JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus -- DOES THIS PLACE WEAR YOU OUT PHYSICALLY MORE THAN SOME OTHER RACE TRACKS? "Yeah, I think so. It's a real long race -- 400 laps is not a short race I don't care what anybody says. Fortunately, it...
JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus -- DOES THIS PLACE WEAR YOU OUT PHYSICALLY MORE THAN SOME OTHER RACE TRACKS? "Yeah, I think so. It's a real long race -- 400 laps is not a short race I don't care what anybody says. Fortunately, it looks like we're gonna get a little break in the weather from yesterday (Friday), but I always feel drained. When you get a long green flag run here and you pit under green, I'm gonna tell you, you're glad to see the caution come out as long as you're not in it. It is a physically and mentally demanding race track. You guys watch these cars come into this corner (turn one) and you're really moving. There's very little room for error. You have to really concentrate hard to have a good lap. You can ride around here pretty easily but you're not gonna go fast. To go fast it takes a lot of concentration and when you add on the physical part to that it's very hard."
ARE YOU BEING PULLED A LOT IN THE CAR? "A lot of times you're being pushed down here. There is enough straightaway to get a little bit of a break for your neck. As far as your neck and stuff I don't think it's a hard place. For me, this is more of an upper body, your shoulders down to your butt effects you more, and even your legs because you are going pretty fast. Your left leg is always trying to go out of the car, but, to me, it effects your upper torso more than anything else."
WHAT THE CHANGE HERE FROM ASPHALT TO CONCRETE? "I think the reason that most people struggle with the concrete wasn't because it was the concrete, it was because everywhere there were two pieces of concrete put together there was a joint and it used to be really rough. I heard Rusty say it's smooth as glass now, well, it's not exactly as smooth as glass but compared to the way it was it's smooth as glass. I think the biggest thing for the driver, the crew chiefs and everybody was getting used to handling the bumps. It used to be on asphalt here the bumps were kind of real slow, they were kind of more dips. With the concrete they were real harsh short bumps, so the car hits 'em really hard and trying to build a shock package and a spring package to adapt to that was very difficult. The drivers didn't like it because we didn't know what we were feeling. When a driver doesn't know what he's feeling, he can't help the crew chief so that's why a lot of people didn't like the concrete, but as they smoothed it out I think it's OK. Really concrete, for Frank and I, we think it's easier to deal with in that it doesn't change. It's not like Charlotte where we were last week. The sun doesn't seem to effect this race track. What effects this race track is the rubber building up on it. I can tell you, and we talked about it this morning, what this track is gonna do tomorrow. We know what it's gonna do. When we go to some asphalt tracks, we don't have a clue what some of them are gonna do."
FRANK STODDARD, Crew Chief --99-- Exide Batteries -- DOES THE CONCRETE MAKE IT EASIER TO SET UP THE CAR? "Yes, definitely compared to the past here. The concrete is a lot easier to set the car up, for sure. Anytime you don't have oil and substances coming up through like you do at a hot race track -- yesterday at 95 degrees, we would have been slipping and sliding all over the place with an asphalt race track versus the concrete. There wasn't any oil coming up through the concrete, so it just makes it easier."
HOW ABOUT SINCE THEY SMOOTHED IT OUT? "From when they smoothed it out it's just made it a little bit easier on the drivers to get a good feel for the car as they enter the corner and stuff. There used to be a big bump here (prior to turn one) that used to upset it (the car) going into one a little bit, but now they can drive it in a little bit harder or maybe as hard, but just feel the car a little bit better and not get up the race track as far as they used to get. It just gives them a little bit better comfort zone and it's made the shock package a little bit easier to tune to as well. When you just have a lot of little bumps like a back road, that's real difficult versus, like Jeff said, with dips you can find an easier package for that."
WHAT WILL THE SETUP BE TOMORROW? "It depends on whose car. Some cars will be tight and some cars will be loose, it depends on how you get your car setup today. This afternoon's practice, after the Busch cars run, will be the most important because there will be a lot of rubber on the race track and the second groove will be worked in by then. It'll make it to where it depends on what the driver wants for a feel, but once you get your car going one direction or the other I think it'll continue to do the same thing."
Wally Dallenbach, driver of the No. 75 TBS Dinner & a Movie Taurus, had his best qualifying effort of the season on Friday and is scheduled to start tomorrow's MBNA Platinum 400 from 12th place. He spoke about his season to date and the expectations for the race and the remainder of the 2000 season.
WALLY DALLENBACH --75-- TBS Dinner & a Movie Taurus -- YOU'VE GOT A GOOD STARTING SPOT TOMORROW, HOW DO YOU FEEL? "That's pretty good. If you give me good race cars we run good. We're going in the right direction and this is probably the most comfortable car I've ever had here for qualifying, so I'm happy. I'm happy with the way things are going and the next two months are all really strong race tracks for me, so if we're gonna make a statement we need to do it now."
HOW DO YOU APPROACH THE REST OF THE SEASON? "We don't look at points. The point thing to me has never been important. Getting to the point where you can be competitive and winning a race or races is important to me. Where we're at pointwise, the point thing deals with provisionals well, gosh, the guys that are taking provisionals these days are in the top 15 in points, so you don't even have a shot at getting a provisional. So we've basically got to make the races in on time and we're just trying to improve our program every week so when we get to the second half of the season we're really building towards the first part of next year. That's really where we're at and, realistically, that's where I thought we would be. I think that we lost the first four or five races because we didn't have the right people in place, so we basically started at Talladega and that's hard to do in this series because you miss a week and you fall three weeks behind. It's hard to keep up."
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR HERE TOMORROW? "I feel right now we're a top 15 race team. Tomorrow we go at it and we'll take what it gives us. I mean, if it gives us a 15th-place finish we'll take it, if it gives us a top 10 we'll take it, if we're close enough and in a position to win, believe me, we're gonna go for it. But we're not gonna try to get anything more than what we can really expect to get. The consistency thing has been important. We were a lot better than 28th (at Charlotte). I got a stop-and-go penalty for speeding down pit road and that probably cost us eight spots, so it's just a matter of getting our cars where we need to be and we didn't have all winter to do that. We started, basically, the last part of April doing that, so I think we've got a shot at a top 10 particularly at this place especially because you never know what's gonna happen."
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR TOMORROW WITH AS MANY THINGS THAT CAN POSSIBLY HAPPEN? "You just take it as it comes. You can't really prepare for it. You kind of just stand on the gas and tackle the issues when they come up. The nice thing about starting towards the front is that, hopefully, the wreck will be behind you. The other thing about this place is that you can go down a lap really quick. The high lane is not the place to be, so you want to get down and you want to be good enough to just ride there for the first 100 laps and let things sort out. I think, me personally, I'm always better in the race as you get into it further. So, if we can just hang in there and not go a lap down halfway through the race, then we'll see what we've got to work with."
DO YOU NEED A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP FOR WHAT THIS TRACK CAN THROW AT YOU? "Yeah, it's a tough place there's no doubt about it. I'm glad they went to 400. I remember running here when it was five hours long, but I think 400 laps makes for a more fun race because it's a race. I think 500 laps becomes more of an endurance race. The thing is they named it right, the Monster Mile is definitely the name for this place."
Bill Elliott, driver of the No. 94 McDonald's Taurus, was involved in an accident during morning practice when he apparently blew out a right-front tire entering turn three. Elliott, who qualified on the outside pole for tomorrow's race, will be forced to use his backup car and start from the rear of the field.
BILL ELLIOTT --94-- McDonald's Taurus -- "I was coming off of two and I could feel it starting to shake. I started to slow down going down the backstretch and thought I was gonna be OK, but it went going into three. I don't know what the deal is. I might have run over something or whatever, but it's kind of an unfortunate thing. I came off of two and I felt it, and when you come off two you're almost already to three. I started slowing up and I thought I had it and then it blew up. I don't know if I cut it down or what." "Evidently I ran over something and cut down a right-front. We'll just pull out the backup and dig on."
WHAT ABOUT THE BACKUP CAR? "It's a good car. We ran just as good as we ran in practice earlier, so I ain't worried. I just hate starting in the back."
WHAT ABOUT THIS DISAPPOINTMENT OF A GOOD QUALIFYING LAP AND NOW STARTING IN THE BACK? "At least one thing about it is you're starting there early enough that if you can get to the front you can, instead of the race starting and having some sort of problem and getting in the back. At least it gives you more time for options."
HOW DOES THIS EFFECT YOUR CHANCES FOR TOMORROW? "None. I'll just keep digging." YOU SEEM JUST AS CONFIDENT. "I know this crew. They ain't gonna give up. I know we've got good cars, so we'll just keep digging."
NOTE: The backup car for Elliott has been named "Awesome" by the team. It's the same car that debuted at Texas earlier this year. Elliott started 22nd and finished 30th after being caught up in an accident midway through the race. In that incident, Jeff Gordon actually landed on top of Elliott's hood, effectively ending the day for both drivers. Elliott finished 30th.
MARK MARTIN --60-- Winn Dixie Taurus -- "The Winn Dixie team did a great job of fixing the carburetor and we had to play some different strategy there. We had to play with the deck that we were dealt there and we did the best we could with it, but Jason just put it on us today. He was faster than us and just whipped us there at the end."
HOW WAS THE CAR AT THE END OF THE RACE? "It was really good, it was the best it had been all race. I thought we were doing good, but Jason was coming. I couldn't believe it to be honest with you, as fast as he was. When he got by me I decided to try to keep the pressure on him and I was able to do that, but I couldn't do any more than that. They were really strong and I just couldn't quite run with him."