Report from Motorsport News International
Thanks to NASCAR Online
HAMPTON, Ga. (Nov. 15, 1997) The following are quotes following Busch Pole Qualifying for the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
GEOFF BODINE No. 7 QVC Ford
"You just take a deep breath and go for it. That was a really good lap. I'm proud of this whole team. This is the car we sat on the pole with at Charlotte and we wrecked it during the race. We came here and tested and we didn't have this car. After the test we said we need that car. They set this car up and we haven't changed anything on it except the gear. The speeds are so fast here that we kept gearing the thing down to slow the engine down. It was a little tight in 3 and 4. I'm a little disappointed. I wanted 198 at least. "It's pretty incredible, we didn't know how fast the car was going to be. It was a little tight, I thought we could go 198 (mph). It was a tremendous effort by the whole team. We haven't turned a bolt down here."
WARD BURTON No. 22 MBNA Pontiac
"That was a pretty good lap. I'm pretty happy with that. I think we can go a little faster. I think we know what we need to do when we come back here to go a little faster. I've got an awesome motor. We're looking for a good weekend. We can win this race tomorrow. We're going to have to pay attention to who we're around tomorrow,, and who you're around is really going to dictate how you go. "We've got a good starting spot, and it's important for the race. I think we can win the race. We've got a ground clearance problem, and we're having to do things with the springs and shocks I don't want to do. If we can somehow get by that, I think we can outrun anything out here. The problem I have today is one we've had a lot of times this year, but we're starting to work out how to get it fixed."
DALE JARRETT No. 88 Ford Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford
"It didn't last long. It's fast. The lap Geoff Bodine cut is just incredible. We've got a good race car. We made a lot of gains from yesterday. We're pretty happy with what we've got. I think we're ready to race. "Right now it's still a one-groove race track, and as fast as we're running, you've got to be able to run the race that you want to run. That's all we can do right. Hopefully it will all work out in the end. I'm ready to go. That was a good lap. The guys did a good job with this race car. It's just incredibly fast. It doesn't take long to get around here. That's as wide-open as I can go around here. Geoff's wide -open is a lot faster than mine, but that's a good lap for us. "We're not even concerned with what (the 24) is doing and what is going on there. We're just concerned with this 88 car. If we can make it do the right things, then things will work out for us Sunday. We know our job, regardless of what he does, is to be up front and try to win. "We'll just try to get up front and try to stay up front and lead as many laps as we possibly can, and conserve our tires. That's going to be the biggest thing, keeping the tires on the car."
TERRY LABONTE No. 5 Kellogg's Corn Flakes Chevrolet
"We were pretty close to Geoff in the morning practice session, but he picked up that much or not. As it turns out, we didn't, but that's till the best we can and see where we stack up. "We usually slow down more than that in qualifying. It was a pretty good lap for us. We really only ran a couple of times quicker than that, so it was a good time for us. We got a good starting spot. The Kellogg's Chevy is going to be good in the race. Geoff and I were pretty close in practice, but I really didn't think we could pick up that much after he qualified. I felt like if we could repeat what we did in practice it would be good enough. We couldn't quite do that, but it was good enough. We're building momentum. We've got a great team. The win at Talladega was a big boost for us. To come down here and have a good run would mean a lot for us. We've got a good starting spot, now we need a good race. We need that momentum going into next year to make a run for that championship. "The race is going to be fast. I think the groove is going to widen out a little bit, but it's still going to be hard to pass. The race pace is going to slow down, but it's still going to be fast. The race pace is going to slow down, but it's still going to be fast. I'd say it's going to be 192 or 193 mph. The track has got a lot of grip in it. The tires are sticking real good. It's going to be a fast race. It's comfortable out there. I don't know why I slowed down. I didn't want to mess up. I hope we get a good, clean start in the race and go into a single-file deal. There's a lot of unknowns. We've never raced here. We don't know what the tires are going to do. The cold weather, if anything, will help the tires. More rubber on the track will help after the ARCA race. We made some long runs testing down here. We made a 25-lap run. After we looked at the tires, the next run was going to be 15 laps."
JOE NEMECHEK No. BellSouth Chevrolet
"No one is going to touch Geoff Bodine for the pole. That's the best lap we've run since we've been here. We've been good all day. We've been right there in the top-five since we've been here. I thought I had a little bit left. We did really good through one and two, but we gave a little bit up in three and four. I didn't hold it all the way wide-open in three. I had to check up just a little bit. We gave up a little bit there. We're in the top-5, and that's a good starting spot here in Atlanta. This is faster than I ever imagined, but the cool temperatures and everything is playing into these speeds. To see a pole speed of 197.4 is amazing. That's a heck of a pole speed. At least we got in the 195 mph bracket and that was our goal. Now you've just got to have what I call alot of pucker power. That's what it's going to take in the race. If it's cool like this, I betcha we run 193 or 194 mph all day long in the race."
DALE EARNHARDT No. GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet
"That was a better lap than we practice. The car is really great. Larry and the guys had a good test down here. The car is dialed in pretty good. I would have like to sit on the pole, but that's pretty fast for us. We picked up three or four tenths from practice. I feel pretty confident. It's time to win. It's the last race of the season. A lot of people out here on the money to win and needs to win. Hopefully we can get it done. We practiced pretty good down here, but we were still a little off. I wish we could have run a little faster. Geoff Bodine put a heck of a lap in. I knew nobody was going to beat that. It's time for us to win if we want to keep our streak alive (at least one win each season since 1982). That ain't the only thing left in life. Another championship would be great."
JEFF GREEN No. 29 Cartoon Network Chevrolet
"We picked up a tenth from practice, and that's always what you want to do. That's a good starting spot. Now we need to work on the car and get it ready for the race and try to get a good finish."
KENNY IRWIN No. 27 GI Joe Ford
"That was pretty good. Actually, I thought we were going to go faster than that. We had a chance at the pole. A few little things just happened, and that quick you end up sixth. I'm happy with that. I just felt like we could go faster. We've been good the whole time, and that is still good. Hopefully, we can end up in the top-10, and I'll be happy with that."
MARK MARTIN No. 6 Valvoline Ford
"That was an awful good lap. The time doesn't reflect how good the car stuck. Maybe sitting out here in the cold so long made things a little quicker or something. I really got through the corners good. I was real pleased with it. I thought it would be a top-five as good as it was. "It's a big race, and the race is on Sunday. It's never for qualifying. We're going to go after it. It looks like we locked up the pole award thing, and that is really nice. After you get one pole, we start focusing on winning these races. We just accidentally won more poles and more outside poles than anyone else, I guess. We did that by accident. After we get one pole, we stop trying for them so hard. It's like this weekend. We had a fast car, but not fast enough to sit on the pole, so we didn't even try. We just tried to get it good and solid in the field and get a good pit stall and go race this thing tomorrow. The race is tomorrow. "No matter how it turns out, it's been a championship season and this race team has been awesome. No matter how it turns out, they are my champs. "The gameplan is that you look at what is in front of you and you do what is going to give you the best prospect of reaching your goal."
BILL ELLIOTT No. 94 McDonald's Ford
"It felt good. The car stuck good. I just didn't run quick for whatever reason. We got through the corners good."
JEFF GORDON No. 24 DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet
"There was something on the race track (on qualifying lap), and I think it might have come from our race car. That's what happens when you get rushed like this. We have a car capable of qualifying pretty darn good. It's unfortunate we didn't get to show it today. That's what happens when you make mistakes. We'll react and fight back from it. I think we'll be all right. The car is good. We've come from behind with this car before. We're not going to give up until it's over on Sunday. This is not the way we were wanting to start out on the first day of the final race. I have a crew chief that tells me everytime something like this happens that it could be worse. I have to laugh at him when he says that. I guess he's right. It can always be worse. Rick Mast was the first guy to come up to me and say, 'you're all set now. You've got all the bad luck out of the way.' Hopefully we can get all the bad luck out of the way today and go on and race. That thing that happened on pit road this morning shouldn't have happened. When a mistake like that happens, it puts you behind. I hate it happened. I blame myself, but this team has done an awesome job getting the car back out there. Unfortunately, we got caught up in some oil or something down there in turn one. I don't know if it came from our car or what, but it forced us not to have a good lap like we were looking for. This car is really good. The motor is really good. We had a shot at getting in the top-10, unfortunately we didn't get to show that. If anything, when we get down, we get stronger. Maybe this is just a wake up call for us. We need to get with the program now and hope that the rest of the weekend goes our way."