Texas Motor Speedway Ford Saturday Notes and Quotes



KENNY IRWIN -28- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- HOW ABOUT STARTING TOMORROW ON THE POLE. YOU KEEP GETTING CLOSER AND CLOSER. "Well, I hope so. That's what we're supposed to be doing. Some weeks it doesn't look like that, but we came here and have run pretty good. Now we're on the pole, but we need to have pretty good practices leading up to the race. If we can do that, then, obviously, we'll stand a chance of winning the race on Sunday." YOU SEEM TO RUN WELL AT ATLANTA, TEXAS, AND YOU WON HERE IN A TRUCK. "We're just trying to get more consistent and just getting better at helping get the car set up. It's just such a long learning process that I'm going through and hopefully we're seeing some results from some of the bad runs last year that we're learning from it this year. Hopefully, we'll just keep getting better." HOW BIG WAS THE POLE FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM? "It was big. We got the pole last year in Atlanta and it was the last race of the year, so now this is the sixth race and we already have a pole. We've actually had some good runs, we just haven't had good finishes this year, so it's nice that we've got a pole and can build everybody back up after Daytona. If we can finish here with just a good run, we can get some momentum going again." CAN YOU ASSESS YOUR CHANCES SUNDAY? "I think we have a chance at winning this race. It's an outside chance and everybody knows that until you win a race, but we have a chance at winning this race. It's a better chance than we've had in the previous races leading up to this, but we've gotta do everything right. Just like Gordon does and just like Jarrett and all these guys that win races every week, we've just gotta do the right things leading up to it and not make any mistakes during the race. It just keeps going back to what we've learned and bringing that to Sunday afternoon." I KNOW THIS DOESN'T MAKE UP FOR THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF LAST WEEK, BUT DOES IT TAKE SOME OF THE STING OUT? "It does, especially when we knew the rain was coming (at Darlington) and we knew we were running in the top 10 and were gonna have a top 10 finish, and then the very last lap there's a wreck and we just happen to be part of it. I know that it was hard on me, so the guys that actually have to go back and fix the cars and work in the shop all week, I know it's hard on them, so to come out on the first day of practice and qualify on the pole, I know the guys back at the shop have to feel better about working the long hours. It's nice to be able to come out here and do it for them too." DO YOU THINK YOU'RE ONE OF THE FAVORITES IN THE RACE? "I doubt it. I doubt if we're favorites. Dale's probably favored more than we are right now and that's OK with me. We're just gonna do the best we can on Sunday."

DOUG RICHERT, Crew Chief -28- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- HOW MUCH OF A BOOST DID YOUR TEAM NEED THIS AFTER LAST WEEK AT DARLINGTON? "A boost is really how the whole team's been performing all year, unfortunately we haven't been able to show our really strong runs yet other than Daytona. Keeping the morale up is the most important thing, so I guess when we think morale's down look at the bright side, 'We were running good up until that time.' And we know that, so to us that's a plus. All year long we've just been on the verge. We've been unloading off the truck well and Kenny's been doing well qualifying. Yesterday, man, we didn't ever run that fast, but Kenny went out and cut that perfect lap. That's what it's all about. Our morale is up. We've got a new car and preparation-wise we feel ready." KENNY FEELS THE COMMUNICATION WITH YOU HAS GOTTEN BETTER EACH WEEK. "Well, naturally the more and more that myself and Kenny and the whole team go to each track. Well each track we go to we've already thought of stuff we did at Vegas. We've done stuff that we did at Atlanta that helped. We keep thinking about all these different things and just work on those scenarios. It's a data base and it's a data base of current situations between Kenny and myself and the team, so as we keep learning and do different things and try different things, we'll keep gaining." WILL YOU TALK TO KENNY TONIGHT AND FORM SOME SORT OF GAME PLAN ON HOW TO START TOMORROW? "I feel like we're practicing pretty well, but as far as a game plan goes, 'If you get out and your leading lap and you can lead, fine. If you can't lead, let's run somewhere where we're comfortable until we have a chance to work on it. All year long we've tried to put ourselves in mode that we need to finish. We're points racing. We don't need to take stupid chances, so that's what we're gonna look for."

RICKY CRAVEN -58- Hollywood Video Taurus -- THIS IS YOUR FIRST TIME BACK ON THE TEXAS TRACK SINCE YOUR ACCIDENT TWO YEARS AGO. WHAT'S IT BEEN LIKE? "The difficulty was that I wasn't able to test here and I would have like to because having not run either race here has hurt me from the standpoint of reference and being able to know how to get around this place. Actually, when I was here in '97 I ran two laps, one of them was pretty good and one of them was pretty bad. I'm trying to remember that good one, but I really came here with the attitude that I want to even-up with this place. I'd like to come here and win the pole. That obviously hasn't happened, but...." DID YOU HAVE ANY PSYCHOLOGICAL HURDLES TO GET OVER AT THIS PLACE? "Well, I think that when I got beat up at Talladega there's a presence of, 'Hey, I've never been hurt in a race car,' but there's been a lot of racing since Talladega and I've had a lot of good races since Talladega. So, no, this place would have been a little more comforting had I been able to test, but there just aren't enough tests and with only one race here it's hard to justify using that test. By no means do I have the attitude that I'm just gonna come here and disregard getting beat up here, no more than any other race track I go to. You've gotta respect what you do and you've gotta understand your limits, but for where our program's at, we're kind of on track. Again, I'd like to have qualified in the top 20, top 10, but I would have liked to have done that at Darlington last week, too, and Darlington is probably a whole lot better race track for me than this one."

JEREMY MAYFIELD -12- Mobil 1 Taurus -- "That's what we needed yesterday. We knew we had the car, we just didn't seem like we got a good lap yesterday. We tried some different stuff and it bit us, but we came back today and had a good run. We're excited. We're pumped. We're not gonna let where we start get to us. We're gonna just go to the front. We've got a great car. We practiced our race setup all this morning and ran really good."

DARRELL WALTRIP -66- Big Kmart/Route 66 Taurus -- "I wasn't worried. I knew it'd go about this way. We blew up this morning, it's raining, gotta cut a good lap. Man, I'm telling you what, Thank you Lord. It came from above. I don't know where it came from, it came from above. It's big." HOW ABOUT THE LAP? "I got through one and two good today. I had a good car yesterday and I just went on the wrong tires, I put too many laps on 'em and then I messed up, the track wasn't very good. Today, that's our race engine. We had to put that in this morning because we blew up practicing. I tell you, I couldn't take much more of this. It's hard on any guy, I don't care how old he is." WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO MAKE THIS RACE TODAY? "Well, it's just a lot of pressure. I felt our whole year was riding on this weekend and if we missed this show, we miss out on the points. After last week, we had a real bad race last week. Another bad finish or no run at all here and we'd have been history. This is a breath of fresh air and we needed it badly." WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS WHEN IT WAS RAINING OUT THERE? "I was praying. I went and told Buster (Auton, pace car driver), and they had Dick Trickle in the car. He needs glasses and they've got him riding around the track. It's just a great feeling, but they've got Trickle in there and I'm saying, 'Why do they have Trickle riding around to tell them if the track's wet or not. Get some of them boys.' I told them, 'Get somebody like me that's gotta make this show and I'll let you know if it's wet or not.'" A LOT OF THIS IS BELIEVING IN YOURSELF, ISN'T IT? "Today it was. Today was sucking it up because after yesterday, we practiced good. I ran an .80 in practice and we were 24th or 25th, and then had a bad qualifying run. I didn't know what to expect. I just didn't know what was gonna happen this morning and then that motor had trouble, and I just said, 'Well, it just doesn't seem like it's meant to be,' but right at the last minute red-head (wife Stevie) gave me some encouragement, the guys said, 'We're with you buddy, stand on it,' and here we are."

TRAVIS CARTER, Car Owner -66- Big Kmart/Route 66 Taurus -- WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THIS? "Well, you've got two situations here. You've got one guy who's struggled to qualify all year that qualified and you've got your flagship car that has to use a provisional to get in the race. That's not good. That car has just not run fast this entire week and we don't know why. It seems to roll through the corner pretty fast. I've clocked the turn speeds for both cars for two days and Jimmy's turn speed was as good or better than Darrell's it was just slow." A LOT OF PEOPLE THOUGHT THE 66 CAR DIDN'T HAVE A CHANCE TO QUALIFY THIS WEEK. HOW DO YOU FEEL NOW? "I thought yesterday he'd do it. He did a great job. I tell you, we sat down before yesterday and sort of changed our strategy and our approach to the way we'd been doing things with him. For me, I just sort of layed the law down, that we're gonna take a certain approach to it and that's the way we're gonna work with the car. We did that and we got results and got things going pretty good. These cars need a lot of improvement, I think, to get further up, but I think Darrell Waltrip did something that nobody expected him to do. He proved he can do it and I think that's a big boost for him and this team." WHEN THE MOTOR BLEW THIS MORNING, WHAT WENT THROUGH YOUR MIND? "It wasn't good, but I think that's a mark of these guys. They jumped in and changed that thing, got it back on the race track just so he'd have a feel of the track today and get everything hot with the engine and make sure it was gonna be OK. I think that was really the turning point."


"First of all, the team has done very well, I think, up until this past Sunday and anytime you have a bad Sunday, then you're done. We had a great run at Atlanta. We started last and we finished 20th and we raced hard all day long. We've been up to 23rd in the points. So I think the team has done very well under some very adverse conditions.

"How prepared was I for today? I've been very prepared for it for a long time and, quite frankly, I'm glad it came. It's a test. Everything's a test. As long as I had provisionals to fall back on I don't think I ever stepped up to the plate, I don't think my team ever stepped up to the plate. I don't think we ever realized that we were taking that and abusing it becuase we could. When you got to the track and you weren't that good, you said, 'It doesn't matter. We can get a provisional anyway.' So we'd work on the car and play along and about Sunday we'd be OK or decent.

"I think this weekend proved a lot to me and it proved to my team that we can do this. And we have to do this. I'm glad we don't have the provisional deal. I'm glad it's gone. It sure is a nice luxury to have, but I think it's also like fine wine, maybe you get used to it and you abuse it. Today was big. Today was a big test for me and my team. I felt bad for my team becuase I had a fast car yesterday. I had been in the top 25 or so all day and then when we qualified we were out early and the track wasn't good and we went out on tires that had too many laps on them. So my team was certainly disappointed.

"Anytime you've got a car that you know should be in the top 25 and you're 46th, who do you look to? Do you look to the racing Gods and say, 'What happened to the track?' No. You look to the driver. What happened. And you say, 'I don't know. I just didn't get a good lap.' That's not a real good excuse but that's what happenes. So to come back out this morning...I had engine trouble, we had to change the engine and I got two laps on the track, but we pulled it off. I guess that's the biggest thing.

"You walk through the garage and you see the guys out there and I felt it. I don't think I've felt this good since I won the Daytona 500. It was that kind of feeling, a feeling of relief. The same thing I felt when I won the Daytona 500 -- relief. Finally people will quit asking me, 'When are you going to win the Daytona 500?' Well, I think this weekend is a relief. We can make a race without a provisional and I think that's important.

"People in the garage probably have got more faith in me than I've got in myself right now. I've been dragging around kind of having pity parties and feeling sorry for myself. Last Sunday, I was embarrassed. The car didn't do good. We came in and worked on it and it was OK, but it was too late. So we came in here on kind of a low already. If we had gone home from the race...I think our season hinged on this weekend -- on making this race and having a good weekend. So at least we're halfway there."

TRAVIS HAD SOME TOUGH COMMENTS EARLIER IN THE WEEK ABOUT YOU. WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION? "He had already told me those things. I think that's the difference between he and I. He has a tendency to kind of stay in his own little world, I have a tendency to kind of want to go out and look around. I have a lot of friends in the garage that I have a lot of faith in, a lot of confidence in, that I don't think would give me bad advice. I think that's how you get to where you want to go faster. I have friends in the garage area that I feel like I can go ask them what to do and they would be straight-forward with me because they know I know if they're telling me the truth or not. So, we discussed that. He's the car owner and I'm the driver. He pays me and I'll do whatever he tells me to do." DO YOU FEEL GOING THROUGH THE GARAGE HAD AN AFFECT ON YOUR TEAM? "You never surround yourself with people that are smarter than you are. It's kind of like the small business philosophy. Quite frankly, I can't hire the people that I think are smarter than I am or they'd be working for me, so the only other thing I can do is go talk to them. Some people are intimidated by the fact that somebody is smarter than they are. Quite frankly, I'm not. I love to sit down and have a discussion with somebody that knows more about what I'm talking about than I do. It's very helpful, so it's just a difference in philosophies." BEING THE ELDER STATESMAN, CAN YOU GIVE US AN IDEA OF WHAT DALE EARNHARDT MIGHT BE GOING THROUGH AND THINKING? IS THERE SOME SIMILARITY BETWEEN YOUR SITUATION AND HIS? "By all means. I think the thing that helped Dale for so long was the continuity of that organization and when that continuity started going away, then that performance started going downhill. I think there's another driver that's probably in the same boat I am, he questions himself and his team. I think he's another driver like I am that says, 'I can win every race. I can win every pole, but I've gotta have the car to do it.' Dale Earnhardt can drive a race car, we all know that, but he's a lot like I am. The frustration and second-guessing of yourself and a little doubt goes a long way in an older driver." DID YOU PUSH YOURSELF TODAY IN QUALIFYING? "I scared myself to death, but I needed to. I needed that. It's kind of like jumping off the high dive. I've never done it before, but hope I make it. I did hold my nose."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Darrell Waltrip , Dick Trickle