Winston Select pre-race notes

WINSTON SELECT 500 PRE-RACE NOTES JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet) -- You learn every time you're out there -- either what you can do to stay in the lead or what you can do to get past this guy. The whole time you're thinking,...


JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet) -- You learn every time you're out there -- either what you can do to stay in the lead or what you can do to get past this guy. The whole time you're thinking, 'What can I do, what can I do?' You're trying to get up closer, looking to the inside, looking to the outside... The thing about Talladega -- it doesn't really matter how the car handles. At Daytona, at the end of a run, the car had better be handling. You've got to keep looking ahead and it's instinct. You can't think about what to do -- it's got to be 'boom,' and you go. The biggest thing is patience. it's frustrating here if you know you've got a car that can lead but you're running 10th or 12th. If you drop out of line you might go back to 15th or 25th. The guys who can run fifth or sixth in line all day and keep their water temperature down, those are the guys who can be there at the end. (interrupting questioner) I still haven't found the happy medium between patience and aggression! It takes a good two or three years and even then...

MIKE WALLACE (No. 90 Heilig-Myers Ford) -- We have a totally brand new car from the ground up. The team took a lot of time building what is its first complete superspeedway car. This is the first time I've had a brand new speedway car. We're hoping for something special -- a little better than what we had. We've run pretty good on the superspeedways -- now we're hoping to win a race. We lease motors from Power Tech Engines in Concord (N.C.). We had a top 10 car at Daytona in February until we cut a tire and ended up wrecking off (turn) two. (ON THE SEASON) The biggest change this year is that (crew chief) Bob Johnson and myself have had some time to work together finally. We're understanding each other, I believe, to a certain degree. We've struggled this year. We've had good runs, but in the middle of them we've had mechanical problems that have bit us. It seems any time we're running good and have a shot at gaining a bunch of points something goes wrong. This is a tough sport and a tough business. We've just got to work hard and keep digging on it.

BOBBY HILLIN (No. 77 Jasper Engines Ford) -- This car replaced the one we wrecked in the Gatorade 125 (at Daytona in February). It was finished at 1 o'clock Tuesday morning, right before we went to Daytona to test. (ON THE SEASON) It's been a frustrating year -- up and down (qualifying for only four of eight races). We've got two good sponsors, Jasper and Federal Mogul. They're sticking with us and in the second half of the season we're hoping to make them proud. (ON THE STATE OF NASCAR WINSTON CUP RACING) Let me put it this way: Before the year's out, I believe a provisional starter will win a race. Ernie (Irvan) was a provisional starter (at Martinsville) and he finished second. That'll give you an idea of the competitive level of Winston Cup. It's never been this way before. It's tough!


JOE NEMECHEK (No. 87 Burger King Chevrolet) -- We got to try a few things today. The car we are driving is the car that we wrecked at the Daytona 500 and we haven't had time to test it. We got it back real close to where it was down there. We qualified 18th at Daytona. We only got three runs yesterday (in practice) and today we were able to make seven or eight runs and we got to try a few things. That's why we were able to pick up some time. It is hard to come into a place like here and Daytona and be fast right off the truck. If you don't test, you don't really know. We kinda did our testing this morning and were able to find a few things to make us a little faster. (ON THE WINSTON SELECT 500) We haven't drafted with anybody. What we want to do is to get out there and at least finish the race tomorrow. This is hopefully a turning point for our season. Our season has probably been the toughest one in my life. Anything that could go wrong has went wrong and this is a good morale booster for this team.

MARRIAGE PLANS: Pennzoil Pontiac car owner Chuck Rider and Carolyn Fischer have announced plans to be married on Nov. 16 in Hilton Head, S.C.

SEEN IN THE GARAGE: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Joe Ruttman, the runnerup in the inaugural 1995 series who now drives for Jack Roush. "On the one side, this is the best position I could be in. On the other side there's a part of me saying, 'if only...' I'm dedicated to the truck but I want to stay attuned to what's going on and not get too far out of the scene. It's the best of all worlds at this point. (LOOKING BACK AT 1995.) It was amazing. I knew, and I know today, that given the right opportunity I could run up front in a Cup car. I call it 'losing the draft,' or your reputation loses the draft and they don't think you can do the job. It was Marc Reno who saved me and had confidence and when the truck deal came along I got that ride (with Irvan/Simo Racing) because of him. After one year in the truck they're saying 'Maybe he still can drive.' This is the best situation that Joe Ruttman has ever been into in motorsports, and I've been into a lot of good deals. That tells all. I need to pick up a little bit more but I think we can. Last week I had the opportunity to repay some of that. I came down and tested with (Jeff) Purvis. Maybe I lent a little bit to 'em and picked 'em up a tenth or so. I would've loved to seen 'em qualify in the top five. It makes you feel good to do a little development and everyone benefits."


MARK GIBSON (No. 59 Issac Leasco Ford) -- We got knocked into the wall! I mean, people don't know that if they hit you once, that's bad enough, but when they hit you twice that's ridiculous. Some folks don't have any sense -- they're all over the race track. I don't know -- inexperience I guess. We had a good car today. We had a lug nut fall off during one of the pit stops and that got us behind but we could get back to the front at any time. We were just trying to pick our way back through and follow the right people, but we followed the wrong person one time and it cost us my car.

PERRY TRIPP (No. 6 WW Transport Chevrolet) -- We had the car running really well today. We got a lap down there early when we got mixed up in a deal with ARCA and we had to pull in and take something off the car that they (ARCA) said was dragging. I was just riding around today and following the guys and doing the best I could. All of a sudden the right rear tire cut down and there I was. (ON INCIDENT WITH MARK GIBSON.) We were running in a real tight draft and all of the guys were running real good -- running conservative but running tight and giving each other lots of room. We got into that turn (one) and I got squeezed up a little bit by the 44 car and then the 59 car hit me in the rear end. I got loose and he got looser. It's a possibility we could've picked something up there in the tire, because we didn't come in and change.


TIM STEELE (No. 16 HS Die/CIMLINC Ford) -- I was wondering if we were gonna win this thing the whole time. It was definitely a race. I got back in traffic, I lost the draft and I think I learned a little bit today: What to do and what not to do; what this car likes and what it doesn't like. It ran out of gas coming onto pit road. They had to push it into Victory Lane but that's OK. It was real close and we knew it was gonna be a gamble but sometimes you come out on top -- sometimes you don't -- and we did today. Everybody on the crew agreed and Tom (Sokoloski, crew chief) just kept telling me to wiggle around and give them dirty air. They coached me through it and it came out great. It's my wife, Brenda's birthday tomorrow so 'Happy Birthday!' This feels great. (ON LAST FEW LAPS.) I thought I had the advantage when I was on the outside because my car works really well out there. I got inside once and I didn't seem to run as well. If they were going to pass me on the inside I had something for them, but if they decided to pass me on the outside I probably would've gone backwards so we wanted to be sure and stay outside. When I saw the white flag I said 'Just one more lap baby, just one more lap.' I knew we had a car that we could race with them. When I was racing by myself I was faster than the other guys that were in the draft. My crew did a great job on the car.

TOM SOKOLOSKI (Crew chief No. 16 HS Die/CIMLINC Ford) -- The car was pretty much perfect off the truck. We changed a sway bar, springs and we were good to go. The biggest problem we had was just being patient and waiting for cautions. We all came close (on fuel) and everything worked out good. (ON LAST FUEL RUN.) We just made a gamble. Everybody else came in for gas and tires and we stayed out. We figured with the cautions that it ought to work out. We knew it was gonna be real close but the more caution laps the better we were gonna be and it paid off. No way we were gonna come in!

MARK THOMPSON (No. 66 Midway Island/Phoenix Ford) -- It was the best and most competitive ARCA race that I've ever been in. I mean, there were probably 10 cars that thought they were in contention the whole race. It was pretty clean driving -- there was just a couple of guys I thought were wild out there. Overall it was just a good race and I was real pleased, but I would've been happier winning. I couldn't get anybody to help me all day -- I mean not one soul the whole day could I get a hand from. I felt like a lone stranger out there just fighting away.

ANDY HILLENBURG (No. 52 ACDelco Chevrolet) -- I really thought we had a good run going there at the end. We got beside him (Tim Steele) but when you're in that Chevrolet-Ford mix at the end and you're the only guy in your camp it kinda leaves you out in the cold. Our guys will get back and get the car ready for Charlotte and we will try to get them there where the draft doesn't count.

JACK SPRAGUE (No. 44 Quaker State 4x4 Chevrolet) -- Our guys worked their butts off and we came home with fourth place with probably a seventh or eighth place car. We're pleased with the results of our first ARCA race. Our car is banged up a little bit -- some of them guys out there get a little bit excited -- but hey, that's just racing. We'll take a fourth place finish -- that's not too bad.

JEFF McCLURE (No. 50 UAW/HamBeens/Healthsource Ford) -- We were just a little bit short of motor and we had to work hard in the draft and keep somebody either behind us or in front of us all day. My boys did a good job in the pits and got me out quick. We got a lof of spots here and there like that. We got to beating and banging one time and knocked a fender in and had to pit to fix that. But we're not complaining. We're tickled to death to finish fifth. (ON RUNNING DOWN SHANE DOLES FOR FIFTH.) It was hard work baby! I drafted under caution even, it seems like. I had to help it all I could help it!

BOB HILL (No. 46 Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet) -- (ON LATE PIT STOP.) We ran out of fuel! Then, we were running by ourselves and with three laps to go the left front tire went down. Somebody messed up on the gas is what happened. They told me we could go all the way and we couldn't. We should've pulled in. It looks better than it did at Daytona, anyway.

JOHN RAY (Car owner No. 2 Zack's Mesquite Grill Chevrolet) -- The water pump belt came off it. He came in with two laps to go when it overheated, the water pump belt was gone so that was it. He ran good before that and was pretty well pleased with the way the car ran. He ran some awful good laps when he and that 33 car (Harris DeVane) got hooked-up. Getting somebody to draft with you is tough when you're a kid. But we're pleased. We ran good and got some good experience out of it. There's a good side to everything, I guess.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Joe Ruttman , Jack Roush