Friday, Nov. 5, 1999 Phoenix International Raceway Bud Pole Qualifying for Checker Auto Parts/Dura Lube 500K JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "Is this Phoenix? I don't feel like I'm in Phoenix. That's an ...
Friday, Nov. 5, 1999 Phoenix International Raceway Bud Pole Qualifying for Checker Auto Parts/Dura Lube 500K
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"Is this Phoenix? I don't feel like I'm in Phoenix. That's an unbelievable lap for us. I think we had a set of tires that threw us off that last practice because we were good in the morning and the car has been driving great. Brian (crew chief Whitesell) and these guys have done some great adjusting. It helped to draw a late number, but I drove that thing in the corner. It was wiggling all over the place, but that was a heck of a lap. I'm proud of that. Last year, I made some mistakes. This is a tough place to qualify. You've got to drive in hard and hope that thing sticks in the middle. It did for me today, and I'm blown away that I'm second right now.
"We weren't even close to that all day, and I saw some guys clicking off some incredible laps, and I said, 'How are they doing that?' I just went out there and drove the heck out of it. I think we got thrown off a little bit in that second practice, and we came back to what we started the day with. I'm real proud of this effort and Brian Whitesell and the guys. They did a heck of a job today.
"I drove it pretty deep into turn one, but it stuck good for me down there. I drove real deep into three and the car actually got a little sideways as I floated into three there. It was a handful, but I guess that's what you've got to do to make a good lap out of it in qualifying.
"We'll just try to learn as much as we can in these last three races. It's just like testing. Me and Brian have been working together great and the guys are working well with him. That's the most important thing. We've got that rolling. We'll try to plug in some pit crew members and see if we can get a good pit crew together for the Daytona 500 next year. There's a lot of exciting things happening with this team and the future and Chevrolet with the new Monte Carlo. We're real excited about the off season. We're not done yet. We've got a lot of things we can accomplish before this season is out that will help us get prepared for next year.
"I had no idea, done of us did (concerning pit crew). It pretty much threw us for a loop there. I think that's the disappointing thing about it. People come and people go. This is a tough business. You can't expect to keep people forever, but to not even have the opportunity to talk to 'em, just to know they picked up and collectively did something like that, that's what I'm kind of upset about. We lost a couple of good guys, but a couple of those other guys, it doesn't really bother me.
"I thought it was a good lap, but I had no idea it was that kind of a lap. We were real good in the morning practice. We were in the top five, and then in the second practice we were way off. I don't know what threw us off. We're happy we got it back and made a great effort. The guys stuck with me all day long and made some great calls right before qualifying and we were able to get an awesome lap in there. I had no idea we were even going to be close to that.
"It's unfortunate. We're going to be losing five of the guys off our pit crew next year. I guess Robert Yates wanted 'em, so they're going to be over there. That's all right. We were going to be making a few changes. I am disappointed the way they handled it. I'm disappointed we're going to be losing a couple of guys that are very good. This is a strong team. A lot of people want to work for this race team, and we've already found that out."
"Each time we come to Phoenix, I feel like we get better and better. We learned a lot the last time we were here. Unfortunately it rained on us. Today was the best we've ever qualified here. It certainly is going to get us pumped up about Sunday's race. I feel this will be our best effort we've ever had out here to try to win this race.
"You go about things the same. You're trying to win races, but the pressure's not there as far as the championship is concerned. I'd much rather be dealing with a championship right now and those types of pressures, but you've got to look at the positive side of everything. When you're dealing with a championship battle, there's a lot of pressure and it's very intense. You hope you're in that situation every time, but if you're not, you're thankful you don't have to deal with the pressure and all those situations.
"You can learn from all the mistakes we've all made. Sometimes you let the pressure get to you and you makes mistakes because you try too hard or you don't try hard enough. Sometimes you try to protect the points and that will cost you. There are times when you try too hard to win, and that will cost you. You might blow a motor or something like that. You've got to run the same race and same battle you've run all year long. Don't change a thing. If you have a top-five car, don't worry about finishing in the top five. If you've got a car capable of winning, then go out there and win the race. Don't have a fifth-place car trying to win and then end up finishing 40th."
GEOFFREY BODINE (No. 60 Power Team Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"That was a great lap for the Power Team Chevrolet. This has been a wild week for us. I've got a little touch of the flu. We were hoping we could get a pole here. The car has run good since we unloaded it. We came close. We keep trying. We keep getting closer. This team has really come a long way from the beginning of the year from a no team to what we're doing now. We're proud of what everyone has done. Our engine program is really good now. Maybe we can turn it around Sunday and win this race.
"I'm never surprised that anything happens in this business, so no, I'm not surprised that a lot of people picked up from practice. I was hoping I could pick up a little bit more, but I tried. That was a good lap. I drove hard. A couple of guys got a little quicker.
"I caught the flu Tuesday night, but actually I feel pretty good right now. This morning I felt really bad. Maybe I got to feeling better after that last practice. We ran good, and I immediately started feeling better. I guess it's been in me long enough. The meanness is finally coming out.
"I don't know if I could have got any more out of the car. It stuck. It was just a little too slow.
"We've worked really hard this year, and we're hoping to get a pole before the season ends. We've got two more races to get one, so it isn't over yet. We were hoping after the last practice we were going to be able to get the pole right here in Phoenix. I won the first pole here, and I was hoping to win this one, but now our focus is on the race. We feel like we have a car good enough to win. This bug came on me on the way out here in about 30 minutes. It's gone away in about 30 minutes. This morning I felt really bad, and right now I feel really good. It's gone and I'm going to be fine for the race."
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I'm real happy with the qualifying lap. We stepped it up a little bit. We changed both front springs before qualifying and got extremely loose over here in three and four. We got through one and two pretty good. I'll take that. We'll race 'em from there."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo)
"Nothing has been wrong. We didn't real bear down in practice. This was the first set of stickers we ran. I went out and scuffed a set. We didn't really make a qualifying run in practice. It felt real dirty. We went on stickers, and I think that was the key to going faster. I wish we could have got another couple of tenths out of it, but that was good. The guys worked hard, and the car did a good job. This is our Martinsville car. This is the car we ran second with at Martinsville. We ran it at Loudon, too, so we've just got to get it tuned in."
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"That's the best we've run all day. We just haven't got it handling right yet. It's real tight in one and two and loose in three and four. We'll keep working on it and try to get it closer to the front."
BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak Max Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"That's pretty good. I won this thing from 17th in '96. I'm real happy with it. The car has been good all day. We just wanted to get a good lap in. We didn't lean on it a lot. We just wanted to get a good, clean lap in and we did."
RICKY CRAVEN (No. 50 Midwest Transit Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"It was a handful. I did a lot of slipping and sliding. Maybe the heat made it a little slick, but Schrader kind of blew that theory. It was still a great effort by the team, and we'll see where it shakes out."
TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"That was a little bit slower than we practiced. I need somebody to follow, so going out first didn't help us a lot. It doesn't look like anybody is going to get a cloud today, so going later might not be that big of an advantage."
KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We were good until three and four. I got into three and four real good and I picked the gas up a little earlier than I had all day and I got sideways right in the middle of the corner and had to get back out of the gas. I feel like it cost me a couple of tenths. We were on track and sometimes when you're going to get the pole, it'll cost you. It looks like everybody is picking up a lot. We just want to get in that top 25 and get a good setup. It's a long race. We always run good out here. Getting a good qualifying lap out here is hard to do, and I'm a little disappointed. I just got sideways and three and four and it cost us. I wanted to do a little bit better. We've got America's greatest rock 'n roll band (Aerosmith) on the car and it was an OK lap, but we got a little loose in the middle."
KEN SCHRADER (No. 33 Skoal Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"It was pretty good, but we left a little bit in one and two. Whenever you don't really hit it, it's not going to be good enough. I thought we'd end up fifth, but at least we can see the front from where we're starting."
WALLY DALLENBACH (No. 25 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We got off base a little bit there that last practice. The car was real loose. We made some adjustments, and that's the fastest we've been. It's hotter. Hopefully that will put us in the top 25. We'll have a good race car for Sunday. This is our Loudon and Martinsville car, and I think it'll be good here."
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We've been fighting to get the car good on one end and it's loose on the other. We get it tight on one end and good on the other. We haven't been real happy with it. That would have got us in the top five last time. These guys are really picking it up. Hopefully we'll be near the top 25 with that lap. We'll just have to wait and see what happens."
JOE NEMECHEK (No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We were fast in the first practice this morning. The track was cooler and it felt better to me. When the heat came and after Busch Happy Hour, the track seemed to get really slick and the heat was coming into the track and making it really greasy. It seemed to slow us down more than it did the other guys. We'll just have to take it and go from there. I think we're going to be in good shape for the race."