Atlanta Chevrolet Race Notes

Sunday, March 14, 1999. Atlanta Motor Speedway. Cracker Barrel 500. Chevrolet notes and quotes. DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "It got out from under me. I don't know, it was just one of ...

Sunday, March 14, 1999. Atlanta Motor Speedway. Cracker Barrel 500. Chevrolet notes and quotes.

DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "It got out from under me. I don't know, it was just one of those things. The car was driving too good to get loose. I don't think it got loose. It's just a bad time for us. We fought the car all week long and we changed the setup and had stuff under it like Skinner's got on his car. The car was driving great. I was making progress on the track. I don't what happened. It just got loose getting in turn three and I don't know why. The car had been perfect up until then. We hadn't had any problems. It was running good and driving good and all of a sudden it got out from under me and I lost it. It's weird. It's like something happened to the car, but there were no signs of anything happening to it."

WALLY DALLENBACH (No. 25 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "The Bud car was awesome today. It was working great on the bottom of the race track. You hate to give up a finish like that. I think something happened to the valve train. It can't blow up when you're running 30th and saving your butt all day. They've got to blow up when you're running good, but we've got more of that. It was definitely a top-10 car and probably a top-five car. That's the best car I've ever had here. It's going to hurt us in the points, but we've got lots of racing left. We'll be back."

GEOFFREY BODINE (No. 60 Power Team Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We had a great car and a great run going. It hurts to end that way, mentally not physically. I'm sure I'll be a little sore tomorrow, but I'm proud of the Power Team. To run this good with a team that's only a couple of months old, I'm just really proud of all the guys. We'll be back next week to try it again. I think I ran over something and cut a right-front tire. I was going into the corner and all of a sudden I was going straight into the wall. That's racing. We'll come back next week and try it again. You hate to see it, but it's just part of racing. To run that good, that's positive. I'm tickled to death. This whole team has something to be proud of. We're sorry it ended this way, but we're sure proud of the way we ran today." Sunday, March 14, 1999. Atlanta Motor Speedway. Cracker Barrel 500. Chevrolet notes and quotes. Page 2.

GORDON SCORES SECOND WIN FOR TEAM MONTE CARLO -- Jeff Gordon scored his second win of the season Sunday and the second triumph of the season for Team Monte Carlo. The victory allowed Chevrolet to pick up five points on Ford in the manufacturers standings. After the first four events, Ford holds a 28-26 lead over Team Monte Carlo. Pontiac is third with 22 points.

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "When the lights came on that thing was a rocket. I really committed myself to the bottom all day long. I was just wearing the right front out and getting loose and wearing the right rear out. I just could not get it to work down there. I found out my car was good down there for the first five or 10 laps. I saw some other guys that were using the outside lane, and that was the only way you could make that car last on the long runs. It was a little hairy up there a couple of times, but it worked. Bobby Labonte drove a great race. He pushed me hard the whole way. He got up there in front of me the last time after that pit stop and I thought we were in big trouble. That's one thing about Ray Evernham and these Rainbow Warriors and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, whether it be the chassis or engine department. They go to work where we feel like we need help. We needed help at Las Vegas. We won the last race here, now our goal is Texas. If we can run good at Texas, we'll be in good shape. "That was a great win for us. We have not been the best here at Atlanta, especially at this particular race. I felt really good about the car all weekend, but when they dropped the green, Skinner and Bobby Labonte and a couple of other guys were better than we were. I didn't know if we had what it would take to win today. We just kept working on it. Ray and I just kept talking. There were times I had no idea what to tell him to do. It was pushing, it was loose, but that outside groove really saved me. It brought my car to life. I could run at the bottom a little bit, then I would get up to the middle and high groove and boy that thing would come to life. Any time you pull into victory lane, it's a special occasion. This team showed a lot of adversity today. We weren't the best car all day long, but by the end when it counts, we were. That's what makes these Rainbow Warriors championship caliber. "Other than our little fault at Rockingham, and sometimes you can't control that, it's been a stellar start to the season. We just hope we can be consistent and right now, having two races win is big. We're excited about that. It'll carry some momentum into the next few weeks. Right now what we want to do is make sure we don't have any problems and don't do anything dumb and try to be the team we've been and try to improve a little bit."

MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "Our Lowe's Chevrolet was awfully strong today. The alternator went out or something with the ignition and the battery went dead in the car. They had to come in and change a battery on the pit stop. They did and got us way back and we hurt the motor somehow. It was unfortunate because I think we had the car to beat today. The 24 and 18 got a little racy up there, so we just sat back there in third and wait until the end. If we had anything then, we'd show it. We're ahead of last year. We had a good Chevrolet today. That thing was awful sporty. It's a Pontiac race track, but a Chevrolet won the race. Jeff Gordon is awfully tough. Congratulations to them. I think we had a Chevrolet as strong as anybody today. We had a great engine under the hood. That thing was awfully strong. All the guys back in the engine shop just keep on pulling and keep on digging for us. "There wasn't much sense getting real racy the way the car was at the end. We come in here and all the fenders are still on it. That's a start. You've got to do that, and you've got to top 10 'em to death. If we just keep getting top 10s with this Lowe's Chevrolet, I think we'll be in pretty good shape. It's a tribute to this race team. It was a stupid part failure that happened today. It wasn't anybody's fault. The alternator went out, the battery went dead and we hurt the engine and the ignition real, real bad. We put a new battery in there, but it's about dead right now. We just didn't have any engine left at the end of the day, but the car drove pretty good all day. We put those two tires on at the end, and it got real, real tight. That let Dale Jarrett get by us, but he's a hard racer. It's an honor to race with Dale Jarrett and Mark and these guys. We're a long ways from where we were. "We wanted to win this race, lead the most laps. We wanted to show them. We knew we were strong. Yesterday was wrong. It was a bad call. Shame on NASCAR for doing that. I'm very upset about it. I'm behind NASCAR 100 percent. I love this series, love being here, don't get me wrong. But they were wrong. If they're mad at the Winston Cup drivers for winning all the Busch races, they need to pick on the one that's winning the most of them. That's my neighbor. "Never say never. We thought we had it today, but I'm satisfied with this finish after what happened. The alternator went out on the car, and when that happened, running the engine on a real low voltage, we either harmed the ignition boxes real, real bad or the engine itself. They got a battery back in the thing, but it just wouldn't go after that. The car drove, the guys had great pit stops as usual. We thought we had something to prove today, and we thought we could win the race, but we didn't. We're on a top-10 streak, and we've got to keep it up. Darlington is a tough place for this race team. If we get out of there with a top 10, I think that'll be a statement in itself. "I don't think a year ago our pit stops are as sporty as they are now, but I think we got beat out of the pits once or twice today, but those guys are tough. That's how you finish good in the points. I'm not saying this is a championship team, but if we keep on doing what we're doing, we should get a good finish in the points this year. We've just got to stay out of these wrecks and keep the fenders on this Lowe's Monte Carlo and keep getting the top 10s. I can't be displeased with this finish today. "The caution came out and the pit crew did a hell of a job getting it fixed. We'll take a top six out of this deal. We probably should have lost a couple of laps, but we didn't, so you've got to be happy about that." Sunday, March 14, 1999. Atlanta Motor Speedway. Cracker Barrel 500. Chevrolet notes and quotes. Page 4.

LARRY McREYNOLDS (Crew chief No. 31 Lowe's Monte Carlo) "I'm practicing optimism here. When I look up on the scoreboard and there's 90 laps to go and our battery is dead as a door nob and we finish sixth, that's a good day. That's what you've got to do. You've got to take bad days and turn 'em into good days and you've got to take good days and turn 'em into awesome days. They knew the 31 team was here today. I'm proud of the way this team responded. It could have been a disaster. The caution was the whole deal. We were down to 15 laps before we had to pit. We were probably going to go ahead and get four tires and a battery. That would probably have put us down a couple of laps. Otherwise, we were going to be in big trouble, but the caution was right there for us. I think will go to Darlington with a lot of confidence. I'm proud of him. He's focused and he's on the money right now. He showed it yesterday in the Busch race. He showed it today. An unfortunate incident happened on the Busch deal yesterday. You've just got to keep going and take 'em one at a time. Those five cars that we raced today, they're the ones we've got to beat. The 24, 18, 6, 88 and 99. That's the ones we've got to outrun and keep stride with all year long. We've been consistent. That's four top-six finishes and that's what we've got to keep doing. That's what championships are built around. If you keep doing that, a win has got to come. It can't help but come. The 24 and 18 were good today. We got a little bit better, and they got a lot better. I felt like we could outrun the 6, 99 and 88. I'm anxious to see the results of the wind tunnel and see what needs to be done. It's been a year since they've done this, so I think the timing is right to do it. "Mike Skinner knew that wasn't the reason he won that (Busch) race. I think he knew he had a good car and had the ability to run Atlanta, Georgia good and I think his confidence level showed today that it didn't bother him. He hated it. I'm very sorry his first American soil NASCAR win, other than Late Model and trucks and stuff, was overshadowed by a disqualification, but I'll bet he'll be on a mission at Darlington next week in that Busch car and in that Cup car. They don't need to just roll over. They need to appeal. If it was a blatant deal, if it was too much compression, if it was too big an engine, if it was any of those things, but I felt like basically they came along and wrote a new rule with what they had done. It's unfortunate NASCAR viewed it as they did and took the win away from those guys. T&L and those boys are very reputable engine builders. It wasn't some fly by night deal. I hate it for those guys, too, but you've got to pick up and go on. That whole group will be on a vengeance at Darlington, and that'll be a little bit in our plus, too. "We've got to stay focused and keep taking it one race at a time. The next race is Darlington. We've got to go and do our job on qualifying day. We're starting up front. You can't start in the rear and win races. Eight times out of 10 you'll get tore up trying to get up there."

MICHAEL WALTRIP (No. 7 Philips Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "The last run we had was the best the car had been all day. We had an oil temperature problem, so I had to back off to make sure we could make the engine live. Once I knew we had that under control, I could go after those guys. It worked out. We took two tires on the last pit stops. It was a great stop and got us in position for another top 10 finish."

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "It's shocking to me to hear back-to-back wins at Atlanta. That is saying something for us. When we struggle somewhere nobody dislikes more than we do ourselves. That's just another area that Ray and the guys go to work on, and I go to work on. It all really came together with the test we had here with Goodyear last year. I started trying different things. Ray and the guys made the car better. We had confidence for the first time coming to Atlanta and it showed here in November. That confidence carried into today's race. We qualified better and we were pretty good all day long. We weren't quite as good as we were in November until the end. I think maybe the rain might have had something to do with that. We started a little earlier and we were tight and kept it on the bottom. I think that outside groove really helped me come along. This has turned into one of those tracks where I'm really looking forward to coming here in November. I never used to think that way for Atlanta. "You find this with a lot of tracks that go through a repavement process. There's a lot of grip in that new pavement and now the newness of that pavement is starting to wear off. It's starting to act more like the old Atlanta, even though it's faster than it ever used to be. I remember running second or third here one time up next to the wall. By November, we'll be up next to the wall. It had a good bottom groove and a middle groove and a top groove. It seemed like you could run on the bottom with new tires and then search around and move up top. Once that top groove came in for me, it turned our whole race around. "I have grown up racing at night a lot. As Ray knows, I'm not an early riser. I was here at Atlanta at 7:30 Tuesday morning so I had to get up at 4:30. As I get older I start waking up a little earlier, but on race day I'd like to come around a little later in the day. "I think the first time I really noticed it was when I saw Geoff Bodine running up there. What it does, you can run through the middle a little faster than the bottom. You really don't carry a lot of momentum and speed down there. I was struggling down on the bottom, and I was hoping somebody was going to come up with something better on the top there. I was dying to get up there, but I kind of wanted to see some other guys run up there first and make it work. There toward the end, I started battling with Bobby and Jarrett and Skinner to get up there and try to lead, I worked the bottom on new tires and it worked. I took the lead. I remember one time where Bobby Labonte followed me by Mike Skinner. I had just passed Bobby and all of a sudden Bobby started coming on me real strong. I saw him running a higher groove and I just moved out there to block him and take that line from him. I found out why he was running up there. "I noticed his (Bobby Labonte's) car on new tires all day long was a little bit loose. I was really good on new tires. As the run went on, even on four tires, his car seemed to get better and better and my car started to get too tight. My car was pretty good on fresh tires, and I was able to run up on him and it looked like he was struggling a little bit to get around the 98 car. That held him up a little bit and I got up there to him. I was expecting for him late in that run to run me back down like he had with the other situations with the four tires, but we got in some lapped traffic and things went my way. I put some distance between us and I never saw him gain on us from there on."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Mike Skinner , Ray Evernham
Teams Hendrick Motorsports