Indianapolis Brickyard test quotes 2002-07-16

RUSTY WALLACE: "Indianapolis is a hard place to test. This is a track where you can go out there and run and run and run the same speed every time you go out. It's very frustrating. The track is so fast and so flat, it's really hard to get the...

RUSTY WALLACE: "Indianapolis is a hard place to test. This is a track where you can go out there and run and run and run the same speed every time you go out. It's very frustrating. The track is so fast and so flat, it's really hard to get the cars to handle well. I'd love to win this race. And that's the reason we're giving so much effort into testing here. This particular car got here as a brand-new car. It had never been raced anywhere before, built especially for Indianapolis. And really, what is the difference between Indianapolis and Pocono and place like that when it comes to cars. We just hope it's going to have a little extra speed." (Thoughts on the track): "I think the track is in great shape. I've noticed more grip out there. The track feels better, a little faster. You've got more security underneath you when you get in the corners. I like what they've done to it."

JERRY NADEAU: (Any difference in the track from yesterday?): "The track's a lot better. It's got tons of grip. Today we just concentrated on race stuff, and we learned a lot. We've got two great race cars. Yesterday we did one qualifying run, and we ran 181 mph so we know we've got a qualifying pace, and so far our race stuff is great, too. So I'm really excited about coming back with the Valvoline Pontiac."

RON HORNADAY: "We've had about half a day. I've been helping Shawna (Robinson) the first day. We didn't get out until about 2 p.m. We're just fighting, like we always do, to get the car real tough. We're not up to the speed we want to run, but we're trying a lot of stuff and getting some real good notes. This is Indy, so you try to do everything you can to get a lot of notes. You've got to get the car right, right when you go out. We struggled when we first went out, so you have to take a couple laps to get that rhythm back. You've got to go hard into the corner and get off these corners real hard. Some of these teams would like to come back a couple more times, and some are happy they're not."

JEFF BURTON: (Quoted at lunch time): "We're still working on race stuff. We're going to switch to qualifying right now. We're slow on the sheet, but we've been working on what we think is most important, and that is racing. We've tried a lot of different stuff, and we think we know a lot more. We'll know for sure when we come back in a few weeks. The surface has a lot more grip and is real smooth. When they ground it, they made it better."

BILL ELLIOTT: "We come and we run and we tested well two days. We'll figure it out when we get home. We gave it our best shot and we'll see what comes out."

JIMMIE JOHNSON: (Your reaction about being at the Speedway?): "I saved my trip to walk out on the frontstretch. I figured my first experience should be about 200 mph. I just rolled out in the race car and came around the hit the front stretch as hard as I could for my first view. And it's really neat. Obviously watched the Indianapolis 500 many times when I was here as a kid. To be here in the garage area, pull out, walk through Gasoline Alley, and pull out on the frontstretch was an incredible feeling. I think the race is going to be tough. The track, for our cars, definitely is a one-groove racetrack, and track position is going to be very important. There's going to be a lot of weight on qualifying." (On the introduction of the SAFER Barrier to NASCAR racing here at IMS): "I'm glad that we're here with the soft walls up, and I hope this technology can apply to a lot of other racetracks. The radius of the outside walls poses a challenge for these engineers to find the right density in different types of materials they need to use for the cars to take the hit. I'm very pleased with the way things are going, and we're learning a lot in a lot of different areas of safety." (What is unique about IMS?): "It's got four distinct, different turns. You've got to approach each corner a little bit differently. You make one small mistake, it's going to cost you a lot of time. So it's frustrating in some senses because it's such a long lap around, and if you mess up you've got wait 50-plus seconds to come back and get another try at it. It's a very demanding track, and I think it's going to be really hard to race on." (Does Jeff Gordon's success here help you?): "Definitely. We've been able to show up with his baseline setup to work from there. The technology and the way these cars want to perform, it's been changing continually over and over. We had a great starting point, refined our race setup and got me a lot of experience and then started on the qualifying stuff today, and it's worked really well for us." (Does the diamond grinding help you in terms of grip?): "Everyone speaks of the grip. I don't know any better; I've never been here before, so this is my first time to be on the racetrack. There is a lot of grip at times, but the sun really heats the track up, and you lose grip. I've been fighting a real tight condition, and I could imagine it's only going to be worse in the race in traffic. It's a fun track; it's very demanding on you. I think without the banking and the flat track for these big heavy cars, we still need more grip or can use more grip to be faster, but this is still going to be a good race."

JEFF GREEN: (General thoughts on the test): "It's going pretty good. We learned a lot of things yesterday, I think, for race stuff, and we've been working on qualifying this morning. I think we learned quite a bit this morning, too. We're running pretty good; we're kind of pleased with that." (Did you notice the soft walls?): "If I didn't know they were there I would have never noticed them because where you exit off the corner there, they end before you really get out to the wall. I realize what they're trying to do, and I think it's the greatest situation. It doesn't come into play at all when you're on a normal lap. If you don't spin out and hit them, you'll never know they're there." (On the diamond grinding): "It's awesome. It's lots, lots better than it was last year. We have the same tire we had last year; it's just like we got a better tire than we did last year. I never thought it was very rough anyway, so I guess it's a little bit smoother, and it gives us a lot more grip."

KYLE PETTY: "The new surface is phenomenal. I heard everybody during the month of May talk about how smooth it was and how they ground it, and the grip and the traction is phenomenal. We've pretty much worked on race stuff, and we're pretty pleased. The changes we made have been real responsive, and our guys did a great job putting together a new car just for here. All of our stuff is pretty good here. (Track position) is important, but man, at a 400-mile race, you get track position late in the race. Somebody who wasn't even in the top 40 early in the race can sneak in there and grab a finish. Your pit strategy is going to help you."

BOBBY LABONTE: (Have you made progress today?): "Very little. A little bit more than yesterday. We've made some progress, but we've got a long way to go, speed-wise." (Some drivers seem to excel at certain tracks, and you excel here. Why?): "You get your car right, and it pretty well suits you, you can go fast. When (the driver) gets comfortable he goes a little faster, whether he likes to go fast or be there on the edge at a faster speed. So when we get our car right, we can go a little better because I like these types of racetracks. But you have to get your car right to begin with."

JOHN ANDRETTI: (About the city of Indianapolis' love of motorsports, and where NASCAR fits in): "It's a motorsports town, and we're a piece of that puzzle. It's (NASCAR) a more significant piece of that puzzle just because NASCAR has grown in popularity and is what it is. NASCAR's just a series that has a lot of momentum, and it brings it wherever it goes. Indianapolis is no different. Indianapolis is such a racing city; if the mud bogs come to town, it's big." (Do you personally feel like, when you come to IMS, you're coming to an Indy-car track or a stock-car track?): "Well, it's funny because I came in here, and one of the guys that used to work for Roger (Penske) on the Indy-car team and now works in NASCAR was here and was rubbing the walls. That's what the place means to people. It's the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For me, I'd love to be here in both cars, so I don't look it as one way or the other." (Talk about testing today): "We finally made some progress. I was getting a little frustrated because we were fighting the same circumstances. I think we did make some progress; we got the car better. It's not exactly where we need to be, but at least we've gone a little over the top. Now at least we can come back and hit it perfect. (Can you convey what it would mean to you to not only put an end to your victory drought, but do it here?): "I'd probably have dents all over the car because I'd be so excited, bouncing around inside of it. I wouldn't matter if I'd be wearing a HANS (device) or not, I'd be all over the place. It's that big a deal. A lot of guys in Victory Lane say, 'It hasn't set in yet.' Well, I know it wouldn't have set in by the time I got there, but I'd be as excited as anybody could ever be."

RYAN NEWMAN: "We're definitely happy. We've got a good race car, actually two cars that we tested. I think Rusty's got a good car, too. It was a good test for Penske Racing. It's always tough to adjust to track conditions here. I guess we're all capable of doing it, but I guess who does it the best wins the race. We'll come back and get some more time, some more laps, and the weather will be different, I'm sure the first of August, so we'll just have to see."

MICHAEL WALTRIP: (On the diamond grinding): "They've done a nice job with that process. It has given the cars more stability in the turns. Stable is good." (Does the luster of this race remain after nine years?): "This is special. The Daytona 500 is our biggest race. I've been going down there since I was 12 years old to watch my brother race in the Daytona 500. So luster is not about how many times you have been there, it's about the event and the spectacle of the event." (On the SAFER Barrier): "A wall's a wall, and a soft wall is better than a hard one. I don't want to hit either one, if I've got a choice." (Does it make you feel safer?): "You just appreciate the effort. After all that we've done and learned in the world of safety lately, we know that that's certainly an improvement and a step in the right direction, so, yes, it makes you feel a lot better about what you're doing."

JEFF GORDON: (On how the track has changed): "They've done some grinding on the track, so the track's got a lot of grip, so we're just trying to see how things have evolved for our cars, the tires and also with the track, so we're learning quite a bit." (How will this affect the race?): "I think the speeds are going to be really fast. I'm hoping that we do have a little more tire wear than we had at most places, because that way it won't come down to a fuel-mileage deal. It will come down to putting new tires on. Not a whole lot of an outside groove, because of all the rubber buildup that's been thrown out there. It's going to make it interesting. There's more grip out there. I just don't know if we'll be able to make the groove wide enough." (On the SAFER Barrier technology): "We're excited to have it there. None of us want to use it and find out how well it works. It's nice to know that they're taking extra measures to make the racetrack safer for all of us. I think it's a good thing." (What do you feel has been the secret to your success here?): "Sometimes it's liking the track, sometimes it's putting a good setup under the car, and sometimes it's just getting some good, lucky breaks. We've had all those things fall in our favor when we've been here in Indianapolis, and we hope we can do that again this year." (On not winning in 2002 but still high in the points): "Just because we're not winning doesn't mean we won't be a threat for the championship, but we would certainly like to do it in winning fashion."

STACY COMPTON: (On testing): "I think we got pretty much every thing accomplished that we wanted to. We've been able to work on race stuff and qualifying stuff. Of course, with the temperature change, this place is almost like Charlotte -- it changes drastically from when the sun is out to the end of the day. You have to time it right to where you are working on your qualifying early and then again late in the day, and hopefully you'll get a good run in. We've been fortunate to work on both. We're pretty happy with how things went these past two days." (Thoughts of winning the Brickyard 400): "I tell you what, when you are in Winston Cup racing, it means a lot to win any of the races. There are 43 great cars out at every race week in and week out. If you're off even a little bit you are going to the back. It's very competitive, and you have to be on your toes all of the time. But to come to Indy and win -- home of Conseco, plus A.J. Foyt has a lot of history here -- so yeah, it would be pretty neat to come here and win."

TONY STEWART: (On the progress of testing Chevy and Pontiac): "Not bad. We're just trying to sort through a lot of things and trying different combinations on both cars, so it's hard to compare the two right now. Both have made progress, and we're pretty excited that we've got a Pontiac that's been good here in the past that we're making progress with, along with having a new car that we're not so familiar with and making progress with it, as well. So, I'd say we're having a pretty good test session." (Thoughts on changing manufacturers): "Since I've been involved in NASCAR, I've always been in a Pontiac. I've never been in anything else, so it's new for me. You have to explore options, though. When you're having a season like we are, where we're struggling and don't feel like we're where we need to be, you have to start eliminating variables and trying to find answers on where you are missing the boat. So, right now we're just trying to eliminate variables more than anything." (Thoughts on the track today compared to yesterday): "It's not much different than yesterday. It's getting a little more rubber down. With the grooves in the track it seems as if it keeps the rubber on the racetrack so it's typical Indianapolis. When it gets a lot of rubber in the surface, the conditions change a little bit." (On being back at Indianapolis): "It's not really one of my favorite tracks as far as the way it's laid out and the shape of it, but the history behind this place is what really makes it special. The race itself is a very difficult race because of the flat corners and four corners versus having 280-degree corners, so it makes it a little bit more difficult, but it does make it a lot more special when you can actually win a race here."

JOE NEMECHEK: "Just trying to get balance. It's all about balance here. We went into qualifying mode Tuesday morning just to see what we can do, and I think we have a pretty competitive piece. It's a brand-new race car. We tried building something like what the 24 (Jeff Gordon) has, and it drives really good. We're looking forward to coming back here and having a really nice run." (On working with fellow Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte, and Jimmie Johnson): "They all bring a different situation, and they all have a different feel in terms of setup. You know, some of the stuff Jimmie tries doesn't quite work for me or for Jeff, and I can give him input on a few things and a lot of it works for him. I think it's been a really good relationship as far as learning from one another." (Thoughts on the SAFER Barrier): "The soft-wall stuff, I didn't even know it was there until somebody told me last night, that it was already installed here. I think it's good that they're doing this. They need to do it at more places, and they're doing a lot of research and learning about how it works. There's good and bad, and you've got to make sure everything is good. As long as they keep learning and keep installing them, then it's going to make me safer."

TED MUSGRAVE: "You got to have confidence in your team and stuff, but there's guys like Elliott and Labonte and Stewart, I don't think they've even made a qualifying run yet. All we want to do is get the (Ultra Motorsports) Dodge in the field. Right now, it looks like we've got a possibility to make it." (You've been running a lot of short tracks in the truck series; how is it adjusting to the superspeedways?): "Oh yeah, this is unique. The thing about Indy is a rhythm, hitting your marks right. You screw up one little spot, and miss your marks by a foot, foot and a half, and you're done, you go home. It will be good to come over here and get some practice in, but (Brickyard 400 weekend) I will be going back and forth, jumping from the truck to a Cup car, back to the truck, run the race then come back and qualify. So when I get from one to the other, I'll have to adjust my memory."

JIMMY SPENCER: (No surprise that you're fast again -- do you feel you're a favorite for the pole?): "I don't know about that. We ended up third quickest, you never know. You have to have a great lap here, and it was a pretty good lap. We missed a couple little areas. We missed a couple tenths yet, so when we come back it's up to me to get it right, and I feel like we can. We really concentrated on trying to be a top-10 car, and Team Target looks like we can possibly do that, and once we do that we can focus a little bit better on our race run." (Thoughts on the change in track surface): "Oh, Indy's awesome. You can see the corners better; they've got the speed bumps better pronounced. I like the transition into the corners now. I think it's a lot better than even last year. And they didn't make a whole lot of changes, but it's better."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Terry Labonte , Jimmie Johnson , A.J. Foyt
Teams Team Penske , Hendrick Motorsports