DETROIT, July 24, 2001 - When the NASCAR Winston Cup Series visited Pocono Raceway last month, Pontiac Grand Prix driver Ken Schrader used the opportunity to bolster what had already been a solid 2001 campaign. As the tour prepares to return to...
DETROIT, July 24, 2001 - When the NASCAR Winston Cup Series visited Pocono Raceway last month, Pontiac Grand Prix driver Ken Schrader used the opportunity to bolster what had already been a solid 2001 campaign. As the tour prepares to return to the 2.5-mile tri-oval this weekend, Schrader and his teammates are loaded with optimism and looking to turn their performance up another notch.
A month ago at Pocono, Schrader qualified third and finished ninth despite experiencing mechanical problems late in the race. Schrader, who is NASCAR's all-time leading pole winner at Pocono with five, has already posted four top-10 finishes this year in 19 starts and is on pace to quadruple his top-10 output from a year ago.
Schrader, who will test with his M&M's Pontiac team this week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before traveling to Pocono, is a veteran member of Pontiac's "WideTrack Attack," which equaled its NASCAR modern-era best with 11 victories in 2000.
Thoughts From Ken Schrader, No. 36 M&M's Pontiac Grand Prix
(ON GOING BACK TO POCONO
"I'm looking forward to it. It's not one of my favorite places, but we always seem to get around there for some reason. The little M&M's Pontiac was good when we unloaded last time (at Pocono) and was good in the race. We just caught a little carburetor problem late in the race and dropped way back. We got back to ninth, so we're going back thinking we ought to be even better than we were last time."
HOW DOES A GOOD QUALIFYING RUN HELP YOUR MINDSET THROUGH THE ENTIRE WEEKEND?
"It just helps everyone on our team - just their general morale. You know you've got a good car. Now, you can have a good qualifying effort, which we've had a lot of times, and then not have a good 'Happy Hour' and tear everything down. But when you can be solid in qualifying and then solid in 'Happy Hour' it just makes everyone feel a lot better for Sunday. You know you've been one of the faster cars all week, so you just want to keep making small adjustments to keep it good."
WHY HAS YOUR TEAM IMPROVED THIS YEAR?
"I worked a couple years with Sammy Johns [as crew chief], but when Newt [Moore] came over here (in March) it just kind of sparked something. He talks to me different than people I've worked with before and we just seem to work together good. He makes very subtle changes that I can feel in the car. We're not always jacking it up and changing everything. We've just got the cars working better."
WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO WORK ON DURING YOUR TEST IN INDIANAPOLIS THIS WEEK?
"We'll work on a little bit of everything - qualifying stuff and race setup stuff. Testing has been cut a day now. It's two days now instead of three. They need to cut it to none. Then we could all just save a lot of money and everybody would be in the same boat. But instead, we'll go up there and burn up some money."
DO YOU REALLY ACCOMPLISH MUCH DURING THAT TEST?
"You do. We'll learn more about our qualifying setup and about whatever tire they (Goodyear) are bringing up there this year and definitely about our race setup. But, if no one went we'd all be in the same boat and we could get all that done in two hours when we go there to race."
WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ON THE POSSIBILITY OF THE SERIES GOING TO A "ONE-ENGINE RULE" DURING A RACE WEEKEND?
"I think it's something we need. I think it would be good for our sport. It's not to make any difference in the show. It's just going to save a tremendous amount of money in the garage area. I think that is something that really needs to be addressed -- the cost of this sport. It's getting out of hand."
Thoughts From Newt Moore, Crew Chief, No. 36 M&M's Pontiac Grand Prix
(HOW ARE YOU GOING TO BUILD ON WHAT YOU ACCOMPLISHED AT POCONO IN JUNE?
"We're going to go and unload exactly like we were. We've got the same exact car. We haven't raced it. We haven't done anything to it, other than our maintenance and cleaning the body up and stuff like that, so it's going to have the exact same stuff that we qualified with. I've got another setup that I want to try that I feel like might be better. We want to try to hold the car down like the '28' (Ricky Rudd) was down the straightaway to maybe get us some more speed. We've got a better motor. Hendrick [Motorsports] has done a great job with our engine program. I've seen the dyno sheets on the motor and it's a lot better. It's got more torque and more horsepower at the top end. That's going to be big there. I guess we're just looking for big things."
HOW DOES A GOOD QUALIFYING RUN ON FRIDAY CHANGE YOUR MINDSET GOING THROUGH THE WEEKEND?
"When you qualify so far back you've got to be able to get going from the get-go. You can't set the car up for the long run. With where we qualified at Pocono last time (third) we had the mindset to make it good on the long run. With the awesome job that Goodyear has done with these tires, you can really concentrate on long runs because the cautions are less, so you set up for that. That's what we'll do. We're going up there to concentrate on the longer run. We know we ought to be able to qualify well, but there are going to be guys that have picked up. There are going to be guys that know what they need to do when they go back. It's not going to be lonely at the top. The worst we were there last time was fifth or sixth the whole weekend and there are going to be twice that many cars now that good. We've got to be a little bit better and we're trying that with some shock packages and stuff. We've got to be better than we were. We can't just sit on it and say, 'Well, we're going to qualify third and we're going to run ninth.' We've got to go up there and try to do a lot better."
YOUR DRIVER SAID HE WOULD RATHER NOT TEST. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TESTING AT INDY THIS WEEK?
"I love to test. I would test - and he (Ken Schrader) knows this -- every week, and we were there for a while. We're going to start that program back up. We're going to go to Lakeland (Fla.) and different places. But Indy - I love the place. I could test there once a week if they'd let us.
"You always want to go somewhere and test. You always want to bring your best shoe and your best car. If you had to go up there and just unload with what you think is the best, then you might get what you need or you might not. With Indy, we'll know. We're going to go up there in race mode and we're going to run the first day in race mode and do race runs. Then we'll concentrate on qualifying after that. But man, I'm glad we're going to Indy to test and I'm glad it's the second test. We got lucky there. I think the second test will be more successful than the first because you didn't have a lot of time in the first test because you had to go right from a race to the test."