Wednesday, May 26, 1999. Lowe's Motor Speedway. Chevrolet notes and quotes. JEFF GORDON (No. 24 Pepsi/Star Wars Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Pepsi-Cola Company and Lucasfilm, Ltd., unveiled a new paint scheme on the...
Wednesday, May 26, 1999. Lowe's Motor Speedway. Chevrolet notes and quotes. JEFF GORDON (No. 24 Pepsi/Star Wars Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Pepsi-Cola Company and Lucasfilm, Ltd., unveiled a new paint scheme on the Gordon-Evernham Motorsports Busch Grand National Monte Carlo that features characters from the recently released movie, Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace. Gordon will race the car in Saturday's Busch Grand National Carquest Auto Parts 300. "One of my favorite things as a kid was drinking Pepsi and the second favorite thing was Star Wars. If there was anything out there in stores or on the movie screen about Star Wars I was right there. To see where these movies have gone to and the level they're at now, is incredible. I saw the movie the other day and I loved it, especially the pod racing. I hope we can have the same results. The movie was very entertaining, and I'm so excited about being a part of this Pepsi racing team and also to be a part of having Star Wars on board. It's an exciting time for NASCAR Busch Grand National racing, and it's a very exciting time for the movie world. What George Lucas and this movie has done is very exciting. "The car ran well the other day in testing, but it didn't have the Star Wars colors. It didn't have all the different guys on here. I think these guys are going to take us to the next level and hopefully take us to victory lane on Saturday. We're going to give it everything we've got. Charlotte has been really good to me in the Busch Series and in the Winston Cup Series. We're hoping to see the same success this weekend. "I'm real excited about this. Growing up as a kid, Star Wars was it for me. Every time I walked into the store, it was like, 'I've got to have this action figure here.' Every time one of the movies came out, I was one of the first ones to go see it. I couldn't wait to see this latest one that came out. I thought it was great. I enjoyed every minute of it, and it brought back some of those memories and brought up so many more questions. I can't wait for the next one, and that's what George Lucas does so well. He answers questions but leaves those openings for more questions to be asked. "Just being a part of this whole Stars Wars phenomenon that's going on all over the world, and for us to be a part of it with Pepsi and Fritos and this race team is very special to me personally. Also, from a standpoint of what this car offers to the public. I think it's really great. "Lucasfilm has been great to work with. I look forward to seeing George maybe when we go out to Sears Point. Maybe we'll get a chance to go out to Skywalker Ranch. Just from all the conversations, he's a race fan and of course with the pod racing in the movie, it's a great tie with what we do in NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Grand National racing and what the future has to hold for racing. "I've always said I belong behind the wheel of a race car. When I'm on camera, I'm hoping there's as few lines as possible. Maybe I could be another competitor out there and wouldn't have to play a part (in a movie) but could have some fun. "For The Winston, we did get to do a little bit of qualifying runs. The only difference for me is that I'm bringing back a different car than we ran in The Winston. We thought that car was good, but it was really a test to see how good that car was. I think the car we're going to be qualifying tonight is even better. We're going to do everything we can to win a sixth straight pole at Charlotte for the 600. At the same time, we don't really know what the track is going to be like. It's a guessing game. The other thing is it's Wednesday, May 26, 1999. Lowe's Motor Speedway. Chevrolet notes and quotes. Page 2.
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 Pepsi/Star Wars Chevrolet Monte Carlo) all about the draw. Whoever draws a late number is going to be one of the guys to sit on the pole. That's what's been so odd and wild to me. We've been able to draw late numbers that many times for this race. "You have to be very patient (for the 600). You have to really try to stay in position and not get a lap down and at the same time be thinking 600 miles. I really don't try to think about how long this race is until I get past the halfway point. Usually they say halfway, and you say, 'oh my goodness, this is a long race.' So, I don't try to think about it. I just want to get past that halfway point and then start thinking about how I can keep myself in position and how I can stay focused and not worry about how long the race is. "At night, the laps go by faster. It's cooler and you seem to be able to get through a long race like this much better once the lights go on. I like Charlotte at night. We've been very successful there at nighttime. I think we try to set the car up for when it cools down and the later stages of the race. Good fortune certainly helps. I'm hoping to have a little force on my side on Saturday with the Star Wars car, but I wouldn't mind some of that transferring over to Sunday, also. If you look at last year, we were in good shape and then it came down to a pit stop. All those other guys made a two-tire change and we made a four-tire stop and were still able to win. We've done two-tire stops before that have helped us get in victory lane. A lot of things have worked in our favor in the 600 in the past, and that's what we're going to need to happen again in order to win."
GEOFFREY BODINE (No. 60 Power Team Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "That was pretty good for us. We've been a little slow. That's the fastest we've gone. We needed to go out late. We needed every 10th or 100th we could get. It's going to get real cool in awhile. A lot of good cars are going late. It just wasn't a good draw tonight, but hopefully it'll be good enough to get us in the show. It's the same car we had here last week. It's a good car. We know it races good."
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "One of the biggest parts of winning the pole at Charlotte is drawing a late number (for qualifying). We didn't draw a late number. The weather is pretty good right now and we picked it up pretty good from practice, but I think a lot of guys going later will be really tough to beat. That's a good number for us to put out at this time of day. "I was a little bit tight really on the whole run. I'm pretty happy with it really. Drawing that early number certainly wasn't to our favor, but we got a great lap out of it. It has cooled off some. We went a little bit faster than we did in practice, but not as fast as some other guys went. It'll be real interesting to see how fast they go at the end of the night. "We've been running really good. We just want to get in the field and then go for it. I really love running under the lights here at Charlotte. I think the team gets real pumped up and real prepared for this event. At the same time, we just had good fortune and good things going our way. We've had some good things happen to us this year, but it's kind of been hit and miss. We're hoping this is the weekend to hit it. "At Charlotte you've got to draw a late number to qualify on the pole. I believe we put a good number up there, but some other guys going later are going to put up some better numbers. This place gets faster as it gets darker and cools down. I'm sure that will happen again tonight. We've had fast race cars here in the past, but we've also had some good late draws. We didn't get that today, but we've got a fast race car and we think we'll be in good shape for the race. "I was hoping to pick up a tenth from practice and we didn't quite do that. The car handled good. I was just a little bit tight. I think we could have gone a lot faster later in the night. It's like on pole night, I've always wanted to sit on the pole. We've walked away with a lot of poles here, but on race day when you're on the pole, it's the worse possible place to be. That outside guy will beat you every single time off turn two. I'm kind of anxious to see where we're going to start here. I hope it's somewhere in the top 10. I'd love to be in the top five, but we're going to keep our fingers crossed. I think we've got a good race car."
KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "The guys at T&L really gave me a great motor. That was a pretty good lap. I felt stuff I haven't felt all week, so I knew something was going on. That's a pretty good lap. I beat some guys I didn't think I was going to beat. We had an excellent run. The whole key to the whole week was the bad run we had in the 25-lapper last Friday night. Jimmy Elledge, my crew chief, came back with some different shocks and the car was completely different in the 50-lapper. We came from 20th to ninth and this was basically the same setup. It was just a little different for qualifying."
KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We're always used to the sun being up here at Charlotte. The sun went down behind the grandstands, but one thing we had going for us going out early, it wasn't a deal where we were waiting for a cloud. The track had a chance to be cool. From what I saw last week, everybody had their cars set up loose. I didn't look for a big change from day to night. Things have changed at Charlotte. The track doesn't react the way it used to for some reason. "I'm kind of like Jeff (Burton). I'm part of a two-car team and basically Mark and Jeff are a two-car team also. I have just stepped into a pretty good situation. I was fortunate to come into it this year because Andy has put a lot of emphasis on his aero package. We were able to get our short track program going well. We qualified fifth at Bristol and second last week at Richmond. We're just a 35-year-old driver trying to work himself into a winning position. Now I feel like I've got a team... We ran off a couple of top 10s there. I'm getting better. We're looking for a little consistency. Qualifying has always been a strong suit for me. I felt good coming into this week because in that Winston Open that's about the best I've ever handled here at Charlotte. We went through a couple of cars and brought this one back. This is our third car. It's an eliminational process. Things have been getting better and we know why, so we'll keep working at it. "I think the only benefit of qualifying well at this particular race track is that it's totally different than what we used to. This is what I call the world's center of speed besides Daytona, but one thing they've both got in common, they both qualify on Wednesday. Now Jeff (Burton) is going to be second from Wednesday until Sunday night. If this was a two-day show, it would be over like that in one day. It's good for the team to be qualified well when you look for another day and they're still out there trying to qualify. I think it's more of a mental deal. If we were at Richmond, qualifying was over there in four hours. We had to hurry up and race. I think the qualifying means so much here because Humpy makes so much out of pole night and you also qualify four days before the race."
KEN SCHRADER (No. 33 Skoal Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "My lap was good. I killed one and two. I checked up just a shade in the middle of three. I think I did. Things happen here so quick. Maybe I didn't. We wanted to have the Skoal car and the Square D solidly in the first round. There's going to more cars beat us, but we'll be OK. "The Skoal crew worked awful hard to bring this car back this week. We didn't run that well with it last week. It's better. Now we've got to run 400 laps. I was pumped up about starting this year and getting going. Any time you can come to Charlotte and have a good car, you're ready to go."
WALLY DALLENBACH (No. 25 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We were slow from the get-go. I don't know what's wrong. It's the same car we had here for the test and we were fast with it. We've just been slow today."
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "It'll be good in the race, but it just won't qualify. Joe's slow. Michael's slow. The 01 is slow. Our car is slow. It drives good, but it just won't go."
Wednesday, May 26, 1999. Lowe's Motor Speedway. Coca-Cola 600 first-round qualifying. Chevrolet notes and quotes. Page 3.
JOE NEMECHEK (No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We're missing something somewhere. It's a brand new car. I got a little bit loose in three and four. I guess a spring rubber fell out of the right front when I took off. We've just been struggling the whole time we've been here. We're just missing something. We've got to get in the show."
BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We ran three up-to-speed laps in practice. The car felt good. We made one adjustment on it. I wish we could have run quicker, but a later draw would have helped. It would have helped anybody. If the 24 had gone out late, he would probably have sat on the pole. I'm real happy with the car. I thought I could run somewhere in the .30s and that's what we did."
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We'll take it. We struggled a little bit in practice, but Larry McReynolds made some big changes there at the end and did a good job. It's probably the best qualifier I've ever had, and we've struggled here today with it. If they keep giving us stuff like this, we'll get us one here sooner or later. We wore our good qualifying engine out trying to get the car to drive. I think anybody in the race can win it. We've been awful close to winning lately. This car right here is the car we were running fourth with the last time we were at Charlotte. A guy crashed and caused us some problems, but it's a good race car. Richard keeps saying the car is way outdated and we shouldn't bring it to the race track, but we keep bringing. That new car we had here last weekend is really the car we wanted to run, but
there's some other cars in the field with a body like that car, so we're going to see how they run before we abandon it. It's a good car. It liked to lead, but it wouldn't follow. I don't like to follow but with Mark and Jeff and Jeff Burton and those guys in the race, you're going to follow some. The car was tight in the gas and we ran more tape here than we've ever run in qualifying with the exception of Daytona and Talladega and the car ran good. We overadjusted on the car. It was actually too loose, but that was the good news. It means we can get it loose. That million dollars on Sunday is real interesting. We're going to work real hard on this race car. We brought the oldest car we've got in the stable, but it's really showed potential. It could have won three other times. Maybe the fourth time will be the charm. "We should have won three races this year. We were in contention. We had the chance. We had a caution come out at one that cost us the race. We had a lapped car take us out at Richmond and a couple of others I won't mention. A couple of things were self-inflicted that I did to us. We've knocked on the door. We just can't get it open. If you keep knocking on it sooner or later the caution will come or won't come. The right set of tires will get on it at the end of the day. You've got to keep banging on the door. Sooner or later it will open. "I think seat time is very important here. That's where Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin and a lot of those guys are awesome. They've got a lot of seat time going from day to night. I've really struggled with that. I've gotten better with it. Hopefully we can make the right adjustments. I've got the best crew chief in NASCAR with Larry McReynolds and I think I've got the best race team in NASCAR. We've got a good motor. I'm a halfway driver, and we'll see what we can do."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "It could have been a little better. It should have been better. The car felt super. I probably should have run it wide open all the way around. I thought it would have been faster as good as it felt. Maybe that's why it was like it was because it felt too good. That's a RAD car. We ran it in California and really didn't do it justice out there. We were a little too tight out there, a little off and we ran out of gas, too. It was out of the top 10. We finished 12th with the car. I feel good about the car for the race. We're starting 15th and that's respectable. You hope for better. I was hoping for a top spot, the pole would have been good. The car was there. I'm tickled for Park, Skinner and Dale Jr. We're all solidly in the show. Now we don't have to worry about anything but practice the next couple of days. That takes a lot of pressure off your race team. That was very important to me today, to get qualified today and give the guys time to get the car adjusted. We want to be the best at the end of the race and that's how you do it -- make the race the first day. We've got our race team in good shape, and I think I've got a race car we can win this race with."
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I still get the nervous jitters when I go out to qualify. I think we left a little on the table in one and two. I didn't get through one and two real clean. I got through three and four great. I think when this guy gets more experience we can start on the pole. We've been taking baby steps and steps back and steps forward. I think the changes we've just made is what it's going to take to put us consistently in the front. One of the places we've been struggling is qualifying. Paul Andrews came on board and Steve Hmiel is working back in the shop building the cars. The cars in the engine shop are building awesome engines and the guys in the chassis shop are building great cars. It's all coming together. It's not all about Steve Park. It's about these guys who are working to put these cars together. "Paul Andrews has helped us out a lot. It's built my confidence. He does a great job with the car, but the relationship we're developing is great. He told me before I went out not to worry. Having the confidence in my crew chief makes a world of different to me. When I get rid of some of these nervous jitters is when we're going to get our first pole. "With the addition of Dale Jr.'s team, being my old Busch team, communication is wide open between the two teams. It gives us all the opportunity to work hard. I don't have much experience here in a Cup car, especially in the 600. I've never had an opportunity to run it. We need to get a good top 10 starting spot and stay out of trouble the first 500 miles and try to get to the end."
TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 K-Sentials Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We've got a good car, but that's faster than we had run in practice. It just won't run any faster than that. We're not going to requalify. We're just going to work on the race setup. We can't qualify any faster than that tomorrow. We'll just have to work on our race stuff."
DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I've got to give a lot of the credit to Tony Sr. and Tony Jr., my father and everybody's who has worked on this race car because it's a lot better than I am. We've had some real good luck and some real good Busch cars. They rolled it right over to this Cup car. We built a good car and we worked with some of the setups off the Busch car. They told us it wouldn't work, but we worked as hard as we could. I want to congratulate Steve Park and the job they've done. They had a good run. We're happy we did it on the first round. We can work on the Busch car without having to worry about second round. We can work on our race setup because we didn't work on that too much when we were here testing. It's a big, big relief. You just don't understand. It's a big relief. I'm happy for Budweiser. I'm glad everything seems to be going along as planned. We've still got three-quarters of the weekend left so right now things look real good for us. "I'm just real excited to be in the field. We're real happy with the Budweiser Chevrolet. Tony Eury and Tony Jr. did a real good job putting the car together. The thing drove awesome. It's a lot better race car than I am a driver. I'm just glad I got the opportunity to drive it. Budweiser is staying behind us 100 percent this weekend. We've got a lot of pressure on us, and we're just trying to deliver. "We worried about it just about as much as everybody else has about the qualifying and getting in the field. Everybody can say we worried too much, but I feel like we had a good reason to be concerned. It ain't easy, and it ain't going to be easy from here on out. We're excited to be here at the Coca-Cola 600 and real excited for Budweiser. "It's been a tough time for us to get through and keep our sanity about us, but Budweiser has been very comforting and very supportive and I just can't ask for a better deal. The lap was very good. I got in a little hot in turn one and was a little loose getting off there. Turn three and four was excellent. The car felt real good. I've got a lot of confidence in Tony Eury and Tony Jr. All those hours paid off here tonight. "I wanted to do well for so many other people, not just the team. I've become good friends with pretty much everybody I work with and I get such a personal bond with them that I want to do well for not only myself but them, too. There's a lot going on right there for that little time, and I just couldn't wait to get the motor cranked. Normally when that motor cranks, it drowns out all the other thoughts and everything that's going on there. You roll out on the race track and just forget about it. That's the quickest way to remedy all the pressure. "I haven't really thought that far along. I thought so much about qualifying and worried so much about that, that I was hoping everything else would take care of itself. I'm sure we'll just think about what we need to do about our race setup. Probably what we'll do is compare our notes with our Busch car to see what we change from qualifying to race and probably go that many steps with our Cup car. I've got some things we're doing with Bud and Coca-Cola and a lot of meet and greets and other things to take my mind off some of the things, but that car was so awesome in qualifying. I've never driven anything that drove that good. I feel real confident in our ability when we get in the practice mode with our race setup. "It's not really getting used to it. It's a situation of what if. There's always those two little words there. To be able to get on the track
DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) and perform really resolves every bit of it. That was the situation I was worried about. I had total confidence in the team and myself, but you just never know what kind of competition you're up against. Now that we've got on the track and done something that says we're here and not necessarily deserve total respect but we're here and we feel like we've got a right to do well and we should be taken somewhat seriously. I know qualifying in the top 10 for just one race doesn't mean a lot to some of these other people. It's small potatoes to some of these guys, but it's big for us. It's something we set as a goal and something we accomplished. We're real excited. We were overwhelmed for the majority of the season up until this point, but to be able to go out on the track and back it up with something is what I wanted to do. That's what I was worried about. "I've torn up a lot of race cars here, too, so that was a big help. We came here three years ago with that black car and the fourth lap I wadded it up. We didn't get to race and we came back again and crashed again before we ever got to qualify for the Busch race. We crashed in practice. You don't get away with that too much. Luckily everybody's got enough respect for this race track to say this is a tough place. Anywhere else they'd probably say boy you can't drive. You can get away with it here. I've torn up a lot of stuff and I've got in trouble here. I've found that fine line maybe and found that edge maybe and gained a lot of experience here, maybe more so than I know. I've got a lot of respect for the track. I really, really enjoy racing on it. I've enjoyed watching a lot of races here, as I'm sure ya'll have. I always like coming in here, so maybe that's why it's so special or so important. "Maybe if we finish that far ahead of him (Dale Earnhardt) it might (get me in trouble). He was throwing shoes at me in Japan, so maybe he won't do that this time. We had a lot of fun racing in Japan. I'm sure we'll get that opportunity. Six hundred miles, I'm sure we'll run into each other sooner or later. We haven't talked that much about it. I think it's like anything. It's like going hunting or fishing with your dad or family, or taking a vacation, we always have fun whether you realize it or not. I think it's kind of like that. We're going to go do something and we get to do it together. It's something he's done for years. Now Dale Jr. is big enough to go with him. We'll have a lot of fun with it, and I'm sure he's going to have a lot of laughs watching me try to wheel that thing around there, and I'm sure my jaw will be in the floor watching him wheel his around. It should be fun. "We tried to get him to do it (drive my car). I'd like to see that. He used to drive those cars Tony and Tony Jr. put together years ago when he drove in the Busch Series. He hasn't in awhile. Those guys were good back then, but I think they came a long way, five times over since then. I'd like to see him get in one and see how well it drives. They're a lot better than I am. Nothing against the equipment he's in now. It's because he's the best as I see it, in my eyes. I'd like to see what the race cars could do. I think they're a lot better than we saw here tonight. "Realistically anything can happen to us here. It's our first big Winston Cup race. We've got a lot of adversity to overcome, a lot of situations that's going to be thrown in our face. We'll have more green flag pit stops than we see in the Busch Series. We don't do that a lot in the Busch Series, only when we come to tracks like this. Tony Jr. and the guys are going to have to do more green-flag pit stops, so that's going to be more Wednesday, May 26, 1999. Lowe's Motor Speedway. Coca-Cola 600 first-round qualifying. Chevrolet notes and quotes. Page 7.
DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) pressure on them. That's good. We need to go ahead and face the music here and get down to business and get good at it as quick as we can. Realistically, I wouldn't put a top 10 out of the picture. I haven't seen how well the car is going to drive in the race setup. I'd like to see if we could stay on the lead lap for the majority of the race if not the whole thing. I think that should put us solidly in the top 20. When we qualify our Busch car and we go out there and race. I'm not a good qualifier, so a lot of the times I go out there in the race and run laps as fast as I qualify. Tony Jr. and the guys go 'what's going on? Why can't you qualify faster?' Hopefully, that's the scenario we'll see this weekend. We'll race as well as we qualified and the car will drive as well. If the car drives good and these guys get me in and out of pit road quick and I can get in the pit stall and out of the pit stall without any problems, I can't see why we can't be competitive."