Sunday, March 12, 2000 Atlanta Motor Speedway Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500 Chevrolet notes and quotes JERRY NADEAU (No. 25 Michael Holigan.com Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We were really biding our time. The car was running fifth or...
Sunday, March 12, 2000
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500
Chevrolet notes and quotes
JERRY NADEAU (No. 25 Michael Holigan.com Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We were really biding our time. The car was running fifth or sixth and we could see the leader right in front of us. We were talking on the radio what we were going to do for changes. The car was getting a little tight. We went into turn one on the same lap we were going to come in and pit and the motor just let go, no warning. This is three times now in four races that something bit us. We had a top 10 car at about every race we've been in so far. It's pretty frustrating, but I know I'm with a good race team, and I know we're going to win races. We're a brand new team, and I'm new with these guys. We're just going to work our way up and take what we can get and get some good finishes before the end of the season. We're still trying to make these cars (Monte Carlos) turn. I still don't think they're as good as the Fords or Pontiacs. I'm not the one to talk to. A lot of other Chevys are in better position. The way I look at it, I'm still a rookie. My best finish in points is 35th, but now I've got a race team I know can finish in the top 10 or 15 in points. It's too bad this happened to us.
"The tires are OK. It's scary, no doubt. You've got to know how to hold on and when to catch the car. The car seems to break loose. It seems to wiggle more than it ever has, but it's a good race tire. Goodyear came with a good tire. I don't see anyone popping tires. That's good.
"I thought there was some good racing. Some cars were way off, and then there was some fast cars and a lot of passing. This is a good team. This team can win races. We got caught with bad luck today. This is three times that something has happened to us this year that was out of our hands. It's too bad. We should be in the top 15 in points right now, but we know we've got a good race team and we know we can run up front. We just need to take this like it is and go on to next week at Darlington and try to sit on the pole and win the race.
"The car was great today. We worked our way up to the front and led some laps. The track got a little bit tight there, and we were a little bit too tight. We were going to come in and make and a change and get it better, but the motor let go.
"The guys did a good job and worked hard all winter long. These guys are good. They've got good race cars. We had a good chance to finish in the top five today, if not, we could have won the race."
TONY FURR (Crew chief No. 25 Michael Holigan.com Mont Carlo)
"We were going to loosen the car up. We were just about half a tenth off. We didn't need to make a big change. The car was better today, but we still need more. We were fighting tight. I've been working hard trying to get the balance of this car right the other way. The rule change has helped us some, but we still about 20 or 30 more counts. I don't think it hurt the rear end of it because we're still tight. The Chevrolet boys have kept their heads high and worked hard to get their cars balanced like they were before. Now that we've got just a little bit, it's really showing up right now. When they take the cars to the wind tunnel, they'll see the Chevrolets aren't balanced yet. I finally got me somebody that will mash the gas and drive the cars the way I like to set them up. That's all I can say. That boy has done a hell of a job all year long. I've had some real good runs at Darlington, and I think Jerry has, too. We'll see what happens next week. Maybe we can get a break to go our way for a change."
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"No warning whatsoever. I ran the Lowe's Chevy just as hard as it would go all day long. This thing was awesome. You were fixing to see about an 85-foot wide Monte Carlo there for the next 20 laps. That's all we had. The thing came up about 20 laps short. I'm proud of the engine guys and proud of the guys in the fab shop at RCR. It's a brand new race car. The first lap it hit on this track was the first fastest or second fastest. They did an awesome job all weekend. We struggled a little bit qualifying, but it's a pretty stout old car. I don't know what I've done, but I'm sure sorry. I've got a monkey on my back.
"I'd crash my mom to win my first race. Dale did what he had to do and I did what I had to do. It's nothing he wouldn't have done to me. He's my teammate and I wouldn't wreck him. It was too early in the race to be wrecking anybody, but I blocked him and he was probably a little further alongside of me than I thought, but looking at the bumper, he wasn't too far up there. He raced me clean when the shoe was on the other foot. He gave me plenty of room. My hat's off to Dale Earnhardt. I sure hope he wins this race. He's been an inspiration. A few years ago I figured they were going to name this place Earnhardt Speedway because he won all the races here. Then this kid Bobby Labonte came along in this damn Pontiac and we've had trouble with this guy. I thought we were going to put the Lowe's Chevy in victory lane today, but it wasn't meant to be.
"I needed to keep it together for about 20 more laps. We had an awesome car, especially on short runs. When we got that last caution there, I said, 'man, this thing is just falling into our hands.' We ran hard all day and stayed focused all day. The pit crew, what a great pit crew. These guys did such a good job. The fab shop did a great job putting the body on this car. I can't say enough about them. Larry McReynolds kept me down in the seat all day. He pretty much turned the reins loose on that last green flag. We were going to have about an 80-foot wide Monte Carlo for the next 20 laps, but it wasn't meant to be today.
"I appreciate him (Dale Earnhardt) racing me as clean as he has. He could have wrecked me. I blocked him and he knocked on the door and let me know about it. The next restart we were better, and he didn't block me. He let me go. He knows how bad I want to win my first race, and he was a great teammate today. I'm pulling for him to win this race. I can't say enough about the whole organization right now. We'll be at Darlington and we'll try harder there."
KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We were really loose at the start and got the car tightened up. We were running about 23rd and blew a hole out the bottom of the oil pan. I think Chevys are more competitive. We've just got to get a setup for them now."
JIM LONG (Crew chief No. 60 Power Team Monte Carlo)
"A spark from a lugnut started the fire. The gas man (Joe Ward from Uniondale, N.Y.) and the catch man (Jimmy Penland from Asheville, N.C.) caught fire, but NASCAR does a real good job making us wear safety suits and these guys go out of their way and it paid off today. They didn't have on helmets, but I'll bet they will next time. He (Ward) did not get burned. He just swallowed a mess of fire extinguisher and they're flushing him out."
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"After last week losing a motor, it put us pretty far down. To be able to rebound like this will definitely help us pick up some momentum. It makes a statement that the Pennzoil team is here to stay. We ran competitive at Rockingham and weren't able to follow it up with a good run at Vegas. To be able to rebound at Atlanta and get our first top-five finish, it was everything we set out to do. I'm just hoping we can keep it up. This new Chevrolet Monte Carlo is running pretty good, too. You see a lot of Bowties on the board, but it's mixed well with the Fords and Pontiacs. I think right now the balance is pretty good the way it is. We'll see what happens after the wind tunnel, but I think we've got something to race with now. The 31 and 3 were pretty strong. They could take off on new tires. It took us awhile to get up to speed. We were better on old tires. Right there at the end, I figured it was going to be a shootout, then the 31 blew up and we were lucky we didn't all crash because it laid a pretty good oil slick down. It was a heartbreaker for the 31, but it was great to see the bossman win. I think the racing was good today. It was the old Atlanta where you could run at the bottom and run up high. It seemed like the bottom was the fastest way again. The middle was real fast. It's just Atlanta. It's a great place to race.
"We'd like to win, but if we can't, it's not bad seeing that black 3 win it. We're excited. We're thrilled to death. I almost don't know what to say. I'm pinching myself with a top-four finish. We knew the team was strong. We knew the communication between myself and Paul Andrews was good. The guys back at the shop have been working hard. We went from blowing up an engine last week to finishing fourth this week, so the engine guy kept digging."
JOE NEMECHEK (No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We worked real hard. To get a top-five out of it, we'll take it, especially here at Atlanta. This place has been tough for me the last couple of years. We've run good, but it seems like we always break. We've had good races all year except for one. We ran bad at Rockingham. We ran good at Daytona and we broke. At Vegas, we ran good. It's neat. It feels good. I know I can do it, and I know the team is capable of doing it. We've just got to get everything going together. I feel good. It's a good day for racing.
"It's Atlanta. We're going so fast here. We've been working hard all year, and I'm looking for good things out of this team. It just takes time to put it together. I think the rule change helped us some, but it's hard to judge it off one race. Earnhardt ran good and Skinner ran good. The last race last year here, they ran up front also. I'm just glad I finished. Skinner had the best car, but a lot of times the best car doesn't win. He'll have another day.
"We had a guess setup in it, and we didn't adjust on it much all day, so it was a pretty good day. We were junk in practice and guessed on the setup. We guessed right. The team is pumped up. We'll get a boost out of this."
RICK MAST (No. 41 Big Daddy's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We survived. Our car wasn't the best, but we lost two laps. We had a wheel come loose and had to make an unscheduled stop. We were on and off with the chassis all day. It was probably a top 15 car at best if we hadn't lost those two laps. Maybe we could have worked on it and got it a little better if we hadn't lost those two laps, but we'll take it and go to Darlington."
TODD BODINE (No. 91 KMC Telecom Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I just had got a good line and I was getting a rhythm and I slid in there too hard and brushed the wall. It was my own fault. That didn't hurt the car. It didn't bend the tow or anything. The deal that hurt us was Tony Stewart's deal. He got loose in front of me. If I checked up I would have run right in the side of him. I just kept it wide open. His nose caught the right front and messed the tow up a little bit. It still wasn't bad after that, but the last set of tires didn't match up quite right.
"It's amazing your car can look like this and come home with a seventh-place finish. We had some problems. I got in the wall and Tony spun out in front of me. All-in-all for an unsponsored car, of course we had KMC Telecom on this week, it was a great deal for us. We're still looking for a full-time sponsor. Joe Faulk has been a great car owner in this sport for a long time and he deserves to have a good sponsor. He puts good race cars on the track. Mike Hillman and the crew did a great job today.
"I enjoy Atlanta, but you've got to have a good race car. I've got a good feel to get that kind of car at Atlanta. It might have been a little luck involved, too. We only got 45 minutes in the morning practice Saturday. We made some guesses this morning off what the Busch car did last night, and it worked. The car was really good. I went to sleep about midnight last night after the Busch race and woke up about 9 this morning.
"Right now, we're talking about racing at Richmond. Joe isn't going to run every race. We're going to test. The last time I ran for Joe at Richmond, I ran really good, so we'll try again. My goal every week is top 10, so to come here and finish in the top 10 with a team that really shouldn't be in the top 10 or top 20 for that matter, to come home seventh is pretty awesome for all of us."
BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak Max film Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"The car was a little loose in the middle of the track, but it evened out the longer we ran. The guys did a great job in the pits. I didn't realize our car was on fire when I left the pits. I was just trying to get out of there. They told me on the radio there was a fire on the back of the car, so I came back in and they put it out. We went back out under caution and I saw it on the big screen TV. I felt like we made a step in the right direction today. I wish we could have got a top 10 out of it, but I'm happy with the results. If we'd had 20 more laps, we could have been there."
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"I think next week will be a better judge when you get on a race track like Darlington. It should tell us more about the front downforce. We had something that was capable of winning today. Skinner had the best car, especially on short runs. Bobby Labonte seemed to run him down on long runs. We were pretty good on long runs, other than the time we had that problem with the right rear. My car was so good at the end, I wish we had been on the lead lap. We could have had some fun, and we did have some fun today. This is a great boost for us and our team. We came in here wanting a run like this. The results are still a little further down than we want, but we're getting there. I'm always going to want more, but I think the new nose helped today. It's tough out there. It's very competitive. It was nice to get on a track with three grooves and being able to run and pass."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo)
"NASCAR is doing a better job each week to make the cars competitive, and I think it showed this week with all three makes being competitive and racing well. The 99 looked like he was a pretty strong car until he cut a tire or whatever happened to him. We were racing them and Bobby and Mike Skinner and everybody. It was pretty competitive I thought. To start off with we had a pretty good car, but it was awful loose. Our first pit the guys adjusted and it helped me a lot. The car started coming along and we started working our way toward the front. Then we finally got up front and were racing with the guys. We were adjusting and going through the motions there and being competitive. I felt pretty good about what we had. I felt like when it came time I could go harder than I was going. I was just trying to be around at the end. I was running up under Skinner on one of those restarts after a couple of laps and he got against me and turned me down toward the apron on the back straightaway and sort of bent my right front fender. We had to go back in the pits after that caution and had to come back from back in the pack again. The car was a competitive race car and it would come to the front and work well. It was good on a 25 or 30-lap run and then the car would get too neutral in the corner and a little pushy off. If we had just a little more balance I think we could have been more perfect. The car was pretty good. Mike Skinner blew up getting into turn one and we got through his oil and didn't hit anything. We just about got in a wreck there. Then it was just to race Bobby Labonte. I got after it as hard as I could there at the end and ran hard. I found a pretty good line through three and four. In one and two I was on the bottom. In three and four I was up a little bit. I held him off. It sort of seemed he was waiting, biding his time. Sure enough, he made his run there on the last lap and got close to beating us. It definitely wasn't a boring race.
"I felt like I did beat him. When we were getting close to the line, I looked over and his car wasn't really side by side with me as far as looking into the driver's door, the right door, so I felt pretty good about what our chances were that we beat him out by a nose.
"I was racing for all I could get and for all it would do. I was just driving the car as hard as I could go and giving it everything I had. It was just that time of day. It wasn't time to take it easy. I knew the tires were going to have to last. I knew I had to get all the yardage I could on Bobby because Bobby would be better on a longer run.
"I thought we had a good race car in practice. We felt pretty good about it. We started out and were real loose. We put a rubber in on the right front on the first pit stop that we had taken out and adjusted it a little bit with wedge and track bar. It was pretty good really. That was really a pretty good balance for us. We adjusted a little bit as we went, really not a lot after that. We were really afraid to do too much one way or the other because we were worried about one set of tires being too tight or loose. We just sort of stayed there and it worked out for us. We had a consistent race car once we got all the fenders knocked back out straight and quit running over things.
"I think I've never been as determined as I have every year. I work hard trying to stay focused on the job at hand. Richard and everybody in the garage will tell you there's a lot more going on than there was in the '80s. There's a lot of things happening in that garage area now that used to not happen that a driver has to contend with."
"Life itself, I have a lot of things going on outside this race team and Richard does, too. How do you focus on all of it and keep it going in the right direction? You've just got to have good people and you've got to also keep your eye on what got you there. That black 3 car got me there. That's the ball as far as I'm concerned, and I'm going to keep my eye on it.
"I was hoping the strategy would work that he would run hard enough that his car was a little tighter and that's why he was running the high lane. I think he was just really saving his stuff. He made one last ditch effort to run as hard as he could. I felt like that was my best groove, the center of the race track. If I had gone low I would have been neutral in and maybe too tight off and he was right there on my bumper, so I just had to run the groove that was best for me and my car. Maybe he was a little bit looser and he couldn't run up under me. I think I took the lane I needed to take. It worked out anyway.
"We weren't too good at Daytona this year were we? We've been running pretty good since, at Rockingham and Vegas. I think Vegas would have been a better race for us if we had got a restart and been able to adjust the car back like we had it at the start of the race. It makes you feel good, but we've got a better race car to race with. The balance is better on the car than what we had. We just need to keep tuning on it and see what's left. I think NASCAR is taking them to the wind tunnel today. They'll get some more data and see what's going on there.
"I was angry about bending my right front fender up. It was a little early to be racing like that. I don't know what his (Mike Skinner's) thoughts were. I was under him coming off the corner. As I was coming off the corner, he kept coming down, coming down. I just kept going and finally we got together. I was past the stripe on the inside. It just didn't need to happen at that stage of the race. We had two good race cars and it could have torn 'em both up right there. It probably would have been over for Richard's teams. We got through that and we were fine. I even told them on the radio on the restart when I was in front, I said, 'hey, if he wants to come up here and lead, I'll let him lead. Tell him to go ahead.' I felt like after awhile I could get back by him, and that was my plan if he blew up.
"I still think they messed up a good race track when they put this dogleg in the front of it over here. That's their choice. They bought the race track and they can do what they want to with it. They can charge what they want to for the seats. It's a good race track. It was a great race track before. It's an OK race track now. It's a lot different than it was. That dogleg is not a favorite of mine, neither here nor Texas."
RICHARD CHILDRESS (Car owner RCR Chevrolet Monte Carlos)
"It feels great. I knew all along if we could just get Dale in an equal car, same deal, we can win races. It proved it today. You saw a Chevy, Pontiac and Ford finish. It was a good race. It was a good race for the fans and everybody involved. I think the key was when Dale was able to stick in there with six or seven laps to go and he drove off in four over there sideways or however it got on him and didn't let Bobby get by him. I think if Bobby had gotten by him at that point, we might not have passed him back. That was the key to winning, and this man right here can still win plenty of races, and we ain't forgot about that championship, either."