Even though both Robert Yates Racing teams started the day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, neither one of them took to the track as the second week of testing for next month's Brickyard 400 began. The No. 38 M&M's Taurus team of Elliott Sadler ...
Even though both Robert Yates Racing teams started the day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, neither one of them took to the track as the second week of testing for next month's Brickyard 400 began. The No. 38 M&M's Taurus team of Elliott Sadler performed prep work on its two cars and will practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the No. 88 UPS team of Dale Jarrett decided to head back to North Carolina and cancelled their planned session. General Manager Doug Yates spoke about the thinking behind both decisions Monday afternoon.
DOUG YATES , General Manager - No. 38 and No. 88 Ford Tauruses:
YOU'VE HAD A BUSY DAY ALREADY AND HAVEN'T EVEN BEEN ON THE TRACK. "Our game plan was to come here on Monday and set up so we could get prepared to have two good days of testing here. It's such a big race and we feel there's a lot of things that maybe we can learn here that will help our program in other places. We decided, in light of how the 88 team ran yesterday (at Chicago), that we're gonna send those guys home and re-group. Maybe some things we learn here with the 38 will apply and they can come back next week and test."
WAS THE CHICAGO CAR DALE DROVE YESTERDAY SIMILAR TO THE ONE YOU WANTED TO TEST HERE AT INDY? "Yeah, the car the 88 ran yesterday in Chicago was a brand new Hopkins car. It was untested, but we had high hopes that it would do well. Unfortunately, it was 180 degrees from that. It was probably our worst day of the year. We were planning to test that car here, but, obviously, there's no reason to unload the car. It's not gonna do much better here than it did there, so that's why we're gonna go home, re-group and figure some things out."
SO ELLIOTT WILL TEST TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY? "Yeah, and then we'll see about bringing the 88 back next week. The 99 and the 12, guys like that, are supposed to come next week. You look around here today and it looks like we've got a race going on. That's good and bad, I guess, because you get to judge off everybody else, but, at the same time, it's pretty busy out there."
YOU TALKED ABOUT GETTING BACK TO THE FUNDAMENTALS, BUT YESTERDAY WASN'T WHAT YOU HAD IN MIND AS FAR AS THE 88. "It feels like we're trying to start over with a new race team halfway through the season and that's not an easy task with the way the competition is these days. When you're running 10th-15th, your goal is to try to get into the top 10. Sometimes you've got to go to 30th to get back the other way and that's kind of where we are with that team right now. I was actually just talking to Dale on the phone and I think he's got some good ideas. We're not giving up by any means. We know we've got a Winston Cup champion as a driver and we've got a bunch of good guys on our race team. Right now, we're just missing something."
WHEN THINGS AREN'T GOING WELL YOU PROBABLY EXPECT RUMORS TO START IN REGARDS TO YOUR DRIVER. IN CHICAGO THERE WAS SOME TALK ABOUT DALE'S STATUS. CAN YOU ADDRESS HIS SITUATION? "We do the same thing to other teams. When they get down we put some pressure on them, too. Everybody would love to have Dale Jarrett drive their race car. That's natural. In a way, it's flattering to us that other teams would be interested because we think the world of Dale. Dale and I have talked and we've come a long way together as an organization. He started that 88 team and we expect him to finish out his career in that car. Our goal is to give him something good to drive and for him to give us good feedback to make it good."
WHAT IS DALE'S CONTRACT STATUS? "We're working on an extension for Dale right now. We have a contract through next year with him and we're working on an extension. UPS is signed for three more years after this, so things are real solid there. It's embarrassing to us and Ford and UPS, and that's really the biggest thing. We're gonna have good and bad days, but UPS is a great sponsor and we're letting them down right now. That's what we've got to do a better job of and that's a lot of our responsibility. The big brown truck doesn't need to run in the back."
IT'S BEEN LIKE A ROLLERCOASTER. "You'll have that when you're searching. We had a good car at Charlotte and finished in the top 10, but then we went to Dover and thought we probably had a top-five car before breaking a connecting rod. Then we turned around and went to Pocono, qualified seventh and were racing in the top-five when a tire went down. It's just the ups and down you go through. When it's your season, it's your season. Look at Matt Kenseth, his year is kind of like the 88 team was in '99 - a bad day is when you finish 12th (like Kenseth did at Chicago). You'll have seasons like that -- Bobby Labonte had one in 2000. When it's your year, it's your year."
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, was the third-fastest car during the morning practice session. He spoke about his team's recent performance and returning to the Brickyard.
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus:
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING 700TH CONSECUTIVE START? "Yeah, we're at 698 and just hoping we can make it to 700. We've got New Hampshire and then Pocono will be our 700th start. I guess 700 starts, in itself, is probably a little unique but to have them consistent without a break in the action is something I'm pretty proud of."
DO YOU FEEL THIS TEAM HAS TURNED A CORNER? "We've had a couple of solid weeks. We've actually had a solid car on the race track the last several weeks, but we've had more than our share of DNF's. We finished third at Daytona and 13th yesterday at Chicago, and that could have been better. We just started the race way, way too loose and we got lapped early. We weren't a good enough car to get that lap back, and even though we ended up 13th, we ran with a fifth-place car most of the last part of the race. I think we're getting better. I think we're starting to learn some things. Certainly, we're not where we need to be yet, but yesterday we actually passed Mark Martin on the last lap. Since we get motors and chassis from Roush Racing and we were able to get by Mark, and had Matt Kenseth in front of us, that's probably our measuring stick - how do we measure up with the other Roush cars and the other day we were pretty good, so I think we're getting better. Have we fully turned the corner? I think we've still got a few hiccups along the way, but I think the consistency we've been looking for had to do with the body work. We've been trying to get the bodies in a certain location and then go from there. It's not a fix all for everything, but, certainly, they're starting to learn where I like the aero balance on the car to be."
IT SEEMED YOU WERE BRINGING A DIFFERENT STYLE OF CAR EVERY WEEK. "I think it kind of goes in spells. At the beginning of the year we ran bodies one way, which is a lot different than they ran them the previous year, but we thought this was the better way to go. They cut the fleet of cars up and we ran like that and that wasn't very good. Now, they've kind of gone back to more of the way they ran the bodies last year - as much as the rules will allow - and that's been better. There's still more work to do there, but at least it's consistent and we can run like that every week. Now we can work on the chassis stuff a little bit and when we improve that, we can go back and work on the bodies a little bit more."
HOW SPECIAL WAS YOUR BRICKYARD WIN? "For me, I remember coming here as a kid. I grew up in Virginia, but our national championship in go-karts was right down the street from here at Raceway Park. I remember being here when I was 10 or 11 years old. Our registration was over in the Brickyard Hotel and I was able to see the track and then having a chance to tour around it in the tour bus and do the museum, was special. As a kid I dreamed about racing and winning a race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway - that was my dream one day. I was really sort of heading more towards Indy car racing as a kid and at 16 years old I was ready to go, but there wasn't any equipment. We grew up too far south and then in some kind of way I stumbled into the stock cars and at 18 years old I was running a Winston Cup car. Once I went Winston Cup racing and got locked in there, I thought that dream would never happen because I didn't think we would ever race at Indy. Then we were one of the original three or four cars that tested here when they did the tire test way back before the first race. It was pretty neat to do that, but then to come back and race here and then to win here - knowing your name is on that trophy and it will, hopefully, be in that museum for hundreds of years is special. It'll be nice to bring my kids and grandkids back to show them, 'Hey, there's my name. We won that race that day.' I think history here seems to mean more than anywhere else we go."