FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES Brickyard 400 August 6, 1999 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Taurus, has four top-10 finishes and a pair of top-five efforts in his five ...
FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES Brickyard 400 August 6, 1999 Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Taurus, has four top-10 finishes and a pair of top-five efforts in his five Brickyard appearances. His best effort came in 1995 when he finished second to Dale Earnhardt.
2 RUSTY WALLACE -- Miller Lite Taurus -- THE DAMAGE ON THE CAR IS THE RIGHT FRONT, IS THAT THE WORST PLACE IT COULD BE FOR THIS TRACK FROM AN AERO STANDPOINT? "I'd say so. I'd say the right-front corner is real important, but it's not the most important corner. I think if you talk to most race drivers, they'll tell you that the left front corner on all of the race cars is the most sensitive because it's got the lightest load on it so it's real sensitive. The right front is kind of a given. When you get in there it's compressed and it's loaded. The left front is always a corner you're working on with the shock absorbers or the spring to settle it back down and get the grip back to it. Nowadays, this kind of problem is not a concern because we've got precise measurements where everything is and you could tear the whole front end off and the guys could put it right back where it was and I wouldn't be compared about it. We've probably got a cosmetic look, but at the end of the day I'm sure they'll get it all polished up and painted and decaled all up and you'll never know there was a problem. The most dejecting part for me was that we qualified 14th and got back in and turned the car around for practice. There were three things I really wanted to do really bad so I had something to think on last night for this morning and we weren't able to it, so now we've gotta condense it all into today. That's OK, though. The two-hour practice today is a long practice. We'll run that two-hour practice this morning, change engines and get the race engine in for that last practice."
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN NOW TO WIN THIS RACE AFTER YESTERDAY? "It would mean everything in the world to me and it would be great. I got so close to winning this thing in '95, but every year somebody has got their sweet spot here at the Brickyard. 'Boy that was a wonderful year here or I got this close but...' or like Jarrett last year, 'Man, I got a car that was a real rocket and I lost it by running out of gas.' And now he's got a rocket again. I think he can win this race. I think a lot of guys can win this race. I think I can win this race. I think Jeremy can win this race. It's all handling. I've got all the confidence in the world in my pit crew and how fast we can make the pit stops. I've got all the confidence in the world that our fuel mileage window will be enough to get the job done, but the thing is handling. If you've got a car that's pushing the front end and you can't pass anybody, that's your trouble spot."
IT SEEMS YOU'VE HAD A DECENT SEASON WITH A WIN AND POLE AT BRISTOL, BUT YOU'RE 10TH IN POINTS. WOULD THIS MAKE YOUR YEAR? "We've had too many ups and downs. We've had too many DNFs. We didn't have that stuff last year. This year, me and Gordon got in that big cream at Talladega where you've got guys bouncing off in the grass and running across the track and here I am with a great car and, boom, it happens. Then we go to Charlotte and the 600 and Bodine loses it and slides up the race track and we have that big wreck, and then the deal at New Hampshire. I'm sitting there running fifth and that happens. The performance has been there, but the performance has been there on a decent scale. We're not top three like we're accustomed to and we've got to get that back because I'm not gonna settle for that. We're gonna get better and better. I've talked to Robin and we've got great crew members, but if we've gotta hire more guys with more talent to help us and surround ourselves with better people, we're gonna do that. We hired a new team engineer that's gonna be with us that I think is gonna help, but those guys can just help a little. We've just gotta run better. Our engines are great, our aerodynamics are great, our pit crew is great, I feel like I'm driving good still, but we're having problems with getting these cars handling the way I want them to and it's a problem I've never had before. It's getting better, but it's not getting better rapid enough for me."
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 10 Tide Taurus, qualified 14th for tomorrow's Brickyard 400. The 1997 Brickyard 400 champion has two top-10 finishes in five Indianapolis starts. He has the longest active winning streak in Winston Cup with at least one victory in 16 consecutive seasons.
10 RICKY RUDD -- Tide Taurus -- IS IT NICE TO KNOW THAT 20 YEARS FROM NOW YOU ARE STILL GOING TO BE RECOGNIZED AND HONORED FOR WINNING THIS EVENT? "I think there are always gonna be functions around previous winners at the Brickyard, whereas other tracks don't tend to relate back to the history like Indianapolis does. It's like your career is complete if you win at the Brickyard. It would be nice to have a pair of bookends with the Daytona 500, but the Brickyard is one, again, that historically they remember past winners. All of us have some type of career expectancy and a time line there, and one day that time line will be expired for all of us. But one day sitting around with a group of people, you're gonna reflect back and say, 'Hey, I won at Indianapolis, I won the Brickyard 400.' You're probably not even gonna have to say that, people are gonna introduce you by that. It's happening right now. I'm always being introduced as the '97 Brickyard 400 winner."
EVEN THOUGH YOU'VE STRUGGLED THIS YEAR, DOES COMING TO THIS AN EVENT PUT A LITTLE MORE JUMP IN YOUR STEP? "I think it does just because I love coming to Indianapolis and we've done well here over the years. We've had some good top-five and top-10 runs about every time we come here, so it's a race track that's been good to me besides the win. Any of those tracks you do well you look forward to coming back. There's a lot of money on the line and a lot of prestige on the line and we just really get excited about coming here." THE SEASON HAS BEEN A STRUGGLE HASN'T IT? "We've definitely struggled this year. We've had a couple of high points, though. We won the pole at Rockingham early in the year and we sat on the outside pole at Daytona. I had a good run going at Sears Point a couple of weeks back and it just didn't materialize. Besides that, though, it hasn't been great. We don't have a season that I don't think this team deserves, but we're just over the halfway point, so we've got plenty of time to get some results before the year is out."
HOW IS THE CAR COMING INTO THIS RACE? "We tested well. The Ford test went real well for us, so in that respect we feel real good about it. We're running a competitive speed and we're coming back with more horsepower, but we feel like we'll be a factor. It's nice to have a good important up front starting position here. You don't have to work nearly as hard and the race strategy is a lot different if you start near the front. It can be won from the back, but it's a lot easier if you do get a good starting spot."
Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin were involved in an accident on pit road during Thursday's final practice session. Crew chiefs Robin Pemberton and Jimmy Fennig talked about the damage and what they have done to make repairs.
2 ROBIN PEMBERTON, Crew Chief -- Miller Lite Taurus -- WHAT HAVE YOU HAD TO DO WITH THE CAR? "We changed the right corner suspension, fixed the right front fender and the right front corner of the nose. We also changed the steering components."
IS IT ANYTHING MORE THAN JUST MAKING YOU GUYS WORK HARDER? "Yeah, but then there will always be the question as to if you really did hurt something, but I think we'll be OK. It was a lot more work than we needed to do."
DID ANY OF THE NASCAR OFFICIALS COME BY AND TALK TO YOU? "All of them have been by apologizing. I don't know what happened. There's supposed to be a guy out there directing traffic and there was a guy out there directing traffic, but apparently either the sun got in his eyes or there was some obstruction up there."
DOES THIS REALLY GET YOU OUT OF YOUR RHYTHM? "It does because we had just come in and made a significant change to the car. We were gonna run two different setups in that last practice and we went out so we could start this morning and hone in on setup. We came in and made all of our changes, about 15 minutes worth, and you go out and lose the last 30 minutes of practice. Now this morning we start over."
YOU HAVEN'T HAD TO REPLACE ANY SHEET METAL, CORRECT? "All of the suspension we replaced, but not the sheet metal. It's not identical to the way it was, so we'll just have to adjust accordingly."
6 JIMMY FENNIG, Crew Chief -- Valvoline/Cummins Taurus -- WHAT HAVE YOU GUYS HAD TO DO TO GET THE CAR READY TODAY? "We just put about half a side on there (of sheet metal) and beat the other stuff out. It's just sheet metal."
Kenny Irwin, driver of the No. 28 Texaco Havoline Taurus, was part of a press conference earlier today featuring Indiana natives. He spoke about returning to the Brickyard.
28 KENNY IRWIN -- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- "It just nice to be back here in Indianapolis. I've been back here about a week after racing in St. Louis last weekend and it's just nice to be home."
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO MAKE THE BRICKYARD 400 YOUR FIRST WINSTON CUP VICTORY? "I'd say winning a go-kart race here would be a big thing. Just getting to race here is pretty cool and winning a race here would be unbelievable."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT INDIANA THAT BREEDS THIS TYPE OF ATMOSPHERE? YOU ALMOST SEE AS MANY RACE TRACKS AS YOU DO CHURCHES. "I think that's why so many race car drivers come out of here is that you can race three or four nights a week. With it's a sprint car on dirt, you can go to Eldora, you can race Winchester, Salem, IRP, you can start at the Speedrome. There are so many different race tracks in this area that you can race pretty much whenever you want and that breeds race car drivers, I guess."
IF YOU HAD YOUR CHOICE TO RUN A RACE TOMORROW ON ANY INDIANA TRACK OTHER THAN THIS, WHAT WOULD IT BE? "Salem in a sprint car."
DALE JARRETT -88- QUALITY CARE SERVICE/FORD CREDIT TAURUS PRESS CONFERENCE DALE MAKE A BRIEF COMMENT ABOUT THE RACE TOMMORROW: "We've got a good starting spot in the same racecar we had here last year. The car seemed to perform well this morning in practice. I think the thing where we were strong last year was on longer runs, and seems to be kind of the case again this year. We seem to have a pretty good package, and it seems to be a really good car. There are a number of good ones out there though so we seem to have our work cut out for us. A number of the Pontiacs seem to be awfully strong, especially on longer type runs. Of course the guy on the pole will be tough to beat. Mark Martin seems to be awful fast, and we know Jeff Burton will be there and a number of the other Fords. Anyway, I think we have a good chance to win. It will just be a matter of us doing our job all day long, staying out of trouble, getting ourself in a position in the later stages of the race to win, and obviously pit strategy will come into play. I can't really see, and it may change tomorrow; somebody may try to take on two tires. But what we're seeing right now we've got another year of racing on the racetrack and with the temperatures we are seeing this summer there seems to be a loss of some grip on the racetrack. I think that will probably necessitate getting four tires the majority of the time."
YOU SAID YOU COULD LIVE WITH YOURSELF AND CONSIDER YOURSELF A SUCCESS IF YOU NEVER WIN A WINSTON CUP CHAMPIONSHIP. AT THE SAME TIME, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THIS ONE SLIPS AWAY? "Oh, I imagine the world would go on, and everybody would be all right. It would certainly be disappointing when you get yourself in this position. A lot would depend on the circumstances I think if we were to lose, what created that situation. We know if we do our job, we are in a pretty good position so I think we would have to look at that. But regardless what it was, if I messed up and lost it in the last race or whatever, again I'm going to go on and try to get another one next year. Try to get one, not another one."
TWO YEARS AGO TWO GUYS STAYED OUT, AND LAST YEAR THE GAS SITUATION - YOU MIGHT HAVE HAD THREE OF THESE WINS. TALK ABOUT THE WHAT-IFS THAT HAVE HAPPENED HERE. "We've run well, and every year been very fortunate. We can go all the way back to the first year when I was driving for Joe Gibbs. We were fifth or sixth whenever the Bodines got together, I think, and I ended up getting in that accident. This is a place I've enjoyed racing. I think the biggest thing is we look back at Robert Yates Racing as much as Dale Jarrett because Robert Yates' cars have had an opportunity to win this thing every single year. Ernie (Irvan) had the opportunity in 1994 when he cut a tire down very late in the race. In '95 I qualified terrible in the 28 car, but actually in the last 20 laps ran Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace down. But running those guys down and passing them are two different things. So we ended up third there, but had an extremely fast car. And then Ernie and I battled for the win in '96, and we were fortunate enough to win that. In '97 I got a great car again and led part of the day. I guess Ricky Rudd and Bobby Labonte were able to stay out on fuel with everybody else pitting. We just got back in the pack and by the time we got back to third we were out of laps. Of course last year we were just out of gas. We have had chances at this race track that I enjoy racing at. I enjoy the challenge, and obviously we've found something that works very well with our set-up. I think that, aside from that it's a big race on our schedule. Our guys have always stepped up to that challenge for the bigger events."
ALL THE CARS ARE A LITTLE DIFFERENT FROM LAST YEAR NOW THAT THE FIVE AND FIVE RULE IS A THING OF THE PAST. MIGHT WE SEE A LITTLE MORE SIDE-BY-SIDE OR IS IT STILL PRETTY MUCH A ONE GROOVE RACETRACK IN THE CORNERS? "I think the cars are more stable, but then again I think the loss of grip with the tires and the asphalt has created a little bit of a problem. You may "see some side-by-side racing, but when you get on the outside it is just a tough place to be. Even though the groove has widened out some, the possibility is there because the cars are more stable, but when you get the cars more stable that just means you drive off in the corner more and let the cars roll through the center faster. It just creates a little bit more speed and any time you do that it makes side-by-side racing more difficult. But I think you are going to see a good race with a lot of passing."
LAST YEAR DEMONSTRATED AGAIN HOW TRICKY PIT STOP STRATEGY IS AND HOW IMPORTANT IT CAN BE. SINCE THEN HAS YOUR TEAM MADE ANY CHANGES IN THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS THAT WILL HELP TO MAKE YOUR PIT STOP STRATEGY A LITTLE BIT MORE ACCURATE? "I'd like to think that, but we ran out of gas at Las Vegas earlier this year too, so obviously we haven't gotten it totally down pat. I think we've worked hard on our fuel mileage. When you produce a lot of horsepower that becomes a problem. We have lot of horsepower at Robert Yates Racing. I think what we've done is kind of look at our limitations. Obviously the first part of the race only gets you in position for the later stages. So as much as anything we'll try to be a little bit more conservative on the fuel side at the first half of the race tomorrow to where some how, some way we can get to that magical 40 lap mark and know that we can go that far. But there again, if a caution comes out late in the race and there are 43 laps to go or 44, there's a couple of those guys that can stay out there and we have to come in and get fuel that creates a problem. We have to go with the strategy of knowing just how far we can go. We did a fuel test, a mileage test here this morning of how much we can pick up and exactly how far we think we'll be able to go. We've changed it a little. Obviously in the position we're in, in the points you can look at it two ways and we've discussed it both ways. With the nice lead that we have in the points right now, it would allow us to take a little bit of a chance if we wanted to try to win a big race like this. On the other side of it, you say we have a big lead, why chance it. We've got to look at the big picture even though this is a huge race. I guess we'll just have to look at the circumstances tomorrow as we get to that point to make that decision. I can assure you though, one thing, we won't be waiting on a caution flag if there's a car is sitting in the warm-up lane. I can assure you we will come on in then. We won't wait for that decision to be made."
IS IT TRICKIER LEADING THE POINTS OR BEING SECOND OR THIRD? "The thing about being in second or third you always have to rely on someone else having a problem. And you don't control your own destiny there. You can race and go as hard as you want to, win as many as you want to, but if that guy in front doesn't have a problem you won't have much of a chance of catching up. Working on that in a reverse role this year from where we've been in the past, we've been that frustrated team that's in second or third and running good every week and can't gain any points. A lot of times losing points when Jeff Gordon was winning races or Mark was winning races and Mark was winning and we were finishing second or third we were losing points. Now we're kind of the guy up front and I think its a lot easier out there because you can control things. We know if we do our job those guys are going to be going home saying, man if they would just have a problem. Sometimes you thing the law of averages will catch up, but they don't. So hopefully we can just keep doing our job. We like it a lot better out front with them chasing us."
HOW DEMANDING IS THIS RACE ON YOU GUYS? "It's a tough race here. Obviously with the temperatures as high as they are you work extremely hard here. I think the thing with the five and five rule gone and the new spoiler and air dam rules the cars get down to the race track a lot closer. Therefore you don't really have the air getting underneath the cars that we had. We're making some changes inside of my car to deal with the temperature because it seemed to be extremely hot this morning. Even though it is only a 400 mile race, you are working hard for 400 miles with a lot of temperature. As I stated I think yesterday, anybody other "than Mark Martin that's out here; there's only a few other guys that I think could have endured what Mark has gone through in the last two or three races and done as well as what he has. He is a true athlete and has really dug deep stay out there and be in the car and get everything they have out of it. There's not many people that are in good enough shape to take that challenge."
WITHIN A DAY OR SO LAST YEAR, HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOUR TEAM TO TAKE THIS ONE AND PUT IT BEHIND THEM? "That's hard to say. We knew we had to get ready to go to Watkins Glen right after. You'd have to say, hey it's over. We made a mistake in trying to guess what NASCAR may do with the caution flag, and it bit us. I think we said we've got to get ready to go from here. We've got other races to run, and there is nothing we can do about that except hopefully learn from it. Being a No Bull race, that was a pretty serious million and half dollar lesson. Not many people get the opportunity to get those type lessons in life. Hopefully we've learned well."
TALK A LITTLE ABOUT WHAT THE FUTURE OF NASCAR LOOKS LIKE WITH THE YOUNGER ONES COMING UP. "I think you always wonder, some of the drivers as they get older who's going to take their place. Obviously we have some young drivers that are there now. Obviously the guy at the front that's won championships is still very young and leading the pack. But you've got a lot of guys that are in the top-ten points right now that are very young. And then you've got guys like Dale Junior coming, Matt Kenseth coming, that these guys are going to make a difference. These guys are going to be able to step right in because they're in good equipment and have the backing to make it happen. They are going to be very good at the beginning. They're in a good position. They're coming in with big sponsors right off. They're making a lot of money right off so basically all they have to worry about is going out and driving the car because they are making a lot of money, and that makes life easier. It's a good time to be involved in the sport, no matter what age you are. It's fun to be here right now with everything that's going on. And it's only going to get better. With the new TV deal that's coming in and the new race tracks that are being built, it's an exciting time to be a part of this sport.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN THE CAR TO HELP WITH HEAT. DOES THIS TRACK WITH THE STANDS THE WAY THEY ARE ON THE FRONT STRETCH AND IN THE SHOOTS CROWD IN ON YOU AND CONTAIN THE HEAT MORE THAN MOST? "I don't know that it is any more than most, but it certainly is a factor because of how confining it is with all of the stands and with all of the people in here. And it gets hotter as the day goes on. But that's not a bad thing. There's some of the guys that won't be looking forward to a heated day in the car tomorrow, but some of us will. We do take some precautions with the materials that we use inside the car. We just try to keep the seat and your feet as cool as you possibly can. If we can do that then it lets you concentrate on your driving. And you better kind of condition yourself before you got here this week for the heat. You can't hardly start yesterday or today and be ready for the kind of conditions we like."
YOU DON'T HAVE TUBES RUNNING ALL THROUGH YOUR SEAT? "No, no tubes. It's just the kind of materials that we use. We have the exhaust pipes right against the floorboards now because the cars are running low and we have the downforce. So there's no room to really put anything between that now. So now we have to get it on the side of the floorboard that is on the inside of the car, and we've built kind of a false floorboard in the driver's compartment to where the gas peddle and the brake peddles to where your feet are basically an inch above the actual floorboard. The metal inside the car gets somewhere between 230 and 250 degrees in there if you touch that. So it's important to us to keep that as cool as we can. We know that we can't keep it all out, but no we won't be running any extra tubes to the seat or anything like that. Just the little bit of air that we can get inside. The main thing is to go fast, and they leave it up to me to be in condition for that."