Tony Stewart Maintains Chase Point Lead
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Finished 6th:
"It was a solid day for us. It was something we really needed to do. We needed to get a good strong effort in. I wish we could have finished a little better. Every point counts at this point and everybody in front of me, really, was in the Chase. So it's going to be a dogfight all the way to Homestead."
ANOTHER GOOD DAY FOR TONY STEWART -- HE SEPARATES HIMSELF FROM YOU A LITTLE MORE: "Yeah, a little bit. He has been very consistent through everything so far. Dover was a bad day for him, but all in all he's been very strong and up front. We'll just have to see how this thing shakes out. There are a lot of races left. We're doing what we need to do and hopefully when the checkered flag falls in Homestead we have all the points we need."
LOOKING AHEAD TO CHARLOTTE, YOU'RE GOING TO A TRACK THAT YOU OBVIOUSLY LIKE: "Yeah, it's a great track for me. It's changed quite a bit over the years -- especially from the spring until now. We're all going to be there learning and adjusting on it and hopefully the Lowe's team gets it figured out first and we're up front."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Finished 10th:
HOW WOULD YOU SIZE UP YOUR DAY? "It was a real good day for us. I hate that we lost track position there one time, but a top 10 -- oh man, I hadn't had a top 10 on a speedway like a 1.5-mile track in a long, long time. We adjusted on it. I was real happy with all the changes we made and I felt like we made improvements throughout the day. Unfortunately we just lost track position and could never get it back. We weren't good enough for those guys up there in the top four or five, but we were definitely capable of pulling off something a little bit better than where we were."
WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO BUILD UPON IN THE LAST SIX RACES THAT MIGHT HELP YOU GET ON TRACK FOR 2006? "The biggest thing is just getting me comfortable so I can get aggressive and we can get aggressive with the set-ups. I need something to lean on and feel secure and be able to jump back in that throttle and carry that corner speed. That's what makes fast race cars and eventually it can win races. We're working a little bit with the pit crew and communication between (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) and myself. Everything is going in the right direction. It's a slow process. It's not going to happen over night. We know that.
"But we brought a little bit different car here and thought it was better than what we've had and know what direction we think we want to go in. And we just hope that over the next several weeks we just gradually start seeing improvements.
"At the beginning of that race, I was pretty happy to be hanging on to (Matt) Kenseth and some of those guys. We had to make some adjustments to be better on the long runs and we fell back but finally came back up to 10th."
LATER THIS WEEK WE GO TO CHARLOTTE. IN THE RECENT TESTING SESSION, THERE WERE A LOT OF PROBLEMS THERE. HOW DO YOU LOOK AT THAT RACE? "Well I talked to some people who tested there and he told me he thought the track was fine. It had a lot of grip and it was fast. You just had to run around the bottom. I think some guys got themselves in trouble. I'm more concerned about tires being an issue than anything else. That place is so fast. And to run those speeds lap after lap is definitely a concern for the right front tire."
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Finished 4th:
EVERYBODY IS SAYING THEY FINISHED GREAT TODAY, BUT THAT YOU FINISHED RIGHT UP THERE WITH THEM: "Yeah, that was not too bad for a car that was just a little off. We had a setback in the practice session the other day and that got us off a little bit. But the guys rebounded really well. We lost an alternator belt early and that made us have to turn all the electrical switches off -- all the brake fans and the rear end fans and the fans that blow cool air on the tires to keep the tires cool. It hurt us because it lets it build air pressure a little quicker.
"But that's why we lost those spots when we restarted third behind Mark (Martin) and dropped back a couple of spots and got the battery switched over and got going again. Later on there when guys were getting their cars a little better it was hard for us to keep up with them. But you know, to have a bad day like that and then end up in the top four, we're really excited and proud of this Home Depot team. We're just really happy to salvage a fourth place out of this. We really weren't that good all day. We just got up front there and got good track position and had a good enough car to be in the top five all day, we just couldn't do anything with Mark (Martin) and the No. 16 (Greg Biffle) car there."
YOUR TEAMMATE, BOBBY LABONTE, HAD A LITTLE TROUBLE. DID THE RADIO SOME INFORMATION THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN RELATED TO THAT WHOLE SITUATION? "They didn't say anything to me. I'm sure they were in communication with (crew chief) Greg (Zipadelli) and everything. What always happens with one team doesn't always happen with the other. But today it happened with both of us. I don't know if that happened with the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) or not, but it was just one of those weird things today. We've had some alternator trouble in the past. But here recently, we've had it under control.
"I thought we were back to having a problem again but it was kind of comforting to know we just threw a belt today. So if that's the worst, we've got it made."
YOU ARE STILL IN THE POINT LEAD. TALK ABOUT YOUR STATUS AFTER FOUR RACES ARE COMPLETE: "I have six races to go. That's the main thing. We've got a long way to go. I'm just really happy and proud of this Home Depot team and what they've done. Even battling through days like today. We had a bad day at Dover. We had, in my opinion, a bad day today, but ended up with a top five run and that's what we need to do to win this things."
ARE YOU PRETTY CONFIDENT ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE IN THE HUNT FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP RIGHT NOW? "Well if we can keep running in the top five like this, that's what we need to do. I've always told people that there is no guarantee that everybody is going to score the top points every week, but you just have to put it in perspective. We aren't even halfway through the schedule here in the last 10 weeks. So it would be like week 16 in a 36-week schedule talking about points. So we have a long way to go yet. So as much as I want to talk about it right now, the biggest thing is just worrying about making sure that we're focusing on doing the things that keep us in the top five each week.
"IF YOU KEEP IT UP: "If we can keep running in the top five like this, that's what we need to do. Like I've always told people: there's no guarantees. Everybody wants to talk points every week, but let me put it in perspective for you. We're not even halfway through the schedule these last 10 weeks, so it would be like talking about points after race 16 of a 36-race season. There's a long way to go yet.
"As much as we want to talk about right now, the big thing is to make sure we keep focusing on the things we need to do to keep us in the top five every week. With a week or two to go, we'll talk about the points."
GREG ZIPADELLI, CREW CHIEF, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET:
"The alternator belt came off. We haven't opened the hood yet, but something was wrong in there. Tony switched over to the other battery. We had to shut all the brake duct blowers off, all the tire blowers, rear end fan and he had to shut off his air conditioner. Everything ran hot and we built up more front air pressure than we wanted to, but to dodge that bullet and have it run to the end like it did, it's still a great day.
HOW CLOSE DID YOU COME TO BRINGING HIM IN? "We were talking about it at 100 laps, to come in as early as we could and take our lumps. We were making phone calls back to an engineer at the shop who has been doing some battery stuff for us, and he said he felt comfortable that the second battery would run for more than two hours with just the ignition on, so that's what we did. He was right."
YOU NEVER EXPERIENCED ANY MORE TROUBLE? "No. It was good to the end. It was starting to come down, and that was probably a few horsepower, but it was still strong. But, if this had been the Coca-Cola 600, we wouldn't have made it. We were tight all day and that didn't help."
BRIAN VICKERS, NO. 25 GMAC CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Finished 11th:
"We had a decent car, but some things got messed up during one of our pit stops with the fuel and we had to pit again. That cost us some track position and was hard to recover from. During the last pit stop, Lance (McGrew) made a great call for two tires. We wanted another top-10 bad, but we didn't have enough grip to maintain position. Five or so less laps and we would have been all set."
BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"I changed the alternator. I might have screwed up on a shift and broke a valve spring. That might have been what broke going down into Turn 1.