Sunday, Nov. 21, 1999. Atlanta Motor Speedway. NAPA 500. Chevrolet notes and quotes. KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I don't think the car is hurt that bad. It was hurt just bad enough to keep us out a little bit. We...
Sunday, Nov. 21, 1999. Atlanta Motor Speedway. NAPA 500. Chevrolet notes and quotes.
KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I don't think the car is hurt that bad. It was hurt just bad enough to keep us out a little bit. We had to put all new lower control arms on the right front. I don't know if the rear end is bent bad or not. I was passing people on the outside and had a run going. I got into turn one a little too hard and a little too high. I got in the gray and lost it. I had an excellent car. I'm a little upset with myself, real upset with myself. I had a real good car. I just needed to wait for the track to come in and I didn't."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo)
NOTE: Earnhardt started 36th in Sunday's 43-car field and worked his way up to 21st by lap 67. There's a new crew member going over the wall for Earnhardt and the Richard Childress Racing team today. Ned Yost, third base coach for the Atlanta Braves, is working as the second gas man.
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"Our new Chevrolet (2000 Monte Carlo) is going to help us quite a bit. We've got to make a lot of adjustments over the off season because we lost our pit crew and Ray and a couple of other guys. We weren't really prepared for this at the end of the season. If you're not perfect, you're not going to be able to win races. We were fortunate enough to win the first two out of the box (without Evernham) and we're still pumped up, too. I believe in these guys. I believe in Brian Whitesell. He's making some great calls. We were gaining on it today, slowly but surely working our way up through the field. The track was a lot different than any of us thought it was going to be. I guess we broke a rod or something and that's what put us out.
"I'm glad I'm not out there. A bunch of idiots are out there. We haven't had any engine trouble all year long. Unfortunately it happened today. It might have happened on a good day though because I'll tell you what. Those guys are out there driving not too smart, 190 mph is not something I want to play around with. Some guys are making it three wide any time they want. It's one thing at Daytona. It's not very smart here at Atlanta.
"The track conditions caught us all by surprise. We knew it was going to be tight but we had no idea it was going to be that tight. That outside groove really came in. We were running pretty good up there. Michael Waltrip was probably one of the strongest cars up at the top, but I was pretty happy with it on the long runs. We just gave up too much track position.
"When things aren't clicking and there's distractions, it's hard for things to go your way. I'm looking forward to the off season to get this team back on track. I feel really good about our efforts and everything we're going to have for the 2000 season. We didn't expect this to happen late in the season. We've been dealt some things we didn't want. I think we've done a pretty good job, and I think we're going to be pretty strong. These guys will regroup in the off season and we'll be ready to go next year."
TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I believe Michael had a left rear tire flat. It broke loose with him. He saved it and it went back the other way and shot straight up the track. I hit him a ton when he came back across the track. I'm fine. Michael got off the apron and over corrected. He shot back up the track. I hit him pretty hard. I hope he's going to be OK. I know he is. I talked to him a little bit. They're going to check him out, but he got his bell rung a little bit. I don't know if he'll remember me talking to him, but I was just thankful to see that he was in good shape."
BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak Max film Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We got to pushing a little bit and then we got that fixed and that's all we had. We had to race pretty hard to get up to 10th. We were a little bit better than the 3 car, but we ran out of time to catch him. Our pit stops were great. I don't think we had a bad stop all day. I knew if we had a fifth-place finish we could catch Terry Labonte for 12th place in the standings. We gave it all we had, but we didn't have quite enough today. We'll work hard during the off season and come back strong next season. Congratulations to Dale Jarrett. He didn't have enough to catch that Pontiac today, but he had a great season and I know he'll represent the sport well."
WALLY DALLENBACH (No. 25 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I hate to see this year end for one reason -- the team. They have worked hard to give me the best car I've ever had. We were just too tight today, no matter what we did it just wouldn't turn. I'm off to Africa in about a week. I'm really looking forward to that and then getting the 75 team turned around. We have a lot of changes in mind for that deal."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo)
"The car was terrible and we changed everything we could with it. We worked hard and didn't give up. On the long runs, we'd go to pushing. We were just too tight. I wish we could have won the last race of the century, but we didn't. We'll just have to go win the first race of the next century now."
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We could run with them, but we were just a little tight. My car liked to be out front. It ran good out front and turned good. When we got behind some other cars we got a little bit tight. We started to adjust on it and free it up a little bit. We got a bad set of tires just past the halfway point of the race. On one pit stop we came out third and they put us back to sixth or seventh. I don't know what line they were looking at, but we were the first car to leave pit road. It doesn't make up for it. If our car was good enough, we could have got back up there.
"I feel pretty good, but I'm a little disappointed. I thought in the early stages we were going to have a car capable of running in the top five pretty easy. We got behind on a pit stop and just couldn't make it up. We got to adjusting on the car and couldn't get it to turn as well as the Pontiacs were turning. My car liked to lead. It would haul butt out front, but when I got behind somebody else I got a little bit too tight. We're happy to come out with a 12th-place finish. We thought it could have been better, but we moved up a spot in the points and really ended the year on a high note.
"The second half of this year was the first time I'd been to most of these tracks with (crew chief) Paul Andrews. We can come out of Atlanta with a little bit of a smile on our face and know what we need to come back. We're looking forward to the 2000 Monte Carlo. NASCAR might need to look at the rules to kind of even things up. Starting last and coming back up and winning the race, I think the Pontiacs were sandbagging a little bit this weekend.
"We flexed a little bit of muscle here at Atlanta. That's what we needed. We're not here to ride around in 15th place. We're here to win races. A little more time and we'll be up in the top 10 and top five and get our win."
DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I had a lot of fun today. This Cup racing is fun. I had a ball. We were tight and we kept trying to loosen up the car. We weren't getting there, but I was happy. We kind of struggled there at the beginning, but we got the car running a little better. We had a lot of fun racing Rusty. We stayed on the lead lap most of the day. I went in the pits and messed us up. It cost us a lap. Jerry Nadeau was in the stall behind us and I was trying to get in there before he came out and ran in the side of us. I went in there too hot and just slide through. The car cut off. I had to back it up and we just had a bunch of problems on that stop, but I was still pretty happy. We qualified in the first round for all of these races, and the car has run good. The car has driven pretty good. We were as good at the end as everyone else was at the beginning, so that's how behind we are, but I think it's just a matter of time where we can work on the car during the race and make it better.
"I know the guys are going to wear themselves out in the off season trying to improve on the pit crew. I hope the new car is going to be better, but I haven't really had the experience to tell any difference in it or what's good or what's bad. I was a little skeptical about this track, but as the race kept going I got more comfortable. We got a top 15 out of it and I'm looking forward to next year. I've gained a lot of confidence this year, and I feel like I've improved as a driver. I need some more time in these cars to get better. I'm glad we took the chance to run these five races. This has really helped me. It takes longer to get used to the Cup cars than it does the Busch cars. We'll have a little head start on next year."
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I'm not going to cry about it. We had the best Chevrolet at the end of the day and finished first in class. But you know, last night I thought we had the car to beat. I really did. I thought it would be us, Bobby Labonte or Mark Martin. Those three cars I thought were awfully good. All three manufacturer's cars. The 31 car was awesome last night in Happy Hour. It was the best Happy Hour I probably had all year. I slept good and thought I could win the race. We just got tight, lost grip and came up short. Same old story. You've heard it 15 times this year by 10 or 15 different drivers. We just lose grip on long runs and can't run with them.
"Being as I about broke my neck two or three times at Texas, Goodyear's decided to have me do the tire test. So we're going to go to Texas and do the tire test for Goodyear with the new Monte Carlo in a week or so. Maybe it will give us a little bit of a head start on what's going on.
"I just can't thank this race team enough. We've got an awesome race team. The guys did me a great job. I screwed up all day on pit road. I was terrible on pit road. I stopped long every time. But the guys worked hard. Larry McReynolds, Richard Childress, Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, Chevrolet and everybody that's helped on this race team all year. It's a start. We're going to be a little bit better next year. We'll get a little bit better table at the end of the year next year."
LARRY McREYNOLDS (Crew chief No. 31 Lowe's Monte Carlo)
"It's a good news-bad news deal today. The bad news is first in class at Homestead was sixth and first in class here was eighth. I don't think the two races before that was much better, either. Not even a top five in the last four races for a Chevrolet, but '99 is done. Congratulations to Dale Jarrett. Being the Winston Cup champion ain't got nothing to do with what kind of car he drives because he's going to be an awesome champion for our sport. He's probably going put most of our past champions to shame with what I know about him.
"I'm proud of this race team. We came in today thinking we had a shot at winning this race. It's hard to beat those guys. We knew Bobby Labonte was going to be tough. We saw it yesterday. I know he struggled on Friday. We had our problems on Friday. We can put a check mark on the wall. We're in the top 10 in points, but we've got to raise the bar. We can't be complacent for another top 10 in the points next year. We've got to go into Daytona and try to move that bar on finishes and top 10 'em and top five 'em, and if you do that, the wins will come.
"This is a pretty solid race team, and I think we've got just about everybody coming back. We may still lose a couple of people. In this business you never know. I've compared this team a lot to the early '90 Yates teams. Everybody pulls together, no finger pointing, nobody saying I told you so, nobody back stabbing. It's a good, solid race team. I know when Richard Childress made the change a year and a half ago, I thought my career had probably bottomed out, but I'm pretty proud he made that change.
"I'm going to work hard in the off season, but I'm going to spend some time with that wife and them kids. They've had a tough year this year with dad and husband trying to do the 31 team and trying to start his own team. They play second fiddle as it is, but they probably felt like they played third and fourth fiddle. I ain't going to let that happen. They're going to play first fiddle for about two months.
"I'm nervous about the new car. If I told you anything else, I'd be sugar coating it. It's as good as what we've got, and I guess that's good. We're just fixing to hit the race tracks with it, but I'd like to see it a lot better than what we've got. We're going to work hard this winter and get it ready. I'm a little nervous about the drag at Daytona. A good run at Daytona can make or break your momentum. We want to go down there and at least think we're even with what the competitors have got."