DETROIT (February 11, 2000) - As the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season gets underway at Daytona International Speedway, a stable of 10 Pontiac Grand Prix teams will be looking to harness the momentum they generated during a stellar 1999...
DETROIT (February 11, 2000) - As the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season gets underway at Daytona International Speedway, a stable of 10 Pontiac Grand Prix teams will be looking to harness the momentum they generated during a stellar 1999 season. The "Widetrack Attack" grabbed nine victories last season and enjoyed one of its best years ever in series' history.
Led by Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart, Pontiac enters 2000 looking for big things in the chase for the first Winston Cup title of the new century.
THOUGHTS FROM BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (2ND - 1999 WINSTON CUP STANDINGS)...
...qualifying Saturday for the Daytona 500:
"We didn't test all that well down here, but we're not worried about testing right now. We just want to worry about qualifying on Saturday. You never know until you get out there. Nobody knows what anybody else has until we get out there and qualify. Hopefully, we'll be competitive enough to qualify good."
...the impact of the new shock package:
"It's going to be different. Some guys that had an advantage on shocks in the past might be hampered a bit because they won't have that to work with. Guys that weren't up on shocks like they should have been in the past - it might help them because they won't have to got that far. We'll just have to wait and see. It's going to be different. We'll all have to work around it and just do the best we can."
...the infusion of new talent into Winston Cup racing in 2000:
"it's great. We've got a lot of talented drivers coming in. It's going to be more competitive than ever. These guys have been exposed to a lot of different forms of racing. They are leaving a variety of forms of racing to enter NASCAR racing, and I think that's exciting in itself."
...consistency as the key to winning a championship:
"Last year we found some consistency. We still weren't as consistent as Dale Jarrett, but we found some and I hope we can continue that this year. You never know, but that's our goal, anyway. We're really excited. We didn't have to do a lot of work this winter to our cars to change a lot of stuff - be that good or bad. But, we're going to take that as 'good' because we've got the same Pontiac Grand Prix we had a year ago, were able to massage the ones we had and hopefully make them better. That is something that we wanted to see so we could have no big changes through the off-season. We need to continue to do what we did last season, or at least do the best we can to be competitive. If we can win a race or whatever we can do, then we're going to try to do that. That's what it's all about - being consistent and competitive."
...the importance of getting off to a good start at Daytona:
"It's not do or die, but it is important in a lot of ways. You want to be able to leave here with a smile on your face knowing you did good and had a good Speed Weeks. If you win the race, it makes your year. If you finish second - boy, it sure is a good start to the next weekend and weekend after that. But, if you don't have a good day, Dale Jarrett proved last year you can still come back and win the championship."
...the strength of Joe Gibbs Racing:
"We've got a great race team. Tony and I get along great on the racetrack, getting our heads right to make sure those cars go fast on race day. We work really good at that, and that's definitely important. This year, we're the same team. Everything is the same, and we're trying to get our stuff going again for this year to do the same thing we did last year, and that's to be competitive week-in and week-out."
...being comfortable entering 2000 as a two-car team:
"The concern last year was taking the time and effort to put together a second team. That was a tough deal. But, Tony did a great job as a rookie - he really wasn't a 'rookie,' but when it came down to having a yellow stripe, he did have a yellow stripe. But, he was awfully fast from the get-go and brought added strength to our team. So, despite our concerns up front, it definitely worked out great. That's where we can hopefully take advantage of an off-season like we had, where we didn't have to do a lot of different things and make any major changes. That will hopefully play to our advantage."
...the strength of the Grand Prix stable in 2000:
"Pontiac has a lot of great race teams out there with a lot of great race cars and great drivers in them. We're just kind of clicking along, doing our own thing and trying to focus on our stuff and not worry about everybody else's."
THOUGHTS FROM TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (4TH - 1999 WINSTON CUP STANDINGS)...
...his approach heading into Sunday's Bud Shootout:
"The entire Home Depot team is heading in there with a go for broke attitude. There aren't any points involved. It's just money, a trophy and a lot of prestige. It gives you a little more freedom to go out and try things by using it as a practice session for the (Daytona) 500. Because there's really nothing to lose. You try things that maybe you wouldn't feel very comfortable with trying in the 500. If you find things that do work, you use them for the 500. If what you try doesn't work, you know what not to do for the 500. We're just going for broke and seeing what we can learn."
...does the format of the Bud Shootout allow you to run more aggressively than normal:
"I think so. There are no points and it's a lot shorter race. You're not going for 500 miles. It's just a sprint, really. You've got a short amount of time to get your work done. So, you kind of throw caution to the wind. If you think you can go, well then, you better go."
...the effect of the new shock package:
"It's going to make it tighter. In the little bit of drafting practice that we had back in testing, we didn't see any one guy with a big advantage over another guy. It's going to be a lot harder to get a run on someone and get by them. The guys that know how to utilize the air in the draft are really going to have an advantage at that point."
...who he can look to as possible drafting partners during the Daytona 500:
"Most of the guys that you run up front with every week are possibilities. As they get more comfortable seeing my orange and white Home Depot Pontiac, and I get more comfortable running with them, we seem to run a lot closer at the superspeedways. I don't get hung out as much because they're gaining confidence in me. A lot of it will depend on what happens during the week of practice. There may be a guy that you're not used to running with, but your car and his car together make a pretty good package. So, you'll be out there searching for partners that'll make your car run better. It'll be a trial and error process for a whole week trying to find which guys you run well with and which ones you don't."
THOUGHTS FROM WARD BURTON, NO. 22 CATERPILLAR PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (9TH - 1999 WINSTON CUP STANDINGS)...
...the team's optimism heading into Saturday's pole qualifying:
"We think we have a great piece of equipment for the Daytona 500. We're shooting for the front row, but if we don't make that we'll be ready for the Twin 125's on Thursday. We had a very successful test at Daytona. We worked hard on our qualifying set-ups and worked on the new shock rules. We feel like we have a good handle on the new rules. Our restrictor-plate program has really improved over the years. We also have a new teammate. It's real important to have a drafting partner at the superspeedways."
THOUGHTS FROM TOMMY BALDWIN, CREW CHIEF, NO. 22 CATERPILLAR PONTIAC GRAND PRIX...
...the equipment his team is fielding at Daytona:
"We have two new speedway cars for Daytona Speedweeks. We built a new car for the Bud Shootout and the Daytona 500. We also have a solid back-up car, which we finished sixth in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona and fourth in the Winston 500 at Talladega. I really think we're more prepared this year than we've ever been. We have all of the key people still in place, a lot of cars built and a great motor program."