Chevrolet Phoenix Sunday notes

DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "Me and Kevin (crew chief Hamlin) threw a mystery setup under this thing this morning. We were awful loose getting in and center off. We worked on it all day long, but we...

DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "Me and Kevin (crew chief Hamlin) threw a mystery setup under this thing this morning. We were awful loose getting in and center off. We worked on it all day long, but we were driving our tails off. The guys worked hard in the pits. I just don't understand. We had some good shots at running good, Dover, Charlotte, Rockingham, and we just fall through. You can't win a championship like that. The weather didn't really matter for us today. We were messed up sunny or shady."

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "Any time you have a shootout, especially on a short track like here at Phoenix, it's going to get real interesting. We had two tires on, and my car just really didn't like those two tires. We'd rather it kept going all the way to the finish there. We were running down Rusty and it looked like we might have a shot at fifth, but we ended up seventh. It was a good effort for us. I'm so proud of these guys. We were about a 10th or 12th-place car and we worked on it and worked on it and got it better and better. We had some great pit stops, and boom, we were right there, battling for a top five. It was a fun day. It's the best we've run here at Phoenix in awhile, but we're still missing something. We've got to get something and get better to beat those guys. It might have been the weather. We were definitely chasing it, but I couldn't put my finger on why. We were wearing the right rear tire out real bad. Finally we got the right rear hooked up and got the car turning up off the corner and driving off good. The car just came to life. "Any time something like that happens you feel for the guy because it looked like he (Ricky Rudd) had the car to beat. He was real strong and somebody like Ricky who has won a race every year, it's a shame stuff like that happens when you get around a lot of cars, but I don't know if any of those guys could have done anything different. I've been caught up in those circumstances before. "We were just wearing the right rears out. We didn't have any problems with the right front tires like some of those guys did. I wish we had stayed out on that last caution. Looking at where Mark Martin finished, I think if we could have had a couple of cars up there that would have slowed those guys down a little bit with new tires... I don't know if we would have won the race, but I think we would have finished better than we did."

RICKY CRAVEN (No. 50 Midwest Transit Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "The car was good. I feel like we deserved to be 12th-15th, but we lost track position and couldn't get it back. Those lapped cars wear you out. It was a respectable run for the guys. Overall, we had a pretty decent day. We had a few problems from the beginning that we really couldn't correct. We had some adjustability, but it wasn't exactly what we needed."

BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "Matt Kenseth said something came out from under my car and cut my left rear down and cut his right front down. I don't know if I hit something. I didn't see anything, but I was on the outside of Robert Pressley at the time. I don't know if we broke something, but we definitely blew a left rear tire."

MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I was trying to pass Dale and had a big run on him coming off the corner and ran over that tri-oval thing or whatever it is over there in the backstretch. I killed the left front tire, suspension. If we had many more laps to go we would have finished a lot worse. We had an awesome car at one time, over adjusted and never did get it back."

STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) Park led the way for Team Monte Carlo on Sunday at Phoenix with a third-place finish. In the last 12 races, since his first Winston Cup career victory on Aug. 13 at Watkins Glen, Park has five top-five finishes and seven top 10s. The 33-year-old Islip, N.Y., native has moved to 11th in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. "We had a great car. It was a good race car. We thought we could make it a car that was capable of winning. We kept adjusting on it during the pit stops and we made it worse. We decided to go back to what we originally had and that's what made it the best. It seemed like we couldn't put our finger on what we needed to make it better. This is a slick race track and you could see everybody slipping and sliding around there toward the end. I think the key role for us finishing in the top five again was really just great pit stops. We almost made a mistake toward the end and took four tires, but Paul (crew chief Andrews) said to take two and try to gain some track position. We kind of thought that's what everybody had on their minds. It was kind of a gamble because we never took two tires all day long. We didn't really know what two tires was going to do to the car, but the car was really balanced on four tires and the two tires. I think as long as everybody else took two we were on a level playing field. We could do something with them. "We had a really good shock package that really didn't affect if it was a cloud cover or if the sun was out. We got adjusting the car and we'd get it either too loose or too tight. After two pit stops trying to fix it, we went back to what we started the race with, and it seemed like that's what we really needed, but it still wasn't as good as Jeff Burton's. He was the class of the field. The only thing, I really thought we had a shot at winning the race after that second to last pit stop. He had a bad pit stop and came out pretty far back. I think we were running second at the time and looking to work over Ricky Rudd a little bit. Jeff started to catch us a little bit, but I think he wore himself out. When he got to the back of us, I think he struggled a little bit. That was the only shot I think any of us had at beating him. When we got that late caution, he was able to get tires and he was just unbelievable. "We were a little bit too tight in the center of the corner. With two corners here at Phoenix, it's hard to get the car to turn properly in both corners. We got to adjusting on it to make it better in the center, and we never made it better in the center, but we'd make it worse in or worse off the corner. We just had to settle for it to be at its best being a little bit tight in the center of the corner. Jeff Burton looked like his car was turning a little bit better than mine. That was the key. I was pretty good getting in the corner and getting off the corner. I just couldn't roll through the center like he could and we tried to make it better and made it worse in other areas. Finally we went back to where we felt we were the best and kind of ran out of pit stops. There wasn't a huge amount of cautions. "We decided right there at the end with two tires that would help us turn a little bit, so we took no adjustments and two tires and it made us pretty good right there at the end. "Last year Paul Andrews came on board about halfway through the season. The year before that I got hurt and missed three-quarters of the season. We've had these part seasons that have added up to a little bit of experience, but this year has really been our first full year as a team, as a solid race team with Paul being there, with me gaining some experience over the last two years. The engine shop has been in development stage, and that's getting where it needs to be. They're building great race cars. We have all the ingredients now. We have all the key people in place. I'm getting more and more experience. The better and better you run, you run with a higher class of people. You tend to get more experience like we did today. We're just becoming a well rounded team, so it not only makes me excited about this year, how well we've run these last six months, but just think about next year. I'm pretty excited. "It's amazing what a win can do for you. If you think about it, it's really where a lot of things started. In this sport, everybody has great sponsors and have great equipment. I think it's the people that really make the difference. We were struggling on our pit stops and we finally got rid of a few guys and got a few new guys and they just jelled with the whole team. Then we went and won the race (at Watkins Glen) and not only did I prove to myself that I could win in Winston Cup but I think the whole team proved to a lot of people they could win in Winston Cup, so I told them at the end of that race that we're no longer competitors any more, we're all winners and there's not a lot of people that can say that. We've got a real solid race team. We're all friends. We all kid around with each other and we've got a great relationship. That's something we need to hang on to. A lot of teams get that and lose it with their pit crews guys going somewhere else or something, so we just need to keep our guys happy and keep running well like we are and keep this deal together because it's a winner. "We never lose the attention of our team owner. Dale Jr. is obviously a talented race car driver and those guys have what we were all looking for. They've been together for two or three years in the Busch Series, won two championships. They had the people and they had it working. They had it working in the Busch Series and they took that chemistry and moved it right to Winston Cup. At that point, we were still trying to get the people to make it all work. We got the people that can make it all work right now. We're pretty solid. We're staying focused on what we need to do. We keep running the way we do, we'll keep that car in that black and white car with that moustache smiling. That's pretty important. "A lot of guys don't heed warnings Goodyear gives them. Goodyear gives us all recommendations of what air pressure and what camber to run in our right front tires. If you don't abide by what they engineer those tires for, you're going to have a problem. Why risk the handling of your race car for a safety issue? You get your car to handle good for 20 or 30 laps, but if you're going to blow a right front tire, you're not going to win a race. I think the people that adhere to the guidelines that Goodyear sets doesn't have a problem. We didn't have a problem. Our tires looked great all day. I'd like to applaud Goodyear. They've been bringing us good, safe tires week in and week out and it seems like there's always a controversy because they're changing the tires, but they're changing them for the better. We just like to complain because we like things being the same all the time so we get a setup that works good. You don't like to change it. I think a lot of the younger teams aren't so stuck in their ways and the new tires doesn't affect them as much. I know it hasn't us. We've been really enjoying the tires."

KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We started the race with a slight push. We were tight coming off the corners, especially after turn four. We needed to handle better if we were going to run up front. A couple laps after each restart, we would fall into a four-wheel drift, but it got better during the long green flag runs. We were fortunate to qualify in the top 10 this week or we would've lost a lap or two. On that last caution, the 32 and 77 spun out right in front of me. Ricky Craven and I had to go up high to avoid the wreck. We were four-wide going through the turn, and I just missed getting knocked out cold."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Robert Pressley , Mark Martin