BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: -- (Finished 3rd) NOTE: Bobby Labonte took a carbon-monoxide test immediately following the race: "That's what everyone's been talking about here. They've checked me about four...
BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: -- (Finished 3rd) NOTE: Bobby Labonte took a carbon-monoxide test immediately following the race: "That's what everyone's been talking about here. They've checked me about four times this year. They have that new substance that goes in the air box that removes the carbon monoxide, and it seems to be working pretty well. They check your levels before and after to get a good comparison.
HOW BIG A DISAPPOINTMENT WAS IT TO FINISH THIRD TONIGHT WITH THE CAR YOU HAD? "I couldn't go quick there once when I was in the lead. I got passed by four cars and I just couldn't go fast for that one lap. We worked all the way around our car and couldn't get it just right. It was still too loose on entry and loose off. After that first set of tires, it was loose all the time. We tightened it up a little bit but we didn't tighten it up in the right place. We tightened it up too much in the center, but we kept working with it and working with it. I'd love to be able to race some more, but that's the way it goes. We'll give them a shot next week at Dover."
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 THE HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Note: Stewart dominated the first quarter of the Coca-Cola 600, but a mysterious engine problem slowed the defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion. Stewart changed ignition boxes on the track while leading, and the car began acting as if it were down a cylinder. The Home Depot Chevrolet team changed carburetors on pit road and that failed to clear up the problem, and he pulled into the garage area. Engine builder Mark Cronquist supervised a spark-plug change and Stewart went back out on lap 187, several laps behind.
GREG ZIPADELLI, CREW CHIEF, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: "I don't know what happened. I don't know if it was something we touched or what. All we did was pull the valve covers off and looked at everything, put four new plugs in it, checked everything, put it back out and it was just hauling again. So I don't know. It's just a very disappointing night. It looks like a spark plug, but until we get home and put it back on the dyno and check it, they're not going to find anything. It's basically California. We led every lap that we ran, and we led pretty much all that we could lead here tonight. It's pretty hard to stay upbeat, but we're going to Pocono this week to test, and then we'll head to Dover and hopefully we can put a hurtin' on them up there."
RICKY CRAVEN, NO. 32 TIDE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "We lost an engine in the Tide Pontiac, and it came apart pretty big. The engine department owes nobody an apology, because they've done a great job. The car wasn't very good. It was really disappointing. This is the same car we ran third with in the 600 last year, so our expectations were much higher. Nothing worked. We really struggled, and we weren't the only ones. There were a lot of us struggling out there. I can't believe how up and down everyone was tonight. One run, somebody would be good, then the next one somebody else would be good. A lot of cars were good at times and terrible at times, and the Tide Pontiac was in that group."
JACK SPRAGUE, NO. 0 NETZERO PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: Finished 22nd: "We pitted and the 18 (Bobby Labonte) didn't. That got us down two laps, and we got one back and we were only one lap down with just nine cars on the lead lap. The NetZero Pontiac was awesome. We ran in the top 10 the whole time until that happened. I think Little E broke a rotor and I had a left front go flat, so we lost another lap. We just can't catch a break."
MIKE WALLACE, NO. 01 U.S. ARMY PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: Finished 31st: "This is by no means what we wanted. We expected the performance to be better than what it was. I am not happy with my performance - the first stop I made a major error by driving past our pit stall. I had to back up and get back in the box. That probably caused us to lose another lap. We got off to a slow start -- for some reason we weren't right in the beginning. But the guys made some good adjustments, the car started to drive better and we were picking up our lap speeds. This is a tough team and we'll be ready for Dover next week."
STEVE PARK, NO. 30 AOL CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Finished 27th: "The AOL Chevy was real tight when the rain came. When the day started the track was freer and the car was running good. We stayed on the lead lap and were trying to make some headway but then the race rack got away from us. The car started pushing real bad and we just couldn't get the balance back and then the rains came."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - WINNER: "I'm just so proud of this entire team and all of Hendrick Motorsports. We've been able to count on our green pit stops. The last two had us on the lead both time. We have great bodies, great engines, great race cars, great teamwork, and great support from Lowe's. I'm just dumbfounded. I expected to be doing donuts on the front stretch and burnouts and all, but this is very cool."
(AFTER YOUR RUN HERE LAST YEAR, WERE YOU A MAN ON A MISSION TO WIN BOTH THE WINSTON AND THE 600 THIS TIME?) "Last year, we did so well but we didn't close the deal. This year, having a different mindset of wanting to be competitive and working on the race car all day long but have some patience and be up front when it counts and play this game of smarts a little bit more and patience a little bit more seems to be working. We used our heads in The Winston and we used our heads all day long today and raced there at the end when we had to. We had great pit stops and here we are with the win."
(HOW DOES IT FEEL TO WIN YOUR FIRST 'CROWN JEWEL' EVENT?) "Oh, I forgot about that. This track is so hard to drive. And this track has given me so much trouble in a Busch car and even in a Winston Cup car. I've crashed here and have never really been that good at this race track until now. It's just experience. You need experience around here."
QUESTION FROM MICHAEL WALTRIP WHEN HE CONGRATULATED JOHNSON: (HOW DOES IT FEEL TO WIN WITH A LITTLE BIT OF RAIN FALLING? ARE YOU OKAY WITH IT?) "The rain worked for me this time (laughs)." (ARE YOU OKAY WITH IT? CAN YOU WALK AWAY WITH A CLEAR CONSCIOUS?) "Yeah, absolutely. Did you - after your win at Daytona?"
(HAVING STARTED AT THE BACK OF THE PACK TODAY, DID YOU REALLY THINK YOU WOULD HAVE A SHOT AT THE WIN?) "Yes, I did. With a car like Chad Knaus gave me, I knew that I was going to have a shot at it. It was just in my own hands and I needed to stay out of trouble."
(HOW DOES IT FEEL TO WIN ONE OF NASCAR'S BIGGEST RACES WITH ALL THE COMPETITION WANTING IT?) "We did have a great race tonight. I don't mean to sound mellow, but it doesn't seem like I won a Winston Cup race. We didn't battle to the finish line and I didn't have a chance to blow my tires on the frontstretch." More Johnson notes to follow
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF, NO.L 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: "To be able to start in the back and cruise up to the front, I think all of that had to do with momentum we gained in last week in The Winston. Jimmie loves this race track. He didn't run good here in a Busch car. I don't understand why because I'll tell you what, he drives the heck out of the Lowe's Chevrolet."
(ON GOING TO DOVER NEXT WEEK AFTER A DOUBLE WIN AT CHARLOTTE) "Yeah, we picked up two wins at Dover last year, so I'm really excited about going back there. If we can get a good qualifying effort and start in the top 15 somewhere, I think we might have a shot at that victory. But you just never know. Racing technology changes so quickly that you've got to keep moving. We can't go back to Dover with the same set-ups we had last year because it's not going to be as competitive. So we're changing some things around and we'll see what happens."
(WHEN KYLE BUSCH HAD PROBLEMS, DID YOU BREATHE A SMALL SIGH OF RELIEF?) "Everybody in Winston Cup nowadays is so competitive. If you look at the top 15 drivers out there, what separates those guys is the crew being on that day, the crew chief on that day, and the driver being on that day. That's all it really is. Jimmie's tremendous here and he was really switched on. The pit crew did a great job and that's what won us the race here. You just don't know.
"As far as people being out of the championship hunt, that No. 20 car (Tony Stewart) isn't out of the hunt just like we're not and nobody else is. It's so competitive right now that if you go out there and have one mistake, somebody is going to beat you. And that person is probably going to be somebody in the points."
(WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO BETWEEN NOW AND NEXT WEEK'S RACE AT DOVER?) "I'm going to relax a little bit. We've got our Dover stuff pretty much together and we're just going to get ready to rock and roll." More Chad Knaus comments to follow
ROBBIE LOOMIS, CREW CHIEF, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: "It was real good. We were running 4th that last pit stop and we decided to work on the car and make a little bit better. We spend the extra time on pit road. I think a couple guys might have taken on two tires, actually. But we wound up coming out in 8th. But the car was really good and the pit crew was great and Jimmie won - so we feel good."
MICHAEL WALTRIP, NO. 15 NAPA CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: "I'm pleased with the way the boys tuned my car for me. We worked on it all night long. When the race started, we were very competitive. I think it was better when the race ended than we had been all night. We only got up to 6th, but the guys did a great job on pit road all night long. I'm very proud of the effort the team put forth for me from top to bottom. It was just a wonderful team effort."
(WERE YOU GLAD THE RACE WAS CALLED DUE TO RAIN, OR WOULD YOU HAVE LIKED A LITTLE MORE TIME?) "Right now, I've kind of got the emotion that I'm geared up to run another couple hundred miles, you know? I'm all fired up. So, I don't know what I'm going to do now to wind down."
ROBBY GORDON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO (HOW DO YOU FEEL?) "I feel great. I'll be fine tomorrow. We came 25 laps short at Indy so that's 100 miles and obviously we are 130 laps short here. If this race didn't get called, I would have been good running the whole race.
"It's the Coca-Cola 600 and I feel good. We had a good car. The later and cooler it got, the better the Cingular Wireless Chevrolet was. It wasn't a big deal not going the distance. It was just great being able to be in both races. We had great car but it just didn't work out at either race."
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - (PROVIDED BY PR MANAGER, JADE GURSS) "We were almost ready to go back out there when they called the race. It's a shame that our streak of finishing every race for a full year (this event in 2002 was the team's last DNF) had to end because of rain. We had a good car, but not a great car tonight. The car had been loose for a big chunk of the race, but as I came off of turn four onto the flat part of the straight, the rear wheels locked up and I was spinning. It was wild. We kind of brushed the wall - bent the rear bumper a bit, but not too bad. We thought we had it fixed after a few pit stops - and we were still on the lead lap - but the rotors kept locking up. The rotor and the whole assembly on the left rear wheel finally failed and we had to take it to the garage."
"I told the guys that we can't expect to be a championship contender if we keep making mistakes on pit stops. But, it happened early in the race, and we had a strong car, so I felt like we were going to be OK. We had a lot of time left to get back up to the front. Then, (car chief) Tony (Eury) Jr. decided we should make an extra stop to top off on fuel, and that strategy worked perfectly. The yellow came out on the lap we had planned to stop again, so all of a sudden we're in third place and looking good. It's kind of frustrating because right now we don't know what failed or what caused the problem, but I guess we're still in second place in points."