Sunday, May 30, 1999. Lowe's Motor Speedway. Coca-Cola 600. Chevrolet notes and quotes. JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "I don't know what's going on, but things aren't going our way, that's for...
Sunday, May 30, 1999. Lowe's Motor Speedway. Coca-Cola 600. Chevrolet notes and quotes.
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "I don't know what's going on, but things aren't going our way, that's for sure. The DuPont Chevrolet was running great. Some kind of seal in the power steering pump blew. I've never seen anything like this before. The car was driving great. We got loose on new tires, but we were great on old tires. I think we were coming. It's not going to be our day today. "Right before that the power steering got real tight. They told me some kind of seal in the power steering pump blew. We've got to fix that, change it and then we'll get back out there. It's unfortunate. The DuPont Chevrolet had been running real strong. We were holding our own there, but I got real loose on new tires. That put us back a little ways from Burton, but we were coming on there at the end. We were very strong on long runs. I was getting pretty excited about what our chances were later tonight. Now are chances are just to get back out there and get some points."
GEOFFREY BODINE (No. 60 Power Team Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I was trying to get by Rusty and just got loose getting into turn three. I got up into the wall a little bit. We fixed the car and everything felt all right, but on the restart we went down into turn three and the tire blew. I must have cut it somehow. Now we've got some serious damage, so it'll take a little while to fix it. That's not quite as good a day as Kenny Brack had at Indy with the Power Team car today. We were running good. It's a shame this happened. "I was racing hard to keep from going down a lap. The leader was right behind us. I was racing with Rusty and got under him a few times and just couldn't make the move. I got underneath him good that last time, went down into three and the car got sideways. The car was really good into that point. We bumped the wall and fixed it. Everything felt good on the restart, but I went down into turn three and I heard the tire blow. I must have been running the fender. "It's a long night, but it's going to be a little shorter for us. We could run as fast as the 99, but I was having trouble in traffic. We had the wrong combination here. We had a great car in the corners. It just wouldn't run down the straightaways like we needed it to. It was hard to pass and that's what happened when I got to Rusty. I would get under him and he would pass me down the straightaway. I finally got under him far enough I thought. I had it made going into three, but the car got sideways. I made the wall instead of the pass. "I'm sure it was fun to watch. It was fun to do it out there, but it's just a shame. We really had a good car. I was hoping for a better finish. I was content to set a slower pace, but when they started catching us you had to go. Rusty was holding me up in the corners. I had to get around him and didn't quite make it. If you're not running good you can expect to get lapped that quick. There's some real fast cars out there. Burton is really good here. He's enough to make your hair fall out or get gray. Mine had fallen out and gotten gray in the past few years."
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: NASCAR veteran Dave Charpentier is sitting on Park's war wagon in the pits tonight. Charpentier will start working with the Dale Earnhardt, Inc., team on Tuesday as an engineer.
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "It was the run of our lives, the best run this team has had in a long time. I've said we're going to turn this team around, and tonight we showed we're going to be able to be a contender in Winston Cup. Beyond all the disappointment and the addition of Paul Andrews and all the work Steve Hmiel has done on the car and motors, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I've got a smile on my face, but I'm disappointed. We wanted to get to that 600-mile mark. We ran up front all day. We had a car capable of running in the top 10. That was our goal tonight. Who knows? With a couple of more adjustments we might have been able to run with that 99 car. "Jeremy (Mayfield) gave me room to get by on the inside. I got by on the inside and he took the middle lane. I was coming on on the bottom and somebody was pitting and got in some speedy dry and slid back out on the race track. It squeezed me up into Jeremy and I had to kind of get up on the wheel and try not to run into Jeremy and got the car pulled around. We were just racing hard and got squeezed between two lapped cars. It's a position you don't put yourself in, and I didn't think I was putting myself in it until the lapped car came up off the apron and I don't think that's something you can't predict. We're going to shake this monkey off our back and go back to work and try to get this Pennzoil team the due credit it deserves. We'll go next week and try to run out front again. "It felt great running out front. The Pennzoil Chevy ran great all night long. It's a shame. Paul Andrews came to our team with a wealth of experience and I love working with the guy. The guy is awesome. We seemed to hit it off right off the bat. In practice, we knew the car was decent. We made a couple of changes right before the race. We knew the car was good. It was exactly what we thought it was going to be. Every time we pitted we adjusted on it a little bit and we talked about it. We were sneaking up on it. The car was getting better and better. We knew we had a few more pit stops to go. We were just trying to find a little more speed. That 99 car was strong. My hat's off to this whole Pennzoil team. This is what we've been looking for. To have the opportunity to qualify well and run up in the top five is something with the addition of Paul Andrews and the cars these guys are building and the motors they're building, hopefully this is just the tip of the iceberg for this Pennzoil team. "The last three weeks have been really good for us. We were hoping to come out of here with a good finish and go next week to Dover and get another good run and show everybody this is no fluke. We're excited. "I'd like to thank all the veterans. It is Memorial Day Weekend. We don't want to forget that. Those are the guys who fought for this country and gave us all the opportunity to do what we love to do and that's race Winston Cup. "Breaking my leg was easy compared to crashing out of a race I thought we were going to finish in the top five and had a shot at trying to win. It's just like disappointment, but I've got a smile on my face because at least we were running good. It showed everybody that this team is capable of running up front, and that's what we've needed to do for a long time. I'm ecstatic with the opportunity to work with a guy like Paul Andrews. You talk about chemistry. Me and Paul have some chemistry going right now. "The track is getting a little slick on the bottom and it's just a shame. We really needed to get that Pennzoil Chevy a finish in the top 10."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "We got the car a little better. The 36 car was a lapped car on that one restart. He got in that and about spun Mark out and got Mark loose. They checked up and I bumped into him and knocked the nose in on it. It pushed worse after that. We just really survived. We had a chance until that happened. After that happened, we weren't much good. We qualified well and raced well, and it felt good. I would have liked to won it. "We just lost position and lost ground on them and never could gain it back. They said the nose got knocked out of it, but it doesn't look that bad to me. The car drove good at first, but it was just too tight. If I could have ever got it freed through the center and turning front-end wise it would have better. I was neutral on the gas. It was actually too loose on the gas and too tight on the front end on the center of the corner. If we could have got our center better, we would have been in better shape. It was a decent night. We stayed out of trouble, and Dale Jr. didn't collect me up there at the end. I was glad to see it (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevy) run well. I wasn't glad to see it wreck."
KEN SCHRADER (No. 33 Skoal Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We had to be a little better to win. We just weren't fast enough. Six cars were better than we were tonight, but this is about where we expected to finish if we didn't have any trouble. I cannot say enough about Sammy Johns (crew chief) and how he's helped us. It's not that Andy Petree couldn't, but he couldn't run the front office and be the crew chief. The car feels good, and everything is organized. He's doing an awesome job."
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We were so loose for the first third of the race that I could hardly hold the steering wheel. As soon as I touched the gas, you couldn't accelerate enough to keep up. I'd just get sideways. About halfway through the race, Larry and the guys made the right adjustments. We were one lap down, but we got back in front of the leaders and got our lap back. We stayed just in front of them for about 25 laps. We just couldn't get a caution. If we had gotten a caution then, maybe we could have had a third or fourth-place finish. Toward the end of the night, we finally got the car adjusted right. I've just got to get my car running better before the start of the races. It took us three pit stops to adjust something that should have taken us one pit stop. "At the end of the night, the car was finally just as good as it was in Happy Hour yesterday. Unfortunately, it just took us too long to get the right adjustments. I think we could have finished in the top five if we had gotten the car set up right earlier in the evening. I don't know if we could have won the million dollars, but we could have been in contention for the next No Bull 5. "I drove the tires off the car. After we got it right, I drove the car as hard as I could. There was nothing else I could have done. It's another top 10 finish. We'll take it. We definitely need more of this type of finish. If we can keep finishing in the top 10, things will look up for us."
KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "It was a real good run for us. Everyone did a good job all weekend. It should have gained us some valuable points. We drove as hard as we could all night long. It was just a good, solid run. The thing about it is that I'm very happy that we're a competing team. We're there in the top 15 every week. We're just diggin' man. It was a long race. I'm worn out."
TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We had a flat tire and had to make a green-flag pit stop. Other than that, it was OK. We ran pretty decent. We would have had a top-10 finish if that hadn't happened, but we were pretty lucky to finish 11th. We got two laps down. We came out ahead of the leaders, but the next round of pit stops they got us. It was a fast pace tonight. We did good and went right up through there, but the 99 was so fast. I was hoping Bobby had something for him, but I don't guess he did."
BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We ran the same after that last pit stop, but I think some of the other guys got a little worse. They probably pumped up their tires up for a short run and we stuck to our game. We changed four tires, but we stayed the same. We were struggling back there with a handful of cars. They'd get out. If I ran hard, I couldn't make up a lot of time and they'd run the tires off. Our only strong point was on old tires. We had a problem on the first pit stop and that probably hurt us. We might have gone a lap down anyhow, but you can't say anything because these guys have been having great pit stops. From what happened, it just means they were trying hard. The car drove good all night. We just need to be a little faster. I'm going to talk to Larry about some aero stuff on it. We'll bring it back for the fall. I don't even want to run it anywhere else before then."
DALE EARNHARDT JR. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "It's pretty hard on a driver and a car. These guys are good at pacing themselves and trying to last as long as they can to the end. I just watched them and tried to pick up as much as I could as quick as I could. I didn't want to fall out of the seat and wear myself out early on. If the car handled good there at the end, I wanted to be able to drive it. "I didn't know what to expect. It was my first start and first green flag with the Winston Cup series. I was being real courteous and the car wasn't handling good at all. I was just trying to get out of everybody's way until the car came around. "I'm glad it went the way it did. I'd love to do it over again. I wish every weekend was like this. This was a lot of fun. We had a big promotion with Budweiser and the race fans really enjoyed it. It was a big weekend for everybody. It was a win-win situation. Everything went good. We qualified good and practiced good and raced pretty decent. Maybe we could have done better in the race, but with lack of experience I feel comfortable with our team." "We were just kind of running along there. When we first started the race, our car was terribly loose. I was just trying to get out of everybody's way and not make a fool of myself. We were kind of waiting for the car to come around and it did eventually. We got to running up top there moving around, trying to get the car comfortable. We finally got to run up high making some passes on some guys and racing for 15th through 20th position there for awhile. That was kind of fun. It kept my confidence up in the car. I was a little worried about the car being loose, but it got the handle as the night went on. We kept chasing it trying to get the handle, but it was a big deal, a lot of fun. I hope all those drivers out there maybe have a little bit... are a little more comfortable with me and that's one thing I was trying to accomplish -- not to tear up a race car and try to gain some respect from these guys where they're comfortable with me being around me and not worry about racing me. We raced Bill Elliott and a couple of other guys for awhile, Rusty Wallace for awhile. I just tried to learn as much as I could following them and seeing how they were driving and seeing what happened with their cars on some long runs later in the race. "I ain't taking nothing away from the Winston Cup Series. What it was was what I expected it to be. Those guys are professionals. There's no other way to put it. Some of the things they do with their cars really surprises me. I know I was very tentative in making passes and stuff, especially being underneath guys going into three or going down in one. I didn't want to get loose in the center of the corner and get up into them. Those guys have got the experience to be able to do that. That's something that we've got to learn over time. I was really surprised with some of the things they can do with those cars and how they drive them. You don't see that, that's rare in the Busch Series. Matt can do it. You'll see some drivers that will put their cars in positions you just don't see how they got through there. I was a little surprised at just how cautious and relaxed it was. It wasn't really too high strung there from the start and probably the first 250 laps was relatively smooth and everybody was just giving and taking and being calm and not trying to tear up anything. I didn't really get to see too many torn up race cars, but I don't think we had too much on the race track as far as wrecks and stuff. I was real surprised by that. I couldn't believe how many green flag stops we had because we don't do that on the Busch Series. We normally get a caution in time to change tires. We don't see that many green-flag stops. It was something new for us and something new for me as well to be able to run 120 laps consecutively without a caution or some sort of breather. "Yeah, I was talking to Rick earlier. We were kind of just discussing it a little bit. He was asking me what my biggest worry was. I thought for years and years that this was what I wanted to do and I was getting ready to find out whether I was right or not, whether this is really what I want to do or whether this ain't what I really expected it to be. I was just getting ready to find that out and it was hard to face that music or it was almost like dragging a dog to the bathtub before the race. We got started and got running and I got comfortable there and got to hang out for about 600 miles. I was a couple of laps short of it, but I enjoyed it. I thought my biggest worry, and I really didn't let this out too much, but my biggest worry was my endurance and my ability as a driver to drive the car competitively for that length of of time. I didn't want that to get out too much, but I don't mind telling you now. I just tried to pace myself as much as I could, and I'm real happy with what happened tonight. I know that this race is run at night and Michigan and some other places will be hot and difficult maybe in the car. I really enjoy the Busch Series. Those races are short and I really don't worry about getting hot and tired or wearing myself out or anything like that. That's going to be my biggest concern. As far as this being what I want to do all my life, and am I now satisfied and is it what I expected it to be, yes, I guess so. "I was really surprised. It happened a couple of times. At one time, it was just 200, maybe halfway through the race. You lull into some sort of, I don't know, you just kind of stop concentrating all of a sudden. You get to doing the same thing lap after lap after lap. You kind of forget what you're trying to accomplish and start laying on the headrest and running around the track, around the track. Your ultimate goal is to try to run that guy down in front of you. You're conserving tires and things like that and you start doing that too much. Every once in awhile, going down the back straightaway or something, you just have to wake yourself up and charge and charge and charge. About lap 330 was when I started getting tired or feeling like, 'man, this is a long way.' It was all right. I wasn't like worn out or nothing, but little things start happening. Your neck starts hurting or your back starts hurting or you start scooting around the seat trying to get comfortable because you start getting aches and pains in your back. Or your hand goes to sleep because you're gripping the wheel so tight or something like that. Those little things start happening and it breaks your concentration. "Right now my program is calling a pizza joint and ordering a pizza and drinking some Budweisers. That's my program. That might have to change. You've got to be in good shape, no doubt about it. As much as I want to neglect that fact, my daddy's right. I need to be on the treadmill, working out, doing a lot of cardiovascular stuff so I can have more endurance and try to last as long as I can in these races. I've been putting it off for a long time. I got so comfortable running these 300-mile Busch Races. When I first started running them, they were difficult and I'd get tired and get hot. I'd just barely make it to the trailer after a race. Now it's just a kick in the bucket. I'm thinking maybe the Cup races will get like that, but I can't neglect it. "Normally it's because of the car's ill-handling. Me and Tony Jr. joke about it, but it's really true. After the race we look at my gloves. Which ever glove is wore out the most, we can tell what the car is doing. If the car was tight, my right glove will be almost worn out. It'll have holes in it. If the car is loose, the left glove will be worn out. That's how I drive the car, so that's why my left hand probably went to sleep or the right side of my body started getting sore. When you go in the corner and the car is loose, you tense up all your muscles driving your car through the corner. If you went through there relaxed, you'd crash. Your muscles all tense up when you start to slide that car through the corners. You really get tensed up like you're getting ready to hit something. But you know you're probably not, and that's why I think you probably start to hurt. "I was real, real happy with that (pit stops). The carburetor or something in the car was loading up. I'd come in the pits and the car would shut off as soon as I got stopped. What I did to fix that was knock it out of gear and idle in and keep my foot on the brake and be hitting the gas with my heel or something and keep the car running. As soon as they dropped the left side, I'd throw the car in first and take off and it was like the carburetor was loaded up. It'd be 20 or 40 feet before the carburetor would load up. It cost us a little time getting off pit road. I tried to get on pit road as fast as I could, slid the car in there, slid the tires a couple of times coming in so I knew I was coming in pretty good. I came out on the race track and the guys I was racing with would be somewhere around me, so I knew we had a pretty good stop. We had some caution flag stops and lost maybe a spot or two here and there and we'd gain a couple of spots a couple of times. We feel real good and that gives us a lot of confidence. "I just went up in there (Dale Earnhardt's hauler after the race) and said, 'hey man, pretty good job or what?' He said, 'yeah, you did good. You stayed out of trouble.' I just wanted to hear that. I didn't know what his plans were. Sometimes you don't see him for two weeks or so, so I just wanted to see him before he got off going anywhere and know that he was happy and satisfied with our run as a car owner and a father. He was pretty happy. He ran real well, and I think we helped him out some being here maybe. We worked back and forth with our setups, improving both cars as well as Steve Park's. He just had a good weekend. I was happy with the way he ran in The Winston and the way he ran this weekend and the way he ran tonight. I wish I could have been a little more competitive to race him a little bit, but we didn't have anything for him. So there wasn't no real point. "I just knew we picked the first pit. I just wasn't thinking and as I pulled on pit road, the spotter started saying 10 away, five away. We were only halfway down pit road, and I was looking for the 8. I didn't see the 8. I'm pulling closer and closer, and I didn't see my pit. Tony said, 'we're down here. Come on.' I went on down there. It didn't cost us much time, but we had some difficulties there and my spotter was kind of directing me to Steve Park's pit I think. "At the first of the race, I found out quickly we didn't have a competitive car, a car to be pushing the issue any. I just tried to kind of get out of the way until I could get into a comfortable place there in the field and see if my car would come around to me or maybe I was driving the car wrong or doing something that was preventing the car from being competitive. I knew he (Earnhardt Sr.) had a good car. I saw him go toward the front and that's where he stayed the rest of the race. "I'm real satisfied. We ran well in the Busch race yesterday, so maybe my expectations got a little bit higher after that. We ran good in Happy Hour yesterday, so again my expectations went up a little more. I was trying to cheat myself a little bit into thinking we could run in the top 10, but we're not at that point to even attempt that. To come away from here with no scratches on the car and no part failures and some pretty decent pit stops and we didn't have any failures on pit road losing laps or anything. We didn't make any mistakes on the race track. Everything went pretty well. We didn't get in contact with anybody. I just about lost it a couple of times by myself. I don't think anybody else was harmed any way from it. It was a little intimidating at times, but our confidence continued to grow through the weekend and that was good for us."