Saturday, Nov. 13, 1999 Homestead Miami Speedway Pennzoil 400 Chevrolet notes and quotes STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Park has finished 16th or better in the past nine races and moved from 24th to 15th in the...
Saturday, Nov. 13, 1999 Homestead Miami Speedway Pennzoil 400 Chevrolet notes and quotes
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
NOTE: Park has finished 16th or better in the past nine races and moved from 24th to 15th in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. He ranks ninth in Winston Cup points since the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. He was 30th in points after the Pepsi 400. Park will start 22nd, just ahead of his car owner, Dale Earnhardt, in Sunday's inaugural Pennzoil 400.
"Those Pontiacs are about three tenths faster than the next group of cars. We were disappointed in our qualifying effort at first until we saw what was happening. The writing is on the wall. It's not like it's a tenth or something. We're six tenths off the pole and we're starting 22nd. There's usually about three tenths difference in the whole field (first to last). We're coming out with a new car we hope will be as good as what we have now. Ford seems to be pretty consistent with their car and they can't compete with the Pontiacs, either. I think it's pretty simple. Just look at what's different in the three makes and fix it. The Pontiacs have a lot of rear spoiler. They've just got to make the air dams and rear spoilers the same to get back on a level playing field.
"It really shows at a lot of downforce race tracks, but I think we've really been seeing it all year and not paying any attention to it. Jeff Gordon has been the spoiler of the bunch. Nothing bad about that, but when you have Jeff Gordon win a race and the next 10 cars are Pontiac and Ford and the next Chevrolet is 11th or 12th, it's hard to go to NASCAR and ask for a rule change. I think with the changes they've made with their team, it's going to take awhile to become as dominant as they were. Without the dominance we've seen in the past from Jeff Gordon, it's easy to look and see the fastest Chevrolet is 10th or 11th. The new Monte Carlo should get us on par with the Fords.
"It was pretty tough qualifying yesterday after the Busch wreck. It's the old saying of when you fall off a horse you've got to get back up and get right back on it. I had to get back on it in the next 15 minutes. I don't remember having to do anything like that before. My confidence was knocked down a little bit. I was disappointed. We had a Busch car that was capable of qualifying in the top 15. I was really looking forward to running that race. Now we're home on the trailer. I can't let that program distract from our Winston Cup program. The most important thing right now is to keep this team focused and keep it going in the right direction. The reason we're running the Busch car is to get some experience I lost when I got hurt. I think I showed the Pennzoil team yesterday that I'm not going to let my focus wander from the Busch car to the Cup car. I think I'll be able to adapt to both. It was real important for me to qualify like I did yesterday to prove to Paul (crew chief Andrews) and the rest of the team that the Busch program is not going to distract from our Winston Cup program.
"I ran a Busch race here in 1997. That was the first year of the new configuration. We're really not going into it cold turkey. We came down here and tested the Busch car. We had a pretty good test and turned a lot of laps. We tested the Cup car all day Thursday. We're ran the Busch car and Cup car all day Friday. We're going to run today and race Sunday and we're staying Monday and Tuesday to test. Hopefully, this will be one of the tracks we really look forward to coming to next year."
"I think it's going to be a good race Sunday. This track has gotten a bad rap in the past. The old configuration tended toward the Indy style. The track did what it needed to do to change the configuration and make it a race track that's good for Winston Cup cars. The facility looks nice. The access roads into the place and out of the place look adequate. It's always difficult to put on your first show at a new stadium, but I think NASCAR has really done their homework to have a track where we can race on it with a surface that's going to hold up, a place where the fans can really see a good show.
"The main pressure right now is to run as well as we have the second race of the season. We'd really like to get a win. If it doesn't come this year, we're really looking forward to next season. We're pretty optimistic. The last three races, Phoenix, Homestead and Atlanta, are really good tracks for me. We're not going to count out getting a win. It would be nice to get it here with Pennzoil sponsoring the race. Pennzoil is an awesome sponsor. They've kept me pretty busy. I've been down here since Wednesday. That's another reason why it was important to get qualified yesterday. It gives us another day to work on our race setup and get another top 10. Maybe we can get our first top five and then look for the win. We've got a good car. We're excited about representing Pennzoil, plus we've got the shark car. I've heard everything from Park The Shark to Sharkey to how are you going to get in the car with a dorsal fin on your back. We're having a lot of fun and enjoying the new paint scheme. It's painted like a shark. It's got teeth on the front and fins. It's just to commemorate the inaugural Homestead Miami race. We just decided we'd do something a little different. I told him guys it wouldn't look too bad in victory lane.
"I've got a little bit of a new look, too. I've had it for about three weeks now. I grew it before we had the weekend off because we were going to ride motorcycles to the mountains. I've always got to see how pressure I'm going to get from Earnhardt anytime you do something a little bit different. Every time he sees me he says, 'you haven't shaved yet?' I got a lot of compliments on it. My mom doesn't like it too much, and Earnhardt's not too pleased about it. I think he likes anything he can rib you on a little bit. It's like a goatee. I've heard anything from an Ernie Irvan starter kit to a Fat Boy started kit. If they keep calling it a Fat Boy starter kit, I'm going to go home and shave. The winter is coming up and I'm thinking about keeping it, but I'm going to Jamaica and I'm going to Florida, so I'm not sure. It's got too much gray hair in it.
"It's important to have as much downforce as you can have for qualifying, but it's also important to have that kind of downforce in the race when you're on old tires. If it's an advantage in qualifying, it's an advantage in the race. We hate to sit here and think we're at a disadvantage. If you have that attitude, then you are. We just need to keep working hard on our stuff, trying to make it the best we can make it. NASCAR has done a good job in the past with the rules to make it a level playing field, so I think we'll just keep looking ahead and working on our stuff and let NASCAR take care of the rest."
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"I was just hoping and praying I could stay within sight of him (Tony Stewart's Pontiac in Saturday morning practice). They're pretty awesome. We're working hard to do anything we can to get the Chevrolet as good as we can, but this is a track that demands a lot of downforce and the flat tracks are pretty tough to get around. Tony and those guys have got their act together. John Andretti and those guys have their act together on these flat tracks, anyway. Then you throw the Pontiac in there, it's pretty tough to keep up with them, but we'll give it everything we've got. I haven't driven their car. They look pretty fast. We feel like we're doing everything we can, and we can't keep up with them. I don't know what you call that.
"It's going to be interesting. I'm seeing a lot of loose rubber on the outside of the track. Right now it's really a one-groove race track. It's moving up gradually. You definitely cannot run side by side going into the corners whatsoever. That's going to make it tough to pass.
"I asked him (Dale Jarrett) yesterday if he was excited or nervous. He couldn't decide, but I think he's excited. He's in a great position. That team has done a great job all year long. They're going to get it. It's just when."
COMMENT ON RAY EVERNHAM'S STATUS WITH BUSCH TEAM
"Ray and I talked about some things. When I look at the goals we set with that race team and what our objectives are and I look at the decisions that Ray has decided to do, I don't know if it's in the best interest for that team for us to have conflicts. The Dodge-Chevrolet thing is definitely an issue, without a doubt. I don't want that to get in the way of our friendship. I really enjoy working with Ray, and I want to be able to have a friendship with him. If we have conflicts because of our race team that we own together and he's building his deal and we're trying to go forward with the Busch team and grow it, I would hate for there to be anything that would get in the way of our friendship.
"We're going to keep it (Busch team). There has not been anything set in stone. I made a proposal to Ray and really it's just to get his thoughts and see what he thinks. Once we find that out, we'll be able to go forward. I'm planning on running my five races with Pepsi next year with that same team. We want to run Ricky Hendrick in some more races, and we'll see what the future holds after that.
"Nothing has to happen. We'll just wait and see. I talked to Ray in confidence and he goes and tells everybody what's happening. I think he's a little disappointed, and I don't blame him, but he made the decisions he made to go forward with the Dodge thing. There's just conflicts. When we won the race on Saturday (at Phoenix), he couldn't wear a Chevrolet hat. I've got sponsors that want to use the car, use him, use me in advertising. Chevrolet wants to use the car in advertising and yet we can't. Basically we can't use him in it. We're building new Chevy Monte Carlos and he's building Dodges. I see some awkwardness there.
"I feel like it's in the best interest for the team. He said it wasn't a Chevy-Dodge situation, and that's absolutely false. When I sat down with him, I said I felt like this was the right decision for our friendship. It's tough when you're in business with a guy you respect and a guy you really think a lot of and you think of as a friend when there's conflicts. The tough decisions I've had to make this year are putting Brian Whitesell as the crew chief of the 24 car to get things rolling for next year. Ray didn't want to do that. It was in the best interest of that race team. He wants to be involved with a Busch team that he's really not going to have any interest in after next year. I'm thinking these are Chevrolets. This is a team that is going in a different direction, so why wait a year.
"It's never strictly business when you're dealing with a friend. He's a friend of mine and I want to keep our friendship alive. I hope it hasn't been affected in any way. It certainly puts dampers on it because he's not getting what he wants, and I'm not necessarily getting what I want. In that area, we're going different ways, but I think in the long run it's going to save our friendship."
COMMENT ON 2000 MONTE CARLO TEST AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY ON MONDAY AND TUESDAY
"We're just going to try to learn how much downforce we can get with the new Monte Carlo when we test here Monday and Tuesday. We'll learn what our cars will be like compared to the cars we have now. We'll see how we're going to stack up to those Pontiacs. Right now we've got a pretty good judge of what we need to have and what we need to have going forward. We'll just be doing a lot of testing, making a lot of laps. It's going to be a great test for us. We'll be getting right out of the current Monte Carlo and getting into the 2000 Monte Carlo, and we'll know what we need to go faster."
COMMENT ON DALE JARRETT'S CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON
"It couldn't happen to a better guy. Dale (Jarrett) is a class act. He'll make a great, great champion for our series and represent everybody well. He's been knocking on the door the last couple of years, and this is his year."