FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES The Winston Advance May 21, 1999 Lowe's Motor Speedway, Charlotte, N.C. Darrell Waltrip has an old/new crew chief, so to speak, as he prepares for this weekend's running of The Winston.
FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES The Winston Advance May 21, 1999 Lowe's Motor Speedway, Charlotte, N.C.
Darrell Waltrip has an old/new crew chief, so to speak, as he prepares for this weekend's running of The Winston. Waltrip will once again be paired with Philippe Lopez, who was named crew chief of the No. 66 Big Kmart/Route 66 Taurus on Thursday. The two had a great deal of success last year when Waltrip replaced an injured Steve Park for 13 races in the No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet, posting a pair of top-10 finishes.
DARRELL WALTRIP -66- Big Kmart/Route 66 Taurus -- "Philippe and I worked so well together last year on the 1 car. The communication was great, the energy and excitement was there. Those are the kind of things you need, and this is a new team just like we were in last year. I talked to Philippe earlier this year and I said "Now look, I'm not trying to lure you away by any means because we've got a lot of work to do here and I don't even know if you'd want to come to work for us right now.' But then things didn't work out well for him at the 1 this year and he quit. When he did that, I said, "I know who I'm gonna get to be my crew chief,' and he jumped right on it. We're so thrilled to have him. Mark Tutor has done a great job in the interim and we've had some other people that have worked real hard for us, but you can't beat experience and Philippe brings a lot of knowledge and experience. He helped Dale (Earnhardt) start his new team and that's right where we are now, so I believe it will really be a win, win for us. I think we're gonna see great things in the future." WHY DO YOU THINK THE CHEMISTRY BETWEEN YOU AND PHILIPPE WAS SO GOOD LAST YEAR? "I kind of shoot from the hip. I'm like, 'Let's do this and do that. I'll come in and change all four springs, all four shocks, put in another give and give me another paint job.' I'm from the old school. I reverse engineer, that's what they tell me. I just want to hurry up and get it to go fast and then you can tell me why it goes fast. I don't want to be able to tell why and then do it. Philippe is just the opposite. He'll always say, 'Slow down, let's do one thing at a time and let's get it right.' He's a lot more laid back than I am and we've really worked well together because of that. We're opposites. I'm going wide-open and he's kind of walking along thinking it over, so it works really well for us. We've got Derek (Finley) as well. He's the engineer that was on the 1 car last year. He's up in the truck now working on stuff for us. He's a smart guy and he'll help us a lot too." DO YOU FEEL YOU'VE GOT ENOUGH EXPERIENCE WITH THE TAURUS NOW TO BE ABLE AND HELP SHORTEN PHILIPPE'S LEARNING CURVE? "Fortunately, we were in the wind tunnel on Monday, so we have a few numbers on a car we think is decent. He has those numbers and can compare it to the Monte Carlo and see where there are pluses and minuses. That's gonna help him a lot from the balance standpoint, but it is a different animal. It's not a Monte Carlo, it's not a Pontiac, it's a Ford Taurus and you have to treat it that way. It has characteristics that we like, it does things we don't like, but that's typical race cars. When you line them all up on Sunday they all do something you don't like and you just have to figure out how to overcome that. With Philippe and Derek, I think we can really nail this thing down. We've been decent almost every week. We're usually pretty good. The only problem we've had is when we're not pretty good we're terrible. Hopefully, we can get some consistency here and start getting some of those top 10 finishes. We have the potential to be in the top 10 in points and I know we have the ability to win a race, if we can ever just get our whole act together. I'm sure there are others in the garage that fight the same thing every week, but if we could ever get everything together -- car, crew and the whole program -- we're a team with a lot of potential. If I had to rate us like they do in the music business, we're about number 10 with a bullet right now."
PHILIPPE LOPEZ, Crew Chief -66- Big Kmart/Route 66 Taurus -- "I hope we can start where we left off last year. For me, the only thing I had to get used to last year was Darrell. I already had the cars, I had the team, now I'm coming into a whole new situation with a different kind of car, but I know Darrell. So, I'm ahead in that respect, so we'll just have to go from there." DO YOU THINK YOUR CHEMISTRY FROM LAST YEAR CAN TRANSFER OVER HERE? "I think the biggest thing, and you here it a lot, is chemistry. Darrell and myself, we just got along real good. Beside being friends, we seem to be able to talk about the same things on the race car. When he says something, even though it's in Darrell Waltrip vocabulary, we've been able to pick up on it. Between myself and my engineer, we understood what he was talking about. It took a couple of weeks to figure out exactly what he was looking for and then after that the success came." WAS IT A NATURAL MOVE AFTER YOU LEFT DEI TO MOVE OVER TO THIS TEAM? "It's funny because the day I left DEI, I think the whole garage had me already going to the 66, even though I had never talked to Darrell. Of course, I was looking at that just because of the success we had last year. I checked out some other options in the garage area, but after considering everything, I thought this would be the best place for me." WHAT ABOUT GOING FROM A CHEVROLET TO A FORD. DO YOU THINK THAT WILL BE A BIG ADJUSTMENT? "For a long time I worked on Chevrolets. When I first went to the Stavola Brothers to help Hut Stricklin, it took me 10-12 races to figure out about the Ford Thunderbird at that time. But when you start working with a car it starts to react just like any car, you just need to figure out what it wants and what the driver wants out of it. I do have two years of experience with the Thunderbird, so I'm hoping I'll have a little bit of a head start with this car."
Ford Racing announced on Thursday that it would be introducing a new race Taurus for the 2000 Daytona 500 next February. Dan Davis, director of Ford Racing Technology, spoke about the project on Friday at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
DAN DAVIS, Director of Ford Racing Technology and head of Ford's worldwide racing program -- WE'VE HEARD THE CHANGES ON THE 2000 TAURUS WILL BE MINOR IN THE FRONT AND REAR. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT PERFORMANCE-WISE? "I think performance is going to be very similar. We had a discussion with NASCAR earlier this week and my opinion is that we will see more differences from Ford to Ford to Ford today on downforce and drag than you're going to see in the changes that are being made. If you go out and measure all these cars on the grid today, I think you'll see quite a bit of variability. I think whatever we're doing on the nose and tail of the new car is going to fit right into that variability. It'll be that insignificant." THE CONCERN WITH THE TAURUS HAS BEEN ITS PERFORMANCE ON THE TWO BIG TRACKS. WILL THESE CHANGES AFFECT PERFORMANCE AT DAYTONA AND TALLADEGA? "If there are any changes at all it'll be pretty minor. We have not put the new car in the wind tunnel, so we don't know what we have. The front end of the car, the nose is moved around a little bit. It's a little lower in the center and some of the power domes are flattened out a bit because of the hood changes. If you look at the production car, the hood has some crease marks on the side as well as character lines and we'll put those in the hood. It may be that air will go around there a little easier, but that's gonna be it. Other than that I think we're gonna have the car we have today, which is a little bit draggy." IS THERE A COMPLETE RACE CAR YET? "No. There is not a car done. We have a downforce car that is being worked on between the Roush and Yates teams and the Penske team is doing the speedway car. We just took splashes off the front and rear end of the production car, so we've got some good sheet metal to work from. Those splashes are done and they're off making parts. They'll get on cars and I would expect it will be in that wind tunnel in the next month with the Busch car. That's the question that has always been asked. Have we put a car in the wind tunnel and the answer is no. Teams have done some hood stuff in the tunnels to see what it's going to be like, but those are current cars and it was whatever they wanted to do. We're just now shipping production hoods to the teams out of our assembly plant for the new car. In fact, the teams probably don't even have them yet, they're on the way. We don't have any front pieces or back pieces molded as far as tooling being done, so anything being done is cobbled up at this point. We don't have what we consider to be any cars finished." WHAT HAVE YOU CHANGED OR LEARNED WITH NASCAR FROM THE PREVIOUS PROJECT? "I don't think we've necessarily learned anything about our dealings with NASCAR, I think what we have learned is we need to pay a little more attention to the teams and get them sort of on the same page a little better. Of course, last time with the Taurus we were rushing so hard to get things done it was hard to keep the toothpaste in the tube. Everytime that toothpaste comes out it's really hard to get it back in, so teams would get off doing something and we had a hard time rustling them all together because it was a wholesale change from the T-Bird to the Taurus and it was hard. We're trying to do a better job this time of keeping everyone informed with what we're doing, what's been done, what's the time schedule, all that sort of stuff. We're doing a lot better job. This should be an absolute cake walk compared to that, but it doesn't negate the need for great communication and constant communication. We're trying to do a better job with that. As far as NASCAR, we had an open book with them last time and we've got an open book with them this time. I think what we've done a little better with them is we actually put our timetable in front of them in writing. A month and a half ago we showed them when the first car will be done, here's what we're going to do here and here's when the first car will hit the track. We laid that whole schedule out for them six or eight weeks ago and put it in writing, so there wasn't any ambiguity in terms of what we were going to do and when. So, we're on that schedule." CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE TEAMS INVOLVED WORKING ON THE PROJECT? "Sometime back we brought, I would say, more than half of the teams to Dearborn and showed them drawings of what the new car was going to look like. In that meeting was said we definitely need to do a speedway car and we think we need to do a downforce car, so we asked how we wanted to divide and conquer and do all the work. We laid that out on the teams and they talked with each other and came to a consensus of what they wanted to do. There was some volunteering that went on and some give and take between teams and we kind of stood back and said, 'If you can work it out between yourselves, great.' And they did. At the end of the day we had volunteers to do each one of those cars and they were willing to work together and share what they found with everyone. Of course, the bigger teams came forward and volunteered because they have more resources and that's what you'd kind of expect." WHO IS DOING WHICH CAR? "Yates and Roush are collaborating on a single property for downforce and the Penske team is working on the speedway car, but, again, all of the data and everything we learn is going to be shared with everybody." DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING FROM CHEVROLET'S TROUBLES WITH NASCAR? "To be honest, no. As a person, I come from the production world at Ford Motor Company where you lay out your plans, you communicate, you've got a schedule and you put the stuff together and you stick by it. Then you tell everybody what you're doing and you get on with it. It's like a project and to us this is another project. We didn't look at anything that went on elsewhere. We did look at what we could do better than last time and team communication was something we clearly could have done a better job on and we're trying to do that this time." ARE YOU PLEASED THE MONTE CARLO ISN'T COMING OUT THIS YEAR OR IT DOESN'T MATTER? "It doesn't make any difference to me. When you bring out a new car it's hard. I don't car whether you do it mid-season or the beginning of the season it's hard. It's a lot of work. You're cutting up a lot of cars and you're doing a lot of work. For us we saw it a year ago last Christmas. That was a tough Christmas for all the teams, so it's hard no matter when you do it." WHAT'S NEXT ON THE TIMETABLE? "Our timetable indicates is we'll have a car ready in roughly a month. We'll have a car put together and ready to run in either the wind tunnel or on the track. That will be the first time we actually see what we have. Based on that, we'll probably make some adjustments and get onto the whole business of is it too good, not good enough or whatever." IS THERE A BEST CASE SCENARIO OF WHEN YOU'D LIKE TO HAVE NASCAR SAY 'OK, THIS IS WHAT WE'RE GOING WITH' AND YOU CAN START BUILDING THEM? "Not really. The new car actually gets introduced to the public in late September or early October time frame. Before the fall we'd like to have this thing all signed, sealed and delivered so the teams know what they're aiming for and they can get their process done. That timetable probably had a date in there and I don't remember exactly when it was, but it's going to be a late summer time frame." HOW IMPORTANT WILL IT BE TO HAVE A BETTER SPEEDWAY CAR? "It's ultra important to have a better car, but I don't think that's necessarily going to pop out based on this. The drag we see on a speedway car is inherent in the shape of the car and this car is going to have the same shape. It's like, if you want to change the shape of a Taurus, you have to change the entire car which is not what we're doing. I think we're going to live with drag issues on the speedways because of the shape. Our teams are getting them better by horsepower and tweaking a little bit. I think that's going to keep happening and that's how we'll get competitive on the speedways." DO YOU HAVE ANY HOPE OF GETTING HELP FROM NASCAR ON THAT? "We may. It may be that if we stumble onto something as we go along we may get a little help there, but I don't expect it necessarily."
ABOUT THE LOOK OF THE CAR. "The most important thing for us along the way here is when the fans look at this car, they recognize it's the new one. So when they go down to their dealership they say, 'Oh yeah, I saw that new Taurus on the track and I want to see that kind of product in the dealership.' So we're going to use the tail lights and head light lenses and those kind of things to differentiate the two cars." WHERE DO YOU SEE TAURUS ONCE THE T-BIRD IS INTRODUCED AGAIN? "In my mind, the new Thunderbird is such a different car that, to me, they're just light years apart from each other. The new T-Bird is a very small two-seater that doesn't even come close to the old T-Bird as far as size and proportion. My expectation is we'll continue running Tauruses and the T-Bird is not even in consideration as far as any kind of race car. The volume is real low on the new T-Bird compared to the old days. It's more of a specialty car that's coming out this time." IS THE THINKING AT FORD WE SHOULD RACE OUR MOST POPULAR CAR OR IS THERE ROOM FOR SOMEONE TO SAY A CERTAIN CAR ISN'T SELLING WELL SO LET'S RACE THAT AND IMPROVE THE NUMBERS. HOW DOES THAT WORK? "We talk about it all the time and it's really complicated, especially in NASCAR racing, because we're looking for wins in NASCAR to help our overall Ford brand and not just the Taurus brand. If you go out in the parking lot of a Cup race, you'll probably see more than half of the parking lots filled with trucks. I want them to be Ford trucks, so I want the Fords to win on the track so that fan says, 'That Ford is a winner. That's a good product. I trust them.' So when they go off and buy the vehicle they're interested in, that it ends up being a Ford. To me, we're not just racing Tauruses here, we're racing the Ford product on this track and we're hoping that the fan attaches with Ford and not just the Taurus. I think you can put different brand names on the track here and probably get done what we'd like done, but in this case the Taurus is the right size and it's done. To pitch it and go into something else just because another car might need a boost in sales, I don't think that works."
ROBIN PEMBERTON, Crew Chief -2- Miller Lite Taurus -- CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE 2000 TAURUS AND THE CHANGES YOU ARE WORKING ON? "There are going to be minor changes, but the main goal is to not take a step backwards. We've got a really great race car in the Taurus that we run now, so we're trying to take some of the styling cues and integrate them with what we have now on the front facia and possibly some rear facia treatments. Hopefully, we can get a little drag reduction out of the car, but it's not a big overhaul." YOUR TEAM ALSO WORKED ON THE FIRST TAURUS PROJECT. HOW WILL THIS COMPARE TO THAT BECAUSE YOU'RE STILL IN THE MIDDLE OF A POINTS RACE? "It's not any easier because we've got a couple more races now than what we had back then. It's a never ending battle trying to update and upgrade the present Tauruses as we go along, so it's not any easier to do it now. In some respects it's a little bit harder because we do have a good product and it's hard to make changes and make something that's as good or better than what we have now." WHERE ARE YOU AT RIGHT NOW IN THE BUILDING PROCESS? "We're in the very early stages. We're working on some nose pieces and integrating them with the present Taurus, so it's in the very early stages. We really need to pick the pace up and make some strides here in the next 60 days. We're probably not any farther along now than we were two years ago when we were doing the other project. The difference is we do have most of the cars there and intact."
DALE JARRETT -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- HOW DO YOU LIKE RUNNING THE WINSTON? "It's fun. It's a race to win and it's all about winning. Nothing else matters. You go out there with the attitude that the last 10 laps are what matters. The first segment, we won that, but that doesn't do a lot of good. That was back whenever they inverted so that just got us back in the field. Now they invert just a certain number and nobody know what that will be. The second segment is where you try to work and get yourself into position to where you are ready for those last 10 laps because, otherwise, you can't make up a lot of time with all of the good cars that are out there." DO YOU ENJOY THIS KIND OF RACING? "I don't know if it's my style exactly, but my guys work hard and if I'm gonna give them an opportunity to get into victory lane, then we've gotta change that a little bit. We've had to change our thinking. We tried to use our race setup and that just doesn't work. It wins the 30-lap segment, but it doesn't do you any good in the last 10 laps. We've adjusted our thinking a little bit and adjusted our race car. Last year was probably our best year. We finished in the top five and now we have to work on that just a little bit more to give ourselves a chance to win." DO YOU FEEL YOU'VE GOT SOME MOMENTUM? "It's nice. It's good to win and to be leading the points. We have a long way to go and a lot of things can still happen. We realize that as quickly as that lead appeared it can disappear too, if we don't do our job. Saturday night is kind of for bragging rights and fun. If you win it pays good money and that's what Saturday is about. It's really a race for the fans, for them to come and see the winners go at it in a short race." WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE 2000 TAURUS, WHICH WAS OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCED THURSDAY? "We've been helping out with the car and the changes are very minor. The picture looks like there is more of a change than what there actually is to the actual race car and the passenger car. The changes we'll see on the race car will be very minor."
DARRELL WALTRIP -66- Big Kmart/Route 66 Taurus -- "That penalty was probably the difference. I had a pretty good lap, it felt like, and really had a good stop. I guess we lost some time in the pits. I don't know what, I ain't quite sure, but everything went good and felt good."
JEREMY MAYFIELD -12- Mobil 1 Taurus -- "I think we had the fastest first lap anyway, but we're excited. It's a brand new car and it's been up front at all the practice sessions, so it's probably the best car I've ever had here. I'm just excited about it. We had a little trouble in the pits, but we're not worried about it. We're here to have fun and race hard tomorrow night and put on a good show for the fans." TALK ABOUT YOUR CHANGE OF CREW CHIEFS. "It's definitely been a change. Paul and I had been together for awhile and we worked well together and he's been very good to me. To come here without him it seems a little different, but he has to go on and we have to go on. I feel pretty good right now."
BILL ELLIOTT -94- McDonald's Taurus -- "It's just so hard to get down pit road. You've got to have everything just right. I was happy with the way the car drove the first lap, I just didn't get down pit road the second time around. You either hit it or you miss it. You practice that deal in the middle of the afternoon and that sun kind of blinds you going into turn three and it kind of gets your line a little bit messed up. I'm not making excuses, I just didn't get down pit road."
RICKY RUDD -10- Tide Taurus -- "I thought we had a pretty good lap going. I've got a lot more respect for the drag boys. John Force and those guys have a lot more respect in my book now. I stayed on the concrete trying to build speed and it was working good, but I got my right-rear tire just off the edge of the concrete and next thing I know that thing just did a loop so quick I didn't know what happened but I didn't hit anything. I'm a little disappointed, but we were going for it."
RUSTY WALLACE -2- Miller Lite Taurus -- "It was a good run. It was the fastest first lap of the day, which really makes me feel good. When I come back for the Coke 600 and we've gotta get qualified, that's a good feeling. The car handled perfect. She ran like a 29.30, which was the quickest lap of the day. What hurt me, the pit stop was perfect it was a 9.1, but when I left pit road I tried to stay on the concrete to get a lot of bite and I spun the tires all over the place. I couldn't get any traction. I should have just pulled out normally and got on the asphalt and went, but I felt like I lost it for the team leaving the pit area because I was just up in tire smoke. She was spinning and smoking and doing everything. I feel like a drag racer now. I know what Snake (Prudhomme) feels like, I tell you that."
DALE JARRETT -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- "We improved the race car and that was the biggest thing of my concern. We weren't very good today on the race track and they worked awful hard and we got it a lot better. I got onto pit road good and got slowed down too much. My job is to get in there as fast as I can and I just got it slowed down and didn't get into the pits. That cost us a little time. The guys did a good job with the pit stop I just fouled them up. I was a little bit too slow there, but I'm happy with the car now and that makes me happy for our chances tomorrow night."
JEFF BURTON -99- Exide Batteries Taurus -- "It didn't go very well. I didn't get it on pit road very well. We had a pretty decent lap, but I didn't get on pit road well and then we had a bad pit stop. The rest of it went well. We were fast on the race track, which is some comfort. We'd rather be fast on the race track than not, so we were fast on the race track. I was too conservative. I got onto pit road good, but I didn't carry enough speed once I got onto pit road. From there we had a pit stop, so that was probably four seconds we lost on pit road."
MARK MARTIN -6- Valvoline Taurus -- "I could have got them more time on pit road, but it's just not something we normally do. If I had it to do over again I would go for more and probably wind up with less. I would have probably messed it up. I think there's a lot of luck involved in that. When you take something that's a shot in the dark like that is, and that's the biggest part of the whole deal, we might be off a tenth or two the whole deal on lap times and maybe a second on the pit stop, then the rest of it is right there on the entry to pit road. I'm thrilled to death to be starting third. That's a good starting spot. I would have like to have gotten the pole for these guys, but I left a little bit on the table and so did they." HOW WAS THE CAR? "Very good. My car is fast. If it would have been normal qualifying here, I think we would have had a shot at the pole."