BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Elliott, a 45-year-old driver from Dawsonville, Ga., is a five-time winner at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In 48 career starts at AMS, Elliott has 12 top five and 18 top 10 finishes.
(No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Elliott, a 45-year-old driver from Dawsonville, Ga., is a five-time winner at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In 48 career starts at AMS, Elliott has 12 top five and 18 top 10 finishes. The 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup champion will drive an Evernham Motorsports Dodge for the first time in Sunday's race at the 1.54-mile track.
"I think the team is doing well right now. We've still got a few bugs to work out. If we could get a little luck change, I think we'd be in a little better shape. I was disappointed at Rockingham with our performance, even my performance. We just could never get our act together there. We ran good at Las Vegas (led 11 laps and finished 14th). The last 60 laps, I had a little incident on the back straightaway. I got into a car and messed up the nose a little bit, then equalized a right front tire. It was just a bummer of an afternoon. We've still got a few little glitches here and there, but I think from the standpoint of Ray getting started and what he's had his hands full with, he's had a mound of work to do. "You've had your true Ford fans, and most of them wished me well last year. You had the Bill Elliott fans that switched over to the Dodge stuff. You've had a two-fold deal, and then on the other hand, you've picked up a lot of the old Dodge group that was around when Dodge was in it in the '70s. It's been kind of a mix, but I think I picked up a lot of fans from that standpoint. "I really like Casey (Evernham Motorsports teammate Atwood), and I think that kind of sets it apart from the rest of it. I wish him well. If I can't win, I sure wish he would. He's part of our whole program. Both of our cars are sponsored by Dodge, and it makes it easy from our standpoint. We've got to continue to grow and work together to make this a successful deal. "We never got a chance to test at Atlanta. Casey was supposed to go test and we just elected not to. We've been kind of under the gun getting everything done. Ray has had his hands full getting everything worked out in the shop. I think we'll continue to do more testing as the year goes along. "The motor program seems like it's right there. We're still refining and making it better day in and day out. We had to change engines at Rockingham after practice, but all our stuff in the race mode has been real reliable. You always need more horsepower and where you end up with the rest of these guys I have no idea. They'll continue to address that and work on it. We'll keep getting it better. "I think Ray has come a long way. He's having to work on a new role as being a car owner and having to delegate a lot of the stuff that he did hands on with the 24 car. He's on a learning curve. As he gets everything else to his satisfaction, he'll concentrate more and more on the car side. It's not easy. I understand where he's at right now just from being there. "I don't want to ever own one of these deals again. It changes so much, it's hard to keep up with it. It's hard to know if you're making the right decisions. The problem is if things don't go right you have so much overhead. These things are so expensive to run. It's not doing anything but getting harder and harder day in and day out. Any time NASCAR implements a rule change, ever how small it is, it costs you tons of money to deal with. We'll just have to keep addressing it. "I've got mixed emotions (about racing Dodge for first time at Atlanta), but I don't think about it when I get in a race car. You just try to make it go as fast as it'll go and you're intense about what you're trying to do. You don't think about the rest of the stuff "I really liked the speedway (AMS) before, the way it used to be. I haven't really got set up for the way it is now. I guess that's been frustrating to some extent. I run decent down there, but I haven't been where I need to be. Maybe Ray can help me figure it out a little more this weekend. I wish we would have tested there, but it's always a hard race track to test at because it's a hard race track to simulate race conditions. I liked the configuration the way it was. It was a unique deal. We've got to race the way it is now, and we've got to overcome a lot of the obstacles and try to run good come Sunday. "Atlanta has always been a lot of fun. I liked the old Atlanta because it had a personality to it. I just haven't figured out the new configuration. I'm sure if I'd win a race there, I'd change my tune a little bit. Maybe we can change that this weekend. We've got our work cut out for us. There's a lot of good competition, a lot of good teams right now. We just need to continue to work through that. "Daytona is a whole different ball game. Daytona is not really a good gauge for the rest of the year. Vegas and the rest of these deals is going to be more the gauge. We'll know more this weekend of how we stack up because we've been from a speedway to a smaller track to more of an intermediate track to what I'd call a high-speed intermediate track which is what I call Atlanta. We've got to keep working through this. It's a never ending evolution of making the car better week in and week out. "It could take overnight or it could take months. I've kept several key people with me from the McDonald's year last year. That's helped, but Ray's taken on a lot more responsibility of taking on another team and having a two-car team. I think once he gets the business side more squared away, it'll make it easier on him to concentrate more on getting with the cars and making them run faster. There's a lot of things there that will continue to work and grow and become better day in and day out. I enjoy the midsize tracks. Like Vegas yesterday, that's an enjoyable race track. You run just fast enough. It's a raceable race track. It's not got too much bank and it's got enough bank to make it a good race. Atlanta has been a little bit different. It's been more of a high speed place, a little bit harder to pass here the last few times. We'll see how it goes this year. I'm in a Dodge this year, and we'll see how it reacts to Atlanta and how well we can make it go around the race track. "We ran pretty decent at Atlanta last fall, and we're getting a little bit better, but until we get down there and see, I don't know what to expect really. Goodyear's got a different tire, and it'll depend on how we get set up to it. "We had a good, strong first part and middle part of the race at Las Vegas. You can't help equalizing a right front tire, that's just unfortunate circumstances, and I got together with Leffler over there on the back straightaway and that didn't help matters. You just can't control it. "We just couldn't ever get set up right at Rockingham. Then I was real tight on one run and it killed me. I would have been decent if it had not been for that. Vegas was a good showing for us. We ran respectable, and that's what we've got to continue to work for. "They did a lot of extensive testing with the Dodge motor. They had a lot of time to put on the motor. I guess the other side, Ernie Elliott (head engine builder for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) has had probably the least time with the engine stuff and has really been the best with it. It'll scare me if it gets much more time with the thing. "I wore it (HANS safety device) at Rockingham and Las Vegas. I like it real well. I didn't have any problem with it whatsoever. It's the best thing that's come along yet. We can improve it and work with it and get it better. I like the way it sits on my neck. It gives you a good, positive feel. Instead of an inch shoulder harness digging into your shoulder, it feels like you've got the load more distributed across your back. It doesn't dig into my chest or anything. I like it so far. It'd be different if your Formula One and other guys didn't wear it. It's got to be something there for them to wear it."