Ford Racing Charlotte Saturday notes

ROBBY GORDON --13-- Burger King/Turtle Wax Taurus HOW HAS THIS WEEK BEEN FOR YOU AT INDIANAPOLIS SO FAR? "We have really worked hard this week on planning, attention to detail, parts, setup changes, tire pressures, fuel, yellow mileage.

ROBBY GORDON --13-- Burger King/Turtle Wax Taurus

HOW HAS THIS WEEK BEEN FOR YOU AT INDIANAPOLIS SO FAR?

"We have really worked hard this week on planning, attention to detail, parts, setup changes, tire pressures, fuel, yellow mileage. We have our gamebook put together and I think we're better prepared than we were last year. So, will we win the speedway? Strange things happen at Indianapolis. I mean, there are so many strange things happen that sometimes the best prepared teams in racing don't even make the show there. I think we're better prepared. We're more organized. Obviously, the race will start and things will change as the race goes on, but, hopefully, we'll have answers for those changes."

IS THIS THE TYPE OF CHALLENGE YOU THRIVE ON -- RACING AT INDY AND CHARLOTTE?

"It's a challenge. Do I thrive on the challenge? Maybe. You know, I'd like to have a good performance at both events. That would be ecstatic for me and I'd be very, very happy if we could have a good run at the speedway and then come here and have one of our best finishes -- let's call it a top 12. I mean, I think our best finish is 13th, so if we could do something like that I'd be just real ecstatic."

YOU'VE DONE THIS DOUBLE ONCE BEFORE. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THE FIRST TIME? IS THERE ANYTHING THAT MAKES IT EASIER THIS TIME AROUND?

"I think it's just experience. I'm a few years older and I've run a few Winston Cup races now. I learned from some things that happened last year at Indianapolis and I'm going to build from those experiences that cost us a win. I'm excited about it."

IS IT MORE OF A STRAIN PHYSICALLY OR MENTALLY?

"It depends if you're holding on for your life in the Indy car or the Winston Cup car. Obviously, if we have good handling cars and I just have to steer them around the race track, that will make my job a lot easier. You are fortunate enough to have those as a race car driver fairly often."

WHAT'S THE TOUGHEST PART TO DOING THIS DOUBLE? IS IT THE TRAVEL OR ADJUSTING THE CARS, WHAT?

"The cars are very, very different in the way that they handle. The things you do to change the balance of your car are very different."

WHO IS YOUR BIGGEST THREAT IN THE INDY 500? "I believe Greg Ray -- I'm just telling you my feeling, I may be wrong, I may be right -- Greg Ray and (Juan) Montoya are gonna check out and it's gonna come down to Jimmy Vasser and myself, I think, for the win."

WHERE ARE MONTOYA AND RAY GOING TO FINISH?

"Well, they may win if they don't take themselves out, if they don't get caught up on the outside of somebody. I mean, you have to make it 500 miles to win the Indianapolis 500 and I don't believe Greg has finished a 500. I may be wrong there, but I don't think that Montoya has ever finished a 500-mile race either. He hasn't run an Indy 500 and this race is different. Al Unser, Jr. has won this race three times because he knows what it takes to be there at the end and that's one thing I'm trying to say -- 'OK, back here in the day Rick Mears did this and this guy did this.' Michael (Andretti) has never won it and he's been like Montoya -- he checks out on everybody, but something always happens because you run the wheels off the car. I've got an awful lot of respect for Juan because he gasses it and he's exciting, but I think we can outrun him in the race just by being a little smarter."

THEN YOU'LL HAVE TO COME HERE TO CHARLOTTE AND START 42ND IN THE 600.

"Yeah, that's a little bit disappointing, I've got to be honest. You have to look at how many laps these guys have run here compared to what we've run here. I honestly believe that if Dale Earnhardt, Jr. qualifies on the pole here, he'd be 33rd at Indianapolis. It's a different philosophy, it's a different way you tune the car, it's that whole thing. I'd love a couple more of these NASCAR guys to go down there and play with us. Maybe that's something this Indy 500 thing will do with more teams showing up for a one-off. I'd love to see Earnhardt, Jr. or Jeff Gordon. I mean, Jeff Gordon would be the prime candidate to go down there and run this race."

TALK ABOUT YOUR CUP EFFORT.

"We realize where we're at today. We're not underestimating where we want to be. We want to be in that top 15, but it takes a while to build that gamebook and, like I said, now we've got software programs written for provisionals -- we're building our database here that with time we'll be better. I promise you we'll be better. We're not gonna be at the back of the pack my whole life, it's just gonna take a while."

MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline Taurus

"The distance isn't the killer, it's how hard you have to work under what weather conditions. The heat is a factor but it's not the only thing. There's something else that hurts the drivers besides just the temperature because 88 or 90 degrees can break you in half on a day 98 doesn't. I don't know, it has to do with something else -- humidity -- I don't know what it is."

IT USED TO BE THIS RACE WAS A CHALLENGE BECAUSE THE EQUIPMENT WAS PUT TO THE TEST. WITH EQUIPMENT SO GOOD NOW DOES THAT STILL HOW TRUE OR IS THE RACE TOO LONG?

"Neither. I don't think the race is too long and I don't think the equipment is a weak link anymore. When I came down here in '82 it was quite a bit more of a weak link than it is today. Obviously, that was a whole lot stronger equipment in '82 than '72, so most of the stuff we use today is good for 1,000 miles. It has to have that kind of margin in it to be completely reliable for 500. If it would go 500 and wouldn't go 600, then it wouldn't go 500 half the time."

DO YOU DO ANYTHING TO SPECIALLY PREPARE FOR A GRUELING RACE LIKE THIS?

"I live every day like tomorrow is a 600-miler, so I don't do anything particular. I know a lot of guys have a big plate of pasta, which I think is a joke because the human body is not like a car. You can't go in Saturday night and say I'm gonna eat a big bowl of pasta and go to bed at 8 o'clock and I'll be ready tomorrow. It just doesn't work that way. Physical fitness is a lifestyle and you have to live it to experience it."

HOW ABOUT THE HEAT. WHAT DO YOU DO INSIDE THE CAR?

"My guys really help me the best that they can. We insulate the car as good as possible, which doesn't do very good but they try as hard as they can to insulate me from the exhaust heat and the other heat that comes through. I wear the same cool helmet system that most of the drivers use. I used the helmet cool system on Saturday, not because I need it at all, but because we're trying to not drain the battery and have to do a quick charge for the next day on me. I'm trying to keep me as hydrated and keep my internal battery charged as much as possible, so that when the Busch race is over with I haven't really taken much off and then there's not much recovery required for the next day -- those kind of things."

DOES THE BUSCH RACE TAKE ANYTHING OUT OF YOU?

"I feel like it doesn't hurt my Sunday race to race on Saturday -- physically. That's not to say it wouldn't effect somebody, but for me I've been doing it a long time. For over 10 years I've run 50 percent of the Busch schedule, along with the full Winston Cup schedule and I would have quit a long time ago if I felt I was drained any at all for Sunday's race, and that's been part of my physical commitment was to make sure that I was able to be 100 percent on Sunday regardless of what happened on Saturday."

AND YOU DON'T GET TIRED?

"I'm tired now. I start off the day tired. I don't get worse tired. I feel good on Sundays. I am tired. I'm tired this morning. I have been tired all week and I haven't recovered from The Winston for some reason. I had plenty of time to rest yesterday, but whether you're tired or not you've gotta face your day and we'll fact today just like I would if I was feeling all charged up like my son at eight years old. I don't look at today as a physically demanding day anymore than practicing both cars and qualifying one. That is a very demanding day in itself and to sit in there for 300 miles is certainly not any worse than to do 60-70 laps in two different cars in four different sessions and running back and forth and shooting a commercial like I did yesterday -- that was a very demanding day, so I think today will be just as easy."

HAT IS A DAY OFF LIKE FOR MARK MARTIN WITH NO SPONSOR COMMITMENTS?

"I usually spend those days in the office organizing. I had yesterday afternoon off and I checked my messages and had two business calls to return. I try to take care of business. I always, always try to get everything done, so that at the end of every day there's nothing left to do. If I don't, I get behind and I don't like that. A lot of people handle things differently, but if I come in from a race at 8 or 9 o'clock at night and I check my messages and my faxes and everything, if there's anything I can do before I go home to take my shower I do it right then because that's just my style. My style is to take care of everything now so that I don't get behind. I do get a little bit frustrated when I get overloaded and I know that. One of the ways to deal with it is to never get backed up because if I get too much in front of me that's gotta be done, I get frustrated and a little bit cranky."

GOING FROM DAYTIME TO NIGHTTIME TOMORROW, HOW ACCURATELY CAN YOU PREDICT WHAT THE BEHAVIOR OF THE TRACK WILL BE?

"Just about like the guys over across the street (at the dirt track). It's a whole lot like reading the track. They talked about reading the track last night and all that stuff and how good they are, well, the more experience you have and the better you are the better you predict what you're gonna need. This race track is very much like running dirt in that respect."

WILL THE CARS TEND TO TIGHTEN UP OR LOOSEN UP?

"Ultimately, they'll tighten up but they may loosen up before they tighten up. I think a lot of people found in The Winston that they were awfully loose because they expected to tighten up when the sun went down. I think the track got even looser, like it continued to soak the heat. Even after the sun started going down, it didn't start turning around until later."

RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus

IS THIS CAR GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN THE 600?

"This car feels really great, it really does. I'm real happy with it. In fact, this last practice session I told Robin we had it dead-on. It felt really good to me. Our times looked super out there, so I'm really excited about our chances Sunday night, I really am."

BUT PRACTICE IS DURING THE DAY AND THE RACE IS AT NIGHT, SO WHAT WILL THAT MEAN?

"Yeah, but I've already thrown that into the equation. I'm looking at what I ran in The Winston for a setup and what caused the car to push pretty hard. Now I know what I've got for a setup and I know what time of day it is and I've got it pretty adjustable. I can take a lot of wedge out, I can move my tire pressures around, I've got a lot of things I can shift during the race to loosen the car up the right way. A lot of times you start and the chassis is right on but it's at the outer limits of where it needs to be running -- I'm right in the middle."

DOES 600 MILES GIVE YOU AN ADVANTAGE AS FAR AS ADJUSTMENTS?

"I think that if the engine is gonna stay running and you're gonna have plenty of caution flags where you can keep the adjustments going, it can play to your advantage. If you start the race and you're not handling good and you have some of these caution-free races going where the car's not right and you end up getting a lap down because of it, you can be in trouble. But I think my car is awful close right now. Six hundred miles can be a gift for you or it can be against you. A couple years ago at this race at the 500 mile mark I was leading the race and had a million dollars won, but with 20 to go (Jeff) Gordon passed me and I lost a million and finished second. So, sometimes you want it to be 600 and that day he wanted 600 -- that day I wanted 500. Many guys blew up just a little bit after the 500 mark, lost an engine or had crashes or something. So it's a cool race. I always run good in it and then there are some times I run bad in it, but this year things are looking up."

WHAT ABOUT DALE EARNHARDT, JR. HOW DO YOU BEAT HIM?

"You're always gonna talk about somebody who is on fire. He ran good at Richmond, but I look at the big picture. I was on the pole with a new record and led 227 laps and then made a bad call at the end and we got beat. He won the race, but he had a good car too. Now he came here and won The Winston and got on the pole, so, hey, whenever you come to a big track like this and there's this much excitement it's worth talking about. He's done a good job and he deserves what he's doing right now, but Sunday night is the big one. That's the one that pays the points and that's the one that if he does good there, then you really need to keep talking about him."

DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus

"It's gonna be a competitive race, probably one of the more competitive ones we've seen here. It seems like a lot of cars are running good, but with practicing most of the time during the day and racing at night there's a little bit of a guess. But certainly the ones that were fortunate enough to be in The Winston last weekend have a little better idea of what it takes."

IS IT AN ADVANTAGE TO HAVE WON THIS RACE BEFORE?

"No. So many things have changed that it doesn't make any difference. We've got totally different cars and totally different tires and this race track is five years older since I won it last, so a lot of things have changed. That really doesn't make any difference."

HOW ABOUT THE PAINT SCHEME?

"It's just a weekend to honor our military. We're fortunate to be a part of it and carry the Air Force colors. That's really what this weekend is about. We think about it as the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600, but it's really about honoring our veterans and the people who have fought for our country. We wanted to show the support to them, that we haven't forgotten them, and I think all the five cars that were done look great and hope everybody knows the purpose of it."

IS THIS TRACK CHANGING LESS?

"I don't know about that. I think probably the tire that we have now is a little more conducive to either day or night racing, so you don't see that big of a change even though there are some things you have to do a little bit different. I think Goodyear has such a good tire that the weather isn't being as big of a factor as what we've seen in the past."

IS THERE ONE SECTION OF THE RACE THAT'S MORE IMPORTANT AS FAR AS ADJUSTMENTS?

"No, I'd be surprised if anybody here didn't make adjustments on just about every stop because every 60-65 laps you're gonna be 30-35 minutes further in and that just means it's cooling off and the race track is gonna change somewhat, so I think you've gotta change all the time. The biggest thing is getting it right and still having an adjustment left for that last part. It seems that a lot of people tend to get a little too tight that last segment that we run here and that's the critical time. You've got to be able to go right then, so if you've loosened your car up as much as you really can that really makes a difference to that point, then you might not be able to make that change that's really gonna set you sailing when we get down to that last 100 miles."

AS FAR AS EQUIPMENT GOES, IS IT BETTER NOW THAN BEFORE AS FAR AS DURABILITY OVER THE LAST 100 MILES?

"Maybe a little less true just because of how much more reliable the pieces are that we have now, but it's still a concern. I think you still see those type of things happening the last 100 miles of this race. The thing about it now is, even though our equipment is better and we seem to think it's more reliable, along those lines we've started turning the engine more rpm's and we're running faster speeds, so you kind of cancel out what we've done as far as the reliability part and you can still have those problems."

DOES THE EXTRA 100 MILES MAKE A DIFFERENCE PHYSICALLY?

"It's tough, but if a driver's in good shape, then that's a time that you know in your mind that there's gonna be somebody that's not going that well and you can make up some time on him. I mean, I think Tony Stewart was a perfect example last year. This isn't anything against him, but it just shows what the Indy 500 took out of him. He had a car capable of winning, but physically he couldn't get it done there at the end. He ended up finishing in the top five, but I'm sure he felt like he had a car that could win."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT DALE, JR. HAS DONE SO FAR THIS YEAR?

"I don't know that I'm surprised by him personally because I've raced against him and I knew that he had a lot of talent. Not to slight that race team because they're all intelligent, obviously, but I thought it would take them a little more time as a team to get to where they could really consistently run fast and up front. They haven't taken much time to do that, so I think there's a lot more talent there than what everybody realized -- that they could come into Winston Cup and do a lot of the same things they did in Busch."

IS THERE A STRATEGY TO THIS RACE?

"I'd like to lead all 400 laps, but that's probably not gonna happen. The thing is I just want to give myself a chance at the end, that's the main thing. In a 600-mile race, the first 450 miles don't make a lot of difference, you just position yourself and get your car adjusted and get myself to where I know I've got a shot at winning."

WHAT ABOUT 600 MILES AND THIS HEAT. IT MIGHT BE 90 DEGREES WHEN THIS STARTS TOMORROW?

"It's not nearly as bad as running all 600 miles in the high nineties. Just a few years ago we ran this in the daytime and it was 85 and 90 degrees and we did that for 600 miles, but now we get the luxury so to speak of it getting down probably into the seventies before the night's out so things will be a lot better. But that's just something as a driver you have to be in good shape and have yourself conditioned for these type of race. We have a stretch of races coming up that are all pretty difficult starting with tomorrow's race. The next four or five races are pretty difficult from a driver's standpoint because usually it's pretty warm and they're all difficult tracks."

ON THE BUSCH RACE

MARK MARTIN --60-- Winn Dixie Taurus

Jeff Burton just outdrove me today. We had a great run, but I couldn't beat him."

WAS THE HEAT A PROBLEM FOR YOU?

"No, I didn't have any trouble today."

WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE CATCH CAN LATE IN THE DAY?

"I don't know, you'd have to ask the crew."

YOU HAD NO IDEA THAT HAPPENED?

"I don't know. I can't tell you about it. I was in the car."

WHAT ABOUT FINISHING SECOND?

"This is a good run for us today, but Jeff Burton just outdrove me today, so we'll have to try to get him next time."

HIS CAR WAS JUST AS STRONG AS YOURS.

"They were awesome today."

YOU MUST BE DISAPPOINTED ABOUT THE PIT ROAD MISCUE, BUT YOU HAD A NICE RALLY AT THE END.

"It was a good recovery for us. We gave it our best shot today, but Jeff Burton just kind of outdrove us today, so we'll have to try to get him next time."

JEFF BURTON --9-- NorthernLight.com Taurus

"It's a real big day for us. This has been our Achilles heel, we just haven't run well here and we really ran well today. We had a great race with Mark for a long time and had good pit stops. The NorthernLight Ford was just good today. We did a good job in practice, we did a good job in qualifying it and this is a real big day for us. Without trying to say it too many times, we lost a really, really big part of this sport a couple of weeks ago in Adam (Petty) and we're gonna dedicate this one to him."

HOW TOUGH WAS IT FOR YOU TO GIVE UP THE LEAD AND TAKE ON FOUR TIRES WITH 15 LAPS TO GO?

"That was the thing to do. If he would have told me to stay out I would have overruled him and come in. I watched Little Earnhardt last week put on four. We had a big enough lead on most people where we could come in and put on four and, even if they put on two, nobody was gonna beat us out. I was surprised the 24 didn't pit, but we did what we needed to do to win."

DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING FOR TOMORROW?

"Yeah, I think we did. We really struggled last week. I was kind of embarrassed in the way we ran last week, but we're better than we were then and feel really good about that."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Greg Ray , Jimmy Vasser , Rick Mears , Al Unser