May 14, 1999 Richmond International Raceway Four Ford teams have different crew chiefs since the last NASCAR Winston Cup race at California. Michael McSwain was hired by Ricky Rudd; Jerry Pitts replaced McSwain as Rick Mast's crew ...
May 14, 1999 Richmond International Raceway
Four Ford teams have different crew chiefs since the last NASCAR Winston Cup race at California. Michael McSwain was hired by Ricky Rudd; Jerry Pitts replaced McSwain as Rick Mast's crew chief; Wayne Orme has been named by Bill Elliott; and Pat Tryson was moved over from Chad Little's team to crew chief for Johnny Benson.
JOHNNY BENSON -26- Cheerios Taurus -- "We've got a crew chief change. Jack jumped in there and made a change on us. It kind of blind-sided us a little bit, but I guess we needed to make a change. Bobby (Leslie) has done a tremendous job and it was a shock to both myself and Bobby. Pat Tryson has come over from the 97 car and I think he's gonna do a good job for us. I support Jack for doing that. It was a shock, but by the same token, we need to have better results than what we've been having, there's no doubt, and with the change that's what we're hoping for."
WAS IT COMMUNICATION? "I don't know. I wish I knew where it was because that would be an easy fix. I just don't know. We've had good race cars, but we haven't been running good. There are times where we'd run good and I'd get myself in trouble, so it's a number of things. It's not just a one person thing, it's a number of things. It's just a matter of resolving some of the issues that we have and once we have that done, I think we'll be in good shape."
DO YOU KNOW WHAT BOBBY IS GOING TO BE DOING WITH THE ROUSH ORGANIZATION? "You'd have to ask Bobby. I don't know what the plans are. You'd have to ask him and Jack. We didn't know about this until yesterday, so I'm not totally sure yet. Bobby has a job there, it's just been changed a little bit in it's positioning. It'll be up to him what he wants to do, I believe. Jack says he has a job as long as he wants to be with Roush Racing."
RICKY RUDD -10- Tide Taurus -- CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR NEW CREW CHIEF MICHAEL MCSWAIN? WHY DO YOU FEEL HE'S THE RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB? "I sat back and I've watched him and he's a real good people person. He knows how to take the people around him and get them to rally. We operated without a crew chief for three or four weeks and that was an opportunity to give the guys we had a chance to gain confidence in one another. With this group we went to Talladega and qualified seventh, and had a good shot at running in the top 10. Even though that didn't work out, they did a good job. Mike brings in leadership and he's able to get the guys to pull together. We've been doing that anyway, so I think bringing him in is going to make things work even better. From what I saw, he's worked with some teams that probably didn't have the financial resources that we had with limited personnel and was able to do good things with them. I watched him take the 77 car to a third-place finish at Texas and he had Rick Mast well up in the top 15 in the points for most of the time he was there. Wherever he seems to go the cars run good and that's what I saw in him."
BILL ELLIOTT -94- McDonald's Taurus -- "Wayne is pretty diverse as far as his background is concerned. He's got a lot of good ideas and he's gonna bring a lot to this deal. He's knowledgeable and thorough, and I was really impressed with what he did on the 13 car when he crew chiefed over there in Daytona. We decided to bring Wayne in instead of trying to bring somebody in from outside at this time of the year. The most critical thing is that we got a person that fits into the organization. Wayne was already here and he's been involved with everything we've done. He worked with Jerry and Joe, so we felt that moving him into the crew chief's position was the most logical thing to do."
RICK MAST -98- Yarborough/Burdette Motorsports Taurus -- WHAT WERE YOUR REASONS FOR HIRING JERRY PITTS? "I tell you how this came about. As everybody now knows, I was gonna drive the 13 car for the '99 season, so last fall Jerry and I had quite a few in-depth conversations. We talked about our philosophies and that all worked out, and then we talked about the team and everything we wanted to do. That's how I got to know Jerry. I didn't know him from Adam until those meetings and that's when I got to know him real well. Then when the deal went south and First Plus got in financial trouble and the team had to disband, Jerry and myself were pretty distraught over that for various reasons. I've know for a couple of months that Mike was looking to make a change and in the back of your mind when you know something like that is gonna come about, you try to get prepared for it. Well, Jerry was with the 94 team after the 13 team shut down and he was pretty secure there. I had some people in mind when and if Mike left, but it just so happened that at the same time Mike left our time, Jerry had just left Bill's team. From there it was just a matter of a phone call or two and sitting down with Waddell (Wilson) and having a meeting. The whole thing came together quick. Waddell left it up to me. He had a couple of people in mind and I had a couple of people in mind, but when Jerry became available I knew that if we could, we would go after him."
YOU HAVE A THREE-RACE SPONSORSHIP WITH HOBAS PIPE, HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT? "Hobas Pipe is a Houston, Texas based company and I think what they want to do is test the Winston Cup waters. Hopefully, this bridges a gap. We keep saying this every week, but every week it seems we're real close to signing major sponsor and it just hasn't happened yet. This adds a little extra money to the program. Things are tight and every dollar we can get helps it. Hobas Pipe will hopefully bridge the gap and buy us another few weeks until we get that main sponsor, if we get something. Who knows, maybe Hobas Pipe will become a main sponsor it's hard to say. You never know in this business."
JEFF BURTON -99- Exide Batteries Taurus -- HOW DOES THE SEALER AFFECT TRACK? "When the sealer gets worn out on the bottom groove, you go try to find that sealer somewhere else. Everywhere else you try to stay out of the sealer, here you try to stay in it." DOES IT TAKE LONG TO WEAR OFF? "No. By the time the Busch race is over the second groove will be working in. The bottom groove will get worn off by the time the Busch race is over for sure."
YOU TESTED HERE. HOW WAS THAT? "We tested only one day here with the Busch car. We came here with a new designed car and didn't have a very effective test with it. We learned nothing because it wasn't a good test. We didn't like the car. We pretty much gave away a test trying to experiment with something that didn't work out."
YOU'VE BEEN THE HUNTED SO FAR THIS SEASON LEADING THE POINTS. DO YOU LIKE THAT? "Yeah. I mean, you'd rather be the hunted than not. The thing is that we know the 24 and Mark Martin and the 88 and the 18 and a lot of guys are gonna make runs at us. We've gotta be stronger than we've been if we want to continue to win races and continue to lead the points. We've gotta keep working at it. We know it's not easy to do, but it's a pretty simple thing in that we've gotta be better than we've been, so we continue to try to make improvements every day to make our team better and for me to be a better driver. If we do those things, then we can stay where we are. If we get complacent and think finishing fifth and sixth is gonna get it done, we won't win the championship."
COULD YOU BE WHERE YOU ARE WITHOUT ROUSH? "Of course not. Every driver in here that has success or failure, either one, his team obviously has a lot to do with that. The relationship with the team and the driver is very important. Some drivers can get more out of a certain type of team than other drivers can and this team fits me real well. The way this team works and the way it's structured is really suited to me and it works well."
DALE JARRETT -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- "We have run well here. We've had a number of opportunities. The night we actually won the race here was one that we really didn't expect. We had other times that we thought we were better and didn't win the race, so you never know. It's always a good race here. A lot of cars are very competitive and, hopefully, we'll get back to that. The last race here in the fall was probably our worst race that we've run here with this race team. Hopefully, we can change that. It's an important race for us. We need to try to get into victory lane and this is a good chance."
WHAT MAKES RICHMOND FUN TO RACE AT? "I think the biggest thing is that you can race here. You can race side-by-side. If your car isn't working right on the bottom, you can move up a little bit and you can pass cars. You can pass them on the inside, you can pass them on the outside and you can race side-by-side here, so that's what we as drivers look for."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO BUILD MOMENTUM DURING THIS UPCOMING STRETCH? "We certainly have had a little bit of off time to get ready and you have to be prepared. This is a difficult stretch of races and it's the time where you can decide if you're gonna be a part of the championship or not from here on out. Hopefully, we're well prepared for that and can be ready. The tracks we've got coming up are all race tracks that we have won at, so we need to take advantage of that."
THE SEALER IS ALL AROUND THE TRACK NOW. WHAT DOES THAT FEEL LIKE FOR A DRIVER AND ARE THERE PROBLEMS? "The problem that it presents, if anything, is it's gonna wear off. After the Busch race and as we get into our race, the sealer starts to wear so you don't have that traction you had. You've gotta be prepared for the end of that race and that's what you have to set up for. You may not be quite as good at the beginning of the race as what you would like, but the end of it is what counts. The track definitely gets slicker after you put 100 laps or so on it. I think it is a little bit of a guessing game here because of that. It takes more time for it to get off of the top groove and that's why you'll see it start to work. As it gets off the bottom, people will move a lane up to use that sealer because in the past it's been a sealer that has been rather adhesive, so you can use that to your advantage. It makes for an interesting scenario."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BEING SECOND IN POINTS, BUT NOT HAVING A WIN? "We've been consistent, but not to the point that we've really been ready to win. We've given ourselves that opportunity a couple of times, but we still weren't the best car. I can't say that we've been at a race where we've been the very best car. There are some teams here that really have their programs together and you have to be on top of the game. We've worked hard to try to make that happen, but consistency is the name of it. You can win a lot of races, but you might not win the championship. The biggest thing is on those days you're not the best car, and until you can get yourself in that position, then you just have to be consistent and stay in the top five."
IS THERE ANY PRESSURE TO WIN THAT FIRST RACE? "No, not really. If you can tell me right now that I can have my choice of winning races or winning a championship, I don't have to win a race if I can have that championship trophy."