Wallace leading a confident group into New Hampshire DETROIT, Mich., Sept. 11, 2002 - There are some teams that will probably be happy to see the end of the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season arrive in 10 more races, but it's doubtful that...
Wallace leading a confident group into New Hampshire
DETROIT, Mich., Sept. 11, 2002 - There are some teams that will probably be happy to see the end of the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season arrive in 10 more races, but it's doubtful that the rejuvenated group at A.J. Foyt Racing is among them.
Through the first 21 races of the year, the team that fields the No. 14 Pontiac Grand Prix found the going tough. 2002 had not yielded a top 10, which led to a driver change after the July 28th event at Pocono Raceway. The team tabbed Mike Wallace as the man who would finish the year for them, with the exception of the road race at Watkins Glen International. For that event, Foyt took a suggestion from Wallace and acquired P.J. Jones in an attempt to get the team its best possible finish. The move paid huge dividends, as Jones cruised to a fourth-place finish. That run not only stood as a season-best mark, but also as the best result ever posted by A.J. Foyt Racing.
Beginning with that run, the No. 14 Pontiac has posted a top five, two top 10s and Saturday's run at Richmond that saw Wallace sniffing around the top five for the majority of the last half of the race before a late stop for fuel relegated them to a still-respectable 12th. During that five-race stretch, the team - currently ranked 38th in the owners' point standings - has scored the 19th highest number of points in the series.
With their renewed enthusiasm, Wallace and his Foyt Racing teammates are hoping to continue their hot streak this weekend as the Winston Cup Series visits the flat one-mile New Hampshire International Speedway.
Thoughts From Mike Wallace, No. 14 Conseco Pontiac Grand Prix:
DO YOU FEEL YOU CAN CARRY YOUR MOMENTUM INTO THIS WEEKEND'S RACE AT NEW HAMPSHIRE? "First and foremost, I think we can take it in there because of something (crew chief) Mike Hillman said to me when I first went to drive for A.J. Foyt Racing. Mike told me that they were a little bit behind on their speedway program because of some things they were lacking, but that anywhere they could race with shocks and springs - and where aero wasn't as big of a factor - we would run good. He's basically been right. We were able to run well at Bristol and we were able to run well at Richmond the other night.
"That makes me excited to go to Loudon. I've run well there in the past - not so much in a Cup car - but, I sat on the pole there for a truck race and finished second in a truck race a couple times there. As far as the race track goes, it's just a big Martinsville to me the way I drive it. I'm looking forward to going there.
"I think our guys have gotten a vote of confidence the past few weeks. With P.J. running fourth at The Glen and myself running 10th at Bristol and 12th the other night - out of the last five races those really aren't too bad of stats when you think about it. We've got a lot of momentum going right now."
YOUR TEAM SEEMS TO HAVE RESPONDED WELL TO THEIR RECENT SUCCESS... "It was pretty cool last week and it may have gone somewhat unnoticed, but our guys stepped right up to the table. When we pitted at one point later on in the race with the leaders they had like a 14.6 second stop, which is really good and kept us right in the hunt. We hung with the leaders all night long and I'm excited about that.
"I think we've kind of sparked interest in each other and desire in each other."
DOES CONFIDENCE THROUGHOUT A RACE TEAM MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE? "There is not enough that gets made of that and that is what makes a race team. This business is driven by desire and egos. That's just a fact. Some have big egos, some have little ones and some just have moderate ones. When the guys that work on these race cars go hang out with their buddies from another team they want to be able to say, 'Hey man, we ran good the other night. Did you see us?'
"It's very important. For that reason, I think you'll see this team continue to respond to a higher level. I think we'll continue to be good at the short tracks and continue to try to improve at the bigger race tracks. After the way we've run at Bristol and Richmond, I'm going to Loudon thinking there is no reason we can't run in the top five and, in the right situation, pull off a win."
HOW IMPORTANT IS CHEMISTRY? "Chemistry is the hardest thing to get in this business. Everybody has heard and says it, but not enough teams address it well enough. The teams that are winning races and are in a position to win a championship are addressing it on a daily basis. The rest of the teams are not addressing it. Chemistry just doesn't mean you get along with your crew chief. It's when the whole team communicates with each other. They talk back and forth. Every week everybody internally is communicating, letting everybody know what the goals are, what the objectives are, and so on."
A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CRITICAL OF NEW HAMPSHIRE INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY...WHAT IS THE KEY TO RUNNING WELL THERE? "Going in there with a positive attitude and not hating the place. Don't whine about it. Just learn how to run with it.
"The end result is this: it's proven that no racetrack is going to get together with a group of drivers and ask them what they should build to build a nice race track. It never has happened; it's not going to happen, for whatever reason. They hire engineers and let them build it, and we've got to race on it.
"The Bahre family and everybody at the Loudon racetrack - it seems to me like they're doing everything feasibly possible to make a good race track. Let's back up two or three years ago. There was nothing really wrong with that place. We've been racing Loudon almost 10 years now. I remember when everybody first went there. Everybody was raving about the place - loved it. Well, the only thing that has changed in that period of years is the tires that we run.
"I think you've just got to go there with a positive attitude and know that you're good enough to sit on the pole and win the race. If I have that day, then I'll do that. If I don't, I'll finish wherever I finish. That's how I'm going in there. I know I can run well there because I have run well there before and I'm looking forward to it."