This Week in Ford Racing September 28, 1999 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Currently fifth in the driver points standings, Mike Wallace is as motivated as can be going into the last three races of the 1999 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS)...
This Week in Ford Racing September 28, 1999
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
Currently fifth in the driver points standings, Mike Wallace is as motivated as can be going into the last three races of the 1999 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) season. Before a disappointing 28th-place finish at Las Vegas last Friday night in which engine problems forced him to retire early, Wallace had a five race stretch where he finished ninth or higher with four top-fives.
This season overall has been a successful one for Wallace and Team ASE. To date, Wallace has 12 top-10 finishes and 10 top-fives. Wallace has earned his first two-career NCTS victories this season (Homestead and Pikes Peak) and despite being 232 points out of first place, Wallace looks forward to ending the year on as high a note as possible.
Below are select quotes taken from the Tuesday's NCTS Teleconference. Wallace comments on among other things, Ford capturing its first NCTS manufacturer's title, how fellow Ford driver Greg Biffle has dominated this year, and the possibility of the NCTS competing at the Daytona International Speedway as soon as next season.
Mike Wallace - 2 - Team ASE Racing Ford F-150 -- IT LOOKED LIKE YOU HAD A STRONG-RUNNING TRUCK AT LAS VEGAS LAST WEEKEND BUT UNFORTUNATELY YOU SUFFERED FROM A RARE ENGINE FAILURE. "Well we did have a truck that was good enough to win the race but unfortunately we had a motor failure which was out first this year. As I say, it will never take you out of the small races, it will only take you out of the big-paying races. And you know the race at Las Vegas was going to be a great race. It was a Friday night race with a 5:30 (PM local time) start time, which was a little different for everybody. We qualified 13th and had worked our way steadily toward the front. On the restart there we were able to go from fourth to second. We had a very good truck. The truck handled very good. The first part of the race it was a little tight. But the guys made some adjustments on our stops. Fortunately (after) we came in for right-side tires, the caution came out right away so that we could put on lefts and balance our tire pressures out pretty well. We worked our way to the front after that but I started smelling some smoke about 50 laps before we dropped out. As we moved up to second, I could feel the motor lay down on us meaning not running good down the straight-aways. I told the guys that we had a problem and then the oil temperature started rising pretty quickly. I just hoped that we could ride it out and make it to the end but unfortunately we didn't and it started blowing oil out all over the breathers and all over the exhaust pipes. So we had to park it from there."
FORD DID CLINCH THE MANUFACTURER'S TITLE AS A RESULT OF GREG BIFFLE'S RACE WIN AT LAS VEGAS. YOU ARE SECOND TO BIFFLE IN POINTS EARNED FOR FORD THIS SEASON WITH 30. COMMENT ON THE EFFORT OF THE FORD TRUCKS THIS SEASON. "We do feel honored to be part of that effort. The Ford F-150s have run great all year long. Ourselves and Greg Biffle, who has basically dominated the last part of the season here, have done a great job. (Mike) Bliss has won a race this season too. We actually wanted to win that (Las Vegas) race really bad. We wanted to win and be able to say that we helped Ford really clinch the championship. That was our goal going into that race. Jim (Smith - team owner) and told me that he would really like to see us win that race and help Ford to tie up the manufacturer's championship up. That didn't happen but I'm really happy on behalf of Ford Motor Company and all the F-150 drivers out there. We've had a great season and almost all the guys out there that drive Ford's have had a good season."
GOING INTO LAS VEGAS, YOU WERE 251 POINTS BEHIND THE SERIES POINT'S LEADER GREG BIFFLE. AFTER YOUR 28TH-PLACE FINISH LAST FRIDAY NIGHT, YOU ARE 262 POINTS BEHIND. HOW DISAPPOINTING WAS IT TO NOT GAIN ANY POINTS ON BIFFLE FOLLOWING HIS POST-RACE TROUBLES THAT RESULTED IN 120 POINTS BEING TAKEN AWAY FROM HIM? "Well our entire year has seemed to go like that for us. It seems like every time that we're able to make a big point's gain, meaning that guys in front of us have problems early in the race or something like that, we end up having a problem at the end of the race. So it has not let us gain in the point's race like we would have liked to. It's disappointing because we thought that we could win this championship this year. I'm sure that other guys have thought that also. We started out with the win at Homestead and thought, boy we're going to be tough. We just haven't had the finishes this year, the consistency that we need. We've had a good year but not a great year. But my hat's off to the whole Roush team there with Greg Biffle and Mike Bliss. But Biffle and his group especially. They have hit on a combination that works everywhere for them. I'm not sure what they're doing but I'd sure like to find out. It works well for them. Congratulate them on their win (Las Vegas) even though they had a problem in the inspection area. They still won the race. We're happy for Ford Motor Company to finally unlock Chevrolet's dominance in the truck series for the manufacturer's championship."
YOU RECENTLY TESTED A TRUCK AT DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY. WHAT WAS YOUR TAKE ON THE TEST? "First of all it was a test for them (NASCAR) to gain knowledge on what type of rules they would like to impose. I feel that we will go to Daytona. They really haven't released a date yet but I hope that it happens in February. I would like to see that happen for the truck series because I think it would be a great launch time for all the major series to launch off. But I think that you'll see a very good race. The trucks handle well and they draft well. You're going to get back to some drafting that you haven't seen in years because the trucks blow such a big hole of air. You can really get the big sling shot effect. They (NASCAR) are going to continue to try to get the trucks slowed down through bodies and spoilers and that sort of thing. They don't want to put a restrictor plate on them. The main reason for that is that it adds a tremendous amount of cost to each race team when you start putting plates of them because all of a sudden the top teams will spend the money to develop better motors. It's very smart for NASCAR to keep the costs in check for the truck series. They (trucks) drafted well, ran well and they were very stable. I think that when the time comes, there will be a very good race. We've raced the trucks at California, Texas and Michigan - all very fast racetracks. The trucks are very stable there. I look forward to the same thing going back to Daytona with the trucks. I think the series needs that jump. From a person that has run the Winston Cup series, Busch series and now the truck series, I realize that the media and the fan attention are so important in this series. Let's just take a hypothetical right now. Let's run the trucks on the Friday before the Busch Grand National race. And you take the truck series on Friday, the Busch series on Saturday and the Winston Cup series on Sunday and now NASCAR has launched three of its major series all at the same time. You have all the media and you have all the people. You have everybody realizing what's going on. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that there will be a truck race at Daytona next year whether it's in February or July, how's that? You have to remember that I drive for the guy (Jim Smith) that from what I've been told was one of the founding fathers of the series. He brought the concept to NASCARs attention and he is the only guy still around now. So he is thinking that this is as cool as can be. If you look at the truck series, there are some teams that are needed a little bit more funding and sponsorship dollars and stuff like that to run off of. And when you can offer to a sponsor the chance to have your first race at Daytona, let's hope that would be it, it's a big sponsorship plus for everybody."
WHAT ARE THE GUYS IN THE GARAGE SAYING ABOUT SECOND-YEAR DRIVER GREG BIFFLE AND THE SPECTACULAR SEASON HE' HAVING? "To be really honest, we don't even talk about it. I haven't spoken with anybody about it except to say that he's on a hot streak. But if you stop and take a look at racing in general, every year in one of the (NASCAR) divisions, there has been somebody who has been a dominant player. There has been a Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace or whoever that has won that eight to 10 races a year. Ron Hornaday won six or seven in this series. Who knows? They've got a lot of talent on their team, I suppose. They have a lot of luck behind them. I've seen some races that Biffle has won this year that, my God, how he ever won them, I don't know because three quarters of the way through the race, he surely wasn't in the position to win! But I'd rather be lucky than good any day I guess would be the motive there. But my hat's off to him. We're all envious of him."
WHAT TYPE OF MOOD DOES THIS PUT YOU IN FOR THE TAIL END OF THE 1999 SEASON? ARE YOUR SPIRITS HIGH GOING INTO 2000? "I think that you have to look at it in general right now. First of all, we opened the year trying to win a championship and there are other people who have thought that. But we've won two races. We won at Homestead in the opener. We beat Jack Sprague on the last lap and the last straightaway to come to the checkered at Pikes Peak. We've won two Winston West races this year at Phoenix and Pikes Peak. We've won four races this year. We've not had a bad year. We're fifth in points. If you take the races that we've had some problems in, and three of those races were helped by someone else making sure that we had some problems in; if you know what I mean. If you take those races out, we'd be right in the hunt. But it wasn't our year. We didn't have the luck. We were complementing Greg (Biffle) a minute ago and we're not having his luck right now. This past weekend at Las Vegas, I was running second and the motor started to lay down. I was still running fifth with the thing running poorly and we had to quit. We just don't have the racing gods looking over us right now. But I don't think that I can complain about our year. What's it going to do first of all? I think we're a pretty good race team. Week in and week out, my guys do a fabulous job in the pits. They always give me a truck that handles well. We just need a little luck and we'll be okay. We're staying very positive for the rest of the year in the truck series and we're also going to run the Winston Cup race at Phoenix with Ultra Motorsports and then we'll go to Japan to run the final Winston West race at Twin Ring Motegi with Ultra Motorsports. I'm excited about the remaining part of the year."
PUT YOURSELF IN GREG BIFFLE'S SHOES FOR A MINUTE. HE IS LEADING THE SERIES BY ONLY 10 POINTS, AND THERE IS A DISTRACTION FOR BOTH DRIVER AND TEAM AFTER THE PENALTIES IMPOSED FOLLOWING LAS VEGAS. HOW WOULD YOU REACT? "Well, first of all you've got to remember from Greg's position he is the driver only. I've heard bits and pieces. I've seen the press release about the post-race inspection. He can't do anything about it. If there was a problem, that's just the way it is. He's going to go out, I've known him enough over the year, year and a half here, he's going to go out and drive as hard as he possibly can the next three races. If he continues to do what he's done the last two and a half months of the year he'll be just fine. Now instead of racing and protecting his points lead he's going to be racing two other guys or three other guys knowing he's got to beat them every week. He's going to go out for the next three races and he's going to work as hard as he can to lead a lap and lead the most laps and then finish in front of somebody. That somebody right now would be Jack Sprague and Dennis Setzer. He can't let those guys lead laps on him. Setzer can win the thing by leading laps and getting the most bonus points and finishing ahead of him one or two races. They are probably changing their outlook a little bit right now. If I was him I'd be a little disappointed or heart broken that I've got to work that hard since I've worked that long. Regardless of what happens, whether he wins the championship or not, he's had a phenomenal year. And the little altercation or discrepancy in the rule the other night, that's not going to keep him from winning races, nor did it make him win any more races this year. It was just something a little different, I suppose."
ARE YOU GUYS AT THE TOP POINT RACING? OR ARE YOU RACING TO WIN EVERY RACE BECAUSE PEOPLE IN OTHER SERIES LOOKING FOR A DRIVER ARE MEASURING YOU BY WHAT YOU WIN AS MUCH AS POINTS? "They want performance. Racing is a performance business if you are trying to move on or if you are trying to move your existing race team to a higher level. To be real honest with you, from the outside they aren't sitting there going well, this guy's pretty smart. He's points racing, running third or fourth. They want to know if you can win races. You got out every week and run as smart as you can, first of all, but trying to win a race. If you win races the points will come. If you been winning races and you are leading the points, let's say like Biffle is, you just keep doing what you are doing. You don't change anything. You just keep racing as hard as you can. I had the unfortunate opportunity to sit and watch the last 30 laps of the truck race the other night from the transporter as I was changing clothes." RACERS SEEM TO BE POOR SPECTATORS. "It's miserable. It's absolutely the worst thing you can ever do. I wanted to leave and thought well, we'll just hang out here for a few minutes and finish getting changed and watch the end of this race. I listened to Biffle. They had his radio on during the end of the telecast. You know, he was racing hard. He enjoyed what he was doing. He knew he had a good truck, and his team knew they put him into position. Along with ourselves. I'm the same way. You're out there. You don't want to just win. You want to dominate and show everybody, hey, I'm that good. He set himself a record. We'd like to be the one to set that record this year. Unfortunately we're not. Maybe we can go out for the remainder of the year and win three more races and have a five-win record for the season. I think we've got the capability to do that if luck is on our side."
HOW DO YOU HANDICAP IT BETWEEN THOSE THREE AND STACY COMPTON OVER THE LAST THREE RACES? "I think they're all going to choke and I'm going to come out on top and win the championship. They're all going to run into each other, starting at Louisville and take each other out, and Mike Wallace is going to progressively move up with this point's thing. Other than that, I think I've got to stick with exactly what I said a few minutes ago. They're not going to change anything. It has made a big swing though. That's huge. It's not just a one or two guy race now. It's three or four. I think it's a situation where let's start with the 50 truck. The 50 truck will do exactly what it's been trying to do. Sprague will try to do what he does. Sprague tries to lead the most laps. He drives his butt off every lap of the race. Setzer is a pretty smooth guy. He sits back there and takes what the truck will give him. He's always right there at the end. I think you are going to see a huge focus though in the three races. I think you are going to see the guys trying to lead a lap and lead the most laps. Stop and think about it. That's 30 points sitting out there right now in the final three races just for leading and leading the most laps. That's going to be a big turning point right there I think."
DO YOU THINK THE TITLE WILL BE TAINTED? WILL PEOPLE THINK IF GREG WINS THAT IF HE WAS CAUGHT ONCE MAYBE HE DID THIS ALL ALONG? "That's really not for me to think about. Everybody is going to have their opinions of how things work. First of all, I don't really know about the rules infraction was. I've heard bits and pieces about it. I don't think it was enough to change his whole year around. That team has won eight previous races. And they deserve it. They went through post-race inspections eight other times, and they went through with a clear mark. And if they're doing something a little bit beyond the rules, they weren't caught with it so they weren't cheating. The old story in racing - you're not cheating unless you're caught. What they got caught with the other night, I shouldn't say caught. The infraction that was there, it's checked every week. So that was a rare instance. And probably again, it's probably not that big a deal. It was not a make or break situation for them. I'm sure, yes; somebody is going to use it as a tainted deal. I don't think it is. I wouldn't worry about it."
THE NEXT RACE IS AT LOUISVILLE MOTOR SPEEDWAY, WHICH IS THE SMALLEST TRACK ON THE CIRCUIT (4/10 OF MILE). WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS GOING INTO LOUISVILLE? "First of all, I don't know what the moon is going to do. If it's a full moon and a night race there is no telling what's going to happen to be honest with you. Louisville is about the smallest racetrack we run. It is not a normal track. It is not a normal oval configuration to it. A lot of patience. The truck I'm driving now led the race up until a couple laps to go. Hopefully we can get qualified well and start up toward the front. For sure there's ten guys who are going to be in position to win the race. The biggest thing is to keep the nose clean. Don't get it torn up early on because it is real easy to do at that racetrack. Other than that, you are going to see another tight race, basically like you have all year long in the truck series."
THIS WILL BE THE FIRST TIME FOR PIT STOPS AT LOUISVILLE. I UNDERSTAND IT WILL BE A TWO-SIDED PIT ROAD WITH A DIVIDER IN THE MIDDLE. DO YOU THINK THE RACE CAN BE DECIDED IN THE PITS? "I'm sure it can. I'll be honest with you. I never even asked what the pit road procedure was going to be at Louisville because I don't know of any feasible way they can do it there. I guess we'll find out when we get there. In Mike Wallace's situation I wish every race we ran went green flag from start to finish and we had to pit under green because I've got so much confidence in all my guys at the shop. We nicknamed them after Homestead the Ultra Bad Boys because they did really good pit stops and they've kept it up all year long. We'll just have to wait and see. This year up in Seattle I think there was a definite disadvantage because of the pit road procedures that went on there, but it was the best they could do under the circumstances. I would hope that whatever they do at Louisville is an equal situation, and what I mean by equal - I hate to be penalized or for anyone to be penalized just because maybe you had a bad qualifying lap. At a lot racetracks you have a front and back straightaway. Why do you penalize a guy for a whole race just because of one bad lap he had, not quite as good as somebody else. So I hope it's at least fair for all the participants, and we'll take it from there."