Interview With Rusty Wallace, Jeremy Mayfield (Daytona)

Rusty Wallace and Jeremy Mayfield talked to the media following the second round of practice Friday afternoon. JEREMY MAYFIELD - 12- Mobil 1 Taurus -- "So far, we've had an awesome day here. Rusty ran really good early and we run...

Rusty Wallace and Jeremy Mayfield talked to the media following the second round of practice Friday afternoon.

JEREMY MAYFIELD - 12- Mobil 1 Taurus -- "So far, we've had an awesome day here. Rusty ran really good early and we run good in the second one. I think he ended up third that time so we're both running in the top three. We're real happy with it, and hopefully we can keep it up for qualifying tomorrow."

RUSTY WALLACE - 2 - Miller Lite Taurus -- "I'm real happy with it. Both cars are running real strong. We ran a .42 earlier today, and then we did wanted to do a bonsai lap. I only got one lap in, and then the red flag fell. I'm always quicker the second lap, but we'll have to find that out tomorrow."

WHEN YOU RAN 40 OR 50 LAPS TOGETHER LAST YEAR - TALK ABOUT THAT. WALLACE - "We were super happy. I know I wanted to hang onto Jeremy, and I think he wanted to hang onto me because everybody was trying to get in between us. You could have put a blanket over the top five cars at the end of the race. There were a couple times there Jeremy almost had enough momentum to get past Earnhardt. He elected to come back in. I think it was a great decision because we could have elected to come back out and make the pass and got freight trained big time. It turned out great for both of us. He was third. I was fifth. We both were pretty damn happy. That's for sure."

JEREMY, WOULD YOU COMMENT ON THAT. ANY TIME YOU ARE AROUND EACHOTHER DON'T YOU TIPPY TOE JUST A LITTLE BIT? MAYFIELD - "Rusty and I have a lot of confidence in each other as far as the way we race and everything. We both know that the when one's in front and one's in the back we're going to stick together unless you get split up like we did last year. I think you'll see the same thing this year.

RUSTY, EARNHARDT SAID EARLIER THAT WE SHOULD BOTHER YOU AND TERRY LABONTE ABOUT NOT WINNING THIS RACE. CAN YOU COMMENT ON THAT? "I just don't ever really think I had a car that, I don't think I ever deserved to win this race because I never felt like I had a car that was right. Now I feel like I've got a great car, a great engine combination, a great crew and a great teammate. Last year I was real close to that also. Like Jeremy said there were a couple times we could have driven down and went for it, maybe we would have made it, maybe not but if him and I could have gotten in front of Dale, I'm sure he could have gotten right back around us because that's just the way the draft was last year. I'm excited about trying to get qualifying over tomorrow. There's a lot on our minds. We've been running both so good in practice, Jeremy and I both have, and we both can smell the front row and we want it real bad. After qualifying's done, no matter how it turns out I'm sure we're gonna pleased."

ARE YOU HAPPY WITH YOUR QUALIFYING DRAW (WALLACE - 2ND AND MAYFIELD - 5TH), OR WOULD YOU RATHER BE GOING LATER IN THE DAY? WALLACE - "With the temperatures today, I think it got hotter as the day went on. Going out second and going out fifth definitely isn't going to hurt anything at all. I believe the track is going to be cooler at 12:30 than it will at 3:00."

WERE YOU BY YOURSELF TODAY, OR DID YOU HAVE HELP? "Both of us had good clean laps. I know I had a super clean lap. I couldn't see anybody in front of me. The same for Jeremy. That's one thing we don't do. We don't go out and try to fake anything." MAYFIELD - "Same here. We had a clean lap I know, and I think Sterling did too. You're going to see a good show for qualifying tomorrow, I'm sure."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE IMPROVEMENT IN THE TAURUS' AERO PLUS YOUR OWN TEAM'S PLATE IMPROVEMENT AND THE WAY YOU'VE BEEN RUNNING, IF YOU GET IN THE SAME SITUATION IN THE 500 WILL YOU PLAY IT DIFFERENT? MAYFIELD - "I think so. I know my confidence is a lot higher than it was last year at this time. Rusty has always had a lot of confidence. But knowing now what we know, and what happened to us last year I'm sure you'll see us doing things a lot different, probably a lot more aggressive than what we were. We definitely will stick together more than we ever did." WALLACE - "If we get both cars in the front row like we plan, if that happens I think it is a lot easier to stay hooked up through the day. If you get one guy in front and one guy in back, it's tough. But I really don't think we're going to qualify much apart. We've got an hour and ten minutes of practice tomorrow. And we expect to have one bonsai run tomorrow and that should be it."

IF YOU CAN STAY TOGETHER WOULD YOU CONSIDER CHECKING OUT TOGETHER OR WOULD YOU PLAY IT MORE CONSERVATIVELY? WALLACE - "I don't think there is no way in the world two cars are going to check out on this field. It's going to be a whole pile of them bumper-to-bumper. Everybody knows the draft is everything in the world. You will be able to take 15th place car, and have them leading the race. I remember I flew out after the Firecracker 400, and I told Robin (Pemberton - crew chief) we should have a little more power, a little less aerodynamics because we can sit there and run second, third, and fourth because we don't have enough power to pull the whole train. Earnhardt and Gordon can do that and I can't do that. I'm hoping that this year we've got enough steam to do that."

LAST YEAR YOU HAD THE UNCERTAINTY OF THE TAURUS. WHAT DOES IT MEAN NOT TO HAVE THAT THIS YEAR? MAYFIELD - "I know it made the winter go by a lot better, I think Rusty would say the same. I know last year at this time we had a lot things going on we didn't know about that we didn't know. His primary car and my primary car were the only ones that were good. We didn't have much to go off of. This year we've both got two good cars, and his car and my car are running about the same. There is all the difference in the world between last year at this time and and knowing what we know now."

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIG FOCUS FOR 1999? WALLACE - "It's been more horsepower. The guys at Penske engines have been working like crazy to get more restrictor place horsepower, and they haven't stopped that since October when we ran the Firecracker 400. That is one key thing that's been good, and the other key thing is that we took an unknown - the body we had last year, and put it in the wind tunnel, found out how good it was, and built a new car. We knew it would be better. It had to be better than that. The aero guys have been in there massaging on the car, and with NASCAR not changing the rules dramatically for qualifying this year and last year has made the team's job much easier getting to the race track. We know what we're doing. Instead of having all these shock rules, and spring rules and restrictor plate rules which usually get everybody all screwed up it has helped the teams a ton." MAYFIELD - "I think its why you see when you look at the run-down how close it is this year. There are not two or three teams a lot faster. It is real competitive. I think that's why NASCAR leaves everything like it is."

LAST YEAR SKINNER HELPED EARNHARDT AT THE END OF THE RACE. WILL YOU AND JEREMY DO THAT? "We try to work with each other as hard as we can. In the Daytona 500 I pulled out one time, and I knew I wasn't going to make it. I knew I was going to get hung out to dry. I saw Jeremy tuck his nose out to help me along, and then it wasn't ten laps later he tried to make a move, and I tried to help him. Last year in the Firecracker 400 they were coming like a storm, and Jeremy had to commit to a pass, and after he passed me he hit the radio button, and said I'm sorry. I couldn't do nothing. They were running like hell, and I had to go. That's just the way it is. You try to work as best as you possibly can together. We're doing all we can. I think us two have worked good in the 500. I think it was a magical moment last year. And in the Firecracker 400 too, when I was fifth again and I think Jeremy was third or fourth again." MAYFIELD - "If Rusty won, and I could help him win or vice versa, I think both of us would be just as happy. If either of these cars win, it helps both teams." WALLACE - "We made an announcement at the shop last week. We've got over 120 employees at Penske Racing altogether, and we announced one big bonus program. So no matter how the 12 car does or the 2 car does, it all goes into one big pot, and they share equal. I could have a crappy year, and Jeremy could have a good, and everybody gets equal. So I think that's the thing to do with a two-car team to keep them all going in one direction. Each team knows that the other guy out there is making the cash for them still."

WHAT DOES THE DAYTONA QUALIFYING FORMULA MEAN AS FAR AS THE TEAM. FIRST YOU HAVE TO GO FOR SPEED, AND THEN THERE IS A RACE? MAYFIELD - "That is a good question. Everybody does spend a lot of time and effort on qualifying for the Daytona 500. As soon as qualifying is over, unless you are first or second, you have to race for your position. That doesn't make a lot of sense, but you still have to do it because you have to have a good time to fall back on if something does happen in the 125's. I think for Rusty and I both this is the first year that we've only had one speedway test. We didn't test twice. We only tested once at Daytona, and we actually only had half a day the second day. Usually we have three days to test, and half of the second day we had to spend on race set-up for the Daytona 500. I don't believe there's every been a team that's been able to do that."

WHY DOES A DAYTONA 500 WIN BECOME SO ELUSIVE FOR SOME OF THE TOP GUYS IN THIS SPORT - EARNHARDT, YOU, MARTIN? "I believe it's just the restrictor plate motor racing. The driver can do so little compared to what the car has to be. It takes a lot of power. Everybody's car seem to handle good here at Daytona and Talladega so you've got to have a lot of horsepower as well as good pit stops. And then you've got to have a lot of luck. You could be sitting there in first, and a couple guys gang up on you and you could be in 10th. Here, you don't have near as much capability to run the car as you do at other race tracks. You just can't get up and dominate and drive off. It's just a lot the car and a lot of, lot of luck. It does surprise me it took Dale the amount of time it did. I don't know quite how to answer the question. Luck plays a big part of it, and if you aren't prepared the best as you can when you get here. If you haven't got that body the best you possibly can, and if you haven't got the feeling of the team at an all-time high before you come here it could be bad. If the power is off a little bit, and you get down. Then the team starts scratching their heads, and get way down. If you're down, it's trouble."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeremy Mayfield , Rusty Wallace
Teams Team Penske