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Bill Elliott Preseason Thunder Q&A
Q: After a couple years away from the Daytona 500, what did you think when you got in the car for the first time, anything different, equipment, track or did it all come back to you?
Bill Elliott: You know, staying away a couple of years, everything is still the same, it's still the same thing. You've got to do well in a draft, you have to have a car handling and that's what I always like about Daytona is you can run good for a few laps. But if your car is not really under you, then you can't continue that through the full run. Especially here when the race is on Sunday afternoon, and it's a warm afternoon because the heat gets on the racetrack and it's hard to keep a hold out.
That's what I've noticed here today is after six, eight, ten laps on your tires, the racetrack really gets greasy, and that's what makes Daytona so much fun, you've got a handle, you've got to be able to run wide open and that's the only way you're going to be able to win this thing.
Q: We're a couple years into it, you're racing less, so are you racing less, enjoying it more maybe? How has that all settled in?
Bill Elliott: You hit it right on the head: Racing less and enjoying it more. Between what I've been racing the last few years, I told some guys the other day watching my son race go karts, has been a lot of fun. Being able to go with him and watch him from that side and then be able to come back and see the guys that I grew up with around the racetrack and stuff, that's what makes it so much more special when you do come back. I've been at Daytona the last two years, both to run the shootout, and this time the opportunity come up to run the 500 and we're going to attempt to get into it and hopefully we can put everything together to get into it. That's our goal. And then from there on, we'll see where the wind carries me. I'm still involved with Ray Evernham as far as that's concerned, and I'm kind of on loan from Ray over to Jay's side. So it's just an opportunity to come run the 500. I think I told Jay twice no, but he wouldn't take no for an answer.
Q: The flip side to racing less, is there any difficulty or frustration in keeping up with technology?
Bill Elliott: No. I leave that pretty much up to the guys and that's the way it pretty much is. This place, I can tell you wherever a bump is on the racetrack, I've been around it so many times. Nothing's changed from as far as the racetrack is concerned, it just exactly as I remembered it and the shootout last year, the 500, two years ago or whatever. But like I said, it's still, if you get everything right and under you, it's a pretty neat racetrack. It's a lot of fun to go around the place wide open, if you can just get the car under you for the full run, for your full fuel run, that's the most critical part and the hardest part and I always seem to figure out this things.
Q: So you're running Hendrick engines for Jay?
Bill Elliott: Yeah, they have always run Hendrick stuff.
Q: And what is your deal, we're talking about Dodge and General Motors and most of these manufacturers won't let one guy go over to the other side for whatever, did you just luck out or did you get a special release?
Bill Elliott: I got a free agent pass.
Q: So what else do you plan on doing this year, like Atlanta for Jay or Atlanta for Ray?
Bill Elliott: That sounds pretty good, Ray Jay. Isn't that Ray's son, Ray Jay? I think Ray's deal will come more on in the latter part of the year, once he gets his third deal kind of in place, then we'll decide. Right now this 36 deal is just a one race shot and we'll assess it after we get out of here in a month or so. We'll see.
Q: Along the lines of that, your phone ringing off the hook, and did you then, what turned you over the tide to take this offer, I'm sure Ray wasn't quite ready to have something for you, would you be taking other offers as they come along, or did something push you over the edge to take this one?
Bill Elliott: Well, Jay kind of pushed me over the edge of this. I know his wife, Danielle, real well, and I think she threatened me with bodily harm, so I said, well, I'd better go do it. I've known him for quite a number of years, and it was just an opportunity and the cars run well here in the past and I thought, hey, what the heck, we'll give it a shot and see if we can get in the 500 and see if we can do him some good.
Q: Just talk about being in a Chevy, I guess, again for the first time since '79, I believe.
Bill Elliott: Well, you've got to understand, through the Iroq days and this and that, you kind of bounced around through different stuff. You know, the brand deal is more you guys, and I'm just looking at the car and what it takes. You know, I'm just out fulfilling what Jay and the guys need just to run the 500. You know, as far as my ties with Dodge, you know, Ray is tied to Dodge more than I am. You know, when I stopped driving full time in '03, then my Dodge ties were no longer there. I pretty much work for Ray, and if Ray says it it's okay, then that's kind of where I'm at. But there again, it's more like helping each other out, like Jay will call, will want me to do this deal and I felt like once Ray said, yeah, it's okay to do it, I said I'll pursue it and see where it goes.
Q: Do you feel your semiretirement has had an influence on the other drivers who are late in their career?
Bill Elliott: Absolutely. I think I've nudged a few in my direction, and you know, the thing about it is we don't do anything forever. You guys, we ain't going to live forever, we ain't going to report forever, we ain't doing to drive a race car forever. There comes a time, we're able to look at other things. Right now I'm able to bounce around and look at different things and see what my options or and see, if I want to go do this a while or do that or whatever, if a good opportunity comes along, I still have my feet wet enough over the last couple of years of what I've been racing between the Busch and the Cup stuff that I kept pretty much abreast of what's going on. For example, Daytona it seems like the restrictor plates at Daytona don't change very much throughout the years. A lot of other tracks, the tires make the difference or this or that, where here it's a pretty consistent basis. I guess since they have kind of gone to this format a number of years ago, and closed my eyes and think back several years past, and it's all been pretty much on an even line. So to come back here and kind of join right in and fit right in, you know who is going to run good, you know the cars, you've got to work with and that's the things you go out and you try to accomplish and hope that you can stay out of trouble and get to the end of this either the shootout or the 500, put yourself in a good position to either run well or help your teammates or whoever win the race or you win the race.
Q: Does the Daytona 500 play more to a rookie's strength or a veteran's strengths as far as winning the race?
Bill Elliott: Well, I think I don't know that it plays a favorite. I mean, if you look at the past history, the DEI cars are the ones that have been hands down the ones to beat over the last number of years, and I would say that you have to take that into the equation. I've been following the a car around out here today and he's pretty tough again. So I would say that he's probably one of the guys that you're going to have to look for, but all of the things have got to go right come Sunday afternoon. If you look back I guess at the finish last year of the 500, I think Scott Wimmer finished third, I believe, I think. I was looking at it yesterday, I believe and here a guy comes in, and you can put yourself in position to win here, a rookie or not. If you've got the right equipment, get in the right place at the right time, that's my point, you can get to victory lane at Daytona.
Q: (No microphone.)
Bill Elliott: I had not done anything. It's the guys on the car that put it all together. I guess that's the flip side of coming to Daytona. You know, if you put a percentage of driver/car as far as going out for a qualifying run, you could probably put it 75 percent car here, 25 percent driver, maybe even less, because you've got to have something that will run or you're not going to run a fast time here. Typically in the past, I think Nemechek finished fifth here in the 500 a year ago, I think Boris qualified fifth here in this car for the Fourth of July race, I think that was what Jay told me, somewhere in that deal, but it's run well. And with that, it makes it easier when you come in and the one car, the car they ran last year, it was the quickest car out of the stable. Like I said, all they do is go back ask keep working with it and making it better and better and it was good here and we unloaded Monday.
Q: You've got two teammates, Stonewall and Nemechek who are good here at Daytona, I know circumstances dictate a lot, but talk about how the three of you might be able to do something effective in the 500?
Bill Elliott: That's the whole key is you can't do it alone. You've got to have not only the team in the pits but the team in the garage and everybody collectively putting things together. Then on the flip side, you've got to have the guys on the racetrack that will help you. When it gets down late in the race, you've got to be able to work together to get to a point, and I guess then it's each man for himself, that's the way it's always been in the past. But still, you've got to work together to get to that point.
Q: How many races are you expecting to run this year in total?
Bill Elliott: I have no idea. My goal would be to run 10 or 12 races, that's what I've always said in the past and we've kind of fallen short of that with the way things have fallen in Ray's camp. Right now his main focus is to get the third car deal with Scott Riggs and all of the things in place. And for me, like I said, this was an opportunity to come down here and do this, and let him get program in place and then be able to work toward whatever we do as we continue on down the road.
Q: (No microphone.)
Bill Elliott: I feel like I can, I really do. I feel like they have got the equipment to do it, given the right circumstances.
Q: (No microphone.)
Bill Elliott: Yeah, but there again, the flip side between Talladega and Daytona it's such a different race. Here, you've got to handle. Talladega, it doesn't matter, you can run six deep all day long, where here you can't do it. You can do it for a short period of time, but eventually everybody will get spread out, unless your car is working right, that's the flip side of the two racetracks.