Taurus will be putting its undefeated streak on the line this Sunday in the Budweiser Shootout. Since being introduced as Ford's flagship brand in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series three years ago, Taurus has won all three Bud Shootout races...
Taurus will be putting its undefeated streak on the line this Sunday in the Budweiser Shootout. Since being introduced as Ford's flagship brand in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series three years ago, Taurus has won all three Bud Shootout races thanks to Rusty Wallace (1998), Mark Martin (1999) and Dale Jarrett (2000). This weekend there will be seven Ford drivers with an opportunity to extend the streak. Some of them spoke about the importance of this year's season opener and the new rules factor.
RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus
HOW WILL THE NEW RULES TRANSLATE FROM TALLADEGA TO DAYTONA? "I think everything is gonna translate from Talladega to Daytona and I wouldn't have said that in the past. The only thing different is how the race is gonna go. I don't exactly know because the track is narrower, that's the only thing. At Talladega last year, it was easy three-wide. I think if you get three-wide here, it might happen for a couple of laps and if you're in the center when that happens you want to get back in line pretty quick. These cars have got so much drag on 'em now that when you get in the center lane it really makes your car accelerate and go, so there will be a lot of guys wanting to get in the center lane for just a little bit to shoot 'em to the front. I think the top lane and the bottom lane is gonna be more single file, but when you get to that center lane and you've got a car on the inside and a car on the outside, that air can't get to the rear spoiler so that car thinks it's got another 100 horsepower and it takes off. Your eyeballs get really big and it's like threading a needle because the track is so narrower. At Talladega it was pretty easy, but here I don't think it's gonna be that way."
DOES THAT MAKE THE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT MORE IMPORTANT THIS YEAR? "I think everybody is gonna be watching the Bud Shootout to see, 'OK, are they gonna bust a part? How close are they gonna run together? Is three-wide racing here at Daytona a viable deal?' I think the Bud Shootout this year is gonna be a little more look and see than in the past."
HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN YOUR SUCCESS HERE THE LAST FEW YEARS? "It has been impressive for us because, man, we had so many crashes in the past. I used to hate coming to this place and now I love coming to it, but I will tell you that with these new rules I have some concerns. Before I felt like I had the best machine and a better car and a better engine and all that and now, with this particular restrictor plate and all these downforce rules, I feel like I'm no better than anybody else out there as far as the car. I can see frustration in everybody's eyes. Don't get me wrong, we've got a real great hot-rod for this race and I feel real strong about it, but the problem is you can take a 30th place car and he's gonna run just as fast as the first place car and that's the part that's gonna be frustrating."
JEREMY MAYFIELD --12 -- Mobil 1 Taurus
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE NEW FORMAT FOR THE SHOOTOUT? "I think it's gonna be exciting and we're gonna learn a lot. I think it'll be a good show for the fans, but it's hard to sit here and say just how good because we race every lap. As drivers, we wouldn't mind if it was 500 miles for the Bud Shootout, so it doesn't matter. I think, to us, the more laps the better. It gives you more of a chance to have a little more strategy involved and calm down a little bit."
DOES THIS RACE TAKE ON MORE IMPORTANCE THIS YEAR WITH THE NEW RULES PACKAGE? "I think so. We had Talladega, but we've never raced here so I think it's gonna be real good to see what we've got. That's what's always good about the Bud Shootout -- you know kind of early what to expect in the 500."
WHAT KIND OF RACING DO YOU FORESEE SUNDAY? "You've gotta win. Right now we're looking at it like 'do whatever you've gotta do to win the race.' Rules or no rules you've got to make the best out of what you've got and that's the good thing about NASCAR racing -- you get out there and drive the wheels off of it and hope to get up front and win the race."
DALE JARRETT --88-- UPS Taurus
WHAT WILL THIS NEW FORMAT DO FOR THE SHOOTOUT? "I think what it's gonna allow us to do is do some more racing. Whenever it was 25 laps you had to be really careful and calculating about any pass that you made because if you went backwards you didn't have enough time to make that up. Now with 70 laps, I think we can really mix it up and race hard. If you jump out of line and try to make a pass and go backwards, you've still got time to make that up, so I think it's gonna be beneficial to better racing."
WILL IT BE BENEFICIAL JUST TO GET A RACE UNDER YOUR BELT WITH THIS RULES PACKAGE? "Yeah, I think that it's gonna be beneficial to us whereas the 20 or 25 laps before (in previous seasons), you really couldn't tell anything about your race car. Even though it's gonna be a different car than we'll race on Thursday and then the next Sunday, the ideas are still gonna be the same. You're gonna be running a setup that's pretty much the same thing, so it's gonna give us an idea of what we need to do and where we need to be for the 125s."
WHAT KIND OF RACING DO YOU SEE HERE? "I'm not sure that we necessarily have to be three and four-wide to make good racing, but I think what we're gonna see is driver's being able to make a pass -- and a lot of passes. What I mean by that is one or two cars going around the lead car. I think you're gonna see a lot of the leader getting shuffled back and having a hard time getting in line. I think we'll see some guys try to make it three-wide. You can do it for a while around here, but, obviously, with the corners being as sharp as they are you can't do it like Talladega. But I think what we're gonna see with the package is the cars being able to make those passes and being able to do it without getting total help from someone else."
RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE 70-LAP FORMAT? "I like it because it's a race that now will make sense for a tune-up race for the 500 and the 125s. That 20 or 25 laps in the past was tough because you could bolt a new set of tires on a car and run really good for about 15 or 20 laps, but you get to lap 20-25 and not handle a lick. You would find that out not in the Bud Shootout, you would find that out in the 125-mile qualifying race and realize that it's Thursday afternoon and you've got a lot of work to do. Now we'll find out Sunday what we need to be working on for the rest of the week. Did you car get loose in the draft? Did it get tight in the draft? Now you've got Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday to work on it. Before, if you look at the amount of practice time after the 125-mile race, there's very little track time. Now you're getting into, 'oh man, we've got major problems.' We were there last year in the 500. We were good in the shootout and we were good in the 125, but I was out front. We got out there in real race practice after the 125 and put our car nose to tail behind others and saw we had a big problem. By that time it was Friday afternoon and we had to work Friday and Saturday with very limited practice time. What I like about it is that now it gives us a lot more days to work on a problem, if we have any."
IS YOUR STARTING SPOT A GOOD PLACE TO LEARN SOMETHING RIGHT AWAY ON SUNDAY? "It's a race. It's whatever they can do to try to get to the front. They're not going out there to say I'm just using this as a tune-up, they're going out there to race, but as you're racing you're gonna find out how good your car is. Adrenaline will carry you for 10 or 15 laps and then in a 70-lap race the chassis is a big factor, so you'll find out. You won't find out simply by riding around, you've got to race to win and if you have to drop back you're gonna have a problem. It's gonna either be like the car got loose or tight or wouldn't run down the straightaway."
SO IS THIS RACE MORE IMPORTANT THIS YEAR THAN IN PREVIOUS YEARS? "It's a more important race because now we can find out how these cars are gonna handle in a long run. When you watch us in practice now, we go out after qualifying and try to run a gas stop because you know the car is gonna go away. You might have to run 30 laps for it to go away before you can know what to tune to fix it, so this 70-lap race under true race conditions will tell you what you've got to work on."
MARK MARTIN --6-- Pfizer Taurus
DO YOU LIKE THIS NEW FORMAT? "Oh boy, I'm excited. I am so thrilled with the new format for the Bud Shootout. What a way to start out the Winston Cup season and to make it what I consider a real race rather than two little bitty segments that just really aren't a whole lot of racing. Now it's a real race, a strategy race. It's fabulous and I just really want to commend Budweiser and NASCAR and everybody. This is gonna be a cool race."
WILL IT BE AN ADVANTAGE TO RUN IN THIS RACE COMPARED TO THOSE WHO WON'T? "I think it'll give you a day head start on getting your program headed in the right direction for the 125s -- no doubt. We'll also get an indicator of what to look for -- in other words the mistakes that we make in the shootout, people will probably take note of and try to have covered for Thursday. In other words, if we have a bunch of wrecks or one big wreck in the shootout, people will look at Thursday's race and say, 'You know, we need to address this race in a different mind set.' If it's a very clean race and it turns out to be like Talladega was, where everybody expected to have accidents and didn't, then people go into the 125s with a mindset. Whether they've raced in it (the shootout) or not, they've watched the race, so I think it's gonna be a neat indicator of where the mindset needs to be for the qualifying races on Thursday."
WILL THE 125s BE UNPREDICTABLE? "No doubt. I don't know what to expect for sure. I'm expecting the worst and, hopefully I'll get surprised. I was certainly surprised at Talladega, but I also feel the drivers were the super-heroes of the day at Talladega. They're the ones that prevented the accidents from ever happening because they drove completely different than I've ever seen 'em drive as a group in that race. They'll probably either drive that way here or we'll have some unpredictable accidents out there."
JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo SUPERGARD Taurus
IS THERE A LOT OF DIFFERENCE IN THESE RULES BETWEEN TALLADEGA AND DAYTONA? "Daytona and Talladega are a lot different. Handling is important at Daytona, whereas it doesn't matter at Talladega, so some of it as far as the speed stuff and knowing how to pass will transfer over. Setups and stuff like that probably won't."
DID YOU DRAFT ENOUGH HERE TO FEEL THE SUCTION LIKE AT TALLADEGA? "We drafted a lot in practice down here, but it's different drafting with six cars and 40. We think we learned a lot, but who knows." DOES THE SHOOTOUT TAKE ON ADDED IMPORTANCE THIS YEAR? "I think the Bud Shootout it really big, I really do. There will be 18 cars in the race and we'll all be trying to win. I think you can take a tremendous amount from that into Thursday's race. It's an advantage to be in the shootout this year. In the past, it's almost a hindrance to be in the Bud Shootout because you had to bring another car, you had to bring more people, that's another car you had to build during the winter. But this year with the new rules, I think it's big to be in the shootout. I think we'll learn more on Sunday to apply to next Thursday and next Sunday than we ever would without running it, so I'm really glad we're in it. I hope the big wreck doesn't happen early and we don't learn as much as we could, but I think it's a great learning experience."
IS THE RACE AN ADVANTAGE AS WELL BECAUSE PRACTICE TIME IS LIMITED? "For as long as we're down here we don't have a lot of practice. We're down here forever, but when you look at the amount of time we're here versus how much practice we have, it's pretty small. This is a true race-type situation. You're gonna put on tires, somebody might not put on tires -- you're gonna learn more than you have ever learned before. I really think it's big to be in this race."
RICKY CRAVEN --32-- Tide Taurus
NOTE: Craven was the fastest Ford in the afternoon session until Brett Bodine passed him late in the session while drafting with Michael Waltrip.
YOU MUST BE PRETTY HAPPY CONSIDERING A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO YOU DIDN'T HAVE A RIDE? "It makes this kind of special. I've got a lot to be thankful for, most importantly crossing paths with Cal Wells, Mike Beam and Roy McCauley. I mean, there are so many people that I needed to be aligned with and in a matter of 30 days we've assembled what I think is gonna be a great group of team members."
WHAT WAS THE KEY TO TODAY? "The important thing today was recognizing the same things as our previous three tests -- we made gains. We unloaded at a certain point, which was respectable, but we made gains. That's what I've been really impressed with since I've been here. The other thing is that we're focussing on our objectives. The little things mean a lot. They add up to tenths and add up to miles per hour and that's what we've done here."
YOU MUST FEEL COMFORTABLE GOING INTO QUALIFYING TOMORROW. "I know, but Daytona will break your heart. I want to run real well Thursday and, of course, Sunday. Our key is to qualify strong on Saturday, but we'll know tomorrow morning if we have a shot (at the pole)." IS THAT WHEN YOU DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT YOU'VE GOT A CHANCE AT THE POLE OR WILL YOU THINK ABOUT THAT TONIGHT? "Today we kind of established our expectations for tomorrow and they're pretty high, but we won't know until tomorrow morning's practice as to who the real contenders are because there are always two or three teams that emerge. Then there may be even one or two surprises during qualifying, so you hope to be one of those 10 cars that have a shot."