NOTES AND QUOTES California 500 California Speedway May 2, 1999 Note: Three Pontiac Grand Prix drivers finished in the top-10 today -- Bobby Labonte (third), Tony Stewart (fourth) and Ward Burton (sixth). It also marks the sixth time in 10...
NOTES AND QUOTES California 500 California Speedway May 2, 1999
Note: Three Pontiac Grand Prix drivers finished in the top-10 today -- Bobby Labonte (third), Tony Stewart (fourth) and Ward Burton (sixth). It also marks the sixth time in 10 races that at least three Pontiac drivers have finished in the top-10. Pontiac now has 11 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes this season. At the same point last year, Pontiac teams had three top-five and nine top-10 finishes. This is the second-consecutive race Joe Gibbs' Pontiacs have earned top-five finishes.
BOBBY LABONTE (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix): "We're pretty fortunate. We had a good day and Tony had a good day. Everybody at Joe Gibbs should be happy. My car wasn't as good on a long run early on. I got about a half-lap down and we made a lot of adjustments under yellow and got the car a lot better. I was better before that last run. We ended up doing the right thing at the right time. We were better at the end of the race than we were at the beginning. We came away with a good finish, a top-five, and hey, that's good. They (Gordon and Burton) just beat everybody everywhere. It's one of those places where it doesn't take much to be off and you're off and it doesn't take much to be on and you're on. Those guys were really on. At the beginning, heck, I couldn't even see them. Being able to see them towards the end, I felt pretty fortunate to come back that way. "It looked for a while there we could have gotten lapped easy if it had gone green through a whole fuel run. At least we finished off good. I knew Gordon would be tough to beat before (Saturday) practice. The 24 and the 99 were the class of the field and we were able to hang on there with them towards the end. Ol' Joe should be happy. "This is a great race track. I don't think I ran many laps on the same line over and over. I was outside and inside. The groove moved way up during the race, a pretty good ways up. It really made for good racing, I think. At the same time, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. hit on the right combination yesterday he checked out and so did Jeff Gordon today. It's a good race track to come to race on because you can try different lines. If your car is not working one way you can try a different one. "When you get passed there's a reason why you got passed, because you're going backwards. We were better the set of tires before that last run. We lost some grip there at the end of the race compared to the last set of tires before that. We were really good on about a 15-lap run. But after that we'd typically fall back. Towards the end we made some adjustments and we got better towards the end of our runs. "Michigan can be the same way as this track in a way. If you get your car right, you can pull away a tenth of a second better than them. You can pull away a lot. I don't think it's too wide. We didn't have as good a (last) pit stop as we needed to and the 24 took off. The 99 let off when they thought they had a yellow flag and he came back on. If he hadn't done that, he might have been more of a dramatic finish for you. I don't think there's anything wrong with this place being too wide or anything.
Note: Ten races into his rookie season, Tony Stewart has two top-five and four top-10 finishes. Ten races into his rookie season, Jeff Gordon had the same number of top-five and top-10 finishes. However, Gordon had four DNFs. Stewart has none. Stewart is also sixth in the point standings. Gordon was 10th.
TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "The guys did a great job. We weren't that good yesterday in happy hour. They kept working and they gave me a great race car. I'm just happy. The crew is capable of getting top-fives. They've proven that every week. It's just a matter of me doing my job. They made some changes last night and the car really came around today. "I made a rookie mistake (when he nearly spun out trying to pass Rusty Wallace). I drove it in too deep and got the car pushing. I hit the brakes because I didn't want to hit him and crash him. That brought the rear end around and I had to revert back to sprint car days again for two weeks in a row. "We really felt like we were behind all day yesterday. At the end of happy hour, we weren't sure if we should just load up and go to Sonoma for tomorrow's test instead of running today. But the car was good today, so I can't complain at all. If we can keep running in the top-five I'll be tickled to death. I'm just tired of everybody asking me when I'm going to win a race. When it's our time, we'll win a race. I keep preaching the same thing since the first day. All I want to do is be consistent. Right now we're doing that and that's the important part. "It was a great day. To finish behind Bobby and to have a strong run like we did and finish in the top-five for the second week in a row. We've got a lot of momentum right now so we're real happy. I think I'm finally starting to catch up to the capabilities of my crew and it's starting to show. I'm so proud of my team right now. This is one of the places we didn't test and I hadn't been here in a Cup or a Busch car. I'd just run a 40-lap IROC race here. We're really happy with the way the day went. "I made a rookie mistake down in one when I was underneath Rusty. That about cost us the whole day. It was nice to be able to climb back up and get in the top-five again. It's great momentum for us. I had to yell at myself for two or three laps and it took about three laps for me to tell myself everything I did wrong. I just drove it in too hard trying to get by him to race with the leaders. He was racing hard trying to get back on the lead lap. You can't blame him. Experience is what the rookie season is all about. If we can go through those experiences and not crash the car then it will be a plus for us."
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Pontiac Grand Prix): "We went from one extreme to the other really all day. I didn't feel that good about the car yesterday afternoon. Tommy (Baldwin) and all the guys on the CAT team kept adjusting and I kept complaining. They'd adjust and I'd keep complaining. I probably sounded like a cry-baby. They listened to me and they kept working on the car all day and that picked us up all those positions. Most of the time we were extremely tight at the end of a run. We were just way too tight. We were really good to start with (on runs) and then it would go to neutral and then to pushing. That Pontiac has finished second, eighth and sixth now. It's done a pretty good job for us. That's the only time we've had any luck this whole year other than missing wrecks is when we got a lap down and the caution came out (allowing him to make up the lap). Every time we come in the pits the caution comes out. I don't know what we need to do about that. That's our fifth top-10, so we're gaining on it. We're going to some good tracks coming up for us. We just need to run one race at a time and one week one of these races will be ours."
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 STP Pontiac Grand Prix): "We got caught on that pit deal and got a lap down and made that one lap back up. We were still one lap down and without being at the front of a line it's just so hard to pass here it's difficult to make a second lap back out. We were up and down through the race. We were tight, like most people. It was just to different degrees. I've been here twice with this team. We're going to figure out the setup. We're getting there. We're trying a bunch of different stuff. Kyle tried something different than us. We can compare notes and we'll be better here next year. They don't need a second race here right now, until we get better (laughing)."
KYLE PETTY (No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac Grand Prix): "We just never ran. Our qualifying motor was good Saturday morning, but once we went to our race motor it was decent, it wasn't great. We went to our race motor and it didn't run. We took it out yesterday afternoon and put another one in this morning and we just never got up and running with this one either. We kept adjusting all day so we good get the car real free. We kept putting tape on it and we finally got it to come around. The Pontiac drove really good all day. We had good stops. We had a good, basic race, we just didn't run good."
DERRIKE COPE (No. 30 Jimmy Dean Pontiac Grand Prix): "The engine started popping pretty early and I knew it wasn't going to last long. It broke an intake valve. But you know, I feel a little better about things for the first time in a while. We made some aerodynamic changes to the car last night and they worked great. I had a race car that would go today. I think we found some answers today that will help us, unfortunately, the motor didn't last."