Saturday, Nov. 6, 1999. Outback Steak House 200 NASCAR Busch Grand National Race. DALE EARNHARDT (Owner No. 3 ACDelco Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I was really proud of him (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). I was proud of the whole team all year long....
Saturday, Nov. 6, 1999. Outback Steak House 200 NASCAR Busch Grand National Race.
DALE EARNHARDT (Owner No. 3 ACDelco Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I was really proud of him (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). I was proud of the whole team all year long. They're all excited. They're going to take this car and go to Homestead and try to win the race. I'm excited for them. We can move forward now.
"At the first of the race he was wanting to lead a lap. I told him to be patient. That's all I said, and it wasn't long until he was out there and led a lap and got some points. I couldn't believe Matt faded there at the end. He had been pretty strong all day long. I thought he would be stronger at the end with some adjustments, but Dale Jr. got by Spencer and ran second. It was unbelievable. I would have liked to see him win the race and done it all in one. It would have been good.
"I'm proud of him and Tony and all of the guys. They work really hard down in that Busch Grand National shop. They ran five Winston Cup races this year and built three race cars other than the Busch cars and a lot of Busch cars have been through there, too. They work really hard. You see all of the guys right here. We're missing one guy that does all the work on both of those teams, so Tony's got a good group of guys and they're dedicated guys.
"I hope he keeps his head screwed on. He's got a lot of future ahead of him. He's about four or five years younger than I was when I won my first championship in Winston Cup, so if we can get him tuned in here and get him going pretty quick, maybe we can win some races and some championships with him. Somebody needs to get up there and race Gordon. I must be getting too old.
"It's really hard to do it back to back, but Tony and the guys were pretty confident they could do it if they just stayed out of trouble and kept Dale Jr. calm. He did. He did a good job. He kept his head about him all year. He had a lot on him this year, a lot of pressure from doing the Budweiser Winston Cup thing and also the ACDelco Busch Grand National thing. He had a lot of pressure on him and a lot of people pulling at him. He's weather it good. He's done a good job.
"He shows patience when he needs to, and today at times he needed to show patience and he did. He knew the car was there, but if he ran it too hard it wouldn't be there. He's coming around. He's worked hard and when I got him in the race car, he did great. I'm very proud of him."
MATT KENSETH (No. 17 DeWalt Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We did the best we could, but we were just off a little bit all day. We were real tight at the beginning of the runs. At the end of the first run, we weren't real, real bad. We never quite hit it right this weekend, but the car could run in the top five. It was my fault. I made the call to loosen it up. After the caution and cloud cover, we were just too loose.
"These guys work hard all year and our goal is to win the championship. To get beat two years in a row by the same guy it hurts, but on the other hand we've had a good year. We've got to go to Homestead and do the best we can and still try to finish second in the points. Jeff Green and Dale Jr. are both real tough competitors to beat.
"Disappointment is disappointment I guess. I'm real proud of all these guys. Robbie Reiser has given me a great opportunity here. If we can hold on to second, that's nothing to sneeze at I guess. Everybody wants to be a champion. That's what we work real hard at, but throughout the year we Saturday, Nov. 6, 1999. Outback Steak House 200 NASCAR Busch Grand National Race. Chevrolet notes and quotes. Page 2.
MATT KENSETH (No. 17 Dewalt Chevrolet Monte Carlo) haven't been consistent enough. I've made more mistakes as a driver than I made last year. We've had other problems, failures and accidents and things like that. We did the best job we could. We performed better than we did last year. We just had a lot more trouble and that hurts the point standings.
"If you're going to get beat, you might as well get beat by the best. Dale Jr. is the best in the Busch Series right now. He's got the most wins the last two years and he's a two-time champion. It's the only two years he's run, so it's hard to argue with that. To finish second to him or third or wherever we end up after Homestead, I guess that's not too bad. I definitely wanted to win it, but we gave it our best shot and just came up short."
DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 3 ACDelco Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"He had greatly improved on his car from practice. I was surprised how he ran in the race, but me and him were about a straightaway apart for the majority of the race. That was due to track position. We rarely came out of the pits side by side or together. It was quite interesting. I thought we were going to get a few more cautions than we did. This is really ironic how you get around it. It's a four-wheel slide for life through three and four. If you've got your car too tight it won't go fast, so you have to run through there sideways to be as fast as these other guys. I don't think Jimmy Spencer ran a lap straight and the same for the 15 car, but those guys have been around here hundreds of times. They know that's the way to get around here. It took me awhile to get used to that style of driving, but it was either run like that or possibly not make the top 10. It was quite interesting, but I enjoyed it. We were able to make some adjustments and try to improve our car without making it too tight to get through the corner and still hung around the top three there.
"The deal with that is, I didn't want to get labeled a points racer. It's early in my career. Early in your career you're going to pick up labels, good or bad, and I didn't want to be labeled a points racer, so I went out there and ran hard but we ran smart. We didn't drive the right front tire off and fade back to the rear or nothing like that. There were times on new tires, I could have run my car a lot faster, but when lap 40 or 50 or 60 came, I would have suffered on tire wear because of that. I had to conserve my tires so I would be just as fast as these guys at the end of the tire run or after 50 or 60 laps. We just tried to stay up toward the front. My guys got me in and out of the pits good, especially the last two weeks it's paid off a lot. It really paid off at Memphis. We had like a fifth or sixth-place car and I came off pit road first. The only guy better than me I could tell there at the end was (Jeff) Green, so obviously he wins the race. The same thing here. We were a good car. I thought we were just as good as Jeff. We just needed to be in front of him, but there wasn't any way we were going to get by him. That's just the way it is.
"I was going as hard as I could. Those guys, I thought, from where I was sitting, I was better on long runs than some of the guys up front. I could tell when we had run 70 or 80 laps on a set of tires that I was catching them. I'm thinking I've got to go because he may fade here at the end. We kind of chased him (Gordon) down a little bit, but I think he was just kind of chilling out and just doing what he had to do.
"We won the championship last year and there wasn't a lot of pressure to win it last year because we were rookies. If we had lost it, that was our excuse. When you win the championship, people as well as yourself, expect you to run like champions every year or the year after. So that little added pressure is there. I feel like at times during the year, I made some mistakes that cost us some points. When you see the guys working hard at the shop and doing things to get you the best race car you can have, you want to put it up front. There at the end, I was trying to put ourselves in position to lose the championship, so the pressure was getting kind of bad. We went into Memphis and came here to Phoenix, we tested at both places, worked hard to get our car pretty comfortable and it's worked out in our favor. That's just the way it happens."
"I was looking at Winston Cup Scene this morning and I was looking at the statistics. In the first 12 races, I had three top fives. I don't know why. I don't know whether I just didn't have my game plan together or didn't have my head into what I was doing. We just weren't clicking along. All of a sudden, we won three races in a row. We felt like, OK, we can be consistent every week and it started happening. We started putting a championship run together and got ourselves in position to be where we are right now. The first part of the year was just terrible. Wasn't nothing happening for us at all.
"They probably want to sit down and do that (establish goals for 2000 Winston Cup season), but I don't. I don't know if I can do what he (Tony Stewart) has done. We have a good team, and we have a lot of common sense and things like that that are going to go our way, but we don't necessarily have a lot of notes and a lot of depth and knowledge on setups and what the car is going to do on long runs at each track, what each track does. It's going to take us awhile to learn that. It's going to take me a tremendous amount of time to get used to the cars. I've driven four races now, and I can tell where I stand and how long and how much more I need to be comfortable and be able to be competitive. I don't feel like it's going to match what he's done. It might not even get close to what he's done, but I'm going to have fun doing it.
"I wanted to go into that Series (Cup) as the champion of the Busch Series for a lot of reasons. There were probably 40 other guys out there that wanted to be champions. We had a good year. Back to back, I never thought... I ran four or five years of late model cars and won three races out of about 115 races. Maybe I'm a better driver than I give myself credit for, I don't know. That's it. I'm sitting here. I feel like the team was ready for it. Those guys were going to win championships. They're just a great team. They put together an awesome race car. I'm just a lucky guy to come along at the ri ght time. Dad said, 'OK, I'll put you in it.' After about three years of tugging on his shirt, he finally turned around and gave me a good answer.
"I've never previously been in a high-pressure situation like that before. Me and Matt are great friends, and that's why I'm so competitive with him on the race track. It's like racing with your brother. To get out there with my dad, that's the guy you want to beat. His car is one of the strongest ones out there. When I go run Cup, I look for him (Jeff Gordon). I go try to run against him in practice. That's good and this is where I'm at. We know how much work we've got to do. We're just real competitive. That's the last guy I want to lose the championship to (Kenseth). When he closed it into 81 points going into Rockingham.
"I'm terrible at that place. I just don't like going there. We even ran good during the race and I figured out a way to screw it up. We always do it at that place. It's not a good place for me. He runs awesome there. I expected to come away from there with a smaller lead and that's what happened. The next couple of weeks, I didn't sleep too well, I didn't eat good. You can't stop thinking about it. He's won Winston Cup championships and I can sit here and think, well, this ain't no big deal. Probably 10 years from now I'll look back on it and say it's nice to do but why was I so worried about it. It wasn't a high-pressured situation. Right now, it's as tough as it's gotten for me so far."
"That place owes me a little bit (Homestead). We ran pretty good there and had motor failure. It's the first one we've ever blowed up, the only one we've ever blowed up. I look forward to going there. We're going to take this car back to the shop. I tried to put some doughnuts on it today but I didn't get any opportunity. We're in a company crisis. This is supposed to be only a one-race deal with superman, then we're going into the millennium cars next week with kind of a chrome finish. I told them I would just donut the sides of it and they'd have to paint it, but I didn't get to do that. We're going to go home and do a little body work and get ready to go."
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 Pepsi Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"It took a little while for the car to come in and then we were awesome on the long runs. It surprised the heck out of me because I wasn't very good in practice. I guess we just didn't run long enough. It was a great effort. I'm really excited we put this team together. I'm really excited to decided to run six races instead of just five. This really meant a lot to these guys and it'll really go a long way in the off season with this team as we prepare for the 2000 season. We'll have some good sponsors come together, and we want to do some more races. That's why we did this race. We wanted to get these guys more experience and get them to the track as much as we can. It all fell together for us. It was a great effort.
"I saw him (Earnhardt Jr.) a lot in my mirror there at the end. I didn't know if I was ever going to be able to get away from him. It looked like Spencer got sideways there pretty bad in one and two. When that happened, the whole race changed.
"I went over to Dale Earnhardt's one day. We were leaving and he said come over here and look at Junior's car. He's getting ready to go up to Watkins Glen and drive this thing. It was the Gargoyles car. I went over there and had this old beat up car sitting there. Junior is sitting there and he's telling me a little bit about the car. I look at Senior, what do we call him, Dad, Big E. He gets mad when you call him Senior. I looked at him and said, 'what are you doing giving him this stuff? Put him in something good.'
"He had this big, long shifter and stuff on it. He went up there and drove the wheels off the thing. I think he might have led and drove in the top five and maybe broke or something. Right then, I knew how good a driver Junior was. I did watch him run some late models there at North Wilkesboro. We sat down on the wall a couple of times and talked about it. There's nothing wrong with the way he meant about it. They made him work on the cars and learn the cars and go round a lot of the short tracks. I respect him for going about it that way, but I really respect his dad for going about it that way, also, making him work for it because he is Dale Earnhardt Jr. He could have had the best stuff right from the beginning, but he wanted to make him learn. I think that's why he's as good as he is today.
"You've got to drive a Busch car a whole lot different than you do a Winston Cup car. I've definitely found that out the last couple of days. You've really got to run the Busch cars loose and you've got to run them extremely hard in and through the corners. In the Winston Cup car, you've got that horsepower to fall back on and you've got to roll the car through the corner and squeeze on the throttle. It's definitely taken me some time to adjust back to the Busch cars this year. I wasn't prepared to run the cars as hard as you've got to run 'em. I don't know if it's going to translate much over to the Winston Cup race. I kind of searched around for a few different lines and maybe it will work for me tomorrow. It's so hard to say. You wear the tires out a whole lot different because you've got so much power in the rear. Plus we really don't get to run a practice after this race, so we're pretty much making all our adjustments off the Happy Hour today and not necessarily off of what I learned today. Who knows? Maybe what I learned will help me during the race tomorrow. We'll see.
"I didn't go in (to Winston Cup) as a two-time Busch Grand National champion. Your rookie year is tough. There's a lot of pressure you put on yourself and you want to do good so bad and you want to live up to all the expectations that are out there. Obviously, he's got the talent. He knows how to get the car around the race track. A lot is going to fall on that team, too. They've got to put the proper equipment and a good motor package underneath him. It's just one of those situations where you've got to have the whole package. Dale Earnhardt Inc. had done an awesome job with building their teams up and they keep getting better and better. I'm sure they're going to be able to have a good package underneath him next year.
"He (Spencer) was running pretty hard, and I noticed he was kind of loose earlier in the day. I was able to gain on him in the long runs. I'm glad the caution came out because I was getting ready to go back to third or fourth before that caution. My car was loose. We thought we tightened it up and we just kept getting looser and looser. We were able to make some pressure adjustments on that last pit stop that really helped the car. Spencer got by me there at the beginning, but I saw he was running the car extremely hard, running the car sideways. I was just waiting to see if he would make a bobble or if maybe I could just stay there with him and see if I could get something done on the last few laps. He drove real hard down into turn one and as he turned that thing in the middle, it went completely sideways. Only Spencer can save a car that's that sideways. As he gathered it back up, I carried a lot of momentum off there and I was going to go to the inside but then I thought the outside might not be a bad idea. I went to the outside and I was able to get around him. He and Junior got to racing one another and it just helped me get out there and extend.
"My car did start to get loose there at the end and I got some lapped traffic that was kind of tough to get through. When he and Spencer got to racing one another, that helped me out a lot. Ray is trying to let Patrick Donahue do more and more because he knows eventually Patrick will be the guy, especially if Ricky (Hendrick) is running races or if somebody else is running races. We're trying to give him more responsibility, but he's been there the whole time and was on the radio with me throughout the day.
"It's not the first time (getting upstaged by an Earnhardt). Sometimes you don't mind taking a back seat. He deserves it. He's done a great job.
"We're always trying to get better, especially at the tracks where we don't run well. Right now, I can't wait to get back to Texas. It's driving me crazy that I've wrecked there and that we've blown tires out there or whatever has happened. I want to go there and run well. It's the same thing here. Even though I haven't had the greatest finishes here, and I haven't won here, that challenges me very much to do that. We changed some setups for this race because we know what we've had in the past hasn't worked. The last time we were here we weren't bad, but we weren't the best car. I was really happy with the qualifying effort yesterday and pretty happy with the practice today. Maybe we can finally get us one here.
"I wouldn't go that far. I like going to Darlington. I like going to the tracks we run well at, that we can throw our basic setups in there and just fine tune on it. That's where I prefer to go. This is a tough race track. I don't care how well you run it, this is a very tough race track to get around. It's one of those things where you'll be driving around the track and everything feels great and the next thing you know you go into turn one and you go almost completely sideways and about spin out and you go, 'where did that come from?' This is a very tough track, but I'm looking forward to getting that first win here some day."
TONY RAINES (No. 74 BACE Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
NOTES: Raines finished 20th Saturday and clinched the Busch Grand National rookie of the year honors.
"I don't know if we surprised ourselves. We kind of came into the season with high hopes and big expectations. It's a pretty tough series, especially when you've got to run against guys like that. It's a learning experience and I'm real proud of the team. We worked hard and didn't have a sponsor most of the year. We gave 100 percent each race and tried not to wreck and be consistent and it's paid off. We certainly dug in and did the best we could. We would have liked to finished better but there's quite a few competitors behind us that would trade places with us."