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NASCAR WCUP: Zipadelli looks forward to matching performance in 125s

Posted By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel

(HOW IS THIS CAR HANDLING COMPARED TO THE CAR THAT WON THE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT?) "I think this car is every bit as good, if not better. It's driving as good and maybe even better. The balance is real good. Cars running behind it don't affect it as much as the car that we had in the 'Shootout,' so our balance is pretty good - no matter whether somebody is behind us or we're behind somebody. This car just seems to be a little better, but we kind of figured it would be by the numbers on the car. This is a lot newer car than that one. We basically put the same package underneath it and it seems to be real close. We're just kind of fine-tuning it, trying a few different things here and there. But the weather conditions are going to dictate a lot of what we do and whether we hit it or not."

(ANY CONCERN ABOUT HOW GOOD THE DODGES MIGHT BE UNDER RACE CONDITIONS?) "All we can do is do the best we can with what we've got. If their car is that much better than ours, then we'll try to beat them with strategy or in some other way. If not, we'll just try to be first in class. That's all we can do. I'm not going to get all wrapped up in it. They are considerably better and they should really, really be good. Ward (Burton) looked really good out there on Tuesday. We ran with him a little bit, so it will be interesting to see what happens."

(DO YOU EXPECT ANY FUEL MILEAGE PROBLEMS DURING THE 125?) "I don't anticipate a problem. I've heard that (there may be some concern. I'm sure everybody is checking fuel mileage real close today and getting a better feel for it. But I'd be surprised if there were very many cars that couldn't make it."


(HOW ARE THINGS PROGRESSING HEADING INTO THE 125s?) "We're pretty happy with the race car. We knew coming down here that we weren't going to be a 'ball of fire' for qualifying, although we were able to get the '20' car qualified very well. But we knew that particular car was a little better aerodynamically than our car was, so some of it was that and some of it we still don't really know. We thought we could run a little bit better than we did (in qualifying), so we missed somewhere a little bit. But that wasn't a big deal for us because we knew if you didn't sit on the front row you were going to have to run the '125' for your starting position. We planned on putting more emphasis on getting ready to race. "The car has been good in practice. We've been able to make some changes that have helped the car drive better. We started with our 'Shootout' set-up in the car and it was pretty good. We've made two or three changes that have helped it some, so I think we're going to have a very competitive car come Thursday."

(DO YOU FEEL MORE COMPETITIVE HERE THIS YEAR THAN YOU DID A YEAR AGO?) "Yeah. I feel like the thing that is still a question mark is the Dodge. After the aero test Monday (in the wind tunnel) everybody is well aware that the Dodge was pretty head-and-shoulders above everybody else. That's a little scary. You don't mind a little deficit to anybody. We've worked under deficits before. But it's not a bad thing -- if it's relatively close, I don't mind. We can work around that. But the difference that I'm hearing that the Dodge has creates a little more concern. It may be an insurmountable type of advantage that they have. But we can't do anything about that. That's up to NASCAR. They're going to make the call, and we're going to race accordingly. All we can do is make our race car as good as we can get it. That's the approach we're taking. Right now we feel like, at least in practice, that we've got a car that's competitive."

(CAN THE DODGES RUN AWAY FROM EVERYBODY ON THURSDAY?) "They haven't shown that in practice. But they're good - don't get me wrong. They're very competitive. In the drafts I've seen they are as good as anybody else. But when you know the numbers that they put up in the wind tunnel, it makes you wonder, 'Are they showing everything they have right now?' It's hard to quantify all that and say that they are or they aren't. But, like I said, there is not much we can do about that. It's out of our hands. All we can do is make our car the best that we can. We can't do anything aerodynamically to fix our car. All we can do is make it drives the best and hope that if there is a problem like that where they have an advantage that shows up come Sunday, that maybe we can do a better job of tuning our race car to make it handle better than anybody else. "The draft is a great equalizer, especially with the aero package that we have right now. Hopefully they (Dodge teams) won't do as good a job getting their cars tuned up if they indeed do have that kind of advantage."


(ON GETTING OFF TO A GOOD START THIS WEEK) "It (winning Sunday) was a great boost all the guys on the team and an extremely good boost for me as a driver. I've always felt like I was weakest at restrictor plate tracks. To be able to go out there and beat Dale Earnhardt at his specialty, it was a big boost to us. I still don't think I flat out-raced him. I beat him on tires a little bit, but we still did the right things to the car. I felt really good about the way we ran."

(DO YOU EXPECT TO BE JUST AS STRONG TOMORROW?) "We hope so. It's kind of a tough race tomorrow. The 'Shootout' car, we knew that was the only race it was going to run. This car here - the '125' is pretty important, but at the same time it's still the same race car that we're going to run on Sunday and if I beat the body up on it, it's not going to be very good for Sunday. You've got to be aggressive tomorrow, but at the same time you've got to play some defense, too, and make sure you're taking care of your car."

(CAN YOU RUN THE TABLE THIS WEEK AND WIN EVERYTHING?) "I don't know. I'd like to. But, there are a lot of other guys in here that got different plans than mine, I've got a feeling."

Text provided by Al Larsen

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