Ford Saturday Darlington Notes

FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES 400 March 18, 2000 Darlington Raceway Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Valvoline Taurus, held a press conference after yesterday's Busch Series Happy Hour to discuss his...

March 18, 2000
Darlington Raceway

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Valvoline Taurus, held a press conference after yesterday's Busch Series Happy Hour to discuss his pole-winning run. Following are some of his comments that pertain to Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup race in which he will start fifth.

MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline Taurus -- WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT PIT ROAD? "It looks OK to me so far, but I'll have a better perspective obviously after the Busch race tomorrow, but so far it looks like an improvement to me. At least the guys aren't having to deal with the backstretch pit, which is not necessarily and advantage for me but it is an advantage for me if I ever stub my toe qualifying."

DO YOU FEEL THE TWO PIT ROADS WERE A DISADVANTAGE BEFORE? "Absolutely. The pit road basically cost us a race here years ago in the rain -- the one when I think Darrell Waltrip won the race -- the rain shortened it. It's a disadvantage if you're pitting on the backstretch and there's no way to get around it. Sometimes you can make a good day out of it, but you're still up against a tough one." THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF SQUABBLING ABOUT THE RULES THIS YEAR IN WINSTON CUP. DOES THAT HURT THE SPORT AND WHAT WOULD BE YOUR SOLUTION TO SOLVE IT ONCE AND FOR ALL? "I just hope that going forward I never sound like Baby Huey. I've learned a lot of lessons about those kind of questions." DO YOU FEEL IF THEY JUST LET YOU GET OUT AND RACE EVERYTHING WILL BE OK BECAUSE THE TALENT APPEARS PRETTY EQUAL? "It's not that simple. It's just not that simple. NASCAR has to do what they have to do and racers have to do what they have to do. The teams aren't NASCAR, they have their own best interests in mind and you can't fault them for that. They're trying to gain an advantage, have an advantage and maintain and advantage. If NASCAR left it alone, then things would get pretty far out of hand based on what race teams jobs really are. It's their job to make these cars faster." HAS THERE BEEN ANY TALK IN THE GARAGE AREA ABOUT JEFF GORDON'S SLOW START AND THAT TEAMS SHOULD TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT NOW? "There hasn't been around me, but that doesn't mean there hasn't been. Our concern is not solely with the 24 car. We have a number of Ford teams that we have to contend with. We have a number of Pontiac teams that we almost can't contend with and it's my contention that the Monte Carlo is going to be a race car that's hard to beat. That's been my concern since before it came out. They spent two or three years building that race car getting it ready. We spent two or three months getting our Taurus ready. If it's not a great race car, then they didn't do their homework correctly. It appears to me like things go in cycles. I predict that the future holds a very difficult time for us to go out and dominate and win these races. We're gonna have to really really do our homework and really do a good job. That's what I think is in front of us. I certainly don't think it's gonna be easy for us."

Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Taurus, followed Martin into the media center after yesterday's Busch Happy Hour to discuss his day. Burton, who qualified 27th for Sunday's 400, spoke about a variety of topics.

JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus -- WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO WIN HERE? "You've gotta be fast and you've gotta also be able to stay fast for a long period of time. Then, if you catch a caution late in the race, you need to be able to adjust your car depending on how many laps are left. So, to me, it's about being fast. It's about track position and then it's about having adjustability and understanding the race track to know what you need to do depending on what kind of run you've got left near the end of the race."

THE FORECAST IS CALLING FOR RAIN ON SUNDAY. YOUR THOUGHTS? "If it does rain then it's just like always, being in the right spot at the right time is what it's all about whether it's halfway or whatever. We'll watch the weather really close. The key to winning a rain-shortened race as well as winning a full race is being in the front. We've been teased a lot about being the rainman and stuff, but the one thing I can say is we never really turned a 10th-place car into a winning car because of the rain. We were always in the right place at the right time. In all three of the races that we won in the rain we also led the most laps in those races. Frank does a great job of watching the weather and paying attention to it. I won the race here in the spring because Frank made the right call. That's a weapon you can use, but it can also work against you. I had it work against me as well as work for me. It worked against me at Phoenix a couple of years ago, but ever since it's worked for us."

HOW HAS THE RULE CHANGE AFFECTED YOU? "I've got a new attitude about it and I just got it this week. First of all, I've always been in favor and I've never complained about making rules changes if there is a discrepancy in cars. The problem that I have with what we're doing now is Daytona, Rockingham and Vegas are all different situations. Daytona has nothing to do with Rockingham, has nothing to do with Vegas, has nothing to do with Atlanta. The Chevrolets started complaining about things at Daytona and continued complaining at Rockingham. They had nothing to do with each other. Drag means nothing at Rockingham. The best Ford finished fifth at Rockingham, one lap down. We went to Vegas and I won, a Pontiac was second and a Ford was third in a rain-shortened race. The very best Chevrolet for most of the day was a rookie driver with a rookie team. They (NASCAR) made a rule change. Well, that's hard for the Ford guys to understand. We had two downforce tracks, we had a rookie driver. Nothing against Dale Earnhardt, Jr., he's a great driver with a great team, but they shouldn't be as good as the existing Chevrolet teams. So after really only two races, because Daytona doesn't mean anything about downforce, that's two races and we make a change -- after only one race that the Fords outran the Chevrolets. The Chevrolets outran the Fords at Rockingham. So we outran 'em in one race and they made a rule change. That's difficult to understand. Now, the wind tunnel supported the decision, obviously, or they wouldn't have made the decision. So, my new theory having said all that, is that I'm not gonna worry about it anymore. I did get my punch in before I said that (laughing). NASCAR is not gonna do something to help Dale Earnhardt or to help Jeff Gordon or to help somebody that they want to see win. I don't believe that. I believe what NASCAR is trying to do is to make sure that all three makes are equal and I don't have a problem with that. I have a problem with how they come to that conclusion because I don't know how to come to that conclusion. When Mark and I race against each other and he outruns me is that because the bodies are different or did he drive better or did he have a better setup? That's hard to determine. I think that NASCAR has good intentions. Their intentions are to make the racing good. Their intentions are to make the car makes fair and equal and I'm not gonna worry about it. I'm gonna worry about racing Bobby Labonte and Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin and everybody that I need to race. I'm not gonna race NASCAR, I'm gonna race my car against the competitors and I'm just gonna drop it. I'm just not gonna worry about it anymore. If the tide turns and the Chevrolets start putting a beating on the Fords they'll step up and they'll make a change. I believe that to be true."

HOW CAN YOU STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT WHEN IT SEEMS YOU GUYS HAVE LOST CONTROL OF HOW THE SHOW GOES? "We've never had control of how the show goes. This isn't a democracy. We don't get to vote. We don't get to make the rules. They tell us what to do, where to be and how to be. That's the way it's always been and that's the way it oughta be. They have more vision about this sport than we do. We have visions about how to go faster than the next guy, well, that doesn't help do anything to promote the series. NASCAR needs to handle that, so we have never had a say in the sport and we should never have a say in it. If you let us run it, it'd be like CART. We'd have a bunch of car owners "trying to make decisions and it doesn't work. We've never had the power to make decisions. We don't now, we never have and I hope we never do because we'd screw it up."

BUT DO YOU FEEL YOUR SPECIFIC TALENT IS BEING LOST BECAUSE OF THE AERODYNAMICS OF THE CAR? "I don't worry about that. You can ask my crew chief. At the end of a race when we get beat, we don't go home and say, 'We can't beat a Pontiac or we can't beat a Chevrolet.' When we get beat it's because we aren't good enough. Even if we're disadvantaged in an aero situation, I can't fix that. All we can do is build the best bodies we can build and do the best job driving and setting it up. If we lose the race and I'm saying I couldn't run any better and that's the best we could run and we still got beat, then I might say something, but I've never once done that. I believe that we've got good enough engines, good enough cars and good enough driver that if we get our stuff right we can run with anybody and I'm just not gonna worry about the other stuff."

DID THE TWO INCHES HELP CHEVROLET? "I have no idea. I don't think the Chevrolets can feel like they're disadvantaged. After last week I don't see how Chevrolet can feel they're disadvantaged right now. Pontiac finished second last week. I don't believe that they feel they're disadvantaged. (Last week) I wrecked early and went home. I don't know how everybody ran. Is the Ford at a disadvantage? I don't know. I honestly don't know if we're disadvantaged or if the Chevy has an advantage or the Pontiac has an advantage, I don't know. All I know is that they made a rule change and it seemed real obvious that it helped the Chevrolet."

DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- YOU, GORDON AND BURTON HAVE DOMINATED HERE LATELY. IS THERE ANY REASON TO THINK TOMORROW WILL BE ANY DIFFERENT? "I don't think it'll be any different for the two of them. We're struggling a little bit. We haven't exactly found, I don't know, we haven't gotten away from what we did here before but it seems as the track changed and they got a new tire here last year, maybe what we had went away a little bit. I don't feel bad about it. We can't run as fast as they can, we seem to stay pretty good, but hopefully by the end of the day that won't change much. It seems like a lot of people have gotten their cars better, so I would look for more people than just the three of us to be in the mix."

ARE THE TIRES GOING AWAY REALLY FAST? "They go away, but to me it seems like you can run a little bit longer than what we have here in the past. Normally, you go out and run some laps and you come back in during practice and try to run again and you can't tell much. Today, I was able to put two or three cycles on them and still be able to feel a change if it was better or worse."

TIRE MANAGEMENT IS THE KEY? "That's what it always is, tire management here. The race track is very abrasive. Goodyear has a very good tire, it's just a difficult place because you put so much pressure on them. We're running faster than we've ever run here, especially with the race track the way that it is, so the guy that can have a setup that will allow him to take care of the tires will be in pretty good shape."

IS THIS A DRIVER'S RACE TRACK?  "The driver works hard here, there's no
doubt about that.  The driver can make a difference here."

IS THAT WHY EARNHARDT HAS BEEN SO GOOD HERE? "Probably so. You have to look at him and when David Pearson was here with the driver that he was, I think that's definitely a good reason for that."

THE CREW CHIEF HAS A LOT TO DO WITH THIS RACE AS FAR AS TIRES AND PITTING, RIGHT? "Managing that is very critical because you've gotta be careful. You can't hang around out there after the leaders start pitting because you start losing a second and a half a lap, and then you start losing more than that because you're out there just trying to hang on and you have people that get fresh tires, whether they were faster cars or not, they're gonna be faster than you then. You've gotta let them go, so you can't run as hard as you did and you end up losing two seconds a lap. You have to be ready and know when you've hit the limit with your tires. You're better off to come in a little early, although it would be very easy to get yourself in trouble by pitting too early because then you're gonna end up before the day is out with the possibility of making an extra pit stop."

BUT THAT CAN SET THE TONE OF THE RACE, RIGHT? "Especially a car that is pretty good and can be up front, he can change the strategy of others. Yeah, if you find something that works for you a little bit better, then you can maybe change what other people aredoing and what their thinking is."

WHAT ABOUT PIT ROAD TOMORROW, ANY STRATEGY THERE ESPECIALLY UNDER GREEN? "It's gonna take a long time, but it's better than the alternative was. It'll be interesting to see what happens. I think the biggest thing right now is it's hard to get on the pit road down here because the new pavement is very slick. You're having to stay on the race track and make a hard cut left and whenever you've run 60 laps on a set of tires or something it's gonna really be bad, so you've gotta be careful. The asphalt is just new, it hasn't had any type of rubber on it or anything so it's just strictly new."

HOW ABOUT THE EXIT TO PIT ROAD? "It bottlenecks a little bit, but by the time you get to there you should pretty much be getting in line anyway. I haven't seen who picked where, but I would assume the guys that qualified up front took those spots down there, so they're probably gonna be getting in and out. I don't see it posing a problem. It's no more narrow than what we've ever had here."

SCOTT PRUETT --32-- Tide Taurus -- "Loading up all this stuff and heading home is tough. We're all racers and we want to go racing. Unfortunately, we knew this was something that could happen, but it's one thing to think about it happening and one totally different to be in the middle of it."

WILL BRISTOL BE TOUGH? "Bristol is gonna be good. We tested there last week and we ran real well, so I'm looking forward to going to Bristol."

THIS IS FURTHER PROOF OF HOW HARD IT IS TO GET IN THESE RACES ISN'T IT? "This is the reality of going Winston Cup racing. I mean, it's hard, tough competition. This whole Tide team worked hard and continues to work hard. We've taken a little setback here, but we're gonna take everything that we're working towards and put it toward Bristol next week. We'll come back and put it in the field and go racing."

TALKING ABOUT NOT MAKING RACES A FEW MONTHS AGO AND LIVING IT NOW THOUGH ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS, RIGHT? "Exactly. It's one thing to sit here and say, 'You know what, last September we had a handful of guys and two race cars and we've come a long way in a short period of time.' The other part of it is your desire and your heart that tell you, 'We want to go racing, we don't want to be packing up and going home.' Talking about it and living it are two totally different things."

WILL YOU WATCH THE RACE ON TV? "That's all you can do. Not racing here, that's my only opportunity to try and figure out by watching strategy, watching the race and how everything unfolds to try and get any little piece I can out of it to take me on to the next race."

MARK MARTIN --60-- Winn Dixie Taurus (Finished 1st) -- "We just got a great run on that restart. It's too bad for Jeff Burton, he had the fastest car there at the end but I've lost a lot of races that way. We had the track position and the race was over before he had a chance to get us back. We just tried to hang on to that thing. I drove it as hard as I could and I just couldn't get away from him. He was quicker than we were, but we were just in the right spot."

WAS THERE ANY CONTACT IN TURN ONE? "I don't think there was any contact. Jeff raced hard and he raced clean. We raced each other real clean, even there on the last lap. We went in side-by-side and we were gonna have to race for it and that's a terrible thing to do down in one and two, but I went for it. I got in the gas and got ahead of him and thought, 'I may have this thing,' and about that time I turned the steering wheel and it just kept going straight and I almost had to stop and he got back under me. It was just really an exciting finish."

ON THE LAST LAP WHERE DID YOU HAVE THE ADVANTAGE? "Just luck. I had the track position. We raced side-by-side down there in one and two and that's something you're not supposed to be able to do and you usually don't try it, but we had to because it was for the win."

JEFF BURTON --9-- Taurus (Finished 3rd) -- "It was a great race, I'm real proud of both teams. I finally was able to get under him coming off of four and I knew going through two was gonna be really interesting because I was loose. We went through there side-by-side and the back of my car started coming around and I just had to lift. I'd rather finish dead last than get into him and I was in a position where I just had to lift. It was a great race. I would have liked to won it, but we gave it all we had. He did a great job on that restart. My car wasn't very good on restarts all day and he got by me there and that was the difference in the race."

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN TWO CARS SO EVEN? "It's pretty amazing that we can get them that close. We work real hard at making sure both teams have equal equipment and I think we're there. That was a good race. I never knew if he was better than me or I was better than him. It seemed we were real, real close most of the time. I was a little better than he was at the end, but at a place like this you've gotta be a lot better if you're ever gonna get by somebody."

ELTON SAWYER --98-- Lysol Taurus (Finished 9th) -- "We had a great day with the Lysol car. We had great pit stops. This car ran good all day. Right there at the end I got a run on Todd (Bodine) and went down into three and I got loose and lost all the momentum and lost our spots there. The tires were about gone at that time anyway. We were going for fourth and ended up ninth, but it was still a good day. The guys did a great job and the engine ran good, so it's off to Bristol. This is the best we've finished this year, obviously, but we've run better at other times. We ran good at Rockingham and just had some misfortunes and caught a caution at a bad time and ended up 12th and at Las Vegas it was the same deal. We weren't very good at Atlanta, but this was a good day that gives us a little momentum."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Bobby Labonte , Mark Martin , David Pearson