KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I thought there was still more in the car in the second lap and I went for it. The car was sticking good. If I had known what I ran the first lap I would have quit. I knew it was pretty ...
KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I thought there was still more in the car in the second lap and I went for it. The car was sticking good. If I had known what I ran the first lap I would have quit. I knew it was pretty marginal coming off turn four on the second lap, but all of a sudden it went off on me. It didn't get loose in the middle or coming up off the corner. It was right up on top of the straightaway. It just broke loose on me. The first lap was pretty uneventful. It was just as fast as I could go. The second lap, the car was still handling good. You know the first lap is always the lap here, but I saw some guys scuffing tires, so I kept going and I tried to get too much out of it. Sometimes I get a little out of control. Coming off four, I knew the car was borderline, but I thought I could carry it across the start-finish line. I got to turn four and got to that patch and it was over. I knew I was wrecked, but I guess my unbelievable talent just saved it (said while laughing). My brother Rusty and Little E and a lot of them came up here and tested. Rusty said they had the same setup. We came back with our same setup and we learned some stuff. We're going to take last year's setups and change it just a little so maybe we can get some better long runs out of the car. These high-banked concrete tracks put a lot of G-forces on you. You try to get your car handling as good as you can for qualifying and the first 30 laps of a run. Once the tires start wearing out, the track is normal. It's just like anything else. You hold your breath for the first 20-30 laps.
"I'm already making a deal with Jeff (Gordon, who qualified third) to let me in on the start. He said he would because he hit me in the rear last week at Darlington. It's a good thing I'm a good driver because I saved it. We were just making a deal for him to let me in on the start.
"Bristol is a real good track for us. We qualified third and sixth here last year and finished 11th and 16th. This is a new team as of last year, and I'm an old driver. We got better. Congratulations to Steve Park. He did a great job. I got everything out of my car. I know that the first lap is the lap you get it done here at Bristol. With the new tires, a lot of guys in practice were going quicker on scuffs. I had that in my mind. When I made that first lap, I said I'll go down into one and two and if it sticks good I'll finish the lap. I drove it with a little bit of a push off this corner over here and when I hit that bump off turn four the car got sideways on me. I knew I was in pretty deep trouble. Luckily, I saved it. It's one thing to qualify second but for everybody to tell you the save was better than the lap, that's a compliment to the driver, so I'll take it.
"We're a real positive team. If you look back at the deal, we've had motor problems the past two weeks or we'd up in the top 20 in the points. That's where the positive mental attitude comes from. The past two weeks at Atlanta and Darlington running inside the top 20 and we just had problems. The motor room overcame them. I'm behind the guys. We're a positive team. We finished strong last year, and everybody was picking us to start strong this year. We haven't started strong. This is the sixth race of the year, and we're ready to go. It's just like that old Goody's commercial with Richard Petty, you can't get upset with one bad year or one bad race. Our team is not going to be upset over the past two races. I'm a pretty positive person. I think I send that message out and have since the start of the year.
"I've run well at Darlington and Atlanta and a lot of those tracks. Sometimes I think everybody has it in their head that I'm good here. I think people sometime rise to the occasion. When you go to Martinsville, Bristol, any of these short tracks, nobody ever questions Rusty Wallace's ability. The crew, everybody rises to the occasion. I've only been with a couple of Winston Cup teams, and it seems they've always considered me a short track driver, and I guess I rise to the occasion. Bristol is a tough track. Qualifying well definitely doesn't ensure you a good finish, but it's a good place to start. We need a good, solid run, run all 500 miles and then go on to Texas."
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"The thing got pretty sideways off of four, but it was pretty much a controlled slide. I was just trying to get everything I could out of it. I knew that was my lap. That was what I was shooting for and that was the quicker of the two laps. It was a good day for us. We gained on it all day. Kenny Wallace qualifies well here, so I'm pretty happy with that. Last year, I was hurt from Texas and I think that played a role. I'm as healthy as I've ever been right now. This team is constantly gaining momentum and gaining confidence in one another. I think this could be a good weekend for us. I felt slower most of the day. To run that lap, that's a pretty good lap, but it doesn't feel really that much different. Everybody is talking about how fast these tires are. They are a little bit faster time wise, but they don't really feel faster. The car was getting through the corners pretty good there, and I'm happy with the gains we've made on it all day. Every time we've been on the race track, we improved on our time. That's the best we've been since we've been here. It's always good to go out there and run a little faster than you did in practice, even though I had to get a little sideways off turn four.
"It was a good lap for us. You need to be happy here at Bristol when you pick up from qualifying. The car was just a little bit tight, but I got through turns one and two well and I got down to three and four and I was a little bit tight in the middle. It made it get real loose off. Luckily, it didn't actually hurt me as far as time went too much.
"We're closer to start the race. We're just gradually going to pick away at it. The last couple of weeks have been real good for the guys. They've come together and are making some real progress. I don't expect it to happen overnight. I just hope we run a long, hard race here Sunday just like we did last Sunday. I think we can get a little closer each and every weekend."
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"Man, I'll tell you. I just haven't been able to get my qualifying going in these 2000 Monte Carlos. I told Richard Childress I wanted a '99 to qualify with and then let me race the 2000. We really just gave it the best we could and they said we were really good coming to the flag. The car was a little bit tight down there in the center. You know, you just about have to wreck here on both ends to run fast. We didn't wreck so we didn't run very fast. We'll race them from there (fourth). We didn't test here, so I really don't know about the tires. Goodyear does a great job and they obviously have the best tire in the world, the best racing tire in the world for sure. I think that they wouldn't have sent us up here on this concrete track with a tire that wasn't going to be good in the race."
JERRY NADEAU (No. 25 Michael Holigan.com Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We're still trying to figure out the car. It wasn't as good as we thought it would be. The guys did an awesome job, considering where we were when we unloaded. We were pretty far off in the first practice session. We had something wrong with the steering. The steering would lock up in the corners. We really only had five or six laps of practice before we qualified. Considering that fact, I guess we did pretty good."
BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak MAX film Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"It was a good lap. We noticed some other guys scuffed tires a little bit and maybe we should have. We did all our testing here on stickers. The guys who scuffed 'em ran a little faster. We probably should have scuffed them. We'll take it. All we need is to be pitting on the front straightaway. The track slowed up. The more rubber you put down, the slower it gets. You can't control that. It wasn't the heat. It was the rubber."
TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"The tires seem to be a little bit faster, but not much. That lap was OK. I figured it would get us in the top 10. This is the same car I had here last fall. It's been rebuilt. It was probably totaled, but we fixed it back. We built this car for Bristol last year, so we fixed it back because it ran so good here last time. This is a good place for us. We're counting on having a good run."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo)
"The car ran a good corner. When I got in the gas in every corner, it had a flutter in it like the carburetor was dumping over a little bit, so it was missing up off the corners and would clear out down the straightaways. It was a really good lap for the car not really running up to snuff. It drove good. We feel good about it for the race. I was really happy to see Steve Park hang on to the pole. That'll give that team a big boost."
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"It's fortunate you only have to hold your breath for 15 seconds around here unlike some of the other tracks we go to. The Pennzoil team has done a great job. The new Chevrolet Monte Carlo, when they took that car out of the truck today it was fast, so we're excited about having the opportunity to come to Bristol. We thought we would have a pretty good car, but to lead both practices and get the pole is something we didn't expect.
"The performance started toward the second half of last year. Over the winter we were hoping the body change to the new Monte Carlo we would be able to take that and roll it into this year. The stats don't look good. We've got two top 10 finishes and two DNFs in the first five races, and that's not the consistency we've been looking for, but we've been having a lot of mechanical failures and the guys have been working real hard trying to fix that. It seems like when we do finishes these races we can finish them in the top 10 and run for poles and run for wins like the race we had in Atlanta. The whole team has really come together. This is the first full year with the same group of guys and the same crew chief and I think it's really starting to show up on the race track. He (Dale Earnhardt) is pretty proud. That's the first pole for Dale Earnhardt and Teresa Earnhardt as car owners. The first pole for DEI is something that can never be topped. You can always get the second pole, but you can't always get the first. I'm proud to be able to say I was able to get the first pole for Dale. We all know what kind of opportunity he has given to me in the Busch Series and now in Winston Cup. Also to Pennzoil, they've been such a great sponsor for the last two years. We're just starting to hopefully make them proud with good runs and good finishes and pole positions and hopefully this year get them their first win.
"I've qualified well in every other series except Winston Cup. It seems like that we can run fast practice speeds. It's not that I'm a bad qualifier, it just seems like a lot of front running teams know how to pick up an extra tenth or two when it comes to qualifying. We run about the same speed and don't know where they're finding those extra tenths or two. The guys have gone to work trying to work with me and work with the engine program and work with the car trying to find that extra tenth or two the top teams are running. Today we actually went about a tenth faster than we did in practice, which is good for us. We usually run the same speed. I'm just surprised nobody else picked up a tenth or two from their practice speeds. Maybe we were just fortunate today. Maybe that qualifying deal is off my back and I can concentrate on going for my second pole.
"In the past we haven't really run good at Bristol. This is a fast little race track. To go around here in 15 seconds you need a car that's good and solidly underneath. I haven't had such a great race car here at Bristol like I had today in that Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo. I'm just telling you, to go around here in 15 seconds, you've got to have a good car that you can concentrate on driving. If the car is not handling properly, you're just trying to survive. Since we brought that hot rod out of the truck today, it's been fast and it's been comfortable. That's the main thing you need to go fast. In the past, I've always loved Bristol since I came here in the Busch car, but we've never really found the combination we needed to go fast for that one lap in qualifying. The guys went to work on that. We took a provisional the last time we were here. To come back and sit on the pole, I haven't changed my driving style. I've got a little more experience. The guys went to work at home to develop a car that we pretty much just built for Bristol and Rockingham. It finished in the top 10 at Rockingham and I like it so much that we decided to bring it here to Bristol, so it paid off.
"Paul (crew chief Andrews) has been with other young drivers such as Jeremy Mayfield and Alan Kulwicki when he first came into the series. Paul has been around a good long while. He's very perceptive on things going on in racing, and he's taught me a lot. At times you think you need to go fast and you just stand up in the seat and drive it as hard as you can in qualifying, and that's not the case sometimes. Paul has really brought to my attention that I'm not afraid of over driving the race car and that's good. It's harder to get a guy that's afraid to stand on the gas to stand on the gas. It's easy to get a guy that uncontrollably on the gas to back him up a little bit and calm him down a little bit. Paul has given me a lot of confidence. He's calmed me down. He's calmed my style down a little bit and has shown me that smoother is faster. Dale Earnhardt has proved that time and time again. He's one of the smoothest guys out there and he's fast week in and week out. That's some of the things that Paul has taught me that not only restored my confidence but that you don't need to have to drive the car until you're almost bouncing off the wall in order to go fast.
"We added up the points where we were running when we dropped out of those races. We know we could be somewhere in the top 10. I don't know what the saying is, but if ifs and buts were squirrels and nuts or something. We've to concentrate on not breaking, that's the bottom line. We've been in position to have four top-10 finishes over the last five races and due to mechanical problems we've dropped out. That's hurt us in the points, but I don't think the point standings or the finishes you see on paper are indicative of the way the Pennzoil team has run. It's a matter of when we finish, we seem to finish near the top 10. The others have been DNFs, so we just have to bridge that gap and try to make it more consistent top 10s and try to have less mechanical failures.
"The (qualifying) lap was pretty good. I thought one and two was about as fast as I'd ever gone through there all day long. With the car handling so good through there, I pushed it a little bit harder through three and four and slid up the race track a little bit. Coming to the checkered flag I knew with the car digging as hard as it was up off the corner, Goodyear had a good tire here, that it was going to be a good lap but I didn't think it was going to be as fast as it was. I thought it'd be about as fast as we were in practice, and that was about a 15.20. To run a 15.18 is just incredible around a race track this size. People thought that you'd see qualifying in the 14 seconds. That's almost unimaginable, but I think in the future, if things keep going the way they're going with Goodyear bringing good tires that have a lot of grip and with the downforce that we have and motor programs and everything else getting better and better, I don't think it's too far away to see cars in the 14-second bracket here at Bristol.
"Our goal here today was to qualify in the first 21 spots so we'd be on the front stretch pitting, never mind getting the pole. Starting on the front row gives you a better chance of staying out of the early incidents on the race track. Some of the stuff we've fought in the past was just getting in an early-race crash that puts you out. Hopefully we can lead a couple of laps and settle in a pace where we can keep consistent lap times and keep the tires underneath us and try to run until the end and keep all the fenders on the Pennzoil car.
"It handles good for me. It's the car we had at Rockingham. We decided to take the best car we had and the best motors week in and week out and come to the race track and try to do a good job. I would have never thought our first pole would come here at Bristol, but we try hard week in and week out. It's just amazing with the runs we've had at Charlotte and Atlanta. You thought you might get your first pole there and not at Bristol. If you had taken a poll last week before we came here on who would get the pole, I don't think Steve Park would have been high on that list. It would have been a Rusty Wallace or somebody. This team is capable of running for poles and closing in on getting its first win.
"I think after Kenny Wallace ran the lap he ran, that was a track record. That was the speed we had run in practice. We were just hoping to run the speed we ran in practice or a little faster. We haven't been known to be real aggressive qualifiers. Today we picked up a tenth, and that's what gave us the opportunity to be on the pole. It's a milestone for this team."