FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES DIEHARD 500 April 24, 1999 Talladega Superspeedway Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Taurus, qualified third for Sunday's running of the DieHard 500. ...
FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES DIEHARD 500 April 24, 1999 Talladega Superspeedway
Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Taurus, qualified third for Sunday's running of the DieHard 500. He currently leads fellow Ford driver Dale Jarrett by 85 points in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings.
JEFF BURTON -99- Exide Batteries Taurus -- IS THIS A RACE WHERE THE MENTALITY OF THE DRIVER IS JUST TO SURVIVE? "I think in the back of everybody's mind most people are trying to survive, however, if everybody was just trying to survive we wouldn't have the wrecks. We are competitors and when you're sitting in your race car or you're playing basketball or whatever you're doing, you want to be leading or you want to be in the best position you can be in so it's a constant jockeying for position. It's not a necessary jockeying for position, but it is a constant jockeying for position. I approach it in that it doesn't really matter where I'm running as long as I'm in the lead back. Then you will get a caution, you will get something that bunches everybody up. As long as you can stay in the lead pack you're OK."
IS PATIENCE SOMETHING A LOT OF RACE CAR DRIVERS DON'T HAVE? "Yeah, a lot of drivers don't. Then again, at a place like Darlington and Martinsville where you oughta really have more wrecks than we do, I think that most drivers are fairly patient. I just think that we're competitive. We want to be leading or we want to be in the front. I had a reporter ask me at Atlanta or somewhere, 'Are all these wrecks caused because people are trying to go fast?' Well, yeah. That's what we do. We try to go fast and in an effort to go fast and to pick up position we make mistakes."
BECAUSE OF THAT HOW MUCH WAS THE RACE HERE IN 1996 WHEN IT WENT CAUTION-FREE? "I think it was real rare. I don't anticipate (happening again) anytime in the near future, not with the current situation with the restrictor plates. I was in that race and I witnessed it and I didn't believe it, but it happened and it can happen. We can do it."
DO CAUTIONS CAUSE CAUTIONS? "I think cautions cause cautions more at other places than they do here because, really here, you're gonna have a big pack running together anyway. So, I think the thing that does help here is green flag pit stops because then you always get separated. But then if it runs long enough, by golly, you've got another big pack."
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 10 Tide Taurus, will be starting in the top 10 for the third time this season when he takes the green flag for tomorrow's DieHard 500 in seventh position. However, Rudd's best finish of 1999 was a 19th-place effort at Texas last month.
RICKY RUDD -10- Tide Taurus -- IS THIS RACE NERVE-WRACKING FOR YOU? "It can be. Probably the best way to describe it would be like being in New York City traffic or being on interstate traffic when it's five lanes wide, bumper-to-bumper, and you're running 60 or 70 miles an hour when all of a sudden they're jamming on the brakes and they're stopping. You just really have to be alert and that's probably the best way to describe it. You have to have 100 percent focus on watching a lot of things around you that maybe you don't concentrate on that much. Is it nerve-wracking? To me it's mentally nerve-wracking, I think it is for anybody that's in that situation, but that's Talladega and that's Daytona. When you come in here you respect it, make the best of it and get used to it."
DO YOU FEEL YOUR LUCK IS DUE TO CHANGE? "I don't blame our season on bad luck, it's more a lack of being prepared. We've had a couple situations where the caution came out at the wrong time and really hurt us. We've had a couple races where bad luck bit us, a couple races that we had a chance to really do well and bad luck bit us there, but I can't use that excuse at all the races."
YOU'VE BEEN CAUGHT UP IN SOME RESTRICTOR-PLATE ACCIDENTS OVER THE LAST YEAR. CAN THAT LUCK CHANGE? "There doesn't seem a particularly right place to be. Being towards the front would be nice if you could just go out front and had a car that was strong enough to lead every lap. Then you don't have to worry about the wreck side of it because it's gonna be behind you. In this deal here you go into it and you know there's gonna be a big one. One year we ran it with no caution which was kind of a freak deal, but you pretty much know when you come in here that there's gonna be a big one and you hope to miss it. If you miss it, then you're gonna go on. That's what I call the luck factor because everyone's sitting there pretty much knowing it's gonna happen. That's one reason why, I think, you end up getting people maybe a little overly-aggressive. They want to be closer to the front of the pack because they know that wreck is gonna happen. Unlike other races where you want to be up front because that's where you need to be, in this race it's a big race to be up front so you can miss the wreck. You end up having to be pretty aggressive so you have track position and won't be in that situation."
WHAT'S THE MOST FRUSTRATING PART TO THIS RACE? "Maybe you've come from 20th all the way to fifth or sixth. You can see the lead is right there and you say to yourself, 'I've been trying the outside line for awhile, let me try the inside line.' You go down there, you start to get a run, and you almost get to the lead. You can smell it and all of a sudden whoever was helping you maybe decided to get off your back bumper and jump in that outside line all of a sudden. Then you watch and there's no hole in traffic to get back in, so you could go all the way technically from second or third to 25th or 30th. It took you 60 laps or so to work yourself to that position and then you go back there and you know it's gonna take you at least another 60 to get back up there. You can make 10 right moves and one wrong move and all of a sudden that one wrong move cancel out all of those good little moves you've been making."
Chad Little, driver of the No. 97 John Deere Taurus, is 11th in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings going into Sunday's DieHard 500. Last year he competed in this event driving a Thunderbird, but yesterday he drove his Taurus to a ninth-place qualifying position.
CHAD LITTLE -97- John Deere Taurus -- CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PROGRESS YOUR TEAM HAS MADE WITH ITS RESTRICTOR PLATE PROGRAM? "The engines are always evolving and the Roush Performance Group in both Mooresville (NC) and in Michigan have done a great job on the restrictor plate engine. I think the wind tunnel time that we've used for restrictor plates has been very helpful. The engineering department has been extremely helpful as well and I think everyone has made a conscious effort to improve that part of the program. That's why you see the gains. For our team, we have the ability to look at and copy the other guys who were already running Tauruses. That's what helped us bridge that gap."
DO YOU THINK MOST DRIVERS ARE A LITTLE MORE NERVOUS FOR THIS RACE? "Probably because you know there's a very good chance there's gonna be a big wreck. Usually, there's a chance that there's gonna be a wreck at every race we go to, and there probably will be one or two. Normally, there are only one or two cars involved in it. Here, there's a good chance there will be one with 10 or 12 cars in it and I think that's what makes people nervous."