Interview with Pressley, Craven and Petree

>From NASCAR Public Relations Chevrolet NASCAR Winston Cup notes, quotes. Highlights of Tuesday Winston Teleconference with Robert Pressley, Andy Petree and Ricky Craven. ROBERT PRESSLEY (No, 33 Skoal Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Pressley...

>From NASCAR Public Relations

Chevrolet NASCAR Winston Cup notes, quotes. Highlights of Tuesday Winston Teleconference with Robert Pressley, Andy Petree and Ricky Craven.

ROBERT PRESSLEY (No, 33 Skoal Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

NOTE: Pressley started eighth and finished seventh in last Sunday's Winston Select 500 at Talladega.

"We've really been working hard on our restrictor plate racing this year. At Daytona, we had a decent car. We got in a little mess there, and Leo and Andy and all the guys got back on the motor program. We were off a little bit on the new 14-to-1. I thought we had maybe a top five car Sunday. We couldn't go all the way on fuel. At 55 laps, we had to make the last stop with the 4 car under caution to make sure we could make it. We got hung up back there in the back and made it back up to seventh. Andy and them went back to work yesterday getting ready for the restrictor plate race in July at Daytona and Talladega. We think we've got that pretty well solved. We've got a brand new road course car going to Sonoma. That's the third new car Andy has built for us so far. We're looking forward to getting a top 10 out at Sonoma. My road course experience ain't too good. Andy says our car is going to be as good as anybody's, but experience will make the difference.

"The way NASCAR's got that schedule set up, they don't keep you in the same place too long. I guess that's why Winston Cup is so tough. They switch it around. It's kind of fun going somewhere like Martinsville. You get in there and really race. You rub fenders and run real close. You go to Talladega and turn completely around. You have to be real patient and try not to get in messes like we had Sunday. Then going to a road course is another 180 degree turn. It's so difficult to go from Martinsville to Talladega and then to a road course. I guess that's what makes you a better driver, being able to adapt real quick from week to week for what you' re doing.

"I don't know what they could ever do (at Talladega). Even if the caution hadn't been out, there were times way before the accidents happened that 30 cars were bunched up. It's just that restrictor plate racing is so close that. I guess the odds are of having a bad wreck like that after a caution. I had to let out a couple of times. It was getting a little bit too hairy for what I wanted to be around. When you're running 20th or 30th, you're getting so much draft effect, you think you can pull out and go. You think your car has all of a sudden has gotten real good, but all it is is those cars in front of you are pulling you and making that happen. I don't know what they could do, maybe just be a little more patient.

"A road course is more of a thinking race than an oval. An oval you run one lap and you basically know what kind of car you've got. As the tires fade, you back up a little bit every lap. You' re making 12 corners on a road course, and half of them are right and half are left. You lose your tires a little bit in each corner. I pick out part of the track where I really want to run good and work on that particular area and then work on the slow parts of the track and try not to lose any time. Road courses to me are the hardest tracks, physically and mentally, to run on.

"I went to the road race school out there at Sears Point last year and we really worked hard on turn one through six. I felt like I was real good there last year, and I felt like that was going to be the most important part of the track, We ran good all day in that particular area, but there's no passing in those corners. You just kind of follow the leader through them. This year I'll work on corners seven through 12. That's the fastest part of the course and a place where you can make up a lot of ground. Last year, I was on the wrong end of ache track trying to run good.

"Andy (Petree) has turned the whole team around. He's got everybody in the shop focused on what he wants them to do and what he wants himself to do and what he wants me to do. I guess going back from when he was there before in the late 80s and 90s with Harry Gant, Andy is just a winner. He wants to be the best crew chief, and he's working on becoming the best car owner. I honestly believe in three or four years Andy is going to have a race team capable of being equal to a Childress or Robert Yates or Jack Roush Andy has made me a better driver. He's made me more of a thinking racer instead of just a hard, aggressive racer. He still wants that, but the little things he does with our race team is going to make everybody better. "

ANDY PETREE (Crew chief No 33 Skoal Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"I really think Robert learned a lot at Talladega about drafting. We went to Daytona and qualified good. I think we raced real good. We got in a little wreck early and got in a big wreck later. We went to Talladega trying to stay out of trouble and trying to get to the finish. At the same time, we wanted to learn a little more about the draft and I think he made a big step in that direction.

"I think the road course thing has got a lot to do witch just having a good car. You build a nice, lightweight car that's packaged neat witch a low center of gravity rakes are not as big a deal at Sears Point as they are at Watkins: Glen, but they are a factor think shocks are probably more important at Sears Point than anywhere we go. We found last year. We tried a few combinations with Earnhardt's car that really didn't work at all and some that worked real good. The shock combination really showed up at Sears Point

"I've seen some (accidents) probably as bad as that (at Talladega). The one Mike Waltrip had at Bristol was real bad as tearing the car up, and he walked away from it. Phil Parsons wrecked in '83 at Talladeqa at least as bad as Craven did Craven's car looked bad but Phil Parsons flipped l0 or 12 times and hit hard a couple of times and he walked away from it You hear everybody talk about the safety. That's something they keep working on all the time. That's their No. 1 priority. You see wrecks like that and it proves it works.

"I think Terry Satchell did a lot to change that. He was revolutionary in this sport getting people to trust engineers. They're much more educated than crew chiefs and people who work on the cars, and that intimidated a lot of people. Somebody like Terry Satchell comes in here, and he's a brilliant engineer, but he also knows the value of a good crew chief and the rest of the crew and how engineering applies to this sport and how to apply it. He's really helped me a lot in that respect, and he's also shown me how to be a better crew chief.

"I don't know if I trust it (chassis dyno test at Talladega) because I don't know anything about it. I don't know if I trust the data that comes out of it. If it gave good data, it would probably be something that would be useful, but I think right now, the data itself is in question.

"Going from Martinsville to Talladeqa to Sears Point is about as broad a range for a driver and crew as anything. That's three major different tracks, totally different from a driver and crew chief standpoint. The aero and horsepower and drafting at Talladega coming from Martinsville where brakes and channeling are everything then to Sears Point where shocks and driver are everything. It's a broad range and there's a different mental approach to each one. You prepare the car a little different. It's probably not as much different for the crew as it is for the crew chief and driver. Track position is everything at Sears Point, and it's not that critical at Talladega. You can come out, and Sterling proved it how many times Sunday, 35th or worse and move right to the front. You're not going to be able to do that at Sears Point. It's track position all the way, The crew comes in when you're talking about pit stops. That's even more critical at Sears Point.

"Any time you try to compare anybody to Dale Earnhardt, that's not even a fair comparison. I think Dale Earnhardt is the greatest race car driver who ever lived. But Robert and Dale have a lot of similarities. They want a little bit of the same things in the cars. When I went from here to Earnhardt's team when we had Harry Gant before, they were quite different. Really it was totally different between Harry Gant and Earnhardt, but now, coming back over here working with Robert, I see Robert kind of wants the same things in the car that Earnhardt did. I guess their styles are a little bit the same. We're in a learning curve. We're learning a little bit about each other. It's Robert's second year in Winston Cup, and he's learning a lot, and I'm learning a lot about how to deal with somebody like Robert. Before I had people like Earnhardt and Harry Gant. They were seasoned veterans when I came along.

RICKY CRAVEN (No. 41 Kodiak Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"I'm doing great. The people in Birmingham, what a wonderful group of people at the hospital and race track. They really took care of us well.

"We're taking a realistic approach I really feel good. I'm obviously sore, and I'm not in race shape right now. Larry (team owner Hedrick ) and Scott ( team manager Maxim) and I have agreed to wait until Wednesday, Thursday and evaluate things. We have Ron Hornaday kind of on the sidelines for us in case we can't complete the race but I fully intend to at least start the event

"My left eye is swollen, and I have a bruised lung I think the most discomfort is from the fractured (No. 3) vertebra they discovered yesterday, but with the medication I can live with that. I have a hard time remembering the incident. I remember the car being sideways, and I know that I got hit or I went over the top of Mark Martin), but I can't put it all together I guess I've taken for granted the safety inspection and the standards NASCAR has for us. That driver's compartment in the Kodiak Chevrolet was so safe, and so intact. It was really amazing how well it held up.

" I think they've got plenty of opportunities to put the car somewhere. People have been calling the last couple of days. It's a car that was built by Mike Laughlin. Larry and I just flew back together from Birmingham, and I explained to him that I would like NASCAR or some museum to have it on display to show as a sign of safety. Even the wreck hasn't affected me as far as my approach toward racing. I think I feel the way I do because the mechanical understanding I have of what goes into these cars. I wouldn't mind the public seeing this car so they can see first-hand why I'm not hurt or at least not seriously "They certainly absorb a lot of punishment. The first thing to come off the car are the tires. The bumpers on the front and the rear are built to absorb some inertia. When those pieces leave, that's when it becomes a little more dangerous. I think the only part of the wreck that probably hurt me was the landing on the apron. There were no tires or no suspension left on the car. When it landed, it was solid chassis and frame to the asphalt

"NASCAR has done a great job with the roof flaps, and that certainly helps. The incident with Jimmy Horton (at Talladega helped them) strengthen the fence. I'm not concerned. If we raced Talladega this weekend, if the doctors allowed me to be there, I'd be there. I don't know if that makes me normal, but I love what I do. The biggest struggle for me right now is knowing I probably won't be able to run the whole race at Sears Point. We've gotten off to a great start in 1996. I'm being a little bit selfish here. My family and friends are not as concerned about that obviously as I am. I should really give a little more consideration to how lucky I am to be not hurt worse than I am. I love what I do, and I wish that we didn't have this little bit of a setback, but it's part of the game It won't affect me "

Jack Durbin indy500@freenet.tlh.fl.us Motorsport News International jackd@motorsport.com (Moderators for "rec.autos.sport.info") Homepage http://www.freenet.tlh.fl.us/users/indy500/index.html

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ricky Craven , Andy Petree , Phil Parsons , Jack Roush , Robert Yates , Harry Gant , Mark Martin