Friday, March 10, 2000 Atlanta Motor Speedway Bud Pole qualifying for Sunday's Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500 Chevrolet notes and quotes. DALE EARNHARDT JR. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "Our cars are turning down in the ...
Friday, March 10, 2000 Atlanta Motor Speedway Bud Pole qualifying for Sunday's Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500 Chevrolet notes and quotes.
DALE EARNHARDT JR. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"Our cars are turning down in the corners a lot better. We're actually on occasion too loose. That's something we haven't been able to do all year long. We've been trying to free it up, free it up, free it up and try to get the car to turn. Right now we're about where we need to be. It's really cool. I'm hoping we continue to qualify well because that's really helping us with our finishes. We're behind a little bit on our race setups and qualifying I think has helped us finish better than our car actually has shown. Just like last week at Vegas. We messed around with the car and got it handling bad from the first few runs in the race. We had about a 20th-place car. Qualifying well helped us finish better than we probably would have. It gives a boost to the motor department. Those guys really try hard on these qualifying motors. It's a new company, the third year and the motor department has kind of been pieced together through those three years.
"We should be able to run fine Sunday. We had about a 12th-place car here last fall. I think we've got a car that can run in the top 10 this weekend. We didn't know if we had motor problems this morning, so we worked with Steve and some engine men that work with both teams. We tried to see what he was running, the shocks he was on, our springs in the rear of the car are similar to Steve's. The front springs are way different. We did bolt on a lot of stuff he had on this morning.
"I think it's an indication. Speed has shown up more than the last couple of weeks, and there's a lot more Chevrolets qualifying up front. I think it's improved the car tremendously and it's going to help a lot during the race. We actually pulled some of the angle out of the nose for qualifying because with the tape on the grill, it's a little bit too much. We pulled it back in some. I was pretty careful about voicing my opinion if I even had one on the downforce subject and wind tunneling the cars and things because I don't have that much experience or knowledge to speak intelligently about it, but I'm pretty happy about what's happening.
"If we don't run as well (Sunday) as we did today, it's because of something we've done as a team and nothing against the aerodynamics of the car. The car is definitely better balanced."
TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"That was better than we had been. We had been really fighting it since we unloaded. We changed the steering box before qualifying, and I think that was what was hurting us. You're going to have to run the race to tell about the rule change. I don't know if you can tell anything about it during qualifying. The race on Sunday will be the big test. It should be better. We were so far out of balance."
RICK MAST (No. 41 Big Daddy's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"That's the best lap we've made since we got here. The car the first time out was 15th fastest, but we taped it up and made a qualifying attempt and weren't able to pick up any speed. We got something out of kilter chassis-wise. We just haven't got it worked out yet, but we're in the race. The track was a little quicker in qualifying than it was in practice, so that helped. Now we'll just get ready to race."
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We'd been running good all day. We're disappointed. We thought we had a car that was capable of running for the pole. We turned a lap that we thought would be good enough for a top five. It wasn't a perfect lap. We were good in turns one and two. I pushed a little bit in three and four. When we did that, we didn't think it would be good enough for the pole. To watch my teammate go out and beat us by just a little bit, it was good. We figured we might have a Dale Earnhardt, Inc., front row, but Dale Jarrett with his experience here at Atlanta or his Robert Yates horsepower beat us all out. We're thrilled. We've got a good starting spot.
"We've been trying so hard to get a pole here. I've had some of my best times here. We qualified second last year, and we've had some of our worst times here. I was sidelined for so long. Atlanta really has a lot of good memories for me more than bad memories. I love the race track and we run real well here. We were hoping to get our first pole here, so we could say we've had our best run and worst run here. People ask me what goes through my mind when I come to Atlanta. I have memories of qualifying on the outside pole last fall and now having one of our second best qualifying efforts. We've got a great race car in the Chevrolet Monte Carlo. With the rule change and having the nose pulled out a little bit, I don't think that shows up in qualifying, but we're looking for a better race car in the race.
"That's my old Busch team (8 Winston Cup team). I get along good with those guys, and I get along well with Dale Jr. It's an easy mix, working with those guys. They've been like family to me the last three years. I'm proud to be a part of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. If we can keep these cars running up front like the Gibbs team has done in the past with Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte, we could say our two-car team is a success.
"Us young guys are putting the pressure on him (DEI boss Dale Earnhardt). Maybe he's going to have to step up to the plate and perform a little bit. He's ready to race. He did a lot of race stuff this morning, feeling the rain was going to come in and wash out tomorrow's stuff. He might not have a leg up on us qualifying, but I'm sure he's going to race good. He always does. We have a little advantage. We came here and tested tires and did that mostly in race trim. That black 3 car is still going to be tough.
"We've been working real hard to get our first pole. That was a little disappointing being fastest in practice. I wasn't so disappointed in having the 8 car knock me off the pole, but I couldn't think of a better car to knock me off the pole than my teammate. We were hoping after that we'd have a DEI front row, and then Dale Jarrett snuck in there. Maybe we'll just have to go back and work a little harder.
"This team has done a great job. They've stood behind me. Last week at Vegas we had a hard time losing two motors, but that shows how tough these guys in the engine shop are. We have an awesome motor for Atlanta, and we're going to put last week behind us. I love Atlanta. We like to come here and race. I guess it just kind of fits my style."
KENNY IRWIN (No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"The car was good. I must have just left too much on the track. I guess you could run the car harder than what I did. It was pretty good. I guess I just left too much in turns three and four."
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I thought we were on it. Our time coming to the flag was really awesome. They said we were off a little bit in one and two and the car got a little bit loose in three and four. I knew that was going to cost us a little bit. I had no idea it was going to cost us as much as it did. We just didn't get any rpm's for some reason. We drove in harder. We might have got caught on the gear a little bit, but we'll race 'em from there. We're in the field and we don't have to worry about qualifying now."
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"We made a few changes for qualifying trying to get it to turn a little better, but I finally started to drive the thing. The tires don't give you a comfortable feeling. At a place that's as fast as this place, you want to be comfortable. I just realized you're not going to feel comfortable. The motor shop has been working hard, and that was a good run for us. I'm pretty happy with it. We were pretty far off in practice. I talked to some people. I've never really qualified well here. I think you can drive this place so many different ways. I decided I was going to drive it a little different in qualifying and it stuck well. The car has been there all day, but I wasn't driving it like I should have been. The tires don't give you a comfortable feeling, but when I drove it harder, it felt better. We'll see what happens on the longer runs. They should be better. The rule change should help. We'll find out a little more when we start practicing for the race. We needed something to get the front end stuck better so we could set up the car the way we wanted to. The balance hasn't been there, but this is the first step for that."
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"The car really drove pretty good. We were damn near wide open all the way around it. We'll just have to work on something else. We picked up about two tenths from practice. They've got a bigger tire here, and it's made everybody loose. It really made us loose with the downforce. Some Chevys have the noses out and some don't. I think we'll get a better idea about things in the race."
JOE NEMECHEK (No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"That wasn't a bad lap. I didn't think we had a shot at the pole, but I thought we'd pick it up some. I held it wide open in one and two. I got too tight getting in the middle of three and four and had to back out of the gas. It cost me some time, but it was a really good lap. Qualifying is hard. Hopefully when we get in the race mode we'll have something for them on Sunday. I think it (rule change) is going to help in the race. I don't think it's the answer, but I think it's going to help."
JERRY NADEAU (No. 25 Michael Holigan.com Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"That was the best I could run. The car ran great. It's been good in practice. It'll give us a good starting spot for Sunday. I actually think we've got a better race car than qualifying car. The guys should be pretty proud."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo)
"We practiced this morning for race setup in case it rains tomorrow. I feel pretty good about that. We got two runs in in qualifying trim. That was our third run and we improved two to three tenths each time we ran. If we could run again, we could probably run a flat. You always worry about starting in the back, but hopefully we'll race to the front. Hopefully if it rains tomorrow, we'll be in damn good shape. If it rains tomorrow, I'll feel better because these guys don't have any practice in race trim. It's too early to tell about the rule change, but the car is better on the entrance to the center of the corner. It'll help our balance. That's the important thing. I don't know if it's total downforce or not. It's balance. The 8 and 1 did a great job today. It says a lot for all of them, the engine department all the way down. These cars when they changed the rules Monday, we put the cars on plates side by side. We changed the noses for the new rule and tried to make them as good as we could. We'll see if the 1 and 8 can stay up there and see if I can get up there to 'em."
KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"That is how tough this sport is. We had a good lap and we were two tenths off the top 25. I am very proud of our team, once again they closed the gap between the leaders and us. We were half a second off the lead, and this time we're just three tenths off. The car was a little tight. We were running a little loose today, and we overcompensated. The changes we made for qualifying sent us in the right direction, and we plan to incorporate that into our setup. We did something today that Jimmy (crew chief Elledge) and I have never done, and that was qualify well in Atlanta. That means a lot to this team because it is a step forward in the right direction.