NOTES AND QUOTES Pennzoil 400 Homestead Miami Speedway November 14, 1999 JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 STP Pontiac Grand Prix): "We had to pit because we needed to adjust the car and we were losing too much time. I don't know what that 18 and 20 have,...
NOTES AND QUOTES Pennzoil 400 Homestead Miami Speedway November 14, 1999
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 STP Pontiac Grand Prix): "We had to pit because we needed to adjust the car and we were losing too much time. I don't know what that 18 and 20 have, but it's awfully strong. We've got to figure it out somehow. We had a good car, we just got caught in the pits on a caution. If the caution hadn't come, we would have finished a lot better. That's the way the chips fall. We were just getting real tight. The longer we ran, the tighter we got. We were loose to start with and we figured that would be good. But then we got way too tight so we needed to make some adjustments. It just caught us. You can't adjust much on a green flag. We had to go to the back of the longest line. I mean it was one thing after another at that point. The team did all the right things and made all the right calls. It just didn't pan out for us."
KYLE PETTY (No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac Grand Prix): "Seventh again. I can't do no better than that. We started too loose. It was too loose and then we were right, but then we wee too far behind. We just played catch-up all day. It was one of those deals. To be honest, it was probably a pretty boring race because there were no cautions. You can say what you want to about cautions, but cautions make a race exciting. You've got to look at it that way. It's a good track to race on if your stuff works good, but if it don't, it's junk."
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Pontiac Grand Prix): "We were running sixth and the caution came out and caught us in the pits. The 20 and the 18 were just too strong for me to get a lap back. From there we adjusted it and just struggled a little bit. The top-10 slipped away from us when we got caught in the pits. We were a little loose, but we had a good car. That caution just cost us a lap. Circumstances got us. There are things you can help and things you can't help. We couldn't help that caution and it sure didn't help us."
DAVID GREEN (No. 45 Lucky Dog Pontiac Grand Prix): "I'm still tickled. We were a little loose at the start of happy hour yesterday, but very tight at the end. We figured with the sun down that's why it was that way. I tell you the race track started today just like it left last night. I never did get free enough until we put two tires on. I ran the fastest I ran all day with about 100 to go, but by that time it was about over. We would have actually been in real good shape, but we pitted and then two laps after we pitted the caution came out. We got stuck on that. It wouldn't have been as bad if that hadn't happened. To start up front and lead a few laps and run with those guys, it's a step in the right direction for us as a team. I've never had that opportunity myself as a driver. Now we're excited to go to the next one. Now we can refine and polish up what we've got. We've got a pretty good package now."
TODD BODINE (No. 30 Jimmy Dean Pontiac Grand Prix): "We went from 31st to 20th in the beginning. Barry said we were the fourth-fastest car on the track. We made a lot of changes this morning and it was pretty close. We had a good car. I had something I could drive and do something with. The shock broke and it was still pretty good, but without the shock their to hold the weight, you couldn't hold onto the car every lap. We just did the best we could. We finally got a caution and put a new shock on it and then the track had changed from the beginning, so then we were way too tight. That turned it into a bad day. But the bright spot was that we had a good car in the beginning and would have been fine if the shock hadn't broke."
BOBBY LABONTE (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix): "You can't race side by side here very good. I'd been on the race track a couple of laps and he (Stewart) came out of the pits and I saw him coming out. Going down the back straightaway I thought if I could pinch him down a little bit maybe he'll give way even though he had new tires on and maybe they wouldn't stick as good going into three like mine didn't the first time. I was on the outside and I didn't want to be there. I wanted to be on the inside, trust me. If the roles had been reversed, it would have been a whole lot better. I couldn't get on the inside of him and of course he lost a little grip because he ran in there so hard. On the new tires, on the first lap, they're sticky but they're weird feeling. I guess he slid up a little bit.
"It's tough to pass. We came down here and tested. I think we've been down here testing three times on this configuration throughout the SB-2 engine deal and Tony did the tire test. Our cars have worked a lot better. Towards the end of last year we made our program a lot better on these race tracks. We're definitely getting all of it right now. We hit it right today and I guarantee a lot of them are going to come back and say, 'We're going to try something different.'
"I couldn't have beat him anyway. My car got tight there at the end. It was loose at the beginning and tightened up after a round of wedge. We took three rounds out and got tighter. We couldn't figure that out. It was my fault for not getting the car right. When you get up there in that stuff on the outside, up in the gray, you get to slipping and sliding. It's hard to get back in the groove because it won't work right for awhile.
"Anything could have happened today. You look at the history of their (Jarrett's) race team and it didn't look like it would be possible it could happen (Labonte rallying to win the championship). I think he basically did everything he needed to do today. He finished fifth. I wasn't getting tired of it, but I wasn't worried about it as much outrunning the guys that are behind us in the points. I don't want them catching us and I didn't want to get too overwhelmed and lose sight of them. I think that helped us out. If we had had second locked up, it still would have been tough. If anybody talked about it or not, it was just going to be one of those deals that it was going to happen or it wasn't going to happen. I ain't gonna go home and dig a hole and put my head in it just because of the fact we didn't win a championship because I haven't ever been this close before. I'm happy with our year.
"I went down the back straightaway trying to kill his momentum off pit road because I didn't think he could get going that fast anyway. It really didn't matter. He caught me and passed me. I pulled away because I knew I had to run hard on new tires because old tires weren't going to be as good. I had to run as good as I could for a while and he was a little better on older tires that we were all day. It didn't really matter.
"I congratulate those guys on the 88 team. They've done a great job all year long. They were poised to get to this level. They had finished second or third the last two or three years. They had learned everything three times more than I learned this year. Being second in points at this point is a whole lot different than being 10th or eighth or whatever. They didn't have any problems and they ran good all the time. That was the key. You can win 12 races and not finish 10 and you won't win the points probably. Those guys didn't win all the races, but they sure did win enough and they finished in the top-five a lot. That's what it takes.
"The tires were really good today. It was a consistent tire. It seemed my car went away after about 40 laps. The right-front seemed to go away a little bit with our setup a little more than anyone else I guess. They were really pretty good. The lap times, you couldn't run as good at the end as you could the beginning, but you could still run a pretty decent lap at times. I'd say 40 laps. We ran 68-69 laps on gas. There were time when you slide up into the third lane not really meaning to. You had to start letting off the gas a little earlier and roll through the center a little different after you got a few laps on your tires.
"I kind of figured it would be a clean race. That's because it's hard to pass on. When you have a track this hard to pass on, you don't have as much side by side racing and you don't have anybody getting into anybody. It's a new race track for everybody and everybody's setups will be different when we come next time back here and the competition will be closer because the guys that didn't run good today will be better. We kind of hit upon the right program today.
"I didn't even ask anybody about Jarrett until the race was over with. I could see on the scoreboard he was running fifth. I knew where he was. I knew he had to be in the top-10. We came in this season with a big confidence booster when we finished sixth (in points) last year. We were a single-car team and we added a team and we knew that was going to make us better. We put some people in place that were kind of new and I know they're going to be there next year so that gives us all confidence. It would surprise me if anybody left and I don't think anybody is. I think that's what makes a great race team, the people behind it. I'm going to feel a whole lot better going into next year with the way this year sits right now. I knew we would be better this year, at least I hoped we'd be better at tracks we weren't good at last year. We were and a lot better than I thought. Second in points is a lot better than I could have asked for at the beginning of the season. I'm not surprised, but excited because things worked out really good for us this year. Everybody jelled together and we communicate really well. We have a lot of fun. I think we learned a little bit more by running up front. It's obvious we've got great equipment. Joe gave us an opportunity to race with a lot of stuff. He's really dedicated to the race team."
Note: This is Pontiac's eighth victory of the season. After 33 races, Pontiac drivers have combined to post 43 top-five and 88 top-10 finishes. At the same point last season, Pontiac drivers had combined to post two wins, 14 top-five and 47 top-10 finishes. Pontiac's eight wins surpasses the six total it accumulated in the last four seasons combined.
Tony Stewart becomes the first rookie to ever win three races in his first season and first to win two in a row.
TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "My spotter told me as I was coming off pit lane that he (Labonte) was coming on the outside. I got on the throttle as hard as I could get on the throttle. I figured I had a bumper on him going into three. I decided I wasn't going to give him the bottom. He ran down into the corner and ran me halfway down the apron. He did what he had to do and I did what I had to do. We're both here to win. I couldn't stay that far down on the apron and the car got loose and I wiggled up the race track and got into him. It wasn't anything intentional. I would never take Bobby Labonte out.
"We fought him all day and he was really good at the beginning of a run. We were pretty good at the end of a run. I didn't think we'd ever be in position to be close to him at the end of the race, let alone have a chance to win. I thought everybody was racing for second. If we ended up second today it was going to be a good day for both teams. Giving Joe Gibbs Racing a one-two finish is what we wanted to do.
"It's a great honor (to set a rookie record for wins). It's such a great honor to be a part of the series this year and be associated with Joe Gibbs Racing and Home Depot. Home Depot has really made all this possible. Bobby really helped get me into that second car. It's just a great honor to be associated with the team.
"I was running just as hard as I could run. I knew it was really critical for the first 30-35 laps to stay with him is we were really going to have a shot at being able to catch him at the end of a run. The longer I could stay in front of him the better chance we had of being close to him the second half of a run.
"We were pretty good getting in and out of the pits all day. Normally, that's part of what hurts this team is the way I get in and out of the pits. I haven't had enough experience to know how hard to come off the race track and how hard to get back on the race track. That first stop he was probably a quarter of a straightaway in front of us. By the time we got to the first set of time lines I was right on his bumper. It didn't hurt us any that I got in and out of the pits well.
"It turned out to be a pretty racy race track. Car setup is really critical here. It was probably easier to pass here than it was at Loudon. I didn't think I could say that about any race track. The weird thing about it is that Bobby was a lot better than us in turns three and four and we were a lot better in one and two. We were pretty much trading off. The ground I was losing in three and four I could gain it back in one and two and it pretty much evened out.
"If I told you I pushed it harder that last time than any other time in the race those guys will give me 20 lashes at the shop next week. I've got to lean hard every run out there. I've been doing that all year. I went as hard as I could when I led all the time. We didn't leave anything on the table. We went hard every lap out there.
"If there's a Ford in third does that mean they should cut their spoiler, too? Why penalize our team for working hard together and doing their job? We've worked really hard and traded information back and forth and I don't think other teams do that quite as well as we do. The 99 car ran strong at the end of the race, too. Does that mean they need to penalize them also? There are plenty of race tracks we go to where the Fords seem to be better and we go to plenty of race tracks where the Chevrolets seem to be better. If it's that big a deal put one body on all of them. I don't care. It doesn't make any difference to me. Pontiac has worked really hard to get in this position. Why penalize their teams for doing their job and doing their homework? We added a second team this year and we feel like it's boosted both of our efforts. We feel like it's paid off for our teams this year. You don't hear them complain when they're wining races, do you? You don't hear the Pontiacs complain when they win races.
"Bobby is a lot smarter than I am right now. He'll be in that position next year where he can win that championship. I don't feel like I have the knowledge to go out and be a contender every week to be strong enough to go out and win the championship. We have our days. Last week we had our day and this week we had our day where we just hit it right. We had a pretty uneventful day as far as having problems. We had our day and we won. Next week could be a whole different story. Bobby can win the championship because no matter where we go he's fast every week.
"I'm not going to say it's impossible, but I didn't think we'd be in the top-10 in points this year, but halfway through the season there we were. We'll see what happens. In all honesty, I would like to see Bobby win a championship before I would like to win one myself. Bobby's been running a long time and I feel like I've got a lot of years myself in order to get mine. He's worked real hard and he's the person that's most responsible for me being here. I'm kind of selfish wanting him to win a championship because he's given me the opportunity to do what I've done this year. I feel like he deserves the championship before I do."