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NASCAR Winston Cup Series: Daytona 500

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Daytona 500

NASCAR Winston Cup Series: Daytona 500

Geoffrey Bodine
Ryan Newman
Shawna Robinson
Elliott Sadler
February 17, 2002


DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

MODERATOR: Ryan, if you could start out with a couple of comments about how things were from your seat today.

RYAN NEWMAN: Pretty exciting on certain laps. Ride along program on the others. We started out, got shuffled back towards the back of the pack, hooked up with Rusty, drove up through. Got up, I think we drove in fourth or fifth there for quite a while. The car felt really good. Car started to feel tight. The guys did an awesome job in the pits today. I made one mistake and went over the line, cost us some time there. I think we fell back to 18th. Got the opportunity to work up through the traffic again. I mean, it was hairy at times there. The big wreck down there on one and two, had to go down through the grass. I was telling some guys earlier, I actually turned the thing to the right going through the grass, which you're not supposed to do. Cut up into the bank, took off. I looked back in my mirror, said, "Man, I don't know how we made it." Great team effort today. Rusty Wallace's team, the ALLTEL Ford Taurus ran great. Great for us to come home in the Top 10.

Q. Shawna, if you could, kind of the same thing, talk about the day, maybe how you are anticipating the first couple laps, the whole day through?

SHAWNA ROBINSON: Well, we started out just really wanting to get help from behind and be able to get up and run a bunch of laps. We were in a situation where a few cars really wanted to run side by side with me instead of getting in line and going forward, which always hurts you. But we found out early on who were the ones that obviously weren't going to work with me, knowing what we had to do to kind of maintain a position. At one point we ran out of fuel, so that didn't help us out any. So when I did come back in, pitted, four tires, gas, the caution came out, put us down a little more. We caught back up. Any time with a brand-new race team like this, no sponsor, we kind of worked our way here, when we were in the midst of a large draft, somebody was in front or behind, I really felt like I had a good race car, felt like it would work well. We had a drive shaft break, so came in, fixed that, went back out. It was kind of survival. I mean, with a brand-new race team, we worked together really well. I had some incidents in the pit and on the racetrack. Got with Skinner at one point and drove out of that one, came in, changed four tires, short after that the drive shaft broke. My head is spinning a little. I've never seen so many wrecked cars before. Unfortunate we didn't have a better day because we could have ended up with a Top 10. Congratulations to Ryan, great run. My team did an exceptional job of keeping it together. My first Daytona 500, not happy about it, but the fact we finished in the Top 25 and finished at the end of the race, we were still out there, I'd have to say we accomplished something. You know, I want to be competitive. But this is the steps of getting there, learning along the way. I learned a lot today. Look forward to Talladega.

MODERATOR: We'll open it. Thank you. We're now joined downstairs in the infield media center press conference room with Elliott Sadler, who finished second in today's Daytona 500, as well as Geoffrey Bodine, who finished third. We'll get each of them to open up with a comment, then ask some questions. Elliott, if you could, just start it off with how you saw things today.

ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, first of all, this second to us down here, is like a win for our program. This is huge for Wood Brothers Racing. We didn't end the season last year like we wanted to. Had a pretty long winter. Made changes to some of the chassis stuff we're doing. It's tough racing in this business. So to finish second down here, unbelievable. We've been struggling all week. We took a provisional. Got almost lapped in twin 125s, made a lot of changes to the car. It paid off for us today. The Wood Brothers, for all their hard work, the pit stops, best pit stops I ever had in my entire life. Those guys must have been working a lot over the wintertime. I want to thank everybody at Motorcraft quality parts. A lot of customers in the stands, a lot of big guys from Ford Motor Company. To be able to put a couple Fords up in the Top 5 was special for all of us. I do want to thank Geoffrey beside me for pushing me to the front one time on the inside line. I was supposed to work with him at the end, but I got a little bit of the push, so I had to go around him a little bit. This means more to this program than the win we had earlier. This is huge for our Wood Brothers program. Hopefully it will get us off to a good start in the 2002 season.

MODERATOR: We'll take to it Geoffrey. There's a pretty big smile, Geoffrey. If you could talk about how incredible today was for you.

GEOFFREY BODINE: Well, I really don't know how incredible it is because, you know, this team only runs a few races. You know, this team only has two cars. We have them here. James, I need to thank him for allowing me to drive his car. Thank the Miccosukee Indian Gaming Tribe in southern Florida for stepping up their program. They've helped us for about four or five years. They certainly stepped up this year with a lot of money to get this car here. We're going to run again here. They just told me out on pit road, don't worry about Talladega, they're going to sponsor us for that. Things are already in an upswing for us. But, you know, especially after two years ago, you know, two years ago I was in the hospital just listening to this race. I heard these guys over here running around, watched TV when I was awake. That was a little tough. They had a little Morphine in me back then. To come back here and prove -- I didn't have anything to prove because I knew with good equipment I could do the job. But, you know, I guess I did prove that the wreck didn't take anything out of me. You know, from day one, I wanted to get back in the race car. I did pretty soon after that wreck. But we didn't do all that well. Like I said, you need good equipment to show what you can do as a driver. Elliott will tell you that. Every driver will tell you that. I'm happy for Elliott, for Ward. My team did a great job in the pits, too, Elliott. You know, it takes all of that. We can't do anything without those guys changing those tires, putting those springs and shocks in the car, waxing it down, bringing it here. I mean, Elliott -- we all know the Wood Brothers are super. I've been a fan of them forever. Almost got in their car a couple times to drive it - probably wish I had. I'm just so thankful that I'm here. I'm still racing, that James gave me this opportunity today.

MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.

Q. Elliott, last couple of laps, you were told to watch out for Jarrett. What do you think was going on on the track?

ELLIOTT SADLER: Do y'all monitor us that closely (laughter)? We knew it was going to be tough. I was restarting behind Geoffrey. If y'all were monitoring me, you know everybody was trying to figure out who you're going to work with, all the spotters are trying to go to each other, all the crew chiefs. "So-and-so is going to help you, maybe they're not going to help you." You never know what is going to help you. My comment back, "Hey, this is the Daytona 500, nobody's going to help anybody unless they think they can win the race." That's really the way I feel about it. I didn't know whether the 88 was going to try to help me or not, but he was going to try to pass me on that restart. I blocked him low, high. I drove DJ pretty bad. For somebody you look up, to that's kind of a bad feeling. It's the Daytona 500, this is special to us, I really wanted a good finish. That could have made the difference for me finishing 2nd or 12th. I had to do what I had to do. I seen other people block that bad on restarts. I figured that's what I had to do to finish 2nd.

Q. Is this one of the wildest 500 finishes you've been a part of?

ELLIOTT SADLER: He's been in a lot more of them than I have.

GEOFFREY BODINE: I've been in more than Elliott. Wild as far as closeness of racing, yes. Accidents, we've seen some bad accidents here. I don't know if this is the wildest in that respect. The finish - we seen some great finishes here. This is just another race at Daytona. A couple years from now, people will figure out how good it was.

Q. Obviously you want to be No. 1, but how important is it that a guy from Virginia was in Victory Lane?

ELLIOTT SADLER: I think that's pretty cool and I mentioned that to all my guys after the race. We made a big deal about who's pushing who here the last couple races, 15 pushing 15, 8 pushing 15. I finished third here in July. Ward Burton pushed me by a couple people on the last lap too. My exact words to him when I ran into Victory Lane to hug him was, "That's my payback to you. You helped me here last July. Nothing wrong with working with him." I worked with him a lot during the last, the last 50 laps. Pretty cool to work with him.

Q. Geoffrey, where were you a year ago today? Did you think you had a chance to be back in racing?

GEOFFREY BODINE: A year ago today, I was here in Daytona, but I never came to the racetrack on race day. I was here for my brothers. You know, I love those guys. I was here for them. But I just couldn't bring myself to Sunday morning to come to the racetrack. It wasn't because of the traffic jams, either, it was just very hard to be here and not be in the Daytona 500. So, you know, this today felt a whole lot better when I woke up, knowing that I was going to be in the race.

Q. Both drivers, were you happy with the rules changes today?

ELLIOTT SADLER: I think some of the fans and stuff were worried about how much we was going to be able to race today with the rule changes, it was going to be spreaded out. Probably the first twin 125 wasn't the best. Today, we was beating and banging. It was pretty competitive to me. Even the last 40, 50 laps - a lot of pushing - a lot of passing going on. Yes, I'm happy with the rule change. I didn't know how much spread out we would be. I know it was not the race last year, you got 43 cars all within a second. But if you had a good handling race car, you could pass people whenever you wanted to. So I think the rule changes were a good plus.

GEOFFREY BODINE: That's the way it's supposed to be. Drivers are supposed to put a little skill into driving these cars. Today if you had a good car and good driver, could you make some moves.

Q. How do the Fords handle after the two rule modifications?

ELLIOTT SADLER: I was a little free with people behind me. I was a lot of out of control compared to where I was earlier in the week. But I could suck up a lot better. I could actually get up and push the guy in front of me. But I was a lot freer than -- I had a lot of times where I had the wheel probably more to the right than I did to the left. I think a lot of cars were baggin off and using brakes. With this new rule package, we have probably have half the down force that we did last year with all the stuff on the spoiler and the roof and all that. So all the cars were dancing around a lot. But I think the Fords, yes, it helped us suck up a lot, but it also made our cars drive a little looser.

GEOFFREY BODINE: Same thing. Good answer. You get an A (laughter).

Q. The fact that you couldn't drop below the yellow line, do you feel that may have caused some of the accidents by guys really trying to watch that line?

GEOFFREY BODINE: No. You know, we all have to race by those rules. In Thursday's race, I made a mistake. I was probably below the yellow line. I didn't do that on purpose. I should have backed off. You know, I haven't raced here in a while. I forgot (laughter). But I didn't really pass anybody. I should have backed off, fell back a little bit, I would have been okay. Today, you know, we used the yellow line. We got as close to it as we could without going underneath it to protect ourselves. If somebody wanted to go down there, that was up to them. You know, we saw cars going below it in wrecks, spinning around. I don't know what happened in all those wrecks, but all I was worried about was missing them.

Q. Geoffrey, was this a one-race deal? If so, did the plans change today?

GEOFFREY BODINE: James Finch is a super nice gentleman. I brought him a sponsorship for both Daytona races and Homestead. He said, "We're going to run Homestead. We're going to let you run Talladega, even if we don't have a sponsor." That's the kind of guy he is. Hopefully today we did get some sponsorship for those races. These things cost a lot of money to put together and take the races. Hopefully all that will work out good for us.

Q. Geoffrey, on that same note about the schedule, is it a possibility you'll race sooner than Talladega?

GEOFFREY BODINE: I don't really know. You know, like I said before, James has only two Winston Cup cars. We used them both here. We need sponsorship. Once we secure sponsorship for some other races, we'll start building some cars and be ready. There are a lot of cars out there for sale. Maybe we can get one from the Wood Brothers or somebody else. I don't know what our future plans are. Hopefully they're going to be good and we'll get racing sometime.

Q. Geoffrey, by the scoring chart, you were 16th on lap 180, jumping all the way up to third. How did you gain all those positions during that short amount of time?

GEOFFREY BODINE: I drove my blank off (laughter). Johnny made some adjustments on it on one pit stop. Came in, changed tires. That car took off. I never lifted. You couldn't out there today. If I was inside, I kept it wide open, in the middle, outside wide open. Other guys were having to lift, giving me spots. We just kept working our way up through.

Q. Geoffrey, how did you help Ward at the end?

GEOFFREY BODINE: I don't know. I was helping myself. I don't think I helped Ward (laughter). On that restart, you know, I watched where Ward was going to go, watched what was going on behind me. I moved low. Elliott moved high because they were going to go around him. I really didn't help Ward at all. Elliott got by me on the back straightaway. I gave him a shot, helped him. We were all trying to help each other at the time. Once you got in line, it's really hard to pass. Those Dodges were fast. I had a little damage to my front end. I thought it was going to be tough for me to do anything but hold my spot. Elliott helped me by being right there, staying low. That's all I did.

Q. Elliott, could you address how much you helped Ward at the end? What were you doing?

ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, the same thing Geoffrey said. I knew when we got the restart, we had a lot of big-name guys behind us that had been in these situations before, the Daytona 500, Pepsi 400, whatever. They got a lot more experience than me. I just went through the gearbox, was meaning to push Geoffrey. I looked up, 88, 97 all going around on the outside, I made a quick decision. I swerved hard right, they pushed me right by Geoffrey. I helped Ward down the back straightaway by Geoffrey and back in front of him. Then he gave me a shot. Then we kind of broke away from everybody. I'm thinking, this is pretty cool, let's get a little bit of a breakaway there; then we'll worry about ourselves. I just helped Ward some in the back straightaway as far as making sure he was in front of Geoffrey. He kind of pulled me by the 09, then Geoffrey pulled me behind him, then he kind of got away from everybody. I guess, helped pushing him some down the back straightaway is the only way I helped the 22 car.

Q. Could you comment on the rules changes to Ford and Dodge on the spoiler? What kind of effect do you think they had on today's -- on the finishing order for today?

ELLIOTT SADLER: I don't know how much effect it had on the finishing order. A lot of good cars --

MODERATOR: Did NASCAR go too far?

ELLIOTT SADLER: I don't think so. A lot of good cars that were a lot faster than me, like the 24, 8, 29, some of those guys, and the 15s, front end damage, taken out in wrecks. I think a lot of us were able to miss the wrecks. It's not like a Ford led every lap of the race.

GEOFFREY BODINE: That's experience, though.

ELLIOTT SADLER: That's experience (laughter). It helped some as far as us being able to drive with the guys. For the first time all week, I could pull up and push somebody on the straightaway instead of just holding on. That makes a big difference on how you finish. Our car was dancing around a lot more than they had been all week, too. I think it was a pretty even trade.

Q. Could Geoffrey address that question.

GEOFFREY BODINE: (Laughter). I would just have to repeat what Elliott said. Exactly right, the cars were faster, they moved around more. That's why they pay us to drive those things. I thought it was great. Thank you, everybody.

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