BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid) "Indy has always been a racetrack that I've run well at. We came here and did the test back in '92 when I was driving for Junior Johnson and I just kind of fell into the groove of this ...
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid)
"Indy has always been a racetrack that I've run well at. We came here and did the test back in '92 when I was driving for Junior Johnson and I just kind of fell into the groove of this particular racetrack. I enjoy running here. It's a racetrack that's got a lot of history with it. It was always known for the IndyCars, but we've carved our way with the stock cars over the past few years. Given that, I think the racetrack is a lot of fun to drive, but track position this year seems to be everything. If you have any problems, even as good as you could be, I don't know if you could overcome it even in the later stages of the race. Qualifying is going to be very important tomorrow. I think when you go out as far as picking a position to go out to qualify is going to be very important. It's going to be a very key part of it. Keeping that track position and hoping everything goes in your direction... Last year we pulled off a good victory. We qualified well and were able to keep track position all day long. That's a critical part of it. Hopefully we can get another win here. That would be great. If not, if we can be competitive here Sunday afternoon, that's going to be a key part of the Dodge Intrepid.
"Right now I'm just thinking about the job at hand, what I've got to do today and tomorrow and Sunday and go on from there. I haven't really thought about last year too much. We're here to do a job. We raced last week at Pocono, and we're here at Indy this week. We want to give it a great effort. It's just like going to Daytona in February. We put a lot of effort into that one event. We came here and tested and put a lot of emphasis into this event.
"The tests are hard to evaluate. We throw everything we can at the cars and go back and try to interpret what you want to come back with and which car you want and what you like and what you dislike. Hopefully the circumstances are close to what you practiced and then you can make the best of it.
"The safety crew here is excellent. I wish these guys would go other places and teach the other guys. What Tony George and this facility has done as far as safety, my hat is off to these guys.
"Track position will be the main thing. As close as everybody is today and as close as these cars are, track position is going to be the key part. I don't think anybody has got a great advantage like's been seen here in the past. Everybody is so close now. If you do have a good running racecar and get caught in the back, it's going to be hard to get back to the front. We came here and had a real good test. We focused on every detail to make the car as fast as we could. We had no problems last year. Everything came together. I guess all the stars lined up and we ended up in victory lane.
"I think I was more shocked last year than anything. I was proud for the guys as hard as they worked. I was proud for Ray also. You're eventually going to have to quit the sport sooner or later. I know I'm on the shorter end of the stick than the longer end. I think you look at these deals and go through some diversity. You get in the right position. Ray came to me and hired me to drive his car. That was very gratifying for me. I was able to win Homestead and put a lot of good runs together. We won Pocono last year and came here and won. I think everything that happened was a great accomplishment for us. Still, that's been a year ago. This is reality. What happened last year is history.
"I think everybody views Indy a little differently. Of all the tracks we go to, this track has more history than any other one. Open wheel racing is still racing. It's our heritage. You go back in the early 1900s when racing started this was the facility they chose, so this is part of it. Back then they were stock cars.
"When you get out on the racetrack and think about all the history that this track has seen over the years. That's kind of a special feeling to me. I don't know any other track that's got the history this track's got.
"I don't know if the driver means anything any more. I think all he does is hold the steering wheel. If you get at the right place at the right time, you can look like a hero or you can look like a rookie that's never driven a racecar in his life. I don't know how to describe it. We all want close racing, but it doesn't seem like we can accomplish it. It seems like a few of the lead cars can break away and everybody else is stuck back to fend for themselves. It gets ugly back there. I don't like to be there.
"Everybody is trying to make bold moves to get up through the pack and make something happen. It puts you in a bad position. You have to race differently when you're back there versus when you're up front. I think the racing has become more pitting and fuel mileage rather than what goes on on the racetrack. Look at Pocono. We had a little incident on pit road. I ran into the back of the 48 car and messed up the front of my car. We ended up having to stay on pit road a long time. I was the last car to come out. I was good under a long green run, but I couldn't run the first few laps. It took a couple of laps for my car to get going and then I was good from that point on. By the time I got going and started passing cars, the leader would be half a lap ahead. You were back there racing the 20th place car and you couldn't see the leader. By the time things get sorted out, they're gone and you're not able to catch 'em."