DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Earnhardt Jr. won earlier this season at Richmond, scoring a .159-second victory over fellow Team Monte Carlo driver Terry Labonte. Last year in the fall race at the ...
DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Earnhardt Jr. won earlier this season at Richmond, scoring a .159-second victory over fellow Team Monte Carlo driver Terry Labonte. Last year in the fall race at the .750-mile track, Earnhardt Jr. finished 10th after starting 21st. The 25-year-old Kannapolis, N.C., native finished 11th last week at Darlington in the Pepsi Southern 500. He was the highest finishing rookie for the second straight race. Earnhardt Jr. moved up to 14th in the series standings, 44 points behind Dale Earnhardt Inc., teammate Steve Park. Earnhardt Jr. trails Matt Kenseth in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings by 23 points (254-231) entering the Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400.
"We've got 10 races left, and anything can happen," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We keep learning new things every week, and we're looking forward to racing again at Richmond. It'd be great to put the Budweiser Monte Carlo in victory lane in the Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400. I'm sure Chevrolet wouldn't mind that at all. "We tested at Richmond and didn't work on anything but our race setup. I think we had the second fastest car there, and we never even made a qualifying run. We've always been pretty good at that track, and it'd be nice to win that No Bull 5 deal, too. "We've been qualifying better and running better lately, and we've always had a pretty good combination at Richmond. We finished 10th at Richmond last fall and didn't even have brakes for the last part of the race. If we can keep everything together and get a break or two, I think we might have a good chance to give 'em a run for their money up there again. I love racing under the lights. There's just something about it that gets your juices flowing. "We started off pretty good up there in May. I think we had about a fifth or sixth-place car. We trickled on back to about 11th or 12th. The car was loose in, loose off. We came in and made an adjustment. The car was a little bit too tight in the center, but our car was real good when the run started for about 20 or 30 laps. I could pass people and make up some positions, but on the end of a long run, we'd suffer a little bit. "Right there at the end, Tony (crew chief Eury Sr.) and the guys got the car where it was giving me all it could give me. We got it turning good and got it good and snug getting in and good and snug getting off. I would have been pretty happy to finish second behind Tony (Stewart). Then we had the caution, and Tony kind of made it tight coming out of the pits and I did all I could to keep from running over them boys in the 60 car. "I knocked the right front fender off my car and tore up Tony's car pretty bad to where it couldn't stay out. He had to come in and get a tire put on. Then the last 30 laps or last 20 laps or whatever with the right front fender knocked off the car, it was real tight. The last 10 laps, it pushed the car and chattered up off the corner or else I think we would have been able to hold our own. We had a good enough car before tearing the fender up to keep our distance. "I felt like he was pretty tight on me coming out of the pits. The guy who was changing the right rear tire on the 60 car was jumping out of my way. I couldn't have got no closer without hitting that car. It was just a bad situation. Tony was coming out of the pits behind us, so he couldn't just make a hard right and left and come out of the pits. He came straight out of his box. I guess he just didn't anticipate me coming out at about the same time. "I may have been able to make it close, but getting around him, I doubt. It was pretty tough (those last few laps). My car had gotten pretty tight. I having to really concentrate on my entrance in the corners to be able to get off the corner fast. He (Terry Labonte) was coming quickly. I didn't know what his intentions were, so I was just holding my breath. "I felt like turns one and two were the tighter corners for me. He would gain on me getting into three, but I would get off that corner a little better where I could kind of pull what he gained. I could gain it back. In turns one and two, I felt like he would just eat me up. "The pit road deal could have easily tore my tire up. I was lucky and fortunate it didn't, but it did tear up the fender bad to where the car didn't handle the same it was. We were still good enough and had new tires where we could hang on there. We had a pretty decent lead. I don't think if I hadn't been able to get by my dad and get that lead we had that we'd have won the race. Terry and them were pretty strong there at the end. "It surprises me that it's me in the car. It doesn't surprise me that the car is doing it. I'm pretty surprised that I'm winning races in the Winston Cup Series from looking back on where I've been and what I did and the racing I've been having all these years. With all the effort put forth and the people hired and personnel brought in to put together a program like we've got, we had a good race team in the Busch Series, and Tony and Tony Jr. make the calls on what people we brought with us and what people we added to the team. "I'm really getting used to letting them guys pretty much make the decisions. I'm getting comfortable with that. They've also hired a lot of good personnel in the engineering department and bringing Richie Gilmore in for our motor department was a big plus for us. I can't go out there and do that without a good motor. I can't go out there and do that without a good race car. I can't get in another race car and be able to do the same thing. All those things factor in, and that car was probably a lot faster than it showed at Richmond in May. I've got a lot to learn and a lot of experience to gain to be able to use that potential. "I've been there every minute of it. Not to be smart aleck or nothing, but I've had my eyes wide open the whole time. It's been pretty surprising some of the things that have been said, some of the people that I've met. You meet pretty interesting characters going this type of pace. The best thing about it is I've been with my dad, and he's not going to let any fool come in there and mess with me and take advantage of me. I think Tony and Tony Jr. feel the same way. They know exactly what kind of potential we've got and what we can be a few years down the road. We're smart enough to sift through the parts and pieces of our lives and get the good and get rid of the bad and keep adjusting until we're better and better. "I talked with Tony and them and they knew the way they were running that Busch team was going to be OK in the Winston Cup Series, but they knew there were some things they were going to have to adjust to, some new things and different things. Their work ethic has just got harder. They've been putting in a lot of hours, and I've been tearing up some race cars. I walk in that shop and they're all shiny and ready to go. It's been a big surprise, and I think that's why things have happened so fast. What the public sees is just me, but there's a lot of people in the background."
DAVE MARCIS (No. 71 Realtree Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Marcis, a 59-year-old veteran from Wausau, Wisc., began NASCAR Winston Cup racing in 1968. He won four races in 1975 and '76 driving for Nord Krauskopf and finished second behind Richard Petty in the 1975 championship standings. He has five career victories, the last one coming at Richmond on Feb. 21, 1982 Marcis scored his best finish of the season last week in the Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Making only his eighth start of the season, Marcis qualified 28th, led twice for 12 laps and finished 23rd.
"Darlington has always been a good track for me. I get around that place pretty good, and it's always been one of my favorite race tracks. Our engine guy, Jeff Michaels, made a few changes on the engine and that seemed to work. It looked like we had a pretty good combination. I probably would have run better if we'd had fewer caution flags. My car was really good on long runs. I could run 60 laps or so on tires. There wasn't hardly anyone else doing that. Our lap times were good for the whole run, so we needed more green flag racing. "I was just racing hard trying to stay on the lead lap (when accident happened involving Jeremy Mayfield). I was very courteous, giving him a tremendous amount of room. I was running the high groove, going into one high and staying high and not cutting him off. I was being extra polite. Basically, Jeremy was pretty much by. I don't know if his back end broke loose and he just slipped up into me or what. He had the whole back straightaway, the lower line. There certainly wasn't any intentional contact there. He just slipped up. I've got no problems with him whatsoever. I thought we were doing some good, clean, hard racing. That should have been very enjoyable for the race fans. I think that's what the fans come to see, and I was not a lapped car. I was going to be if he got me, but I wasn't yet. I had a good car. You can't tell me any of those guys haven't raced just as hard to try to stay on the lead lap at one time or another. That's what racing is all about. "I haven't seen any replays, but somebody made a comment that Jack Roush or some of Matt Kenseth's people had a comment about that deal late in the race. I think the 27 and 17 got together and got sideways, and I was right in it. There was no intention on my part to spin anybody out. It's too damn much work to fix these race cars. I ain't trying to tear up anybody's car, and my stuff, either. "I might just run 10 races next year. I'm not sure which 10, but I'm going to do Daytona, Darlington, Bristol and Dover. I probably wouldn't do a Sears Point or Watkins Glen. I'll do Loudon, N.H., I think. I just haven't really decided yet. I'll work out something with Kerry Earnhardt if that's what Dale wants. I'd like to help him some. If there's somebody that's got money to pay the bills to do a race or two, I'll help them. I want to help Dwayne Leik do a few races, too. I've got more work than I can handle, that's for sure, because I've got to go fishing and hunting, too. "I tested at Richmond a couple of weeks ago. My problem at Richmond is going to be getting qualified. I just bought a set of $6,500 brakes that I hope will help me get qualified. I'm going to put them on the car this afternoon and hope for the best. Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin use the same brakes, so maybe they'll help. I can't seem to come up with what's wrong for me in the qualifying mode at Richmond. We tested there a lot a couple of weeks ago and did a lot of long runs. We've got a pretty good race setup. I still didn't seem to come up with anything for qualifying. "We're concerned about qualifying. Over the years, Richmond has been a good track for me, but since it's been changed to this configuration, it hasn't been worth a damn for me. I don't know what it is about it. "We've got 10 races to go, and it looks like we're going to have a pretty good points race down the stretch. You can't count out any of those top five teams right now. Bobby Labonte looked like he was struggling a little bit, but that win at Darlington sure has to give those guys a boost. He's about 400 points ahead of fifth place (397 ahead of Rusty Wallace in fifth), and that's a good cushion, but then again, that ain't a good cushion. "Earnhardt has been great. Whatever they did to change their car, it sure worked. If that surgery helped Earnhardt that much, it was some miracle stuff. I've got a neck problem that hinders me some, too, but if that surgery helped Earnhardt that much, well, that's fantastic. "A reporter asked me about a possible drivers' boycott at New Hampshire. Those guys can do that if they want. I don't guess I would. Does something need to be done or doesn't something need to be done? What needs to be done is the damn cubic inches need to be reduced in these race cars. They need to get rid of about 70 or 75 cubic inches in these race cars. I've been saying that for eight or nine years. It's inevitable they're going to have to do it sooner or later, so it looks to me that sooner would be better than later. Robert Yates was hollering about it a few years ago. He got sick and tired of talking about it because they weren't listening. "We ran there (New Hampshire) all those years and all of a sudden tragedy strikes twice. I can't personally jump on the race track for it. It's a bad situation. With the speeds we're going down in those corners and the tire as good as it is, just like Bobby Labonte said at Darlington when his throttle stuck, you haven't got time to hit that switch. It was a good thought and was in the right direction. At least they were trying to do something, but that thing is about worthless. You just don't have time for something like that. You're so overcommitted with the way you drive these cars today. When you go in the corners and crack that throttle, and you realize it's not coming back, damn. You're in trouble. "And let me say something about that brake switch. That's nothing new that Jack Roush invented. That brake switch was being used by drivers in Wisconsin probably 15 years ago. Why in the hell does Jack Roush think he's come up with the latest and greatest again? I'm sure Dick Trickle used those things when he was racing in Wisconsin. They didn't have 'em when I was racing up there, but my nephew used 'em in the mid '80s. They worked pretty good, but if something happened when you were out there racing and you nailed the brake pedal, it shut the engine off. Then you had to refire. For Jack Roush to jump on the bandwagon and act like it's something he's invented, it ain't."