RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- "A year ago we sat on the pole here and this year we're struggling. I figure that's gonna put us somewhere in the top 15 or top 20 -- it's not gonna be great. That's about my quickest lap. In practice...
RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- "A year ago we sat on the pole
here and this year we're struggling. I figure that's gonna put us somewhere
in the top 15 or top 20 -- it's not gonna be great. That's about my
quickest lap. In practice we've been a little bit off. We came here and
tested a couple of weeks ago, but we worked on race setup. I'm still glad
we did that. We may have sacrificed a little bit on qualifying, but we did
work a lot on race setup, so I'm happy with that."
IS AERO OR HANDLING MORE IMPORTANT HERE? "I think aero is the big thing here. The Chevrolets have a new nose since last year and they're a better car. I don't know enough about the Dodge to say, but the Fords need a little help. We've been struggling week in and week out and we'll see. We're not giving up and we're not gonna say a Ford can't win this race. I've seen Jeff Burton do it. It doesn't matter what he's driving, it seems like he's gonna win it."
JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo SUPERGARD Taurus -- "We picked up a little bit from
practice. The car drove better than what we had in practice. I went for it
a little bit too hard on the second lap. I thought we had run faster the
first lap then we actually had, so I went for it on the second lap and that
hurt us some. That's not gonna be terrible, but it's not gonna be great.
It's gonna be the middle of the field, so we'll see what we can get done."
YOU'RE THE MOST SUCCESSFUL DRIVER AT THIS TRACK, DO YOU NEED TO START UP FRONT? "We've never started in the front, I can guarantee you that, so I don't know that starting in the front means that's what you've got to do to win. We certainly wanted to come into this year and qualify better than we've been in the past and we had up until this point. This is pretty typical of what we've done here in the past, so we'll see what we can get done on Sunday."
ROBERT PRESSLEY --77-- Jasper Engines Taurus -- "I'm pretty happy. We
backed up what we practiced and I would have liked to run a little bit
faster, but I got loose in four that first lap and that killed my second
lap. I think we've got a good little race car. We've come a long way since
a year and a half ago and we've improved a good ways since last year, so I
feel good about it."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE IN THE TOP 10 IN POINTS? "It is good and I think we're gonna be pretty decent. It's gonna be tough to stay there, but we have to just do what we've done the first two races of this year and the last four races of last year and that's be consistent."
MATT KENSETH --17-- DeWalt Tools Taurus -- "It was a good lap for us. The car did everything I wanted it to. It drove really good and I don't know how to go a whole bunch faster than that. Maybe I was a little conservative, but I thought it was a real good lap."
RYAN NEWMAN --02-- ALLTEL Taurus -- "It felt good, but overall we're just not as fast as we should be. We'll just have to re-evaluate what we've done and see if it's good enough to make the field."
RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus -- "I'm pretty happy with it. The car turned so good qualifying that I kind of underestimated it. I think I could have run turn one and two a little bit harder, but that was a good run for the Miller Lite Ford. I'm really happy with that. We did a lot of testing out here and I feel pretty prepared for Sunday's race. Now we'll get the race setup in it and get after it."
KURT BUSCH --97-- Roush Racing Taurus -- YOU HAD A BIG DISCUSSION AFTER
PRACTICE WITH YOUR CREW AND YOU OBVIOUSLY MADE THE RIGHT CALLS. "We think
we did. I just gave it to the car and it was right there underneath me.
Coming around out of turn four and taking the green flag, to see all of
those people up there screaming for Las Vegas, it was neat. They carried
me through a little bit."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO FINALLY GET OUT THERE AND QUALIFY HERE? "These guys are expecting me to pull four tenths out of my butt everytime. I don't like that. I'd like to go out there and know that we're fast. Maybe we can pull out four tenths while we're fast and we might end up on a pole somewhere, but that's later on in the season. We still have a lot of things to learn and some more maturity to grow."
HOW WAS THE LAP? "It was a decent lap. It was more surprising to jump out of the car and hear the fans screaming for once. It's different in Winston Cup because nobody knows who we are and it's great to come back home and have these home fans cheering for us."
DALE JARRETT --88-- UPS Taurus -- "That surprised me, but I don't think it
surprised Todd and the guys. They made some good adjustments there and
tuned up on the engine -- it's just a really good race car. That was as
good of a lap I can put down here."
TRADITIONALLY THE FRONT ROW STARTERS HAVEN'T DONE WELL HERE. DOES THAT MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU? "No, I'll take my chances starting up there and seeing what I can do about that. It's a very competitive race track and it's gonna be a great race. Starting up front can be an advantage because you can run the race you want to run, but you're gonna have to run hard all day to be in this."
JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus -- "I'm real happy with it. We were fast off the truck and the car's handling great and the motor's running good. Everything is there. It seemed like we had a bad week last week, but we kept our heads up and came in here today and said we were gonna get the job done. I'm proud of all the guys. We've had our ups and downs and we're trying to fight back and get away from that this year and, hopefully, this will be a good start for us."
HUT STRICKLIN --90-- Hills Brothers Taurus -- "We picked up close to two tenths from what we practiced and made some wholesale changes. We've been pretty loose getting in the corner since we've been here and really got it good getting in, but was a little too tight getting off the corner in qualifying. At least the car is responding to what we're doing, so that's good. We only got about four or five laps in practice and really ran out of time. It's a good run for us considering we didn't come out here and test. Wherever that puts us, hopefully that will be good enough to put us in the show."
MARK MARTIN --6-- Pfizer Taurus -- "I'm real disappointed with that. I
thought we could do better. We had a good lap in practice and I thought we
could probably improve on that from watching the other guys run and seeing
them pick up. We may have picked up a little bit, but I was hoping to pick
up a good bit. We just didn't manage to do it. The car didn't stick to the
race track for me."
CAN YOU WIN SUNDAY? "We could, but we just need things to go our way right now. We could pull one off, but certainly not with the kind of luck I've had so far this year."
ELLIOTT SADLER --21-- Motorcraft Taurus -- "I'm pretty happy with that.
I think that'll be in the top 13 or 14. We just wanted a good starting
position for Sunday and I think we feel like we've got some momentum.
This car really tested well in race trim. We're really happy with the
qualifying, but we're really gonna be good on Sunday. I think we've got a
good shot at winning this thing and maybe being in the top five for a No
Bull Five race."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW IT FEELS TO GET OFF TO A GOOD START AFTER SO MUCH BAD LUCK LAST YEAR? "Oh man, it's a world of difference. We just feel like a different team, which we are. I told everybody all winter that everything we've done is different. This is a different race team than it's ever been and hopefully we're showing that. We're qualifying pretty decent and we're racing pretty decent and we're gonna do it again on Sunday."
TODD BODINE --66-- Route 66/Kmart Taurus -- "That's the best we've run since we've been here, but the car has been good right off the truck. We came out here and tested and did really well in both qualifying and race setup, so we're looking forward to the race. We kind of wanted to get the pole. We thought we had the car for it when we tested, but we came back and the track changed a little bit. Fortunately, we got back to being quick again and the car is pretty good. The Busch car is real fast, so, hopefully, we can have a good weekend."
JIMMY SPENCER --26-- Kmart Taurus -- "We really wanted the pole. I tried
to get up to speed and it just would not grip. It was really, really
loose and I was off a half-second on my get-up lap to take the green flag.
We're not happy with that .64. Yeah, we made the top 20 but I know that's
now where we should have been. We really felt like we could run in the
thirties, honest to goodness we did."
YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT SUNDAY. "Yeah. This car ran really good at places like Phoenix and Miami. This is basically the same car and we're looking for it, but I'm bothered by our qualifying lap because I wanted to be further up than that."
KURT BUSCH PRESS CONFERENCE -- HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE HOME? "It's just
great to be back in familiar surroundings. It doesn't even feel like I'm
here racing. I was a spectator for the past three years watching my team
cars win races here, so it's great to be part of Roush Racing here. It's
bound to happen for anybody out here. Just because Roush has won all the
races doesn't mean a Ford is gonna win, but we'd sure like to continue
that streak for our team."
YOU DON'T HAVE A LOT OF LAPS ON THIS TRACK DO YOU? "I'm a rookie and I've been a rookie in every series. It seems like I've been a rookie for all my life now -- from 1998 through last year with the Craftsman Truck Series season. They didn't make a stop here in Las Vegas. I've made only one start here in a Winston West Series event and that was the inaugural Winston Cup weekend in 1998."
YOU WERE LEADING IN THAT RACE TO WITH 10 TO GO. "And our crew guys put the right-front on the left-front and the left-front on the right-front to make the story short, so we ended up finishing eighth. It's a great race track. It's actually a fun race track when you come off of turn four and get a good boost down the front straightaway. You can put it anywhere. You can go high, you can go low. It's a very generous race track. It might fit more to my style as a rookie, being a little skiddish or maybe making a couple of mistakes. At a place like this it will forgive you and you can get back in the race."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE FIRST COUPLE OF RACES? "The biggest thing was getting in that Daytona 500. We had to play it conservative in that qualifying race. We finished 12th and the top 14 advanced, so we got in by the skin of our teeth, but we raced real strong in the 500 and that's the way that I'm satisfied after a race weekend. How do we perform during the race. We made our way up to the front. We had great pit stops. We'd come in eighth and go out sixth and that means we've got a top-10 caliber pit crew. It's just a matter of me giving back to them and making it all worthwhile so we can put together top-10 finishes. At Rockingham we qualified ninth and at Vegas we qualified ninth. At Rockingham we made a rookie mistake. I got up in the fence and knocked the toe-in out and that made for a long day. Here we are, this is the third race of the season. Really, the start of the season hasn't begun yet. This is the lump sum of it and after the first five races is where we'll make a decision on how our season started and where to go from there."
HOW CLOSE ARE YOU TO LANDING A SPONSOR? "They told me to make it easy on them and I've tried to do my best -- to go out there and run strong. We had seven races last year to showcase what we could do in the John Deere car and it was unfortunate they couldn't come back. We've talked with people in Daytona and we've talked with people in Rockingham and again here in Las Vegas. It's just a matter of time before something gets put together. I think the business world is waiting until the first of April, which is the second quarter and that would be something big. We've got three to four different companies that I'm really geared up towards and it would fit the program real well."
DALE JARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE -- YOU WON THE INAUGURAL POLE AS WELL. "The
new tire that Goodyear has is actually the same tire we raced last weekend,
but it's new for here. When we were here a couple of weeks ago testing, we
did no qualifying-type runs at all. We worked strictly on race setup, so I
felt really good coming here about our race setup but I had no idea what we
would do for qualifying. Todd and I talked about it and our qualifying
setup and race setup are really close, other than a few minor changes. I
feel good about that. We were pretty loose most of the day to where I
really couldn't get after the car. Todd and I talked and we made two
adjustments that really seemed to be key. Where I was having a problem was
actually coming to the green flag. The car really wanted to be loose, so I
was losing speed on that first lap. Those adjustments that we made really
helped the car, it stuck great. Todd told me going down the backstretch
what I had run the first lap and I knew the car didn't stick quite as good
the second lap in one and two, so I just eased through three and four to
make sure I didn't do anything crazy there. It was just a good lap. The
engine guys did a good job of tuning the engine and we were fortunate to go
out at a time when we had a lot of cloud cover too. I think that hurt some
of the guys towards the end of having a chance at beating us."
RYR HAS THREE POLES. WHAT'S THE SECRET? "If we can translate that to Sunday, it'll be good. We've run OK here. We didn't run as well last year as we'd like to run here. I think the year that we won the pole that first year, we were actually running good in the race and had something break inside the engine. I'm looking forward to it. This is a race track that demands a lot of things. The straightaways are plenty long enough to use a lot of horsepower and we have that. That helps Ricky and me, but you've got to make your car handle. Getting it through the corners is what it's gonna be about on Sunday and you have to work really hard. This is a great race track to race on, but if you miss the setup just a little bit, it can make for a long day."
CHEVY WON THE FIRST TWO RACES, HOW DO YOU FEEL THE FORDS WILL DO HERE? "We'll just have to see. The Chevrolets have been very good. I don't believe a Ford has actually led a lap this year by actually taking the lead. We might have inherited the lead somewhere along the way with pit stops and things like that, but as far as just going up and taking the lead, we haven't gotten to that point. We have some work to do and we just have to continue to work hard and try to make it better. We have to work on our setups. When you feel like you're at a little bit of a disadvantage aerowise, then you work harder in other areas and that's what we're gonna have to do. The Chevrolet teams seem to have a really well balanced car now with the adjustments that were made to their cars last year, and their engines perform very well, so they have everything going. Obviously, we know the Pontiacs are very, very good, so it should be an interesting race. This should be a good sign here, I believe, because of needing the total package to run well here. It'll be a good sign on Sunday to see exactly where we do stand."
WHERE WOULD THE FORDS BE DISADVANTAGED HERE AT VEGAS? "I believe that I'm speaking correctly in that the last time we took cars from the race track to the wind tunnel as far as downforce cars, that both the Chevrolet and the Pontiac made more downforce than what the Ford did. I think our downforce total number isn't bad, but we've probably got a little more on the rear. It's hard for us to get the front end of the car down. Chevrolet got to kick their nose out two inches and the Pontiac's air dam is down on the ground already and they have a wide back end, so they've adjusted theirs. Over the last three or four years what has happened is the Pontiac has had adjustments with more spoiler in the rear and a lower air dam. Chevrolet built a new car and it didn't make enough downforce on the front end, so NASCAR kicked the nose out two inches -- not an inch, but two inches. Nothing has ever been given to the Taurus. The only thing that has ever been done is the spoiler being cut off or something taken away -- a template changed a little bit that took away a little bit of downforce -- so we feel like we've fought an uphill battle. But that's what we've got to work with. NASCAR, I'm sure they'll continue to evaluate and look at this. Until that time there's no reason -- what I'm saying here is for your information. You can use it or not use it or say he's crazy, but the main thing is this is what we've got to work with so we've got to find other ways to try to work around it. In getting back to answer your question, in a long run trying to keep from sliding the nose in the center of the corner is what we're really gonna have to work hard to keep from happening. If that starts happening, then you lose that exit speed which hurts your straightaway speed."
HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS WEEKEND TO REGAIN FOCUS AND GET BACK TO RACING? "I think every week is gonna be very important to us. This is something that is gonna take a long time. I can honestly say there is not a day and there are very few hours in my day that something doesn't come up that I think about Dale -- something that he did for me or helped me or just something he did for the sport, that he did for the fans -- just what he really meant to us. It's gonna take a long time, but it is important. We've had two good races as far as the competition goes and, hopefully, that will continue. This fan base that Dale drew for us -- these millions of fans that we have across the country -- we have to find a way to keep them excited about NASCAR racing even though we have all lost our hero. We have to find a way and I think good racing, I think, will help do that. Hopefully, that's what we'll do again here Sunday. Again, it's a great race track for that. I think every driver will pretty much tell you they love to race here because there is more than one groove to race on. We've seen some great battles side by side and I would look for that again."
HOW MUCH DO DRIVERS PLAY A ROLE IN TRYING TO GET A RULES CHANGE? "I think that just like safety and everything else, I think it's something we all need to be aware of the situation and what is happening. We know what's happening with our race cars. You can look at all the wind tunnel numbers and you can look at them and make different things of them, but it comes down to what's happening on the race track. Last week, Ricky (Rudd) ran OK for a while in a Ford. Ricky Craven had a good finish there at the end in a Ford, but a Ford never really challenged last weekend so I think we have to look at it. I don't know what wind tunnel numbers you saw at Daytona, but we were at a disadvantage there and still are until they make some change there. That showed on the race track too, that a Ford could not get out front. These are things we discuss. We're not going in there making demands or anything like that. We discuss it with our Ford representatives and look at what scenario would make it work and if we get to a point, then they'll present that to NASCAR and say this is what we think. Generally they say they're not thinking about it, but there's always hope."
DO YOU FEEL DRIVERS HAVE A VOICE IN SAFETY WITH NASCAR? "Again, let me say I think NASCAR is in a very, very tough position. They've built this great series, but they're getting advice and ideas from so many areas. What they have to do is they can't just take something that seems like a good idea for a new safety item. They have to research it and make sure that it is something that's beneficial for everyone and they have to make sure that this is something that truly is good for our sport. They've made a lot of safety changes over the last five or six year. If you go down the list of just things that have changed for safety, but it's still up to the drivers and crews -- the onus -- to look at what can continue to make this sport even safer. Again, we have to work at this as a group. I don't think it works as a group of three or four drivers or three or four owners or just a couple of people in NASCAR. Everybody has to continue to look at this and evaluate and do what we can. These unfortunate situations we've had in the last nine or 10 months, it would be terrible to have these losses and not gain something from them. I think NASCAR does listen, they're just not gonna make a change for the sake of change. They're gonna make sure that it is beneficial. There are a lot of things that take place. I've heard them say this and I know for a fact that they communicate with us whenever they have enough information to communicate. They don't want to just tell us that they're doing something just to let us know that something is going on. We know for a fact that they're looking into safety issues and we have to continue to help them look in those directions too."
DO YOU FEEL A CERTAIN IMPORTANCE TO CARRY ON OR LIFT YOUR ROLE IN THE SPORT? "I was asked a question similar to that earlier and I think it's gonna take a collective effort. This isn't something that even one person out here could start to fill his shoes in that respect. I made the joke that when we were doing commercials for Coca-Cola or whoever it was, Dale was in charge. They had a director there, but actually Dale Earnhardt was in charge. We got things done a lot quicker and got out of there a lot faster than they thought, so I was behind him there. We all learned a lot in that respect, but as far as here at the race track. If you asked me the question, who could take over that role or who is most likely to do that? I'd have to say Jeff Gordon is in that position, but we're not gonna put that on one person. It's gonna take a lot of us to step up and help carry this sport and continue what Dale built here. I don't mean any disrespect to any of the other drivers because we have a lot of great drivers and individuals out here, but it would take a lot more than one or two or three to replace Dale Earnhardt in making all of that happen."