Ford Racing Saturday Talladega notes

NASCAR issued smaller restrictor plates during a drivers-only meeting following second-round qualifying on Saturday. Frank Stoddard, crew chief of the No. 99 CITGO SUPERGARD Taurus, talked about the decision after Happy Hour. FRANK STODDARD ,...

NASCAR issued smaller restrictor plates during a drivers-only meeting following second-round qualifying on Saturday. Frank Stoddard, crew chief of the No. 99 CITGO SUPERGARD Taurus, talked about the decision after Happy Hour.

FRANK STODDARD , CREW CHIEF-99-CITGO SUPERGARD Taurus-"It's not a big deal at all. I applaud NASCAR. NASCAR is trying to tweak some things and try to make this sport better for all these drivers and all these competitors and all these crew members in the garage. I applaud them for making a decision based on what they saw on the race track, and that was cars that was just going extremely too fast catching a pack, to where they were just going to be coming through the pack like a loose cannon. And, so they just needed to step in and slow that process down a little bit. People are upset about it because it's a change, and it's a change here at the race track, I mean, I'm not upset about it because I think in the good interest of safety that it is something that needed to be done. And, when you really step back and look at things at a perspective of safety and our hearts today are hung low for the Roper family, what happened in Texas. You know, that's some of thing that I think this sport's about is continuing to try to make the cars as safe and the races as safe-and yet, also, as good as possible, and having said that, the reason that we need to make them safe is for the people that come here and they cheer for Tony Roper and for Kenny Irwin and Adam Petty and the guys that drive these cars as brilliantly as they do is, that's who they come to cheer for. And we want to make sure that they can come back each week and cheer for that driver. And, I think the fans want us to do what's important to make the sport competitive and yet also safe, and that's what NASCAR's trying to do here today."

WERE YOU SURPRISED WHEN YOU SAW THE SPEEDS FROM THIS MORNING'S PRACTICE THAT THEY WERE AS HIGH AS THEY WERE? "Extremely surprised. Extremely surprised. As soon as I saw that I was like, oh, boy, we've dome something here. We've got way too much of a plate. Because I was afraid that when a pack got out there, cars were going to be able to run up and catch them, but what happens is when they have that amount of speed, they have no place to go but just charge through the field. People just aren't expecting them to come that fast. And then once they get into the pack, it's not like the speed you have catching the pack is going to allow you to just pull out and pass somebody once you get into the pack. But as you catch the pack and as you get to the first 10 or 15 cars, it's gonna allow you to go through and cause chaos, and that's not going to be a good thing."

TWENTY-FOUR HOURS BEFORE THE RACE THE RESTRICTOR PLATE SIZE IS CHANGED. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO THE CAR? "No big deal. You may have to re-gear the car a little bit. We're looking at our gear ratio and stuff, but the motors and stuff, a sixteenth on the plate, for anybody to say that they're gonna have to change their motors and do this or that-we're all sitting here in the same boat, we're all sitting here with our motors in our cars. They went out and ran Happy Hour, didn't they? They took that carburetor off and they slipped that plate on there, and we'll be fine. I mean, I'm not the motor builder, but I'm sure if Jack took it back he'd like to tweak on things here or there, but you're talking about just so silly of things that shouldn't even be discussed, we should be thinking about the safety of making this sport as good as we can."

Darrell Waltrip qualified for Sunday's Winston 500 with a second-round qualifying speed of 185.668 miles per hour. He will start 34th. Waltrip also talked about NASCAR's decision on Saturday to change the restrictor plate for tomorrow's race.

DARRELL WALTRIP -66-Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus-"I can eat now because this morning I didn't eat my breakfast, I hadn't had much to eat all day because we were a little nervous about getting in the show, and once we got that done, well, that took a lot of pressure off everybody. Now we can enjoy ourselves a little bit."

IS TODAY'S CHANGE FOR THE BETTER? "Change isn't always for the better. And it just seems like, the problem they have here is they're constantly making changes. You know, you can never get anything working. The engine builders are fooling with a different size restrictor plate every time they turn around. The aero package on the car is so radical that nobody knows really what it's gonna do until you get there amongst all the other cars. You know, we gotta cut all this stuff out. We gotta get back to some basic package here, where guys can race pretty good and be safe. Safety's the issue. The cars this morning were gonna run over 200 miles an hour and that's not a good idea here at Talladega when we run on top of each other the way we do. I don't know what they're gonna do, but I'm glad I don't have to make that decision. I just hope I get through tomorrow alright, and then I'll be able to watch it next year."

AFTER FIRST-ROUND QUALIFYING YOU SAID YOU NEEDED TO FIND SOME HORSEPOWER. DID YOU FIND WHAT YOU WERE LOOKING FOR? "Yeah. Doug and them, they gave me the engine out of the 28 car, and they helped us get it in and get it tuned up and that made the difference today. Worked on the car a little bit, Larry and them did, but really and truly, the effort they put into it got me in the race."

IN ALL YOUR YEARS OF RACING, HAD YOU EVER SEEN A CHANGE THIS CLOSE TO THE RACE BEFORE? "Listen, they got the cars so out of whack right now, they don't know what to do. They're just, you know, let's change something, maybe that'll be better. It's called trial and error, and this ain't a good place to be doing that kind of stuff."

DOUG YATES , Robert Yates Racing-IS THE CHANGE A BIG DEAL? "In my opinion, it is a big deal. Anytime you prepare for a race for a one-inch plate and they put a fifteen-sixteenths plate on, it's about a 50 horsepower change. Basically, your valve train's not optimized. If your valve train's optimized for a one-inch plate, it's not optimized for a fifteen-sixteenths. It's a different air flow. More air flow for a one-inch plate than a fifteen-sixteenths. So, some guys here in the garage, it's gonna come to them and will make their cars run better, their engine combination run better, and some of the guys who are running good are not going to perform as well. Every small incremental change on a restrictor plate is a very big change."

WAS THERE ENOUGH TIME TO MAKE THE CHANGES YOU NEEDED TO MAKE? "Well, you really need to go home and order some cam shafts, and we can't do that overnight. So, we've got some guys back at the shop, just like other teams here, and they're going to get on the dyno and try some things today and see if we can't tune in a couple horsepower here or there. But, with the drag they put in the cars, the engine is not as significant now, it doesn't seem, because everybody out here can hold the draft, and so now, it seems to be more about who you're drafting with, and the position you're in at the end of the race, so, hopefully, everybody can get through the race and be at the right place at the right time and capitalize."

WERE YOU SURPRISED BY THE SPEEDS THIS MORNING? "Yeah. Those speeds were done when people were catching the draft. That's still pretty fast. I wasn't surprised that NASCAR was nervous about the speeds, I wasn't surprised that they wanted to change something. It's gonna be as good a show at 190 versus 200, but it's just a little bit of pain for the engine guys who spent a lot of time working on one-size plate. But, I think it'll be a good race tomorrow."

Reigning Winston Cup champion Dale Jarrett heads into tomorrow's Winston 500 in fourth place in this year's points race, 388 points behind leader Bobby Labonte with five races remaining. He registered the 12th-fastest first-round qualifying speed (187.956 mph) on Friday. He met with the media after Saturday morning's practice session-but before NASCAR issued smaller restrictor plates during a drivers-only meeting following second-round qualifying.

DALE JARRETT -88-Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus-"I'm not sure that's something I can answer right now. I think I'm just gonna have to get in the race and see exactly what's going on and what my car's gonna do versus what other cars are doing. I still would right now say that, if I had to guess, I'd still want to be in front. I can control things a little better there."

SOME ARE SAYING THAT THE NEW RULES WILL MAKE IT A THROWBACK TO THE LATE '70S AND EARLY '80S. "I'm not sure they ever had as good of racing as we've had the last three or four years here. I don't exactly know why we want to go back to that. I guess they're looking for somebody to make a pass on the last lap. Again, it's too early to say. Looks like it's going to be exciting racing, but, to me, we always have exciting racing here. I think you're gonna have to go up in the stands or get somebody that's watching to find out what they're after and if that is what they're looking for."

DID YOU TRY TO DROP BACK AND SEE IF YOU COULD CATCH UP TO THE PACK? "You didn't have to drop back, you could shuffled back in a hurry. Yeah, you can pull back up, but we've had a good car always and I never concerned myself with losing the draft at any point. My car has always been one that could pull back up. It's definitely making a bigger hole in the air, so you do get more of a draft effect. What's that gonna do when we get in race conditions? It's hard to say right now, because in practice you got people pulling out and doing different things and that creates really a different scenario than what we're going to see in the race."

HAVE THE NEW RULES UPSET YOUR SET-UP HERE? "As long as it's good racing. We'll work around, obviously, we had something that worked very well. We knew that when we came here we would have a good chance at winning. Right now, you don't know what to expect. And, to make that change in the middle of the year, that's just something we have to deal with. I don't really know how to evaluate it. If I'm on the upset side of anything, it's the deal with the spoilers. We had a car a couple of years ago that had a tremendous amount of drag, but it was great at other race tracks. Not only did they take spoiler away at the other race tracks, they didn't do anything for us here. And now they've turned around and those cars have a great car at the other tracks, they haven't taken anything away from there, but they gave them something here that's obviously-other than one Ford being up there, and hats off to Bill Elliott, I don't know how he did what he did, but you got two cars that sat on the front row that both times at Daytona and neither one made the top 10. That would be the side that I would be upset about. But, we just have to work around that. And, again, if it makes for good racing then we'll do our best to try to be a part of that good racing."

Bill Elliott will start on the outside pole for tomorrow's Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Elliott has enjoyed great success at the 2.66-mile track over the years, earning two wins and eight poles. He has finished in the top 10 in almost half (22) of the 47 races in which he's competed on the famed Alabama track. And, on April 30, 1987, he set a stock-car record with a qualifying speed of 212.809 miles per hour.

BILL ELLIOTT -94-McDonald's Taurus-YESTERDAY, AFTER FIRST-ROUND QUALIFYING, YOU SAID THAT YOU WOULD KNOW MORE ABOUT HOW THE NEW RULES CHANGES WOULD AFFECT SUNDAY'S RACE AFTER SATURDAY'S PRACTICE. NOW THAT THAT PRACTICE IS OVER, WHAT DO YOU KNOW THAT YOU DIDN'T KNOW YESTERDAY? "I don't see it being a lot different-other than, yeah, you can make a run on the car in front of you. Like I said yesterday, I don't know what NASCAR is trying to accomplish, because I ran around in the pack, you can't get away from the pack. Then I backed way up and I caught back up to the pack. And, to me, it's going to be a difficult race from looking at it, and I'm saying that, but by positioning yourself in an area to win the race, because right now I don't know where you want to be. I don't think you want to be out front, not unless you want to cut somebody off bad enough. And the problem is, when you start cutting people off, and then the guy behind you don't lift, you know, you got a good run on him and then he cuts you off, then you're going to cause a situation. So, man, I don't know. It's your typical Talladega to me."

WITH THE THROTTLE RESPONSE NOW... "A little. I mean, you ain't got tons. You don't have just light-the-rear-tires-up throttle response. Yeah, you got more, but, see, I don't know that it's a lot of throttle response, you got a lot of drag on the car. With a lot of drag on the race car, when you get behind other cars you're going to gain more than when as slick as the cars were here before, because they had to keep taking power off because the cars had gotten so aerodynamic-people had figured this spoiler stuff out, you know, it made the cars that much better. The way I see it, one guy, if he gets out there, he's kind of a sitting duck because all these other guys are gonna do is just back up and run at him, you know, it's gonna be a continuing deal. If one guy gets a little bit of a cushion, because the cars are so dirty, aerodynamically, that if he gets out there a little way, he's gonna really slow up. Well, that's gonna make all these other guys just look that much faster. It isn't necessarily that they engine-wise accelerate that much better, it's just that you're counting on that guy's dirty air to get you going. Plus, he's not able to get away because he's trying to lead the pack, he's in clean air so his car's the dirtiest and not getting any help-and then he's helping you make a run on him. Can 43 guys do that for 500 miles? I doubt it."

IS THIS SIMILAR TO WHAT IT WAS LIKE 10 OR 15 YEARS AGO? WILL THE VETERAN DRIVERS HAVE AN ADVANTAGE? "I disagree. I don't know that anybody's got an advantage. It just depends on how good you get your car, and getting in the right place at the right time. I'd say the IROC guys probably got a pretty good handle on what it's been, because their cars are fairly dirty, they run a fairly good-size plate-but they run several seconds slower than what these cars are running here today. That makes the racing good and you don't put yourself in such jeopardy. Plus, you're only running 12 cars or whatever it is they run versus 43 guys running for the same hole. So, the odds of someone making a mistake is a whole lot better racing here Sunday afternoon."

YOUR RECORD HERE SPEAKS FOR ITSELF. "I like Daytona better than I like here because it's a handling race track, it's a thinking race track. You gotta get your car working because, as a I said to someone yesterday, there isn't a handful of cars that normally can run a full green-flag run wide open. At some in point in time they get off bad enough that they can't run the corner wide open and that separates the field. Where here, your great-great-great-grandmother could run wide open for 500 miles, because the handling does not play that much of factor at this race track. That's why you see guys four and five deep. Now that the competition level has pretty well leveled out as far as the knowledge and the cars that are in the garage are all pretty good, then that just puts 43 guys there that's capable of winning the race."

YESTERDAY YOU SAID YOU WERE MORE COMFORTABLE HERE AT 212 MILES PER HOUR THAN AT 190. COULD YOU EXPLAIN WHY? "When I ran 212 here, sure I was on the edge, but I had the car stuck to the race track a little bit better-because I had the power to pull it. You know, we could do whatever we wanted to with the spoiler back then, we could lay it down as far as you could stand it. When they started taking power away from us, then you had to really get the car freed up, loosened up. I can remember qualifying here, not so much since they put the spoiler on us here the last five or six years, I hadn't really felt like that's been out of control. With the exception of, several times we put a lot of shock on the car and soft springs and run on bump rubbers and all that stuff and that makes the car uncomfortable to drive. But, I'd say in the early '90s is when you'd really hang the car out, because you had a small plate, you could dictate the spoiler and, man, you'd run it just as loose as you could go."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Adam Petty , Robert Yates
Teams Yates Racing