Loudon; Bliss says no short cuts preparing for Winston Cup

DETROIT (July 3, 2000) - There seem to be two schools of thought with regard to which NASCAR series best prepares a driver for a move to Winston Cup. Some people say it's the Busch Series while others feel it's the Craftsman Truck Series. But ...

DETROIT (July 3, 2000) - There seem to be two schools of thought with regard to which NASCAR series best prepares a driver for a move to Winston Cup. Some people say it's the Busch Series while others feel it's the Craftsman Truck Series. But according to Viagra Pontiac driver Mike Bliss, there should be a third choice: none of the above.

As far as Bliss is concerned, there is no way to prepare for the Winston Cup Series. It is simply that difficult, and experience is the only tool a driver can use to successfully make the transition.


...does it help to go to a track, like New Hampshire, where you have some experience?: "I thought it would be alright when we went to all these places I had been to, like California and Texas. But it (the Winston Cup car) drives so different than a truck. With the truck you can almost drive into the corner harder than a car because you are not going as fast down the straightaway. All those things are kind of hurting me in a way. It's just so different when you come here in the Winston Cup stuff. You unload off the trailer, and you run one lap, one lap, one lap, one lap. You've got to be damn close to start with. If you are way off you are going to struggle the whole time, and second-round qualifying is not a real good situation to be in."

...on being forced to run second-round qualifying a lot:  "It has taken me a time to figure
out what to do to these race cars; what to do for qualifying, how to drive them.  I'm kind
of gaining on it, but it just takes awhile when you don't have anybody to feed off of.  I
can't go to anybody.  And these new tires have thrown this team for a loop.  They have
thrown a lot of teams for a loop.  It has just been a struggle that way."

...would a teammate help?: "I think it would. If I put myself in Tony Stewart's place when he went over there (to Joe Gibbs Racing), it would help me accelerate my learning. Imagine what it would be like if they said, 'This is Bobby Labonte's car that he won this race with. You get it.'

...what is the transition like from the Craftsman Truck Series to Winston Cup?: "It's tough. It's tough on Friday going to the racetrack with a knot in your stomach thinking about trying to make the race. You are not there to try to win the race. You are not there to try to finish in the top 10. You are there to try to make the race. Then you put all that effort into it and if you miss first round (qualifying), you miss the morning practice on Saturday and then you get about 45 minutes of practice at the end of the day (Saturday). That's why I'm looking forward to going back to some of the racetracks because at least we've got notes now. I know what to expect and that's pretty important."

...on his goals coming into the season: "My goals were way too high. I figured I was going to try to get into the top 20 in points, but that was thrown out of the window. Looking back at starting with A.J., with a new team, I would never do that again. It is really, really tough to start a new team in this series, and think that you're going to go out there and be top 10 right off the bat. It's not something I would want to do again."

...on his goals for the second half of the season: "You want to go back and make first-round qualifying. You want to go back and finish better than you did before, which shouldn't be too hard. We need it to try to run somewhere in the '20's,' maybe in the 'teens,' and just try to improve every weekend."

...on staying optimistic during his struggles this year: "I can look back to when I was in the trucks saying that I would never want to go to Winston Cup and just run around the racetrack in 40th or 35th or something like that. I would look at some of the guys back there and would think, 'Those guys aren't driving. They're just out there for the money.' It isn't that way at all. They're driving just as hard as the guys up front, but that's all they have. They are just a second away from being up front, but it takes a lot more money than what they've got and a lot more people than what they've got to do that. "I never realized until I came over here how critical everything together is. Your bodies have to be perfect, your motors have to be perfect, the driver, all the crew -- everything has got to be perfect. In the trucks you could be off 25 percent and still finish in the top five. But you just keep in the back of your head that you have won races before and I know I can do it someday. I realize it's not going to happen tomorrow or next year, but hopefully you've got somebody that's patient. The team, the sponsor, everybody has got to be patient. Unfortunately these days, nobody is patient anymore. They want success right off the bat."

...on maintaining his sense of humor: "You've got to or I think you would take it way, way, way too serious. You can't get wrapped up in it too much. You've got to blow it off. I can remember in the truck series if I was leading with 10 laps to go and finished third, it would wrap me up for two or three days. I'd be all mad. I should be a lot worse now, but you've just got to think positive and know that we're going to get better."

...does he see the team getting better?: "I do, every race. I see it a lot. It just takes time to build a race team up from the start. They pretty much started from scratch. We're getting there, but we're not there yet."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Mike Bliss
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing