Talladega, Ala., Sept. 27, 2003 -- Greg Zipadelli, crew chief for defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart, talked Saturday afternoon following the final practice session for Sunday's EA Sports 500 here at Talladega Superspeedway. Kyle...
Talladega, Ala., Sept. 27, 2003 -- Greg Zipadelli, crew chief for defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart, talked Saturday afternoon following the final practice session for Sunday's EA Sports 500 here at Talladega Superspeedway. Kyle Petty practiced the car during the first session, and Bobby Labonte drove the car four laps after Zipadelli made a carburetor change for the second practice. Among the topics was Stewart's migraine, which kept him out of Saturday's practice, and Stewart's comments following last week's race concerning Goodyear. Following are highlights of those remarks.
GREG ZIPADELLI , CREW CHIEF, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
WHAT DO YOU LEARN WHEN YOU ARE DEALING WITH A DRIVER THAT YOU HAVEN'T DEALT WITH MUCH? "Not much. We tried to get a fuel mileage number [in the second practice], but we only got four laps and it won't be a very good one. Bobby got in it, and they had little issues with their car and they ran a lot longer than they thought. At least he got in it and ran, giving similar feedback to what Kyle did earlier. Bobby and Tony, at some places like this, are similar in how much throttle they roll in and out of and how much brake they use. That dictates a lot of your fuel mileage. We just wanted to get Bobby up there and see if he was comfortable in the car for tomorrow."
DID KYLE HELP YOU MUCH? "He just went out and said basically the same thing that Bobby did, it drove really good, sucked up really good. But when you don't have the person who has to be in there and have it do what he needs it to do tomorrow, it's quite a bit different. They get in it and just say, 'yeah, it drives good.' But to get in it in a big pack of cars and feel comfortable and know it's going to do what it needs to do when you need it to, that's the part that we're lacking right now."
HOW IS TONY TODAY? "I saw him this morning, and I think he's sleeping right now. He took some medication to help him with his headache, and we'll just wait until tomorrow and see how things go."
DID KYLE NOT DRIVE THE CAR THE SECOND PRACTICE? "No. We weren't really going to go out, but I wanted to make a carburetor change and I wanted Bobby to feel it. I know Bobby and Tony are similar in the way they draft, so that was more important to me on a fuel mileage number if
we could have gone out and run 10 or 12 laps than somebody that has a completely different style. I don't know what Kyle's style is. Fuel mileage was OK earlier. I want to compare car to car, because we build them the same and we have the same engines, and that was important to me. Kyle did a great job getting in; I don't think he wanted to run very much, so we just elected to have Bobby if he had time to get in a run a few laps."
DO YOU HAVE CONCERNS FOR TOMORROW? HAVE YOU SEEN TONY HAVE HEADACHES LIKE THIS BEFORE? "He's had them before. This seems to be worse than normal in that it didn't pass with the regular medication. I really don't see any problems for tomorrow. I imagine it's a normal deal. Usually he can get through them. This one this morning seemed like it was worse. This place isn't as critical as most as far as how your car drives. At least there's not a lot of chassis stuff."
IS THERE SOMETHING POSITIVE ABOUT HAVING DIFFERENT DRIVERS CLIMB IN AND REPORT BACK? "It's hard. Bobby didn't run enough and we weren't around a lot of cars, we weren't in a big pack. That's what you're looking for: how your car drives, how it reacts, does it move around a lot, can you suck up when there's cars outside of you. Every situation is different. It's one thing to just get out and be in an open pack and drive up to the cars in front of you. When you have cars outside of you, it you have a car back at your right rear quarterpanel, it tends to pull you back. Every car is different, so a lot of that stuff, we really don't know."
WHEN YOUR DRIVER COMES IN AND TAKES TIRES, THEN GOES OUT AND TELLS YOU HE HAS A BAD SET OF TIRES, WHAT IS HE TELLING YOU? "Last week, it was the car got extremely loose for as good as the car had been for as long as it had been. As it turned out, it had a left rear that had a lot of age to it. That's basically what he was telling us. He said one or both of the rear tires didn't have the grip that they had earlier. There's no magic to it. These cars are so under-gripped to begin with by the tire because it is a harder tire, any time you have a little change it's magnified. Especially at a place like we were at last week at Dover, you're so fast, on the edge, there's so little grip in the track and that tire combination, any little bit makes a big difference."
DO YOU HAVE TO APPROACH CHANGES CAUTIOUSLY BECAUSE OF THAT DIFFERENCE? "When your car is close and you put a set of tires on and it gets tight, you have to take that into consideration. We didn't make any changes the second half of the race. We put four sets of tires on and didn't even make an air pressure adjustment. That's how close our car was until we put that set of tires on."
WHEN GOODYEAR BRINGS BACK THE TIRE CODES FOR NEXT YEAR, THERE WILL BE DATES ON THEM. AT WHAT POINT DO YOU THINK A TIRE IS TOO OLD TO USE? "You're talking a month, like in a four to six-month period, it doesn't seem like a huge thing. When you get from six months and older, from what we've seen, it's a bigger deal. It's a shame that it's come to this. You shouldn't go over and pay for something and have it not be the best. You don't go to the store and buy week-old milk. You just don't do it. They take it and throw it out. It's hard for Goodyear to say, after six months, if you put those tires on you won't be as competitive as you were. It's been kind of an on-going learning experience. I don't know that anybody knows exactly what the number is, but when you don't have date codes and color stripes like we had before, nobody knows so it's kind of like nobody has to worry about it except for us."
HAVE YOU TALKED WITH GOODYEAR ABOUT THIS? "We've talked many times. We went through it at Darlington, where we got a tire that was over a year old. Why in the world is a tire that's a year old be mixed in with something that was supposed to be just made." WHAT DO THEY SAY? "Sorry? It's hard. They have to do what they have to do, and we have to do what we have to do. The problem is, we're based on performance, on how we do. That's how we all make a living, that's how I keep my job. That's how we represent our sponsors. We're expected to go out and run good, and when you have problems like we did, it just adds extra frustration to it. It's over, it's done and we'll move on from it. It's the second time it's happened to us in the last three or four races."
GOODYEAR HASN'T SAID ANYTHING ABOUT DROPPING YOU OFF THE TIRE DEAL, HAVE THEY? "I don't know what they do. They have the right to do whatever they want, but at the same time, what are they mad at? We're the ones that lost the race. They should be mad for us, not against us. It wasn't handled in the right situation after the race. There wasn't anything said that was a lie. It was true: we got a tire that was older, it's the second time in three or four weeks that it's happened. It's that simple, it's that black and white. They've got their feelings, we have ours. We all have to work together and be good partners, but with being good partners, hopefully they'll help us earlier before we get in that situation. It's not just us, it's everybody else in
the garage. I heard a lot of comments in the garage from other drivers that went through the same issue last week. I know in my life I've not been the luckiest person around. When something is going to happen, it usually seems like it's attached to the group of people that I'm with. I think by going back about five years, you can pretty much document that. If we weren't running that good all day, it probably wouldn't have shown up as much. If you're a 5th- 10th-, 15th-place car, you put it on, you're struggling as it is, making big adjustments. When you have a car as good as we had last week, and it was so good for so long on the long runs--when you don't make changes and you put tires on, it just shows up that much worse. I think that's why it's so much more frustrating to us than maybe to some of the other people who experienced it."
WHEN WILL YOU KNOW WHETHER TONY WILL BE ABLE TO DRIVE? "We won't do anything until tomorrow morning when we talk to him. We'll give him tonight to rest and go from there. I don't see any reason why he wouldn't be in the car. This isn't something that has created big problems and has been a long-lasting thing in the past. This is the longest it's ever been, so I don't anticipate it being anything other than a normal day tomorrow."