BRETT BODINE --11-- Ralphs Supermarkets Taurus -- "We'd run a little faster than that in practice, but that's kind of immaterial. This is just a terrible day in our sport and we're gonna miss Kenny an awful lot. I just hate it for his family and...
BRETT BODINE --11-- Ralphs Supermarkets Taurus -- "We'd run a little faster than that in practice, but that's kind of immaterial. This is just a terrible day in our sport and we're gonna miss Kenny an awful lot. I just hate it for his family and everybody. Our prayers and thoughts are with him. This doesn't mean anything. This is just a terrible day for our sport. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family because we're gonna miss Kenny so much."
ROBERT PRESSLEY --77-- Jasper Engines Taurus -- "That's about what we ran in practice. This Jasper Engine Ford is running good, we unloaded real quick here, but I just messed up down in one and two so we'll have to take what we've got here."
MATT KENSETH --17-- DeWalt Tools Taurus -- "It was a real good lap for us, it was two-tenths faster than we practiced. I don't know if it's gonna be fast enough to make the top 25, but we've been struggling since we got here so I'm real happy with that lap. We finally made some improvements on the car and had a pretty good comfortable lap."
JIMMY SPENCER --26-- Big Kmart Taurus -- "It was our fastest lap today. It was a good lap. The guys have been working hard on it. We lost about an hour of practice with some fuel problems, but got that fixed. I feel really bad about what happened today. It's funny, I know there's nothing we can do about it, it's in God's hands, but everything just went on. Everything just went on and that really bothers me a lot. That bothers me more than anything. We all feel it, you know, and you think that we don't feel that, but every competitor in here and every person in this garage area feels like the best thing we can do is load up and go home, but we know we can't do that."
RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- "I usually struggle here qualifying. If I can get in this first round I'm in pretty good shape. We were third-quick in practice. I pushed down in one and two, I'm not really sure why, but I just left a little bit out there on the table."
IT'S BEEN A DIFFICULT DAY.
"It really is. I think everyone is still in shock, I don't think they know how to react right now. We haven't really had to deal with a situation like this, it's been many years. I think Neil Bonnett at Daytona, but it's a tough situation for everybody."
WHAT ABOUT THE DIFFICULTY OF RACING A TRACK LIKE THIS?
"Anytime you have a flat race track and especially New Hampshire with a long straightaway. Probably the hardest I ever hit anywhere I had a throttle stick in a test session at Martinsville many years ago. You would think Martinsville would be the least place you'd worry about getting hurt, but I think it sort of lures you to sleep there because the straightaways are long and the speeds are very fast. If you have any kind of mechanical problem at all, you don't have time to recover from it and it's usually head-on into the fence."
BILL ELLIOTT --94-- McDonald's Taurus -- "It's a lot better than what we ran in practice, but we were just trying to get things sorted out. It was a real tough morning for everyone. Our qualifying effort here at New Hampshire hasn't been that good in the past. It's a sad deal, I feel bad for McDonald's and all the people that's been with us over the last number of years. We've been running so good lately and we haven't had a finish to show how good we've been running. That's unfortunate, but one thing good about this crew I've got right now is they've dug in there and they've worked week-in and week-out regardless of what's happened and that's what you've gotta do in this business."
MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline/Cummins Taurus -- "That was a real nice lap. Last year up here we used a provisional and struggled qualifying and everything else. That's gonna get us a real good starting spot up here and hopefully we can race a little bit better. We've raced up here good, but we've had to overcome a real bad starting spot and that will help us a lot." IT'S BEEN A TOUGH DAY. "It's just been really hard for everybody here and we're just trying to get qualifying over with and then let it sit in. It's a pretty frantic time in the garage with a short practice and everything to get qualified. It's really gonna sink in on everybody now that qualifying is over."
JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus -- "I'm real happy with that lap. All the guys on the Exide team did a great job. That'll be a good starting spot for us, but that's all miniscule compared to what's gone on here today. It's a real sad day here."
HAS IS SUNK IN?
"Qualifying and racing and everything else is way less important than what happened. It just shows you how fragile life is. It's bad to even be here today, but we have to do our business. It's just a shame that it has to happen to anybody, much less a guy that's 30 years old."
DARRELL WALTRIP --66-- Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus -- "I just didn't go fast. I have a faster car than that and I felt good. I thought I got back in it good, I got off the corner good, I just didn't get the speed I was looking for. I think we'll be OK, I think we'll make the show with that time, but nonetheless I thought I'd run a teen and I ran that .30, so that's not what I was looking for."
RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus -- "It turned out good. We ran an .80 in practice and slowed up to an .83 just now. The track is just a little slicker. I elected to go with the same tires I ran in practice, which is usually something you never do, but these tires are just working so good I told the guys to leave 'em on there. It ran good and I'm happy with it. We'll see how it holds up."
HOW WAS THE LAP?
"I was a little slideier than I wanted to be in turn one and two, but I think I made it up in turns three and four. In turns three and four the car ran really great down there and the motor was strong as usual, but the handling of the car was really excellent today."
WALLY DALLENBACH --75-- America Online Taurus -- "I don't know what happened. The car just broke loose on me. I really think we had a top-10 car. The guys can fix it, but I hate it for America Online. I can't ever seem to qualify here."
JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus -- "We're real happy. The Mobil 1 Ford team has been working hard all day right off the truck. We had a good car, it just wasn't that fast but we kept working on it. The engine ran good, handled great and if we could get in the top 25 we were gonna be happy because we've always had trouble qualifying here, but it didn't really matter today. It's been a weird day for everybody in the garage area and it makes you stop and think and realize a lot about life. It didn't matter today where we qualified."
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- "That's the fastest we've been. The car didn't stick quite stick down in one and two, I got a little too high there and that cost me some time, but made a little up in three and four. Not a bad effort for us."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE LOSS TODAY.
"No, I can't even start. It makes everything else not really seem to matter. It's just very unfortunate. I'm just glad to be able to say I knew him as a teammate, but more than anything else he was a friend and we've all lost a good friend."
MARK MARTIN PRESS CONFERENCE
HOW DID YOUR RUN GO?
"It went really good. I think this is the first time this year I've been in the press room for qualifying. We have managed to have some good starting spots this year, but we really pulled those out of a hat. We ran strong today. We were second-fastest in the practice runs, so we're real pleased with the car, I didn't have to overdrive it. I'm very optimistic about this weekend and I just feel totally refreshed with the way things are going with the Valvoline team and Jimmy (Fennig) and Shawn (Parker). The whole team has really buckled down and dug our way back out of some problems that we had, mechanical problems and disappointing runs. To come back with three top fives in a row and a great run up here for qualifying, I feel like the race car for the race will be a contender."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT KENNY IRWIN AND DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT THAT SPOT ON THE RACE TRACK?
"We've had sort of a busy time since the accident and I think reality is starting to set in for all of us. I know the whole garage is sick to their stomach right now about what has happened. I think Kenny was a christian and that's the only good part. That's the only thing about it, the only positive thing that can come of it is maybe he's in a better place. It sure isn't good for the people that are left behind and heartbroken. I don't really have any earthshattering comments about the race track itself. This is not a race track that would be prone to serious accidents based on the speeds here and all, but this particular race track and Martinsville have extra danger to stuck throttles because the corners are so sharp. You think that speed and stuck throttles are really a bad deal, but at a lot of the bigger race tracks or the sweeping corner kind of race tracks you have a chance, an opportunity to do something about what's going on when the throttle sticks. These two race tracks are probably the sharpest corners of any that we run on and stuck throttles are bad news."
HOW IS YOUR BACK TODAY?
"It's doing much better. I'm still moving kind of deliberate and slow, but the pain has subsided. It still is probably hindered or I'm careful about what I'm doing, but it's doing a lot better. I'm very pleased. Evidently I had irritated a muscle and maybe inflammed it and created some nerve irritation as well, so I'm getting kind of a double whammy there. I'm feeling a whole lot better now. I've been kind of working at it this week. It had sort of deteriorated for a couple, three weeks and I didn't do anything about it. I've been icing it and doing a little bit of massage therapy on it and I'm real happy. It was a good day today. A great race car, great teamwork, I feel good, as far as that goes. That part of it is good."
RUSTY WALLACE PRESS CONFERENCE
HOW ABOUT YOUR LAP --
It was a real good day for us. This is a new car that we debuted at Martinsville and then had at Richmond and now here. It was on the pole at Richmond, it was on the pole at Martinsville and now it's on the pole here. It ran wonderful at all those race tracks, but we made some bad pit decisions that I was right there in the middle of that I felt lost us some victories at those race tracks. Right off the truck we were second or third quick and then fell to sixth or seventh. We kept making a lot of changes on the car. We changed the shocks, we changed the camber, we changed the air-pressure setting, the track bar, the springs -- we made probably 10 or 15 changes to the car today. Everytime we changed it, except for two of them, it got going quicker and quicker. At the end of the day I put a set of tires on it and the front end pushed really bad and I said, 'Oh man, I'm in trouble right now.' The front end was skating. I came in with two minutes to go in practice and took the tires that I had just finished doing a run on and put them back on -- a different set -- and the car ran an .80. I went, 'Man, that's fast. That's really good right there.' So Mark went out in practice and I think we ran a 28.93 and went out with his same set of tires. That's something you usually don't do, you always put fresh tires on to qualify, but this time we had four-five lap tires on. Mark went from a .93 to a .96 and I went from an .80 to an .83, so they were exactly the same. They told me, 'Hey Rusty, the track still feels "good. It's not slick like it normally is. It was a hard day, it really was. We changed a lot of stuff and for me to sit here and think that I'm on the pole again it's like, 'Man, how in the hell do we keep doing that?' We've got good strong engines, but the handling is what's been getting me up there, it really has."
WHAT ABOUT SUNDAY'S RACE?
"The chances look good. With seven poles you would think I'd have more wins than just one, but at least I've got one and in my life it was the biggest win I've ever had -- my 50th, which was a real big one. We've led a ton of laps this year, had a ton of poles, the car has been up front all the time. Last week the team had a hell of a good run. We got penalized early for that pit road violation and went from 40th up to third and I feel we're running better this year than we've ever run, personally. If it hadn't been for that blown engine we had at Talladega, there's no telling where we'd be in the points right now -- way up there. But I'm real confident for Sunday. I don't go to any race track unless I think I can win or at least have a shot at it and that's the same way I feel about this one."
THOUGHTS ABOUT KENNY AND DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT THAT SPOT ON THE RACE TRACK?
"I'd be lying to you if I told you there's not some concern there. I'm just not gonna take the high road and say, 'Oh no everything's fine and it's just a one-time deal.' Personally, I'll go ahead and say what I think, I don't think it's gonna hurt the track's feelings, I think there are some tracks we run at that maybe we need to look at the barriers that are at a lot of tracks. I think these four-foot styrofoam barriers that are covered with leather or whatever because a track like Pocono, you guys saw what happened to me at Pocono, I lost a tire and hit the wall at over 200 miles an hour and walk away from it. When you hit the wall, there's a position where nobody ever runs, there's no way you get a race car up there the track's so dirty. I think some of these real high-speed tracks that the walls are a long way away from the racing groove, there might need to be some type of barrier put in because I know one thing, everytime I strap into my race car I think, 'OK, I'm gonna strap in and I'm gonna go try to survive a bad wreck.' It's like everytime I hit the gas in my airplane I go, 'OK, we're gonna get on down the runway here and this motor is gonna blow up, so what do we do?' My co-pilot and I we plan for it. In the race cars you've gotta go into every corner thinking, 'OK, it's gonna happen.' Do I have the right roll-cage? Do I have the right seat belts? Do I have the right everything? So once you get past that point you've done all you can do, then you need to come out and say, 'Help me along race tracks. Help me with what's going on here.' Like Atlanta, we're running 215 miles an hour going into turn one and we're right dead on the bottom of the race track and the wall's 200 yards away it seems like, you know, I'm a big fan of these barriers. I mean, after what I saw in the Busch race there at Watkins Glen when that one fella hit and flipped over and it softened the blow. I would hope after these two tragic deaths we've had that we can take a hard look at how to make the tracks safer. Before we came here I always thought everything was safer, but what it does is it makes you dig deeper and what can we do to help that."
IS THIS SOMETHING YOU MIGHT PUSH FOR?
"I don't think there's anything wrong. NASCAR are great people. These are people that listen really hard when it comes to safety and they're just not gonna blow it off when I say this is my position, they'll listen to you. So, if nobody makes a suggestion or something to look at, you can't ask them to think it up on your own so it's up to them to go to the race tracks and come up with some ideas that maybe the drivers or owners dream up."
HAVE THE TRACK SURFACE PROBLEMS BEEN ADDRESSED?
"I think the track is as good as it can get right now. For some reason the sealer that's on the track always creates a lot of rubber that sticks to the track. It makes it very difficult to maneuver sometimes and this is one of the tracks that I haven't seen jet dryers at so there's a lot of dirt that gets on the race track that they just can't get up. They use these sweepers that don't really work real well, but, all in all, let me tell you, I love coming up here. This is a fun place. I like the area and I'm just a guy with an opinion. I've got opinions of how I would do things different, but it's just my opinion and I'm only one of them."
HOW MUCH ON THE EDGE ARE YOU GOING INTO ONE AND THREE?
"You're not really on the edge, it's just a big Martinsville. It's got long straightaways and tight corners and you've gotta understand what you're getting into when you go there. There's a big bump going into turn three and you're flying. Just about the time you're getting ready to get off the brake, you go flying over this bump down there and you know it's there. You've gotta negotiate it, you've gotta shock for it, you've gotta spring for it. A lot of times I'm shockin' and springin' just to get across that big bump and then when you get in the race it's the same thing. All these race tracks have different personalities. Charlotte's got bumps, craters, all kinds of stuff. Texas Motor Speedway had water falling out and bumps and cracks and stuff. You don't know what you're going into. You go ahead and pull the trigger out, you're going to war. You just don't jump into something you don't understand about."
PIT STRATEGY AND TRACK POSITION. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO HANDLE THAT?
"There's two things you can do -- you either don't pit or you just do two right-side tires. Last weekend I did right sides. I knew I had a fast car, I knew it was gonna be tough for me to get up front and I went from 40th to like 12th and then I elected to just put two instead of four and that got me the rest of the way. At Bristol this year my car was handling great and I said, let's pit -- everybody's pitting-- so both strategies worked and this is a place where possibly that same strategy is gonna work. The tires get all that rubber caked up on 'em and debris and all that stuff, so if you're handling good and you don't have a long time to go, it might be better just to stay out here. But you know what, it seems like all year long I've had the fastest car and made all the wrong decisions. And I'm never gonna put it in Robin's lap because he gets on the radio and says, 'What do you think?' and I go, 'Well this is what I'd do.' That's about the point where we drive right off the cliff (laughing)."
HOW HARD WAS IT TO GO ON TODAY AND PUT IT BEHIND YOU?
"That's a great question, but boy, I don't even know how to say that except that these are the days that make you really sit back and look at yourself in the mirror and go, 'Why do I do this?' I was telling somebody earlier I came off vacation and it seems like everytime I go on vacation I come back much more relaxed and ready to go and, man, I had a great time down there with everybody -- with my wife and friends. Man, she looked great down there, we had a wonderful time and I'm thinking, 'What in the hell am I doing at some greasy-assed race track banging fenders with these guys after just coming off this beautiful vacation with my wife and she looked wonderful and I had great time.' Here I am clearing tire rubber out of my eyeballs and grease out of my fingernails and friends getting killed and these are days that make you not want to do it, I'll tell you that. It'll really make you question why you're doing it."
OTHER THAN PUTTING UP BARRIERS THERE'S NOTHING ELSE TO DO?
"It's nothing with the track. If I ever made a track recommendation, and all of these tracks have their own personalities, in light of what's happened I'd take a hard look at the barriers. I think that's something that's needed at a lot of race tracks, not just this race track."
THERE'S TALK ABOUT A STUCK THROTTLES. IS THAT IN THE HANDS OF YOUR CREW OR IS IT MECHANICAL?
"Well, you're not totally in the hands of your crew. I mean, you push the gas pedal down, you let off and the car stops. You run three or four laps and let off the gas again and that time it don't stop, you're like, 'What's going on?' I tell you one thing though, since that happened this morning, when I was running ASA -- me, Alan Kulwicki, Mark Martin, Davey Allison, Dick Trickle -- our throttles had a piece of metal that came over the top of your shoe and if the throttle ever hung you could take your toe and pull on it and it would un-hang the throttle. So Robin and I talked about that and we're gonna go ahead and make that mandatory in all of our cars because I've raced with that my whole life and why in the heck over the last 10 years I've just been racing with the regular gas pedal, I don't know. I remember Ed Howe and Ray Dillon and all the guys back in the short track days that helped make me what I am now, the first thing they built was a gas pedal that you could un-hang if it ever hung. And I've gotta tell you, I've probably used that thing four or five times because you're in a hurry, you're flying, you put the air-cleaner on and the fiberglass air-cleaner gets hung up on the throttle, but those things are totally in the hands of the crew and the driver. Some things you just don't ever dream will happen happen."
CAN YOU TELL US WHAT MECHANICALLY HAPPENS WHEN A THROTTLE HANGS AND WHY IS IT MORE COMMON ON RACE CARS THAN PASSENGER CARS?
"I really don't know why they don't hang on passenger cars every now and then, except passenger cars are engineered in such a fashion that there are part numbers and certain pieces and parts that fit properly all the time. On a race car, sometimes you're trying to get the hood to fit a little better. Sometimes you're trying to get the air-cleaner to fit the carburetor better and sometimes the rod that goes from the carburetor to the gas pedal itself is manufactured by the team and sometimes they don't put enough arch into it to grab the carburetor and go to the gas pedal. If that's too flat a rod, it can rub on the bottom of the fiberglass. I don't know what happened to that car today, so don't hold me too it. Let's just talk on the presumption that that did happen, OK? That's something you've really gotta look at. You might do yourself some good going to a team and asking them to explain it to you, take some shots of it and do a little story on the mechanics of it. But there are two rod ends they call it on each end -- one on the gas pedal and one on the carburetor -- and they float. You've gotta make sure that that rod floats in it's full-range of motion. When the carburetor is wide-open, it's gotta float and when it's closed it's gotta float -- in the middle it's gotta float and when the air-cleaner top is on it and it's wide-open it's not getting close to the air-cleaner nowhere. In the old days I remember we used to have rubber-mounted motor mounts. The engine would actually twist in the body and you would think you're perfect and as you would rev the engine up and the engine would torque over, it would hang. Now everybody's got solid-mount engines, so that's one thing that we really look at hard."
SOME GUYS FELT YOU SHOULD HAVE JUST GONE HOME TODAY AND SET THE FIELD BY POINTS. HOW DO YOU FEEL?
"That's an opinion and that's an understandable opinion under these circumstances. Sometimes you don't want to understand or don't want to accept it and then you start dreaming things up and, you know what, it's OK to do that. I don't think there's anything wrong with a person having an opinion about how he feels about what happened. You just sit back and I will, just go in my little cocoon and sit back with my friends and think about it. I'll think, 'Man, I'm not having a good time this week, but I'm on the pole -- so what.' That's kind of how I am right now."