Report from Motorsport News International
Thanks to NASCAR Online
HAMPTON, Ga. (Nov. 16, 1997) Quotes following the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway:
DALE JARRETT No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford
"We did all that we could do, and that's all that you can ask. They (Jeff Gordon's team) did their job. They knew what they had to do, and we did what we could do and were just a little bit short. It was a tough race all the way around. A lot of things happened out there. We had to adjust on the car a lot, and things were fast. We just came up a little bit shy.
"We had a little carburetor problem or something. If it had run like it normally runs, we would have been pretty awesome. But we had to try to make up ground in other spots. Getting in traffic really hurt me because of the problem that we had. You win some and you lose some. But we had a great season. The guys did a fantastic job. We'll look forward to next year."
"We did everything we could possibly do. I can't look back and say that we did anything wrong at any point. Our guys did a terrific job all year, everybody at Robert Yates Racing. We had a couple of unfortunate things to happen. That's just breaks. It's just who has the fewest amount of problems, and as it turned out, Jeff had the fewest amount of problems throughout the year and he walks away from here the winner.''
MARK MARTIN No. 6 Valvoline Ford
"We must have broke a valve or something there at the end. We went for the win as hard as we could go. We had a good car and a good team. I think we were looking pretty good when we lost that cylinder. I want to thank God for the opportunity and all my sponsors and everybody at Roush Racing for being a contender. We could have gotten close today, but we couldn't have pulled it off, even with the win. I'm proud of this team. They are my champs anyway. I wanted to win the race real bad, because each race is a championship. We were looking pretty. We gave it every thing we had. We'll be back next year.
"We had a shot at it. We raced our guts out. We did all the right things. We had the car the fastest that it was right there at the end. We were sitting there leading the race and looking good, and we lost a cylinder. We weren't going to win the championship anyway, but it was going to be close. I guess we would have tied Jarrett and lost to Gordon by just a few. No harm done. We gave it our best shot, man. At least with 30 to go, they knew we were here. We were racing.
JEFF GREEN No. 29 Cartoon Network Chevrolet
"We just had a good combination today. We tested here and it went well. The motor ran good. That Hendrick motor might have been the best one out there. We chased the chassis a little bit, but we got it pretty good. We lost a little bit on a green flag stop, but it was a good day. Top-5s are what we're after. I think our season starts for next year right here. We're building a lot of new cars. I think if your car was off it might have been a little hairy today, but my car drove pretty good all day. It was a dream for me. I like new tracks. I guess new surfaces suit my driving style. I look forward to these kind of days."
DERRIKE COPE No. 36 Skittles Pontiac
"I'm really happy. I knew this Pontiac was pretty good. I was trying to get my confidence up in it. We were just a little bit tight, and then in one section of the race it was really tight and we had a bad set of tires, and we just never recovered from that. We just lost a lot of track position. Our car wasn't good early on runs. It was a good end to the season and I can carry something into next year. The Pennzoil Pontiac finished 10th, and that gives us a lot of momentum heading for Daytona Beach. I think this shows everybody I can drive one of these things. I'm ready for Daytona right now, let's go."
KYLE PETTY No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac
"We had a good run. We started really strong, but the car was loose. That's why we kept pitting and going to the back. We made our adjustments early. Bobby Kennedy made some good calls in the pits. We had a good day. We had a good year. Bobby Labonte was the class of the field. He gets around this place, and I know it's a new race track, but he kicked butt here last year, too. I think this race shows Pontiac is getting better. I didn't even make this race last year and finished sixth this year. Derrike Cope went out on a high note. Pontiac ended the year on a real high note, and all its drivers did, too."
BOBBY HAMILTON No. 43 STP Pontiac
"It's seventh, but I'm really disappointed. I wanted to end things on an even better note. I thank the team for doing such a good job on our backup car in order to get a top-10 finish. We got tight, and we couldn't bet a caution in order to get a rubber out of the right-front. It would literally fly when it was free. We just couldn't take a chance of losing too much track position by taking the time to take it out. It's a top-10, but we could have contended for the win."
JOE NEMECHEK No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolet
"I think the way we finished this race is the way we should definitely kick off 1998. My whole team is staying together with the exception of Tony Glover and Tony is going to oversee all three teams next year. Scott Eggeleston is going to be my crew chief next year. I'm excited about '98. It seemed like our setup didn't match a couple sets of tires we got. One time we took on two tires and went good but then I blistered the left sides. It seemed like you had to be careful about the way you paced yourself. We took off at the beginning. We knew there would be some cautions, so we hammered down. Toward the end, we had to look at the big goal. The big goal was to get the 42 car in the top 30 in points so we'd be eligible for plan money from NASCAR for next year. We started racing toward that goal and we achieved that."
WARD BURTON No. 22 MBNA Pontiac
"We can take a lot of positives out of this. We led some laps, and had a good car for much of the race. We really came on strong late in the race to get that top-10. We want to build on this and have runs like this on a consistent basis next year."
JOHNNY BENSON No. 30 Pennzoil Pontiac
"I'm disappointed. We didn't reach our goals. We really wanted to finish the season in the top-10 in points, and we missed out on that by one point. Ward Burton passed me with two laps to go and that did it. Our goal was right within our reach and we let it slip away."
STERLING MARLIN No. 4 Kodak Film Chevrolet
"We couldn't beat those Pontiacs today. We were hooked up pretty good, but we were no match for the 18. Goodyear had a real good tire. It didn't wear much. It stayed consistent. It was a pretty clean race. We had a fast car. It drove real good. This is one of our older cars, but it was real balanced. We never turned a jack bolt all day. I thought we had a top-5 car, but the speeding call on pit road killed us."
DICK TRICKLE No. 90 Heilig-Meyers Ford
"We kinda had to shoot from the hip, because we didn't get any race practice.. The whole team did a super job. We were 28th in points and we had a couple behind us and one up ahead of us, and we really needed to race three cars because finishing in the top-30 in points puts us on the Winner's Circle program, and that's worth quite a bit of money to the team. It was a successful day. There is canvas showing all the way around on those tires. They couldn't make a tent out of that one.''
ERNIE IRVAN No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford
"I didn't do it on purpose, but I was speeding. I just misread the tach as far as pit road speed. It's a shame, because we had a great race car. We had a good car and we were competitive. We were about the third- or fourth-fastest car on the race track. It was just a mental mistake, and that can't happen.''
STEVE PARK No. 14 Burger King Chevrolet
"I beat the boss (Dale Earnhardt) today. I probably shouldn't make a habit of that, but he expects me to beat him if I can. We're getting a chance to work together more. The better we get the more we work together. My hat's really off to these guys. The guys did a great job. We turned eight laps in practice on Saturday because Happy Hour got cut short. We went back on our notes from testing. We had a 25th-place qualifying run and we were 17th fastest in practice. This is the last run for the Burger King car. We're really sorry to see those people go. We're glad to be able to redeem ourselves a little bit and come out with a good finish in their last race. This should prove to people we're here to race and run good."
DALE EARNHARDT No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet
"We got up out of the groove. A car ran in down under me down the front straightaway. I thought he was under me. They were hollering low, low. I went up and got up and got a little loose. I let up so I wouldn't spin out and I got up in the loose stuff and hit the wall. We had wore out tires. This track is good. We just need to get a tire good enough to run a gas stop."
JEFF GORDON No. 24 DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet
"This was an unbelievable day. I never thought we were going to do it. It certainly wasn't the best weekend for us, but it ended up working out. This wasn't the way I wanted to do it today, but it was what we did all year long that got us here. We pulled it off and that's what counts. I was worried all day long. We took off and the car felt pretty good and I felt good about things. All of a sudden, some guys started picking up speed. It's like they adjusted their cars. They started pulling away. This is our backup car and we didn't get to spend a lot of time with it. Unfortunately it wasn't as good as we would have liked.
"I've got to thank everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, Ray Evernham and his Rainbow Warriors. They were the ones that got us to this level and got us to this point and won the championship for us. We didn't do it in style today, but we did it in style all year long. I want to thank DuPont Automotive Finishes, Quaker State, Pepsi and Chevrolet. It was pretty awesome to pull off a championship for Chevrolet. Nothing sweeter than a championship and I think the second time around is even sweeter. We've had one of those career years."
JEREMY MAYFIELD No. 37 Kmart/RC Cola Ford
"If you told us at the first of the year that we'd finish 13th in points, we'd probably have been pretty happy. On the one hand, we finished 13th in points. On the other hand, we were just out of the top 10. A couple of points here and there over the year and we would have been in there. It gives us a pretty good feeling about 1998. We've had one full year under our belts now, and we did pretty well for what is basically a first-year team. Just about everybody will be back next year, and we think this Ford team is going to be pretty good. Hey, maybe 13 is our lucky number.''
WALLY DALLENBACH No. 46 First Union Chevrolet
"We had our hands full. We thought we broke a shock, but we had to come in. If we had stayed out much longer we would have been a yellow flag. We had to come in and work on it to get it to handle better."
DARRELL WALTRIP No. 17 Parts America Chevrolet
"I was having a lot of fun out there, and that's what it's all about. Then we had engine problems. The 25th anniversary celebration was great, but now it's time to focus on '98."
BRETT BODINE No. 11 Royal Purple Ford
"That guy (Buckshot Jones) is ridiculous. In every division he's in he wrecks people. I have never seen nothing like it. All of the penalties and fines and everything in Busch obviously didn't mean nothing to him, because he comes over here and does it again. It was so early in the race and we're running at the back, just trying to stay on the lead lap. I don't understand. The kid don't use his head. He's always got a fast race car, but he don't use his head.
"I'm OK. I'm awfully disappointed. I got in a pit road mishap. We came in and fixed the car and got back there with some cars and some people who don't deserve to be on this type of race track. I guess all the penalties and fines that boy has been through, he didn't learn a thing. We were back there at the back, just trying to put our time in and he just flat run all over us. It just doesn't make any sense.''