The weather forecast is calling for rain throughout Saturday and could possibly hamper efforts to get the final one hour happy hour practice session in before tomorrow's race. Ford drivers spoke about the feeling of trying to get prepared with ...
The weather forecast is calling for rain throughout Saturday and could possibly hamper efforts to get the final one hour happy hour practice session in before tomorrow's race. Ford drivers spoke about the feeling of trying to get prepared with potentially only one hour of practice.
JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus -- THERE SEEMS TO BE A GREAT DEAL OF URGENCY TODAY. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU AND OTHER TEAMS ARE THINKING WITH THE WEATHER FORECAST CALLING FOR RAIN? "We have to look at this practice as if it's the only practice we're gonna get. To get prepared for a race in an hour of practice is pretty tough. That's why qualifying is so messed up. It's so important to qualify that you have to work on qualifying setup and it has nothing to do with the race whatsoever. Everything you learned from yesterday means nothing for today. We spent all day yesterday where you get the majority of your practice working on running one lap just to start the race. Then today, with a deal like this, you've got an hour and then this afternoon if it doesn't rain you still only have another hour. You just don't have any time to get ready, so when there is only an hour there's a tremendous amount of urgency."
IS IT A CASE WHERE YOU TRY TO SQUEEZE A TWO-HOUR PRACTICE INTO ONLY ONE? "Really we always try to be as efficient as possible. We try to get as much done as quick as we can. The more you get done sooner, the more options you have later, so for our team it's not a whole lot different. There is more urgency because this is the only one you're gonna get and the urgency is, 'God, if we don't hit it now, we're gonna be guessing after it.' You always like to go into a race feeling like you know what you're doing and where you're heading, but if you had a bad morning of practice and it rains, then it causes a long night."
AS FAR AS TOMORROW'S RACE WILL YOU MAKE EDUCATED GUESSES AND JUST GO OVER PAST NOTES? "You've gotta go back and look over your notes from last year and look at all your stuff from this morning to see what you did there. From there you just form a hypothesis and go with it. That's all you can do."
SCOTT PRUETT --32-- Tide Taurus -- THE GOOD NEWS IS YOU GOT AN HOUR OF PRACTICE THIS MORNING, BUT THE BAD NEWS IS YOU MAY NOT GET ANOTHER ONE, RIGHT? "Yeah. Last night we changed and put in our race engine so we could get that all out of the way. We focused on the fact that there was a good likelihood of rain, a good potential for rain and it probably was gonna rain, so we just focused on working with the car with the oldest set of tires that we had. We didn't worry about putting on new tires, we just wanted to focus on the race. Our strong point has not been going racing because we have all of our focus on qualifying."
WHAT WILL YOU DO FROM HERE UNTIL RACE TIME? "We'll make educated guess, look at the weather and wait to see what it's gonna do -- ambient temperature, overcast conditions -- take all those things into account. We did some of that on our testing here. We tested one day when it was sunny and one day when it was overcast, so we'll just draw back from our notes a little bit, see how everything ties together and make the best guess to go racing."
AND TOMORROW YOU GO RACE, RIGHT? YOU'RE JUST NOT OUT THERE TO LEARN ONLY AND TURN LAPS. "You've got to. You've got to go racing and that's where we're focussed on -- how can we make the car good from the first lap to the last lap."
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- WHAT ABOUT THE WEATHER? "It was good that we got the morning practice in for everybody. It doesn't look good for this afternoon, but that's one thing we can't do anything about is the weather so we'll just play it by ear. We'll kind of judge tomorrow, especially if we don't get a final practice, and see what's gonna happen there and what changes we need to make. The track was fast this morning, but, obviously, rather cool and that makes for good conditions. It seems like we're gonna be able to race good and I think it was really good that we were able to get this practice in because staring a 500-mile race here in the face with no practice at all under race-type conditions wasn't something any of us were looking forward to, but I think everybody will feel good if we don't get this afternoon's practice in about starting the race tomorrow."
WILL THE RUBBER BEING WASHED OFF THE TRACK BY THE RAIN AFFECT THE RACE AT ALL? "It won't affect the racing, not for long anyway. If it cleans the track off, the first 30 laps or so may be a little bit different than what we've seen, but after that it'll be back to normal and kind of like what we saw here this morning. It won't present huge problems for us."
WHAT ABOUT THE GROOVE ON THE RACE TRACK? IS IT BETTER THAN IT HAS BEEN? "I've ventured up there a little bit, but it was mostly passing cars that had just come out of the pits, it wasn't really racing anybody to make a pass to the outside, but it seems like the groove is there. I remember here last year that the (outside) groove came in to where you could get up on the outside and go pretty good. As a matter of fact, I believe Rusty was one late in the race that got on the high side and really started making some pretty good time, so we do have at least two grooves here now and that does make for better racing. It's not necessarily the fastest way around, but as your tires wear and get hot and you get towards the latter stages of a run, trying to keep the car on the bottom with those hot tires, you sometimes have to either slow down a little bit more or it binds the car up. That upper groove is something that's important and you can run there now. That's totally different from the first two years when we were here, but it changed some last year and I think it'll be good this year."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE OVERALL TRANSFORMATION OF THIS RACE TRACK FROM YEAR ONE TO WHERE IT IS NOW? "The changes that were made were better for the drivers as much as for the feel of the race car, of getting that feel of what we needed, and having the opportunity to have more than groove to race in. You didn't have to hit that exact line or you were gonna be in trouble and that's the biggest difference. Entering turn one coming off of turn four, we have much more race track that we can use and I think that's been the biggest difference. We've just gotten to the point now, even with the increased speeds, we've gotten to the point that we can race here and that's a much better feeling from a driver's perspective. I still say that here, as we are a number of places, that if we could somehow or when we do figure out the exact way to slow the cars down that we'll see even better racing yet. But we have a good race track here now, one that we can race on and one that I think will produce a good race tomorrow."
IS IT PRETTY HAIRY TO TAKE A LAP AROUND THIS TRACK? "It's an exciting lap going around. You drive it very similar to Atlanta as far as the way that you approach it. The qualifying lap takes your breath, just like Atlanta, if you're gonna make a really really fast lap. Race conditions -- a lot like Atlanta in the way that you drive -- but that's not saying that it's different than a lot of the places that we go, especially the mile-and-a-half tracks that we're at. I think, again, with the speeds it makes it a little more difficult to race side-by-side, but it's not that you can't pass because you can do that with a little bit better handling car. If you're able to keep your car down or something on fresh tires enables you to make passes."
DALE EARNHARDT DOESN'T LIKE THE DOGLEG. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? "I hadn't really thought about it. I mean, they seem to work. I guess the problem that it can present is someone either not seeing or crowding you down off the race track a little bit there and that can pose a problem. But if guys use their head, then everything should be OK. There again, who is to say that we're gonna use our head. We had a wreck on the first lap last week, so what sense does that make. We just have to be smart with it."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE RACE LAST WEEK AND THE FRUSTRATION YOU HAD? "It's part of it and you understand that's short track racing. It is frustrating. I mean, we raced all day, worked on the car, the pit crew did a great job...got myself in a position to either challenge Rusty -- I don't know that I could beat Rusty -- but I at least definitely had a top-five car and felt I was in pretty good shape. I was trying to get around a lapped car and pushed the fender in on the tire, but the problem was the tire never went all the way flat. It was just a slow leak and I said, 'Well, I want to come in but I don't want to lose all the track position,' because I wasn't sure exactly what it was and whether we could fix it or not. It was frustrating and those are the kind of things that really didn't happen last year, so we're getting it back to us a little bit now. I felt like we had worked hard all day and got in a position to at least challenge to win at Bristol and then to have that happen right at the end was pretty frustrating."
WHAT ABOUT THE TIRES HERE? "I believe the lefts are the same and the rights are just a little bit of difference. In talking to the Goodyear engineers there's not a lot of difference in what we have, but it seems to be something that's improved. I think everybody is a little more comfortable, but that comes with having a little more time and experience with the tire and knowing what to expect with this type of tire. Even with the speeds, I think everybody is a little more comfortable with this. They have made improvements and that's what they continue to try to do is make it to where it's not only a good feel for us, but as we get into longer runs that the tire is there for us also."
HOW IS THE TRACK ON TIRES? "It's still got quite a bit of grip. We're not seeing excessive tire wear by any means, but it's lost a little bit of grip. It's obvious that it hasn't lost a lot. Goodyear has brought a really good tire so that helped with the increased speeds, but if we would have lost much grip we wouldn't have been able to run the kind of speeds we did yesterday."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO SPEND TIME WITH THE FANS WITH ALL THE NEW PLACES YOU GUYS RACE THESE DAYS? "That's what we have to do, that's what it's about is making sure that we all do our part with the fans. We all try to do as much as we can away from the race track. It's tough here in the garage area and at the race track to do a whole lot because we're here to do a job, but you still have to find that time to do what you can and help them enjoy being here and thanking them for supporting the sport. We're gaining new fans as we go to these new places and it's maybe giving them their first opportunity to see these races live. We have to make sure, and I think most of the guys that have been around a while understand the need to be fan friendly and the young guys coming along, I think that they have to understand that it's part of the responsibility of being a Winston Cup race driver is continuing that and making sure these fans enjoy the races when they're here and they get what they pay for."
WHAT DOES THE WEATHER DO FOR YOUR PREPARATION FOR THE RACE? "Tomorrow on race day you kind of gear yourself towards that starting time and if that's interrupted, yeah, it makes it a little more difficult. You're there ready to go at any time, but you kind of gear yourself. I plan my hospitalities at a certain time to make sure that it falls and then I'm pretty much ready go to the driver's meeting then, then to our chapel service, something to eat, and then I'm ready to go to driver introduction. If all that gets interrupted there's nothing I can do about it, so you just kind of stay ready but you'd rather things go off on time."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS SPORT THAT ATTRACTS FAMILIES? "I think most of the ones that you see, the families involved, the sport has been very good to our families. I think it's that competition. That's what we're based on and built on. It's good people. You always want your children to be able to go into something that they not only enjoy doing but something that includes a good group of people, that they're gonna be associated with good people. I think all of us realize that you'd have a hard time finding a better group of people to be involved with from the people at NASCAR to the sponsors to the media, this is a good group of people and a good organization to be involved in. I think certainly it helps whenever you have a father that's been involved in the sport, it opens some doors for you and gives you that opportunity to get involved. This sport of getting involved is totally different than others. You don't start this in high school as far as it being part of your school and go on to college and graduate to this. You have to go about this a little bit differently, but I think the attraction is it's a good solid sport and a good way to not only make a living but to fuel that competitive spirit inside of us."
ARE YOU GLAD ALL THE TALK ABOUT BORING RACING IS BEHIND YOU? "Yeah, I'm glad I'm not talking about it anymore. It's just a matter that from where the drivers are sitting we view the racing a little bit differently. It's nice that we've had some good races. I think that it's helped that we've had different winners. I think that's kind of put an end to some of the talk and, hopefully, the racing...I mean, we'd like nothing better than every week for you all to write about a photo finish, but, again, it goes back to those speeds and it makes it difficult to do that. I think the biggest thing is you all have to understand is that myself and a number of others, obviously, have a real passion for what we do here. Whenever you start saying things that we feel aren't so good about the sport, we realize how hard we're all trying and it seems like maybe that's not appreciated. It's just that a few of us, including myself, felt like we needed to say something, but, hopefully, the racing will take care of itself and everybody will be satisfied with what they're getting. I think the biggest thing we have to make sure of is that the fans are satisfied because they spend a lot of money going to these races. Not only are the tickets expensive if you take your family to this, I know if I take my family somewhere on a vacation or something and spend a lot of money, then you expect something good to be happening. On the other side, the motels jack the prices up on them just like they do the race teams, so it's an expensive weekend. If they come and the racing is not good, they're likely not to come back so we have to ensure that we keep those fans happy and make sure that we're doing the things we need to do to make sure that NASCAR Winston Cup racing is what the fans and the media want to see -- and that's good solid racing. But to make all of that happen, again, we're gonna need to do something to slow these race cars down -- to make it to where we can be racing harder with each other on a more consistent basis."