Pontiac Racing Talladega race notes

RON HORNADAY, NO. 14 CONSECO PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (22nd): "That was awesome. We didn't qualify that well with the Conseco Pontiac, but it was strong today. I worked with Tony [Stewart] a little bit and I'll tell you, I wish I could have gotten...

RON HORNADAY, NO. 14 CONSECO PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (22nd):

"That was awesome. We didn't qualify that well with the Conseco Pontiac, but it was strong today. I worked with Tony [Stewart] a little bit and I'll tell you, I wish I could have gotten hooked up with him towards the end. It seemed like my car wanted to run in the second groove. It wouldn't run on the bottom. I needed to be in the second groove. "But, I learned a bunch and I got some friends, I hope. I know I lost some friends, but that's part of Talladega."

ON BEING AGGRESSIVE THE ENTIRE RACE

"The problem was, I was backing off and the more I backed off, the faster the car was. I'm just pretty excited about the whole weekend. Our guys put a great car together, and Richard Childress gave us a great plate motor. That thing stayed together all day. "I'm just happy. I finished Talladega, we had no crashes, nobody got hurt - that's awesome."

DID EVERYBODY RACE FAIRLY SMART TODAY?

"I think we saw some real smart racing. I got up there -- and I'd been running three-wide all day - and I got a good draft and got up underneath the '40' car and the '29.' The '40' came down, we touched and it hurt the front fenders of the car. I don't know if that took us out, but I don't think so. We just needed the right partner."

JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (7th):

ON RUNNING IN THE BACK MOST OF THE DAY TO HOPEFULLY HAVE A CHANCE AT THE WIN

"That's what our goal was and it worked out pretty good. I thought we were going to have a shot at it right there at the end, but it was just too difficult to do anything. I just wanted to make sure I didn't come off the bottom and that's what we did, and ended up seventh."

HOW ABOUT RUNNING CAUTION-FREE TODAY?

"It's perfect. You can't get any better than that."

ANY THOUGHTS ON THE RULE CHANGE TO THE FORD FOR THIS RACE?

"Well, I guess they didn't win, so I'm sure they'll be screaming for more."

WERE YOU SHORT OF HELP AT THE END OF THE RACE?

"I had all the help in the world, but they were all on the outside and I wasn't going to go to the outside. I was going to stay in the bottom groove, no matter what. I didn't want to get shoved out. We lost four spots for it, but it's not that often that the outside wins."

DID YOUR SCRIPT WORK OUT FOR YOU TODAY?

"It worked out perfect - with the exception of six spots - but, we couldn't have planned it any better. That was our game plan. We were worried about getting back to the front. But, we watched a couple guys do it early on and it looked like it only took them eight or 10 laps to get there. It took us 12, so we were pretty happy."

ON THE LAST FEW LAPS

"I was trying to get around [Kurt Busch], but he was wanting the bottom, too. He was just too loose to do it. I just stayed there. I wasn't going to come off the bottom. I had something for them if they hadn't been two-wide. Once they got two-wide - especially beside me - I was pretty much stuck because they were slowing Mark [Martin] up, and if Mark could have stayed with me, we had a shot at her. But it didn't work out that way. They got beside him and it slowed him down. They got beside me and I couldn't do anything. We were starting pretty good. Everybody was sliding around really bad - the last eight laps, especially - because everybody was right on your tail trying to push you. The last thing I wanted to do was wreck, too, so I wasn't going to do anything bold. "I had a run on him (Busch) once, but I started to go out of bounds. It's one of those 'catch 22's' - I shouldn't do it, we were told not to do it and I didn't do it. We played the game fair. I just hope everybody else did."

TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (2nd):

"I really didn't think we had that good a car to lead that way at the end, but we did a great job. Kurt Busch was really helping out a bunch giving us some pushes down the straightaways. I kept looking in the mirror to try to see who was trying to get on the outside. The only guy that kept getting bigger in the mirror was the '55' car (Bobby Hamilton). He just did a great job. We needed the race to end about two laps earlier."

WERE YOU SURPRISED TO GET PASSED ON THE HIGH SIDE?

"I was surprised that we stayed in front, to be honest. I really didn't think we could lead. For a while, I figured the top side must have been pretty slow for us to be able to hold them off like we did. To see them coming up there - and they weren't gaining big chunks, they were just gaining little chunks at a time - they just got one or two chunks too many."

ON MOVING TO THE FRONT NEAR THE END

"We were pretty loose leading. We hadn't been up there all day, so the last couple pit stops we hadn't changed anything because we had just been riding around in the back. We were just waiting to get to the end and then try to go to the front. The guys had a great pit stop at the end that got us up towards the front. We got some big help getting up to the front, and once we got there we had a great partner with Kurt Busch. We got the help we needed, but at the same time, I was surprised that we stayed up there as long as we did. I was hoping when they said '10 to go' and he was still about three or four car lengths back, I thought we might be able to hold him off. He just did a great job. He took it an inch at a time and that's what it takes to get up front here. You can't do it all in one or two laps."

ON THE RACE RUNNING CAUTION-FREE

"I think we're all pretty relieved that it ended up the way it did. Everybody really did a good job out there on the racetrack. There were three or four times right in front of me that we should have had 'The Big One.' But when you've got professional drivers and top-class guys like we've got here, that's how you get races like this that go caution-free."

ON SCORING A TOP FIVE

"This is definitely what we needed. Everybody has been working hard. I think the weak link so far has been me, trying to get used to this new-style tire - what it likes and what it dislikes. It was nice for us to be able come here. This is kind of where we turned our season around last year - at least it started that way. Hopefully, this year will follow through the same way."

ON RUNNING IN THE BACK

"It's a lot more pleasant back there. We tried to lead a lap so we could get our five bonus points. When we got shuffled back, I was like, 'Alright, I'm going all the way back and I'm going to ride for a while.' I learned a lot of things that I needed to learn to try to get back up there at the end."

ON EVERYBODY BEING SMART TODAY

"Michael Waltrip kind of gave us a small sermon (in the drivers meeting), which I was real proud of him for doing that. He just told us all that we've got to look out for each other and that's what we have to do. We've got to take care of ourselves for all these laps here. Forty-three of us are in the same boat out there every time we go run a restrictor plate race, and at that point it is up to us to look out for each other. I think everybody respected each other and took care of each other today."

ON GETTING BEAT BY GUYS THAT SEEMED TO DRAFT BESIDE YOU

"[Dale] Earnhardt taught us all a lot. He was the best at restrictor plate racing. That's what got both of us in this position at the end and that's what also took the win away from us. But at the same time, what he taught, he taught to everybody unfortunately. Everybody has pretty much learned that and that's what makes a restrictor plate race even harder. Nobody has a real advantage anymore. Nobody knew everything that Earnhardt knew and nobody ever will. But we learned enough and I guess we all have learned just about the same amount to where nobody has a clear advantage, as far as knowing what to do with that air. That's what it took to get by us there at the end."

DID THE ANXIETY LEVEL GOING INTO TODAY'S RACE CONTRIBUTE TO THE FACT THAT WE HAD NO CAUTIONS?

"I really don't think so, to be honest. Mike Helton gave us a pretty stiff lecture and Michael Waltrip gave us a little bit of a sermon to try to get us all in the right mindset for what we were going to have to go through today. I think everybody kind of went into this knowing we all had to take care of each other. I think everybody did a real good job with that. I think we produced a fairly good race today. We're all rolling cars out of here and we all get to go home tonight. That probably means more to us than anything right now."

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU COULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY TO HAVE WON THE RACE?

"If I could have I'd have done it, don't you think? I did everything I knew to do, to be honest. I was honestly surprised that we stayed up front as long as we did. I was surprised that we even got in a position to win the race at the end. Like Kurt said, there were a couple times he got a big run. I can promise you one thing - he had more patience than I would have had in that situation. I probably would have gotten a little anxious and tried to move too soon. He did a great job." (continued, p. 4)

"He was the reason that we were able to stay up there. He kept giving us big pushes down the backstretch and in the short chutes, when it was appropriate, and made sure that he got off the bumper by the time we got to the corner so we didn't wreck. For a rookie, he drove like a veteran that has been here for a long time. I thought he did a great job today."

COULD YOU IMAGINE A CAUTION-FREE RACE AT TALLADEGA?:

"Yeah, it can happen here. When you can run wide-open around the racetrack, as long as nobody wrecks or nobody blows an engine - yeah. It's easier here than it is at most of the other tracks. But given the circumstances with how close we run, it's hard to do it. But, I'm not going to act like I'm surprised about it. Everybody did such a good job. When you put 43 professional race car drivers out there and they all have the same attitude that even though they want to win the race, they want to take care of each other at the same time, this is what can happen. You can have a 500-mile race go caution free."

HOW IMPORTANT WAS THAT TODAY?

"It was important to all of us. I made the comment yesterday and on Friday that people from the media kept coming up and asking us, 'What are you thinking about after your wreck at Daytona going into this?' Don't you think that I wanted to put all of that behind me? You don't need that in the front of your mind. Having everybody take care of each other today meant a lot for all of our mindsets leaving here and for when we come back here in the fall and when we go to Daytona. Daytona is probably going to be a little bit different deal. But when we come back here we're all going to have a little bit of a short sign of relief at least knowing that we did it once and knowing that we can do it again."

DID YOU KNOW THE ONSLAUGHT WAS COMING?

"I figured it was going to get there well before it did, to be honest. We had tried to get to the front earlier in the day. I got up close a couple times, but when I got out to where I was the lead car, it killed it. The momentum died and we dropped back. To be honest, I didn't think we could lead as long as we led like that. Kurt was the biggest key to that. But at the same time I kept watching in the mirror down the backstretch and was watching who was taking their turn trying to get a run on us. Every time it was a different guy and it didn't last very long. Then Hamilton kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger and I thought, 'He is not going to go away. It is just a matter of whether we were going to be able to run the laps down before he got there, but we came up a lap or two short."

WAS IT EXPERIENCE OR CIRCUMSTANCES THAT GOT YOU YOUR BEST PLATE FINISH EVER TODAY?

"I'm sure every time I go to a restrictor plate race I learn more and get myself in a position to run better. But the key to our day was really our pit stops, to be honest. The guys on the pit crew did a great job every stop. Even at the points in the race where we had decided we were going to run in the back and protect ourselves, they were still cranking off good stops. At the end, that's when we needed the best stop of the day and they performed for us and kept us up towards the front there to where we weren't trying to pass 25 cars. We were only trying to pass six or seven cars, so they were definitely the key to our finish today."

DID YOU PLAN ON WORKING WITH BOBBY LABONTE TO GET TO THE FRONT AT THE END?

"Honestly, we didn't. My instructions from Greg [Zipadelli] were to go when everybody else went. There was a two-lap window there that we were looking at. The first lap there were three cars that went and the next lap the rest of us went. It really wasn't the plan. If it would have worked out that way to where Bobby and I could have stayed together, I can promise you that we would have stayed together. I saw him stall up there and I wasn't hoping he would get it started and get going so he didn't lose the pack that we were in. I think he got pretty close there towards the end, so that was good for both of us."

DID YOU THINK AT ALL ABOUT TRADING THE LEAD FOR THE SECOND OR THIRD POSITION TO TRY TO MAKE A RUN AT THE LEADER?

"I'm not going to voluntarily give up the lead anywhere, anytime for any or no reason. The only way I was going to lose this race is if somebody passed me. I was going to pull over and give it to somebody to salvage a second. I would have rather finished 20th than to have laid down. I probably would have lost my job if I had pulled over to get a second place finish. There is no way the team would let us do that. I would never do that."

BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (5th):

ON RUNNING THE RACE WITH NO CAUTIONS

"It was either going to go one way or the other - either caution-free or one big wreck. We started 30th today and just stayed out of trouble all day long, I guess, and ended up with a top five, I reckon. We were more lucky than good."

ON YOUR CHARGE AT THE END

"I got a little bit to the outside there. I got a move and Kevin Harvick pushed me a lot. I got back down to the middle groove and got a little bit of a run there and then got back on the outside and Kevin pushed me some more. We did come from a long ways back, but right there at the end, you just try to hug the guys down low and get as much air as you can and sniff it out, as much as possible. All the guys on this Interstate Batteries Pontiac did a good job today. We just couldn't quite get up there to the front, but that is quite alright."

WERE THERE A LOT OF CLOSE CALLS TODAY?

"I thought there were a lot of close calls, but everybody did a good job today. Everybody tried to stay as patient as possible. There at the end it got a little wild, but then again, it's supposed to get wild there at the end."

-GM Racing

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Michael Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Mike Helton