Friday, May 21, 1999. Lowe's Motor Speedway The Winston. Chevrolet notes and quotes. DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "I see a lot of improvement on our team. We're finding a lot of things with our...
Friday, May 21, 1999. Lowe's Motor Speedway The Winston. Chevrolet notes and quotes.
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "I see a lot of improvement on our team. We're finding a lot of things with our RAD program in the aerodynamic department. It's really showing a lot of promise. I really feel good about what I see. I see us running better. We ran better at California. We ran out of gas out there, and that messed us up. We had a decent finish at Richmond. I think we should have been in the top four, and that just didn't happen. We had a lose set of tires. I see the program coming around. We're building a couple of new cars. Getting behind on the 2000 Monte Carlo hurt us I think. We were really geared up to start building those cars and have them ready in May, and that didn't happen.
"The car we're running in The Winston was a brand new car at the first of the year. We ran it at Las Vegas. We're tuning on it. There's some things we've been missing on this car. We had to pull it off at Bristol and run it because we crashed the other car. It was a backup car at Bristol. We ended up in the top 10 there. We've done some things since the test last week. We did not run good at the Charlotte test. I was really disappointed. We came back and unloaded and ran in the 29-second bracket. We were six or seventh tenths off of that in the test, so I feel good about what we've seen. It takes some time to turn the program back around. We sort of got behind and got the program out of shape. I feel good about our chances. The Winston is always an exciting night and an exciting show, and I feel good about our chances in it. I also feel good about our chances in the 600 because I've got a great race car for it, too.
"The 600 car is the car we raced at California. We were in the top 10 and ran out of gas. We should have finished eighth. It's a RAD car. It was being built when we were really getting down to tuning on the RAD cars. It put us behind. After the Atlanta wind tunnel deal and we didn't get the 2000 Monte Carlo, we jumped in there on the '99 and built a wind tunnel car. We found out a lot of things. This car was in the makings, but we were able to get a lot of new stuff on the car.
"I think our program with Richard Childress is on track. We're ninth in the points. We need to better that. Top 10s and top fives and wins are the only things that will do that. We've had some problem. The Atlanta race was a disaster for us. Give us that race back and we should be fifth or sixth in the points. We bounced back good at Richmond. I'm looking forward to having some good things happening.
"We've been tuning and adjusting on the 1 team (driver Steve Park). We made an engine adjustment. Richie Gilmore is in charge now. I've seen some morale difference and some good things happening there. We've been working several months with Park and Philippe's communications. Philippe did a great job putting the team together. When the RAD program came into play, we tried to focus and tune on our cars, and some things just weren't happening communication wise there like it needed to. The communication between Park and Philippe just wasn't there. There was an opportunity for Philippe up with Darrell Waltrip. We talked and made a decision for him to pursue something else, so that worked out good. This week, our engineer let us know he's going up there, too. I have a lot of feelings for Philippe because he's a good guy. He's got a great family. Derrike Finley, our engineer, came from New Mexico right out of college. He got in there and worked with the Busch team and the truck team and the Cup team and sort of helped us put the program together. Then he goes over there. I wish the best for him. Maybe they'll get together and Darrell will run good and have some success. We're working on some things, keeping our eyes open for a new engineer.
"Paul Andrews became available this week and within two days of that time he was working for us (as crew chief for No. 1 Pennzoil Monte Carlo team) here at Charlotte. That's a quick change, and we're already set on what we tested here, so we're going with that. He's overseeing it and helping us run the race and tuning and go from there. He hasn't worked on a Chevrolet. He's worked on Fords all his life. A race car is a race car. You've got four springs and four tires and some downforce, so he'll do fine.
"Park ran good at Richmond. I see promise there. I see the program turning around, and it needs to for Pennzoil and for us, too. A good run or a possible win is a great morale booster for the guys in the shop. The win at Talladega was tremendous for the 3 car. It's hardest to win than it used to be. It's harder to get back to that point where you can win consistently or be a contender to win every week. My confidence is a lot better.
"Looking at Dale Jr.'s program, the little rascal has given up 170 points in the last two races in the Busch Series. He's had two wrecks, and that's not good. You've got to finish races. You can't give up points like that. Hopefully he can rebound and get that program turned back around. Tony (crew chief Eury) and all the guys are confident they can.
"The Cup deal coming into Charlotte is a big week for him. One good thing about it is that he's not here for The Winston. He's off at Nazareth focusing on the Busch car. The Cup car is sitting back at the shop ready to go for practice and qualifying. That's a good plus. He'll get in here and do some press stuff next week. He's a young one, but he's handling it all pretty good. He's going wide open with all the guys and team. He's handling things as they come. I sit down and talk with him and see where his head is every once and awhile. He was the fastest here in testing, and that'll put a lot of expectations on him to do it again. That's the biggest thing. I think he can handle it. The good thing is he can come here Wednesday and not worry about the Busch car. If he does OK Wednesday, he can focus on the Busch car Thursday. Then on Friday, we don't do any Cup stuff, so that will be good for him.
"Jeff Gordon I think was that young when he jumped into Winston Cup. We're putting out showroom together at Dale Earnhardt, Inc. for the fans to come in and see things. We were pulling pictures out and putting pictures up. We've got a picture of Dale Jr. in victory lane with us when we won the 1990 championship. They said he was 16 years old in that picture, but he looks 10. In 1998, eight years later, he's the Busch Grand National Champion. That's hard to believe. It's unbelievable the way your kids grow up and the way things change over the years. I'm having fun with it, enjoying seeing him do what he's doing. The whole family is doing good. I'd like to see Kerry get something going, and he's got some things in the works. We're helping him sort some things out and maybe get something going for him.
"I was 29 when I came into Cup. I had already beat up and down the road in the sportsman division. I spent my money until I was broke. I didn't have nothing. It's a little different for him. Things are there for him. His team, his sponsors, things like that. I didn't have that when I started. He always says he had to work for it. He worked for it in the driving department and paying attention department, but he hasn't had to work for it and get it himself like we did. Things change. That's what you want for your kids. You want to be able to give them things they want and need. My dad wasn't able to. He passed away before I really got into any big racing other than outlaw dirts. I had to go out there and beg, borrow and fight the wars to get it.
"I don't know if his style is like mine. He's aggressive at the wheel. He drives the car every lap. That's what we've done in the past. You've got to do it now. It's too competitive not to. Everybody thinks you get started and get going and then hang around at the middle of the race and race at the end. Well, it's racing every lap now. It ain't like it used to be.
"We've talked about patience and things like that. Hopefully, he'll get the opportunity and everything will go right for him. There's pressure, but there's a lot of hope and investment in him as far as the sponsor and team. That's a big weight. To not burden him with that and let him be himself and try to grow with the team and grow into it is important. I'm experienced enough to know and to help and watch. If I see something that's coming down on him too hard or putting too much pressure on him, I try to tune on it and take a little off.
"We're good with Richard Childress through the year 2000. They're starting to talk about our 2001, 2002 and 2003 contract with Goodwrench. Things are going to start happening here soon as far as which direction we're going to go. If I can race good and win and feel good about myself, about my driving... I think I can still do it. I'm there. We keep tuning. We've helped ourself and helped get better and better. We've got to race in the top five and finish in the top five or top 10. You've got to win some races. I can't win just every once in awhile. I can't win just on speedways. You've got to win races. People want to criticize and score and grade you. The ones doing the scoring and grading have no clue what it takes to drive a race car.
"I'm pretty much feel like I'm a top-five driver. I can get in there and do it with them. I see this and I see the car turning around where we're running better and better. If the cars can do it, I can do it. You've got to have that attitude (when at any track). You've got to have that focus and belief in your team and car or you're not going to.
"I approach The Winston with a lot less pressure as far as the points and things like that go. You've got to calculate what's going on. You've got 20 cars. There's not a car that dominate over other cars like there used to be. There's been cars every year that's been more dominant than other cars. It's so competitive now, it's hard to be that car that can win that first 30, that second 30 and go out there and win that last segment. I've won all three segments, but it's hard to do. If you run the first 30 and win and go to the rear of that second one, it's harder to come back to the front.
"We can win Saturday night. No doubt. I was 10th fastest in the first practice, but the fastest was a 29.61 and I ran 29.99. That was a little more than three tenths. Last week, I was a second and two tenths slower, so I've closed the gap some. We've made up 82 positions in the past three races. That's pretty impressive. I didn't realize that. That's good and bad. That's one of the things that will be better here, what we've found out and what we've done and what we'll see in practice for qualifying. I think qualifying next Wednesday will be better. I'm hoping to make a showing."