NOTES AND QUOTES CRACKER BARREL 500 MARCH 12 * Michael Cooper, jackman for the No. 36 M&M's Pontiac Grand Prix, was taken to Spalding Regional Hospital for x-rays after being struck in the left leg by another car in an early race pit stop. ...
NOTES AND QUOTES
CRACKER BARREL 500
* Michael Cooper, jackman for the No. 36 M&M's Pontiac Grand Prix, was taken to Spalding Regional Hospital for x-rays after being struck in the left leg by another car in an early race pit stop. Pete Wright replaced Cooper for the remainder of the day at that position. Cooper was diagnosed with a sprained left ankle, was released from the hospital and returned to the team's pit area before the end of the race. His status for next week's race at Darlington is unknown at this time.
WARD BURTON, NO. 22 CATERPILLAR PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
"We just didn't get enough fuel in there. Once they realized they had to bring me in about 25 or 30 laps early. That was it. They got the car a lot better for me - a lot better than the way we were Saturday morning. So the changes everybody made were good changes. We didn't gave up. We earned that damn top 10. It's hard telling what we might have had. At the end we could have run with anyone except the 18 and the 3."
BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
"The first half of the race we were just trying to get the car set up to figure out what I needed to do to make the end of the race. We just made some air pressure adjustments there at the end and a couple other adjustments to free the car up a little bit. Even though it was a little loose in, it was still too tight off. We made those adjustments and got it better at the end. I just have to get in a groove here it seems like with these tires, and it just takes a while for me to get 'grooved' in. It's just one of those deals. We had a good run. Mike Skinner was probably the best. Earnhardt was probably next until Mike blew up and then definitely Dale was the one to beat after that."
(ANY DOUBT WHO WON) "I had no idea. I couldn't tell. So yes, there was an element of doubt."
(THE LAST LAP) "I was just running the outside in one and two better than I was running the outside in three and four. I could get up off of two better than I could get up off of four. So I was running through one and two high. On the last lap, Dale moved up a little bit. I still had a good run off the corner. It really 'bit' on the right rear and I had a run on him. I got right on his back bumper down the back straightaway. I knew he was going to go high because I had been running up there and it was just kind of how the trend had been going all day. I had no option but to go low. You really don't stick that good down low. But I guess I had run high long enough that my tires stuck a little bit better than I anticipated. I didn't even figure I'd get close to his rear bumper to be honest with you. When it stuck I got back in the gas as hard as I could and just used up all the racetrack I could to get down to the start-finish line as fast as I could. I just came up about a valance too short, two inches too short, whatever you want to call it. It's just one of those deals. I haven't seen the replay and don't really car to. It doesn't really matter to me. I just ended up a little short."
JEFF FULLER, NO. 27 VIAGRA PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
"Coming off the fourth turn I just got a little too close to the wall one time and slapped it. It was tighter after that because it kind of hurt the right front fender a little bit. But what really hurt us was coming down to one of those cautions somebody ahead of me ran over what looked like a fender or a piece of sheet metal. It hit us under the right headlight and stuffed it all in like six inches. It was a big hole. It was probably 18 inches wide. That's what really made the car tight. We started out a little too free for my liking and then got it real good. Then that third pit stop was when I think all that happened. But hey, 22nd? That ain't bad. We finished it and the guys did a really, really good job in the pits. I'm happy."
JOHN ANDRETTI, NO. 43 STP/CHEERIOS PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
"The team did a really good job. Unfortunately I got the fenders knocked in on it a little bit early. The car was pretty good until that happened. We could run good enough. We just couldn't pass anybody. We had one line and that was about the only place the car would run because I tore the front up."
DAVE BLANEY, NO. 93 AMOCO PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
"We had a decent run going and then we got caught about halfway. We pitted under green and then the caution came out just as we were getting back out on the racetrack. That put us two laps down instead of one. I felt like the rest of the day we were as good as anybody one lap down, or at least most of them. It just took us back more than we hoped. But overall we learned. We learned a lot. I got to run all day and that's what we need."
(MISSING THE DALLENBACH SPIN) "It was close. I knicked the wall a little bit. Then when Skinner blew up I hit the oil. Kenny Irwin was trying to slow down and I hit the oil, slid into him and turned him around. That was real close."
KEN SCHRADER, NO. 36 M&M'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
"We may have started in the back but we didn't intend to stay there. We didn't get any laps in race trim because 'Happy Hour' was washed out. We spent Saturday morning making qualifying runs. We just couldn't get the car good, but we made a ton of changes trying to get it better. All I can say is that we're going to Darlington next week and will do better."
KYLE PETTY, NO. 44 HOT WHEELS PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
(ON FUELING THE 60 CAR AFTER THE PIT FIRE) "After that incident happened with the 60, the guys on the 44 fueled them up. It's important to wear those helmets for the gas guys. Our guy, Seth Jenkins, just started wearing one today."
SETH JENKINS, GAS MAN, NO. 44 HOT WHEELS PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
"I wasn't going to be burnt up. I requested a helmet. It came today, too. Weird."
BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
"Congratulations to both Childress cars. Mike really had a great car today. We just didn't quite have enough. But I'll tell you we fought our heart out right there at the end. Dale and I both did. That's about the hardest racing I've ever done. It's fun racing with Dale Earnhardt like that. "That was great racing. There at the end we just came up a little short to Dale. It was just an awesome day for us. We started 22nd and had a good race car on long runs. We didn't have a good one on short runs. We were kind of surprised we were able to keep up with him there at the end."
(HIGH NUMBER OF CAUTIONS) "That really wasn't playing into our favor. Fortunately for us it was good enough there at the end. We just came up about two inches short."
(THE LAST COUPLE LAPS) "I really didn't have any major moves. On the outside I could run, but Earnhardt got me there at the end going into one. I had a run on him going into three just behind him. I figured he was going to go high to block my line so I just went low. It was just pretty dog-gone close there at the end. There was no laying back at the end. It's wide open. I was wide open for the green flag. It's just sometimes I could go and sometimes I couldn't. The 31 was probably the car to beat. We was real tough. The 3 car was going to be good. It would have been interesting there at the end. We kind of let it all out at the end."
(COULD HE HAVE BEATEN DALE UP HIGH) "I don't know. It's hard to say. My car was a little better in the high line off of two than his was off of four. I just really couldn't get a run off of four like I needed to except for the last lap there. I don't know if the high line would have worked for me or not."
(MANUFACTURERS BATTLE EVEN) "All I race is Earnhardt, and Waltrip and Mike Skinner and Tony Stewart and Mark Martin and those guys. I don't race manufacturers. That's NASCAR's job."
(TODAY'S RACE) "It was a good run for us. It was a great team effort. Positives things today are: it was a good race, I hope nobody got hurt - I heard Tony (Stewart) might have a mild concussion, I guess. We wish him well. I hope nobody was hurt on pit road. Mike Skinner had a great race car. It was unfortunate for him he missed an opportunity to win his first race. A lot of good cars had problems. Dale Jarrett had a problem. We just had a good run there at the end. There at the end Dale Earnhardt and I ran as hard as we could - high, low. It didn't matter. When Mike blew up we both about wrecked. It's just real exciting for me to be racing NASCAR Winston Cup racing with Dale Earnhardt running as good as he is and Mark Martin right behind you. It's just a good day."
(DID HE THINK HE HAD GOTTEN BY EARNHARDT WITH NINE TO GO) "Not really. I went into turn three and I could feel him on the right rear quarter panel. He kind of sticks to you, so my car slowed down a little bit, plus I got a little bit free, so I couldn't get back in the gas as good. When he took off he had a better run off the corner than I did. It's typical of what happens here a lot. I knew he wasn't going to give. It wasn't nine laps into the race. It was nine to go. I would have done the same thing if I had been on the outside."
(TIRES) "The tires don't feel good to start with, but after 500 miles they feel better. We didn't adjust our race car to it all day. We just adapted our driving style to it."
(WERE YOU LAYING BACK THE LAST EIGHT LAPS) "I was barely out of the gas the last eight laps. I was just flat out, as fast as I could go just to keep up with him. Just to have an opportunity to get close to him. He went through the corner so fast I could not catch him. He was just so fast through the middle of the corner. I could catch him on exit and sometimes I'd catch him on entry. But he so fast on new tires that one time he just blew by me off of four. That last eight laps we were just flat out. No holding back. We knew we didn't have many laps to run. We didn't need to worry about abusing the tires because it didn't matter."
(THE RULE CHANGE FOR THIS WEEK) "I don't really race race cars. I race the drivers. NASCAR makes the rules and they make the rule changes and political parts about it. I've got a great race team and we just work really hard. All I know is I race my race car as hard as I can and I didn't do quite as good today as I did last time here. Maybe next time I'll do better."