After a short delay due to passing rain showers, practice for Saturday's Pepsi 300 began shortly after noon today. Forty-three Busch Series entrants had more than four hours of practice time around the new 1.33-mile concrete speedway before ...
After a short delay due to passing rain showers, practice for Saturday's Pepsi 300 began shortly after noon today. Forty-three Busch Series entrants had more than four hours of practice time around the new 1.33-mile concrete speedway before tomorrow's afternoon qualifying session. Three Fords, Greg Biffle, Elton Sawyer and Jeff Green, led the way in the morning practice session, turning lap speeds in excess of 154 mph.
ELTON SAWYER-98-Starter/Hot Tamales Ford Taurus
YOU HAD A GOOD PRACTICE SESSION THIS MORNING.
"Well, we unloaded with a really good car, so it took me a little while to get familiar with where I needed to be, and I'm still not there. I'm having a little bit of trouble in (Turns) 1 and 2, and I don't think it's the car, it's just finding out where I need to be and hitting all of my marks. I feel pretty good about (Turns) 3 and 4; we have a pretty good handle on that end. We've got another two hours this afternoon, and hopefully we'll get it figured out."
YOU SAID THAT YOU CAME TO THE TRACK YESTERDAY TO WATCH ARCA PRACTICE. DID THAT HELP YOU FIND YOUR LINE?
"At least we knew how to get in the track this morning; we knew where all the garage areas were. But as far as standing on the outside and looking in, I can't learn anything that way. Until you get buckled in and make laps in your car, I think that's the only way you learn is to get out there and do it."
HOW WAS THE RACING SURFACE?
"It's wonderful. There's a little issue down there in (Turns) 1 and 2, but I think the more we run, the better it got. The more rubber we get down, the better it's going to be. It's no different here than when we go to Bristol or Dover, it take some time with the concrete to get a good surface down for us to race on, meaning the rubber. This place will be no different, it's just bigger so it's going to take us longer. Because this place is bigger, it's a mile-and-a-third track versus Dover which is a mile, it just takes a little longer. Those tracks you run around in 25 seconds, and here, we're running around here in 30 seconds."
WAS THERE LITTLE GIVE-UP ON THE TIRES?
"We stayed on the same set of tires, we have 40 laps on them, and they seem to be fine. Goodyear is going a great job with this tire situation this year. With only a limited amount of codes, it's taking us a little while to get us accustomed to what we need at each race track, but that's a variable that we don't really have to deal with, so my hat's off to them. The wear has been great."
DOES THAT OPEN THE DOOR FOR TWO-TIRE STOPS ON SATURDAY?
"I think there's a possibility."
YOU SAID IN TERMS OF COMFORT THAT YOU'RE NOT QUITE THERE YET. HOW FAR OFF ARE YOU?
"I think we're halfway there. The race car is really good and Ricky (Viers) has gone a good job of doing his homework on a track that we haven't run at. I've just got to get more laps on the race track to find out where the dangerous spots are and to say, "OK, we don't need to be there," and to find out exactly where we need to be. My big issue is (Turns) 1 and 2, personally, trying to figure out what I need to do down there."
JEFF GREEN-10-Nestle Nesquik Ford Taurus
YOU SEEMED TO HAVE FIGURED THE TRACK OUT PRETTY QUICK.
"Yeah, I'm lucky. I have a great crew chief and a bunch of great guys that can look in between the lines and know what we need to start off with; that makes my job a lot easier. We started out good and got a lot better. It's just a track that's kinda slick and we had to work up to it, so the Nesquik Ford is running pretty good."
HOW WAS TIRE WEAR?
"The tires are lasting. We probably ended up with 60 laps on our tires by the end of practice, and we could run the 60th lap as fast as the first, so it's a pretty good situation."
WILL IT BE POSSIBLE TO TAKE TWO TIRES DURING THE RACE?
"Harold just said that we can run a fuel stop on them, but whether that will play into strategy, I don't know. I'm sure it will play into some not pitting if they don't have to for gas."
IS THIS TRACK LIKE ANY OTHERS ON THE CIRCUIT?
"It would be awesome if it were pavement, but it's concrete so that just gives you a little false sense of security because it just doesn't have the grip. Once it gets some rubber down on it, for some reason it's not laying rubber down like at Dover or Bristol, but I'm sure after all day tomorrow and by the time the race starts, it's going to have plenty of rubber on it and that's going to give us a better security blank to lay on it a little bit harder."
WHAT ARE YOUR PREDICTIONS FOR QUALIFYING?
"I think the pole is going to be in the 30s (30 seconds). I ran a 31.10 (seconds) and they didn't beat me much in practice, so I'm sure it will all depend on what they let us do with tires. We usually have to qualify on stickers, but if they let us go on scuffs, I don't know what stickers will offer us if what I'm saying, but if they let us go on whatever tires we want to, I'm sure the pole will be in the 30s."
GREG BIFFLE-60-Grainger Ford Taurus
YOU SEEMED TO HAVE A PRODUCTIVE MORNING.
"We spent all morning working up to it. The track is obviously real slick, being concrete and nobody ever running on it has a lot to do with it, but it's getting a lot better. It's gotten so much better from the first time I went out until the last time when they threw the black flag at the end. The track has improved 99 percent, so it's hard to adjust on the car or do anything. We're just kinda riding it out, making minor adjustments with the chassis and letting the track come to us more than anything."
HOW IS THE TIRE?
"I think it's pretty good, but I don't think it would hurt us any for it to be a little bit softer in compound. It might give us a little better grip, but as the track wears and gets more rubber down on it, and gets more laps around it with people running on it, it seems to be getting more adherent to the tire we're using. I definitely don't think tire wear will be a factor by Saturday."
DOES THAT MEAN YOU WOULD THINK ABOUT A TWO-TIRE STOP?
"That's possible, but I never really considered that. I think it will, more than anything, allow people to stay out as long as they have fuel in the tank. A two-tire stop is entirely possible, but I think you may see some guys staying out if there's a caution."
YOU FIGURED THIS TRACK OUT PRETTY QUICK. IS THAT DUE TO DRIVER FEEDBACK OR YOUR BASELINE SETUP?
"I'm pretty good at adapting to new places, and as a team, we've all been pretty good at that, Randy (Goss) and myself. I think that's showing up a little bit here. They've got the car right, and if they don't have the car right, I can't drive it. They've got it close and we're going to see if we can't keep improving upon it as the track changes."
WAS DID YOU BASE YOUR SETUP OFF OF?
"Kinda Vegas-ish. It's this size track with the same kind of banking and then we just worked from there. We're not too far from it right now, it's just different shocks. The shock combination seemed to have the biggest change in the handling of the car."
HOW MUCH MORE DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE TO IMPROVE?
"I think we'll have to improve another second in time to be on the pole because the track is going to get that much better. I honestly feel the track is going to get that much better."
ARE THE ARCA CARS HELPING TO PUT DOWN RUBBER?
"I think it will help. We still have a lot of practice time left, and nobody has done qualifying runs yet, either, so that should pick us up at least three or four tenths (of a second), we're hoping. If the track gets four tenths better, there's eight tenths, and somebody will be bold and run a second faster by tomorrow's qualifying session."
WILL THERE BE TIME TO WORK IN A SECOND GROOVE BY THE START OF THE RACE?
"Let's hope that with Happy Hour and the ARCA race it will there. I don't think passing will be a problem, but the sooner we get that second groove broken in, the better off we'll be. I'll have to get back with you tomorrow on that one."