Carl Long ...
Carl Long #00 Buyer's Choice Auto Warranty Chevrolet
Note: Long crashed his primary car during afternoon practice.
WHAT HAPPENED? During a qualifying run, my car's been extremely tight in the center of the corner. It was a little bit free entering Turn 1 each time and unfortunately for me with different run we had a different set of shocks on it. And those shocks wouldn't let the car recover-it kind of held it down real stiff. And when it got loose on me getting into Turn 1, where I've been recovering all practice, I reckon I gave out of talent.
IT APPEARS YOU ARE PUTTING YOUR MOTOR IN THE SPARE CHASSIS - DID YOU LIKE THAT MOTOR? Yeah, that's the only engine that we have, so..
Scott Riggs #10 Arometrics Chevrolet
HOW IS PRACTICE GOING OUT THERE? Going good. We came here a couple weeks ago and tested. The car seemed to be pretty good in testing. I had to make a few changes on the car today. It just seemed that the track's changed a little bit. It got a little tighter because there's more cars on the track. We've got a pretty good number up there for a qualifying run. I think we're going to have to make some adjustments to the car to help it on race runs, which might affect it in qualifying. That's the price we need to pay, I think.
PEOPLE SEEMED TO BE DRIVING HARD OUT THERE? Yeah, I just sort of saw people piling up out there. We were looking to just take our time. The guys did a good job making changes, so we had time to sit there and get a good place.
Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowe's Chevrolet
WHY DO DRIVERS AND FANS LIKE RICHMOND SO MUCH? It's a really good race track for everyone. It's good the right layout, the right shape and we have enough speed with enough room for our race cars to put on a good show. Everybody smiles when we think about coming to Richmond. If you think of Bristol, there's a lot to lose. There's a lot more for people to lose than gaining. Martinsville seems to be that way. It really fits out race cars and the racing that we put on.
HENDRICK-ROUSH DOMINATION I think that every team in the garage is working very hard and in our sport, things happen in cycles. We have different organizations and different people at the top, and everybody is at home working hard to sort stuff out. They come out and beat you, and once they beat you, you go back and work again. That cycle's taking place. Now I think that a lot of teams are closing the gap and we just have to cycle back around and make our best stuff and get our final package for the final 10 and see how this championship lays out.
THIS IS A BUSY DAY FOR YOU Yes, a ton of laps. I'm having a lot of fun. It is busy, but it's better than sitting around all day long, wishing I was in a race car.
IT SEEMS THAT RICHMOND WINNERS ARE THE USUAL SUSPECTS. WHY DOES IT TAKE AN EXPERIENCED HAND TO WIN HERE? It can really take an experienced team to win here. It's so hard to run competitive lap times. The gap is very close between all the cars. A lot of times it seems that the strategy your pit stops at the end gives you your track position to win the race. You have to fall on the team and the entire experience of the team. That's why veterans teams and veteran drivers to the top.
WHY IS IT THAT THE LEADER IS A SITTING DUCK AT THE END OF THE RACE? Well, on certain race tracks, it's definitely tough to be the leader. At Darlington, I think that the #12 car just kind of made a mistake at the end. At Darlington, it doesn't matter if it's a one-lap shootout. Everybody's coming in for tires. They put on a great battle and had such a great car that they still finished in the top 5, which is impressive. But at a Vegas or some of these other flat tracks that aren't real abrasive, it's tough. Tough to make that call, especially when you're the leader. I think Biffle had a great car at Bristol and had some trouble not pitting and lost a shot at winning because of that. That track's tough. Track position is important that you'd rather stay out more times than come in and take tires.
SOME PEOPLE SAY RICHMOND IS THE PERFECT RACE TRACK One guy feels it's the perfect track once he's in victory lane. It's a great race track. Of the short tracks we run on, it fits our race cars the best. We can put on the best show here. Bristol is great-fans love it, the drivers love it, but it's tough to pass. It's tough to really race on it. Martinsville's the same way. This track, you've got multiple lanes and you can really race.
ROUSH-HENDRICK. IS THIS SHORT TRACK MORE OF A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD FOR ALL THE COMPETITORS? I don't know if it's necessarily leveled off. You don't have the aero gains that take place. There may be some little things there that close the gap within the race teams, but still I would expect the short track drivers to show up and the teams that are really known for their short-track performance to put on a good race and be up front. At Hendrick and at Roush there's a lot of depth and a lot of good teams and great short track drivers. I still think you'll see (some) Roush and Hendrick drivers up front, and there's been a lot of other teams that have been working real hard to close the gap. And then you have other teams. I would expect the #21 to be up front because Ricky knows how to race on the shor tracks. Fat Back knows his way around so I really expect those guys.
YOU'VE TRADITIONALLY STRUGGLED HERE, EXCEPT FOR ONE RACE HERE LAST YEAR. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO IMPROVE HERE? The way practice has gone so far, I don't think we've got anything figured out yet. All the Hendrick cars seem to be struggling a little bit right now. We've been struggling up here for a while. We run fine - top 5 and top 10, but just never really fought for the win, and hopefully we can get that changed around. But, we're off to a slow start right now.
A FEW ACCIDENTS IN PRACTICE. ARE PEOPLE DRIVING MORE AGGRESSIVELY OUT THERE BECAUSE THERE'S ONE PRACTICE BEFORE QUALIFYING? Yeah, everybody, each run out, continues to free up the race car. And there's teams with lap time changes. I think it's just people trying real hard.
Jeff Gordon #24 DuPont Chevrolet
EXPLAIN THE DELAY BEFORE PRACTICE With all the weather that we had at Darlington, the schedule was shortened. With all the changes that we had to make in practice to get the car where we needed it, we lost a lot of time and we paid the price big time for it. I understand what NASCAR's doing. They need to keep the inspection line on time and make sure people are going out for qualifying when they're supposed to, but I think when you've got 11 or 12 cars, and top teams, that are late to the inspection line, there's obviously a problem there beyond just the teams lagging behind.
DID IT HURT YOU TO MISS THAT TODAY? Oh, every minute on that track is valuable time and we don't want to miss a single second. So, I was out there almost 20 minutes. And when we first got out there, we were definitely needing to make a lot of adjustments and do the best with the amount of time. We were 12th there at the end. It looked like we had a decent race car, but I would have loved to have had those extra minutes.
IS THAT FRUSTRATING? Yeah, it's frustrating. A little bit frustrating with the team as far as getting behind but a little bit frustrated with NASCAR that they didn't recongnize that the conditions had changed at Darlington.
DOES THIS TRACK PERHAPS LEVEL THE HENDRICK/ROUSH DOMINATION THUSFAR IN THE SEASON? I guess the short tracks do in a way. Horsepower is important but not that important. I think the driver plays a bigger role in how it handles and the information he gives back to the team. We don't see aerodynamics being as crucial. Yeah, you know, I think we saw that at Martinsville and Bristol and we'll see that here as well.
IN THE FALL RACE, THE CHASE ENDS HERE. DOES THAT MAKE THIS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT TO FIGURE THIS PLACE OUT? Well, tracks are important on the schedule for many different reasons. Some are important because they're in the last 10. Some of the tracks that aren't in the last 10 are important because they get you in the top 10. This track was obviously a very exciting race-the second event-last year. Who was determined, who was going to be in the top 10. Our goal as a team is to be solidly in the top 5 so we go into that race and not have to be on that button or whatever you want to call it. That adds a lot of pressure for a lot of guys. This race can be important for a lot of teams to make sure that when they come here the second time around, that you have a good run to make sure that if you are on the edge, you make it in the ten and have a great finish to get in there.
IS THERE A CORRELATION TO NIGHT RACES AND MORE AGGRESSIVE DRIVING? I don't know. That's a good question. Maybe some people get anxious because they've been waiting all day. You think about it a lot more. When it's a day race, we're still sleeping when they start the race. It takes me half the race to wake up for these day races, so I love the night races. I think that's why we shine at the night races because I'm awake when it starts.
THAT ISN'T TRUE, IS IT? It is true! I'm not a morning person.
IS THERE ANY ONE THING YOU CAN ATTRIBUTE TO THE HENDRICK/ROUSH DOMINATION SO FAR? I don't think it's one thing. It's always a combination of using our resources and our people. And making the best of what we learn in the wind tunnel. What we learn with our engine and chassis dyno and the engineering that we put into it. I don't know why Hendrick and Roush have really clicked and hit on things this year, maybe more so than other teams. Other than, I think we've been building on that over the past couple of years other than we've been building on it. The things we learned the last couple years we're still applying to this season even though they've changed the rules, taken spoiler away and changed the tires. Those things we learned are still helping us today.
IT SEEMS YOU WIN, THEN BIFFLE WINS I hope that's the case. You're always out there being pushed by your competitors. Greg and that team have really got their act together this year. It seems that in the races where he's strong, we're not. And the races where we're strong, he either has a problem or isn't strong. So, we hope to get to where we're battling those guys at the tracks where they're strong for those wins and pull some of those. They've been really good on the mile and a halfs, and we need to get a little bit better. I'm sure he's thinking the same thing about short tracks and super speedways.
HOW DO YOU COMPARE YOURSELF TO THE ALL-TIME GREATS IN THE SPORT? I don't. I don't really think about it a whole lot. As far as the greatest driver I've raced against, like Dale Earnhardt, I might be able to compare a little bit more than to David Pearson or Richard Petty, Yarborough, because I really didn't get to race against those guys. Allison. But, I have a tough time comparing myself with someone like Dale Earnhardt because in my opinion, he was one of the greatest drivers I've ever competed against. I saw days when he took that race car and made a lot out of it on days where there wasn't much to be had. And then there were days at Daytona or Talladega where it seemed like he could see the air. I learned as much as I could from a guy like that, but I don't necessarily put myself in that category.