MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline/Cummins Taurus -- "It was a great lap and I just told the guys I didn't know where I left anything. That's getting just about everything we've got right there. We've made improvements on the car since the last time...
MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline/Cummins Taurus -- "It was a great lap and I just told the guys I didn't know where I left anything. That's getting just about everything we've got right there. We've made improvements on the car since the last time we were up here and that's a great effort. That's four-tenths better than we were last time up here and I told them last after I qualified I didn't know how to make it better, so we've done some good work. The team is getting more out of the same stuff we had. This is the same car."
IS YOUR CONFIDENCE HIGHER NOW THAN BACK IN JUNE HERE? "Oh, I don't know. What does confidence do for you anyway? It's all about performance and we're gonna have to put up better performances. That's what we need to do and we're working on it. I think that we've started off with four-tenths more than we did last time up here in qualifying and if we can have half of that for the race we should be contending."
JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus -- "That's probably the best we've been here in qualifying trim and we know we've got a good race setup. We always run the same thing here and run good, so we just need to start up front. I think this is gonna be good for us."
YOU DECIDED NOT TO RACE THE CAR YOU WON WITH LAST MONTH. WHY? "We were a little bit concerned about that, but we feel like this is a better car. That's the good thing about this Mobil 1 team, all of my cars are getting to where they're about the same and they just get a little bit better. I've got a lot of confidence in them and if they say this is better, it's better and that's what they've shown me here."
RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- "It's been kind of a strange day. We started off a bunch faster than everybody, which looked good if practice would have ended halfway through. We were two or three-tenths quicker than everybody but we didn't pick up since we've been here. We stayed the same speed and a lot of guys got faster. That's sort of how we are. That's about what we ran in practice and I couldn't get the front end to turn like I wanted it to. The guys chased it, but we never could get it and ended up with the same speed we practiced at."
KEVIN LEPAGE --16-- FamilyClick.com Taurus -- "That's exactly what we ran in our practice this morning in our mock-up qualifying run, so that's what the car would run. We had a little bit of problem in turn one earlier this morning and Pat Tryson and myself came up with a suggestion for qualifying and it worked. The car was perfect through one, but it hurt us in turn three so we kind of helped ourselves in one area and hurt us in another. We didn't slow down, so that's a good thing. A lot of guys went a lot faster this morning and they've slowed down and we didn't, so I'm real happy with that."
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- "We picked up from what we had run just a little bit, but it was a good run. A lot of other people have picked up too, but it's only gonna get better for these guys later. It's the same car we had here earlier this year and I'm looking forward to Sunday. I think we can race them up front."
WALLY DALLENBACH --75-- America Online Taurus -- "We were hoping for more. We've got America Online on the car this weekend, so we're hoping for a good showing. This car is different from the one we ran the first time around. I think it's gonna be a really good race car because it's got a lot of downforce on it, but it's a little bit draggy so we're hoping that's a little bit of it. If we can just keep it close enough to not worry about going second round, we'll get this thing racing good on Sunday."
BILL ELLIOTT --94-- McDonald's Taurus -- "That's three-quarters of a second faster than we ran here the last race, I mean I'm tickled to death. That just goes to show you that these guys keep plugging at it. We just keep learning things and doing things and I think the longer this group's together the better we'll be. I'm just tickled to death with the guys. We're making smart decisions and we're continuing to grow. For a team with as many new people as we've got from the first part of this season to now, we've accomplished a lot."
YOU NEED SOME GOOD LUCK NOW, RIGHT? "The last five or six races there's been something happen. I guess five weeks ago we broke a motor here and at Sonoma we broke a track bar mount and at Loudon two weeks ago we broke a valve spring in the motor pretty early there before the end of the race. It's just been kind of one of those years."
JIMMY SPENCER --26-- Big Kmart Taurus -- "That's the fastest lap we've run all day. I just got real free in the tunnel turn and over here coming to the checkered flag. We've been free all day, but it's better to be free than pushing because we've pushed all year long. I don't know. We had a pretty good one and two and just didn't get the corner and that, to me, is the most important part of the race track -- the tunnel turn to the front straightaway and we just didn't get the lap we needed there. I got in there and got a little free and had to wait to pick the throttle up. All in all, it's not where we want to start but it's an improvement over last time here."
MATT KENSETH --17-- DeWalt Tools Taurus -- "I thought it was a little faster lap than what it shows, but the car drove really good. It drove better than when we practice and it was about four-tenths faster than we were last time we were here. Unfortunately, everybody is about three or four-tenths faster, so we improved but didn't improve enough."
JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus -- "I'm real proud of our qualifying effort. We've really picked it up in the last three months. We used to not qualify any good and race great, but now we qualify pretty good and we're not racing as well as we used to so we need to improve our racing."
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN TODAY? "Our car has been good all day and been competitive all day. We've been in the top five or top 10 in speed all day and we picked up a little bit in qualifying, but not as much as some other people did. It's a good lap and it'll give us a good starting spot and that's all today is about."
BRETT BODINE --11-- Ralphs Supermarkets Taurus -- "The guys have really done a great job. Mike (Hillman) has really given this team a new focus and we're just gonna continue to improve. It's shown in our qualifying and the race. It's really, really nice to have a focus and a direction now. This race team is gonna go places and I'm real excited about the future."
RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus -- "That's a really big surprise to me. In practice the quickest we ran was a 52.62 and the guys were telling me that sticker tires were faster, so I qualified on them. Usually I qualify on scuffs, so it definitely picked me up a couple tenths, plus we put some air in the left-front tire, air in the right-rear, raised the track bar because I wanted to free it up a little bit and, man, it flew. It went through one and two like it was hooked on a rail. Three was a little bit wide, but I was still wide-open on the throttle so I guess I didn't lose much time there. But to go from a .62 to a .27, that's pretty good and I'm real proud of the guys for that. The motor was strong as usual. It's the same car as we had here last time, a different engine but about the same horsepower, so to run a .44 last race and break the record and come back and run a .27 when I really thought the track was slower, I'm really proud of the team for that."
CHAD LITTLE --97-- John Deere Taurus -- HOW DO YOU FEEL AFTER THE ACCIDENT AT LOUDON? "I'm sore in the neck where the muscles kind of attach to your collar bone. I'm a little sore right in there, but other than that I'm fine."
HOW WAS YOUR LAP? "Obviously, it's not as good as we needed to be but it's an improvement on how things have gone the last month, so that's good. The car's competitive, it's the same car we had here last month when we finished 17th, so we'll just try to improve from there. I think we're going in the right direction."
ROBERT PRESSLEY --77-- Jasper Engines Taurus -- "Ryan and all the guys never gave up. We were terrible in practice and after practice was over they rebuilt it. The guys stuck in there and they're the ones that did it. They did a complete overhaul. We unloaded and were decent, but we kept getting progressively worse so we went back to where we were and then made a wholesale change."
RUSTY WALLACE PRESS CONFERENCE
"Is the track any faster or not, I don't know. That was just a good lap Tony ran. When Mark ran a .43 and I ran a .27, I just didn't think there was any way in the world anybody was gonna beat that, so I thought it was hard to believe. Hey, you've just gotta do what you've gotta do and he caught the weather today, plus he ran great too."
DID THE INDY TEST HELP AT ALL TODAY? "Not really. The setup here versus Indy are pretty much different. The shocks are different, at least it is for me. I never even tried the Indy setup here, I just stuck with what I won the pole with here last time. It's similar, it's about as similar as you can get to most race tracks but it's not the same."
IS THIS YOUR INDY CAR? "No, the Indy car is all back home bedded down and ready to go for Indy. We tested up there and the thing just flew around the race track, it ran great up there. I feel real comfortable just going back to the track. It ran fast, our qualifying motor is ready and everything to go for it."
WHAT ABOUT THIS CAR? "This car is the same one I had here for the first race. It's a new car and the last time I ran it was in California. It was brand new in California, so this will be its third race."
ANY AFTERMATH FROM THE ENGINE TEARDOWN IN SEARS POINT? "No, not really. That's old news right now. There hasn't been much talk about it except they wanted to see the engine. A lot of people and competitors were complaining about how qualifying was going so good for us and they just wanted to see what was in the motor. Under a lot of pressure they tore it down and that was the last time, from what I understand, it's gonna get torn down that far. It's legal, there's nothing wrong with it but there are a lot of things we do that other people didn't dream to do. The upsetting part was a lot of guys saw what was in the motor and built a lot of stuff for themselves, so I'm sure they're improving their own horsepower now."
REACTION TO THE SHORT INTERVAL BETWEEN TWO RACES HERE? "It doesn't take much edge off for me. It's just something we've been doing for a long, long time here at Pocono. We've run three or four races since then, so it's no big deal really. I wish it was spread out a little farther instead of being so close, but it doesn't make much difference. As long as the crowds are coming and filling the grandstands up, I guess that's the most important thing for the track."
NOW YOU JUST HOPE STRATEGY DOESN'T HURT YOU AGAIN. "If the caution flag comes out with about 20 to go like last time, it won't be four tires I tell you that. That's the only thing I hate about this year. As far as brute racing we're racing, but we're into more strategy stuff than we've ever done and these cars are so sensitive to track position it's unreal. If you get behind a car, you lose all your downforce on your front end and you can't hardly pass cars, so even if you put four tires on and think you're gonna have better tires than everybody else, you get so hurt in aerodynamics that it really doesn't show up. That's where two tires and not even pitting works out because you keep your track position and get that good clean air to the front end. It's easier to stay up front. I tell you what, it seems like if I turn left they turn right, if I took two they took four, if I put four they do two. Like last week at Loudon, 20 laps into the race I decided to stay out and the whole field pitted behind me and the thing went caution-free and I had to pit under green. That never happens. That was really a weird deal a couple of weeks ago."
IT MUST BE FRUSTRATING TO QUALIFY SO WELL AND HAVE ONLY ONE WIN. "Yeah, it's frustrating but at least I've got the one victory. I like all the laps we've led and the poles we've got and stuff like that and that's cool, but that is a little bit frustrating to not have more wins, but I'm sure we will before the year is over."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT CONDITIONS TODAY? "The cooler it is the faster the cars run, so when we ran I thought the weather was pretty good and then it got even better. When they got rain on the track and the water cooled the surface down and the overcast came it got that much better yet. Maybe it did and maybe it didn't. I was really happy with a .27 and I didn't think anybody would run faster than that. Tony ran a .20 and that surprised me, but that's good -- break it up a little bit. They get tired of me getting all the poles."
WHAT ABOUT THESE SPEED RECORDS? "The speeds are getting broken because the aerodynamics in the cars are better, the tires are better and everybody's gained more horsepower. Nobody ever stays the same from year to year, so everything is better and that's the reason for the increase in speeds. More power, more aerodynamics and better tires equate to faster cars."
DOES THAT HURT THE RACING? "Yeah, it does hurt the racing a little bit. I don't know. Maybe we've got too big of rear spoilers. Maybe all the makes got too big of rear spoilers, we create too big a hole in the air and because of that all that air you're trying to get to, the nose of your car is being deflected somewhere else. I guess if I had a choice in it, the first thing I'd do is probably take about a half-inch of spoiler off the back. If you remember the last time we had the little spoilers it went from five clear to six-and-a-half. It was a huge jump. It would be interesting to see if it makes the cars draft better and turn better if you take a little bit of rear spoiler away from everybody."
WHAT ABOUT THE NEW GOODYEAR TIRE HERE FOR THE SECOND RACE IN A ROW? "You feel more comfortable about what the car is gonna do. You're still real confident that the setup you had last time would be pretty close and in our setup this time we changed a little bit of air pressure around, we changed a left-front spring and made a couple of adjustments but nothing big. It was all the same shocks, so anytime you bring the same tire back and the same car back like we did, when things are different then you know it's the track or the conditions that make it different. All the adjustments we made today were to adjust for the conditions of the track."
WHAT ABOUT RUNNING THE SAME ENGINE IN THE RACE THAT YOU QUALIFY WITH? "I think if you did that everybody would blow up because everybody would push it to the limit to try to make as much power as they could for qualifying and then you'd have to practice with that and race with it. Some would make it and some wouldn't make it. We've been putting two motors in for qualifying and practice ever since I've been racing NASCAR that I don't think there's no big deal to it. There's so much money in this sport we're not out there trying to save a couple bucks in a qualifying motor. The fans come to see the show and we go to put it on. This isn't econo-racing. This is big league."
HAVE YOU PUT TOE CLIPS ON YOUR THROTTLE? "Yeah, we sure have. We've got a toe clip on it and a special piece that's on our carburetor that totally eliminates the chance for our secondary to hang up accidentally. There's a secondary stop we put on it, so there's no way in the world the secondary could ever hold open. There's been some thought that even if they don't stick when you lay off the throttle the front butterflies close but the rears stay running wide open, so we've put things on there to stop that."
HAS THERE BEEN ANY DISCUSSION REGARDING PADDED WALLS? "We've talked about it. I've had some phone calls with NASCAR suggesting a couple of ideas as far as the foam-rubber walls. Bill Simpson, a friend of mine, has been working real hard developing those things and he's just about got it ready to go, so there's talk but it's gotta be worked out and figured out. The first thing was getting the throttles all figured out. That woke everybody up and they all pay attention to that, so we're all looking at that now. To take the safety to a different level we're definitely looking at the walls and things like that."
MARK MARTIN PRESS CONFERENCE
"The last time we were up here we went out first and the track got a lot faster by the end. I knew that Rusty was probably capable of running faster than us, but he hadn't done it yet. We got a good lap and that's all I could do. We had to go out sixth and that's the way it is, so here we are. It's a great starting spot. I'm real proud of this team. It's the same car we had up here last time and I think we qualified a few spots better and we certainly picked up about three or four tenths with it, so I don't know what you could ask for more than that. The improvement is there and it seems like we're really on an upswing."
IS IT FRUSTRATING TO CHASE THE 2 ALL YEAR IN QUALIFYING? "No, it hasn't. It doesn't bother me. I ran as fast as I could run last time up here and I ran as fast as I could run this time up here and it was much better and we made improvement. I'm very pleased with the improvement that we made and very pleased with my team. I know that if we keep working on it we can still improve on that."
DO YOU MAKE BIG CHANGES FROM QUALIFYING TO RACE SETUP? "We have to. I wish we didn't, but we have to make pretty big changes anywhere we run. The aerodynamics are so critical on these cars and with the front end taped up solid there is a gigantic difference in the amount of front downforce that the cars make versus how you have to open them up to cool them in the race, which throws the chassis setup in a total tizzy. It requires quite a different change everywhere except possibly Martinsville. That's the one race track you probably change maybe the least, but most race tracks it's pretty big."
YOU HAVEN'T WON HERE YET. IS IT FRUSTRATING? "No, it hasn't been. Three years ago I had never won a race at Dover and I probably ran better at Dover than any other race track I ever drove on in my life -- ever. Now we've won three years in a row. That's just how it goes, man. I run terrible at Martinsville and won twice there -- I run terrible, so that's how it goes, man. This is one of the race tracks I've run extremely well at, but I have finished second, third, fourth, fifth every time just about. Is that good or is that bad? I'm not sure. A lot of people think that's good. Somebody might think that's bad because we hadn't won, but I think it's good that we run good here and we'll win when it's our day. There are all different ways to win these things -- fuel mileage, track position, rain shortened, every way on Earth we just haven't done it yet."
DOES IT PLAY ON YOUR MIND? "What you're trying to say is I haven't done good here and what I'm trying to tell you is I have done good here. That's all I can tell you is that we have run well here and that's good. We haven't won here, but we haven't won at some race tracks that we don't run good at. That's how racing goes. If you race long enough you'll run into those kinds of things. That's just how it goes."
ANY SAFETY CHANGES TO YOUR CAR? "The cars I drove in ASA always had toe straps. That was standard on those cars for years, pretty much through that series. We tried to put them on my Winston Cup cars and with the way the linkage was, the floorboard, and all these different things they didn't work as well and actually sort of created a little bit of a problem. So we weren't successful. We tried to do that 10 years ago and we weren't successful at getting something there for that, so, no, we haven't done anything to help protect us against stuck throttles other than being extremely thorough with the air cleaner, which is the source of I would say, in my experience with stuck throttles, have been air cleaner related eight times out of 10. But we're not even positive that's what caused the problems in New Hampshire, but it's still always a danger at a race track like New Hampshire or Martinsville, those would be the two worst places I could think of to have a throttle stick."
ANYTHING A TRACK CAN DO LIKE PADDED WALLS? "There's a lot of smart people in racing, a lot of really smart people in racing. For me to say that these smart people need to be doing something and they're not, then that means they're throwing a blind eye to it would be wrong because I don't think that's correct. In frustration I'm not gonna say, 'They need to do something about all this,' because I think the reason that nothing has been done in large part is because no one knows what to do that will not have -- I mean, if you put Styrofoam on the race track it would help one problem and create many others. It would be nice if we could figure out how to make soft walls, but if that soft wall bites and you hit and it pulls, that would create another problem as well. It would hurt worse because you would stop when you hit it at a 45 degree angle, your car would stop immediately which would create -- there are problems with all these bright ideas and we should probably all have what Brett Bodine has on his car here this weekend, which has proven to be real good for the modifieds. We should all probably be proactive and do like Brett did, but we haven't."
WHAT HAS BRETT DONE? "Something about the modified throttle stick -- if it sticks but your foot is not on it the engine turns off. I don't know how the mechanism works, but you can't check the timing in the car from the carburetor because it will turn the engine off because there's no foot pushing on it, so there's some sensor in the linkage that says, 'hey, the throttle is open but there's nothing pushing on it' and the engine turns off. I don't know how it works, but modifieds have run it for years."
WERE YOU AWARE THE THIRD STARTING SPOT HAS WON MORE RACES AT POCONO THAN ANY OTHER SPOT? "I bet you money I've started third a number of times here. I have a history of qualifying real good here, that's all I can tell you. I've qualified in the top five a ton, so I bet I've qualified third a number of times. No, I didn't know that the third-place wins a lot here, I'll bet you that we've got a good shot to win Sunday no matter where we start because we've got a reasonable car. We were off a little bit last time up here, but we've made three or four-tenths improvement on the car in qualifying setup and I'll bet you in race setup we'll make the same kind of improvements. That should make us, if we're lucky, a contender to win rather than a contender for a top five."
ARE YOU A RIGHT OR LEFT-FOOT BRAKER? "I'm a left-foot braker. Now that creates some problems for a toe strap as well on the throttle because if you're on a pit stop, you need three feet to keep the engine running, the brakes on and the clutch down. You do, and you can believe I can't do that, so that's also one of the problems with a toe strap."