Sunday, May 2, 1999. California Speedway. California 500 Presented by NAPA. Chevrolet notes and quotes. GORDON GIVES TEAM MONTE CARLO CIRCUIT-LEADING FIFTH VICTORY IN 10TH RACE -- Jeff Gordon captured his circuit-leading third victory...
Sunday, May 2, 1999. California Speedway. California 500 Presented by NAPA. Chevrolet notes and quotes.
GORDON GIVES TEAM MONTE CARLO CIRCUIT-LEADING FIFTH VICTORY IN 10TH RACE -- Jeff Gordon captured his circuit-leading third victory of the season and gave Team Monte Carlo its circuit-leading fifth victory in '99 by winning Sunday's California 500 Presented by NAPA. Chevrolet leads Ford 5-4 in victories, but Ford holds a 70-67 lead in the Winston Cup manufacturers standings. Pontiac is third with 53 points.
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "The pit stop is what did it. When it comes to crunch time when the pressure is on and it's time to make a great pit stop, that's what these guys do. I got to the pits as fast as I could, got to pit road and they did the rest of the work and got me out really fast. The car was handling great all day long if we could get clean air. Bobby was real strong and I knew Jeff Burton was going to be coming by the end of the day. We were able to get out there in clean air and were able to make a difference. We've had some rough ones, but I knew we could get back to victory lane and we proved it today. I wanted to be leading, and that's the key when you're out front. I knew that little bit of tightness when we were behind other cars wasn't something we needed to do a lot with. When we got out in clean air before that last stop, we were a little bit loose. The car was driving great all day long, especially down the straightaways. This thing had an awesome engine in it today. I want to thank all the guys at home who work so hard on these engines and make all that power. I think the pit stop got us out there in clean air and I was able to run my line. I did have a little bit of breathing room. We never felt like we were out of contention. We knew what we were made of. I think this team is better this year than it's ever been in every area, cars, pit crews. Any time you win the Daytona 500 you're not having a bad year. Then you put Atlanta and California in on it, I don't see how we can have a bad year from here on out, but we do want to be a factor in the championship when it comes down to the end of the season."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "It was just a fair day. We were mediocre on the race track and mediocre in the pits."
JOE NEMECHEK (No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We've been having a hard time since we've been here, but we had a decent run going. When the caution came out, I hit a spot of oil where he (Ricky Rudd) blew up. On the restart, I was on the outside and ran over something and cut a tire down. I hit pretty hard, but I'm OK."
GEOFFREY BODINE (No. 60 Power Team Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We had been slowing down a little bit down the straightaway. Something broke. We came from a long way back. We weren't quite right on that last run. We needed to make some adjustments, but we were looking good for awhile there. The last setup wasn't right. We were really loose. The track probably changed a little bit, and we needed to get in and make an adjustment. We almost made it. We thought we had everyone beat on fuel mileage, but we didn't get to use that strategy. I'm proud of the Power Team crew. This is our first time here with a Chevrolet and the first time here with this team. To be competitive, you can't feel anything but good."
WALLY DALLENBACH (No. 25 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "The car was good and everybody worked together real good today. We had great horsepower. We were probably just a touch behind chasing the race track, but I'm pretty happy with that. Our pit stops were good. Finally everything fell into place. We know our speedway program is an excellent program. Hopefully we can go to Richmond and run like we did at Martinsville and keep hammering on these top 10s. That's the first goal. We're going to Sears Point and test for a couple of days and hopefully it won't rain us out. We're going to jam back to Charlotte and if they have that test there Wednesday and Thursday, we'll test there. I'm going to be a busy boy this week."
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We started the race really strong. I think we passed 14 cars in the first 30 laps. Then we started having carburetor problems and we just couldn't make the car go fast with those problems. We came in and changed the carburetor and when we went back out, we were just as fast as we were in the beginning of the race."
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I don't know what happened to the car. At one point in the race, we thought we could win it. Then it went from the best car on the race track to the worst car on the race track in one pit stop. Something happened when we left the pits (green-flag stop on lap 156). I thought it was a bad set of tires, but it wasn't any better when we put another set on it. The car was loose early in the race but got real tight. I mean, real tight. Right toward the end, the car started turning again and got real good. I was running Gordon down the last 10-15 laps."
KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "It was a tough day. We were fortunate to finish where we finished. My teammate (Ken Schrader) did a good job. He finished 14th and that's good, but the car was in a four-wheel slide all day. I couldn't get it to stick. We'd run at the bottom and I'd have to slow up a little bit too much."
TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "The car fell off quite a bit in the second half of the race. I wished we hadn't passed on taking on tires on that one pit stop. We did a gas and go and in hindsight, I think we would have been better off coming in and taking on four tires. We hung on for a top 10 finish and that's good because all three Hendrick cars finished in the top 10 today. And I completed all 250 laps again, so it's nice to hang on to that streak. Jeff Gordon and I are the only two drivers who have completed all the laps in all three races here so far. We'll get ready and go to Richmond in a couple of weeks and try to keep getting better."
KEN SCHRADER (No. 33 Skoal Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I thought we might pull off our third straight top 10 finish today, and we got close. We just didn't get things quite right, but all-in-all, it was a decent day and we held on to 13th in the point standings. We'll just go to work and get ready for Richmond now."
LARRY McREYNOLDS (Crew chief No. 31 Lowe's Monte Carlo) "The caution came out on lap 133. We took four tires and made one minor adjustment. We got back out into a big bumble bee pack. Mike complained about the car being loose at first. We only ran three green flag laps, not enough to tell if there was anything wrong. We went back racing on lap 145. We ran another 11 laps, which put us close to 15 laps on the tires when the caution came out again on lap 156. From 145 to 156, 11 laps racing, Mike said the car was the best it had been all day. We felt we had to stay in sync with our competition so we pitted for four tires on laps 156. From 156 to 250 is when we went to hell in a handbasket. "It was when the caution flag came out on lap 133 that Mike called in and said he ran over some debris. Evidently, when we ran over the debris, it knocked the bottom piece of the radiator duct work loose. It started on lap 133 but didn't show up until lap 156. That piece just finally turned down because it broke loose. It rubbed so long that it just ground it off. The bottom part of the duct work is a big part of the aerodynamics of the race car. It puts a lot of front downforce in it. It's gone. It would be great to go back to the wind tunnel right now and find out what this car is like right now. I'm going to say it took 100 pounds of downforce off the front end and that's being conservative."
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "It definitely made a difference being in clean air because what happened was for half of a green flag run my car was loose and then it would get really good the middle part of the run. Towards the end, it would tighten up where I could drive the car in and pull it down on the bottom and really get back in the gas. So early on some of those runs I could get the lead or get up to second, but if I took the lead, if you'd even get close to me, I'd get loose. I couldn't hold the lead. I'd get back behind them and they'd get loose. That's been an issue here quite often. With the draft and the speeds we're running, it's really tough to get the lead and keep it. Definitely, those last couple of runs, especially that last run, it was real important to get out there in clean air. It was hard to adjust the car. It was hard to tell Ray what to do to the car because when I was in traffic I was tight. I was kind of pushing-loose, pushing-loose. I felt like it was aero. I found if we could get out front, it was actually a little bit looser and we could tighten it up. Luckily, we were able to make the right adjustments and the ones we wanted to make because we were in clean air there at the end. "I think like most of the time if you get the setup just right, you can run most places on the track and you're going to be a dominant car. It seems to me like today, you could run all over the track, but really the bottom was the fastest way around, especially in three and four. I didn't see a whole lot of guys who were very successful in the upper groove through three and four. You could run side by side but not for very long. The guy on the inside would get real loose, but the guy on the outside, it didn't seem like the track was as fast on the outside, so I ran side by side with Rusty and a couple of other guys, but most of the time, you either had to let the guy go on the inside or let the guy get back by you on the outside and get in line. It was very difficult to pass today, but I think this track seems to be moving wider. The entry and exits seem to get wider. I think the side by side racing is going to continue to improve."
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "It's real special. I enjoy coming out to California first of all. I wanted to put Texas and Talladega behind us. It's been a little frustrating because they happened to close to each other, and I've been saying all year long our team is better than they've ever been. I think today they certainly proved it. Ray and the guys set up the race car just perfect. The horsepower underneath the hood was just incredible and I was able to drive the car a lot of different places. It was really hooked up, and then we had great pit stops. If we just have things go our way, if we just have some good fortune instead of misfortune, we can win races. That's what happened to us today. If we can get that consistently, we'll be a factor in this championship. Burton is hanging in there strong. They're doing great. He's running good, and they're not having problems. That's why they're where they're at. This win is definitely going to carry a lot of momentum for us. "I took off real hard on new tires because normally when you have a car that runs that good on long runs, it's real loose on new tires. My car was. I told myself I couldn't give up too much time on new tires. When we first went out, I was running it real, real hard, trying to pull away and get through traffic as quick as I could. I think because of that it sort of used up the right rear tire a little bit. In clean air, I was a little bit looser like I was saying. At the end, I was pushing pretty hard. He was coming strong, and I felt like I used it up a little bit. I might have been able to get a little bit more out of it if I had had to race him (Burton) hard, but I had him in my mirror and I saw him. When he started closing in, I was definitely trying to make sure I hit all my marks just right and not make any mistakes. "I've enjoyed Penske tracks. Michigan, even though we've only won one race there, we've been consistent and run well. Maybe our Michigan package kind of helps us here. The track is kind of similar to Michigan. It's a beautiful facility and an awesome place to run a race. We're excited about being out here in California. It's my home state and I get a lot of fans out here and that helps with the motivation. For whatever reason, when we come here, we seem to either have some adversity we're trying to overcome or we've got momentum going our way. Whatever it is, we seem to come out here with a great run and it seems to get things rolling in the right direction for us. "We swapped leads quite a few times. If I got the lead and he (Burton) got behind me it would loosen me up and I would have to give him that position if he went for it. If I got up on him, he would get a little bit loose. He'd give me the position. It's very hard to lead here if you've got somebody right behind you. We've had that same thing the last couple of years we've been out here. I really wanted to ride behind him and tighten the car up and wait for the pressures to build up and then try to get the lead. When things were going our way, that's what we would do. I'd kind of let that thing to me, and maybe he'd get caught up in traffic and I'd get underneath him and then I sometimes could gradually pull away from him."
RAY EVERNHAM (Crew chief No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo) "You can't make up seconds in the pits anymore. A lot of that is how fast you get to pit road. Jeff did a good job keeping the car clean and getting it to pit road. He actually made up more for us there than the guys had in the pits. The guys also had a real good pit stop. It's just one of those things when the choreography is perfect and you hit all the lugnuts perfect. I think maybe Bobby's guys didn't have one of their best stops. Under green, the last pit stop, everything went perfect. Jeff did a good job getting the car on pit road and the guys had a flawless stop. "We work real hard at times to maintain an even emotion. This business is an emotional roller-coaster. You can't get too high on the highs or too low on the lows. We feel very satisfied and very close as a group and we're very happy when we win. You just can't go around patting yourself on the back the same way you can't slit your wrists if you drop out of a race. We try and enjoy it and we try to be realistic about the highs and the lows and take the emotion out of it. "As soon as I saw what was happening, I kept my eyes on the leader and I knew we didn't go a lap down. You always try to pick a pit stall past the start-finish line. That's one of the reasons we do that. We were lucky enough that the 99 and I think the 12 had pitted earlier than we did. We had a fairly big lead on the second-place car at that time when Mark took over the lead we had a fairly big lead on him and we were able to make our pit stops. The guys again had a good pit stop and didn't really skip a beat even though they knew the caution came out. I knew that once Jeff got off the jack and rolling, Mark just then crossed the start-finish line, so we weren't a lap down. The anxious moments came after we realized we weren't a lap down and realized we could have been."