for the race setup to be good. I don't know if this car likes these tires better or what, but so far it seems really sweet. I can't explain enough that I know we won't sit on the pole with that speed, but I like this race car. It's driven like a real race car every lap I've turned so far and that usually equates into a good race setup."

HUT STRICKLIN --90-- Hills Brothers Taurus (Qualified 25th) --
"That's a couple tenths faster than we practiced and hopefully that'll be good enough. The car has been pretty tight off the corner since we've been here. We've made some gains, but haven't caught up to it yet. If we could have gotten it to turn a little bit better, I believe we could have run a 28.880. I know how much I had to lift out there, but hopefully that'll be good enough to get in the race and we can work on race setup and be pretty good."

DALE JARRETT --88-- UPS Taurus (Qualified 1st) --
"It's a good lap. This is a brand new race car and hadn't even seen the outside of our shop until last night, so that just shows how good these guys are. The engine is just incredible. I probably could have been a little freer there, but I told the guys we had to have it a little bit tighter. We've always qualified well on this new configuration, but I haven't been able to get in victory lane. We'd like to find out where that's at on Sunday."

JIMMY SPENCER --26-- Kmart Taurus (Qualified 8th) --
"It was tight on me. We hadn't been tight all day. We even freed it up a little bit more for qualifying and I really thought I could sit on the pole. We actually slowed down from practice. It was a good lap, but it was bound up in the corner. I'd like to change the air pressure, but I can't do it now. We lost it in one and two. We thought the track would get a little bit tighter, but it really tightened our car up a lot."

JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo SUPERGARD Taurus (Qualified 42nd) --
THIS SEASON HAS NOT GOTTEN OFF TO A GOOD START.
"Well, it's not over yet. It's only just begun. Obviously, we didn't qualify the way we wanted to, but we never qualify the way we want to. I have yet to find a setup that feels comfortable to me here in qualifying trim. In race trim we've run really competitive here. We had a chance to win a bunch of races and haven't pulled it off yet, but today I got really loose off of four -- especially off of four -- and had to come back out of the gas. Here, if you can't stay in the gas all the time you're in trouble."

DO YOU FEEL THE CAR WILL BE GOOD IN THE RACE?
"I find it kind of humorous when people get out of their car and they always say, 'We're gonna race well tomorrow.' There's not anybody in this garage that knows how they're gonna race until tomorrow when we get in race practice. Everything for today means absolutely nothing for Sunday other than where you start. It doesn't mean how you're gonna run, it doesn't mean anything. The only thing it means is what you did today. The setup for the race is so different that anybody who says that, in my opinion, is being overly optimistic or they're trying to convince everybody that it's gonna be OK. It is what it is. If we can make the car drive well, we'll run well."

TODD BODINE --66-- Route 66/Kmart Taurus (Qualified 3rd) --
"We're pretty happy with that. We didn't really know what we had. Our second set of stickers in practice were not to our liking and the car was really bad, but right before that the car was good so we didn't panic. We just made some very minor air-pressure adjustments in tires and the car was really good. I actually think I messed up a little bit and left some on the table or we might have been up on the top, but to be second (at that time) is pretty good. The Route 66/Kmart Taurus team is on a roll. We've got to keep this roll going. We ran good at Las Vegas and qualified good at Las Vegas and here we are now. We've got our work cut out for us. We've got to put a good race setup in it now."

DOES THE CONFIDENCE FROM BUSCH CARRY OVER TO CUP?
"I'd like to think so. It's just a matter of getting good race cars and I've been very fortunate. The last two races the Busch car has been outstanding and last week at Las Vegas the Cup car was great. We've qualified good here this weekend, so maybe we can keep this roll going and get a good race setup in it so we can go after 'em on Sunday."

RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus (Qualified 9th) --
"It ran real good. I was pretty proud. I won Michigan with this car and ran it here last time and it ran real strong, and it ran strong in Charlotte also so it's a good car and I'm happy with it."

WHAT HAPPENED WITH YOUR QUALIFYING MOTOR?
"That was kind of a weird deal. We went to put the qualifying engine in the car and the engine was on a forklift and a pallet and the engine fell off the pallet on the ground, so we had to put a back-up engine in. I've never had that happen before, but the guys said this engine was pretty close to the other one. I feel good about Sunday. This car has been good everytime I've taken it anywhere and I feel good about it."

RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus (Qualified 23rd) --
"It was just tight and it's been kind of tight since we've been here. In qualifying here last time we had a really good race car and maybe I was thinking about that. Last fall we had a really good race car and I destroyed it qualifying. I said, 'Man, I hope I never do that again.' I feel like we've got a pretty racey car. I might have been a little conservative on that lap, but I still feel like we'll race good. I left a little on the table from my practice lap and I'm really not too sure why. We've been pushing the front end since we've been here and it's still doing that."

ELLIOTT SADLER --21-- Motorcraft Taurus (Qualified 40th) --
"It's pretty frustrating. We brought a new car here and we didn't get a chance to test it. We're way behind. We just couldn't get it comfortable from the first lap we made to now. We haven't been able to run the speeds we need to run, but maybe it'll race better than it qualified. It's pretty frustrating to qualify that bad. We have to use up another provisional and that leaves us only two, so that puts us in a pretty bad position."

DALE JARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE

HOW WAS YOUR LAP?
"It's just a good race car. I'd like to say there was something special that I did, but other than get it in the right places, that was it. This is a brand new race car. It had never seen anything away from Robert Yates Racing until yesterday afternoon when it was loaded on the truck and headed here to Atlanta. Our engine department is doing just an incredible job right now with our qualifying engines and race engines. That's making my job a lot easier and that's what you have to have here -- a combination of a really good car downforce-wise and a good engine combination. One lap doesn't mean that we'll be the best on Sunday, but we're certainly gonna try to be that."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE HANS DEVICE. YOU'RE WEARING IT RIGHT NOW.

"I'm really comfortable with it. Everyone that's associated with the HANS device has been really helpful. I came back here to Atlanta, back before Daytona, and we did some work with it. They helped me fit it and we've really worked hard with our cars in situating everything and I'm really pleased. As I heard Jeff (Gordon) say there, I feel that our sport is safe. Certainly, we all have room to make improvements, but I think that's gonna be a combination of everyone working together -- from NASCAR to the teams to the manfacturers -- everyone working in that direction. But I'm very pleased with the HANS device. I've worn it in all the races -- all the practice laps and everything this year, so I'm really pleased with what I have."

THIS RACE HAS FAVORED GM OF LATE, DO YOU SEE THE GAP GETTING CLOSER OR WIDER?

"It has been, but there are so many good race teams. You have quality race teams and that's who has been winning. Bobby and his team found something that really works well here. I know he might not have qualified really well, but I do know that he'll be somebody you'll have to beat to win the race. Jeff Gordon has won races here and that's a great driver and a really good race team, so if that's why it is -- I think maybe it's just that the Fords haven't found exactly what it takes. We've changed some things. We've worked with our chassis to try to make that combination better. We've tried to watch where we're getting beat with the GM cars and we just have to work harder. Right now the rules are what we have, so there is no reason to say anything about 'if we had this or had that.' This is what we have, so we have to use our 90 minutes tomorrow to our advantage and try to close that gap and make it to where we can compete with them on Sunday."

DO YOU EXPECT A RULES CHANGE OR TRIP TO THE WIND TUNNEL AFTER THIS RACE?

"If I had to say right now, I'm not in charge and don't tell them what to do, but I would assume because it normally does happen that we see cars go to the tunnel from here and they'll gather that information. Depending on what would take place. I know that Chevrolet has won all the races so far, but they're also gonna look and see Mark Martin and myself and Todd Bodine led the most laps last week between the three of us. They're gonna look at that and say, 'Well, you just didn't make the right adjustment at the end' or something. We would like to see it to where we had a little bit more front downforce -- a little more downforce total. I think that's where we're lacking a little bit, but right now that's not what we have, so it would be hard to say if they would make any changes."

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RACE SETUP AND QUALIFYING SETUP HERE?

"From our perspective it's totally different and we haven't found that right combination with the race track configured as it is now. I'm not sure of the exact figures, but if you look back our qualifying since the track has been changed, I'm not sure that we've qualified out of the top five, but we haven't won a race in that period of time either, so, obviously, there are differences and we just haven't found exactly what you have to do. But, for what you have to do qualifying here and what you do for the race, there is probably as much difference in those setups as anywhere we go that I can think of."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR TEAM SO FAR THIS YEAR?

"We've performed well. I'm pleased with what I see. We've had new race cars to run and I think that's made a difference. We've worked extremely hard on our chassis setups. I made a bad call at Rockingham that probably took us from a top-five finish to finishing 10th there because I got the car too tight on that last run. Last week we performed well and gave ourselves a chance to win the race and that's what you have to do. Obviously here, with a new car again, I think we'll be competitive, so I'm very happy with what I see right now. With the way the rules are and everything, we've been very competitive."

WERE YOU ABLE TO HOLD IT WIDE OPEN HERE?

"I'm too old for that now. When I was younger I might have been able to do it. No, I actually was gonna give it a try, but I got down into one and the car turned really good, but it was at that point that it started to shove the nose a little bit and I just had to crack the throttle a little bit -- never came all the way out of it -- so when I got to three I know having a whole corner on the tires that it probably wasn't gonna hold quite as well there, so I just squeezed a little bit out of the throttle to get the car set and went on from there. No, it wasn't wide-open. I'm not gonna sit here and tell you that's what I did and that's what won the pole, but no. It was close. It was enough to get my heart racing."

IS THE HARDEST LAP OF THE WEEKEND OVER FOR YOU GUYS?

"Generally, yeah. To me, you feel speed more here than anywhere else than we go right now. The average speed is probably as fast as anywhere that we go, so that's a very difficult lap to make. But my car drives really good in qualifying, so if I can talk to him and he can help me get my car comfortable for the race setup and run fast too, then I'll like that a lot better. The race pace is so fast here that, to me, this 500 miles is very difficult now because you are going at such a hectic pace the entire time."

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THESE SPEEDS?

"Yeah, I think so. The track is basically built for that with the banking you have here. It's just a matter that right now we've got more downforce and more horsepower, so that's why the speeds are up like they are. But I think that we're very capable of racing the cars and the race being competitive with the speeds that we have right now. I think safety-wise, we feel very good about the tire that Goodyear has brought here, so looking at all things I think we're very comfortable with all of this."

-FRT

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Todd Bodine , Robert Yates , Mark Martin
Teams Yates Racing