EARNHARDT JR. JOINS TEAM MONTE CARLO WINNERS CIRCLE -- Dale Earnhardt, a 25-year-old NASCAR Winston Cup rookie, won Sunday's DirecTV 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet and joined the Team Monte Carlo Winners Circle.
EARNHARDT JR. JOINS TEAM MONTE CARLO WINNERS CIRCLE -- Dale Earnhardt, a 25-year-old NASCAR Winston Cup rookie, won Sunday's DirecTV 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet and joined the Team Monte Carlo Winners Circle. Earnhardt Jr. became the 25th different driver to win a race in a Monte Carlo, the most successful nameplate in NASCAR Winston Cup history with 278 career victories. Earnhardt Jr. joined his father, seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, as the only drivers to win this season in a 2000 Monte Carlo. Earnhardt won a photo finish with Bobby Labonte on March 12 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt Jr.'s victory helped Team Monte Carlo tighten the NASCAR Winston Cup manufacturers standings after the first seven events. Ford leads Pontiac 47-46, and Team Monte Carlo has 40 points. Chevrolet has won 13 of the past 17 titles and 21 of 28 in NASCAR's modern era that began in 1972 when the schedule was trimmed to 31 or fewer races per season. Buick won two titles in 1981 and 1982. Dodge won it in 1975, and Ford won titles in 1992, 1994, 1997 and 1999. From 1983-91, Chevrolet won an unprecedented nine straight manufacturers championships.
TEAM MONTE CARLO WINNERS CIRCLE
Here are the 25 drivers who have won races driving a Monte Carlo. Team Monte Carlo drivers have made Chevrolet's Monte Carlo the most successful nameplate in NASCAR Winston Cup history with 278 career victories.
Darrell Waltrip 48 Tim Richmond 9 Ricky Rudd 2 Jeff Gordon 47 Harry Gant 6 David Pearson 2 Dale Earnhardt 44 Geoff Bodine 6 Buddy Baker 2 Cale Yarborough 38 Richard Petty 6 Charlie Glotzbach 1 Bobby Allison 15 Neil Bonnett 5 Ken Schrader 1 Terry Labonte 15 Sterling Marlin 5 Greg Sacks 1 Benny Parsons 14 Bobby Labonte 4 Earl Ross 1 Joe Nemechek 1 Donnie Allison 3 Bobby Hamilton 1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1
KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
NOTE: Wallace, a 36-year-old driver from St. Louis, Mo., finished sixth and fifth in the two 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup races at Martinsville. He won his first Winston Cup pole at Martinsville in 1997, and he's still looking for his first Winston Cup victory. Wallace will make his 193rd career start on Sunday in the Goody's Body Pain 500 at Martinsville Speedway and his goal is to become the eighth different winner of the season. A victory would make him the 26th different member of the Team Monte Carlo Winners Circle.
"I've had some good finishes at Martinsville the past two years (two fifths and two sixths), and I won the pole there a few years ago," Wallace said. "It's no secret. I really, really know what I need at Martinsville. I can't tell you what I've got to have, but I can point you in the right direction. Jimmy Elledge (crew chief) came up with a good set of shocks last year that was the best set of shocks I've ever had there, and it really helped me in the race in the long run. Qualifying is very difficult there. It's usually very much overrated, only if you didn't have to worry about qualifying for making the race. But qualifying is important for morale, and I've always qualified well at Martinsville. The biggest thing about Martinsville is that I've always raced well.
"We didn't qualify worth a flip last year for the first race. We came straight from the back to the front over a period of time. I think that's what I know about that race track. There's no working your way to the front there in a proper manner. When they drop that flag, if you don't qualify real good, you've got to drive your butt off every lap. And the reason you have to is because the leader will lap you.
"You don't want to drive hard. You want to save your brakes, but when you start in the back there, as soon as you feel like you've worked your way to a position where you can let off early and take care of your brakes, that's what you do. But I'd say if you can qualify inside the top 30 there it makes a huge difference. From 31st-43rd, passing that many cars takes probably 40 or 50 laps. If you can qualify inside the top 30, it gives you a cushion, and you know you've got a good car. We're talking realistic here. Obviously the best thing is to be the greatest, but sometimes those things don't work out. I'd say qualifying inside the top 10 is ideal.
"The new pit road is a help but, I'd say NASCAR has really overcome it's frontstretch-backstretch deal by speeding up the pace car. They've really boogied that thing. As soon as they drop that frontstretch pit off, man that thing is running quick. You've got to be on your toes to keep up with the pace car. It used to be where the backstretch was murderous. Now you can still win. The worst tracks for that stuff were Darlington and Rockingham because from the start-finish line around to the backstretch was so long. On these short tracks you can hurry up around there. The pit stops take the same amount of time no matter what track you're on. Now with the frontstretch pits, it keeps the morale up on the team. When you pitted on the backstretch, everybody wanted to pack up and go home. You were like a bunch of hoboes back there. It was horrible. It made everybody feel like you weren't even worthy of being there. Now, with everybody on the same deal, morale is equal and it keeps everybody positive for the whole week.
"We qualified well at Bristol and then had a right rear flat. We had a valve stem go down. We started out and ran second, third or fourth. We came in and had a good pit stop and went back out and ran 10-15 laps real good and then all of a sudden I got loose, bigtime. A caution came out and we tightened the car up come to find out we had that tire problem. Then I was way too tight. I got lapped because I was way too tight. Then when we got it fixed, we were good.
"We're being pushed to the limit as far as having a couple of motor failures and some tire problems. I'll win the test. I ain't going to let it get me down.
"In a way, I hope I don't win my first race on a short track. I hope I win it at Pocono. If I win the first race on a short track, I'll die. Everybody considers me a short track driver, and that upsets me. I want to win at Martinsville, but that would just drive the stake in deeper. I'm a short track expert, but to run this series you've got to be good everywhere. The future in Winston Cup is all these big tracks. You've got to learn to drive them all.
"Jimmy got me going good at Dover and Charlotte last year. We qualified fourth at Dover and ran in the top five until I wrecked the car. At Charlotte, we qualified third and finished 12th. Those used to be two really tough tracks for me and now it seems like we're competitive at both. I figure it's just like anything. I still stick to my guns. I still say that Mike Skinner was supposed to win Atlanta and he didn't. Joe Nemechek wasn't supposed to win Loudon and he did. It's like that movie On Any Sunday. That's why I keep showing up, to win. You can't do the whole deal on negativity. I go out there every week to race.
"I've won eight Busch races. That's on a small level. I won at Loudon and Bristol, and those were big. I learned one thing about Winston Cup racing. Rusty (older brother Wallace) taught me this a long time ago. Nobody likes it when somebody dominates, so when you get that win, you'd better relish it from Sunday night until Friday morning. On Friday morning, it's all to do over and you might be in my backyard now.
"Rusty had a good time after he won at Bristol, and that was good to see. He was really happy because he accomplished something big. I knew since last year how much he wanted to win that 50th race. He went to Texas and ran well, but his win at Bristol didn't really mean much by the time we got to Texas.
"Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a great win at Texas, but he's got to start all over when we get to Martinsville. We stayed out of trouble at Texas, got a decent finish and jumped four spots in the standings. We're 30th right now, and that's a little disappointing, but we're not going to give up. I know Rusty and Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin and all those guys who usually run well at Martinsville will be hard to beat, but I know we'll have a good car and hopefully we'll be able to give 'em a run for their money."
CHEVY SHORTS -- Rich Bickle will drive the No. 60 Power Team Chevrolet Monte Carlo at Martinsville on Sunday. Bickle becomes the third driver to substitute for Geoffrey Bodine since Bodine's accident in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck race in February at Daytona. Bickle scored a career- best fourth-place NASCAR Winston Cup finish at Martinsville in September 1998. In his past four starts at Martinsville in Winston Cup races, Bickle has not qualified lower than 11th. The Power Team's best finish also came at Martinsville with Bodine behind the wheel last October with a third-place run. Bodine came to the track for the first time since his accident last week at Texas Motor Speedway. He plans to test later this month at Richmond and then return to action on April 30 in the NAPA Auto Parts 500 at California Speedway.... Besides Kenny Wallace, two other Team Monte Carlo drivers scored two top-10 finishes at Martinsville in 1999. Jeff Gordon finished third in last year's Goody's Body Pain 500 and won the fall race at the .526-mile track. Mike Skinner fourth in last year's Goody's Body Pain 500 and sixth in the fall race at Martinsville.... Chevrolet scored a 1-2-3 sweep in last fall's NAPA AutoCare 500 at Martinsville with Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, and Bodine.... Earnhardt is the leading money winner in Martinsville Speedway history. In 42 starts, Earnhardt has six wins at Martinsville and is tied with Rusty Wallace for second place among active drivers in that category. Earnhardt has 17 top-fives and 22 top-10s at Martinsville and leads the way with money won at $1,084,980. Bodine has four wins in 37 starts, while Gordon has won three times in only 14 starts at Martinsville.