Ford Racing Rockingham Saturday notes

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Texaco Havoline Taurus, qualified 13th for tomorrow's Pop Secret 400. This is the spot where Rudd made his NASCAR Winston Cup debut in 1975. RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- WHAT'S IT GOING...

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Texaco Havoline Taurus, qualified 13th for tomorrow's Pop Secret 400. This is the spot where Rudd made his NASCAR Winston Cup debut in 1975.

RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus --
WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE FOR SOMEONE TO WIN TOMORROW? "Well, the track will go away. The tires go away and you've got to start moving up the groove. The trick is gonna be the one that can stay on the bottom the longest before the groove moves up will probably be the better car. We worked to get the car to stick around the bottom as much as we can because it's all about handling here. This track has always been a track that you kind of slip and slide on."

I GUESS THIS PLACE AND DARLINGTON ARE PRETTY SIMILAR AS FAR AS ABRASSIVENESS, RIGHT? "My theory on this race track and Darlington is that you've got the sandy soil around here. The wind blows and it just polishes the race track and it loses its grip. You look at the blacktop and it doesn't look like it needs to be repaved, but it just loses its grip. That's the only thing I can think of, or maybe the material that the asphalt is made out of here because Darlington and Rockingham have very similar characterstics."

WILL STARTING 13TH BE LUCKY FOR YOU? "I don't think it makes any difference where you start, it's just how well are you on race setup. Right now, we're not where we want to be. We've got to make some changes, but right now we're chasing this new tire."

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE TIRE? "The whole package is different. Goodyear's intent was to make the cars run good on a long run. It's the same for everybody, it's just that you come here for so many years and the tires are pretty much the same -- you know what to do on handling -- and then you come here and it's a different tire and it takes a completely different set up. When you look at it you've got an hour this morning and an hour this evening to get it right and that's a pretty big accomplishment to try get done in a short period of time."

I'M NOT GOING TO ASK IF THIS IS THE WEEKEND YOU GET THAT FIRST WIN WITH RYR, BUT YOU HAVE HAD A HABIT OF RUNNING PARTICULARLY STRONG AT THE END OF SEASONS. "I'm not really sure why that is, but through my career it's kind of been that way. I don't know. You get down towards the end of the year and you don't have wins, and I wouldn't say you get desperate, but I don't know if maybe -- I hate to say we go at it at a harder pace than the competition because everybody is working hard, but I don't really have an answer for that. It's not like I start driving hard at the end of the year and take the first half of the year off. I really don't have an explanation for it to be honest with you."

Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Citgo SUPERGARD Taurus, was second-fastest in the Saturday's morning practice session. He qualified sixth and will start next to teammate Mark Martin.

JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo SUPERGARD Taurus --
STATISTICALLY THIS IS PROBABLY ONE OF YOUR BEST TRACKS. "Well, it has been. We've contended to win here quite a bit, we have won here, and it's one of the tracks we like. It's kind of like Darlington where it gets real slippery and it's the kind of track that we, in the past, have excelled on. We struggled a little bit with 'em early in the year, but we seem to have gotten a little bit better toward the end of the year."

HOW DIFFERENT DOES THE NEW TIRE FEEL FOR THE DRIVER? "I don't remember from race to race. I think the tire is OK. It seems like it's fast reasonably long, which is hard to do here at Rockingham. Obviously, they felt good in qualifying, so I think the tire is a non-factor."

IF THE TIRE LASTS LONGER, YOU'RE OUT THERE LONGER, SO DOES THAT PLAY BACK INTO THE DRIVER'S HANDS? "I think either way, whether the tire goes a long time or doesn't go a long time, it's gonna be in the driver's hands as far as can he get his car with his team set up correctly. The driver's got to be able to talk to his team and tell them what the car needs. If they can do that and work together and make it happen, it'll save tires. The people who can't save tires are the people who have to run really hard an abuse 'em just to keep up."

SO WHAT'S THE KEY HERE TO WINNING HERE? "The key is just staying in position. If you can stay in position, late in the race you'll always get a caution. Generally, this thing won't go 200 laps to end the race. If you have yourself in position, you should be able to adjust your car. If you get a caution with 30 to go, your car needs to be set up differently than it needs to be set up with 80 to go. So, having adjustability and track position are the most important things."

CAN YOU ASSESS THE POINTS SITUATION RIGHT NOW? "Give them (Bobby Labonte's team) the trophy."

YOU'RE OVER 300 POINTS OUT OF THE LEAD, DOES THAT CHANGE HOW YOU GO ABOUT THINGS? "Not really. We went into this year hoping to run the best we could every week and that's what we're still trying to do. I believe you can give Bobby Labonte and Jimmy Makar and his guys, you can go ahead and put the thing around their neck and give it to 'em. I think it's theirs. We're here to keep the pressure on 'em and, obviously, race Earnhardt and Jarrett and Stewart and Mark and Ricky Rudd -- it's a logjam there. We're here to do the best we can do and if we can do the best we can, then the points will take care of themselves."

YOU WERE SECOND IN PRACTICE AND YOU'VE GOT THE SAME CAR THAT LED EVERY LAP AT LOUDON. THAT MUST MAKE YOU CONFIDENT FOR THE RACE. "Yeah. We don't have favorite cars, we just run whatever is in the shop. If it's in the shop, it ought to be able to run well. If it can't run well, it shouldn't be there. That's the way we run our program. If we get the right springs and shocks under this car, it'll run. If we don't, it won't."

The No. 99 Citgo SUPERGARD Taurus team won the 2000 Union 76-Rockingham World Pit Crew Championship with a stop of 18.355 seconds. Crew chief Frank Stoddard, driver Jeff Burton and team owner Jack Roush spoke about the victory.

<pre> CITGO SUPERGARD PIT CREW Jackman: Chuck White F Tire Changer: Mark Armstrong R Tire Changer: Todd Foster Gas: Chris Dana Catch Can: Bobby Christenson F Tire Carrier: Mike Brill R Tire Carrier: Fred Martin

</pre> FRANK STODDARD, Crew Chief --99-- Citgo SUPERGARD Taurus --
WHAT WERE YOUR PREPARATIONS FOR THIS EVENT? "That's all it was really, just going out and doing our normal deal. These guys have been real good the last two or three months and they just proved it here today. They've been working hard at it. They just did a normal deal and made no mistakes. That was the key, you had to have all (lugnuts) tight and in order to do that you've got to stay on the lugnut just a little bit longer and that was the difference with the 1 and us. The 1 had an awesome stop, but they needed about four-tenths more on one lugnut and that would have been the difference for them to be here, so that's tough because everybody works real hard. You hate for it to come down to a loose lugnut, you really do. I think I'd feel better about it and everybody would if it didn't come down to that, but that's part of the business and you know you need to do that and you know you need to get 'em tight and that's what we did."

JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo SUPERGARD Taurus --
YOU MUST BE PROUD. "Yeah, I really am. These guys have been working hard all year and not just this year but ever since this team started we've put a lot of effort into pit stops. We won this race last year with a great pit stop and it's pretty fitting that we come here and win the championship because these guys have always put 100 percent effort in it. Just like everything, it always doesn't go exactly like you want it to, but these guys try harder than anybody on the circuit. The last seven or eight races we've been among the best for sure on pit stops and that means a whole lot."

FRANK STODDARD, Crew Chief --
"It was easy for 'em, they got me off from changing the front tire and that was a second right there. They did a great job. Obviously, we're tickled pink to beat 35 of the best competitors out there today. It takes a great deal of effort and those guys have put it in for the last three or four months we've been putting a hard effort into our pit stops. I was just telling somebody that when you set your goals at the beginning of the year, you look at what you did the year before and where you think the pit stops need to be and we felt going into the year our pit stops were where they needed to be. In years past you've always looked at the 24 and the 18 is who we've looked at this year. They've had great pit stops all year long and they were obviously the champions last year. Early on we realized that we were off on pit stops and we didn't necessarily set our goal high enough, so it's been a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the year, but to come back today and to come back the last half of the season and have good pit stops on pit road, it gives me a great deal of pleasure for what the guys have gone through."

DO YOU SET UP DIFFERENTLY FOR THIS COMPETITION THAN FOR THE RACE? "We don't really put a great deal. We put four springs and four shocks on the car, pretty standard stuff from what we would always run. Here in the pit stop competition, NASCAR makes you have one thread showing, which is a little bit different than what we do on Sundays. On Sundays you can't really see a thread and here you have to be able to catch one, so you have to take a little bit of wheel-spacer off the car and that makes it a little more difficult for the stops to go fast. We really don't put a whole lot of effort in. I mean, we put an effort in, but I don't really know what we do different than we do on a normal week, and if we do do something I'm not sure I want to tell it here today."

HOW SPECIAL IS THIS TO THE TEAM? "I think it's real big. Winning a championship is what everybody wants to do and those guys go over the wall week-in and week-out and probably don't get as much credit as they deserve. It was always a big deal for me. I wanted to win one and I was fortunate these guys brought it home this year, but it is a big deal. I joked this week, we've got Mark Armstrong who changes the front tire and he's a great front tire changer -- and Todd Foster on the back -- and he's from Gastonia, which is the same hometown of Buddy Parrott. Buddy has three championship rings from the pit stop championship and now he's got four. So this week I was telling them in practice that he had some loose, there were a couple loose on the left-front a couple of stops, so I came out the next day and told him not to worry about it that if you were gonna leave 'em loose, it's no big deal because there's already a guy whose got championships from Gastonia, so they'll be fine down there. I was trying to kind of ease it a little bit for 'em, but also give him a little bit extra incentive to go out and do it today. So that was the first thing that he said afterward was that now there are two people from Gastonia, North Carolina to have it."

HOW IS THE PRESSURE DIFFERENT TODAY FROM TOMORROW? "It's really a great deal more. You worry about making sure that you get all of them tight on Sunday, but here you're sitting there thinking about it for an hour. I had knots in my stomach and I wasn't even doing anything on the pit stop other than trying to help the guys stay calm. On Sunday, you've got so many things you're doing in the pits, your tire changers are generally checking air pressures on tires, checking wear on tires. I mean, as soon as the stop is over they're working, working, working non-stop up until the next stop and thinking about things. Today, in this environment, you sit there for two hours and watch 35 other teams do it and I know from doing it myself that you just sit there and say, 'I gotta get 'em tight. I gotta hit six,' and you don't do that on Sunday, you don't have the time to do that on Sunday, so it comes real natural and real free. I think the biggest thing that gets you caught up in these pit stop deals is the tension you have leading up to it because it's a time to have tension."

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO IMPROVE YOUR STOPS THE SECOND HALF? "We've adjusted a few people. We don't have exactly the team that we started out with at the beginning of the year. They might be doing something on the car still, but they're just not in the position they were in. We might have moved the tire carrier to catching the tire or the gas man situation or something, but we have made some changes in personnel from the beginning of the year. Mark Armstrong, we had him changing the rear tires and moved him back to the front. I look at the pit stops and look at a race team a lot similar to a football team or a baseball team. We have so many people on our roster and we have to fill the spots the best way we can and try to do it economically and be able to continue to come to the race track every weekend, and to also do it efficiently. So, you look at people's strengths and their weaknesses and you try to plug those in the holes and you try to get somebody else that picks up for the weakness of somebody else. I think that's what we did. I think going into the year we felt like our stops were pretty decent, we were having consistent stops in between a 15.50 and a 16.50, and all of a sudden 10-12 races into the year we realized we needed to be 14.50 to 15.50 and that was difficult to overcome. You don't just grab a second like that. You have to make some position changes once in a while or change the way you're doing things."

WHERE DOES THAT EXTRA SECOND COME FROM? "I'm not sure exactly, but I think one of the things that people maybe didn't even realize at the time was the rule NASCAR made of bringing your tires back. In effect, I think it's actually ended up making the stops a little bit smoother maybe. You've got it to where the jackman is rolling the tire now, we didn't used to do that type of stuff, so we really just tried at making things more efficient, I think all the teams did. I don't really know where the speed has really come from outside of just doing it more, probably putting more emphasis into it. We practice two to three days a week, minimum, and it's just a repitition deal. When you look at the Olympics and you see women and men dive off the 10-meter platform you wonder how they can do that and it's just repetition and doing it week-in and week-out for four years getting ready for the Olympics and these guys do it week-in and week-out getting ready for every Sunday and I think it's just time."

JACK ROUSH, Team Owner -- "I've been coming down here since 1988 and this is the first time we've had a smell, if you know what I mean. Frankie has been a great spark plug to the team. He's challenged them and, of course, he's after them like a rabbit -- a little terrier -- to get them to do their stops and to correct their problems and to chase them around. Fortunately, he's been able to get in there and show them how to do some of the jobs the way they need to be done if they're lacking, so Frankie is unquestionably the biggest reason that we sit here today. Buddy Parrott has been everybody's mentor. He's the wise old Indian chief that watches and speaks up whenever he thinks that things are a little out of control, but he gives the guys a lot of room and, of course, he gives them a big example to follow."

MARK MARTIN --60-- Winn Dixie Taurus (Finished 6th) --
IF THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE TIME DID YOU HAVE SOMETHING FOR THE LEADERS? "I don't know. We were running OK until we got in the back. We've won a lot of races and this one just got by us. I would have liked to have raced them at the end, but we weren't there. The car was working well the whole races, we just got too far behind on that pit stop."

THOUGHTS ON YOUR LAST BUSCH RACE AT ROCKINGHAM? "I'm glad that it's coming to an end and I will certainly enjoy watching them on TV. I will definitely miss working with the great race teams that I have and driving the great race cars that I have and having the success that I've had. It's been an awesome part of my career and something I'll never forget."

JEFF BURTON --9-- NorthernLight.com Taurus (Finished 2nd) --
"That's what racing is all about -- good, hard racing. The leader starts the race and he got a good run. What I should have done is just stopped and let him jump the start, but the problem with that is the guy behind him runs up on you. But he took off before the flag dropped and didn't take off when I took off, and then when I did take off I spun the rear wheels and he got on the outside of me."

WHAT ABOUT THAT LAST RESTART? "He did a great job. He timed it just right. What I should have done was checked him up. He took off before I took off and when he did I should have just checked up and let him go by me and they would have black-flagged him, but I didn't do that. When I did try to get going I spun the rear tires really bad and he got a run on me. The outside was where you wanted to be and he got by me. He did a great job. I'm not saying he did anything wrong, he timed it just right, did a great job and I just got in the gas too hard."

DID HE SURPRISE YOU WITH THE MOVE? "Well, it always surprises the leader when the second-place guy is beside him at the start-finish line on a restart. That's always a surprise."

ELTON SAWYER --98-- Lysol Taurus (Finished 19th) --
WHAT HAPPENED NEAR THE END? "Well, Jason and I were racing hard. We went down into one and, in all honesty, I really don't know. I got loose. We touched, I got loose, and I spun. It's pretty simple. With two laps to go or three laps to go there we were both running hard and we got a real good run at him off of four. I was gonna go high and he came up and took that spot, so I went to the bottom and it was real greasy down there, but we were going for it. The car was good all day. It was really good on long runs and it's just unfortunate we don't have the finish, but the car was pretty good."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Bobby Labonte , Jack Roush , Mark Martin