Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Taurus, did not practice this morning because he is in Milwaukee for the NASCAR Busch Series race. Crew chief Bob Osborne spoke about the team's plans today with Edwards not available. BOB...
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Taurus, did not practice this morning because he is in Milwaukee for the NASCAR Busch Series race. Crew chief Bob Osborne spoke about the team's plans today with Edwards not available.
BOB OSBORNE, Crew Chief - No. 99 Office Depot Taurus - WHAT'S THE PLAN TODAY WITHOUT CARL?
"I'm going to see if Tom Hubert can fit in the car and if he can, we're gonna do a couple laps with him and that's about it. We spent all of yesterday's practice in race trim, so we've got a pretty decent balanced race car from yesterday. We're pretty happy with everything. The brakes are good. The transmission is good. Basically, all we're gonna do today is a fuel cell check and that's about all."
YOU KNEW THIS WAS A RACE WHERE CARL WOULD MISS TODAY, SO YOU MADE THE NECESSARY PREPARATIONS, RIGHT? "Yeah, we came out here and tested for two days. We spent the test just getting him some laps and getting him some experience because we planned on him missing these two practices."
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Post-It/National Guard Taurus, and Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, are second and third respectively in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings. However, both drivers will be starting from the rear of the field in tomorrow's race with Biffle going from the 41st position and Sadler from 42nd.
ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus
YOU HAVE A CHALLENGE IN FRONT OF YOU SUNDAY. "We do, but I've started in the back here before so I'm not gonna panic. I think I've got a really fast race car and it's all about staying on the race track and making good pit calls. We've usually been pretty good here at that, so that's gonna be our strategy for tomorrow. If I can pass a few cars, I think Todd is good enough to make up a few spots, and we've definitely got a pit crew that can do it. It's all about staying on the race track here. Last year, we started up front and I spun out, went to the rear, and came back to finish in the top 10. When I finished sixth here two years ago I think I qualified 40th or something, so I think we've got the brains to do it and the mindset to do it, so we just have to put it all in action tomorrow and see what happens."
AT LEAST YOU DON'T HAVE GILLIGAN'S ISLAND TO DEAL WITH. THAT WAS AN ISSUE A FEW YEARS AGO. "Yeah. Of course, we all think of that stuff when we're qualifying. You know how hard to push it and what you're trying to do. If we had Gilligan's Island to worry about, we may have taken a more conservative approach to the lap, but I'm glad it's all one pit road now. That's the fairest way to do it. We'll see what happens. I know we're all frustrated because we've got to start in the back and we're not used to starting back there. Usually I've got a great qualifying team and I just messed up yesterday. Now we're gonna try to get the car race ready, go out there and run some laps, see what we've got, and go from there."
YOU HAD SOME ISSUES YESTERDAY. "Yeah, we've been a little loose. But yesterday I spun out there because Bobby Labonte did. I came around the corner and saw a big cloud of dirt going everywhere. A lot of times a car will spin off the track there and bounce back out in front of you, so I came around the corner and saw Bobby hitting the wall. I locked my brakes out and spun myself out trying not to hit him. In qualifying, I just went through there too fast. I wanted to get a good lap down, but I was just a little bit too much out of control and just couldn't catch it quick enough. I just ran out of talent, so it's just one of those racing deals."
DO YOU KEEP THE BIG PICTURE IN MIND TOMORROW AS FAR AS POINTS GO? "Yeah, I think if we can get out of here with a top 15 that we're not gonna lose too many points to anybody. That's our mindset for tomorrow and that's what we're gonna be shooting for, and, hopefully, we'll be able to do that."
GREG BIFFLE - No. 16 Post-It/National Guard Taurus
YOU STARTED 25TH AND WON LAST WEEK AT MICHIGAN, BUT THIS IS A BIT TALLER TASK ISN'T IT? "Yeah, it is a little bit bigger challenge. It's more difficult coming from the back here, but I'm not worried about it at all. We've got a really fast race car. A lot of people are putting a big emphasis on it like that's where we qualified and we didn't. We were two turns away from possibly being on the pole or somewhere in the top three, so I'm not that concerned about it. It's a long race and it's gonna take us time to get up there. We'll have to gain spots on pit road probably and race our way by some of those guys. It's gonna be easier to pass the first 15 cars that we're gonna be racing with than it's gonna be to pass the next 20. There are so many factors involved. You've got to stay on the race track and not have any gear problems or brake problems or any of that, so I don't see it being a big issue for us. Starting in the back is not where I want to start, but I'm not worried about it one bit."
AT LEAST THERE'S NO GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. "Obviously if we had that, it would be big trouble but it's better for everybody right now. I don't think it's a big deal for us. I don't think we have any major issues. We've got a good, fast car. I was just a little too loose qualifying there turning to the right. We really don't know why, but the facts are we start in the back but I'm not concerned a bit."
WILL YOU THINK ABOUT POINTS TOMORROW OR WILL YOU BE TOTALLY FOCUSED ON GETTING TO THE FRONT? "I'm just thinking about what I've got to do and maneuver. I want to win on Sunday. I want to win tomorrow. That's what we're here for. That's what we came all the way across the country for is to win tomorrow and I believe that I have a car I can win with and that's what I'm gonna try to do."
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Air Force/Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, was a guest in the infield media center prior to Saturday's practice session.
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Air Force/Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus
THERE USED TO BE ACTUAL FEUDS YEARS AGO. ARE PEOPLE QUICKER TO LET GO OF GRUDGES NOW THAN THEY USED TO BE? "I've seen a lot of wrecks, more than our share. We've been caught up in, unfortunately, about six or seven of them this year and it wasn't our fault. Most of the wrecks we've been caught up in wasn't really and feuds going on, it was just racing and not giving each other enough room and running on top of each other. But as far as the deals that happen on purpose, a guy intentionally takes somebody else out, those are the ones that tend to build feuds. I haven't really seen that. Probably the closest thing I saw to that was Tony taking out Jeff at Dover, and I just think it was more of an adrenaline rush going on with Tony at the time, and, yeah, he hit Jeff when he shouldn't have. But it did look like it was one of those deals. You know, 'I don't like this guy, I'm just gonna take him out.' I haven't seen that. In years past, you would tend to get grudges. I know when I first came into the sport in the early days, I guess it was the Daytona 500 with Cale (Yarborough) and Donnie (Allison), and Bobby (Allison) was involved in that big deal and they ended up fighting on the backstretch after the race was over. The next week at Rockingham they went at it again and a bunch of innocent cars, us included, got caught up in a big wreck. That was the typical grudge deal out there. There's no other way to put it. It's probably a little better now, but in the old days it seemed like there was a lot more short track racing and things tended to stay heated up a little bit more because you ran many more short tracks than there are today."
IS IT MUCH DIFFERENT NOW THAN YEARS BEFORE? "I came in at a time when I was 18 years old and the next youngest guy was thirty-something, so I didn't really feel like I fit in then. We always just sort of stayed to ourselves anyway. I spent a lot of time with our crew members. Back then, there wasn't a whole lot of guys that were buddy buddy. But now the trailer parks have been brought in. I guess you can't afford to hold too much of a grudge. I guess you're around people more than you used to be. Your family is there. Everybody's got their family there, so I've seen some stuff happen on the race track that seems like it's quickly over with and it's forgotten. It's not a whole lot different than it was in years past. I think in years past there was more where you actually had a responsibility to make sure we settled the score, or we were forced to be the policemen in the sport when I first got going. You had to police it yourself. Nobody else was gonna look after it, and then along came the penalty box, which I haven't seen in many years. NASCAR said, 'OK, you guys don't need to take it in your own hands, we're gonna settle it.' That went on for many years and, all of a sudden, we don't see that anymore. I'm just sort of rambling on, but I've seen it go to where we were expected to handle our situations to where we were not, and now it seems like maybe it's going back to maybe we are supposed to handle it. I don't know."
WHEN YOU DECIDE TO RETIRE DO YOU THINK YOU'LL STILL DO SELECTED RACES IN EITHER CUP OR TRUCK? "I don't know how to answer that right now. At this time I would say when that time comes I want to take a full year off - just force myself to take one year off from competition, whether I want to or not. Just go to some island somewhere and clear your head and figure out what you really want to do next. It's another chapter. All of these guys are retiring and still less than 50 years old and most people in this country don't retire until they're in their sixties. I'm the type of person that can't sit still long. Whatever I decide to go with I end up going 110 percent, so I just want to make sure that when I do that and that day does come, I need to clear my head and really think about where I want to go next because whichever direction that is, I usually go 120 percent. Again, I'm gonna force myself to take a little time off. After that, I don't know. I might come back and want to do something else, but I've been racing in competition since I was eight years old. I'm 48 now, so that's 40 years of competition. I'm probably gonna get just as much enjoyment out of having control of my own schedule and let that dictate what that means. You sort of get burned out on racing, but it would be nice if after 30 years of this competition to have some control over your schedule. That's part of the game. That's just the way life is in this sport, but, again, it's gonna be nice to one day sit back and have some control of it."
ARE THERE THINGS YOU HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO DO THAT YOU WOULD LIKE? "Probably the smaller things, the little things in life - which are big things the way I look at. We haven't been to our high school reunions because it's always fallen usually when we're on the west coast. I haven't been to any of them since graduating from school. Weddings, funerals, birthday - stuff like that - you just don't do. So you're caught up in this so heavily and your whole world revolves around this and that' OK. Again, I've been at it a pretty long time, so I'm probably gonna be so bored to death when I do quit, I'm not gonna know how to handle it, but I'm looking forward to those days when it does come."
HAVE YOU MADE ANY PROGRESS WITH YOUR PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR? "No." IS YOUR SON RACING? "I have a 10-year-old who has a tremendous amount of talent as far as driving goes. We've been driving four wheelers together, motorcycles, you name it since he's been about four years old. He has all the natural abilities, but does not - right now - show the desire and that's his call. He's got the ability, but he doesn't have the desire and I don't know if he'll ever get that or not. You almost have to be obsessed with this that it's all you live, breathe, and think about. He's just a normal 10-year-old kid. We go go-kart racing - not racing - but play day at Charlotte Motor Speedway. They have those about averages maybe once a month and there might be a day where I say, 'Let's go out and run at the kart track and he'll say, 'No, I really don't want to go today.' And then there will be another time he says, 'Hey, let's go run at the track.' But he doesn't really have that enthusiasm for it, so I don't think he'll ever be a driver. He might be involved in this sport in some way, but I don't see it as a driver. Even though he's got the abilities, he doesn't seem to have the desire."
IS THIS ONE OF THE FEW TRACKS WHERE IT WILL BE LIKE LAST YEAR? EVERYWHERE ELSE IT'S BEEN TIRES OR SPOILERS. "I don't know how to answer that. Equipment changes, it seems, are so much from year to year. I know I've got a new transmission that I guess some guys had here last year, so that's a state-of-the-art gearbox. I mean, it's the next thing to having an automatic transmission. It's another step toward making it easier, so guys that were having trouble before - which very few were having trouble with the old style gearbox, and now they've got something that's made it even easier. In my opinion, it's too easy. These cars are too easy to drive now compared to what they used to be, so I don't know how to answer that. The transmissions, more guys have them this year. It could affect the outcome of the race. Brakes continue to get better. It seems like the cars on tracks like this - in race trim - tend to get equal and you've got a lot of cars, a lot of good equipment and a very tight race track, so I'd expect to see some pretty good action here."
CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW THE TRANSMISSIONS WORK? "The only thing I can say is it's a completely different gearbox. It's made different. It's cast different. For many years we had to run a transmission that came out of a Ford product or a GM product, and now these things are custom built and specially built - made for racing. The older transmissions - you go back about eight years ago - the shifter handle was about three-feet tall, and to go from first gear to second gear you'd grab a handful and a whole armful and have to pull it. Now they're almost like little hydraulics. Actually they're not, but they feel that way. You've got a little shift handle and it's more like a true road-race transmission. It's very easy to drive - no clutch. It's a neat piece, but it's too easy."
SO YOU DON'T USE THE CLUTCH? "I've always been a guy that's used the clutch to smooth things out. This new transmission is so smooth that you use the clutch to get out of pit road and that's pretty much the end of it."
SO THEY TOOK THE FUN AWAY? "It just makes it so easy that almost anybody can do it. What it does - and not only this transmission but if you go 10 years back - you didn't have the luxury of not using the clutch. It's not like it's a big deal, but what it does is it takes a guy - probably 99 percent of the guys out here are left foot brakers. If you take that left foot now and have to use the clutch, well now it forces you to have to use the right foot on the brake pedal. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but it's like writing right-handed and all of a sudden switching over to left-handed. It's just really awkward and you're not gonna be very smooth at it. That caused many problems with many guys for many years. When they first came out with the gear box, you didn't have to use the clutch. That allowed guys to continue to brake with their left foot and it's still that way today."
DID THAT TAKE AWAY THE ADVANTAGE FOR GUYS LIKE YOU AND RUSTY AND MARK? "There is a handful that can do that very smoothly and use the clutch. I brake with my left foot everywhere but on the road course, and then on the road course I'll still brake with right and left. It depends on what foot happens to get to the pedal first. I don't really know why, but you just do it without thinking about it. I can brake with either foot. A lot of guys cannot do that. A lot of guys have trouble braking with either foot. I had trouble with that on an oval. You say you can't use your left foot on the brake anymore and now you've got to brake with your right, I'd be very lost on an oval track if somebody said you've got to brake with your right. But on a road course it sort of happens naturally, but a lot of guys have a great deal of trouble with that. If you came to the road course and said, brake with your right, a lot of guys still can't to do that today and there is a small handful that could. All that did was allowed you to be smooth, it allowed you to get into the corner deeper, deeper into the brake zone because you could get your downshifts real smooth without wheel-hopping. For years you would see good oval track racers and you'd see them wheel-hop off the race track and a lot of that was because they couldn't match the revs because their feet were tied up in a knot on the floorboard trying to figure it out. Most guys today - a lot of guys have never had to brake with their right foot on a road course. A lot of guys have never had to deal with that, so it's nothing new to them."
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO DEVELOP A GOOD TECHNIQUE? "Again, it doesn't really take much time at all because of the gearboxes and because they can brake with their left foot. That is the biggest hurdle to overcome. I know I came to Bob Bondurant's school here at this race track in 1980 or 1981 and Bob was our instructor. We were here for three days and probably after the first day we had gotten pretty smooth with the technique, and from here out to Riverside, California 30 days later and that technique didn't really work with a heavy Cup car. They taught you all the heel-toe downshift at Bob's, but you went and drove a big heavy Cup car at a time when the brake systems were not that good. I could brake but I couldn't be smooth. You had to change that technique up. You had to take what you learned and find something that worked for you. So as far as the development, the very first road course race I went to I qualified third and was leading the race with about 12-15 laps to go. I was racing Bobby Allison for the win and we broke a motor, so I didn't have a lot of trouble with it because I think I raced go-karts on tracks like these for so many years. The lines and all that you would take was not an issue, it was just the transmission and the shifting. And because of going through Bob's and working with it and learning the proper way to do it, there was no testing, you came right to the event and unloaded. I mean, it was an adjustment but it was just in the one practice session."
WHAT ABOUT YOUR SECOND HALF AND THE CARS YOU'LL HAVE? "I'll tell you, our cars are good. You go back a year ago and our cars were not fast. We were finishing 20th, 25th and that was all we had. This year we were passing Carl for third late in the race in Atlanta and had a freakish wheel-bearing problem, and then we go to Charlotte and running in the top five there about half to three-quarters of the way through the race and had a motor blow there. We've had some good, solid runs. The car has been competitive, but we've been in about six or seven wrecks that were started and I happened to be a victim of, so it's been kind of a crazy year. It's not like you're trying to fix a lot of things that are broke. Last week at Michigan we had a spark plug wire break and that's a freakish thing. We weren't running good, though, so it wasn't a huge deal there, but, here, I don't know what we've got. We were eighth-fastest in practice and qualified 20th, so I don't know what to expect here. But as far as trying to fix a lot of things that were broken, the biggest things we need to fix is really to just buy some luck."