NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Robert Yates Racing teammates Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Taurus) and Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Taurus) tested at Pocono Raceway last Wednesday, ahead of this coming Sunday's Pocono 500. Both were optimistic about the...
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Robert Yates Racing teammates Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Taurus) and Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Taurus) tested at Pocono Raceway last Wednesday, ahead of this coming Sunday's Pocono 500. Both were optimistic about the test session. Jarrett, the 1999 series champion, is in 16th place in the point standings after struggling in 2003. He won at Pocono in 1995, '97 and 2002. Sadler is in seventh place in the standings and has been in the top 10 all year.
DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus
HOW DID THE TEST GO? "Things went well. We had a cloudy day and we wanted sun because that's normally what you see, but we had a good test. It'll be our first venture with the 88 car with an in-house car this year, so I'm looking forward to it. Everything seemed to go well, and gives us a little bit of room to get excited about going back to the track. And, of course, it's a track that I really enjoy racing at."
WHEN TEAMMATES TEST TOGETHER, DOES THAT MEAN THAT YOU GET TWICE AS MUCH WORK DONE? "Normally, you can, because we were parked right beside of each other, so as we started exploring options and what direction we were going in and what direction they were going in, it allowed us to probably get more accomplished because if we found something that didn't work, there really wasn't any reason for the other team to be trying it. We have that much confidence in each other and what we feel that we can does those types of things - especially since both cars were in-house cars. So, that gave us the opportunity to really relate car to car and get more accomplished in one day."
WHAT ABOUT GOING TO POCONO, NOT WITH A YATES ENGINE, BUT WITH A YATES-ROUSH ALLIANCE ENGINE? "I think that's one of the things that's always been good for us, and the reason that we've always performed well there is we do have that power and it makes the power in the right places. I don't know which engine combination we'll have, but either one will be very capable of running well. When we were there testing, Elliott had one of the new engines and we had one of what we've been running all year, and it seemed that both performed very well. Again, I think that just because of the power that we do make and that places that we make it at, that that gives us a good opportunity to go there and perform very well - which is important, obviously, with the long straightaways that you have."
THE SERIES RECENTLY LEFT CHARLOTTE, SITE OF THE LONGEST RACE OF THE YEAR, WHICH IS TOUGH ON A DRIVER. WHERE DOES POCONO RATE - ESPECIALLY WITH THE TIGHTER CORNERS AT THE END OF THOSE LONG STRAIGHTAWAYS? "To me, it even seems longer than the 600. Five hundred miles at Pocono is a very long day. From a driver's standpoint, even though you have long straightaways to relax a little bit, you're usually battling somebody. But once you do get to the three corners you have a lot of work to do. And, especially, people have gone to shifting, what we call two times now, and some are doing that and some are doing once - whatever it is, you still work hard going through the corners - so it's a full day's work. And I think probably physically it's as demanding as racing 600 miles at Charlotte."
ON RE-BUILDING THE 88 TEAM WITH NEW CREW CHIEF, AND FORMER 88 CREW MEMBER, MIKE FORD. "I think we're slowly making progress, and I think that there was probably more work there to do than what Mike realized when he came to take the job. The reason it probably shows up as a slow process out here is because there's so much good competition out here. There are no tricks to this. It's a matter that we had a lot of areas that we have to get better in, and putting all of them together and making them happen is what we have to do, and that's a slow process. You can't just go from the bottom of the mountain to the top in a hurry. We are working well together, we're working extremely hard - everybody is. We have areas we still have to improve, including myself, and we're still working hard at that."
YOU'VE BEEN WITH THE 88 TEAM SINCE IT WAS FORMED. IS IT HARDER TO BUILD A TEAM OR RE-BUILD A TEAM? "I think it's harder to re-build - especially in this day and time. In '96 when we started this team, even though there was a lot of competition at that time, we had a lot of good people and Todd Parrott did a great job of doing that. But, we were well prepared for that, because we knew what we were going to do in August of 1995, that we were going to start this team and have it ready at the beginning of '96. Now, in trying to re-build, you have to wait on people to be able to come, and then they bring the people that they want, and so it's a much slower process. This is a much more difficult situation, I think, and the competition helps it to be that also."
THE CHAMPIONSHIP RACE HAS A NEW FORMAT THIS YEAR. ALL DRIVERS IN THE TOP 10 AND WITHIN 400 POINTS OF THE LEADER AFTER 26 RACES WILL QUALIFY. YOU, A FORMER CHAMPION, ARE 129 POINTS OUT OF QUALIFYING. THAT DOESN'T SEEM LIKE A DAUNTING FIGURE, DOES IT? "No, it's not. I think that our problem has been that we've been consistent but we've been consistent from, probably, 12th to 16th, and that's not the area we need to be consistent in. We're gonna to have to find ourselves finishing in the top 10 on a regular basis if we're going cut that deficit down, especially if the leaders don't have any problem. We're going to need a little help from them along the way somewhere - which we know can happen. So, I think the biggest thing is we just have to do our job and do it a little bit better each week, and hopefully that will take care of itself."
ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus
HOW DID THE TEST GO? "I think testing went great. We learned a lot, the tire's a lot different. We feel like we were really good on long runs. That's all we did was race runs. We got it really good and comfortable, and that's something my team has figured out here the last month or so, really well, is how to get these cars comfortable for me on long runs where I can race with these guys. I feel like I can get in any kind of traffic I need to get in and be good. And they did the same thing again at the Pocono test. The car is really good on long runs. It doesn't eat the tires up. We did some motor stuff. We're going to run the new D-3 motor up there, so we learned a lot about gearing and transmission and stuff like that to try and help all the Ford teams when we go back. We think we got a really successful test."
YOUR TEAMMATE TESTED, TOO. DID THAT MEAN YOU GOT TWICE AS MUCH WORK DONE, OR DOESN'T IT WORK THAT WAY? "It works as they might try something that we didn't think of, and vice-versa, that might help. We were parked right beside each other in the garage, and Mike [Ford, crew chief of the No. 88] and Todd [Parrott, crew chief of the No. 88] are working together great, and they're both great guys, and we might've found something out that maybe they didn't think about trying so they get to try it later on, and vice-versa. So, it's good having teammates testing together. I think we both were very, very happy with our cars - I know that DJ was very happy with his, too - so, hopefully, we'll have a good, strong showing when we go to Pocono. There's a little pressure on us when we go to Pocono, it's right there by Hackettstown, New Jersey, which is M&M's' headquarters, so we always want to do good when we go there."
PRIOR TO THE POCONO RACE, SOMEONE ALWAYS TALKS ABOUT THAT GOOD OL' YATES POWERPLANT. NOW, IT'S YATES-ROUSH. IS THAT AN IMPROVEMENT? "Yeah. I think we'll be fine. It depends on if they run the new motors or not, the new-style motors. I know the guys in the engine shop are working 24 hours a day, 24-hour shifts to make sure we have some good power when we go to Pocono. That's why we wanted to go test that motor, to make sure we've got all the gear and transmission right when everybody shows up, that a Ford has just as good a chance to win as anybody else. Doug [Yates] has taken a lot of pride, and all the guys, in that motor, and I think everybody will be pleased. For the guys that have never had Yates horsepower at Pocono, I think they're going to be very happy when they get there. I know I was last year, my first time there I was very ecstatic in how they attacked the motor and the race track and really understand what you need to get around Pocono. They've had great success there in the past. So, I think everybody will be happy with the motors they have at Pocono."