KURT BUSCH --97-- Rubbermaid Taurus A LOT OF DRIVERS TALKED ABOUT HAVING TROUBLE COMING OFF THE CORNERS. WILL THAT MAKE THE OUTSIDE GROOVE A MORE VIABLE OPTION IF THAT CONTINUES? "No, I don't think that's probable because when they did grind...
KURT BUSCH --97-- Rubbermaid Taurus
A LOT OF DRIVERS TALKED ABOUT HAVING TROUBLE COMING OFF THE CORNERS. WILL THAT MAKE THE OUTSIDE GROOVE A MORE VIABLE OPTION IF THAT CONTINUES? "No, I don't think that's probable because when they did grind the inside lane, it seems to have provided a bit more grip. Going into the corner and through the middle, you've got a lot of grip, but they didn't grind it on the exit part where we're putting down all that power. So I don't believe the outside is gonna be the place to be. In fact, I think it's become much more of a fight to get to the bottom."
SO YOU SEE THE SAME KIND OF MARTINSVILLE RACE? "Yeah, you really don't want to be the goat or guinea pig that's trying to groom in the high groove. At a track like Atlanta, everybody loves to go up high there, but you have to work your way up there. You can't just jump up there, but this is a short track and the bottom is the place to be. There's gonna be that much less grip up top than there used to be because the bottom's got the grounding done to it."
THERE HAVE BEEN RACES HERE WHEN IT'S BEEN IN THE MID-EIGHTIES OR NINETIES. TOMORROW IS SUPPOSED TO BE MID-SIXTIES, HOW MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE DOES THAT MAKE? "A lot. That's the top priority is trying to keep the driver cool and the weather is the ultimate factor in that. I'd love this place if they put lights up and if they did a little more grinding, like maybe around turn one. This place could be real fun if they just put the right fixes to it. If we had lights here and maybe ran it the week after Sonoma in the middle of June, who knows? They could use lights here in October and I think it would be a lot of fun."
IS THIS ONE OF THE HARDER RACES FOR YOU PHYSICALLY? "I don't know why this race is so tough, but you don't have any air circulating inside the car. They take the A-pillar window away for us because now we have such a tight pit road, we want to be able to see the crew members out on pit road, so they take that A-pillar window away. That takes away a lot of the car's breathing inside and it's just one of those races where it ruins you. It works you and it makes you get down to your last ounce of energy to finish the race. This is one of the toughest races for me."
THERE WOULD SEEM TO BE CONSTANT STRESS HERE WITH 43 CARS ON THIS TRACK AND A TIGHT PIT ROAD. THERE DOESN'T SEEM TO BE A MOMENT WHEN YOU CAN CATCH YOUR BREATH. "You have to stay focussed here all the time. There are some tracks where you've got a long straightaway and you might be thinking about pit strategy, but here you're constantly grinding on the car. You're making sure you hit the brakes at the right spot, turning the wheel, picking up the throttle, babying the throttle. I mean, you're working all of your different extremeties. When the yellow comes out your immediate reaction is like, 'OK, now I can catch my breath,' but you can't because you've got to pit right away and tell the crew chief what to change. You come into the pits so soon that there's not enough time to tell the crew chief what to change and to get the air pressure adjustments made, so you're working constantly here."
JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo Taurus
YOU'RE STARTING 35TH. CAN YOU WIN FROM THERE? "You can win from anywhere. It's harder here than it is at other places, but we've been able to win before from way in the back. Nobody looks pretty good right now. It looks like nobody is really hooked up that nice, even the cars that they say are fast don't look good. So, we're trying to get into the track right now."
WHAT ABOUT THE TRACK NOW? "The more we run the better it may get or we're already starting to see rubber build up on the track and that's one of the problems we have at Martinsville. You get about a foot-wide groove of rubber and then it's hard to run through that and I'm already starting to see that. They're trying to make the place better because some people complained about it being rough, so they went and ground it trying to make it smoother. Everything you do has a positive and a negative. I don't know if the postives outweigh the negatives. I just don't know and really won't know until tomorrow."
RICKY CRAVEN --32-- Tide Taurus
HOW IS THE TRACK COMPARED TO LAST YEAR? "It's interesting, they ground the bottom of the race track and now the drivers are searching for an alternative. The bottom doesn't have the grip that it had and I'm not sure what the plan was. If they ground the bottom to give it more grip, then they failed. A lot of the cars were actually running a second groove in practice. We tried both the bottom and the top and found the top to be a little bit better, but I still believe you're gonna have to win the race on the bottom. This is the same Tide Ford we won with last fall and it's fast enough and strong enough to win again tomorrow."
MATT KENSETH --17-- DEWALT Power Tools Taurus -- THIS RACE SEEMS TO TAKE A TOLL ON GUYS. HOW WILL COOLER TEMPS HELP?
"It'll just be more comfortable because the cooler it is the more comfortable we are and the less tired you get. This is usually one of the more demanding races we have and you're pretty tired when it's over. This is a real small track and when you race for so long out there with so much brake heat and all that, it seems like you get more smoke and carbon monoxide than you do at most tracks so you usually feel a little bit worse." IS THIS TOUGH MENTALLY AS WELL? "Yes and no. There are usually so many cautions at a short track that you usually have time to take a break. The only time you don't have time to take a break is when there are no cautions, like at Charlotte last week when we didn't have a caution for two runs. When you've got to come in and pit under green, you don't have time to get a drink or take a break. You've got to concentrate getting on and off pit road, but here you usually get cautions and have time to kind of hang out."
IT SEEMS WE ALWAYS SEE GUYS SPIN OUT EARLY, GET A COUPLE LAPS DOWN, AND THEN MAKE THOSE UP AND HAVE A GOOD FINISH. YOU REALLY HAVE TO KEEP DIGGING ALL DAY REGARDLESS OF CIRCUMSTANCES, RIGHT? "It's really the same as any week where you never give up and always try as hard as you can. You just hope you're not one of the guys that spins out early because you try not to get yourself behind. It's not any easier to pass here than anywhere else, it's harder, so you don't want to get behind or get a lap down. If you do and the leader doesn't want to give you a lap back, it's very difficult to get it back."
Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Citgo Taurus, was involved in a happy hour incident with Mike Skinner. He described what happened after the final session was completed.
JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo Taurus -- "What happened was the track is different than it's ever been and Mike went in the corner high and then was going to turn across because you can do that now. He went in high and I drove in under him. He turned down in the corner to come off low, which you almost never did here. You always went in low and went around the corner low. Well, the track is different so he was expecting me to give him room and I wasn't expecting him to come down because that's not what we used to do here. But it is what you're gonna see tomorrow, so it was a case of two people in the same hole. It wasn't that I was mad at him or he was mad at me. We're not mad at each other right now, it's just that the track is different. I put myself in a position and he put himself in a position that neither one of us should have been in I guess. I hate it. I'm not a rough driver, but the only way to tell what your car will do is to run and run hard. I put myself in positions in practice just like I'm in during the race so I'll understand what I need to deal with and you need to be able to pass people here. He and I looked like we were running well together and I figured if I could pass him, then I'd learn something about my car but I didn't intentionally hit him. Then coming off the corner, we were both off the gas but we couldn't get off of each other so he spun the rest of the way. We were all but stopped when he actually spun. We talked about it. He's not mad at me and I'm not mad at him. I hate it for his team and my team because it's work that they shouldn't have to be doing, but it did happen."