ANDY GRAVES, Senior Manager for TRD U.S.A. (Toyota Racing Development) in NASCAR Nextel Cup Series competition: How do you feel the test session went for TRD and the teams? "We are very happy with the progress we were able to make here at the ...
ANDY GRAVES, Senior Manager for TRD U.S.A. (Toyota Racing Development) in NASCAR Nextel Cup Series competition:
How do you feel the test session went for TRD and the teams? "We are very happy with the progress we were able to make here at the test session -- the two days of both drafting and single-car sessions proved valuable for our teams as well as TRD (Toyota Racing Development). All three of our teams were able to participate in the two-day test and I feel like they were all able to make some gains on their COT speedway program. Of course learning how the COT will behave in the draft and dealing with that information was an important aspect of this test. Both TRD and our teams will take the data that we have accumulated here and continue to make improvements before we come back for the race in October."
JACQUES VILLENUEVE, Bill Davis Racing:
How has the test been going? "The test has been going great and it has been a lot of fun to get out there with so many talented drivers. To be running in the middle of the pack with them is great and the fact that they trust me enough to stay behind me is good. The first day we were in the pack with several other cars and someone started to slow down up front, it got a little messy there for a moment, but nothing bad happened. I have just been trying to learn the draft and learn what the other cars are doing -- overall it has been a lot of fun."
How do the speeds compare to other cars you've driven? "This is very different than anything I've done before, but thankfully I've driven on ovals when I was running in Champ cars about twelve years ago -- so there are a few memories there. Also in Formula 1, we have a few high speed tracks so that aspect is not too bad. But driving in these cars is pretty different because they are heavy and move around a lot. You can't drive in too aggressively, you have to set the car up and know what you want it to do. That makes it fun because you have to have some patience."
What has it been like to work with a veteran crew chief in Richard 'Slugger' Labbe and the Bill Davis Racing team? "One rookie in the car is enough. It's great to have the experience of 'Slugger' on the radio because he has seen all of this many times before. But the whole team has been great and they are very open-minded. They just want to make sure that I learn everything. Sometimes we'll make a bunch of changes to the car just to see what it will do and not all of them will be good changes -- it is to help me learn about what the car will do and how it will react."
RICHARD 'SLUGGER' LABBE, Bill Davis Racing:
How has Jacques Villenueve been doing in this test? "He's been doing a great job throughout the test and he has been able to spend a lot of time out in the draft pack. Thankfully he hasn't made too many enemies and mainly just made friends out there. There has been a lot of time spent with him out there just learning the draft. I told him yesterday that we're all rookies here because this is the first time that the Car of Tomorrow is being run here at Talladega. I think he was pretty impressed with Talladega when he road around here for the first time in a rental car and got a chance to really see all the banking. I'm sure it was intimidating from that angle, but once he got out there it was just another Sunday drive down the highway. But he's done very well in the Car of Tomorrow and performed well in all the draft sessions. He's really made some solid runs in this test and has been very impressive -- I couldn't be any happier with what's going on right now."
How do you feel the COT has performed at Talladega in the test? "It's something new for everyone here and we're trying to make changes in order to better understand it. It seems like a lot of things that used to work in the past on this track, they just don't work on the Car of Tomorrow. We're just throwing things at it and trying to learn so when we come back here to race -- we'll have all the right things." -
What type of communication issues have you and your team faced with Villenueve? "The biggest thing is that he's trying to figure out the spotter because he's telling him 'clear high' and 'clear low' and he just needs to be told a couple times. They just have to get the lingo figured out between the spotter and him. It's one of those things that you usually learn over time and we are just trying to accelerate his learning curve. That's why we're running as much as we are because we are just trying to keep him on the track so he can try to learn everybody's little secrets. He just has to watch and learn while he's on the track with these other drivers."
DAVE BLANEY, No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota Camry, Bill avis Racing:
How has testing gone for you today? "We had a different restrictor plate on the car today versus what we were running yesterday, but we continued to get better with every run so that was encouraging. We feel like we're learning a lot as far as getting more speed out of the cars. Drafting is not a huge deal at this track because it is not as much of a handling race track like Daytona. If we are out of the top-35 when we come here in October, then it will be more important to have that fast single-car run in qualifying. Finding speed out of the car is a bigger deal than getting out there in the draft. Single runs are a priority for us and has been at this test."
Are you more focused on single-car, qualifying runs because you missed the Talladega race in the spring? "We probably didn't approach it right in May by not taking enough chances in qualifying trim and we did at Daytona. We did a lot more for qualifying trim at Daytona and made a strong run, but then it rained so it didn't really matter. You have to do whatever it takes to make the race -- if you have to take chances on a few things that may not finish the race, then that's what you do. If we can make the car fast enough here without taking chances then that's the ultimate."
MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 55 NAPA Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing:
How has the test been for you overall? "I drafted yesterday and I loved my car and loved the way it felt. We have to make the race on time here in a couple weeks so we have focused this second day on single car runs. We've been changing some of the aerodynamic characteristics of the car -- the pitch, the angles and anything you can move around a little bit on the car. We ran a good lap early and that was with no tape so we taped up later to make more qualifying runs. We feel like we're competitive with a lot of the other single-car times that have been run during the test so we are feeling good about where we are in preparation for the race."
Are you at all frustrated with the lack of changes you can make to these cars to find any speed? "Not at all -- the rules are what they are. We haven't been able to change much over the past four or five years. You have to build the fastest car that you can at the shop and there's a pretty good chance that you're not going to come to the track and fix it. We've seen that for the past three or so years at restrictor plate races. You take all the information and technology referring to the engine, gears, shocks and so forth -- you put all that in the car and when you get to the track you are verifying what you've got. You can hardly ever get to the race track and made any type of huge changes or gains that will pick up any time."
How do you feel your test has gone? "I feel like the first day we stacked up pretty well against the competition. We came here with one of the race track motors in the car. It was going well, but we had trouble with it right there at the end of the day when it jumped out of gear and into third gear, which over-revved the motor. We couldn't take a chance of running anymore on that motor. We had to put a lesser motor in the car and then NASCAR changed the wicker and gave us a smaller restrictor plate. If you look at the time sheets from the first day to the second day, it looks like we really ended up in left-field. We need to continue to work and we are just going through our aero program that we planned to work on. We gathered all the data we could and overall I don't think we are too far off like we have been at some of the other speedway races we have been to this season -- that is encouraging."
-credit: toyota motorsports