This Week in Ford Racing October 29, 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Part 2 of 2 HOW MUCH DOES RYAN'S ENGINEERING DEGREE APPLY TO RACE CARS? "Well, it sure doesn't hurt. I think Ryan would tell you that he's glad he's got it and it's a positive...
This Week in Ford Racing
October 29, 2002
NASCAR Winston Cup
Part 2 of 2
HOW MUCH DOES RYAN'S ENGINEERING DEGREE APPLY TO RACE CARS?
"Well, it sure doesn't hurt. I think Ryan would tell you that he's glad he's got it and it's a positive thing for him. I think his ability to understand the computers and read 'em along with his engineers has been real helpful. I know I've been a guy that's basically been bah-humbug on the whole thing for a long time, but I've got to tell you the last 10 races I've really walked up to the plate and signed up on the deal. So I rely a lot of what we learn on the computer and the programs that we use. I told my crew chief, Billy Wilburn, last night, 'Geez, I can't believe that here I am relying on this thing a lot.' I'm running things through it like I've never done in the past, but Ryan's done that the whole year. The setups were so extremely different that I just couldn't sign up to 'em and he had a lot of success with 'em. A lot of these young guys have had success because that's just the new style of doing things. So I'm doing it now."
HAS BRINGING BILL ON AS CREW CHIEF BEEN JUSTIFIED BECAUSE YOU ARE FIFTH IN POINTS RIGHT NOW?
"There's no doubt about it. He's been a good friend of mine. You've got to have somebody that's gonna support you and really get behind you through thick and thin and I knew Billy would do that. He's a great friend of mine and my wife and my family. He's just a cool guy. Clear back to the number 88 car when I drove for Cliff Stewart in my very first year. Bill Wilburn worked for us there, so I have a long relationship with Billy. He's a class guy that's rock-solid and he's learning every single race. Him and I get into it occasionally about, 'We should have done this or we should have done that.' But we were sitting and talking the other day and felt that between him and I making some calls, we've lost ourselves over 250 points just with some pit calls we've made. 'Don't pit, two tires, four tires,' stuff like that. We've had a real fast car all year long, but we've given it away a couple of times. Then again, I've got to tell you what, there are calls that he's made that I totally disagreed with and he was totally right. It's pretty exciting to have him on board and when you look at the numbers you can't deny them. We've been consistent all year long."
WHAT ABOUT THE SCHEDULE AND NUMBER OF RACES?
"There's no room for more. We're at about four too many right now, but the sport has gotten very, very popular and more people want to see us. That's basically the reason we're out there. These cars take a lot of money to run and the sponsors want to be around bigger markets and be around more, but I don't really think the NASCAR people would argue with you that 36 is too many. Thirty-two is about the right number, or 30, but these team guys are completely burned down to the ground. We've got airplanes flying everywhere in the country. We've got extra crew guys we've hired just to do these four extra races, so it's a tough deal. I would love to see one of these days where it would go back. I've just heard tons of rumbling around the garage area that there are a lot of teams that would love to go back to a partial schedule, but I don't know if that would ever happen."
WHAT IF THIS LAWSUIT IN TEXAS PREVAILS AND THE COURTS DECIDE WHO GETS RACES. WHAT DO YOU DO? DO YOU TAKE RACES AWAY FROM TRACKS?
"No, I don't think that'll ever happen, to tell you the truth. But I'm not a lawyer. I don't know."
ARE COMPUTERS PART OF A NEW LEARNING CURVE FOR YOUR GENERATION?
"Yeah. I just finally figured out how to turn the stupid thing on, I've finally figured that and now I find myself hanging on the internet a lot -- reading what people have to say, checking stock quotes and looking at my weather all the time for the flying I'm doing. I look at stuff like that, but, hey, I just finally had to sign up for the fact that it's the wave of the future and I'm gonna have to do it -- no matter how bad I hate it. Again, I wish when I was in school they would have had computer classes so I could get really literate on it and understand it better, but there are a lot of people that live their life on 'em."
HAS NOT WINNING YET RE-ENERGIZED YOU FOR THE LAST THREE RACES?
"I've never been un-energized. I'm probably one of the most energetic people out there, I think. I probably need somebody to calm me down many times because there are a lot of decisions I make. I'm a dominant person when it comes to what I want in a car and I think it's basically because I own the team. I can make the decisions that I want to make, but Billy's helped me a lot and calmed me down a lot with aggressive setups, and I've made a decision to do something on Sunday morning. I was up at 7:30, couldn't sleep all night long thinking about this car, and I walked in there with this aggressive mindset and made a decision that killed me early in the race. But, I tell you what, if I could have gotten back in sync, I had a hell of a car from the midpoint on, but it didn't work out."
YOU'VE HAD ELVIS PRESLEY ON YOUR CAR BEFORE. WHAT DOES HE MEAN TO YOU?
"It's really cool. He's been the all-time King of rock 'n roll and when Action Performance put this promotional thing together I thought, 'Man, how in the world did you guys pull that off?' I'll never forget flying down in the plane to Memphis. We had this huge unveiling and Force was there. Everybody knows he's a real funny guy and then I walked through Graceland and saw some of the areas where nobody has been. They showed us all that stuff. I was like, 'Man, I can't believe I'm standing here. This guy had been the number one cat in the country until he died.' It was a very exciting experience and we did it again. We've done it three times. We did Elvis for the first time in Vegas and it was huge. We did Elvis again at Bristol and it was not near as huge because we didn't put as much promotion behind it, but then the last one we did I thought we had kind of burnt it out a little bit, but we went to Las Vegas this year with it and it was huge again. Everything we made, the diecasts, the shirts, the hats, the merchandise sold like wildfire. Everybody was excited about the program and all the people were there again. It was just a huge deal. It was fun to be part of and, hopefully, one of these days we'll do it again."
WHAT ABOUT YOUR PAST HOMESTEAD EXPERIENCES?
"The last time at Homestead I had a good qualifying run and, I've got to tell you, I can't remember how I finished in last year's race (12th, qualified 6th). I've had a real pushy car every single year that I've ever been there, I remember that. The track is so flat it's incredible. We all know it's one of the hardest race tracks to get around. We try to compare different race tracks to it like Indianapolis. Indianapolis is probably the only track that I know of that we go to that is that flat and the front ends are always pushing on these race cars. But Homestead is 30 percent worse than that. So there's been a lot of talk about re-configuring the track and, ultimately, that's probably one thing that's gonna have to happen. But, whatever. It is the last race and it's a really neat part of the country to go to for vacation. I know we've got a lot cool things we've got planned. We're gonna get down on like Wednesday, do some golfing and do some things in the water and have a great time, and be prepared with the best car we can take down there because I think that's where it's all gonna happen -- right down there in Homestead. But it's a very hard, hard place to get handling at."
WILL YOU SCHEDULE A MARTINSVILLE TEST NEXT YEAR? HOW DID YOU LIKE THE RENOVATIONS THERE THIS LAST TIME?
"I thought the renovations at Martinsville were good. You've got to admit, I don't think I've ever seen anybody go around that race track side-by-side consecutive laps, lap after lap, and be real racy. There would be guys that would run on the bottom and make some passes on fresh tires, and then they'd have to move to the top of the track. It was a lot, lot better than running around on that curb all day long for 500 laps like in the past. But I've got to tell you, it was a lot easier to pass in the past when the tires were softer. When they were softer, you could move all over that race track and make a lot of passes. But when the tires got hardened up, that's when all of the single-file racing happened. It had a problem. I made a suggestion to Clay Campbell that they take some of the bumps out of the race track and they did. They went a lot further than I suggested. In fact, when I flew over there and looked at it I thought, 'My gosh, I don't know. I hope this gets a little smoother than this. This was more than I was really suggesting.' But, in a crazy way, it worked out real good. Now I think they've got to go back in off the corners and kind of smooth that out so we can get a little more grip. I think that will put even better racing yet into it."
SO YOU'VE GOT A NEW TRACK AT MARTINSVILLE?
"Yeah, I'd say there's a new track at Martinsville and you're gonna see a new track at Loudon next year. Mr. Bahre, he's wide open right now. He says he's gonna completely re-pave both corners and make them both identical. Turns one and two, and turns three and four are a little bit different and the way you enter 'em are different. He says he's gonna make 'em exactly the same, so I commend him for doing that."
DOES PHOENIX REPRESENT YOUR BEST SHOT TO WIN?
"I'd say so, although I've won four or five times at Rockingham, too. I really think that Homestead is basically anybody's game because it's just so hard to get around the track, but everybody knows I'm kind of a flat-track guy, so Homestead and Phoenix should fall into our hands a little bit. We should have a better opportunity at those race tracks than maybe some others. I don't know. I feel good at all of 'em. But Rockingham, I've won a lot there and, hopefully, that would be one of them because I'd sure like to get it done this week instead of having to wait."
WHEN YOU HAD TO CELEBRATE YOUR WIN AT PHOENIX IN THE GARAGE BECAUSE OF RAIN, WAS THAT A BUMMER?
"No, to me a win is a win. I wanted it so bad it was unreal. I didn't really care about the surroundings at that point. You'd like to have everything perfect. You'd like to have a clear sunshine day and you'd like to have a beautiful Victory Lane so everybody can have those great photographs, but I've done that 54 times in my life and I understand what that looks like. The win is the most important thing."
Rusty Wallace press conference, part I