JIMMY SPENCER (No. 41 Target Dodge Intrepid R/T) "We had a two-day test at Rockingham. Considering where we are in the points, we thought we needed to make a serious effort into this deal of testing for the first three or four races. We had a ...
JIMMY SPENCER (No. 41 Target Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We had a two-day test at Rockingham. Considering where we are in the points, we thought we needed to make a serious effort into this deal of testing for the first three or four races. We had a pretty good test at Rockingham. We had a decent qualifying run and a decent race setup. We were there two days. We worked half days each day on qualifying and race setups. We wanted to make sure the weather didn't play any tricks on us. It was fairly cold when we tested, and we're thinking that's the way it'll be when we get back. If it's warm, then that's even better.
"Rockingham is a great track for the fans. You need a balanced race car there, all four tires working together will usually prevail at that track. A car can be really fast for 20 laps and the next 40 it could be really slow. The car that starts out at a good pace, with equal balance on all four tires, he'll be good as the day progresses, and he'll have a shot at winning the race. That's what we worked on. Andy Graves (team manager) and Doug Randolph (crew chief) and the guys kept working on shocks and trying to get the car into the race track with a real good balance. We feel pretty good about it.
"I think certain places over the years have taught me that you have to save tires, and Rockingham is one of those places. We put some shocks on that I really like, and we were a lot faster. We were really fast. The longer we ran, the slower we ran. Then we started working on something similar to that and got a real good balance. Andy and Doug kept working and actually changed seven sets of shocks. We went through a lot of tires and found a pretty good combination. I think something I learned down there was just be patient with the tires and don't abuse them. That's easier said then done, but if you don't abuse them, you should have a good day.
"Starting up front or qualifying up front is important everywhere because of pit selection. Pit selection is more critical than starting up front. If you could get a good pit selection and start in the rear, it really wouldn't matter at Rockingham. If you can be patient, 30 or 40 laps into the race you'll see cars running two or three tenths quicker than other cars. That's normal at Rockingham. To me, I think you need to qualify in the top 20 at Rockingham, get a good pit spot. You hope you've got a good-handling car. It makes for a long day if you don't.
"There's nothing wrong with the tires at Rockingham. The tires are good. It's the track. The sand and abrasiveness of the track, Goodyear doesn't come up with any bad tires. The track is just so brutal.
"I love Daytona. I really looked forward to running the Daytona 500. It's the race everybody wants to run in and win. Look at the passion Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt and a lot of guys had to win at Daytona. Richard Petty won it seven times. Bill Elliott and Cale Yarborough won it a lot.
"You hear people say 'we've been at Daytona so long, we can't wait to get to Rockingham.' Well, I have to admit I've felt that way at times, too, but after not making the race on Thursday, I don't think I'll ever feel that way again.
"Congratulations to Ward Burton and that entire Bill Davis Racing team. It was really great to see that Dodge hold off those three Fords after the red flag. Hopefully we can keep the Dodge ball rolling at Rockingham. I can't think of a better way for us to make up for missing Daytona than by winning on Sunday at The Rock.
"I've got willpower, so I'm in good shape after Daytona. I wasn't able to work out as much as I needed to down there. I couldn't wait to work out at my gym at the house. I missed that. I get to watch tapes of the old races while I'm working out, and you don't realize how fast an hour can pass by. You can't wait to see what you did wrong at some of the races in the past and some of the races where other people made mistakes and you didn't make any mistakes. You learn a lot that way."
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We've qualified great there before and raced bad there before. We've qualified bad there before and raced good. We've qualified good and raced good, but we don't have a good track record there at this point. We went there and tested and learned some stuff. It was very, very difficult because the wind was probably 50 mph, and it was actually very hot. We had the trash can 500 going on in the infield. The wind was blowing over the trash cans and they all ended up down in turns three and four. It made it hard to balance the car and understand what was happening with the wind and what was really happening with the car.
"It'll be colder when we go back to race because we were there during that hot spell when it was 80 degrees. I think some guys went the next week and went a lot quicker than we did because it was cold and the wind was calm. That track is like any race track. You cool it down and give it grip and you're going to pick up speed. You can get grip for a lap at Rockingham. You do a qualifying run in practice and then you do a three-quarter qualifying run and then you're kind of done with your tires. You've got to make a couple of good, educated guesses after that.
"We spent a lot of The King and Kyle's money on tires when we went there testing. So did everybody else who went there testing. I think that's the way you've got to do it. Otherwise you can't evaluate if you've made the car better or worse. When you bolt on the tires and push 'em through inspection, they're kind of half worn out at Rockingham.
"Some drivers you look at and think they'd be terrible at places like Rockingham, and they're really good. Guys that are good at finessing sometimes don't run good there. I think it's just getting a feel for your car right and not beating the tires down and not trying to make it the fastest car all the time, just make it a nice, consistent car that you can do what you want to do with it, but not have to abuse it to get it done.
"Kyle was The King of Rockingham. He's got wins there and poles there. Kyle was the master of Rockingham. There's no reason he can't be again. He's just got to get the equipment underneath him that will allow him to do it. If he gets the equipment underneath him, then everything else will come with it.
"At Daytona, everything is magnified like at Indianapolis during the 500 and the Brickyard 400. The media is at Daytona the whole time, and we're there the whole time. You run out of things to talk about. Everybody just sits there and waits for the event. We've talked about it. We've beat it into the ground. We talk about everything we could about 10 times to everybody we can find and everybody that can find us. When you get out of Daytona and get back to Rockingham, it's back to boom, boom, boom. You qualify, there's something to talk about then. Then there's the Busch race and then the Cup race and it's done and you go to the next one. There's a lot less down time and thinking about what could happen, trying to get that last little bit out of the race car and then messing up. Sometimes too much time is a bad thing, too.
"It's early, but you know it's happening. You might not feel it or see it or be able to touch it, but you know it's happening. You know the people involved. Everybody that Kyle's brought in is a race winner. They've won before and they want to win again. Everybody says they want to win, and who wouldn't? Only an idiot would not want to win. I even want to beat my kids at anything we play. You should play to win. Otherwise, why play? The difference in saying you want to win and really trying to focus on that is really difficult. It's hard for me to prove that's what I really want, but it is. That's why we work so hard and try to make it better."