Rockingham: This Week in Ford Racing

This Week in Ford Racing February 17, 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series After spending two weeks in Daytona, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to Rockingham for the only time this season. Ford drivers, including defending race winner Dale...

This Week in Ford Racing
February 17, 2004

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series

After spending two weeks in Daytona, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to Rockingham for the only time this season. Ford drivers, including defending race winner Dale Jarrett, spoke about various issues surrounding this weekend's Subway 400.

DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus

WAS THE WIN AT ROCKINGHAM THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR SEASON? "Yeah, it was probably about the only one. It was a shining moment in a difficult season, but it kind of went along with the rest of the season. We fought and fought throughout the day. It wasn't like we were there dominating throughout the day. We worked on the car and then finally at the end got it to where we could compete, but it was a fun day and an exciting race. Those are the type of races that you really remember, where you really had to battle to get the win."

IS IT REFRESHING AFTER TWO WEEKS OF RESTRICTOR PLATE RACING TO GET ON A TRACK LIKE ROCKINGHAM? "Yeah, it really is. It makes it fun to get back to where you know that your efforts are gonna be rewarded. That doesn't always happen at Daytona. If you choose the wrong line, then that could take away your chance at winning. That's not necessarily the case at Rockingham, it's about getting your car handling and being able to take care of the tires and getting yourself in the right position at the end of the race."

TIRES WERE SUCH AN ISSUE AT DAYTONA, BUT ROCKINGHAM EATS TIRES UP PRETTY BADLY. WHAT WILL THE CHALLENGE BE THERE? "We're still gonna have an issue there and people are going to have to learn something that they haven't had to worry about in a few years because the tires really haven't gone away that much. You're gonna have to change your setup a little bit and maybe even change your driving style a little bit. Before you could abuse the tires and really not hurt them, but that's not gonna be the case now."

GREG BIFFLE - No. 16 Army National Guard Taurus

"I'm really looking forward to Rockingham. I'm a little nervous about the tire situation - I think everybody is with the way the tires wear out. But, I'm looking forward to going there. I think we have a decent downforce car for Rockingham, and that's the first time we're going to be on the open engine program, so I'm really excited about it."

CAN YOU LEARN ANYTHING ABOUT THE TIRE FROM DAYTONA THAT CAN TRANSFER TO ROCKINGHAM? "Nothing from Daytona, no. We don't have any downforce on the cars at Daytona -- maybe a tiny bit from Vegas, but Rockingham is its own animal. Rockingham and Darlington are two places that are different from everywhere else we go. We'll see what we have when we get there. The teams that tested, obviously, are going to have a big advantage."

ON HEADING INTO ROCKINGHAM NOW THAT HE HAS A YEAR OF CUP RACING UNDER HIS BELT. "I've got two races at Rockingham in a Nextel Cup car and I'm going back for my third time. I know what to expect and know what we need to do and feel like we can be competitive there and run in the top-15 or top-10, around there. I think that's what we need to do to get our season off to a good start."

ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus

"I'm looking forward to going to Rockingham. It's a pretty fun race track to go to. It's a lot of two and three-wide racing there and it's just fun to get out of the restrictor plate mindset for a whole week and a half and get back to really racing. Rockingham is a lot of fun and I hate the fact that we're only going there once this year. That's gonna make the race a lot more prestigious for a lot of the race car drivers because we really love that race track."

HOW WILL THIS SOFTER TIRE REACT AT ROCKINGHAM? "We really haven't talked about it that much, so I hope Todd has done his homework and he knows what to expect when we get there. We know a lot of teams have tested there, but we were not one of them so we've got a lot of homework to do when we get there. We've built some pretty nice cars and we'll just do the best we can with the practice time we get and hopefully the M&M's car will be fast come Sunday. Nobody really knows what to expect with these Goodyears everywhere we go so we've got a lot of work to do."

KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie/Irwin Taurus

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON HAVING ONLY ONE CUP RACE AT ROCKINGHAM THIS YEAR? "It's somewhat of a bummer. I enjoy racing there because of the gritty asphalt and the three-wide racing. We actually had a test slated for Rockingham and then once we heard the news that Darlington was gonna get their fall date and that there was gonna be a 10-race playoff at the end of the year, we eliminated that test to save it for the latter part of the year. We can't take importance away from it. We still have to go in there and make sure we have a solid finish. We finished second last year to Dale Jarrett, so that's part of our season and you have to be strong and focused and not let anything slip."

ANY IDEA WHAT TIRES WILL BE LIKE AT ROCKINGHAM? "I've heard from a few drivers that tested there that it still resembles the same feel as before. You can still run 60-70 laps on it and still have that dropoff. Goodyear has different compounds and different structures to build the tire and you just have to trust their opinion."

JEFF BURTON - No. 99 SKF Taurus

"I think it's gonna make a big difference in our strategy. The new tires are definitely gonna probably wear out a little bit quicker and wearing out a little bit quicker at Rockingham means they're gonna be gone really quick. We haven't been there yet and tested with the new tire, so we don't know exactly what we're dealing with, but we know there are gonna be some differences."

WILL WE SEE THE TIRES FALL OFF EVEN MORE? "You've always seen a lot of fall off at Rockingham, so it probably won't change the race as much as it will at other places. I don't see any major differences in the way you run the race. There will be some differences, but I think they'll be much more minor than they will be at places like Vegas and Atlanta and those kind of places."

THERE MIGHT NOT BE 43 CARS FOR THAT RACE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? "There will be 43 cars there. There are always gonna be 43 cars. It is a tough time right now. There are a lot of companies that aren't spending money like they used to because of economic issues, but this sport is still vibrant and has a lot of appeal. I've said for a long time that the strength of a series isn't judged on the number of cars, it's judged by the number of people who are watching it and we still have more people watching it than ever. So I wouldn't look at it as all negative, it's just the impact of some economic times after 9-11 that have been hard to overcome."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett