Crew Chief Ray Evernham on NASCAR's Latest Rule Changes and the Ford Taurus (03/04/98)
|Ray Evernham, crew
chief for the No. 24 Chevrolet driven by Jeff Gordon:
Would six more bullets have helped Custer? That rule change is like giving Custer six more bullets at the Little Bighorn.
I think it's going to take at least three-quarters of an inch to get close. We missed the set-up a little bit at Las Vegas, but not a lot. We could have finished eighth or ninth, but I kept gambling to make it better and we ended up making it worse. (Note: Gordon finished 17th.) We took on two tires and that killed us. We needed some more cautions to work on the car and we just didn't get them.
I know what kind of car the Taurus is. We're building one right now, but there's no production Taurus to compare it to. It was designed specifically as a race car. The Monte Carlo is still a production car. You see plenty of two-door Monte Carlos on the street.
This is the truth, like it or not. I'll challenge anyone to call me a liar. It's not about the numbers. It's not about Ford or Chevy. It's about stopping Jeff Gordon. The Ford brass say they want things on an equal basis. If that's the case, let's all run the same bodies. Let's run no bodies. Let's stop halfway into the race and switch bodies. Whatever. I'm just tired of hearing them crying about wanting things equal.
With that quarter-inch, it's not going to be close at Atlanta. You won't see us have a chance again until Bristol. It's just too far out of hand and too many changes have to happen to make it close to equal. It has ruined the 1998 season for a lot of people. It has cost the Chevy car owners millions of dollars.
Ford had the aerodynamic and horsepower advantage last year with the Thunderbird, and it was a good bit better. The Taurus was made specifically for racing. We're building a Taurus and we have all the info. I'd love for someone to prove to me me I'm wrong, but I know how good that car is. We work hard with what we've got, but I know my business and I know how good that car is. We're going to run that Taurus (in a test, not a race) and prove the difference. We're a little behind building it because we've been scrambling lately, but we'll get it done.
I don't like to lose, and this is the only sport in the world where you're penalized for being a good player. If you're fighting with Mike Tyson, you don't stand around until he hits you because he's going to hit you pretty hard. Then the fight's over, and you're fighting him with one hand tied behind your back.
All last year, with a car not as good as the Taurus, NASCAR had information that the Ford had more downforce, and we raced them all year against more downforce and more horsepower. Now they've built a car twice as good as the one they had and we've got the same car. We'll do whatever we can to make it so it's not so easy for them. You can't really blame Ford. They did a good job building that car. The thing I don't like is for them to keep saying they just want it to be equal and they have a car that's twice as good aerodynamically.
If our team is down, they'd better get back up quick. We'll be clawing and fighting tooth and nail. This team does not go around with its tail between its legs. We finished 17th at Vegas. Maybe a top-10 finish at Atlanta under these conditions would be like a win, so we'll try to get a top-10 finish. Then we'll go to Bristol and try to win. We'll get our butts kicked again at Texas, but we've got Martinsville and Talladega after that. Handling means a lot at the road courses, and the driver means a lot there, too, so we might be able to give them a run for their money and the road courses.
The thing that infuriates me is that someone from Ford said we laid down at Las Vegas to help get a rules change. I wouldn't give up one spot for a billion dollars, so I just have to thank the Ford folks for the extra motivation. There's no way we'd give up a spot or lay down in any way to help get a rule change. I just want to promise the Chevrolet fans that the 24 car will work harder than ever to win.
I have been quiet about this stuff until now. I really didn't like that laying down comment. It's like the first time the 24 was off, people saw the advantage. What if we had been off at Rockingham the week before? We were off last year at Atlanta and it belonged to the Fords and Pontiacs. We won at California last year because the track was new and had a lot of grip. That's what we'd heard about Las Vegas, but we never found the grip there. At Charlotte last year, we won under the lights, but we weren't very good in the daytime. Pick an aerodynamic track last year and take the handling out of the picture and who won? The hotter and slicker the track gets, the tougher it gets for the Chevys. I challenge anyone to prove me wrong.
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