Rockingham Sunday Post-Race Quotes
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 23, 1998)
Quotes from selected drivers after Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup Series GM Goodwrench Service Plus 400 at North Carolina Speedway:
JEFF GORDON No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
"I feel like I'm in a dream and hadn't woken up. The dream started out like a nightmare really. Yesterday in practice, we didn't really know what was going to happen. The car felt good at times and not so good at other times. We knew we were going to have to work hard all day long and never give up. Ray and I talked about it a lot yesterday and even this morning. When I started falling back, I didn't know what was going to happen. I was more worried about losing a lap than I was winning the race. That's for sure.
"The car just got real, real loose on me. I couldn't run high, middle or low. I couldn't get it to really come together. We tried to tighten it up and we needed to go more. Finally, Ray made the call and said let's make some major adjustments. Obviously these little ones aren't going to be enough. We gave up track position. Sometimes you've got to give up something to gain a lot. That's what we did. That second half of the race, I was running around the bottom, just trying to keep it on the bottom and drive it in real easy and on the brakes hard. All of a sudden, I saw myself start to pick some of these guys off. I think the top groove really went away. In the past, the top has been the place to win the race here. For some reason, it's almost like everybody went up there so early that it kind of gave out about halfway or three-quarters of the way through the race. The bottom seemed to come in and that's where my car worked the best.
"This whole day has been a whirlwind. I don't remember anything. I remember me and Rusty were battling to see who could get the lead. There was an inside line and an outside line. It was a guess of which line was going to move forward and which one wasn't. I was in the bottom groove, which I think was the place to be (considering) where that wreck was. My car was working better (low). When we went down into one, I saw Ernie and whoever was outside him getting together and he got real loose and got sideways. They kind of went up the track. I was ready to get through it. The guys in front of me were slamming on the brakes. I was afraid I was going to get hit from behind. There wasn't a whole lot I could do other than follow the guy in front of me and try not to hit him and hope the guy behind me didn't get into the back of me. I really wasn't close enough to it to see how it started.
"I wanted to stay on the bottom. That's where my car worked the best. He (Dale Earnhardt) was working the top. I moved down to the bottom. I tried to get a run on him. I came off of four and he got loose and had to check up. I was all over his bumper. Basically there was no where else to go but the apron and I'd rather stay on his bumper than go to the apron. Some cars got by us on the outside. I just wanted to regroup. Nobody else could get by him, but that's what it takes to stay on the lead lap. He wasn't doing anything wrong. He was just running his line. I got shuffled back. That's why I was a little surprised at the end that we could pull away from Rusty."
RAY EVERNHAM Crew chief No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
"This race track always starts a little bit looser than we'd like it to start. I had two options. I wanted to put a spring rubber in the right front and try it. Jeff gives me really good feedback out there and that was not the way to go. He suggested about going back the other way. We brought the car back in and went the opposite and made some other adjustments. We had to just actually change our combination and rebuild our tire pressure, setups and our stagger around what we had just undone. It took probably three of four pit stops to get it close. Towards the end it was pretty good. We made a little tire adjustment. I've seen this guy (Gordon) drive in the same situation and I was pretty confident that Rusty wasn't going to pass us.
"This track gives you an opportunity to work on the car and it changes. It's much like Darlington. I don't know if it's the sandhills or what. When you get a place you can make a lot of pit stops and you can gain a mechanical suspension advantage, I think that maybe overrides the downforce, horsepower, things like that. We have a good race team that can make changes quickly and we have a great race driver that can adapt. Places like here and Darlington where you get an opportunity to work on the car a lot, if you're sharp, you can maybe take a bad car and make it good. I'm concerned about going to the places where we're not going to get a lot of time or a lot of cautions. If we get that situation say at Vegas next week and don't get a lot of cautions, we could end up a lap down easy. "When you're here practicing, you don't get to make long runs and the track is not really the way it's going to be when you race on it. Practices aren't at the time of the day that affects places like this. Some tracks the weather and time of day affect a lot, the amount of rubber down, whether your car is in a group. When people practice, they practice at a much different pace. A lot of guys will run fast, but they'll drive a car in deep and carry it around through the middle of the corner. For 20 laps, they can really drive the wheels off of it. You can't do that all day long. Everybody's pace changes. The groove on the race track changes a little bit. When the track wears out, and your tires wear out, the weather has a big effect on it."
RUSTY WALLACE No. 2 Miller Lite Ford
"That was a real good run. The car handled great and the pit stops were excellent all day long. That was a really good time coming into the pits because, man, they were so fast on the tires and the gas and everything. I'd just like to thank all the sponsors. Miller, Goodyear, Mobil, Mead, Bosch, all of them. Those guys did an excellent job. The new Ford Taurus, I was happy with the car, it performed real well, so like I said at Daytona last week on a scale of one to ten, I think the Taurus is about an eight right now. We're working on it to get it better and I think it's going to be a great car and we had a great run today.
"My car was a little bit tight at the end. I was just pushing the front end a little bit too much. Robin (Pemberton) asked me about any adjustments, but the car was so good I didn't want to take a chance on making it go one way or the other, so I just stuck with what I had. I probably should have loosened it up a little bit, but it ran great. Right there at the end I just flat got beat."
MARK MARTIN No. 6 Valvoline Ford
"This is a great run for this race team. We've got a lot of new guys on it and everything and we were trying to give those guys something to cheer for at Daytona, but I think Valvoline and all our supporters can look at this thing now and say we've got a great race team. Jeff Burton helped me out a little bit with the setup. I usually have a little trouble staying on my tires, but today we were able to hang in there and race them for it. We didn't quite have it at the end, but we had a good piece."
(HOW CLOSE WERE YOU TO THAT ACCIDENT?)
"Real, real close. Those guys, you know that's going to happen when you put all those lap down cars and the lead lap cars behind them because the want to stay on the lead lap so bad, so we were pretty sure there was going to be a wreck."
JIMMY SPENCER No. 23 Team Winston Ford
"We had a good car. We've ran really well here at Rockingham before and we've never finished where we needed to finish. Today we did with the Team Winston Taurus. It ran strong all day. We put an effort on there at the end putting fresh tires on and they didn't. That put us about eighth or ninth in the line, and to come out of here fourth, we're pretty excited about that. I can't say enough about Donnie Wingo and the whole crew. We had great pit stops and this is what we're supposed to be doing is collecting top-10 and top-five finishes. I know this team can do it and I hope we can keep it up all year.
GEOFF BODINE No. 7 Philips Ford
"To come back and run as strong on this type of track with no restrictor plate, this is racing here. It makes everybody feel good. Everyone has the confidence that we can do that. At one point I thought I might have a chance (to win the race), but we ran good and the Taurus looked good out there. It looks like NASCAR has the rules pretty close. Chevy wins, the Taurus runs good and the Pontiacs, there were some good ones out there until the had trouble, they were running good, so I think the rules are pretty close.
"I'm really happy with the way we ran. We never even tested the downforce car until Friday when we unloaded this one and this car had never run a short track in its history, so there were a lot of unknowns and we ended up qualifying pretty good and finding a good setup in practice. We adjusted as the day went on and got way too tight at the end and that really hurt us. We were behind when we unloaded here in testing, but our preparation was good. Our cars, our bodies and our engines were good and we were all ready to work hard to find the setup and we were confident we could find the setup if we had enough practice time.
"We worked it out. We didn't panic, we just worked hard and made good decisions. Last week was very disappointing. We had a top-10 car and ended up getting run into on pit road, so we needed to come back and run good. We need to go to Vegas and run good. We need to run good the rest of the year to make up for what we lost at Daytona. We're looking at championship. We're a little behind right now, but there are a lot of races ahead of us and a lot of things will happen as this year goes on. We're just going to try and make it all good for us."
BILL ELLIOTT No. 94 McDonald's Ford
"It went great. I was just a little disappointed there at the end. I kind of got behind and never could get caught up, but one stop there I felt like I was a little bit off and we worked on the car a little bit and got a little bit better. Then it was basically track position. After that wreck over there my car, when it started out I was just a little bit tight, but then I started to come in and change tires, but I said, 'No, I ain't going to do that because I don't want to lose track position.' But, all in all, we had a great day and I'm very pleased at getting out of here the way we did because now we'll go on to Vegas.
"I liked it (the new spoiler rules). You can tell, it was a heckuva race for the fans from what I saw."
DALE JARRETT No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford
"We had a good run for where we started and pitting on the backstretch. We did a whole lot. The car was really good at the first of the race and from there on we just never could get it back to what it was at the beginning. We could make it either too loose or too tight, we couldn't get a happy medium. We just bought that most of the rest of the day, but to come out of here with a top-10 is OK.
"It looked like a lot of good racing going on. It was able to slow us down some getting into the corners, but the cars were pretty much under everybody and I think it made for better racing than what we've seen here in the past.
"We've just got one Chevrolet that's still better than everything else right now, but maybe he's just better. I don't know. The Taurus was good and I think these next two weeks, along with here at Rockingham, are going to show us exactly of what we have. And it will give us a good barometer of what we can do with the car and what we can't do.
"I think they (Jeff Gordon's team) just go along until they get their car right, which is the thing to do. You have to keep adjusting. It was new rules for everybody and I think we caught them off guard at the beginning of the race, that maybe everybody was off a little bit more and we were dead on it at the start. That made us look like we were better than everyone else, which we were at that time, but then everyone adjusted on their cars and as we tried to adjust, we couldn't make ours any better."
TERRY LABONTE No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet
"We were off a little bit at the start and kept working on it. It got good, but we could use some more spoiler. They need to do the wind tunnel deal and look at the data and see what the result is from that and go from there. We were loose all day and just couldn't ever seem to get it right. That was a decent finish. We kept working hard all day. Andy (Graves, crew chief) and the guys never gave up. It was good to see a Chevrolet win the race. Maybe we can keep that winning streak going for Chevy next week."
BOBBY HAMILTON No. 4 Kodak Film Chevrolet
"I feel like if I had been pitting on the front straightaway, I would have won the race. I've got no complaints at all. My car drove good. I would like to have more spoiler because there's one problem. When you get side by side in a slick place, it sucks you around. That's what happened with the 36 and 1, I think. The 36 got sucked around a little bit. I understand what they're trying to do if we could just get a little more, like a quarter inch front and rear, I think it would make the cars easier to drive. It's going to be a five- or six-race thing to see who's best, but Ford didn't win the race today. As long as that 24 is winning, that means one of us can too. That's the way I look at it. Last year, no other GM car won until Terry won at Talladega and then I won at Phoenix. As long as he's winning, there's a chance the Monte Carlo is a good race car and everybody else has got to get their act together."
RICKY CRAVEN No. 50 Budweiser Chevrolet
"We had a problem and had to pit. We fought back all day. The car drove good, as good as it could get at Rockingham. Rockingham has never been an easy place to race because it's so abrasive. Now it's a little bit exaggerated because you lose it quicker. The philosophy is to continue to run the same distance on a set of tires. I think you saw everybody close that gap today. You just can't run as long on a set of tires, but what a battle all day. The race changed three or four times. It was a fun day. Everybody on this team put in a great effort today. I had to race up high. It kind of suits me anyway, but we got out of sequence with the leaders and had to keep battling back. At the end it worked out. We had a problem that we corrected on the pit stop. It dealt us a bad hand, but we didn't give up. We were two laps down and fought our way back to the lead lap.
"It was ridiculous with those Fords at one point, but when the track got messy at the end and everybody lost grip. Then, it was a heck of a race. I was glad Jeff won, but he made it tough on us again. There isn't equality right now. There just isn't. There were too many Fords that were not out of shape and too many Chevrolets that were. I'm not going to start lobbying because I don't carry a lot of weight anyway, but how are you going to win that argument when Jeff wins the race? We just need to work a little harder. We've still got a good streak going here at Rockingham. I m pretty happy with the way we're running."
JEREMY MAYFIELD No.12 Mobil 1 Ford
"I'm happy. We had a good car. The whole Mobil 1 team did a great job in the pits and out of the pits. We were just there at the end, right where we wanted to be and the last 30 laps we thought we had a shot at it. The last caution, we knew they were going to stack up pretty good and there might be some trouble in front of us and that's just racing. Those guys got into it and wrecked and we just kind of ended up in the middle of it, but we'll take it on to Vegas and go from there. I saw some cars up on top of the race track and went low thinking I was going to get out of it and a couple other cars spun and got into us. It was just unfortunate for the race team and Mobil 1 and all the people who knew we were there today and had a good race car.
"It's hard to notice a big difference in it because we really adjusted the chassis for those rules, so my car ran pretty good like that. I think the 24 ran good, the 2 car ran good. There were a lot of good cars out there today.
"He's (Earnhardt) just mad because he had a bad day. He won last week, come back this week and didn't run good at all. I mean, just ran bad all day and I'm sure he was frustrated and that's just part of it.
"I don't know. I passed him and went into three and he hit me in the back. I thought we were going to lose it, we didn't. We saved it and ended up passing him again, so I'm sure he just had a bad day. That's racing. If you can't take that, you ought not be out there. Everybody was rubbing on everybody today. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but we saved it and didn't wreck, so it was no big deal to us."
DALE EARNHARDT No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet
"You can't say much when that 24 car wins the race. Our car pushed getting in the corners and pushed coming off today. Give me some more spoiler and give me some more front end. They're going to do what they want to do, but I don't imagine we're going to get much with that 24 in Victory Lane. He won and had six Fords behind him. We'll just have to keep digging and hope we get a little help."
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