Report from Motorsport News International NASCAR Public Relations PRIMESTAR 500 Quotebook HAMPTON, Ga. (March 9, 1997) Driver quotes following the PRIMESTAR 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga. DALE JARRETT No. 88 Quality...
Report from Motorsport News International
NASCAR Public Relations
PRIMESTAR 500 Quotebook
HAMPTON, Ga. (March 9, 1997)
Driver quotes following the PRIMESTAR 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga.
DALE JARRETT No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford Thunderbird
"It feels great just to have a car that is that good all day long is just an incredible feeling. It makes my job a lot easier. The thing we did today is that we didn't quit working on it. We were making adjustments until the last pit stop. We knew that the other guys were making adjustments, and we didn't want this one to get away. It was just a great car. I can't say enough about what the guys have done in the pits and with the race cars. I've been saying that the more time we have to work together, the better we are going to become. I think we have shown in the four races this year that each different type of race track we've been to, we've been ready for the challenge.
"(After the first three races) Dad just kept telling me to keep doing the things we were doing. We were running great, things just weren't going out way, and we just had to continue doing what we were doing, and that we would get to Victory Lane. He's been my biggest supporter, and it's great to have a dad and a friend who knows enough about the sport that he can help you. He was a help today. He was on our radio, and as some of the guys started working the high line, he came on the radio and made me aware of that and that's when I moved up and things started really working up there. It's good to have somebody like that who really had a knowledge of the sport and catch enough other cars and be a help there. We might have to hire him away from the TV people.
"It's never too early to start thinking about (a championship). You starting thinking about a championship at Daytona. We learned that last year. You have to race every race with that championship in mind. I think that's a lot of what we learned last year. I think that we had the team and the people that it takes to win a championship. That was our goal when we started this season. Obviously, it was a lot of people's goal, but we feel like we learned enough last year. We realize that a lot of times you have to lose one before you can win it but we gained a lot of valuable experience last year. We had a great year, and I think we're putting that to use right now. I know that we're leading, because they gave me a check for $20,000 down there. That was enough for me."
ERNIE IRVAN No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford Thunderbird
"DJ was pretty much the class of the field, and we had pretty much exactly what he did. He was just a little bit better in the middle of the corner and could get on the throttle a little better. The sun was so bad getting into (Turn) 3 (at the end), I just didn't want to make a mistake. Basically you would run in there and you wouldn't know where you were at. Then all of a sudden it was like you opened your eyes. It was awful tough. It was a good day for Robert Yates Racing. That's pretty impressive. We've had runs like this all year, where both cars have been awful good. DJ has been the class of the circuit for three or four races. Hopefully we can step our program up a little bit. We've had a little bit of bad luck, but fortunately we had good luck today. It was a great run. We sure would have liked to have won the race, but always somebody a little bit better, and DJ was just a little bit better. That's part of it. We'll take second and we'll go home and get ready for Darlington."
MORGAN SHEPHERD No. 1 Delco Remy Pontiac Grand Prix
"During the race I learned the only way I could cool the tires back down was run up high. Our car was pretty good all day long. We kept making minor adjustments, and that Pontiac was hauling at the end. I didn't win, but boy, we had the car to do it with. If I had to put someone in the car at Atlanta it would be Morgan Shepherd. I'm not really surprised what we've done because it's been a good race car every time I've been in it. We just need some money in the team. We're short-handed. We don't have enough guys to work on the cars. It's just killing everybody, doing what they're doing. Maybe somebody will pay attention here, and maybe Delco America will get us some money here.
BOBBY LABONTE No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix
"Obviously it was better on long green flag runs when the sun was up instead of down. Our Pontiac was good for the most part, and we probably just got bit by circumstances. We need to get it there at the end like it was in the middle of the race. We searched, and I said on the radio, 'I've never run on a dirt track in my life, but this is about the closest I've ever been to one, I guess.' It was pretty much find your own way around. It's always good to gain points, so we can't be disappointed. We came out of here with a good finish, and the Pontiac was a great car here today. We learned a lot, and we'll take what we learned from this and bring it to Darlington in a couple of weeks."
JEFF BURTON No. 99 Exide Batteries Ford Thunderbird
"That's what we need to do. We've got to stay consistent and we've got to get to where we can run in the top five every week. The car was good early. It wasn't so good in the middle, but it was real good there at the end. It didn't really change a lot. We just need to get a little bit better grip on what this thing does, how it changes so quick. We haven't quite figured that out. We had good track position there one time, but the motor missed and skipped on a restart and that hurt us on track position. But all in all, it's a good day.
MARK MARTIN No. 6 Valvoline Ford Thunderbird
"We're getting closer. It was a pretty good points finish anyway. We're getting closer, but we haven't gotten it to the point where we can with 'em yet."
MICHAEL WALTRIP No. 21 Citgo Ford Thunderbird
"We needed a top-five really bad. We didn't get it, but seventh was about as bad as we were all day after we got going. I'm real proud of the team. I wasn't tight, but we were good enough to adjust and everybody stayed after it. I'm real proud of the whole team."
DALE EARNHARDT No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo
"They keep taking away and you can't run with 'em (Fords). That's all they've done, take away since we outran 'em here in '95. They took away twice in '96 and again this year. Take away. Every time they take something away from the Chevrolet, it helps everybody but us. Skate and push and slide. You can't get any grip. We went from good downforce to no downforce. We're sliding around. They gave the air boxes to the Fords and they get more downforce with the air boxes than we do. They keep give, give, give to the Fords. They're going to quit making that Thunderbird. I'm glad because they won't be able to run a 1998 model. I hadn't said much about it in awhile, but it's ridiculous right now. I can't understand how those poor Fords can barely get by. We should have gone to the front today, but you can't go to the front when the car's pushing like it is. You can't make it do what you need it to do."
TERRY LABONTE No. 5 Kellogg's Corn Flakes Chevrolet Monte Carlo
"We were good until they red-flagged the race. When we started back, our car had a terrible push in it for some reason. I don't know why. When the tires cooled off and we went back out, we didn't pit. We stayed out on 'em, and they just weren't any good. I couldn't turn 'em at all. Before that I thought I had a chance to win the race. I couldn't beat him (Jarrett), but he's been beat at the end of races here lately. I thought I might beat him. On one set of tires, I was as good as he was. It didn't turn out that way. We were junk after that last restart. We weren't even close. I was just looking for a place to run. I couldn't run down low. I couldn't run up high. I figured they'd take our car to the wind tunnel as good as we were running."
BOBBY HAMIILTON No. 43 STP Pontiac Grand Prix
"I hit Spencer on pit road when all of us were trying to get out of pit road together. When he spun over there he was trying to get back in line and clipped the nose of my car. That caused that big wreck back there. I was pretty happy with everything. The Pontiac drove good, and we were that good, and that was it. We've still got a push problem with these Pontiacs in traffic. We were just tight from the get-go. We kept working on it and working on it and got it better, but we needed real long runs. We tried to take every advantage we could with the car with air pressure and things like that in order to run better on short runs, but we just maxed out and that was all we could do. I thought Morgan and Bobby running in the top-five was pretty cool. I was hoping Benson would get up there and that I could get by Terry so all of us could finish in the top 10."
JOHNNY BENSON No. 30 Pennzoil Pontiac Grand Prix
"I'm worn out. To get caught on pit road for speeding, I just don't know what to think about that one. A couple of us got caught, but I was only doing what the pace car told us to do. We ended up getting extremely lucky. Doug (Hewitt) said, 'Stay out, stay out, stay out. Let's hope for that caution.' We got it. Going down the backstretch we ran out of gas. I had to shut the car off hoping I was going to coast all the way in. I didn't want to bleed the system dry. I didn't think I was going to make it back. I made it back, and that was just flat lucky. That saved us. We were all right. We weren't great, but we were all right. We were so bad loose here, and we worked on it and worked on it. Doug made numerous changes and we finally got a push in this car. It definitely helped it out."
ROBBY GORDON No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolet Monte Carlo
"I'm disappointed because we had a car that was good enough to win the race. We had a shot to get back on the lead lap, too. I went from the back of the grid to the front, but I used up the tires doing it. We made a pit call. Somebody told me to go behind the 9 car and that's what I did. I guess I passed a couple of cars and had to go to the back of the longest line. I had a lot of fun today. We went over a hump with the pole. We were competitive today. We led a lot of laps."
DARRELL WALTRIP No. 17 Western Auto Parts America Chevrolet Monte Carlo
"I took an hour break during that red flag. I didn't need that though. I didn't need for it to get cool like that. Our car was pretty good when it was hot and sunny and slick and everything. We were a little tight there at the end. I couldn't go as good as I had all day. Overall, we had a good day. Jarrett is so fast, he came around there one time and lapped us. As soon as he got in front of us, the caution came out. If it had stayed green, he would have lapped everybody. Then being a lap down wouldn't have been so bad. I was racing about five guys just ahead of me. He got me and didn't get them. That put us in a bind."
RUSTY WALLACE No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Thunderbird
"I got real loose and I got hit from behind by the 99 car and it just started a chain reaction. I don't know what caused it."
STEVE GRISSOM No. 41 Kodiak Chevrolet Monte Carlo
"I don't feel too bad. My hat is off to these guys who work on this Kodiak team. They built a super safe race car. I haven't seen what the car looks like yet. I don't remember what it looked like when I got out of it. I didn't take any licks. Everything held up. I stayed conscious through the whole deal. The main thing is, thank God, I'm all right and hopefully nobody else got hurt in that deal, and we'll be back at Darlington ready to go. A couple of cars got together there coming off turn two. One about lost it and he got it gathered back up and then spun. It was kind of a deal where we all had to check back up. Somebody behind me wasn't able to see what was going on or get checked up. From there it got sideways and it was just pretty much hold on from that point on. I just skinned my ankle a little bit. Other than that I feel great. The guys who got to the car first were super in the way they handled me and got me to the ambulance. Here in the infield care center, my hat's off the doctors and everybody. They did a super job and I'm fine. I can't wait to get back to Darlington."
RICKY CRAVEN No. 25 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo
"We went so many laps without a caution and then to get three or four in a row really hurt. What got us was out of everybody's control. I just never expected him to come back up the track."
JEFF GORDON No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo
"It was like a huge rumbling, a huge explosion under the hood. It blew up, and it blew up big. It probably broke a rod or something. It's a shame. The DuPont Chevrolet was running awesome. We were working our way up through there. All we needed was a pit stop, and we got that. That thing was on its way to the front. It's unfortunate. It's going to cost us. We're going to have to fight back hard like we always do. All you can do is smile about it. There's always another day. It takes a thing like this for us to really fight back hard.
"These kind of things can happen, so we'll go to the next one and get after it. I felt everybody was making too big of a deal out of it (strong start). It was sure nice. I'm glad we have those wins though, because it doesn't hurt us as bad. We'll be all right Hendrick Motorsports builds the best engines. I'm very confident in them. They're making great horsepower. We've been fortunate, but ever once in a while, you've got to blow one of 'em up."
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