Cracker Barrel 500 Atlanta Motor Speedway March 14, 1999 Note: This is the third consecutive race in which Pontiac has earned second-place manufacturers points. It also pushes Bobby Labonte to second-place in the NASCAR Winston Cup point ...
Cracker Barrel 500 Atlanta Motor Speedway March 14, 1999
Note: This is the third consecutive race in which Pontiac has earned second-place manufacturers points. It also pushes Bobby Labonte to second-place in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. Labonte has three consecutive top-five finishes.
BOBBY LABONTE (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix): "These guys did a great job today. Yesterday afternoon we weren't quite as good and we made some changes this morning. We were definitely better than we were yesterday afternoon. The car was good. Right there at the end it was just one of those deals where our two tires didn't work for me. I'm not very good at that anyway. I can't ever make two tires work. I got out there and didn't hit my marks right and I might have hurt the right-front a little bit trying too hard. I just didn't run the right line for a few laps there and Jeff made up a lot of time. I had trouble getting around a car and when I finally got around him it was too late basically. "We could have taken four tires but I think we would have lost a lot of track position. We ended up taking just the two thinking that would be the thing to do. I wouldn't change that again. My car just didn't work quite as good. Jeff's worked awfully good today and mine was just a bit off of his when we needed to be right. We did the right thing by getting two that's for sure. "I think that his car just got better towards the end. He probably just took care of it first part of the race. He was steady. I saw him back there all day. He was right there. I think he just got stronger. I can't remember lap times enough if mine gave up more or whatever, but we were able to keep up with him when he got by us, but he was a little too tough there at the end. "I think Jeff's car looked the best. It was probably the best car when it counted. Mike was fast for a long time there, really fast. He drove his heart out. He had problems and when it came down to it, Jeff's car looked pretty stout to me. "My car was too tight on two tires and I couldn't get on the right line that I needed to get on. We changed air pressure one time and wedge one time and track bar one time, just one round. Nothing really. "We led a good part of the race. I've got to think about last fall when we fell out of this race and finished dead last. We didn't run that good to begin with (last November) and we qualified decent. In the race we battled a lot of stuff. We came back this time and did a test here with the same tire they had here last time. We were kind of buffaloed by that last time. We were able to qualify on the pole and we finished second, so we can't be too disappointed. That one time I checked out on that long green flag run I was thinking, 'Well, I wish this was the end of it.' It never worked out that way. I can't be too disappointed. That's the way it goes. If we keep finishing these races in the top-10, well, finishing them is what we've got to do. The guys have been doing a great job together. We've had good runs in the last three races and can't really complain about a lot. We're very fortunate right now. Hopefully, we can keep improving. We can deal with this today. We're getting better. We definitely improved."
Note: Tony Stewart nearly captured his first top-10 finish today, getting passed by Michael Waltrip with two laps remaining. Stewart finished a career-best 11th.
TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "It was a combination of things. We got behind on some stops. We could run with those guys, we just couldn't get by unless we broke their momentum. We had a good car all day and the guys did a good job on the car. I made some mistakes. I picked the wrong line at some times and some lapped cars cost me some spots. It was just a long day. "I was a little disappointed to come in the pits fifth and end up 11th on the race track. That's part of us all being rookies and we're going to learn. We took a chance by not putting on tires and thought we could save more time that way and it didn't work, so you live and you learn. We thought we could have a quicker stop by just putting the fuel in and not taking the time to change tires, a four second stop versus an 11-second stop. We figured we were better off saving those seven seconds than we were taking tires. "Guys weren't even in my mirror and then three laps later they were right on my bumper. Chad Little races you hard. He just races you hard. I just feel like I'm one of the guys at this point. I just go out there and do my thing. I don't worry about whether I'm proving anything. I've got to go out and do my job. Chad and I raced hard all day and I think I gained a little respect from him because in the middle of the race there was a period where we were a little quicker than he was and he waved us by and let us go on. I like to race guys that way. "There were good cars up front. I felt like the motor laid down in part of the race and then it felt like it got a little better in the middle and end of the race. Track position was really critical here. It's so hard to pass. You could get a run on a guy and two laps later you're still behind him and in the meantime somebody else gets by you because you got freight trained. It was just a tough race today. I learned a lot. "It was a good points race for us. If we can go out and just keep being consistent, that's the key. The two races we ran the full distance and didn't have any problems, we've run 11th and 12th now. These guys are working real hard and they're putting great cars underneath me. Hopefully, we can just keep doing what we're doing. We've got good momentum right now."
Note: Ward Burton captured his second consecutive top-10 finish with an eighth-place run today.
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Pontiac Grand Prix): "We just couldn't seem to find that happy medium. It seemed like all day we were either too tight or too loose. The guys didn't give up and we were just a little bit off, but off enough that it hurt us. We were better than a lot of them, not quite as good as a few. I really thought we might be better than we ended up being. We blew a motor during happy hour yesterday. That always hurts you. We never did get the chance to make a long run during that last practice, so we had to guess as best we could."
BILL DAVIS, owner (No. 22 Caterpillar Pontiac Grand Prix): "We just couldn't fix the middle. We were so loose in the center of the corner. Anything we did just made it too tight, especially off. We just could never get a good balance. But even on a bad day we still got a top-10. We finished eighth and that puts us 10th in points, so it was a good day. I don't think anybody can complain about the rules. I think the rules are just fine, I really do. We'll know some more in a couple of days after the wind tunnel test. From a competition point of view, I don't think anybody can complain."
Note: Ernie Irvan captured his second consecutive top-10 finish with a seventh-place run today, coming from a lap down at one point to do so.
ERNIE IRVAN (No. 36 M&M's Pontiac Grand Prix): "We kept working on it. I was better on the long runs. The Hendrick motor was real good and everything was there. Right now we just have to find a little more to build on. We raced back on a caution to get our lap back. The car kept getting better each stop. We kept working on it. Right there when we put two tires on, that was the best the car had been all day. I'm not real sure what else we can do. We're going to keep working on it. We're still learning what we need to do with the Pontiac body. We need to get our pit stops faster and we just need to get all our stuff just a little bit better. You can argue with the Pontiacs' success today.
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 STP Pontiac Grand Prix): "We did a whole lot of chasing and not a lot of catching. The guys worked hard and we did all we knew to do. I guess it just wasn't enough. After a day like today, well, it wouldn't bother me if we could run Darlington tomorrow." RICH BICKLE (No. 45 Lucky Dog Pontiac Grand Prix): "We're missing just a little bit somewhere. We're good enough to figure it out. We made some shock changes and got the car pretty decent. We're still not where we need to be. It's going to take some time for this team to really get clicking. There were some guys out there that were just as bad if not worse than us. You've got to look at it that way. A lot of guys were out to lunch."
BUCKSHOT JONES (No. 00 Crown Fiber Pontiac Grand Prix): "I started feeling bad on Saturday and I know a lot of people have had the flu, so I just think I am coming down with something. I just started to get more and more congested through the race and had trouble breathing. I hate it for the guys. We had a good car and a great start to the race. We'll be back in Darlington."
DERRIKE COPE (No. 30 Bryan Pontiac Grand Prix): "I'm OK. I'm just awfully sore. I'm sore from yesterday and this just adds insult to injury. We struggled all day with the Bryan Foods Pontiac. We were tight to start with and then we got it freed up and we got it too loose. The motor just wouldn't run. We tried to get the car freed up more in order to run the high side and it was loose coming in. Sure enough, I caught a seam going into turn three and the car just turned around on me."