Monday, February 12, 2001

Auto notebook

Burton: Fords at disadvantage

Enquirer news services

        Ford drivers were the only ones complaining about NASCAR's new aerodynamic package, which is designed to allow for better drafting and more lead changes, after Sunday's Bud Shootout.

        “I hate to start the year off complaining, but we're just slow,” said Jeff Burton, whose Taurus finished fifth. “There's not a Ford in the field with a chance to win and that's just the way it is.

        “Nobody is being malicious about it, but when they made these changes for the aero deal, it just penalized the Fords. It's just more drag on us than it was compared to the other teams and, because of that, we won't win the Daytona 500 unless it turns into something strange.”

        Fords did claim spots 3-5 in the 18-car field.

        IMPOUNDED: Four cars — each representing one of the major brands in the NASCAR mix — will be in Atlanta this morning for testing in wind-tunnels. NASCAR officials said this is just a routine inspection, scheduled because of the aerodynamic changes.

        “It is highly unlikely for us to find anything in the wind tunnel that would cause us to change anything throughout Speed Weeks,” NASCAR President Mike Helton said.

        The tests involve Rusty Wallace's Miller Lite Ford, Tony Stewart's Home Depot Pontiac, Dale Earnhardt's GM Goodwrench Chevrolet and Bill Elliott's Dodge Dealers Dodge.

        DODGE'S FIRST TEST: Bill Elliott had the only Dodge in the Bud Shootout field, and his No.9 car got precious little help taking advantage of the drafting opportunities.

        “It didn't surprise us that the No.1 qualifier didn't find any friends in the Budweiser Shootout,” said Lou Patane, Dodge's vice president for racing. “It's like going to the Senior Prom alone. We had the best time we could without a dance partner.”

        Elliott, the polesitter for Sunday's 500, still believes a lot of work remains for he and the other teams to be successful.

        “We've got a long way to go. The car seemed to perform pretty well, but we were just a little bit off handling-wise,” Elliott said. “I learned we were too tight. This is a brand new car, but we learned quite a bit. The biggest thing we needed to do was run the whole race.”


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