Ford Racing reaction to restrictor-plate meeting

NASCAR held a meeting on Thursday with Winston Cup drivers, crew chiefs and car owners to discuss potential restrictor-plate ideas for the 2002 season. The meeting, which was held at Joe Gibbs Racing, lasted approximately 90 minutes. Following...

NASCAR held a meeting on Thursday with Winston Cup drivers, crew chiefs and car owners to discuss potential restrictor-plate ideas for the 2002 season. The meeting, which was held at Joe Gibbs Racing, lasted approximately 90 minutes. Following are some comments from selected Ford personnel who attended the meeting.

JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo SUPERGARD Taurus

WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS?
"I think it was a great meeting. NASCAR has been much more open, this year especially, to ideas and they pretty much gave us what they wanted to see. Everybody had an opportunity to say if they liked it or didn't like it, but it was a good opportunity to get everybody together and try to come up with a good plan that makes for good racing and to put the drivers back in a little bit more control. Coming up with a plan so that it's fun to watch and still relatively much more controlable to do was the idea, and I think we accomplished that."

HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO HAVE YOUR OPINION NOTED?
"Being that we were all together, to me, was nice. But I've been able to walk into the NASCAR trailer about anytime I wanted and tell them what I think anyway, so I didn't get an opportunity today that I normally wouldn't have because they pretty much had an open-door policy anyway. It's good to get everybody together. No one had a problem with what we're talking about doing for next year and that's the bottom line. No one has a problem and if it can make the racing a little more manageable, then that's the right thing to do."

WHAT'S MORE MANAGEABLE?
"You've got to get it back in the driver's hands. The rules we have now, noted it's fun to watch, but when you've got 43 cars and the fifth-place car lands on top of the 29th-place car, that's not reasonable. We need to get away from that some, but we also have to have exciting racing and to figure out how to do that is hard to do."

HOW DID DRIVER OPINIONS VARY OR DID THEY?
"Anytime you put 43 drivers or 43 of anybody who does anything for a living together, you're gonna have 43 opinions. We all had different opinions on how to get where we wanted to get and we had different opinions what we needed to have. That's the way it would be anyway, but at the end of the day when the question was, 'Does anybody have problems with what we're thinking about doing?' Nobody raised their hand."

DALE JARRETT --88-- UPS Taurus

WHAT WAS YOUR IMPRESSION OF THE MEETING?
"Everything went well. There was a lot of good discussion. Everybody had something pretty good to say, so it was good. We probably need to do it more often."

WHAT WILL THIS DO TO THE RACING?
"The racing is gonna be good. We may not be four-wide again. We will be at times, but not constantly, so I think it will be back to where the better teams and guys that know about the draft can take advantage and use that to make their teams and their chances better."

WAS THE MEETING MORE POSITIVE THAN YOU THOUGHT GOING IN?
"I didn't know what to expect, so I had no idea what to expect when I came here. I knew we would be talking about rules, but I think the best thing was that nobody disagreed whenever we said the aero package that we had was gonna be taken away. The roof strip is coming off and I don't think anybody disagreed with that, so everybody is kind of on the same page there. Now we can again get these cars to where we're in control of them, instead of them being in control of us."

RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus

IS IT DISAPPOINTING THAT THIS NEW PACKAGE COULD HAVE BEEN AVAILABLE FOR TALLADEGA BUT WASN'T?
"I could see why we didn't use it at Talladega. I think the good thing is that everyone was in agreement that the drivers liked it. I can also see the argument that (the change) would have taken place on very short notice. It would have been nice to have had that test scheduled a couple of months earlier where the wind tunnel tests could have been done. If the Ford required an eighth-of-an-inch taller spoiler or an eighth-of-an-inch shorter spoiler to equal all the cars up, there simply wasn't enough time to get it done prior to this last Talladega race. I was one of those guys that would say, 'Gosh, these rules are better. I don't understand it. We should go with it' because it seemed like the majority liked them, but, evidently, there wasn't a majority rule there. Not everyone was in agreement to it."

WAS ANY CONSIDERATION GIVEN TO ROBERT YATES IDEA ABOUT A SMALLER ENGINE?
"I don't think that was discussed. I think everyone agreed that the big packs are created because of all the drag in the race cars. These big roof spoilers and wickerbills. Engines are certainly another issue, but I think everyone would agree that if you take a car and pull one spark plug wire off, you could still tag along in that draft. You could still keep up, so, certainly, engines are gonna be an issue, but until we get these big drag-making devices off the cars, we haven't even gotten to the issue of engines yet."

SO YOU WORK ON THE MOST URGENT PROBLEM FIRST?
"Yeah, the first priority is to try to get these cars where you've got to handle good and if you make any mistakes, it's not guaranteed that you can stay in the lead draft like it is now. Everyone in that room was agreeing that we need to get rid of the big drag devices."

RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus

"I think everybody knew that we don't want the current rule. NASCAR said they don't want the current rule and when we all left and decided on a seven-eighths restrictor plate and a 55-degree rear spoiler and a six-and-a-half-inch tall rear spoiler. I asked the question, 'Where is the air dam?' And they said, 'We've got to work on that one -- three-and-a-half to four-inches.' So, it was good. It was real productive and I was real happy. I'm not leaving upset about anything and I don't think anybody in the room ought to be."

WAS IT DIVIDED BY MANUFACTURER LINES OR WAS SAFETY THE BIG TOPIC?
"Safety was a topic and the manufacturers are in that too, but there was not much at all. It's one of the nicest meetings I've ever been in. I think everybody was pulling for one cause -- to have great races and safe races."

HOW MUCH MORE CONTROL DOES THIS PUT IN THE DRIVER'S HANDS?
"None at all. I think the problem was we had a lot of control in our hands before, but the cars would draft so hard that we were hitting the brakes and dodging and darting and mirror driving. I think this is gonna take some of that stuff away and get us right back to how good the guys do building the engines and the cars and the aerodynamics."

DID THIS MEETING START WITH THE 60-DEGREE REAR SPOILER AND GO FROM THERE?
"It started at the 60 and I told them, 'I just don't think 60 is the right one. I think that's too much. I think the cars will be motorboating around the race track.' And, all of a sudden, some guys threw their opinion in and NASCAR said, 'Let's do 55.' So that's where it came from."

RICKY CRAVEN --32-- Tide Taurus

DID ANY SURPRISES COME UP AS FAR AS IDEAS?
"Yeah, there were several things that were brought up and, in some cases, we'll have to wait until Daytona to see if they work and what gets implemented. This is a quality group of people. You had all the drivers, all the crew chiefs and I think the knowledge in that room was very valuable, particularly in attempting to solve some of the problems we have."

WHAT WAS THE STRUCTURE OF THIS MEETING -- WAS IT AN OPEN FORUM?
"It was very, very open. NASCAR just said, 'Hey, these are some of the things that we see that can be improved or corrected. What are your ideas?' And I think we spent and hour-and-a-half discussing ideas. Maybe the last half-hour we solidified it to where it could actually be material."

IS IT UPSETTING THAT SOME OF THIS WAS AVAILABLE FOR TALLADEGA AND IT WASN'T IMPLEMENTED?
"No, because I think you've got to be fair. They attempted that, but in a democratic way, it wasn't overwhelming or it wasn't a majority. I think there were still so many people that were split on what the solution was. Today was different because you look at it in hindsight and say, 'The end result wasn't what we were looking for, so let's revisit what we did in testing or let's come up with some new ideas.' I think some great ideas came from it."

WAS IT ALL ABOUT AERODYNAMICS?
"There was a lot of discussion about everything, including some horsepower, but I don't think it's as simple as one thing. I don't think saying we either need to go faster or go slower, or the car has to be wider or taller or any of that -- it's really about the end product. This sport is at the top of its game and the fans are obviously enjoying it. We want to maintain the quality, along with the safety and predictability from our perspective. The great thing about this was that NASCAR was the catalyst. It wasn't like the drivers asked for it or the crew chiefs or the owners. NASCAR said, 'Hey, let's all get together and be open-minded and have a discussion on what we think would improve the sport.'"

JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -- Roush Racing Taurus

WHAT ABOUT THE RULES?
"The rules for Daytona are not finalized and they may not be until the middle of Speedweeks in terms of being absolute when NASCAR sees how fast the cars go. In general teams, NASCAR has indicated that they want to go back to the thing that was tested before the last Talladega race. I think that was really stopped by division along manufacturer lines. They're gonna take off the roof rail and take the wicker off the rear spoiler. There will be a 55-60 degree rear spoiler and some tuning on the air dam, depending on what analysis Gary (Nelson) makes in determining the balance of downforce on the cars. That's pretty much what most of us thought we should have done for Talladega and that's where I thought the meeting would go. There was logic in it. They've indicated they're gonna carry an unknown to Daytona and they're willing to think about if they've inadvertently given one manufacturer an advantage or another one be disadvantage, and tune it during that race. I think that's a good thing given the fact we haven't had a chance to preview it at Talladega."

WILL THERE BE ENOUGH TIME TO GET IT DONE?
"Given the fact that there's no new templates for the roof or changes in the spring bar package that requires a frame change, I think the body change impact is relatively mild and minor. I think we'll take the roof rail off and put a smaller spoiler on it and go test the cars. The amount of sheet metal we'll have to change will be relatively minor. I think that coming out of this it represents the least amount of work that would fall back on the teams that could possibly affect the change that we're looking for in terms of reducing the pack size."

HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT THE MEETING?
"The focus is on the car. When you look at the problem we've got at Daytona and Talladega, we don't have that problem at Pocono and we don't have it at Indy or California or Michigan without restrictor plates. You can say, 'What is the difference?' I'm not gonna say what the difference is, but it's real obvious what the difference is. But it was definitely a closed issue to discuss the things that could be done, except for changes to the car. When I indicated last week that I didn't think that was most productive, that's where I still stand. I think working on things other than the car would be more useful and as timely, but we're not gonna do that. We're gonna work some more on the cars and see what we get."

HOW MUCH OF THESE RULE CHANGES ARE DUE TO THE OPINIONS OF THE TEAMS?
"Very much of it. The reason this set of rules wasn't incorporated for the last Talladega race was that the Chevrolet people -- once they looked at the stop watch and had time for pause at the lunch break during the Talladega test -- they decided they were gonna be disadvantaged if NASCAR didn't do something else because their cars weren't as fast relative to the Fords and Dodges and Pontiacs as they had been. So, they dug their heels in and said, 'We don't want to change.' NASCAR didn't ask them why they didn't want to change, they just said they didn't want to change. So, without a consensus from all the makes and all the drivers at that time, they elected not to do that. But, today, they acknowledged the fact that they thought the thing had broken down on manufacturer's lines and the drivers acknowledged the same thing. They really came to the same package to go back to Daytona with that had been tested and showed promise at Talladega in the summer."

DO YOU FEEL THERE ARE OTHER IDEAS THAT HAVEN'T BEEN LOOKED AT?
"No, not as it relates to the car. Given the amount of time that we've got between now and then, and not wanting to obsolete all these cars, I think they've come to the best choice. I think it's a good choice."

TRAVIS CARTER, Car Owner --26 and 66 Ford Taurus

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT WHAT WAS DECIDED TODAY?
"I think it's sensible and I think it's a good starting place to get back from Daytona. It's mostly aerodynamic-related, but they decided on a plate size and I think that's reasonable. We'll just have to see how it works. I think they've got a good starting place and they're making a good effort. I think the big piece to this is that they've gathered input from all the competitors, and drivers particularly, trying to help the situation. What we're all trying to accomplish is to create a better and safer race in that regard, but still have a good, quality race and that's the whole key. We don't want to just have a follow-the-leader type thing all day, but to have a good race and have it so every car isn't practically first every lap."

WHAT WAS THE MOOD LIKE AS FAR AS MANUFACTER'S. WERE THERE SOME SAYING THIS MIGHT DISADVANTAGE THEM OVER SOMEONE ELSE?
"No, that wasn't so bad today. I think people were more open and they weren't so self-centered and focused on their own little world of issues. I was pleased with it all as an owner."

SHOULD THESE CHANGES KEEP THE BIG CLUSTERS FROM HAPPENING?
"It might not fix everything, but we certainly feel it will be a good start and I think at Daytona it will work much better. We all agreed to it at Daytona. Maybe it won't be the answer for Talladega, but I think we're in a position where we have a little more time to prepare and look at some different scenarios for Talladega."

WAS THERE ANYONE IN THERE WHO WAS MORE VOCAL THAN OTHERS?
"Not particularly. They were calm and talkative and amenable. I think it all went extremely well, I thought."

ROBIN PEMBERTON, Crew Chief --2-- Miller Lite Taurus

HOW PRODUCTIVE WAS THE MEETING?
"It was productive. We went over some of the stuff we did in the August test and we've all got a place to start from. We're gonna change the aero package a little bit and take it from there."

WERE YOU SURPRISED NASCAR MADE A DECISION TODAY?
"No, not at all. In all honestly, we're in this together and for the last decade of this sport we've been a little reactionary in trying to make things not just better for competitor but for the fan alone. Really, the aero rules were trying to make it better for the fan and that's probably too good for them and not good enough for us right now, so we've got to meet somewhere in the middle."

HOW BIG OF A DEAL WAS IT FOR NASCAR TO INVITE ALL OF YOU?
"It's not big. If you remember, we used to do these meetings about once a year going over chassis rules and body rules and stuff like that, so none of it really surprises us."

WHAT WAS THE MOOD LIKE IN THERE?
"Everybody was cooperating. The competitor side of us comes out all the time and everybody wants an advantage, but right now if there's an advantage that will come out of it for a competitor, it will probably be by accident -- it won't be planned. It's just something to try and make the sport grow and get better, but sometimes you have to go through some growing pains."

WERE THERE ANY MANUFACTURER'S MORE VOCAL THAN OTHERS?
"No, not at all. Nobody wants to see anybody on their roof and we all understand it's a sport that is in the entertainment business. It's got to be good for the fans. If it's not, then they'll go away."

WILL THESE RULES MAKE FOR A LOT MORE WORK FOR YOU AS A CREW CHIEF?
"Anytime there's a meeting, there's extra work for a crew chief and a race team. That's just the way it is. Rules come out of those meetings and people have to react, so you go back to work and test some more. It's no different than any other year."

-Ford Racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing