Pontiac Racing Indianapolis race notes

RON HORNADAY, NO. 14 CONSECO PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: LOOKED LIKE A TOUGH DAY FOR YOU TODAY... "Yeah. I'm getting tired of driving us to the back. We've got a better team than this. I don't know what's going on. We're missing something somewhere....

RON HORNADAY, NO. 14 CONSECO PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

LOOKED LIKE A TOUGH DAY FOR YOU TODAY...

"Yeah. I'm getting tired of driving us to the back. We've got a better team than this. I don't know what's going on. We're missing something somewhere. I don't know. It's frustrating. The motor in these cars runs awesome the whole day long, but we just can't get the thing through the corners. It just hops the front tires."

DID IT EVER HANDLE FOR YOU TODAY?

"Never."

BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

HOW WAS YOUR CAR TODAY?

"It was just pushing and loose all day. I couldn't really get a hold of the racetrack."

HOW IMPORTANT WAS TRACK POSITION TODAY?

"Track position was everything. It just meant so much, like it always does."

AT ONE POINT YOU HAD TRACK POSITION, BUT THEN HAD TO GIVE IT UP...

"That was just by virtue of the pit stops and we ended up being out front. Then we changed tires and were so loose that we lost a second on the racetrack, so we had to come in and get four tires. Some other guys got track position and we ended up where we restarted."

WHERE DO YOU GO FROM HERE?

"We'll just go to Watkins Glen for now. There is nothing we can do but just try to do better again."

JAMES INCE, CREW CHIEF, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

ON JOHNNY BENSON'S RUN TODAY - YOU SEEMED TO COME FROM NO WHERE TO THE FRONT...

"Maybe we weren't anywhere that anybody noticed. We made a decision last week at Pocono - when we started this race - they've taken some things away from us in the rules that have hurt our race team and at the start of the race we made up our mind that we were going to come fix our race cars. It says we can do it, so that's what we did. We spent the rest of the day adjusting. We moved track bars - we did everything you can touch on a race car to get it right for the end. Lo and behold at the end of the race, they just always seem to let me do to them whatever it is I do to them."

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD A THIRD PLACE CAR?

"It was probably after our second pit stop that it was probably that good a car, and again, we still weren't satisfied with that. We kept adjusting and kept adjusting. We were just looking to make it perfect. Things worked out for us. There was a little bit of luck that went into play right there. We had an opportunity, like the '40' car did, to have played out doing one more stop again and doing the gas mileage thing. But, I didn't feel like it. I wasn't going to try that two weeks in a row. We just tried to get some speed in the car and keep ourselves in position."

TWO TOP FIVES IN A ROW - THE TEAM APPEARS TO BE BACK. WAS IT EVER GONE?

"The team was never gone. Like I said, when they changed those rules at Charlotte on spring rubbers and stuff it killed this race team. There is no way around it. That was something that destroyed this race team and I think that is part of the reason they did it. There were too many that weren't supposed to run good were running good. But, we're figuring it out. A good race team is a good race team. We just figure out what we have to along the way."

JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

HOW DOES THIS YEAR AT THE BRICKYARD COMPARE TO YOUR ROOKIE RUN HERE WHEN YOU LED 70 LAPS AND SCORED A TOP 10?

"I think it was a bigger accomplishment today because we started way in the back and the car started off pretty terrible. With everybody making the changes and the work that they did, this was definitely a good challenge for us to where we finished. "In '96 when we led 70 laps and almost won, I think we had an opportunity to win the race. We just had a little mess-up there in the pits back then and I stalled the car and it kind of hurt us. But this time, we started 26th. To be able to work our way up - and it took us all day - but we were able to keep inching our way forward and making some great changes on the car. I think this race was pretty much all about what the pit crew did and what James Ince and all the guys [did]."

WHAT CHANGES DID YOU MAKE DURING THE DAY?

"We started off pretty tight and it looked like a lot of people were doing the same thing, so we started putting rubbers in the springs, trying to free things up. Then for whatever reason it went from one extreme to the next. We ran really good for about eight or ten laps. Then the next thing I know, I'm sliding like a dirt track trying to go backwards. We just worked, worked, worked and they started adjusting on the track bars and trying to do other adjustments - stuff that took a long time to do - nothing easy. But the Valvoline team just did a tremendous job and worked hard. James Ince made some great calls. For us to come from 26th and run as bad as we did and then get back up to the front, we were pretty happy with how things went."

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS TRACK THAT SEEMS TO SUIT YOUR DRIVING ABILITY?

"I don't know if I like the flat tracks as much; I just seem to run well on them. This racetrack is a momentum track. It's a finesse track. The car has got to have a good balance to it and you've got to like sliding around because there were a lot of people doing that today. It was just who could slide it the best and not hitting anything ended up up front. "We have a good program on the flat tracks. It took us a little longer this weekend to get where we really wanted the race car to be, but like I said, outside that, once we got it going the James Dean Pontiac was pretty good. We just kept working and kept working. I still wasn't real happy at the end with how the car was driving. But I knew track position was going to be good. We only took two tires and just hung on from there."

ON FLAT TRACKS

"I think most of us drivers in this series grew up on flat tracks. Bu the type of track that I grew up on (Berlin Raceway) was, I feel, one of the hardest ones in the country. It's flat, it's kind of round, it's extremely fast and it's a deal where finesse is a thing. And like I said, I think all the drivers are great on these type of racetracks. It just sometimes takes the whole package to get it comfortable and get it to where you can drive it around here."

TWO TOP FIVES IN A ROW...WHAT HAS THE TEAM DONE TO REBOUND?

"I think, as you'll see, a lot of the teams over the winter and as the races started going - everybody was geared up to run bump stops and geared up to run those type of scenarios. We did all of our testing that way. Of course, when NASCAR changed that I think it helped the Fords more than anything because they came on pretty strong and they were getting hard to beat and it put us behind. We had to work extra hard to get back up to where we were and it has been a struggle. It's been a struggle to try to figure that out and try to work that way to get it as good as what we were at the beginning of the season. We feel like we were heading in a direction and then it didn't work. Now we feel like we're heading in a direction that's going to be good and the last two weeks has gone that way. Hopefully, we've starting figuring things out, but it's been difficult for - not just us - but a lot of teams. When they made that [rule change], that was a huge change when everybody had most of their testing already used up. It made it difficult for certain teams and us being one of them."

WHY WAS THIS YEAR'S RACE BETTER?

"I think with the tire and probably the bump stop rules and things of this nature made a difference. It seems like everybody is slipping and sliding a lot more than what they were last year. With slipping and sliding more you're going to be able to produce some passing and some lead changes. I guess we had like 18 lead changes today. That can be contributed to NASCAR doing the right things, I guess, trying to get things better and better, and Goodyear bringing a tire that's made it able for us to make some passes. But it seems like you get going one time and it's doing one thing and the next time it's doing another and it's sliding around. You kind of chase the car all day, which is going to produce a lot of passes. You're going to go forwards and backwards pretty much all day. You just hope at the end that you're moving on the forward part."

ON JEFF GORDON WINNING THREE TIMES IN EIGHT YEARS AT THE BRICKYARD

"You're asking the wrong guy. For us, it's terrible. But I think it's great to come here to Indy. There are so many fans here and it's great. Heck, I wish it was either one of us (Benson or Sterling Marlin) that won three of them. But in the same token, they've got a great race team, so they're winning races. That's what it's all about. But it's pretty cool to come here with all the great fans that they have here, and there is plenty of them when you come here."

GREG ZIPADELLI, CREW CHIEF, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

WHAT HAPPENED TODAY?

"We had a good car. It drove good. It was fast. It was a little free there in the mid section. We ran second most of the day there. The caution [flag] kind of fell when we needed it. We had to make one more stop. Our fuel mileage wasn't as good as four or five guys that were going to try to make it. We had the stop twice, whether I stopped when everybody else came in and we stayed out with the '1' car, so it didn't make any sense for us to come in and take a chance on being back in 10th or 15th and getting in a wreck with a bunch of idiots, like we did. But, it's just frustrating. We had a good car, but we're just struggling to close the deal at this place."

ON THE INCIDENT WITH THE '88'

"I don't know that he [Tony Stewart] blamed the '88' or anything for it. We were just on the outside and we were racing hard. We were trying to get around some lapped cars. It's really like, with 18 or 20 laps to go or whatever it was, 'Get the heck out of the way. Give somebody a break.' If they drove that hard all day, then they wouldn't be in that position. It's just frustrating, especially at places like this because they can hold you up and screw you up for so long. But, whatever -- what goes around comes around. It's just one of those days. It wasn't our day. We'll take our lumps and go to Watkins Glen. "It's just frustrating. We had pretty high hopes. We had a really good car here yesterday. The Home Depot Pontiac ran really well from the time we unloaded it really. It's just a big let-down weekend. You come here - Tony's home track, I guess. He loves this place. It means so much to him. I just feel bad that we weren't able to do a better job for him."

ON TONY'S MOOD AFTER THE RACE

"He is just like me and the rest of our 22 guys here: just disgusted and frustrated. Is there anything to be disgusted or frustrated about? We had a top five car all day. We should have been there. We got a top 20 finish. It's not acceptable this late in the season. We need to be better than that. What the reason was or the cause? Could we have done things differently? I don't know. It was just one of those things. It wasn't our day."

-GM Racing

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Sterling Marlin