FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES PRIMESTAR 500 March 28, 1999 Texas Motor Speedway KEVIN LEPAGE -16- PRIMESTAR Taurus -- HOW DID THE ACCIDENT HAPPEN? "I'm not exactly sure. I'm not sure if there was...
FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES PRIMESTAR 500 March 28, 1999 Texas Motor Speedway
KEVIN LEPAGE -16- PRIMESTAR Taurus -- HOW DID THE ACCIDENT HAPPEN? "I'm not exactly sure. I'm not sure if there was stuff on the race track there or what. It looked pretty good, but Mike (Skinner) had just crashed there, and I got on the outside of Robert Pressley. The next thing you know the PRIMESTAR Taurus is turned around. I hate it for the guys. We started way out in the back, worked our way back up. Then I got caught for speeding down pit road, went to the back and worked our way back up again. I thought we had a top five race car, but the day ended too early. We'll just have to get 'em at Bristol."
RANDY LAJOIE -14- Federated Auto Parts Taurus -- "All of a sudden it just laid down. I said, 'This is not good,' so I put it in neutral, hit the clutch and shut it off. By that time there was oil everywhere. It's too bad. This is a new race team. Ernie Irvan and Mark Simo own it and they asked me to help them out. Boris Said is gonna drive it. We came out here and tested and it's a tribute to these guys. We tested really hard and they've got a really good test program and it paid off in qualifying. We qualified 14th and were running in the top 20. We were legitimately gonna have a pretty decent day. This is the first car they built and, even though the aero package was a little off, they're gonna get better." HOW IS THE TRACK? "The track's in good shape. The outside groove was starting to come in, it was widening out, so that track's in pretty good shape. They did a fine job with it. We're still going way too fast for an outside groove right now." HOW ABOUT TURN TWO? "As long as you don't hit anything you're all set. Turn two is fine. Coming off of turn two the banking drops off quicker than you would like, so if you're on the outside you've really gotta watch it. If your car's not right, it used to be a Darlington stripe, now I guess you'd have to call it a Texas stripe."
MARK MARTIN -6- Valvoline Taurus -- ANY IDEA WHAT HAPPENED? "Yeah, the right-front tire went down." ANY IDEA ABOUT WHAT COULD BE WRONG WITH THE TIRES? "Nothing really, just one of those ol' race tracks that's mean on tires. I've been involved with Goodyear on developing a tire, testing the original tire for the original track. This place is just a tough nut." DID YOU FEEL THE TIRE STARTING TO GO? "Yeah, I felt it but I didn't have time to slow down enough. Thank goodness it didn't go full speed into the corner, I was already backing off coming into the corner. It didn't quite feel right and then it just went straight ahead." FROM AN EQUIPMENT STANDPOINT THINGS HAVE BEEN PRETTY GOOD SO FAR THIS YEAR, HASN'T IT? "Yeah, it has. It's been good. We missed some spots at Vegas. We went down on seven cylinders mysteriously for about 20 laps at Vegas, then it came back. We never found anything wrong, but we still finished 10th, so we were pretty happy with that. You're gonna have days like this, but you wish you didn't."
RUSTY WALLACE -2- Miller Lite Taurus -- "That's a pretty good run. We qualified 11th and finished fourth, and, I tell you what, we really worked on the chassis there at the end and got the thing flying. I found the groove down there in turn one and two and started working it high and it surely started running good. All I needed was track position. They were reading off the lap times and the lap times were plenty fast to win the race, I just needed track position." THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS HAVE BEEN TOUGH. "Those two races really killed us. I tell you what hurt us was this air dam and this rear spoiler. The low air dam and rear spoiler just threw our chassis setups way off and we had to change a lot of things and get back to some old time stuff we used to do." SOME HAVE TRIED TO WRITE YOU OFF THIS EARLY IN THE SEASON. "Hey man, whenever you're over 40 they're trying to write you off. I'm glad Terry Labonte won today."
JEREMY MAYFIELD -12- Mobil 1 Taurus -- "We never give up. Our setup at the start of the race was off a little bit and just kept working on it and working on it. We couldn't find what we needed and then a little after halfway we started figuring out what we wanted and at the end, man, it was perfect. I wish I could have started that way." THIS IS THE SECOND STRAIGHT SOLID RUN. ARE THINGS COMING TOGETHER? "Oh yeah, they've been together. We just need to have a little luck like we had today, keep working hard and this team is gonna be up front week-in and week-out." WAS THERE A CERTAIN POINT IN THE RACE WHERE YOU MADE A CRUCIAL PIT DECISION TO GAIN TRACK POSITION? "Yeah, we put two (tires) on one time to get up there and that kind of got us going, but the car just wasn't fast enough at the beginning to stay up there. We just kept working on it and the better the car got the more track position we gained."
FRANK STODDARD, Crew Chief -99- Exide Batteries Taurus -- "It was a long day, but we came out with a good finish. We're happy with seventh and just based on what happened with tires and everything we weren't gonna run hard enough to get into the concrete. It's a long season and they pay just as many points at Bristol as they do here. We're happy to come with a seventh. I wish it was a better run, but based on what was happening today, we're probably 125 points better than some guys are."
ELLIOTT SADLER -21- Citgo Taurus -- "Man, it feels great. I really can't put into words how I feel right now. I knew we had the team to do it. We've been qualifying great all year, kind of showing our speed there, but we've just been having terrible luck in the races. This is the first race nothing has happened. Nothing broke or I decided not to hit anything, so to come away with a 10th place finish, I think, shows the true potential of this race team. It sure does get confidence back in me, myself. I've had confidence in the team the whole time, just lacking in myself a little bit, been down and out, but it's good to have a top 10 car. The car was faster than that. I messed up a little bit coming on pit road, left a little bit out there, and probably could have gotten eighth or ninth, but we're gonna take 10th right now and move on to my favorite race track in Bristol and Martinsville after that, so I'm looking forward to it."
EDDIE WOOD, Co-Owner -21- Citgo Taurus -- "We've just been telling Elliott that everything's gonna be alright because we've got speed in the car now. We didn't have that last year. We've got speed in the car now and I credit all that to Mike Beam. Elliott has been doing a great job keeping his composure and we just kept telling him not to worry about it and that if you stand in the corner long enough it'll be your turn. Today is evidence of that. Everything went good for us and now I feel we can start. We're just a little late starting. Now we can go."
KENNY IRWIN -28- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- "On the setup we had on the car, it was good for a green race track. As we kept running, more rubber got down on the race track and it just got too tight. We had too tight of a setup and even the adjustments we did to the car didn't help it enough." SOMETHING LIKE THIS CONTINUES THE LEARNING PROCESS DOESN'T IT? "Yeah, and that's what it is. We took an in-house car, which is the first time one of our in-house cars has ever run on a high-bank race track, so we actually feel pretty good about it. We know some more stuff that it needs and I think it's gonna be a car that we're gonna end up running most of the year."
CHAD LITTLE -97- John Deere Taurus --"We had a very tight race car all day long and I think to come home where we did, we got up and ran in the top 10 for awhile, we adjusted on the car and got it better, we were just too tight. I think everybody should be pleased with the outcome considering how we struggled with the car today. Generally, when you miss it like that you don't get a 13th-place finish, so we're all happy. We're not satisfied, but we're happy."
DARRELL WALTRIP -66- Big Kmart/Route 66 Taurus -- "We had a good car today, but the driver bounced it off the wall not once, but twice and that killed us. After I got into the wall the second time it pushed like crazy. We pitted to pull the fender out and, wouldn't you know it, right after we pitted the yellow came out. But, overall, it was a good weekend. We had a good car, the cards just didn't fall our way."
DALE JARRETT -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- "We would like to be in victory lane and we'll get there soon. Big thing is we had a good run and we gained a lot of points on some guys in front of us that had some trouble. The car kept pushing more and more as we got laps on the tires and I still thought if I could use up some of the race track I could keep Terry behind me. The lapped cars were wanting to stay on the lead lap, I guess because I caught onke in three and four. My car pushed up as I tried to get back in the throttle. Terry got a run up high up to the outside and there was really nothing I could do."
PRESS CONFERENCE DESCRIBE TERRY'S PASS. "We kept pushing more and more as we would get some laps on the tires, but I still thought that maybe if I could use up enough race track I could keep Terry behind me, but the lapped cars were wanting to stay on the lead lap, I guess. As I caught one of them in three and four, my car pushed up as I tried to get back in the throttle and that hurt me then. Terry just got up high and got a run to the outside and there was nothing I could do after that. I think if we could have just raced around, it could have been interesting and maybe got exciting before the end, but he probably had the better car today. We had a great pit stop that got us out in front of him and, there again, when I could go on my fresh tires I had some lapped cars that wanted to go too and I just couldn't get by, so I couldn't stretch out my lead like I wanted to there. But, it was a good day for us. We weren't the best car. We kept working on it. We made some type of adjustment every single pit stop and we just never got the push out of it. The problem is not something that we can adjust in the pits, and I'm not sure how much of it we can get out. It's an aerodynamic problem that we have that the nose of these cars isn't making enough downforce for us and that's creating an aero push. But it was a good day. Some of the guys in front of us had trouble in points and we made some gains there."
YOU, ALONG WITH BOTH LABONTES HAVE COMPLETED EVERY LAP IN THREE YEARS HERE AT TEXAS. IS THERE A REASON? "I'm sure the three of us would like to say it's because we're good, but I don't know that that's really the answer. I think we have good race cars and this is the type of race track that suits our driving style a little bit. We've been fortunate enough to miss the wrecks and make good calls in the pits, and I think that's what's enabled us. Again, I think it suits our style a little bit. Some of these guys that were blowing tires and things, I don't know if it they were getting low air pressure or driving the car into the corner and heating up the right-front tire so much, but that's not as much Terry's, Bobby's and mine's style and it's worked for us for three years now." "We had the opportunity there at the end to win. When you're leading the race with less than 15 to go, you think you've got a chance to win, but, there again, we weren't the best car today. We made some good adjustments and we made a great pit stop and I was fortunate to get in and out of the pits really good. When I came back out of the pits I had a really clear race track for a little bit until the 77 car came out in front of me and then that created a little bit of a problem for me, but we had a good day." WHAT ABOUT THE TIRES TODAY. "They were telling me they were OK. They know not to tell me that unless it's the truth, but they said we were always OK. We weren't as low on air-pressure as some of those guys were. We know that created a problem for a few people anyway, so we were giving up a little bit on the longer runs by not starting out with the air pressure as low in the right-front tire. That's gonna create a problem sooner or later if you continue to do that." "Instead of dropping that and realizing we could create a problem, we kept putting air in the right-rear tire and taking air out of the left-rear, which is not as big a problem as taking it out of the right-front, so we were trying to make our car work a little better in other directions besides that right-front." LAST YEAR AT RICHMOND YOU AND TERRY BUMPED. DID THAT CROSS YOUR MIND TODAY? "No, Richmond is gone and over. If I could have gotten to him it wouldn't have been because of Richmond, it would have been because I wanted to win Texas. Terry had a good car. He made a smart, clean pass. I knew I had my hands full with him behind me. I thought a couple of times I might get away a little bit, but I think he was just kind of getting back. I think his car pushed when he was behind me really close, so he could get back and get a run. That's exactly what happened. I got away a little bit when I got besides the 97 and that broke my momentum and Terry had a lot of momentum going, but that (Richmond) wouldn't have had any bearing on it." "I wasn't gonna catch him if the caution wouldn't have come out. I wasn't gonna get him. I needed him to have a similar type problem with a lapped car to get a run. Then it was gonna be awful tough with my car pushing off the corner. I only had one place that I could really go. I had to be really careful getting off the corners and I was doing everything I could not to go as fast as I could and not hit the wall coming off both two and four, so he would have had to encounter some lapped traffic that would have really held him up." DID THE SIX-LAP DIFFERENCE IN PIT STOPS BETWEEN YOU AND TERRY HAVE AN EFFECT? "I'm not sure that it made any because that's probably what enabled me to get out front and lead for awhile there because I had the fresher tires at the beginning while he was still out there on the older tires, so I was making quite a bit of time then. I don't know that the six laps really mattered at the end. Terry had a good car all day. His car was good on long runs and I knew that was gonna be the case again." "The windtunnel showed that the Taurus has more drag than either the Pontiac or the Monte Carlo and that they make more front downforce than what we do, which is natural. If we could make some changes, which are the changes that Robert Yates Racing suggested before we ran the Taurus for the very first time in 1997 that all the other Ford teams said they didn't want to do then, and then NASCAR said we weren't gonna change it, if we could make those changes that's exactly what the Taurus needs to be in the same league aero-wise with the other two makes." "They certainly made the track a lot better. I mean, much more raceable, and the other thing was is as the day went on we pretty much worked a second groove in. You didn't want to go in there wide-open or anything on that second groove, but you could use it a lot and you weren't scared to death of getting up there and losing it. So we got some rubber down and this race track is just gonna continue to get better each year that we race on it. Just like we saw today, I think this was probably the best race that we've had down here and you're gonna see next year's race be a little bit better yet." "It's a tough race track physically. You're going so fast and you work really hard in the corners and, because you're not out of the gas very long, it puts quite a strain on you physically. I know Bobby (Labonte) said his neck was sore and hurting, mostly because of his injury, but I could feel the strain on my neck toward the end of the race too, just because of the g's that you get in the corner. You're back in the gas way before you get to the center of the corner, so you're getting a lot of g's there and a lot of force. Mentally, you've gotta be on top of it all the time. There's not much time to rest and not think because you'll get yourself in trouble because you're traveling such a high rate of speed and usually you're in traffic and around cars which creates a strain mentally." "I think you're disappointed that you don't win, but then again, I'm not sure we didn't have the best car. We were gonna be a little bit lucky at the end if we would have been able to pull that off. We would take them any way we can get it, but we're happy with second. We led some laps, we haven't been doing that so we're getting much more competitive. The pit stops are good. Some guys in front of us had trouble. If you look at the big picture, this second place was good for us." ABOUT BOBBY LABONTE "I know his injury and this isn't to downplay that at all, but I'm not surprised because I know how tough Bobby Labonte is and what a strong will he has to stay in the car and get the job done. That's one of the reasons that Joe Gibbs wanted him and that's why they're gonna keep him for along time. He's got that determination and that desire. It just shows how strong of a mind some of these athletes have to be able to go through and handle situations like that. That's a real testimony to his fitness and his mental strength that he has." "It's nice to have a week off. I'm going on a little vacation with Kelley and the kids and I'm looking forward to that. We need a week off before Bristol. You always do that." "That's also $7,500 for the Komen Foundation with the program that we announced yesterday. I was hoping we might have $10,000 coming to them, but that's $7,500 and, hopefully, we'll keep adding to that throughout the year."