Chevrolet Las Vegas race notes

Joe Nemechek, No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet Monte Carlo (involved in 2-car wreck on lap 99): "I've got to blame this one on myself, I guess. All of a sudden, I guess we (John Andretti) were too close together getting in the corner. All of a ...

Joe Nemechek, No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet Monte Carlo (involved in 2-car wreck on lap 99):
"I've got to blame this one on myself, I guess. All of a sudden, I guess we (John Andretti) were too close together getting in the corner. All of a sudden my car just turned around. It's a shame. The Oakwood Homes Chevy was running good. We had a flat tire in the beginning, but we were coming back to the front. Our day's pretty much done now. It knocked the body off of it. We'll get it fixed and get back out there and ride around."

Robbie Loomis, crew chief, No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo:
"I tell you what, what great job. Last year out here we ran terrible. The guys on this team, I can't say enough. They dig and dig and dig. Triple 24's in Vegas. We love it man."

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet Monte Carlo (winner):
"We weren't very good in the beginning. The car was real, real tight and then traffic. We were just struggling. We had a break where we took tires and got a little bit of traction and they freed the car up. All the guys on the Dupont crew did an awesome job. They did an awesome job in the engine department. It was a flawless day for us. We just keep chipping at it and by the end of the race the car was perfect, just perfect. Great call in the pits to take four tires. I'm just excited. This is a big, big win for us, to win in Las Vegas and to get this Dupont Chevrolet back into Victory Lane. I've got to thank Pepsi, GMAC, Quaker State, and Chevrolet - everybody that contributed to this race. It was just an awesome day. And our car was just so fast. Man it was awesome to drive a car like that out there today. And Winston, I've got to thank them. What a great day for us to be able to win this No Bull. But it's a bigger day for this guy right here, Rodney Mims (fan from Clanton, AL). It was just so exciting to be able to win him a million also."

Does is get old to win a million dollars?
"It never gets old. I tell you what, I look at that as a great trophy. It's just something out there to reach for. Winning today in Las Vegas at this race track - as much as we've struggled here in the past - means almost as much to me as that million dollars."

With two good runs in a row, are we building toward a championship?
"You bet we are. I've been telling people how strong this team is. I think today really showed it. When you can run that strong at a track like this, I know we're off to a great start this season. I think there's only greater things to come. We've just got to keep using our heads, and keep doing what we're doing and keep building this momentum. It's just great."

You're probably $1.3 million dollars richer and you won a million dollars for yourself and for a fan. How does that feel?
"I'm happy to see a fan to win a million dollars. That's one of those deals that Winston does there to be able to give something to the fans also. I know I don't need my part of it but it's nice to have. This team just did such an incredible job today you know, they earned every penny. We started 24th and I knew we had a car capable of moving our way through the field, I just didn't know how far. Early on there, it was pretty frustrating. The car was real, real tight. And we were in a lot of traffic and it was very hard to pass out there. We made some adjustments that helped a little bit. But I think the key seemed to be when they made the two tire change and got us a little bit of track position. They must have really freed it up. I don't know exactly what Robbie did. He can tell you. But it freed the car up quite a bit and it just came to life. All of a sudden our race changed from then on. We took two tires on and we were driving by guys that took four tires and walking away from them. It was surprising to me actually. And there at the end when we were able to have four tires and those guys just kept freeing it up, the car was just on a rail. It was just an awesome team effort. We had great pit stops. That's the way you've got to win races. It just shows a lot about this entire team and how we've got to stick together and work together and never give up. There were times when it was a little frustrating in the beginning."

Question for Robbie Loomis: What changes did you make to help the car come up through the field?
"I think the biggest thing, 'cause you know these Chevrolets are lacking downforce in the front. Every pit stop we kept adding tape and adding tape. We decided we were going to burn the motor up, probably. But we had to get the downforce on the front end and that made a big difference."

Question for Jeff Gordon: How much does it mean to win at Las Vegas, which is one of the few tracks you haven't won on before? And is there a goal to try to win on every track?
"I had it down to one or two at one time, and then they added like four tracks. More so than the fact that we're trying to win at every track, I think winning at as many tracks as we've won at shows just how diverse we can be. And that's very important to winning the championship. But I think this means more to me today and I'm sure Robbie will second this, but last year this race was just the most frustrating day we've ever had. For me as a driver and for Robbie as a crew chief, we were pulling our hair out at this race. We told ourselves we were going to figure this place out. We were going to work hard to get a good package for here. To come back and see those results and that our hard work paid off, that's the most gratifying to me."

Question for Robbie Loomis: Talk about the fact that you got fined last week and then you won a million dollars
"The sport itself, you know, we've been through a lot last week and even last year. We've had a lot of tough times. Last week (at Rockingham) we ran so strong. To have that failure that we had on the car at the end of the race, we felt like we let Jeff down. So to come back here and do it is a great feeling."

With he loss of Dale Earnhardt and with people maybe looking at you to carry the torch, does this win mean more to you?
"No, 'cause I really don't look at it that way. I've been asked that question a few times. I believe the guy that carries the torch or whatever you want to call it is not any one person's job. Certain guys can step-up and to me I look at what made Richard Petty so popular and it had to do with personality and the way he carried himself and also his dominance on the racetrack. That's the same as Dale Earnhardt. So if we have many more runs like we had today, and it's hard for anyone to dominate the season, that will make you stand out among the rest. It's just great to get this win under our belt. I'm not looking to take anyone's place. I'm not looking to be the guy with the torch. I'm just looking to go out there and win races and hopefully win championships."

Is this like a flashback to '98 when you would come from the back and have a great car a the end of the race?
"I guess so. Really from '95 to '98, we had a lot of confidence in ourselves. I didn't think we had the best aerodynamics package out there and I kind of felt like that today, but we had the best team. And the best team can really make up for a lot. And that's what we had there today to make good decisions in the pits and the right adjustments. I've never lost that confidence in the fact that I know what I need in a car. I've had to readjust the way I drive he car sometimes. Cars are faster, tracks are different, set-ups are a little bit different. I've had to push myself to new levels. But I've always felt like I knew what I needed in a car. Today we just happened to have that combination. When you get that kind of confidence and you see the team where I see them at today, you'll have runs like that where no matter where you start, you'll have to work your way up to the front. In '98, we won about 10 races that we shouldn't have won. I mean, I can't believe we won some of those races that we won. Sometimes you had a 6th place car and all of a sudden the top four guys go into pit and the caution came out. It was a crazy year and that's kind of what you have to have to win 13 races."

How has the start of this season put you in contention for the championship?
"Ever since '95, since the first time we ever went for a championship, our goal is to win every year. Our goal was that last year. But I don't know if we were really in a position or prepared to do that - as hard as we tried to. This year we're very well prepared. The team has really come together. I've been saying that for a while. But until you go out there and have performances like this weekend and last weekend -- even in Daytona we were having a great run - those are the types of things that make you championship caliber. I think we are, but it's too early in the season to tell."

Did either one of you gamble here, and did you do some gambling today?
Jeff Gordon: "I didn't. He won a bunch of money the last time we were here testing. I leave my gambling for the racetrack. I think I'll have a lot more money in my pocket if I do that.

Robbie Loomis: "Testing was so good to me, I was scared to. But you just get to feeling things. You never know how things are going to work out. To come out here and win this race is bigger than any win you could ever have on a machine. The way it worked out with 20-something laps to go we were going to have to pit. The way it worked out a couple guys went with four (tires) before we did, and so it made it an easy call and it wasn't really a gamble. The one time we put on two tires, that was a little bit of a gamble. But it was one of those decisions that when you're running 20th, you don't really have a lot to lose."

Question to Jeff Gordon Who made the call to take the two tires, and is this the start of the Gordon/Loomis era?
"I just think the world of Robbie from the first time I spoke to him on the phone and from the first time I met him. The first time I got the chance to work with him, I was impressed. I like the way he handles himself. I like the way he goes about his job. He's very capable of doing a great job. Last year was very hard on this guy. He was filling big shoes. I think that's one of the things that most impressed me about Robbie. There weren't too many crew chiefs out there that had the guts to step into this position. They knew it was a no-win situation. To come off of three championships, a 13-win season in '98, seven wins in '99, I mean there was nowhere but down to go. He was willing to make that sacrifice, get in there and do the job. I commend him for that and I enjoy working with him. I knew that the magic was there right from the beginning, but we just weren't able to put the whole combination together. It started at the end of last year and has just transferred over to this year."

Robbie Loomis: "We discussed the tire thing and we were back and forth. A lot of times when I make the decision, a lot of times Jeff will say this is what we need to do."

Jeff Gordon: "I knew track position was real important; I wasn't going to argue with him. They make the calls, they can see what's going on. If I feel very strong about something, I'm going to speak up. I don't just hold onto the wheel. I try to let them do their job."

What did you learn during the test that helped you win today?
Jeff Gordon: "I told you it was the right car to bring. We were supposed to take this car to Rockingham. It tested well there. We brought it here and I said I thought it was a really good car for Las Vegas. I talked him into bringing it back. So I guess the biggest part of it was the car. These guys, they take all that information and they go home and come back to the race track with the best possible combination of springs, shocks, and sway bars. We messed up on qualifying. We were much better than 24th. We loosened the car up and I asked them to loosen it up and they did. And then I got real loose in qualifying. So we were much better than that."

Is this just a continuation of the momentum you started to gather last season?
Robbie Loomis: "I think every day that we're together, every practice we're together, every time we're on the race track and we're talking on the cell phone it's just a building of getting better and better. Today was just another one of those building blocks of what we're trying to do. Every time you're around it you talk. The beginning of last year, we handled each other differently. The beginning of last year, he'd like to kill me. Yesterday, I was like okay we've got to make a few changes in order to win the race."

Do you feel like you hit your groove better today than any other time so far?
Robbie Loomis: "No, I'll be honest with you. You look at races like Daytona. That was a race that was working out, the car was running good, and Jeff was going from the back to the front. And today I could easily say yeah. But when you look at a race like Richmond. It's one of those races. The first race, the way the pit stops fell, you did everything out of sync. The second race, the way it worked out it felt like it was going our way and these guys are brain surgeons."

What is different now than last season (August - September) when you were struggling?
Jeff Gordon: "In August I just couldn't stay out of wrecks. Maybe some of it was that we weren't qualifying real good then either. It really just comes down to preparation. Half way through the season, we started figuring it out. I think he got a better understanding of how I like to drive the car, and I've got a better understanding of how he likes to prepare a car. We had to cut a lot of bodies up and do a lot of work to get the cars to handle. Teammates in a big organization like that is all about resources. The Monte Carlo is a good racecar, it's just that it takes a good combination, and like Robbie said, we don't have the front downforce that we need. And we have to try to figure out the springs and shocks and how I drive the car to make that better. Then we started clicking. It's just everything. It's working together, and it takes time to get to know each other. We had a new Monte Carlo plus new people. It just took some time."

What were the specific problems you had here last year compared to this year?
Robbie Loomis: "I can't tell you how thankful I am sitting in this seat today. Last year when we left here I was sitting right across from Rick Hendrick on the airplane and it was not pretty. Really we came out here and qualified 10th last year and we were off to a great start. We got in a Saturday morning practice wreck and probably should have pulled out the back-up car. But we made the decision to fix that car. And come Sunday morning, we kind of reverted back to the old set-up in the car. We had the wrong stuff in it. When you're sitting on top of that box and Jeff Gordon goes from 10th to 40th, it's not good.

Steve Park, No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo (finished 7th) -
"Yesterday, we didn't have anything. But Paul Andrews (crew chief) and Dave Charpentier (engineer) worked and worked on the car to get it competitive. I'm really proud of this whole team. We had great pit stops and we were able to get out in front and maintain our position. We were a little tight there for a while, but the guys worked to free us up. We never, never thought we'd end up with a 7th place finish. And we stayed in 5th in the points, and we're happy with that."

Mike Skinner, No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo (finished 18th) -
"It wasn't what we wanted, but we came a long way from where we started. We were even up there in the top 10 for a little bit. Everybody on this 31 team did a great job today. We got one bad set of tires and we adjusted back from that bad set."

GM Racing

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , John Andretti , Jeff Gordon , Steve Park , Mike Skinner , Joe Nemechek , Richard Petty , Robbie Loomis