Thursday, May 27, 1999. Lowe's Motor Speedway. Coca-Cola 600 advance material. Chevrolet notes and quotes. PAUL ANDREWS (Crew chief No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "It's been hectic, wide open. We got over here last Friday.
Thursday, May 27, 1999. Lowe's Motor Speedway. Coca-Cola 600 advance material. Chevrolet notes and quotes. PAUL ANDREWS (Crew chief No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "It's been hectic, wide open. We got over here last Friday. One thing that's made this a good weekend for us so far, last weekend and this weekend, is these guys had a good test here. That just made my transition that much easier. We've got good cars. Everything was so good, it just made my transition so much easier. We've been getting used to everything and get everything in place and get used to the Chevrolet. It's been a real good transition so far. I've really enjoyed it. They're all the same chassis, and I think NASCAR has done a good job with the aero packages, so everything is pretty close and pretty equal. It doesn't seem to be that big of a deal right now. Setup wise, it's been good. We've been fine tuning on the setups here and there. We've been working on our shocks and springs and everything we normally do at a race track. I kind of jumped right in there and did what we needed to do to get the car better. That's what we did. "I was at my last job a little over two and a half years. This is my hometown and there's a lot of local media. Everybody jumped all over that past deal. It was a bad situation, but I'm glad to be in a good situation right now. I was out of work about a day and a half. They called me immediately. I talked to them immediately. I didn't really want to make a decision that day. I could have, but I felt like I needed a few hours to breathe and catch my breath. I made a decision last Thursday night about 10 o'clock. I went over there on Wednesday and Thursday. A lot of people had been calling me. I got a lot of supportive phone calls, people trying to help me and encourage me, and that really helped out a lot. "I'm looking forward to this opportunity to work with Steve Park and bring this young team further along. I've got a lot of good feelings about Steve with this being his first full season. He's got a real good feel for a car. He can tell us what the car is doing so we can fix it, and that's really important. "Dale Earnhardt, Inc. is a beautiful facility. There's a lot of space, a lot of things that probably 90 percent of the people out here aren't used to in a race shop. It's an awesome facility. It's hard to describe, and it's getting bigger and better, too. There's a lot of stuff going on. "Confidence is a big thing. Any time two people get together and hit it off, it helps both of them in the confidence department. Steve has helped my confidence already, too. Having confidence in your race car and your equipment is a big part of this business. If a driver doesn't have confidence in his car, it's not going to be a good lap or a good race. You've got to have confidence in your car and you've got to have a good-handling race car to run fast, especially for that one-lap qualifying deal. "I see a lot of potential here, and I'm real excited about showing everybody that Steve Park does have what it takes. There's probably some small organizational things we need to work on to make things a little better, make life a little easier at the shop and at the race track. We've already started a pretty extensive wind tunnel program on the bodies. This is a RAD car here, and it's got real good balance to it. There's an obvious difference in qualifying trim, and hopefully we'll find a difference in race trim it should be better, too. We've got more of those cars coming, and we've got a Pocono test we're going to do. Organization and doing things at the shop to make things easier at the track is usually the biggest thing you can do to make gains.
PAUL ANDREWS (Crew chief No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "The shock program is a good program, but I think we can improve that. We've hired a new engineer, an experienced one, and he's going to start next week. That'll help us out. We're getting those things in place and trying to get things headed toward the year 2000. Of course, we want to finish this year out with a bang. We need to concentrate on finishing in the top 15 consistently and look for those top 10s real soon and work our way into finishing in the top five. "The motors are awesome. There's nothing lacking there in horsepower. This is some of the first batch of motors we've had with a new combination they're working on, and we've got more of those motors to come. I think we're going to get Pennzoil involved some more on the lubricant side, trying to make the little bit things into gainers. You get a little here and there and that's where you get the speed. "I've never worked with Steve Hmiel (DEI Technical Director) before. I think we've always gotten along good. We see eye to eye on a lot of things. I came in there with some things and asked him about and asked why we were doing things this way. I'd ask why we couldn't do it another way, and he'd say that's the way he used to do it. Things like that we've already hit it off on. We've got a lot of similarities. We both want to progress and get better. We're open minded enough to make the changes we need to make and not do things like we've always done 'em. "We had a good run at Richmond. The test was really good here. This being the first RAD car they came out with is a big plus. We were fast last week with the car we had here. We've done some things to make the car go faster. Confidence doesn't hurt at all. We've got the whole package here this weekend, the car, motors, shock package, chassis, it's really clicking. "I don't think the extra 100 miles will be a big thing. We need to finish the race. Usually if you can finish on the lead lap here, it's a big accomplishment. We're looking forward to that. If we finish a lap down, we've got to keep digging. We can't give up. We've got to keep him out of trouble. He's got a good spotter in Ty Norris. He can see things that's going to happen. You've got to help out a young driver along the way, especially in a 600-mile race. When it comes down to that last 100 miles, it's something nobody is used to because we don't do it that much. We've got to keep him fresh and keep him on the edge of his seat so he doesn't get in that relaxed mode. "I think Steve is 100 percent physically now. We've never really had that discussion. I don't see any problems. Even at the Martinsville race when it was so hot, he got out of that one without any problems. He's been in real good shape. I like working with the young drivers. I feel like I can help a young driver come along. It's not really a challenge, but it's a good feeling. Seeing the progression and helping build the team and being in it for the long term is a good feeling. I've been doing this a long time. I was 42 last Tuesday, so I've been racing full-time 23 or 24 years. I only raced part-time for a year. I've had a lot of ups and downs, probably more downs than ups, but the ups have been pretty awesome. The older you get, the easier it is to stay on an even keel. I feel like it's a must. I'm going to lose my temper and get mad and holler, but I try not to do it very often. If we can finish this race in one piece Sunday, that's the goal. I think we can do that. If everything stays within our control, I believe we can do it."
STEVE HMIEL (Technical Director Dale Earnhardt, Inc.) "Dale Jr.'s guys have done a terrific job with the Budweiser car. We ran good with Steve Park at Richmond and tore up a tire. Paul Andrews came on board last week, and we ran good in The Open. We qualified well here. It's too soon to say, but right now it sure feels like it's going in the right direction. "It's just fate to get Paul Andrews. We couldn't imagine Paul Andrews being on the market. It kind of floored us to hear that he was out of work. As soon as we heard it, we started conversation with him and within two days it was a done deal. I hope he's wanting to stay. He's a good fit for us. He's a great racing mechanic. He does a great job. Steve Park has a lot of faith in him and the guys are really lined up following him. "It's the same with the Budweiser guys. Junior's got his Busch guys over there racing and they'll have to hire some more people, but right now both teams are comfortable with the cars and engines with the personnel. Everybody is working together well. There's a lot of communication. The guys in the engine shop are making a lot of horsepower. We think we're in pretty good shape. It's too soon to say. We've got to run some races, but right now, we feel really good. "Junior's got a lot of mistakes he'll have to make. His crew will have a lot of mistakes to make before they're big-time Winston Cup race car drivers, but they don't make a lot of mistakes. Those guys are really good. Steve Park needs to run in the top 10 Sunday and Junior needs to run in the top 15. That'd be a fantastic weekend. "I'll be back and forth Sunday, talking to each team about tire pressures. If one guy's got a problem, we'll help. We'll talk about fuel strategy, and I'll just bounce back and forth. "Junior didn't practice a whole lot with his Busch car this morning because he wants to get in a good day of practice with his Cup car. We're aware of that. Junior certainly doesn't have the experience level like a Mark Martin to jump back and forth between a Busch car and a Cup car. But Junior has done some tremendous things in a short career. We think we'll be OK with that. We're aware of the fact that the cars are vastly different. "I didn't want to be a crew chief. I felt we went to Richmond and did a nice job, but for DEI to do what it's supposed to do, I need to be doing aerodynamic stuff, building lighter cars. We hope to build our own chassis soon. I need to help Junior, help Ron Hornaday go Busch racing, seeing where our truck team ends up. I'm more happy for DEI having me as a technical direction than as a crew chief for one team. "I'm right in the middle of the RAD program. We're real proud of the RAD program (all six cars in top 15 at Charlotte). We didn't do a lot with it the first year. We were expecting to have the 2000 Monte Carlo by now. As soon as we saw we weren't going to get it, we went and concentrated on a test car for the '99 body style. All RAD teams have an example of a test car that was developed in a wind tunnel with RAD. We're real proud of how we all qualified. As soon as we get our templates for the 2000 car, we'll go to work on that. It's a big job, a lot of behind the scenes kind of things. Louis Duncan does it all. It's a lot of labor involved and a lot of time consuming stuff, but so far, it looks like it's paying off."
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "Qualifying didn't surprise me because we were fast in practice. What really surprised me was coming off the truck and going out the first practice and being fast. We worked real hard with Paul and we seemed to make steady gains until we were on the top of the sheet. We did our last qualifying run and we were on top of the sheet. Paul asked me how that felt and it felt pretty good. It was the first time I'd ever been there after the last practice. The car was driving good. I was telling them how in the past I had cars where I could take away all my fear and go out there and hold my breath and run and be 10th or 15th fastest. I felt like I was lucky to get through some of those laps. We went out there and ran a lap that was on top of the sheet and the car felt good and I was comfortable. That was the first time I'd ever busted off a lap and had been comfortable and wasn't fearing for my life. Paul said that was the way it was supposed to be, so I'm looking forward to more of them. We knew going out for qualifying we had a car capable of sitting on the pole. I felt from a driver's standpoint the car handled good. I left a little bit out in one and two. We ended up being fifth. I think if I had cut a good lap in one and two and matched it with my three and four, we had a chance of sitting on the pole. Things went according to plan and the way they should be going to be competitive in Winston Cup. That's the first time since I started racing Winston Cup that it's gone that way. It was all of it. This is a car the guys built in the shop. It's a car Steve Hmiel helped design. It was a brand new motor from our engine shop. We had all the good pieces, and Paul tuned on it to make it a car suitable for Steve Park and that's what we've been missing. I haven't been given an opportunity to work with a guy that can make a car handle to what I need. It's worked real well with Paul. Our communication is real open. He and I have similar ideas and we work well together. It was nice to see that come along last week in a non-points race and to see it happen the week after. "Dale Jr. is a unique individual and he is Dale Earnhardt Jr. His name has been around the sport a long time. Fans out there have been loyal to Dale Earnhardt for 20 years. They're going to be loyal to Dale Earnhardt Jr. We've seen that already. Steve Park is not going to be able to compete with that. I'm just happy to be a part of Winston Cup and I'm happy to be associated with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Dale has given me a great opportunity, just like he has Junior. I'm looking to not make a name for myself but just be a competitor in Winston Cup. I want to do a good job for the team and sponsor and I think we're capable of doing that. I'm not going to let anything overshadow that. As long as we can be competitive in Winston Cup and win races in the next year or two, those are goals I've set for myself. In the meantime, I'll work along with Dale Jr. and watch his rise in Winston Cup. It's going to be a great opportunity for both of us. I'm not going to let somebody's notoriety overshadow what Steve Park is doing. "I'm 110 percent. I've been working real hard. I think with the program not running up to expectations, I've worked harder as a driver. I'm not trying to become a better driver by working out, because experience will take care of that. It makes me feel better when I run bad on Saturday or Sunday to go in the gym and work hard on Monday to keep my physical conditioning up and keep my mental health in good shape. Working out does a lot for you physically, but it's also good to limit stress levels and other things which have been high lately. I'm in great shape. I'm looking forward to 600 miles
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) here and I'm looking forward to working with the rest of the DEI team. Hopefully, we can run more consistently. "This is my first 600 and that's why we're excited about it. Those 500 mile races are long, so I can imagine what 600 is going to be like. Our main goal is to get through those first 500 and keep adjusting on that Pennzoil Chevrolet until we get it the best it can be and race the last 50 miles and try to get these guys. "If we can stay on the lead lap, we can make a last-minute adjustment on the last pit stop. If there's only 10 cars left on the lead lap, we've just got to race nine other guys. We're going to try to stay on the lead lap. If we do get a lap down, we've got plenty of miles to try to make it up. We're going to try to stay smooth and steady and make it all the way and try to finish in the top 10."
RICHARD CHILDRESS (Car owner No. 3 and 31 Monte Carlos) COMMENT ON UAW-GM QUALITY 500 SWEEPSTAKES CORVETTE GRAND PRIZE "It's great to see companies like the UAW get involved in our the sport of NASCAR Winston Cup racing. They do a lot for not only the folks in the garage area and speedways but now they're reaching out and doing something for the fans like giving away a Corvette. Myself, I love driving a Corvette. I've had a Corvette for many years. It's one of the coolest cars I've ever driven. This new one they came out with in '98, it's probably the slickest Corvette they've built yet as far as getting in and out. As you get older, these older guys like to get in these Corvettes. They built that car for us older guys. It's easier to get in and out. The teamwork that General Motors and the UAW has put together and to come down here and give away a product the UAW builds is just great."
COMMENT ON DRIVING PACE CAR "It's really a great honor. When I was asked to do that, I thought, 'man, that is really neat.' You see all these great people driving the pace cars. With the 2000 Monte Carlo, we had big plans to introduce that car at this race. Some things got us a little bit behind on it with NASCAR trying to get the rules and stuff up to speed on it. Now it's been put off to the year 2000 in Daytona, but to get to drive one and really make the first official lap is a great honor. I'm looking forward to it. I'm trying to figure out what I can do. I've got it figured out. I think I'm going to get to read the speedometer on the car, and if that's the case, I'll run one speed and I'll tell Earnhardt and Skinner what the pit road speed is going to be and that way we can get everybody speeding on pit road (said in jest). That's kind of my plan. It's going to be a neat experience. I tried to get Buster (regular pace car driver Auton) to stay on our pit box and talk to Earnhardt, but he said his ears and heart couldn't stand it. I believe he's better off in the pace car."
COMMENT ON 3 AND 31 IN COCA-COLA 600 "The car is running real good and Dale is in the right mood. We're ready. The 31 was real good this morning in practice. He brought a car he felt that was really good, and we'll see how it ends up on Sunday. The car ran good at Atlanta. It's a good car. All my money is bet on Earnhardt and Skinner. I bet every week on 'em. I don't mean gamble. It's a gamble every time you pull on the race track, but I'm betting on them for the 600."