Sunday, Oct. 3, 1999. Martinsville Speedway. NAPA AutoCare 500. Chevrolet notes and quotes. JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "I saw what Earnhardt did with track position prior to that (last caution). We got in...
Sunday, Oct. 3, 1999. Martinsville Speedway. NAPA AutoCare 500. Chevrolet notes and quotes.
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"I saw what Earnhardt did with track position prior to that (last caution). We got in clean traffic, and we knew we had a shot at it. It was a blessing from God. This team kept facing themselves and one another and stayed together. If it wasn't for God, we wouldn't be where we are today. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Ray Evernham, either. He's the one who orchestrated it. I think this is a sign of good things to come. It's exciting to be in victory lane today. Some inexperience caught up with us today. Brian Whitesell did a great job, and I'm proud of him and all these guys on the DuPont Chevrolet team. They deserve a lot of credit. They could have easily stepped away from this program and gone in different directions. They've been supportive of us, and we love it. It feels great to get into victory lane. It wasn't a pretty sight (seeing Earnhardt in his mirror). I never had to be so smooth in a race car in all my life. It's so easy to tell yourself to drive it in deeper, but I was just trying to keep it on the bottom. The good thing is we were good on long runs today. My car was driving up pretty good there up off the corner at the end. I knew it was going to be close."
BRIAN WHITESELL (Crew chief No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)
"The reason we're here is Ray Evernham. He got this whole deal set up. He taught us how to do it. All we're doing is following it through. This one's for him. For all the stuff we've gone through, I'm very happy. Jeff Gordon got it done. Rick Hendrick gives us what we need. We just do it."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo)
"We didn't need that last caution. The guys really worked hard. I might have overdrove it trying to catch him. I settled down there and the car came in. He (Gordon) played his cards right. The traffic and the 18 car was missing or something, and that gave him the edge to get away from us. Then I had to run him back down and time ran out on us. I got to him too late. I'm feeling pretty bad. I've got the flu bug, but we'll be at Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet tomorrow signing autographs.
"I thought we could run him back down, but we ran out of time. I had to get by the 18 and a couple more. I maybe ran in too hard trying to catch him, and then I started taking it easy and started catching him more. If I'd caught him with three or four to go, we'd have made a race out of it.
"I feel bad. I just got it last night and I felt bad this morning, but I feel worse right now than I did before the race. The 18 and 58 held me up bad. If they hadn't held me up, I think I could have beat him (Gordon). He rolled the dice and won. The 18 got two tires and beat us out of the pits. If we had beat the 18 out, we would have been right behind Gordon and it might have been different. Then the 18 blew up or lost a cylinder or something. He quit running down the straightaway."
RICHARD CHILDRESS (Car owner RCR Chevrolet Monte Carlos)
"Both of our cars were real good today. We got a lap down with the 3 car, but I was happy with both cars. It was a hell of a good race. Second really stinks though. Nobody will remember who finished second today. If we could have got by the 18 and a couple of lapped cars... We thought about staying out at the end, but the 18 and 24 were coming good with fresher tires. We felt if we pitted everyone would, and everybody did but the 24. 24 won the race, so I guess they made the right call. It takes everything to win. Those guys did a hell of a job. They've got a good strong race team, with or without Ray. I think they'll win more races. He didn't have the best car today, but they made some good calls and he won the race today."
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"The caution came out and caught us in the pits, and that's how we got a lap down. We had a pretty good car. I don't understand how cars can stay on the race track and guys can race in the pits and still stay on the lead lap. I just don't understand that scoring. How do you pit here and not go a lap down? When I figure it out, we're going to do it, and then we'll be pretty good."
TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We burned up a rear end gear. Usually when that happens there's something wrong. They just don't burn up. We ran 50 laps and it burned up. We had a problem when we started. I don't know what it could have been. What caused it, we're not sure."
DAVE MARCIS (No. 71 Realtree Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We broke a tooth on the pinion on the rear gear. That really shouldn't have happened. I don't know what kind of gear it is. It's not burned up. The gear looks good temperature. For whatever reason, it's just broken in two. We'll get it back out on the track, but that pretty much took care of our day."
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We were junk all day and still finished 12th. We got lucky. The cautions came out a couple of times when we needed it, and Paul Andrews did a great job of calling the race in the pits. We didn't panic when the leaders were coming. They got right on my heels and we got a caution. We tried to stay on the lead lap, but we finally got a lap down and just kept plugging away. We were loose all day long. The boss (Dale Earnhardt) finished second today, so it's about time for me to finish second or better."
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"It was a rough day. We really didn't need any cautions and wanted it to stay green. The caution came out and we caught a bunch of cars a lap down. Our car was terrible on short runs. We needed 50-100 lap runs. Anything over 60 or 70 laps and our car was awesome. We kept doing those short runs and struggled in the pits. We had some loose lug nuts in the end. There was a terrible vibration and I rode it out the best I could. It was a good points race for us because we picked up a couple of spots. Hopefully, we can go win at Lowe's Motor Speedway next week."
GEOFFREY BODINE (No. 60 Power Team Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"That's our best finish in awhile. We had a good car all day. We had a little overheating problem but we overcame that and managed to finish third. We've had good cars and something would always go wrong. Today, things almost went wrong but they didn't, so we're real happy with the finish. By the time I got to the gas pumps, I was pretty hot. I just went to the truck and put my feet in some ice water and cooled off. I look good now don't I. I feel good.
"I don't know what all happened with guys getting spun out. In the past, I've been the guy getting spun out. It felt good today. It was a pretty clean race. The lapped cars did a good job. My car was good enough to get around it and keep going. The outside groove was pretty darn quick today. It was a little different than normal here at Martinsville. You could get on the outside and pass some pretty fast cars. That helped.
"We told people that Indianapolis would be the time of year that things would start getting better for us. They did. We qualified good there and had a good car. We had good cars since then. We just haven't had any good luck. Today we had some good luck to go with it. This team, if you've been paying attention, and it's hard to pay attention to guys who aren't winning or running up front or finishing up front, but we have been getting better every week. Qualifying has been getting better, more consistent and our racing has. Today, we just put it all together. Hopefully next week, we can do a little bit better. We would have liked to won that pole the other day and the race today. We're getting closer, so maybe Charlotte will be it.
"We ran this car at Richmond and it ran really good. It broke a valve spring chasing Stewart. We took it to Loudon and spun around there at the beginning. We fixed the car and it still ran really good. This has been a good car for us, and today we didn't run into anything. Except for a little overheating problem that almost put us out of the race, we did OK. We were fortunate it didn't put us out."
KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"The car ran excellent. We're a good team. I'm really proud of my crew chief. We took a gamble to try to win that race. We had a little more laps on our tires than Jeff Gordon did, and it paid off for him. He had about 30 or 40 laps left in him. These races are too hard to win to follow the leader in the pits all the time. You've got to make a gamble. It didn't pay off for us, but I about wrecked twice. You had guys racing for top fives, and you had guys a lap down racing for eighth and ninth. Everybody was in their right. It was just Martinsville. Those last five laps, Bobby Labonte had a problem. I tried to get down underneath him and I couldn't. Sterling Marlin was there. I hit Bobby and Bobby about wrecked him. We were lucky.
"We had a really good race car. We are in Winston Cup racing, running hard, trying to win. You took a gamble and tried to stay out on tires. Everybody was out of sequence. The way it paid off, Earnhardt was good on tires, and I was bad. Then we all pitted and there was one awesome boy. Jeff Gordon is really good, and it seems the yellows fall his way. He knew what he had to do to win the race, and I had to do what I tried to do. It's too hard to do to follow the leader into the pits every time.
"The first hundred, two hundred laps is kind of like a heat race. I had such a good race car. I'm disappointed I used up some equipment, but that's the luck of the draw. I couldn't do nothing about it. It could have been worse than what it was for us. When you're a sitting duck, you've got to come in. I was pleasantly surprised to see Earnhardt, Labonte and Skinner come in and took on two tires only. I was worried about finishing sixth or seventh, and everybody knows there's nothing like a top five in Winston Cup."
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"Me and my new one and my old one (crew chiefs on speaking terms). It was a great day for us. I'm so proud of this guy and the whole team. They had to overcome a whole lot. There was a lot of pressure this weekend. We wanted to come out and run well. We knew a lot of people were wondering what was going to happen. I'm so proud the way these guys rallied around Brian (crew chief Whitesell) and supported me and him all week long. Our communication was great. It was strange. It was awkward not having Ray here, especially going to victory lane. I was emotional. I think there were a lot of emotions going on, and it wasn't just because we won. We were missing a key link to this race team, and it's really a link that got us to where we are today and put these people in place and built this race team to what it is today. It was definitely bittersweet, but it was also a proud moment.
"In a situation like that, it's much tougher than if you've got brand new tires and you can just go wide open. I was on older tires, and I had to be real easy getting in the corners. I had to not make any mistakes, not slip the tires. As bad as I wanted to drive in deep, I kept telling myself to be careful. Brian was doing a great job, saying just roll the middle, just roll the middle. We'd been tight all day long, and he'd seen that car when it's on that curve it just hooks that corner and drives off good. I knew the feel I needed. It was very hard to have that patience when you've got a guy like Earnhardt running you down. I knew if I got up off the bottom or slipped at all, he was going to catch me in a hurry. Luckily, he got hung up in some lapped traffic and it was a great call. He really is the one that initiated that call. He said he thought we ought to stay out. I looked around to see what other guys were going to do. Even though I knew they were coming, I think it was the right call. We said, 'all right men, now it's time to pull down the straps tight and hold on tight and be smooth and patient and see what happens.'
"It just worked out perfect. We had the track position, and we were able to get out right away on that restart and pull away and Earnhardt got held up. It's a tough place, it's a tough, tough place. We had to fight hard today. We had a good car. We never were able to get the track position we'd hoped to. I think if we had ever got in the top two or three, we could have showed our strength, but I had to work hard all day long. Once we got a lap down, we were just fighting trying to get track position all day long. I think that's what made that call a little bit easier, because we fought too hard for the track position. We don't want to give it up now."
BRIAN WHITESELL (Crew chief No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo)
"Jeff makes a decision like that easy to make. You have to go for the track position. We knew if we got back in the pack it was not going to be a good thing. We had nothing to lose. We either win the race or finish about fifth. We decided to see what we could do, and it worked out and here we are."
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"The biggest thing that happened this week is we all are clear on what the future is. I'm really happy for Ray. When he told me the things he has planned in the future, there's no way I could tell him honestly that was the wrong thing for him to do. I know what drives Ray. I know what his ambitions are. It's a perfect situation for him. I'm happy for him, but we miss him. Things weren't the same this weekend without him, but at the same time, I'm very, very excited about this guy right here. I've believed in him for a long time. He's been side by side with Ray. He's either been involved with the decisions or heard Ray make those decisions. He's learned from the best. This team really needed to step it up a notch and get that chemistry. This is going to do a lot for that. The morale right now is better than I've ever seen it. I know there's been a lot of questions. Can you do it without Ray? We're not doing without Ray. Really, his impact is still within this team because of what he left behind. In a way, it's nice to know we can do it as the team we are today. That was very comforting and it took a lot off our shoulders because we were feeling some pressure to do that.
"First of all, you've got to have someone with the guts to make a call like that. Once that call is made, you've got to have a driver that doesn't put a negative feeling on it right away. In a situation like that instead of saying, 'man, there's no way I'm going to hold these guys off.' I said, 'what I've got to do is get a really good restart, which I did. I've got to get down on the bottom of the race track and just get my line and get my rhythm and go and however it works out is how it works out. I saw Earnhardt closing on me and I wanted so bad to drive in harder. I just couldn't do it. Every time I drove it easy, I made that corner really good and shot up off the bottom. I brushed the all a couple of times there in the last five or six laps. I was just giving it everything I had. Once a decision like that is made, everybody's got to believe in it. Everybody has got to think it's the right call and make the best of it. That situation has worked out very well for us. It says a lot about what track position will do for you on these short tracks, too
"In the closing laps, I felt him coming and he was coming hard. I knew it was going to come right down to the wire. Going into the last corner, I've got to be honest with you. All I could think about was Terry Labonte. I was like, 'man I hope he doesn't get to my bumper.' I knew I would be feeling a little bit of a nudge. You just expect that in short track racing, especially with a hard racer like Dale (Earnhardt). Instead, he waited until after I crossed the checkered flag to give me that nudge. I knew once I got to turn three that we were there. I just couldn't believe it. I really could not believe I was able to hold him off. With 10 to go, I was giving it everything I had but trying to be smooth. I still just wasn't sure. He was coming pretty hard. It was real emotional today in victory lane. I don't know how to describe it. There were a lot of different emotions going on. It just said a lot for the guys and the effort we've put out. I think it kind of reminded me of winning the championship in '97. So many things happened and all of a sudden all these eyes were on us. Are you going to blow it? I crash on pit road, and I qualify horrible. All these things happen. When you finally get it and you win, these emotions come out. It was emotional. You wish Ray was here, and he's not. We're in victory lane and we couldn't believe it, and I was so happy for Brian. I just know what this means to him and what it does to the morale of the team."
"I didn't need to encourage him. He did a great job. I was strong about him taking on this role quite a while back. Once I realized Brian wanted to do this and he knew there was pressure that goes along with this role, but yet it's something he really was excited about and felt he could do a good job with it. When I found out about that, I was excited about it. I think a lot of people have found out this week that Brian was a lot more hands on prior to this than people know. Even though Ray and I were always the ones that talked on the radio, Brian and I talked a lot when we weren't on the radio. We'd bring Ray into that conversation and made the decision on what to do. Ray ultimately made the decisions and made a lot of good ones. I don't know if I was encouraging him. Maybe I was just doing that for myself.
"I'm thrilled that we've won six races this year. We've had a good year. It's those DNF's that have killed us. A lot of the good fortune we've had over the last few years has caught up with us a little bit this year. I can tell you there's been distractions the entire year. This decision just didn't happen the last couple of weeks. It started in the off season after the championship of what was going to happen in the year 2001. We wanted to get a jump start on getting that information. It has been a distraction."
BRIAN WHITESELL (Crew chief No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo)
"We had lost the track position once before and we decided we didn't need to come in. It was set up by the previous stop. We had nothing to lose. We came in and took four with that many laps to go and I didn't want to make that decision later.
"I had no reservation about taking this job. I knew we could go out the first week and win the race. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't have done it. Now it's that much more pressure because hey, he qualified fifth and won the race the first time. From there, is a letdown. We've got the equipment and the abilities and the team to keep on doing it.
"Once we knew we could continue on, we knew what was going to happen. We brought the people to replace other people. We put things in place to get this done. It worked out great. We were prepared to do this. We've been getting ready to do this all year and it was our opportunity now to prove we could do it.
"It (new job as crew chief) changed my focus quite a bit. I need to do some work on it and keep making good notes for myself. We had new people, new things, and I need to work on that. That's the biggest difference. I'm used to providing the information to help. The guys were providing me great information. They were letting me know what was going on in the race, so I could focus on the decision making with the information coming in. That's the difference with providing it versus making the decisions."
JOHN HENDRICK (President Hendrick Motorsports)
"Ray Evernham said in the team meeting last week that if you guys don't go out and succeed then I've done nothing. He helped put this team together and that's the way this team felt about him. We wish Ray the best in his new adventure. We certainly missed him, but the thing that impressed me more than anything this week with Brian was he stayed calm. His guys stepped up. There weren't any problems there. He made great calls today. It was very impressive."