Monday, Oct. 11, 1999 Lowe's Motor Speedway UAW-GM Quality 500 Chevrolet notes and quotes GORDON'S VICTORY IN NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO TIGHTENS MANUFACTURERS STANDINGS -- Jeff Gordon's circuit-leading seventh victory of the season and his...
Monday, Oct. 11, 1999 Lowe's Motor Speedway UAW-GM Quality 500 Chevrolet notes and quotes
GORDON'S VICTORY IN NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO TIGHTENS MANUFACTURERS STANDINGS -- Jeff Gordon's circuit-leading seventh victory of the season and his second straight triumph allowed Team Monte Carlo to tighten the NASCAR Winston Cup manufacturers standings with five races remaining. Ford leads Chevy 198-185. Ford has won 12 races in '99 to 11 for Team Monte Carlo. Pontiac has six wins and 168 manufacturers points. Chevrolet has won three of the last four races.
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"This was a great effort by this DuPont team. They're awesome. They never gave up on it. They never gave up on me. We were best on old tires, and we knew that. I've got to give Brian Whitesell and all these guys a lot of credit. Without them and this team, we're just another team out there. I really didn't think I was going to catch him until about 20 to go I saw him have trouble in traffic. As good as he was on new tires, I thought he might get real tight on the long runs. I don't know if that's what happened to him or not, but my car came in real strong. When I got by Skinner it gave me some enthusiasm. I put that thing on my marks and rolled through the throttle real smooth. It was real awesome at the end, driving in and out of traffic. I didn't know if I was going to be able to get by Bobby because he had the high line. It started working on the bottom. The last two weeks have felt like we started all over again, but we know what we know now. It's one of those situations where the chemistry is right, people are supporting you. We knew we had great people here if they wanted to make this team go to the next level. They proved to me that's what they want to do the last two weeks. Brian Whitesell is so calm, so smooth. He keeps me calm. It's a great combination right now."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo)
"Ray must have forgot his notebook. That 24 team really looked good today. We were terrible. We were too tight most of the day. I wish we could have done some changing. We just missed it. It wasn't our day."
STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"The car was real good. We got up to sixth there with our best set of tires. I thought we had something to run with the leaders, but we had a cylinder come out of it with about 50 laps to go. I switched ignition boxes, but to no avail. We finished 10th on seven cylinders. I wish we could have run on all eight cylinders all day to see where we would have ended up. This is an awesome race car and the guys are doing a great job. We're disappointed with a 10th-place finish. Four or five months ago, we would have been happy with one. Things are really looking to turn around with this Pennzoil team. We're just trying to be consistent. The pit stops are getting better. The cars are better. The motors are better, and I'm driving better. Paul (crew chief Andrews) is doing a great job in the pits. We've got a great bunch of people, and it's starting to show. We really feel like we can be competitive week in and week out. There are some good things in the future for this Pennzoil team. Stay posted."
BRIAN WHITESELL (Crew chief No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo)
"I really should consider retiring now. It's awesome right now. We saw the track was getting a little bit tighter, so we freed it up just a little bit more (on last pit stop). He didn't like it at first, but it came in at the end. We're really happy."
RICK HENDRICK (CEO Hendrick Motorsports)
"We needed the cloud cover because our car was a little loose. I thought we were going to run out of laps with about three or four to go. When he can see 'em, he cinches it up a little bit tighter. I didn't think we could do it today, but we were very fortunate to have that cloud cover."
JOE NEMECHEK (No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We got really tight on one set of tires. Most of the day we had a pretty good running car. We could run up to the front. It was just a tough weekend. We overcame a lot. The car drove pretty good in the race, but we just got tight on that one set. Lapped cars were pretty tough today. You'd go to pass them and they'd race you pretty hard. I hurt my last set of tires trying to pass a lapped car, and my car got pretty tight there at the end."
MICHAEL WALTRIP (No. 7 Philips Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I don't think people realize how tough it is to finish in the top 15. When you get there, you've had a decent day. We had a decent day today. There have been days this year when we had better and broke and had very little to show for it. Today we had a top 15 car and that's where we finished with it, so it was a decent day. I'm happy with that, so we'll head on to Talladega."
KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We were really loose today, both of us -- me and Schrader. Then with about 20 to go, we broke a valve spring. That's just a little bit of a problem we have. So we'll go to work on it, keep our heads up and keep going."
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"It was a good run. We were really fortunate to get a third-place finish. What a great tire Goodyear had on this car today. We were awesome for awhile there and didn't do much to the car. We just changed four tires, made slight air pressure adjustments and added a little wedge to the car. Just a small amount of changes. I guess the weather changed a little bit. We were extremely tight at the end. With the setup we had today, you would have thought it would knock the walls down because it was so tight. But it was good. The car was awesome most of the day today. We just got beat, and I congratulate the No. 18 and No. 24.
"I thought we would win if it had stayed green. We had a great shot. Our was was pretty good in the end, but Jeff Gordon started catching us. We came in to pit, and he blocked me, so I couldn't get into my pit. But that's racing. We must have had the wrong pit road speed because every time I would run what I we thought was the designated speed, the other cars would run right past us. I guess we got it wrong. We couldn't get in our pit, and that cost us three or four seconds. It was a really good day in the pits for us. The crew did a heck of a job all day. Ron Otto came back and changed tires
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "for us, and I really want to thank him for that. I thought today would be the day if it had stayed green. We were really pulling for the weather to hold. Lowe's Motor Speedway is really sensitive to the weather, and there's no way to call it. Sometimes the cloud cover will tighten the car up and other times it will loosen it up. There's just no way to tell. We made such tiny adjustments to the car at the end, but the car got extremely tight. There was nothing we could do for it. The engine ran really well today, as well. We just had a good day.
"I don't know if we're ever going to win one, but we're going to a good place next week. We're going to give it a heck of a shot and try to put the Lowe's Chevrolet in first place next week if at all possible.
"I feel like we're gaining the reputation of the best team out here never to win a race. We've got a good race track coming up next week, Talladega. I'm really positive about that. We've got a good speedway car. We finished in the top five at Daytona with it. That car actually runs a little better at Talladega than it does at Daytona, so if we can unload as good as we normally do there, maybe we can get it done next week. I'm really proud of this race team. They put me in equipment that's capable of winning races. Somewhere down the road during the day, we make the wrong adjustment. I needed the car to be just a little bit tighter and they just tightened it up a little, but half a pound of air in the car got too tight. I want to congratulate Jeff Gordon. I really thought Bobby had it. Jeff just got on a roll right there at the end and hurt us in the pits. Coming in the pits, he got beside me and wouldn't let me in my pit stall. I guess I was either going too slow or he was going too fast. I didn't know you could pass people on pit road, but congratulations to him. Congratulations to Bobby. It was a good points race for him, and it was a good points race for us. We're trying to finish in the top 10 in points this year. We've got to keep on hammering.
"Jeff had run us down toward the end of that long run, and that's about how many laps we had left. We felt like we were going to be real fast early, but we thought we would fall off a little too much at the end. I felt like I'd rather have the car a little bit slower at the start and better at the end of the race. That was my strategy, and I think Larry had the same thoughts. He couldn't feel the car. He wasn't driving it. All he did was what I told him to. We changed half a pound of air. It just tightened the car up too much. It was fair on the short runs, but just too tight there at the end of the race.
"With the adjustments we made, we probably couldn't have held on anyway, but we fought Jeff awfully hard to get in the front and then we couldn't catch Bobby, but we could stabilize with Bobby and we saw the traffic Bobby was fixing to come up on. We said if we could catch him there and save a little bit of tire, maybe we could race him real hard at the end. We felt like with the adjustments we made, our car would be really good at the end of the race. I think Bobby might have got bit by a little bit of the same thing we did. I don't know if it was weather or we pushed the car a little bit too hard early or what happened, but the car got awfully tight. Jeff Gordon's car was better than ours at the end of the day. We just got beat.
"Lowe's Motor Speedway changes with weather a lot and it doesn't always change in the same direction. The other night it cooled down and we got a late draw for qualifying and really thought our car was going to be awesome.
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) The car was good in the heat, and we thought the car would actually be a little snugger. The track was actually looser. Today the sun would come out at times and we'd tighten up. Sometimes it'd come out and we'd loosen up. It's a very weather sensitive race track. There's a lot of bumps down here in three and four. Our car was pretty awesome in one and two all day long and mediocre in three and four. The weather could have had a little bit to do in both of our cars.
"Pit road speed for our car was somewhere between 4000 and 4100 (rpm's). We said 4050. First pit stop we came down pit road at 4200 and they drove away from us all the way down pit road. We said we obviously had the wrong pit road speed or everyone was speeding. I asked Larry what to do and he said I'd better split the difference because I didn't want to get caught speeding, but you can't lose all that time on pit road, either. We were 4200 which I thought was 150 rpm's too fast coming down pit road, and heck, he passed us on pit road. I didn't know you were able to do that. I always been told you're not allowed to do that, especially on the left side. Actually, he stayed right beside me until we got to our pit and blocked me from going in our pit. I don't know if he did it on purpose or whatever. I'm not mad at Jeff. He did what he had to do. It probably cost us a little bit on our pit stop, but I doubt if it was the difference in winning the race or not.
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"These guys are supporting Brian. They're supporting me. They're supporting one another. The chemistry is there. We've got these distractions behind us. They're stepping forward and stepping up and great things have been happening because of it. I am surprised. I didn't think I could run Bobby down. He got out there quite a ways on us. I was doing everything I could just to hang with Skinner for third. I saw his car starting to go away. Brian said the clouds are coming and it's going to tighten you up. It was a little bit loose. The clouds and car tightened up and boom it started taking off. Once I got by Skinner, I said, 'we'll see what we've got here.' We were running out of laps. He got caught in lapped traffic a little bit and I started reeling him in. Even when I got close to him I didn't know if I was going to have anything for him. I thought he was just playing with me. Then we got out in the open and I got a couple of good runs off turn two and got up there beside him and hoped the thing would stick on the bottom of three and four and it did. When it did and I got by him, I said, 'wow. What am I going to do now?' I just tried to be real smooth all the way to the end.
"I've been waiting for this day for a long time, waiting to get Rick Hendrick back to victory lane. I knew it was going to happen. I just didn't know when. I heard Rick was coming today. I said I'd love to take him to victory lane today. He said something to me before we started the race and I tell you it just lit me up and made me have a real good feeling inside. It was that much more of a motivator. The way it was all coming down at the end of the race. There's certain times and certain things that happen that you feel like you're not really in control of, that somebody else is. It's nice to be able to turn that over to who I consider God and he makes amazing things happen. He's brought us together as a team and as friends. For me to be able to take Rick Hendrick to victory lane today was very emotional and probably one of the highlights, not only of this year but my career, to be able to do that. I know what he's been thought, and it's been tough for him. It's awesome. I want many more."
RICK HENDRICK (CEO Hendrick Motorsports)
"We have had some distractions, absolutely. Brian and Jeff have always clicked. They have worked well together. I thought we'd be successful, but still, the distraction is there. You don't change the top and not go through some uneasiness. Brian has been so cool, and Jeff has stepped up. I think I spent more time with Jeff and Brian the last two weeks than I have the last three years, so I knew Jeff would step up. The whole team has and I put my arm around Brian as we walked down pit road and said, 'I don't want to see anybody talking with you out here today.' And he said, 'I think I might retire.' I said, 'you're going to kill me.'
"We've got a great organization, a great group of guys. This guy right here (Gordon) drives the wheels off the car every time he gets in it. I think we're just going to keep stepping up and keep clicking. I'm excited. We'll get back in that championship race.
"Charlotte is always special, just always. Humpy and everybody here, we've got a lot of great friends. It's home. The shop is right across the way. If we'd raced yesterday, I didn't think I could be here. Today, it was some kind of juice, the adrenaline got here, the victory lane, I'm sure I'll be face down here later tonight, but boy, I've enjoyed this one. To see Brian win his first race at Martinsville, and I was sweating that deal. I was at home watching it on TV, and did not like seeing Dale close in with a lap or two to go. I've seen that show before. I'm really happy for Brian. We've always said we want to promote from within and give our people an opportunity. Man, he's stepped up and the guys are excited. I can't tell you how excited, I think it's probably one of the most emotional victory lanes I've ever had. I hope we'll have many more.
"I was not in Texas, but I was here at The Winston (for Terry Labonte's victory). I was at his (Gordon's) pole in Daytona, but I started feeling bad and went home. He called me on a cell phone and said, 'I told you to stay here.' This was it."
BRIAN WHITESELL (Crew chief No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo)
"I think I'm breaking even because as much pressure as it (victories) takes off it puts right back on. We've proven now we can do it, so every week we go back everybody says, 'you've already won two. What are you going to do next?' We're just going to keep doing our job, and we're just real happy we could get this win today with Rick with us. It's very special to win this race. We've been waiting to win this race, and then for Rick to be here with us was just an awesome thing.
"It's a real good opportunity for some of the guys who have been in the shop or have been on the team and not been able to do what they were capable of doing. It's not because Ray was doing it wrong. It was because we had people in several positions that the job was getting done and the people below them had to wait their turns. Now it's their turn. Now they're ready to prove their point, to say 'hey, we can do this, too.' A lot of the guys who are on the team now have not been with us through those wins and through all those championships. They've got a lot to prove themselves. They're fired up and seeing the fire in them has got me excited. I'm working harder than I ever have, but it's so much easier because I know all these guys are behind me. We know we've really got a goal, a focus. It's really great right now.
"What I felt we could really do was a top 10 each week just to get our feet on the ground and then see what we needed to change in the team and what we needed to address. Even though we won the race last week in Martinsville, I was doing some things differently this week based on what I learned last week. That will continue. I would have been happy each week with a top 10."
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"When we were having some of the meetings with the team and talking about some of the decisions that were being made, that's one of the comments I made to them. I'd heard some comments from the guys talking one on one that things were getting a little stale. Something had lost its luster. I wanted to put that back into it. I told these guys it's going to be there. It's awesome to see it come together like that. All of us have stepped into a little bit of a different role. All of us have taken on a little more responsibility. Obviously, Brian has taken on a huge part of it. I'm still the driver, but I'm trying to give him more information and get more involved with the decisions so the information I'm giving him is clear and I'm understanding it greater than I ever have before. He's great at being able to give me more detail than I've ever had before. That's just part of the learning process and part of what we'd talked about among ourselves, things I talked about with Ray about my role stepping up and then among the whole team and everybody talking about their role of stepping up. I definitely think there has definitely been a spark. It's great to see, and I hope we can keep it going. Right now, we don't want to change anything. We just want to keep doing what we're doing. This week has been an amazing week for me with the announcements. It's been amazing here at the race track, too. There were times we were great in practice, and there were times we were horrible in practice. We were bouncing back and forth. When we were at our worse, I was still having fun. I was enjoying it more than I ever had before just because I felt like I'm more part of this team today than I ever have been, and I feel like the team is more a part of it than they ever have been before. A lot of it is because they're rallying behind Brian, and I'm really thrilled to see it.
"When I'm in that race car I'm highly motivated to make that car go as fast as it can. There are limits of how fast that car can go. If things aren't there for me, I can only make it go so fast. That's why I rely on these guys to make great pit stops and great adjustments on the car. I think that if you look at those great teams, one thing they have is that they believe in one another and they work together to make it happen. I don't there's any one individual that really makes it happen. If a guy's got confidence that Michael Jordan can make that shot at the end of the game, they don't mind dishing it off to him. Eight or nine times out of 10, he probably made it. I think there's confidence in the team right now in one another, in myself. I've got an unbelievable amount of confidence in Brian right now. I always have. He and I have shared thoughts and things about the setups of the cars and ideas the last few years. Our relationship has gotten closer. I knew when we went to Japan, I know it's not a points race and I know it wasn't really any big deal, but when we worked together in Japan, I knew this could be a guy who could be my crew chief. If Ray Evernham ever decided to do something different, I wanted Brian to step into that role. It was just that little bit of experience and because of that, I think our relationship has gotten greater. There's a lot of confidence right now. I think when it comes down to the closing laps and you see those guys ahead of you, you do everything you can to try to reel 'em in. You search all over the race track. You just try to do everything right and not make mistakes. Once you know you're catching 'em, it's unbelievable how fast they come back to you. Little things spark you to make gains on those guys. I know this sport is different from any other one out there, but driving that race car, it takes more than that driver being able to find his niche and his groove. The car has to be there, too, and my car just came in at the right time."