RICHARD CHILDRESS (Car owner RCR Chevrolet Monte Carlos) "We put a lot of effort out on it, and when you've got Dale Earnhardt behind the wheel at any of the speedway races, Daytona or Talladega, I think he's the master at it. Mike Skinner's...
RICHARD CHILDRESS (Car owner RCR Chevrolet Monte Carlos)
"We put a lot of effort out on it, and when you've got Dale Earnhardt behind the wheel at any of the speedway races, Daytona or Talladega, I think he's the master at it. Mike Skinner's done a great job, too, getting the hang of it, I guess this is going into his fourth year. He's led several of the races and been a contender to win some of those races. It goes to a lot of hard work these guys put into our engine program and the aerodynamic program we work on.
"The 3 and the 31 tested (at Talladega). The 31 was real good. They had built a new car since Daytona. We had replaced the body on the 3 car since it had got torn up. The 31 was actually one of the faster cars there, and we're pretty excited about that going back with that car. We know they're going to have a good run. We came back to the shop and made several of the changes that were on the 31. We redid them to the 3 car and hopefully Dale's car will be just as competitive and just as fast as the 31. Nothing would make a car owner any happier than to see a 1-2 situation.
"They've got a good program over there at Roush Racing. It's just tough. A lot of times you've just got to have Lady Luck fall your way to win championships. Championships are won on consistency. They'll win a championship. It's just like Dale winning Daytona. The odds are in your favor every time you go and don't win that you're going to win. They'll win a championship, and Mark (Martin) is a deserving champion. He'd be a great spokesman for NASCAR and a great guy himself.
"I think there could be some templates, and I don't think the word common is the correct word. I think they should be NASCAR templates. There should be certain NASCAR templates that control certain places on the cars, such as the greenhouse, the height of the rear quarterpanel, the height of the nose. Those templates would basically control that, and let the rest of the templates be your Monte Carlo, your Pontiac, your Taurus and your Dodge. With another manufacturer coming into it, it's a good time to do those. I don't think you can take a Ford template or a Monte Carlo template and say, 'OK, everybody has got to fit this.'
"The history of NASCAR has been made on the Ford-Chevy battle or the Dodge-Ford battle back in the late 60s. That's what's made NASCAR racing. The race fans can go in to work on Monday morning, and if their Monte Carlo won, they can walk in with their chest standing out. The same with the Ford. I don't think NASCAR is going to do anything to take that part of racing away.
"I would like to see the complete shock rule be lifted and control it with springs or travel or a different way of travel to control the cars dragging and hitting the race tracks. The thing we all are faced with is this new restrictor plate, and I just feel personally that if we can put more drag into the cars and get us more horsepower, we're going to put on a better show. Talladega is always exciting. It's always a great race. We'll just have to wait and see when we get there how it all shakes out. We've had some time to work on the Monte Carlo and who knows what this new shock deal and the restrictor plate will do with the Fords. We'll just have to go down there and see how it comes out.
"We had had several discussions on that (running 1999 Monte Carlo at Talladega). The car was fast. We tested one down there, but we're going to take the 2000 Monte Carlo. That's what we're going to be racing down there."
"Those comments from Daytona were pure frustration from everybody, not being able to be competitive. Our concern was they had a show, but it was a lot of Fords doing the showing, and we wanted to be in there showing ourself. They ended up having a good race. It was pretty exciting seeing Johnny Benson up there, a guy who had never won Daytona. They ended up having a good show at Daytona, but the Talladega thing, it's a wider race track. It's more opening, you can take a lot of the handling out of it. I think it'll be an exciting show. I just hope the Monte Carlo is in the middle of it.
"Hopefully by the time we go to Daytona, we'll see a different rule change for the benefit of the racing, for the drivers, fans, everybody involved. It's still great racing, but we want to see the three abreast, four abreast at Talladega. I can remember racing there with the old bodies myself and going down through there three and four abreast. You had so much air being blown all over the cars, where now the cars are a lot more streamlined. Again, NASCAR is aware of it and they are addressing those things. You've got to bear with them because they're trying to put together the best show you can put together for the race fans. We've had some pretty exciting races the past few races.
"It could be both (rule change for body and motor before Daytona in July). They're going to do what it takes to keep the excitement in Winston Cup racing, and the teams are all for it. I'm not going to complain a bit as a car owner as long as I know it's going to benefit everybody involved -- the race fans, the owners, the drivers, the whole program.
"I think his years of experience go back to when he (Dale Earnhardt) was first racing there. I think he got a knack for it then and he's just built on it. I can sit in the truck, we were sitting there a couple of weeks ago watching an IROC race he had won and he told me what he was looking for and how he was looking and what the guys racing around him were doing. He just has a natural knack, the ability to know what's going on around him and watching the moves everybody else is making. A lot of it goes with the experience he's got in restrictor-plate racing. I was one of the first persons who said, 'I think he can see air.' I've watched the moves and things. He was one of the first guys I can ever remember see doing the side draft. That goes back into the '80s.
"I think right now the cars are handling so well at those race tracks, I know Mike at Atlanta, he was running some laps right there in the 190 mph bracket. That's probably as fast or faster than you'll see them go at Talladega this time. We had good, safe races, and a heck of a race at Atlanta all day long. We were running speeds of 190. I'm sure NASCAR is going to address that in the near future. Aerodynamic would be the big key to it. We came with a radial tire, Goodyear did, several years ago, and it's picked up the corner speeds so much. It's made such a safer tire, a more durable tire for the whole race, and it's put a lot of good racing into it. Now, I think the aerodynamics alone with that tire, that's where you get your speed. You could probably do a lot of it with drag, building a lot of drag back into these bodies.
"I think that will eventually be NASCAR's goal, to have one engine we could run everywhere. From an owner's standpoint, that would be ideal. I think if you could take and put large spoilers and pull fenders, front fenders cause a lot of drag. Put those out to say 74 or 75 inches instead of 68 inches. Maybe widening the greenhouse. That puts a lot of drag in the car. There's a lot of ways to put drag back into cars, and that'll be one of the things NASCAR will be addressing in the near future I'm sure.
"We've just got our own design we'll be using there (at Talladega), and we'll go from that as far as on the nose. We have a complete different design for the speedways."
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We just moved into a new home last week, and we're spending about 95 percent of our time down here (Daytona Beach, Fla.) when we're not racing. We left Martinsville and came straight to Spruce Creek. We really like it here.
"I've got a lot of mixed emotions about the season. We're pretty disappointed with our finishes. We're pretty disappointed with our point standings right now (16th), but you look on the other hand and we should have won two races. We had Atlanta pretty well dominated. I think we obviously had the best race car at Atlanta. Even right there at the end we were only running as hard as we needed to run to stay in front of Dale. We had an engine failure, just a $5 part. At Martinsville this past weekend, the only car that was better than the 31 car was the 2 car, Rusty Wallace, and he had trouble. It kinda was going to fall in our laps like it did Mark's (Martin). Mark did a great job and ran a heck of a race. We may have ended up having to race Mark at the end, but I think we had the best race car other than Rusty Wallace's car. We had an alternator problem, and we had to run all day with no brake coolers, no rear end coolers, no air for the driver. Basically, in fixing that, we lost laps. It's just one of them situation. We've run really well a couple of times this year, but we just don't have the finishes to back them up.
"I'm really excited about the race car we have for this weekend. We tested a week or so ago, and the car seemed to have pretty good speed and it drove real good, but you're out there by yourself, and I don't know how it's going to react around 42 other cars. NASCAR has opened the rule back up on the front of the car. We've put every shock we ran for the last four years on the front of that car, and without putting the rear shock package to go with it, it was basically useless. I don't know you're going to see a whole lot of help on the front of the cars, and you've got a smaller restrictor plate, which is basically going to bunch the cars up even more, if that's at all possible. I'm a little bit concerned with how good the race is going to be. I know the races in the past at Talladega have been awesome. I heard Richard say a little while ago the handling is not near as important at Talladega as it is at Daytona. That'll probably make for some exciting racing, but NASCAR will just have to look at it and throw something else at it for Daytona.
"You appreciate the fact they're acknowledging that you're a threat to win a race, and I very much appreciate that and we try to back it up every week. It's a tough deal. I know Harry Gant went through it and then he won four or five in a row. As long as we're running as competitive as we're running, and we're up front and we're in contention to win races, sooner or later I think our day is going to come. We were just a tick from winning two races already this year. If we can get the race car as good as it was at Atlanta or as good as it was at Martinsville a few more times this year, hopefully it will happen. I'm just grateful we're running competitive.
"If you take Earnhardt out of the equation, I would have to say yes, but he's just got a talent in air that seems to be superior over anybody's. I watch him and I try to learn. Every time I watch him, I'm paying attention. I'd say for the rest of us, you're really not much in control of your own destiny. You get shuffled back, and if the right car will go with you, you can go to the front and take that car with you. The problem is with five or six laps to go, everybody is looking for the same thing and nobody wants to work with you. It's really tough. I made a comment at Daytona, which ever line I think I should get in, I'm going to get in the opposite one because it's always been wrong before, and that don't work, either. You've just got to keep hammering. Sooner or later you'll get in the right line like happened for Dale at Daytona a year or so ago.
"I don't want to sound negative at all, but no I don't. I think you're going to have the exact, same program. You're going to have one race car for qualifying. We've probably got 23 or 24 things on our race car that we change from qualifying to race package. None of that has changed. We went through all of the shocks we had on our truck to find speed in this rule of opening up the front shock deal, and we found zero. The shocks that NASCAR had us run at Daytona was as good as anything we could try. Without putting the rear package with it, there's not going to be any speed there for anybody that I can see. I don't really think that's going to change anything.
"I've talked to a couple of those owners, and I'm good friends with a couple of them that's had to make driver changes. In all fairness to the driver, I don't know if I agree with that. I think that maybe take your driver, especially a rookie driver, take 'em to a test and see if you can get clearance from NASCAR or even someone from another series a veteran driver, to go and actually get in that car and drive the car and see how their speed is compared to your rookie driver or your existing driver and see if the feedback is approximately the same. I honestly think from a driver's standpoint, you need to have the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, from the owner's standpoint, this is a performance business. Usually what happens it's the crew chief's fault or the engine's fault and then it's the driver's fault. In some cases they rule those out and go straight to the driver. I think that you should do everything possible... When you choose a driver, you've got to have confidence in them and you have to know it's going to take a little time to get competitive with the teams that have been out there for three or four or five or 10 or 15 years. It's hard to build a program and just start right up and run up front. It's really tough. I think they need to give the drivers the benefit of the doubt and give them every test, every opportunity they can to prove themselves. Then if they don't prove themselves, they don't have any choice but to replace them. It totally depends on the situation. I think if you run two or three races and you're not having any success at all and you have reason to believe it could be behind the steering wheel, then I think you need to put a veteran driver in that car, run 'em back to back with your driver and see how he does in it. If he doesn't do any better than the driver you've got in there, changing the driver is not going fix it. If you say you put Rusty Wallace in the car and he runs half a second faster, chances are you need to change your driver. If he runs the same speed your guy is running, then you need to look in another area.
"Qualifying is important anywhere you go, probably least important at Talladega or Daytona where you qualify. California, I think it's important to qualify well, mostly first round. Top 25 is very important because the next morning's practice, which is Saturday morning as a rule, you go straight to work on your race setup. You're not worried about qualifying any more. You're working on your long runs and your fuel mileage and your race setup. You put a race motor in there and start working on the race instead of qualifying. That's where the value of qualifying good really comes in. You get more track time practicing for the race instead of qualifying.
"We've got a tool in our bag that we're very, very proud of and his name is Mike Hawkins. He's the engine tuner, and he's a carburetor specialist. This guy can get the most horsepower with maximum efficiency that we know of. He does a real good job for us. Fuel mileage is very important, but if you sacrifice too much horsepower for the fuel mileage, it's not going to do you any good because your track position will be so poor that you're not going to gain anything by it. A lot of these things just depend on how it plays out. I know I had the race won at Atlanta one time on fuel mileage. We were about a third place car and we had 'em all covered on fuel mileage. Mark Martin and myself were the only two guys who could go the distance. Ten laps to go, a guy breaks a motor, didn't get any oil on the race track, and NASCAR thought there was oil on the race track, threw the caution flag and cost us the race. When you get an opportunity to win a race on fuel mileage, all the cards have to fall in your hands or else it's still not going to do anything for you.
"I think more so for the crews than the drivers. It's very important if you've been in any accidents, you get a little time to heal up. If you've got some wrecked cars at the race shop, it gives the guys a chance to get back on their feet. If you've had a fairly successful program without tearing up a lot of stuff, your guys get a couple of days off, and that's very deserved and needed. Toward the end of the year, everybody starts getting burned out and when you get burned out, your performance level goes down. I think it's very important that they scatter some weekends off during the race season at some point in time.
"We've missed two prime opportunities to get back into the top 10, which would be Atlanta and Martinsville. Without the problems at Atlanta, that would have moved us into ninth. We would have still moved up very very good with the win at Martinsville last week, but you've got to finish the races and you've got to have all your act together. It just seems like whenever we've got the car going well, something mechanically will happen. Whenever the car is mechanically sound, then we can't get it going good enough. We'll keep on hammering and doing the best job we can, and hopefully we'll exceed the top 10. We've still got a lot of races left. We've still got a lot of time to go. We just don't have much cushion for many more mistakes.
"At this point in time, I still think you need to look at the big picture, but personally, I want to win a race. Points is very, very important, but I guess if I would have won a couple of races that we think we should have won, then I'd say definitely it would be more important to go there (New York at end of season) in fifth. I think I saw Terry Labonte win the championship one time, and I don't know if he won a race or maybe he won one or two races, I thought that was pretty awesome. If you can win the championship without winning a race, that'd be great. To go there to be fifth without a win, I think I'd rather take the win and be 11th.
"I've been burned probably more than anybody. We don't have a lot of to do with the deal making going on. We suggest things behind the wheel. They talk about it. They'll either agree to do it, mostly when you're going to pit, if you're going to pit together. What you don't want to do is get burned on coming in the pits. If you do, you get back out there without any help and you can't run as fast by yourself as you can with three or four other cars. It's pretty important. It seems like all the deal making you can do early in the race seems to be an asset to both parties, or all three or four parties, whoever is involved. When it gets down to the end of the race, all the deal making goes out the window anyway. Everybody is telling lies at that point.
"I don't know that it's overblown, but I do think people put a lot more stock in it and they think they can count on it happening, and it don't. I don't understand why. I've seen guys that could have pushed another car to the front and finished second or third, finished eighth or ninth because they didn't want to help the other guy win the race. Personally, I'd rather push a car, even if it's another manufacturers car, up there to get a good points run and finish second or third than to go 'I'm not going to help that guy because I don't like him or whatever.' You get into a thing where you don't want to help somebody and it ends up costing you. I think the ego stuff needs to go out the window. You need to do whatever you need to do to get the best finish possible. If you can't win, you need to get the best finish possible, and you need to forget about your feeling or ego or whatever happened the rest of the day and take advantage of it.
"I like it all. I run good on the restrictor plate race tracks and the big race tracks. And we run good on the short tracks at times. I love Martinsville. I really do. I love that kind of racing. It's the roots of racing. I think it's where all of us started at one time or another on a short track. I don't want to see NASCAR get away with that. I think Bruton Smith has proven you can take a half-mile race track and put enough people in there to see a heck of a show. I think that's a good concept. We need to keep our short tracks alive if at all possible.
"I guess Atlanta was probably a little more devastating that Martinsville, but at this point in the season, we needed a top five or even a top 10 finish. We had the, in my opinion, the second best car. We had the best car at Martinsville on long, long runs. We had the second best car on middle of the road runs, and I think Rusty had the best car. The frustration is the cards always seem to be falling in the other direction right now. Wherever we lost that horseshoe we had in the truck series in 1995, I'd sure like to cross that road again and find it. It goes like that. I've had bad luck for three or four years and I've had great luck. Sometimes you just fall into things and the cards fall your way. We've just got to keep on working hard until that happens for us."