February 5, 1999 Daytona International Speedway There are seven Ford drivers participating in Sunday's Bud Shootout at Daytona, including Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Taurus, who picked the lucky frog at Thursday's ...
February 5, 1999 Daytona International Speedway
There are seven Ford drivers participating in Sunday's Bud Shootout at Daytona, including Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Taurus, who picked the lucky frog at Thursday's drawing and will start on the pole. Wallace, the defending Bud Shootout champion, along with other Ford drivers, spoke about the first event of 1999.
RUSTY WALLACE -2- Miller Lite Taurus -- "It does feel really good that we're on the pole. We've had some really fast practice speeds down here. That's what's got me real excited. The car is a brand new car and it ran great in testing for two solid days. We took it back and the guys assured me. They said, 'This things gotta be quicker, it's gotta be quicker.'"
LAST YEAR IN THE BUD SHOOTOUT YOUR BROTHER KENNY WORKED WITH YOU AND HELPED YOU WIN THE RACE. THIS YEAR YOUR TEAMMATE JEREMY IS IN THE FIELD. THAT'S A KEY THING ISN'T IT? "Both of us seem to find each other somehow all the time, so it feels good having Jeremy in the field. He starts seventh and that's not too far back, so we can get together pretty quick if he can get a good start also."
THAT'S A PRETTY GOOD WAY TO START SPEEDWEEKS RIGHT? "There's no doubt about that. I sat there and said to myself, 'Now where would somebody put number one in this whole pile of frogs?' I decided to take the one that was up high and out of the way, so I grabbed it and it turned out to be number one. Now that's luck and everybody knows when you get to Daytona you always want to have a little bit of luck on your side."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR TEST DOWN HERE? "That's the best testing I've ever had in my life down here in Daytona. We've got a brand new car and, man, it's been flying."
YOU DON'T WANT TO USE ALL YOUR LUCK UP EARLY. ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT THAT? "No, not really. In the past it seems like everybody who runs good in Daytona always has a good Daytona the whole way through. Whether it's the 125, the Bud Shootout, all the events it seems like they runs strong. I'm in a lot of races this week. I'm in four races with IROC, so I want to have luck on my side and keep the ball rolling."
LAST YEAR YOU CAME OUT OF THE CHUTE WITH A NEW TAURUS AND WON THE BUD SHOOTOUT. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR CHANCES THIS YEAR NOW THAT YOU'VE HAD MORE TIME TO WORK ON THE CAR? "I definitely feel like we're better all around. We are more prepared this year than we've ever been in our lives. We've got three new cars for Daytona. We've got the car that I ran last year that was so strong for me. We've got the car that I won the Bud Shootout with last year, which is the same car I'm gonna run, and what's so crazy is that the car that had so much success in the past ended up being our third car. We won't be running that car, it'll be sitting on the sidelines. Our new car will be the 500 car and our last year's winner will be back to the Bud Shootout and, hopefully, it'll win again. We've got three Daytona cars rockin' and roll ready to go, a couple brand new road racers and stuff like that, so we're real prepared."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR IMPROVEMENT ON RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACKS? "Our restrictor plate program has gotten so much better. Last year it was really, really good. We had great runs in the Daytona 500 and the Firecracker 400. I finished fifth in both of them and I led a lot of laps in both of them. Then, the year before it was good also, so hopefully, I've got the jinx off me and I'm ready to win."
THIS IS THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF DAYTONA. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR BEST MEMORIES? "I think the win I had last year is one good memory. I've had an IROC victory, which was really good for me. I remember that, it was an exciting day, and I've had some bad ones. I really have. Daytona has not been real courteous to me in the past, but of late it's been getting really good."
THOSE BARREL ROLLS YOU'D JUST AS SOON FORGET. "The barrel rolls are things they're still talking about, but I don't want to talk about that any more. My mind is on the Daytona 500 victory. (Dale) Earnhardt finally got his and I'd like to get mine now."
DALE JARRETT -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- HOW DO YOU SEE THIS YEAR SHAKING OUT AS FAR AS THE CHAMPIONSHIP RACE GOES? "I think the same guys that we've chased the last three years for the championship. Mark and Jeff, I think they're the guys everybody has to look to. Rusty's program seems to be a lot better. Bobby Labonte has a great program. Jeremy Mayfield showed last year that they're ready to challenge, so there are a lot of people up there. You can never count (Dale) Earnhardt out and Terry Labonte, so there are just a lot of people there that have a chance at running well. I think Jeff Gordon and his team kind of set a standard that we all are gonna have to look at and raise our level to that we're gonna have to be there week-in and week-out. If you stumble a little bit, then you've got a lot of catching up to do. They make it difficult to play catch up."
HOW IMPORTANT WOULD IT BE TO WIN A TITLE FOR YOU? "That's certainly what I want to do. If I don't ever win one, it's not gonna be the end of the world. I've had a great career, but it would certainly mean a lot to me to be able to represent this sport for a year as their champion."
YOU USED TO BE ABLE TO HAVE AN OFF WEEK NOW AND THEN AND NOT GET HURT TOO BAD IN THE STANDINGS. THAT'S CHANGED HASN'T IT? "It is difficult. It used to be that you could have four or five down weeks in a 32 or 33-race season and now it's to the point that, I think Gordon and his team had only one or two where they stumbled at all last year. That's what it's gotten to. The parts and pieces are that good. The competition is that good and you have to be on your toes each and every week and that's tough. What they did last year in stringing together top fives last year is pretty incredible. If he's gonna do that again, then we're all probably racing for second. But we're going in thinking that we can accomplish that same thing and that the law of averages will catch up with them and they won't be able to miss all the little happenings of a season, whether it be a flat tire or being at the wrong place at the wrong time."
HOW BENEFICIAL IS IT TO START SPEEDWEEKS IN THE SHOOTOUT INSTEAD OF HAVING TO WAIT FOR THE 500? "I've found it to be much better because if you're not able to be in the Bud Shootout, you've got a lot of anxiety built up for the Thursday 125 because that's really your first drafting time. Even though you get some drafting done on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, it's really not in race condition, so I think this is a great tune up. It really kind of relieves a lot of tension, I guess, that you have built up by not racing for a couple of months. I look at it as something that we can learn, but it also gets me back in the groove."
EVEN THOUGH YOU START 14TH IN THE BUD SHOOTOUT, THAT'S NOT THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD IS IT? "We're definitely gonna have to do some drafting coming from back there, but it's not all that bad being back there. If I can get hooked up with the right car we can make some moves. The thing is 25 laps is not a very long time, so I can't be missing any opportunities that I can use to slide in a hole, but it'll give us a good idea of what we have and what we're gonna be able to do."
MARK MARTIN - 6 - Valvoline Ford Taurus -- "At least I don't have to worry about getting passed by a whole bunch of cars, maybe a few. Sometimes being in the back is the best place. I've seen some of these great race drivers like Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt just drive through them like they are standing still. I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to do that, but we'll give it our best shot. We're ready to go. We had a great race team last year, the best that I've ever worked with. I just hope that we can have another year in '99 like we did in '98. I'd just like to say that I'm really happy Speed Weeks is starting. I'm ready to go racing. It makes you pumped up that you get a chance to work with people like I do at Roush Racing."
HOW DO YOU FEEL PHYSICALLY? HOW IS THE BACK PAIN? "It's better than it was in May, but it's about like it was in September, October, November. It's about the same as it was then. I have some days where I almost feel normal, and then some days I get up really afraid it's going to go back like it was in May. What I have now may be a fact of life. I don't know, but I'm getting by. I'm not disappointed or discouraged about it."
HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR WORK-OUTS? "I have to be extremely careful in everything I do, not just lifting weights, but getting out of bed, sleeping. I love to sleep on my stomach and I can't. Everything. It's more likely to irritate it now lifting weights. Lifting weights, I've got that pretty well worked out what I do and what I don't do, what irritates it and what doesn't. Getting in and getting out of a race car, getting in or out of a plane, or bending over to do something with the dog, anything. When it gets irritated, then the nerves get irritated, and the nerves start to swell up, and then you've got problems."
DRIVERS ARE SO POPULAR NOW. CAN YOU GO ANYWHERE WITHOUT BEING RECOGNIZED? "After last year, I have to answer no. There were times before that I could say, yeah you can to some degree. But last year with the new Ford, the 50th anniversary, the season that the Valvoline team had, all put together, it's something we deal with every day whether we're at the race track or not. It's part of what we do at the race track, but when we're not at the race track it isn't always necessarily part of it. When I see we deal with it, I may choose to stay in my house one day or one night rather than to go out, or go to dinner, something like that. But you have to live with it. If you choose to go out, you choose to be in the public eye, and you sign autographs and talk about racing. So you make the choice, and that's part of the sport. I have to thank everybody that's involved for what it is today. I never dreamed I'd be a part of something like this, but it's an awesome responsibility.
YOU HAVE A FAMILY. YOU WANT TO HAVE SOME SEMBLANCE OF A REAL LIFE. IS THERE A DELICATE BALANCE, A PLUS OR MINUS THERE? "I'm just a hillbilly from Arkansas. I don't know how to answer those questions. I do what I do. I'm not finished winning races. I'm never going to slow down. All I know, this is what I do. I'm never going to hold back. I'm never going to hold up. You deal with the rest of it as evolution. My life has evolved through the last 15 years and through the sport, and will continue to. I'm not going to do less races. I'm going to try to keep winning races, and I'm going to do commercials. Since I was 15 years-old, that's what I've tried to do, to be a winner. I sure am not going to start shying away from it now. I'm going to stand up and take it straight on, and continued moving forward."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS TRACK AND THIS FACILITY? "The Daytona 500 is the greatest race in stock car racing."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU AND THE TEAM TO GET OFF TO GOOD START DURING SPEED WEEKS? "It's only important if you do. If you don't, then it's not important. If you say the Daytona 500 sets the tone for the year, and you don't do good in the race, then that's your fault. If it sets a bad tone for the year, then you let it happen. You can't help it. You can't help it if you break, or if you crash or if you don't run good. You already tried as hard as you could, and did the most you could. You can say it sets the tone for the year, but it only can if you allow that to happen. You and your team set the tone for the year every day all year long. A great run at Daytona is what everybody comes down here to do, but not everyone will have one."
AFTER THE YEAR YOU HAD LAST YEAR, WHAT MORE CAN YOU DO? "I don't know. I really haven't asked that question. I'm just really grateful for the opportunity that I had last year for the greatest year of my life of my career. We won more races than I ever thought I would in a season. We did more, and we had more fun. I'm just real thankful for that. Hopefully, I can have another year like that, or two in my career."
IS THERE ONE MEMORY OF DAYTONA THAT STANDS OUT FOR YOU? "It would be disappointment. I haven't had the triumphs that I would be looking for here. We've had opportunities to win here, but they've wound up in disappointment."
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO WIN THIS SUNDAY? "It would just be another trophy on the mantel. I wouldn't put any additional emphasis on it. I race every race to win. I'm here to win the qualifying, win the pole, win the Bud Shootout, win the 125, win the Bud Shootout, win the race. We take it one race at a time, and we do our best. Whether we win them all, run second in them all, or run last in them all, we still give our best effort every time."
JEREMY MAYFIELD -12- Mobil 1 Taurus -- "We're starting seventh and I'm really excited about it. The Mobil 1 Ford was really strong at testing and Rusty is running good. I don't think it matters where you start. You can start on the pole here or start dead last and you're gonna go from front to back anyway throughout the race, so I don't think it really matters. We're just here to have fun and race as hard as we can."
HAVE YOU PICKED UP ANY TIPS FOR THIS RACE? "You just go off experience and knowing that it's not a 500-mile race, it's 25 laps all you can go and do the best you can. My pit crew has been awesome all winter long testing and practicing pit stops, so I feel real good about when we have to make our stop, we're gonna come out ahead of all those guys. The thing you've gotta do is just go to the front and stay there and do the best you can."
CAN YOU CATCH THE 2 CAR? "That 2 car is gonna be tough, but we've got what he's got and we're pretty equal. Wherever he's at, I'm sure I'm gonna be right there with him."
THIS IS YOUR FIRST TIME IN THE BUD SHOOTOUT. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF BEING ABLE TO RUN THIS RACE? "I think there are a lot of benefits to being in it. It's a good way to get started for the year. It's the first race and all I can say is I'm ready to go."
SINCE IT'S NOT 500 MILES, DO YOU APPROACH THINGS DIFFERENTLY? "We drive all out most of the time, but I think you'll see a lot more passing and a lot of different things happening a lot faster because you've got fewer laps to do it in. It's a different approach and you go into it different, but you go into it having a fun attitude. You don't go into it like you would on a 500 mile race. It's kind of like The Winston, you go there to win. That's the only thing you're there for."
SPEAKING OF THE WINSTON, YOU WON THE WINSTON OPEN LAST YEAR, SO YOU HAVE SOME EXPERIENCE WITH THESE TYPES OF RACES. "I think that will help us. We won that race last year and had some trouble in The Winston, but we feel good about these type of races. It's all about having a fast car. That's what you've gotta have for 25 laps."
YOU AND RUSTY ARE PRETTY CLOSE STARTING 1ST AND 7TH, HOW FAST WILL YOU TRY AND FIND HIM? "We're gonna try to get together as fast as we can. Maybe the first lap we can be together because we're gonna go. He and I work really well together at Daytona and Talladega and all the superspeedway races, so we're excited about it."
RICK MAST -98- Yarborough-Burdette Motorsports Taurus -- HOW BIG OF A BOOST IS IT FOR YOUR TEAM TO START THIRD IN THE BUD SHOOTOUT? "Well, you know what, I've been in this shootout four or five times now and the one thing I've noticed is that the starting positions, for whatever reason, doesn't seem to mean a lot. Unless you've got a real strong horse and you're in the front row and can take off leading. If you've got a real strong race car you can kind of stay there, but if you've got a car that's equal to the others, then it's whatever happens. Really, I saw a driver here once in the last Bud Shootout I was in, I was maybe 10th when we took the green flag. We came off the second turn and they were stacked up three wide in front of me. The guy behind me, I mean a real good race car driver that never causes any kind of wrecks, went down and took them four-wide going down the back straightaway. When we get to turn three, they're still four-wide. The guy on the inside didn't back out of it, so he goes into turn three on the flat. You just can't do that. When he hits the flat, he just shoots up the race track and we have a big wreck. When I saw that particular driver do that, I'm thinking, 'Man, everybody completely loses their mind for this race.' That's kind of the mindset of thinking you take going into this race to some degree. You're more aggressive in this race because it's a non-points race and everybody does that. It's just kind of the way it is in this Bud Shootout. But drawing the number three deal, that will give everybody a little boost up until Sunday. That will help us get through the qualifying ordeal that we've gotta go through between now and then."
IS IT MORE IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO DO WELL AND MAYBE WIN THE BUD SHOOTOUT THAN MAYBE FOR SOME OF THE OTHER GUYS BECAUSE THIS IS A NEW START FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM? "You've gotta break things down. This particular car we had a Talladega last week, I got maybe five or six laps in this car because we're concentrating so much on the 500 car. We didn't get to do the things I wanted to do. The car wasn't as fast as I wanted it to be. It drove pretty good, but it didn't have the speed we needed, so we needed to do more things to it. We've gotten more aggressive with the car now and we'll find out more when I get on the race track with it. It's a Thunderbird body, it's not a Taurus body, so we can't really learn anything from the Bud Shootout to apply for our 500 car, but anything positive that we do, whatever it is -- practice speeds being fast, qualifying being good, running good or finishing good, winning the Bud Shootout -- anything positive that we can come out of Speedweeks with would just help this team immensely. Since Friday of last week, this shop has been operating 24 hours a day. Some of the guys would go home and sleep for four or five hours, but they've been shifting around just to get the cars prepared to come down here."
KENNY IRWIN - 28 - Texaco Taurus -- GOING INTO THE SOPHOMORE SEASON, WHERE WILL YOU BE BETTER AND THE GUYS WILL BE BETTER STARTING WITH THE BUD SHOOTOUT. "I think it would almost have to be a better year. We had our ups and downs, and I've been looking forward to getting rid of the rookie stripe. Hopefully we'll just keep getting better."
HOW ABOUT STARTING ON THE FRONT ROW WITH A FIELD LIKE THIS IN SUCH A SHORT RACE? "I just wish my teammate (Dale Jarrett, who drew the 14th starting spot) was starting closer to me."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE IN THE BUD SHOOTOUT? "At Atlanta that's what all the guys on the crew were talking about, that we were going to be in the Shootout. The team hadn't gotten in the last couple of years. I think it's exciting for them. It's real exciting for me. Now we've got a good starting spot, so everybody's going to be pretty pumped up. If Dale can get up there too, it will make it easier for either one of us to win the race."
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU IN TERMS OF GETTING READY FOR THE 500? "The drafting experience. Obviously, the guys here are good. This will tell you in the 500 who would be more apt to go with you when you want to pull out. For me it will be more of a learning experience with the other drivers."
RICKY CRAVEN - 58 - Hollywood Video Taurus -- "We're prepared. We've put a lot of effort into it. It's a new car. This is the most exciting week in racing, and I'm proud to be a part of it."
CAN YOU WIN A RACE WITH A NEW TEAM RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX? "We need to establish ourselves. Again, I'm proud of what they've done over the winter time in the short time that they've had. It takes time, and it's a matter of progress. This is a great beginning for us. "It's pretty exciting that we can debut in the Bud Shootout. It provides us a great opportunity to get some more track time, and that's always necessary with a new team. And this race is enjoyable. It's fun, just a lot of fun. "This is my first experience with a Ford. It's worked well for Mark and Dale and Rusty so I'm looking forward to it. Our tests were good, just not quite long enough, but we took advantage of the time we had. You always run out of time. "The Shootout will give us some drafting time, which is almost exempt from testing. It will give us more knowledge with the Ford. Again, it's new to us, but I'm looking forward to it."