FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES Ford Test Session January 21, 2000 Daytona International Speedway Ford teams concluded their two-day test session at Daytona International Speedway on Friday as 23 teams took to the race track. In...
FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES Ford Test Session January 21, 2000 Daytona International Speedway
Ford teams concluded their two-day test session at Daytona International Speedway on Friday as 23 teams took to the race track. In addition to a morning and afternoon practice session, the teams also drafted for 45 minutes.
After undergoing lumbar fusion surgery one day after the 1999 season finale in Atlanta, Mark Martin got behind the wheel of his No. 6 Valvoline Taurus for the first time Friday. He made three short runs during morning practice and then participated in a 45-minute drafting session in the afternoon.
MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline Taurus -- INTERVIEW AFTER MORNING PRACTICE SESSION: DID THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY GETTING BACK IN THE CAR? "Not as much as bringing home the trophy would, but that's a start. It felt good. It felt real good to put the uniform on and it felt good to get in the car. It felt to good to go fast relative to what I've been doing lately, but not relative to the competition yet. We're still working on that part."
PHYSICALLY, HOW DID IT FEEL IN THE SEAT? "It felt good. It felt OK. Three weeks ago I was laying down 22 hours a day. I've come a long way in three weeks and I have three more before all of this starts and four until the Daytona 500, so I'm gonna be strong and prepared."
THEY TOOK SOME SPRINGS OUT, WERE YOU ABLE TO FEEL THE CAR OK AND ASK FOR SOME CHANGES? "We were just trying something there. I'm not gonna be doing any major testing. I'm gonna use this time to heal as much as possible and use the time to get strong and not waste it on making laps when I don't need to. Biffle's doing a great job on the test. The race team still has a lot of work to do to find that competitive edge and they're working as hard as they can. We're gonna take it out again this afternoon in the draft, I think, and make sure that I don't see something there that they oughta be looking at, but, otherwise, I think they're doing everything they can right now."
IF THIS WERE ANYTHING BUT A RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACK WOULD YOU BE TESTING THE CAR YOURSELF? "Yes."
HOW DOES THE NEW SHOCK PACKAGE FEEL TO YOU? "It feels great. It's definitely something we needed to do. It's fantastic. It puts everybody on an even playing field and the cars handle good. That's what you need. You don't need that other stuff that we were doing because it really didn't have to do with anything. The neat thing is now people are practicing their qualifying setup and if they want to go draft all they have to do is open up the grill and go out and draft. I mean, they're ready to go instead of doing something all winter long preparing for two laps that really don't count for a whole lot anyway because you're starting position is determined by your finish in the 125-mile qualifying race."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE NEW TAURUS? "I feel good. I drove it at Atlanta last fall and I knew it was gonna be a good car. The race team has done great job. The Valvoline team has been on that team of developing the car along the way and it's gonna be a good piece. I can't wait to get started racing. I need the time that we have to get as prepared as possible and I'm planning on being bulletproof by the time the 500 starts."
HOW MUCH HAS YOUR PHYSICAL FITNESS HELPED IN YOUR RECOVERY? "I don't know, that's a good question for my doctors. They're standing around with their mouths open right now, they can't believe it, but I think being in good physical condition has obviously made a big difference in the recovery time. We've cut it way short and I'm doing good, I feel good and I'm gonna be ready to go."
ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT YOU'LL BE ABLE TO COME BACK AND BE 100 PERCENT? "Yeah. That's a no brainer. I'm ready now. I'm fine. I drove 24 hours after I broke my arm and my knee and a rib last year and I'm certainly in a lot better shape than that now."
YOU SAID YOUR DOCTORS ARE AMAZED AT YOUR RECOVERY, WHAT IS THE STANDARD TIME NEEDED? "I didn't ask them what the recovery would be. I didn't want to know, I didn't need to know, it didn't matter because I had to get the work done. I would have just agonized over it a lot more if I would have known how bad it was gonna be and how serious of an operation it really was. They're amazed, but I'm just happy. I feel good and I'm so thankful."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO AT LEAST COME OUT TO THE RACE TRACK, EVEN IF YOU AREN'T DRIVING THE CAR EVERY SECOND? "Usually in the off season you don't get away from the racing because every few days there's something going on -- you never escape it. But for six weeks I was 100 percent isolated from the racing world and I didn't realize how much...you don't ever miss it because you never usually get away from it. I really realize the fact now that it is a huge portion of my life and without it, it sort of feels empty."
Scott Pruett, driver of the No. 32 Tide Taurus, posted the fastest lap in morning practice at 187.180 mph (48.082 secs). He spoke about the team's progress and feeling about being at the top of the speed chart.
SCOTT PRUETT --32-- Tide Taurus -- YOU MUST BE HAPPY WITH THE PROGRESS YOU GUYS HAVE MADE IN TWO DAYS. "We're approaching it very methodically, trying to look and really be focused on our program. We have a lot of things to try and some are better and some are worse, but the Tide Taurus is running real good. We've been pleased with the progress and, hopefully, we can get a little bit more."
IS IT LESS DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO ADJUST TO THIS NEW SHOCK RULE BECAUSE YOU DON'T HAVE ANYTHING TO COMPARE IT TO? "I don't know. That's difficult for me to draw a conclusion because I don't know. I'm relying a lot from that side of it on the experience with the team and the guys who have been here for a number of years. It all comes back to doing the basics. I mean, we have to focus on those pieces that we come up with that are better and those that are worse and try to understand why it worked that way."
IS IT MORE IMPORTANT FOR A TEAM LIKE YOURS TO FINISH ON TOP OF THE PRACTICE CHART THAN SOME OF THESE OTHER GUYS? DOES IT GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE? "I don't know. If you talk to any racer everybody wants to be at the top. I don't care when it is. Whether you're going back to the hotel after practice and everybody's racing back to the hotel or whether it's here at the race track everybody wants to be first so it is good. The fact that it is a new team...the whole Tide program came together fairly late...the PPI team has been doing a terrific job and burning the midnight oil seven days a week, 24 hours a day since they announced the program...building cars and getting things together, so with all those pieces together the fact that we can come out here and run pretty respectable says a lot for the team."
DATA ACQUISITION IS SOMETHING YOU GUYS HAVE EMPHASIZED. IS THAT MORE IMPORTANT THAN HOW FAST YOU GO DURING THESE TESTS? "That's what we focused on yesterday and the same thing with the first day at Talladega. Our notebooks are empty right now. We don't have a lot of experience to draw off of, certainly not myself, so what we're trying to do is try a lot of things and work through a lot of pieces. This morning we were trying a bunch of different exhaust systems, for instance, and that's just one of many things that we're trying. We're trying to assess what is good and what is bad. Those pieces that are good we keep and, if we can, try to understand why they were better and try to get more speed out of it."
ARE YOU SURPRISED TO BE FIRST IN PRACTICE? "We're getting through the pieces we need to get through right now. With the new Taurus there's a lot to learn there and we're just trying to fill our books with information because some things will apply here and some things will apply for Talladega. Hopefully, we can learn some things that will help at other tracks as well."
Jeremy Mayfield, driver of the No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus, had the fifth-fastest time on Thursday and was fourth in Friday's morning session at 186.602 mph (48.231 secs).
JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus -- YOU'VE BEEN IN THE TOP FIVE BOTH DAYS, ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THAT? "We're real happy. We're fast and real good. We've done a lot of stuff that we normally do when we test and it feels good to be able and end the year like we did last year and come right back at Daytona and be fast again."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT'S A CLEAN SLATE AND EVERYONE IS BACK TO EVEN GROUND? "That feels good, but we feel like we started our season with 10 races to go last year. That's when we started and we've got a lot of momentum rolling, yet to be able from a points standpoint to start at ground zero and take off again feels pretty good."
YOU'VE ALWAYS RUN WELL HERE, WHY? "I don't know, but Ford has a great car in the Taurus and we've got a great engine program and team here. You've gotta have it all to run good here and I've been fortunate to be in situations where I've had good cars here. I think that's the biggest thing."
HOW DO YOU LIKE THE NEW SHOCK RULE? "I like it. This is what we've got to run and I like it. I'm ready to take it and race with it."
HOW MUCH DIFFERENT IS IT? "It makes for a smoother ride and we don't get beaten around as much, so it's definitely a better feel for us drivers. I don't know why anybody wouldn't like it."
IF THE DAYTONA 500 WAS TOMORROW YOU WOULD BE READY WOULDN'T YOU? "Oh yeah, we're ready. We're definitely ready. We're ready to go for about the first five races right now."
Darrell Waltrip, driver of the No. 66 Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus, registered the fastest speed during a 45-minute drafting session Friday afternoon. Waltrip, who was clocked at 190.050 mph (47.356 secs), spoke about what it felt like to be first again.
DARRELL WALTRIP --66-- Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus -- "We haven't won anything for so long that winning practice is a great accomplishment. I told these guys, 'Man, we've had our picture taken more in the last hour than we have in a whole year,' so that was fun. They just drive so much better. They're predictable and you don't mind running along beside someone because you don't think you're gonna suck into 'em and wreck 'em. The cars just seem to be very, very stable and comfortable -- more like a feel that I'm accustomed to from years past. When I got out there I said, 'Lookee here. I can't believe this.' It doesn't hurt to have the kind of power we've got either."
DOES THIS GIVE YOU AND YOUR TEAM SOME MOMENTUM TO BUILD ON GOING INTO SPEEDWEEKS? "We've still got some work to do. We're not finished with the cars, we're still learning about 'em and we're tuning on it everyday. I think everybody is fooling themselves. You know, the Chevrolets ran about 187 (mph) in change and that's about where we're gonna end up, but I guarantee that both brands and the Pontiacs will all be faster when we come back. The pole is gonna be a 47.60 or thereabouts, so we know we're good. We're happy where we are, but we know we better come back a little bit better than we are right now."
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Texaco Havoline Taurus, was second-fastest in practice on Friday (187.699 mph) after posting the seventh-fastest time on Thursday (186.722 mph).
RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- "We're running good. We're happy and we're in the hunt, so, based on that, it's been kind of a nice two days."
IT'S NEVER EASY, BUT THE TRANSITION YOU'VE MADE TO THIS TEAM HAS GONE AS SMOOTH AS POSSIBLE. "It really has. I think a lot of it has to do with, I guess, experience. We brought some of our guys with us and in addition to the good people they already had there, it's increased the number of qualified people we have working on this team. The biggest thing is here we are at Daytona testing today and the guys are back at the shop getting all the downforce stuff ready to go. The thing is now we can leave a good crew back there working on the cars whereas a lot of teams don't have that depth. You pay the price. That's a very expensive payroll, I'd hate to even guess what Robert's payroll is, but they've got a lot of depth in the organization, so we're not suffering while we're here at Daytona. Our downforce stuff is going together."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TESTING IN GENERAL AND WHAT COMES OUT OF IT? "It probably doesn't mean anything. Some guys are 100 percent legit on their runs and some guys are getting help. A lot of it isn't intentional. Some of the fast speeds were getting drafting help and some of the guys that ran fast might need sponsorship attention. You just never know. You don't know on our side and you don't know what the GM side is doing. You've got guys in similar positions, so I guess you leave here with a big question mark. We came here with three pages on a gameplan and they just hammered them out one at a time until they got through their whole list. Some of them helped the car and some of them hurt the car, so we've accomplished kind of what we wanted to do at this point."
Stacy Compton, driver of the No. 9 Kodiak Taurus, posted the fastest speed of the two-day test session as he posted a Friday afternoon lap of 187.911 mph (47.895 secs).
STACY COMPTON --9-- Kodiak Taurus -- HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE THE FASTEST TIME? "It's awful exciting to me. These guys with this Kodiak Ford Taurus have done a great job. We left Talladega and we weren't as good as we needed to be. They went back and cut the body off. Ernie (Elliott) went back to work and those guys got us a few more horsepower under the hood and it's just exciting for me to be able to come down here and at least be competitive. This is a brand new car that we built in-house. The guys oughta be awful proud of that too. I think we've got a good race car. We're looking forward to coming back. We cut this body off last Wednesday and put a body on it and went to the wind tunnel all in the same week and it looks like it's paying off right now."
THE THING IS YOU STILL HAVE TO GET BETTER BY THE TIME YOU COME BACK, RIGHT? "Absolutely. It's a good time, no doubt, but these guys are gonna go back and work harder and harder trying to get better and better and we're gonna do the same thing. We're actually thinking about burning up another test and going to Talladega to make sure, but we've gotta get better. When we come back the times are gonna be better -- Chevrolets, Fords, all of them."
Bill Elliott, driver of the No. 94 McDonald's Taurus, missed the first day of testing due to the flu, but posted the fourth-fastest speed on Friday at 187.313 mph (48.048 secs).
BILL ELLIOTT --94-- McDonald's Taurus -- "These guys have done a heck of a job. They've worked themselves into the ground trying to get all this done and we're just trying to sort through stuff. I think we were the worst car at Talladega two weeks ago and they built a new car. I mean, this is just what a lot of hard work will do. We're pretty pleased with everything we did today we just need to go back and sort. We needed another day because there was a lot of stuff we were gonna try and we never really got a chance, but we feel pretty good about where we're at. We'll see."