NASCAR Winston Cup After six weeks of superspeedway racing, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series heads to the half-mile high-banks of Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500 on April 11. Ford drivers talk about their return to short-track racing...
NASCAR Winston Cup
After six weeks of superspeedway racing, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series heads to the half-mile high-banks of Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500 on April 11. Ford drivers talk about their return to short-track racing and the physical demands it places on them.
Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Taurus, has captured three of the last four poles at Bristol Motor Speedway, including both races last season. Wallace ranks fourth all-time with six Bristol victories and five poles.
RUSTY WALLACE -2- Miller Lite Taurus -- YOU MUST BE LOOKING FORWARD TO GOING BACK TO BRISTOL. "I like Bristol. When people ask me what my favorite race track is I always say it's Bristol and probably Richmond, Virginia would be second. But I love going to Bristol. I've got car dealerships that are close to there and I've got a lot of friends around that area. I've been on the last three poles at Bristol, so that's gotta give you some confidence going in and it does for me. Because of that, I feel really good going into Bristol this time. We've got a new car. It's not really anything different than we've had there in the past, except it's brand new, it's fresh and it looks great. We built two new short track cars. We tested one of them last week and it ran really good. We haven't tested this one, but we'll be shaking it down probably the Tuesday or Wednesday before the Bristol race. We'll just take it to some local short track. We'll probably run Greenville-Pickens or something to make sure everything works right on it. With that in mind, and with some of the stuff we've learned this year on shocks and stuff already, I think we'll have a helluva Bristol race."
IS THIS A REFRESHING CHANGE TO RACE AT A TRACK LIKE THIS AFTER ALL OF THE MILE TO TWO-MILE TYPE OVALS? "It's real refreshing to go to something like that because we do all kind of aerodynamic calculations and it shows that anything over 100-120 miles an hour with this new spoiler rule is really doing a lot of stuff. And on short tracks it doesn't have that big of an effect on it, so I'm looking forward to taking my setups that have always been so good for me back to those places. I'll have to make a couple adjustments here and there I'm sure, but I don't think it's gonna be something crazy."
LOOKING BACK AT LAST YEAR'S RACE; WAS THAT YOUR MOST DISAPPOINTING FINISH? YOU HAD THE FIELD COVERED. "Yeah. We blew the motor and were running on seven cylinders. Then we got way back in the field and that piece of lead fell out of Ricky Rudd's car and I drove over it and destroyed the car. I was real frustrated. Then we went back to the second race, qualified on the pole, and finished third. Every time I go there it's always pretty good, so I'm excited about Bristol. We had two bad weeks at Darlington and Atlanta. You look back on them and you can sure easily see what happened. We just missed the setup early at Atlanta, but I always said if I could have started the Atlanta race now the way I finished it because when we were done we had a great car. It was really running good at the end after we figured out what was wrong it. We changed all the shocks and fixed it all up and it was good. But then at Darlington I had a decent car that was getting ready to get a lot better and I slid through pit road. I tried to get onto pit road and the 22 was there and he pulled out. Robin was telling all about it on the radio and I was aware of it, but as soon as I went to pull in he was pulling out and I had to stop. When I stopped I slid right past the pits and had to go back around, and I lost two laps. So two really, really bizarre weekends happened right in a row, so we're trying to get that out of our system. We're way behind in points, but hopefully we'll be able to gain a lot of them back."
YOU SAID THAT YOU'VE STRUGGLED WITH THE RULES CHANGE, BUT DO YOU HAVE A BETTER HANDLE ON THINGS NOW? "The last two weeks we've learned a lot of stuff that's helped us, especially on what I need for the chassis. The cars are great, the motors are good. Streaker, one of my favorite cars, is the one I had the problems with at Darlington and Atlanta. The poor old car is getting the bad wrap and it's not the car's fault. It's just that the setup was wrong."
Kevin Lepage's last visit to Bristol Motor Speedway in August marked the best weekend of his NASCAR career. He posted a victory in the Busch Grand National race and then overcame a backstretch pit position to finish 10th in only his second start for Roush Racing.
KEVIN LEPAGE -16- PRIMESTAR Taurus -- BRISTOL BRINGS BACK GOOD MEMORIES FROM YOUR LAST VISIT DOESN'T IT? "Oh yeah, it was a heckuva weekend for us. First of all, there was the Busch race that we won on Friday night. We really had a decent car all night and brought it to victory lane, but I guess Saturday night was the highlight. We had to pit on the backstretch because we just missed the front straightaway. We started 24th and just raced to the front and raced all night long. The guys did a great job, kept me on the lead lap when we pitted. Considering that was only my second time in the PRIMESTAR Ford and to be in the top 10, that was just a great feeling. I really think that was a turning point for the race team where the momentum just escalated from that one particular race and it showed the rest of the season."
DO YOU LIKE RACING ON SHORT TRACKS? "It seems like if you look at my stats, at least in the Busch Series anyway, we usually shine on the mile and a half race tracks and struggle on the short tracks, but for some reason I just love Bristol. It kind of reminds me of a short track back home, a quarter-mile high bank -- Thunder Road that we raced and had a lot of success at. From the first time I went to Bristol in my own car in '94 I fell in love with the place. I love the speed. I love the challenge. A lot of people say you can't pass on the outside, well you can. A lot of people say you can't pass on the inside, you can. It's just a race track I really enjoy racing at. We're looking forward to going back because we're bringing the same car that we finished 10th with there last year. We've been in a bit of a slump this year. I'm not pleased and the team's not pleased. It seems when something goes wrong it really goes wrong. We've had some success with qualifying in races, but we can't seem to put the finishes back-to-back. We're going to Bristol with the same car and maybe that will be our momentum-booster for the rest of the season."
IS THIS A REFRESHING CHANGE FROM THE MILE AND 1.5 MILE OVALS YOU'VE RACED MOST OF THE SEASON? "I think so. A short track takes out a lot of the aerodynamics and puts it on the driver and pit strategy. It goes to that point, so that gets the guys pumped up and the driver pumped up. It's a deal where, with the way the schedule is planned, you can't change it so what you've gotta do is keep working week-in and week-out and learn every week."
IS THIS THE MOST PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY DEMANDING RACE? "I usually don't sleep a whole lot Saturday night anyway and at Bristol it's definitely nerve-wracking. It's definitely physical. There's no air moving around, so you have outside air blowers blowing in and you get a lot of carbon monoxide. Bristol is where you separate the men from the boys. I think it's a deal where the guys that are physically fit will be the guys who will be up on top and we're hoping that I'm physically fit for that deal and the team is gonna be ready to go. "