Note: Kevin Lepage, Steadman Marlin, Greg Biffle and Scott Riggs were four of the five drivers that qualified on Wednesday afternoon before rain postponed qualifying for the EAS/GNC Live Well 300. The remainder of the 48 drivers qualified on ...
Note: Kevin Lepage, Steadman Marlin, Greg Biffle and Scott Riggs were four of the five drivers that qualified on Wednesday afternoon before rain postponed qualifying for the EAS/GNC Live Well 300. The remainder of the 48 drivers qualified on Thursday morning to determine the 43-car field.
KEVIN LEPAGE-71-Matrix Motorsports Ford Taurus (Qualified 35th)
"We had a car pull out in front of us in practice this morning when we tried to make a qualifying run, so we didn't have a great base time to gauge off of. I think that time is pretty good considering our situation right now. We only built this car a couple of weeks ago and we didn't have a chance to do too much testing with it. I'm happier with the effort we put into this car than anything else. I believe I built a race car and not a qualifying car. We'll have to see how it does in the draft and that won't come until tomorrow.
YOU DIDN'T HAVE THE CAR PREPARED IN TIME FOR THE DAYTONA OPEN TEST SESSION, BUT YOU WERE ABLE TO SHAKE IT DOWN AT TALLADEGA. DID THAT HELP YOU TODAY? "We really wanted to come here in January, but we just weren't able to. We lost a lot of our crew in the wintertime, a couple of key players, and we had to find some help to fill in the gaps. Anytime you try to throw something together, you've got to run whatever you have and make it the best you can. We did what we could do and it looks like we'll have to sit around and see where that stacks up. The bills get paid on Saturday when the checkered flag fall, and that's our main concern.
COULD THIS BE THE FIRST AND LAST RACE OF THE SEASON FOR THIS TEAM? "This is it. We've put all of our eggs in one basket for this race to find a sponsor. If we can't get one after this, we're done. We've got a lot of cars ready to race, but we can't get them to the track without a sponsor."
STEADMAN MARLIN-95-Keystone Light/Shoney's Inn Ford Taurus (Qualified
"That was the best lap that we've run since we've been here. The car had a bad push in it all week long, especially in 3 and 4, and we've been going to smaller bars and trying a few things, and it seemed like it helped; we're going to try to shorten it up some more.
YOU'VE DRIVEN ON A SUPERSPEEDWAY BEFORE, BUT THIS WAS YOUR FIRST QUALIFYING EFFORT. "I love coming to run at these places, I think it must be in the genes. I drove one of my dad's test cars a few weeks ago at Talladega and we were the fastest car out there. I love going out there and running wide open.
YOU FATHER HAS WON HERE A COUPLE OF TIMES. HAS HE BEEN COACHING YOU THIS WEEK? "He came down here in January when we tested and he was there in Talladega showing me a little about the way you run around here. It's not too hard; you hold it wide open and stay as close as you can to the white line. He's been helping on some chassis stuff this week, but he's in a Dodge and we're running Fords, so it's only the basics that he's giving us.
HAS HE GIVEN YOU ANY POINTERS ABOUT BEING IN THE DRAFT? "Yeah, but those are family secrets. I think we'll be OK in the draft. The body on this thing was cut up a little earlier in the week, but we're still working on it every day getting it ready for Saturday."
GREG BIFFLE-60-Grainger Ford Taurus (Qualified 23rd)
"I hope this rain lets up because I really don't want to re-qualify tomorrow. The team did a great job to get us that time. Qualifying here, it's all about the guys that work on the car, not the driver. Our goal was a 49-flat. We did a 49.3 legitimately here in testing, and when we went home, we thought we could get another three-tenths out of it. We went home and worked on it and ran a flat today. I think we got every ounce of speed out of it. Now where that stacks up against the other makes is a different story. It's exciting to see the other Ford within hundredths of us. We got the most out of our equipment and that's what we need to do to win the championship this year.
IF QUALIFYING WERE TO GET RAINED OUT, YOU WOULD LINE UP IN THE FOURTH POSITION, BUT DO YOU FEEL THAT QUALIFYING HAS TO TAKE PLACE FOR NASCAR TO CONSIDER A RULE CHANGE? "I really this so. Right now, Scott and I are first and second, but there hasn't been a Pontiac to run yet. NASCAR won't give us something with what they see here. Those guys have to run 48.1s and 48.2s, and everybody has to go for the pole for us to get consideration. There needs to be a bigger than five-tenths discrepancy between us and the Pontiacs to get some help. The Cup car was six-tenths off the Chevys and they gave them a half-inch total."
SCOTT RIGGS-10-Nestle Nesquik Ford Taurus (Qualified 20th)
"We thought we would be able to pick up a little bit from practice, but we slowed down just a touch. Our course, with the rain in the air, it's not perfect conditions for qualifying. I'm pretty confident that that will put us in the top 15, but I don't think, from what I saw here in January, that that will be good enough for the top 10. The Pontiacs are going to go out there and really show us what they can run now. We didn't come here to qualify, we came here to race. We'll just take that and go on." YOU QUALIFIED RIGHT AFTER THE FORD OF GREG BIFFLE. HAS HE BEEN IN YOUR SIGHTS ALL WEEK? "We haven't focused on what he's been running, but you can't help but look for those guys on the sheet. Greg has a fast Ford, and right now we're gauging ourselves off of the other Fords. To be able to be a little faster than them in qualifying tells me that this team has done its homework. We're all right there in the same ballgame.
YOU RACED HERE LAST YEAR IN THE TRUCKS, BUT HOW DIFFERENT ARE THE CARS? "The biggest difference is that the cars are a lot rougher on the race track. They bounce around a lot harder over the bumps and I think that's because of the shock package. I could tell a little bit of a difference testing at places like Rockingham, so there are some differences aero-wise and you can tell the difference wheelbase-wise. I think that here, there's not much of a difference.
YOU HAVEN'T DRAFTED HERE BEFORE IN A BUSCH CAR. HOW MUCH OF AN ADJUSTMENT DO YOU THINK THAT IS GOING TO BE? "None of the teams that tested here did any drafting in January, and that's going to be tough for us. That's going to be tough for me because I drafted a lot with the trucks, but the trucks had so much horsepower and pulled up so hard in the draft, they were fun to draft with and play with. These things, I think, are going to be a nail-biting, frustrating experience. I think that if I get this whole race over and done with and put it in our pocket of notes, I'll have learned a lot about restrictor-plate racing. I think it's going to be an exercise in patience on Saturday."
YOU WERE ON THE POLE TO START THE DAY, BUT ONLY FIVE CARS QUALIFIED YESTERDAY. WAS QUALIFYING YESTERDAY A DISADVANTAGE? "I don't look at it as a disadvantage, but the luck of the draw. I don't think that the cold gears and the cold oil is going to hurt them, and I think they have some less humid air to suck into the engines, so they may be better of. We were about the same speed as Jason in practice, but he seems to have made a slight gain from yesterday's practice. I don't think we were going to be on the pole with some of those Pontiacs running around out there, so it doesn't matter to me. We're here to race and not to qualify, and that's been our mentality all along.
DO YOU THINK THERE WAS ANY WAY THAT THE FIVE CARS THAT QUALIFIED YESTERDAY COULD HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO RE-QUALIFY? "Not really. Once you make you two laps there is a lot for work to do on the car to get it ready again. Once you tape your car up and make your qualifying run, you can't expect anybody to do it again. It's just the luck of the draw, but as long as we're in the top 20, we'll be fine for the race. It doesn't take long to get up front here."
<B>BOBBY HAMILTON, JR.-25-Team Marines Ford Taurus (Qualified 18th)
"That's not bad. We lost about a tenth, but this is a different day. These guys worked hard all winter long to get this Ford Taurus running good and we've got Fred Wanke, Robert Yates motors and Ford behind us, so we'll be OK.
YOU WERE STRONG IN TESTING HERE IN JANUARY, BUT YOU'VE ONLY PRACTICED QUALIFYING TRIM. "We're looking forward to the 300 to get this thing untaped and make sure it turns all day. Compared to the way I qualified last year and the way these guys qualified last, this is a big plus. We're looking to improve on everything from last year, but how could we be bad with Yates power?
WAS THIS CAR BUILT IN THE SHOP DURING THE OFF-SEASON? "We actually got this from Elton Sawyer's team. This was the 98 car that finished fifth at Talladega and was trimmed out and ready to go. These guys aren't playing around. They're buying everything they can, buying all the equipment they can to win races."
JASON KELLER-57-Albertsons Ford Taurus (Qualified 15th)
"We didn't too well when we tested in January, and to run as fast as we ran is pretty good. We felt that we could get in the high 48s, but that is about the max. We did what we thought we could, so I think we got the most out of it. We tried our best, but we're a little handicapped. I know that I've been saying that all week, but I'm just proud of the guys for getting it in the 48-second bracket. We'll just have to see what happens from here on out with the rules and deal with what we're dealt.
FOUR OF THE FIVE TEAMS THAT QUALIFIED YESTERDAY WERE FORDS. DOES THAT HURT YOUR LOBBYING CAUSE? "It really looks like the track and the conditions are close to what they were yesterday. We ran a 49.05 yesterday and a 48.9 today, so I think we're comparing apples to apples. If you look at all of the time sheets, one of the fastest Fords all day was the 57 car. We were in the top 15 most of yesterday, so I think they have our Ford to compare to everybody else. I'm just glad we got to run today so we know exactly where we stack up. That's thanks to the luck of the draw. Right now is the time where everybody has to show their hand. We thought some teams were holding back, but now is the time that they have to show us what they have and that will be a better barometer of how we stack up to the other manufacturers."
CHRISTIAN ELDER-38-Great Clips Ford Taurus (Qualified 25th)
"That's almost what we ran in our last practice run yesterday. We were all geared up to run in the afternoon with the wind, and I know we could have run faster if we could have changed some stuff for a morning run. It's the same thing for everyone, so I really can't complain about that.
YOU DIDN'T QUALIFY FOR THE RACE HERE LAST YEAR. HOW MUCH OF A RELIEF WAS IT TO QUALIFY IN THE TOP 25? "This just illustrates how much this team has matured in one year. We've also had so much more time to prepare and organize ourselves. Last year, we walked into a shop in November that had nothing in it except for lights, we decided it would work and then we started buying stuff. We had November and December to start building cars, and not just cars for Daytona. We only had one used car from Elton, and the rest we built from scratch. This year, we started our plate program in June and this car went to the wind tunnel two times. That picked us up some, and I think the overall chassis is better and the Cosworth motor is better, so we've just strengthened every aspect of our program in the last 12 months."
MATT KENSETH-17-JaniKing Ford Taurus (Qualified 12th) - "That's a good time for us. This car has never been to a race track, so to never have done any testing or wind tunnel time, I'm really proud of these guys." YOU SWITCHED MANUFACTURERS IN THE OFF-SEASON AND ROLLED THIS CAR ON THE TRACK FOR THE FIRST TIME ON TUESDAY, YET YOU'RE CURRENTLY THE FASTEST FORD. "This car was built in a few weeks by the guys in the shop, Rick Kipley built this motor at the last minute and we kinda picked up a last minute sponsor, so I'm proud of these guys to have done this.
HOW MUCH PRESSURE IS ON THIS TEAM THIS WEEKEND TO PERFORM IN ORDER TO ATTRACT A FULL-TIME SPONSOR? "There's always big pressure, but I don't think we need to prove anything to anybody. I think we've proved ourselves in the Busch Series over the last three years, so I don't think it's a pressure-packed situation, but it's a tough situation to find sponsors right now. I think being at the race track will help a lot and I'm hopeful we might be able to shake something out of the trees and put somebody on the car for the rest of the year.
THIS CAR IS SEPARATE FROM THE ROUSH ORGANIZATION, BUT DO YOU SEE GREG BIFFLE AS A TEAMMATE ON THE RACE TRACK? "If the occasion arises on the race track, I'm sure we'd help each other as much as we can, but usually when you make a plan, it doesn't work out. We'll just have to make the best of what we have, and if we both run good, hopefully we can hook up together and see how these Fords draft with one another. I'm real proud of how we ran because I don't think the rules are a big advantage for the Fords on the superspeedways, and we're still able to run really competitive."