Team Monte Carlo crew chiefs discuss the new 2000 Monte Carlo's performance in the Bud Shootout, and the outlook for Thursday's Twin 125s and the 42nd annual Daytona 500. LARRY McREYNOLDS (Crew chief No. 31 Lowe's Monte Carlo) "I think...
Team Monte Carlo crew chiefs discuss the new 2000 Monte Carlo's performance in the Bud Shootout, and the outlook for Thursday's Twin 125s and the 42nd annual Daytona 500.
LARRY McREYNOLDS (Crew chief No. 31 Lowe's Monte Carlo)
"I think we were going to be OK (in Bud Shootout). Could we run with the 88 and 28? Probably not. I was pleasantly surprised how we stacked up against everybody else. Mike Skinner really made some good, smart moves. The pit crew was awesome. The engine guys did good. I saw some heads hanging down after that deal. I told them I've been here for three years and it's the first time I've ever walked back to the garage area because of an engine letting go. It's a pretty good record. No one needs to hang their head because that's just part of it. We maybe dropped a valve one time at Pocono with three laps to go and weren't hitting on eight cylinders. We've lost some engines in qualifying and practice, but that's the first time in race trim, unless I'm forgetting one, since I've been at RCR.
"Mike was laying on it hard, like he did Saturday (in qualifying). That whole deal was a transmission-motor related deal. I don't think Mike got it in first gear all the way. He was just trying hard. When he went to leave the pits, it popped out of first gear and turned 8800 (rpm's) and choked it. Realistically it was not a motor failure. You can't turn 'em 8800 on pit road. They were kind of a sacrificial lamb on the deal as far as saying the engine blew up.
"It's going to be hard to beat those Fords, especially that 88 and 28. I think the proof of the pudding will be Thursday's races. If we watch Earnhardt in the first 125 and he can't nothing with those boys.... He's in pretty much a predominantly Ford 125. He's got all the heavy hitters, Rusty, Mark, Dale Jarrett. The only one he doesn't have in his race is Rudd and we've got him in our race. I think the first 125 is pretty much going to dictate how the rest of this weekend goes.
"We were in trouble with our car on Friday. We couldn't keep up and it wouldn't turn a lick behind another car and we just kept working on it and have gotten a lot better. Again, I'm pleasantly surprised with the qualifying effort on Saturday. I'm pleasantly surprised how the car ran for 10 laps in th e Bud Shootout. Now qualifying is over and the 25-lap sprint race is over and we've got to get it right for long runs. The race track will continue to get slicker and greasier, just like it does every year down here. It probably won't make any difference.
"I don't know about the 28, but I feel like that 88 played all day long Sunday. It was like playing with a toy. They've got a pretty awesome race car, and I think Robert Yates has turned a lot of attention to the plate motors. Robert told me felt like they got a little bit behind on their restrictor-plate stuff. I think he stepped up his program. He quit building Busch motors and truck motors and all that stuff, and I think he's turned all his focus to the 28 and 88 and Winston Cup engines in general. I think they've got the whole package right now. They've got an awfully good race car, and they've got a lot of power. There's no substitute for either one down here.
"I was proud of our pit crew. We came in second or third and left second. The stop was 7.6 seconds. I'm real proud of those guys. The rear tire changer, Sam Tubbs, came over from the 3 car. They've set up a new program up there. Greg Burkhart came from the 43 car. He works in our engine shop and changes front tires. We've got a substitute front tire carrier right now. Sean Irvan works for us full-time, but Kevin Gabard is still recovering from leg surgery. We've got two brand new tire changers and a substitute front tire carrier. I'm pretty proud of those guys. We got off track last year after Mike Lingerfelt left us to go to Gibbs (Tony Stewart's team). We never could really get back to the form this team was used to being at. I think it taught David Smith (31 team manager) and I a lesson. You can't be sitting and letting one guy make or break your crew and that's what that one boy leaving did. It upset our apple cart big time. We hit and missed the rest of the season. David worked his guts out all winter to get this pit crew to do what it had to do to get back where it was. David has worked hard on all four pit crews up there. We works with them five days a week. The 3 pit crew and 31 pit crew and he's taken those two Busch guys from scratch and has got them in good shape, but I'm really proud of the 31 pit crew.
"I watched some of the replays of the Bud Shootout, but watching that qualifying race, the 88 was playing. He played all day long. He was just having fun. I think he went when he needed to go and could go when he needed to go. I'm worried about the next seven days here, but I'm a whole lot more worried about Las Vegas, Rockingham and Atlanta on how we're going to stack up against these Fords. I think the Bud Shootout showed that we can hang with them here. I think our 500 car will do a little bit better than our Shootout car. I'm a whole lot more worried about these upcoming races. I'm just hoping if there is a bad discrepancy that NASCAR won't sit long and watch it happen.
"I think they will. I've heard Mike Helton talk to some competitors and they're not going to sit and watch this thing be lopsided. How long they watch, it's hard to say. I'd be very surprised if anything happened this week. If those 125s are super lop-sided you could possibly see an adjustment before Sunday. They don't want to see the first race of 2000 to be a lopsided deal. I believe that with all my heart.
"I'm not saying that's all they've got to do, but I don't see what more of a choice they have here at this point than to adjust the spoiler. The things they'd have to look at in the future is to give us the same leniency with the rear bumper the Taurus has and give us the same leniency with the shape and the laid-backness of the front end, particularly the headlight door area."
KEVIN HAMLIN (Crew chief No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I think we've just got too much drag in the car still. The spoiler is higher off the ground in the center than it was in last year's model. It's just something we're working out still and hopefully time is all we need. They looked like they were pretty decent yesterday in the Bud Shootout, but the strong cars are still going to be strong. The 88 and 28, along with good bodies, they've got good engines, so it's going to be a tough deal.
"After we draft, we'll know more. You don't know how low they're laying. I think they're just cruising. It might look good, but they're not stupid, either. I think the 88 kind of messed up in the first race by doing what he did there by stretching it out so far in front of those guys. Two of 'em lined up and tried to do something but they couldn't even run as fast as he was. That's kind of discouraging. It's been a long time since you've seen a breakaway like that. It could be even worse when all of the them get out there. If the others get racing.
"What happened in the Bud Shootout was perfect for the 88 and 28. Gordon thought the race was over from what I've heard. Robbie told him there was one more lap to go, so he decided to put a move on going down the back straightaway. The 88 made it look awful easy by what he did out there by himself. We'll let the master (Dale Earnhardt) get out there and give us his opinion of what's going on.
"There's a couple different ways to look at it, and I don't really know what the right way is. I'd probably rather see the Fords have more spoiler. It wouldn't hurt us to have less, but if it's a real hot day for the 500 it could hurt us a little bit. That's still a lot of spoiler, but for what the cars are doing with the shock package we've got right now, I'm not sure we want a lot of spoiler. We still could maybe get too loose with less spoiler. In the draft, you can run more spoiler and still be OK. I don't know if that's going to fix it either except when the car pulls out to pass I'm sure less spoiler would help us and more spoiler would hurt the Fords. As far as packed up racing, it's not going to matter if they give us less spoiler or them more. I don't think. It's still going to be the same old thing. There's going to be a pack of cars and you can be the worst car here and still run in the middle of the pack if you can stay in line with them.
"We're not going to throw in the towel. This is the Daytona 500. It's not looking good, but I'm not giving up. If we don't win the 125, I don't care. It's going to be disheartening to think you don't have a chance at winning it, but Sunday is still the big event. Thursday just gives us a little bit of a measuring stick on what we've got to do for Sunday.
"I don't know if we can make the right changes or good enough changes to help us speedwise, but you can bet we're going to try. When we unloaded the car after the last speedway race at Talladega and tested it, I knew we were probably going to be in trouble with the spring and shock rule they were thinking about. So far, we haven't got our speedway car down drag wise as good as last year's speedway car. The changes actually helped the Fords. It gave them more downforce and less drag. We're fighting the drag thing against the Ford, plus they're going to handle better because of the downforce. That' a tough thing to beat right there. I'd like to think we can beat it, but that might be too much to ask for even Dale Earnhardt. You can bet we're not going to give up.
"When these guys get three wide anymore, the guy in the middle is really going to suffer with these shocks. There's not enough control in the car and you're going to lose one end or the other. Before, they thought everybody was way too aggressive with that stuff, but you could only go to a certain point and you couldn't drive the car anymore anyway. Right now, everybody is on such equal ground, especially in short races like we saw Sunday, the guy in the middle, his car won't have any grip. I think you're going to see more crashes. When you get all the cars out there, I think it might be even worse. We'll see what happens."
ROBBIE LOOMIS (Crew chief No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We've been in this shape before. I think every team in here has, but we're in the situation with the new Monte Carlo where we can't afford to be off in any one area. We've got to make sure we double check everything we do. That's what we get paid to do. We're going to have to really work hard. We had a meeting Sunday to make sure we understand where we're at. We know we can beat them if we do everything right. Eventually as we get better and better with the Monte Carlos, we'll have a little bigger window if we're off a little bit in one area. We can beat 'em. It's just a situation where we have to do everything right. Some days you go to the race track and you can be off a little bit in one area and still be OK. The body might not be good or the chassis might be a little bit off or the motor might not be quite right and we would still feel like we could be contention to win the race at the end of the day. Here, we're going to have to do everything right to win. We're going to have to have the body maxed all we can get it to be slick. We're going to have to figure out how to make it turn because we can't pull the fenders out and do things that you'd normally do to pin the front end down. We've got to make the thing turn and still have a good drag number. We've got a real good car for the Daytona 500. We drafted down here with it in testing and we felt real good about it then.
"I'm not going to say I can beat the 88, but I think Jeff Gordon can. The 88 is really strong, but from what I saw of Jeff Gordon in the Bud Shootout, he's pretty incredible. We talked about it after the race, and Jeff hadn't let up, but he did think the race was over. When we told him there was a lap to go, he said we were OK. It wasn't a big deal.
"The drag is considerably different with this car than the car we had last year. We've just got to do everything right, and we can't give up anything in any area. In the past down here, you'll pull the fenders out a little more or put more spoiler on it. Now you're going to see all the Chevrolets setting up with minimum spoiler and the fenders in as far as they can and still have the car turn.
"Jeff and I worked together well in the Bud Shootout. I guess a guy who's won three championships like he has keeps a calm demeanor. All the stories I've heard about him on the radio sure wasn't the Jeff Gordon I was talking to on the radio Sunday. I'm calm most of the time on the radio. Usually when I get excited is when the driver gets excited with the crew. These guys work their guts out to give him the very best cars they can. I've told all our drivers in the past if we're having trouble I'd like to red-flag the race and come in and fix it, but I can't. So we've got to live with it, but when you stay calm, one thing Richard Petty taught me, you can make things a lot clearer about what you need to do. When you're upset, you're not thinking about anything other than being upset.
"We have three new guys on the road crew and the whole pit crew is new. It's exciting. We're in a building process. We're not looking to come out here and win the first 10 races out of the box. We want to give Jeff Gordon good, consistent cars, not make any mistakes and get consistent finishes. When it comes time to win, I'm sure we'll get 'em.
"I told Jeff of all the stuff we did Sunday, the pit crew was the most impressive. First race, you come down pit road leading and you come out first, that's all you can ask.
ROBBIE LOOMIS (Crew chief No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I got home to see my dad on Wednesday, the first day I came down. I've got to go see mom today because it's Valentine's Day. My mom lives in Deltona, and my dad lives in Altamonte Springs. This will be my last free day. I looked on that schedule, and they've got a lot of 6 o'clock in the morning starting times lined up for us."