KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Petty missed the high school graduation of his son, Austin, Thursday night to qualify for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Petty failed to run fast enough to qualify. "Austin...
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Petty missed the high school graduation of his son, Austin, Thursday night to qualify for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Petty failed to run fast enough to qualify.
"Austin and Terry Labonte's daughter were both graduating from Trinity High School (Trinity, N.C.) tonight. Graduation was at 8 and qualifying was supposed to start at 7:15. We knew it was going to be tight. Bobby Labonte told us he'd let us borrow his helicopter to get there. Terry was in position to take a provisional being a former champion if he needed it. Considering where we are in the points and we've already missed a couple of races, we just couldn't take a chance. If we had been higher in the points, I would have gone, taken a provisional and not thought anything about it, but that wasn't the case. We put ourselves in this position through the year. I talked to Austin and he told me if I didn't see him at graduation I could see him at the lake where he was having the graduation party, so I'm going to swing by Baiden Lake when I leave here and see him.
"I've talked to Austin four or five times today. He's cool with it. He told me not to worry about it. I bought him a stereo for his car for graduation, so I guess that's how I made it up to him. Austin has really buckled down since Adam's death and got serious about school. He wants to be an engineer, and he's set to go to Pfeiffer College next year. He's working at the Richard Petty Driving Experience, and they don't take it easy on him there. They make him get up and get with it. He's like any other teenager. He'd sleep past noon every day if you'd let him. In fact, he'd probably sleep until 6 o'clock in the evening if something didn't wake him up.
"He was in some kind of honor society at school. He got some kind of medal for four years of honor work. He and Montgomery Leigh both are a lot smarter than myself and Adam were. They focus on school more than we did. Austin has really applied himself over the last year. He's stepped it up a little bit.
"He's got a Dodge Durango. He's got the Durango The King had last year. It's white. The King either has an all white or all black or all red car. It's got the darked-out windows and all that stuff. It says Dodge R/T across the windshield.
"I didn't think we were running that bad in practice today. At the end, there were a couple of accidents and the last 15 minutes turned into a last three-minute dash around the race track. We ended up 40th or 41st right along with John Andretti. We were a lot better than that. Buckshot ended up running a 30 flat, so if we can get close to that, we'll be OK. Last week we were a .16, a .26 and a .32 qualifying wise. If we can do somewhere close to that, we'll be OK.
"I brought the same car back this week. John brought the same car, and Buckshot obviously had to bring a different one. Buckshot has been fast, so obviously the accident didn't hurt him physically or emotionally. The cars we've got are pretty repeatable, so they come back pretty good.
"The HANS device went a long way with Buckshot wearing it last week. We've been working on his seat. We went back to the shop and cut the seat out of the car and cut the mounts out of the car. As we cut them out, we sandblasted each and every one of them and magnafluxed each corner to make sure nothing had cracked and nothing had stretched. That's something we've never done. We've never looked at a seat after the accident or looked at the mounting in the car after an accident. Buckshot took an incredible blow. It was really pretty violent. To come back and look at that part of it, it gave us confidence that we're on the right track. We've been listening to the seminars that the Dodge guys have come down and put on for us. They're on the right track. It's not going to stop everything, but it's helping."
"We were 42nd in practice and almost that bad in qualifying. We just weren't fast. I can leave now and maybe I'll be at Austin's graduation party by midnight."
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Elliott will start fourth, his third top-five starting spot of the season and 12th at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
"When I finally got started the track had a lot of grip. I guess I'm the gauge for everybody else now. Going out first, at least things will be consistent, but we'll see what happens. You just try to see how much grip the race track's got when you go out first. After practice earlier today, my best lap was the second lap. I got off a good lap on the first lap and I said, 'I'll just go for it on the second lap.' I'm glad it's over with. With practicing so much in the heat of the afternoon, it's anybody's guess. You can flip a coin and put a setup under the car and figure out what you're going to do."
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Hamburger Helper Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"It was terrible. We picked up about four tenths from practice, but it wasn't enough. We just couldn't run down the straightaways."
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"That's a good starting spot for us. It's a big motivational tool right now for the guy who gets the pole. That's the race we're in right now. The big picture is you want to have a good starting spot for the 600, but to be honest with you, you could be way back and have a good car that's handling good and come to the front. You've got plenty of time on Sunday.
"This is only the fourth lap we've had on this car all day. We applied what we learned last week. We dropped a valve in our No. 1 qualifying motor this afternoon. We only had two laps of practice, and that shows how well the Caterpillar Dodge team is prepared for this event. This car has been acting like a real hot rod lately. It's the same one we had here last week, so let's hope it's up to the challenge again on Sunday."
CASEY ATWOOD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We're always fast in the daytime. Everybody else picks up at night and we just don't pick up. It happened to us last week and again this week. We'll figure something out. We tested here and had the stuff on they don't let us run anymore. That test was kind of a waste, but it's the same for anybody. We've just got to figure it out."
STACY COMPTON (No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"These guys made some great adjustments for qualifying. We have a pretty good race car. I probably left a little bit out there. The car wiggled a little bit in one and two and I burped it. It was a decent lap. We got better all day long, and that's what I need to do. My birthday is Saturday. I'll be 30 something. I'm not getting older though. I'm getting smarter and younger."
JASON LEFFLER (No. 01 Cingular Wireless Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I'm just glad to be in the show. It's quite a bit faster than we practiced. I think we'll be pretty good in the race. We really didn't make many changes for qualifying. We didn't get a clean lap on our sticker run in practice. We knew we had it, but we didn't think everybody would run half a second faster. Going out late gets a little worrisome, but that's part of racing here in the bigtime. This is my favorite car, so I'm looking forward to 600 miles on Sunday."
BUCKSHOT JONES (No. 44 Georgia Pacific Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I listened to Chris Rice. He's our shock guy now and he does a lot of spotting on Sunday. He watches me on the track and sees a lot of things I do wrong. I always have a hard time driving in too hard. I drove in too hard tonight on my first lap. Chris told me what I was doing, and on the second lap, I just got off a little bit early. I can pick it back up so much sooner. That's the only thing that picked us up a lot, down there in one and two, I just backed off a little bit and tried to pick it back up early. A lot of people really picked up. Probably if Chris hadn't told me what I was doing wrong, I wouldn't have picked up that much on the second lap. It was a lot different what I had been doing in practice, just getting out of the gas a little earlier. It's amazing how much you pick up. My ribs are still a little sore from last week. By Sunday, I'm sure I'll be fine."
DAVE BLANEY (No. 93 BP/Amoco Ultimate Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"The BP car was pretty good today. It was probably the best car we had in our stable. I ruined it on my last sticker run. I don't know what I did, but it got away from me. We didn't get any laps on this car, but it's the same one we ran last week. It was terrible in qualifying. We didn't have a qualifying motor in it because we didn't have one. Ward blew his up and I broke mine in the wreck. We qualified with a practice motor."
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I thought we could run a little faster. We picked up from practice. The car drove really good. This track changes so much. You think you're good and an hour later you're off a little bit. We'll just have to get it dialed in and give 'em a run for that No Bull 5 money."