Sunday, April 25, 1999. Talladega Superspeedway. DieHard 500. Chevrolet Notes and Quotes. JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "I didn't see exactly what happened. We fell back there. We weren't choosing...
Sunday, April 25, 1999. Talladega Superspeedway. DieHard 500. Chevrolet Notes and Quotes.
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "I didn't see exactly what happened. We fell back there. We weren't choosing the right line, but we started making some gains, and Jarrett and I started coming up through there. We were riding along there on the inside and all of a sudden I saw two cars, the 31 and the 20 over in the grass. The 31 started to lose it and man, I was trying to get on the brakes, trying to steer it around, and then my car came around and we got caught up in it. It's damaged really bad. "I really didn't see how the 31 and 20 got in the grass. I just saw the 31 down there and he over corrected and started coming up on the race track. I really thought he was going to come all the way across. He didn't. He came across right in front of me. I tried to miss him and got into the 20 and got turned around right in the middle of traffic. "That's the tightest I've ever seen it. You could never get single file and pull away. You're just sitting there trying to hold on and then you get impatient and you've got to get to the front and you've got guys getting three wide. You're watching your mirror trying to make sure nobody gets inside or outside of you. I'm sure that's what happened with those guys. They got to blocking each other and got into one another and got down into the grass. "The part that bothers me is when a guy gets right to your outside going through the corners of the tri-oval. It's like he's almost trying to spin you out. I'm not going to mention any names. It's unfortunate when those things are going on out there. We can have a good, safe race here. I've got to admit. I was getting three wide at times and you have to do that if you're going to advance forward. It's the last thing you want to do, but everybody's got to do it to try to get to the front somehow. "I like coming here. I like racing. I just don't like crashing here. We're having one of those years that everybody has been waiting for. It's not because we're not running good. We're running real good. We're just not having the good fortune that we've been having and that's what it takes to win a championship and be consistent. I'm probably more surprised at all the good luck we've had the past four or five years. It's been amazing. Along the way, I've had great success and I've had bad luck. Right now, we're having those misfortunes, but these are the things that make you stronger as a team. I've never seen the team as together or as strong as they are right now."
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "It's just an unfortunate deal. Tony got a little run on me and got a little anxious. He's trying hard and he's running awful good. I know he didn't do it on purpose. It ain't no big deal."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "He kept jockeying around and jumped out of line and jumped in line. Finally, I got the opportunity to go to the front. Again, I didn't know if it was the right thing to do. I was going to settle in there with Jarrett, but they kept racing behind me and I figured maybe I'd like to be in front and maybe they'd get to racing each other and help me win. That's really what happened. Jarrett couldn't mount a charge on me. Everybody was racing behind him, so we just had a great car all day. We were there and had pretty good pit stops all day. We had one problem with the left front. We took a little time to see what that was. It was just distracting. It was a good day for us. We came back to the front a couple of times and led the most laps and won the race. That's what it's about, to come down here and win races. Michael (Waltrip) and I work pretty good together. I followed him quite a bit and he led a lot of the race. I thought we were going to work more together, and it just didn't happen. Bobby Labonte was really strong, and we could work good together, but those guys got to racing and when you get out of line and here comes another line, you can't hang with them. You've got to go with the fastest line. Richard Childress and these GM Goodwrench guys and all the crew needed this win. It's a good day for us. I just wish it was a Winston Million race and I was eligible. Our program is really off there (Martinsville), but we're fast getting on track. We've got a brand new car for California and if it doesn't go fast it'll be my fault because the car is really good."
RICHARD CHILDRESS (Car owner RCR Chevrolet Monte Carlos) "I'm just as happy as I can be. I've got to be the luckiest car owner in the world. Dale Earnhardt is the best. If anybody gives up on him, they've just lost their mind."
TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "It wasn't a lot of fun out there today. At first we burned up the rear end gear. Then, we cut a left-rear tire going through the corner, spun and brushed the wall. That just about took care of our day."
WALLY DALLENBACH (No. 25 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I can't believe our luck. We had a great race car, really great race car. After the wreck, the crew did a great job, but we just weren't as quick as before. At the end, all that tape began fluttering around. That cost us at least five spots. We came awful close to missing the wreck, but we clipped somebody with the right corner and it damaged both the right corner and the hood. We still have a pretty strong car, and we did get back up to the top five, but I could never get any help. It's tough for one man to do it alone here. Hopefully, our luck will turn around. This is the third or fourth time we've had a really good race car and the results don't show it."
KEN SCHRADER (No. 33 Skoal Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I was out there by myself and I looked in the mirror and here came the cavalry. Kenny (Wallace) and I worked great together there at the end and we came through with two more top 10 finishes for Andy Petree Racing. It was great to finally pull that off last week at Martinsville and now we've got two straight. Maybe we can go to California and put both cars in the top five and eventually race each other for the win."
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "Tony got a run at me there. I didn't think he was far enough along to call it his ground. I blocked the spot and he hit me. I was coming down and he wasn't giving any. He was going to take it all. It was just one of them deals. It was probably as much my fault as it was his. I hated it. At least my teammate Earnhardt got a Chevrolet in victory lane today. That'll help us in the manufacturers standings. It would have been a hell of a deal there at the end if Earnhardt and I had been out there together. That would have been a lot of fun. "The guy towing the car in was just trying to do his job. He was rushing and hauling as fast as he could trying to get us in there, and he tore up the nose of the car. The guys were all upset about that. It really wasn't anybody's fault. Everybody just got upset because we thought we had a car that could win. Maybe it was a little my fault. Maybe it was a little Tony's fault. It sure wasn't the guy in the wrecker's fault. He was just trying to do his job. I don't think Larry and I are going to have any problems. If he's mad at me, he'll get over it. "It was just restrictor plate racing. Tony had a run on me and I came down to try to block him. There was probably not enough give and take on either part. Maybe I shouldn't have come down that far. He was already off the race track. I had a good run and felt like we could get away from him a bit. "I know that Tony would never do anything like that on purpose. Heck, I wouldn't come down on him, either. I didn't think he was far enough alongside to have the lane and I pulled down and it didn't turn anymore. "We had a good car, but it looked like Tony was getting a bit of a run on us. I cut down to try to guard the lane, and I guess he was down as far as he could go. It was just a racing deal. It wasn't Tony's fault, and it wasn't my fault. Tony and I are friends, and I don't think either one of us would wreck each other. I ran into him at Bristol and he had a car that could have won the race. He ran into me today, and I had a car that could win the race. "Those tow truck guys are just trying to do their jobs. The guy tore our race car up pretty good with the wrecker, but he was just trying to do his job. What can you say? Everybody was upset. We had a car that could have won the race. Stuff happened and what can you do? "He was just trying to get us in here quick. He was just trying to help. He didn't do anything on purpose. He was riled up and he was stopping and going and knocking the nose off the car. It tore up the nose of the car worse than it already was. He knows we were points racing. All I wanted him to do was push me. I was going to drive the thing in here. Everybody was just trying to do their job right there. There isn't really anybody at fault. "The guy jumped off the truck and jumped on the nose of the car. That upset some of our guys, so they were just letting him know about it. "I thought there were too many chances being taken as early in the race as it was. It tore our car up pretty good."
LARRY McREYNOLDS (Crew chief No. 31 Lowe's Monte Carlo) "I'm sorry if there are any hard feelings or anything. I think any crew chief in this garage area, if the race car is put down to get worked on and some guy jumps out of a wrecker, jumps up on top of the radiator and then on top of the engine, probably any crew chief in this garage is going to react Sunday, April 25, 1999. Talladega Superspeedway. DieHard 500. Chevrolet Notes and Quotes. Page 4.
LARRY McREYNOLDS (Crew chief No. 31 Lowe's Monte Carlo) the same way. I didn't say, 'I'm going over there and get a wrecker driver.' "We had a tore up race car, and we didn't need to tear it up worse or put ourselves in any more jeopardy. It's easy to do that, even a bunch of laps down. It's easy to get yourself in trouble. We had that one big wreck up there with the 4 car and I hear our spotter say back it down, back it down. It's like, 'OK, we're cutting it a little close here. All we're trying to do is make circles and laps for the rest of this race." "The things I'll say to him is, 'Mike, were we smart in the things we did there?' "We tore our race car up on the race track. That's nobody's fault but our own. They did a pretty good number on it with the wrecker. That's done. We still ain't looking too bad. This guy jumps out of this wrecker and jumps straight on the duct work and caves it in, straight on top of the motor to unhook his hook. I grabbed him and throwed him off there. I didn't throw him on the ground. I sat him straight on the ground. I said, 'get the hell off our race car.' He didn't say anything."
KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "That was a great run for us. I'm really happy that I was able to help my teammate. Andy (Petree) and everybody at APR have got a lot to be happy about. That's two weeks in a row of top 10s. Seemed like that week off really turned our team around. I told the boys, 'let's just keep our head down and act like nothing's going on.' We'll go on to California. That's the only way we know to do it. Biggest track in the United States to the smallest track. Two top 10s, so I think that says a lot about Jimmy Ellege building the cars for my team. I couldn't be happier. "There's just something about the inside sometimes and there's something about the outside sometimes. The inside is really good as long as you can make the move. I just didn't think my car was as strong as I wanted it to be on the bottom -- especially coming off the corner. We ran a different gear, and it just didn't pull up off the corner very good. So, I was high and when I was high, I was lucky (missing the wrecks). Same thing at Martinsville. I was high and a wreck happened, too. You just got to be in the right spot at the right time."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "The guys did a great job all day. Yesterday's practice was a key to the car running so good today. We weren't very good in the first practice, and they kept adjusting and making changes. It really worked for us. The car ran great in the last practice. I got shuffled back and I could come back to the front and they couldn't stop me from doing what I wanted to do. We had good stops all day. That last stop, the reason we got so far behind or seemingly so far behind, a lot of guys just took on two tires and some guys just took on gas. We took on four tires and we had a little vibration in the left front they wanted to check. We took a little extra time. Everything looked good, so we came out a little further back than we wanted to, but we had the race car to come back to the front. Everybody was pretty racy. I wanted to get to the second or third position so I could work my way to the front or have the opportunity to race for the win. It worked out well. I got the opportunity to be in second and then got sort of a run on Jarrett and passed him on the outside going down the back straightaway. I felt like we were in position to hold them off. I think the key from then on is they got to racing so much there behind us, it allowed Jarrett and I to run our laps. I didn't know if it would last until the end or they would mount a charge and a string would come back. Mark did breakaway and Mark came to the back of Jarrett in the last lap. It was a little too late, and Jarrett couldn't make a move to run on me. It was fortunate it worked out that way and there wasn't any more laps left. They would have probably got to me and got by me.
"We want to work on the points and racing for the points championship is what it's all about. That's why you're here, racing to win and racing for championships. We've had a real crappy year so far, but I think it's going to turn around for us. We've got some good race cars coming out now. We've got a brand new car going to California. If it doesn't run good out there, it's going to be the driver's fault. We've got a lot of things going on that's going to get better as we go. Kevin (crew chief Hamlin) and I were really unhappy about our Martinsville showing. We're going to come back with a better race car for Martinsville and some of the other tracks, too."
RICHARD CHILDRESS (Car owner No. 3 RCR Chevrolet Monte Carlos) "We had high hopes at the end of last year. We really had a lot of momentum going. We had some real good finishes. It seemed like we just couldn't get it hooked up there early in the year, and it is a mystery I guess. The way we ended the year up and the way we started. We've been working with some different chassis and we're going back to the chassis we used to run. We've come up with some good stuff on the bodies, and I think that's going to help. The relationship with Dale and Kevin is getting stronger each week, although maybe it hasn't shown."
KEVIN HAMLIN (Crew chief No. 3 GM Goodwrench Monte Carlo) "We've been real close, but in this sport, you can't just be close. You've got to be right on. We've worked real hard on our pit crew, and it seems like if anything can go wrong it has this year. It seems like a minor thing when it happens, but it's a major setback during the race. It's hard as competitive as this sport is nowadays to make up those positions when you lose them in the pits. We're really working hard with the cars and pit crews, the whole package. Hopefully we can carry some of this momentum forward."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "It was really good all day long. I led some laps early and then I slipped back and let Skinner lead some. Then I came back to the front, and I could pretty much go at my pace. I was wondering if it would come down to a Ford-Chevy or a Ford group against a Chevy group. A couple of Pontiacs were in the mix. It just got down to where everybody was racing everybody. You didn't see anybody get together or try to work together too deep with one team or one car. The competition got so strong there at the end. Nobody could really work as a team. "I love it today (restrictor-plate racing). It's a love-hate situation. You like racing at this race track. You like going fast and you like using the draft. The restrictor plate takes the response away. You get side by side and you get locked in. If you've got a good run on somebody, you can pretty much pull by them. That's what happened with Jarrett and I on the back straightaway. I got such a good run at him that I drove on by him. It's really hard to do. It takes a lot away from you. "I've had two pretty serious crashes here. 96 broke me up pretty good, and 98 broke me up pretty good. It's a tough track to race on. You can get burnt up and you can get hurt as easy as you can. Schrader was lucky yesterday he didn't get into it any more serious than it was. Crashes happen and it gets serious. A lot of metal is coming at you. It puts us all together and creates that kind of thing. I think the reason they didn't have that tri-oval wreck today is because they had the Dale Earnhardt yellow stripe on the inside where everybody could tell where the race track started and ended. That worked out well. "It's really hard to explain. You get out there in line and say four of you are riding along and everything is fine and then here comes another group of four that comes up behind you and they make you go faster and then it starts a springboard affect. You spring forward and fall back, spring forward and fall back. It's sort of like an accordion, all these cars are. One car in the middle may get a run and say he's going to drive out and pass them, so that's what starts side by side racing. If you feel like you've got a car to go to the front, you do that, like I feel like we had today. We could go to the front almost anytime we wanted to. Terry Labonte's car was definitely strong until he had trouble. I was right there with the group that could run up front. I think the strong cars were up front, the 88, 3, 18 and I think the 7 was a strong car, but he kept getting out of line at the wrong time or getting hooked in the wrong line or something and it just didn't work out for him. "It's not been tough on me (not winning). It's tougher on you guys keeping the stats and asking the questions. We just race from week to week and try to win the next week. We don't walk around and look at each other and say it's been a week since we won. It's been 100 weeks since you won. I'm not making fun at you guys about that. It's just that we don't sit and ponder on it's been a long time since you won. We know that. We talk about it. We race to try to fix that the next race. We understand the competition level. I think Richard and myself and Kevin and the team are trying to come up with better equipment and better plans, whether it be testing or things like that. Our next test is at Charlotte and our next brand new car is going to California next week, so we've got some stuff coming for 'em. "Kevin is a good guy. I'm not saying he's like Kirk Shelmerdine, but he's more like Kirk Shelmerdine in his personality. He sort of thinks like I do and he's always got something in his mind. Nine times out of 10 when I tell him what I think, it's basically what he's thinking. After Martinsville, we both looked at each other and knew what we needed. We knew we needed to build a new car and make it the best we can. "Those cars (IROC) draft a little different than these cars. I think the thing happened exactly like I wanted it today. I got out front and those other guys got to racing each other. That enabled me to win. In the IROC race, the other guys would hook up and draft and it was more of a drafting situation. They could have all done that to me if they had been in line, but they weren't in line. They were racing each other today, and that helped me get out front and stay out front. "You're driving by the mirror more or less. Your spotter is telling you he's coming low, low. I knew something was going to happen. The 88 got a run on the 43 and he wasn't going to sit there. He wanted to be behind me or in front of me. When he made that move, I countered, and that made the decision that the 88 was going to be the better car. It worked out for us. It was a game of chess, knowing when to move and where to move to, and I can't play chess."
RICHARD CHILDRESS (Car owner RCR Chevrolet Monte Carlos) "I'm not sure (what happened with the 31 car). I was in the 3 pits. Dale can probably tell you more than I can because they were right in front of him. I really don't know what happened. They locked bumpers I guess. I couldn't see it. "I want to tell you guys something. Thursday or last week or two or three weeks ago, people came up and asked if Dale Earnhardt was too busy to win races. I had a couple of different reporters ask me if I thought Dale was past his prime. I think today should answer a lot of those questions. I feel as good for Dale Earnhardt today as I do for myself and this race team. A lot of people questioned him and his ability and the things he's got going on. Wanting to win races, can win races is one thing I think when that time comes, Dale Earnhardt is going to tell us all, but until that, I feel like he can win anywhere, four or five years, however long he wants to do it. I've got to say I'm one of the luckiest car owners in the business to have him as a driver."
KEVIN HAMLIN (Crew chief No. 3 GM Goodwrench Monte Carlo) "To be a crew chief for Dale Earnhardt, I feel like Richard does. I'm the luckiest crew chief in the garage area. When I got put in this position, it isn't a position I necessarily wanted to be in for this reason right here, the press and media. I'm more low profile. I enjoyed being with Skinner and doing that thing, starting that team up. After being put in this position, it's a fun position to be in. There's nothing wrong doing what we're doing, going out here and getting this team turned back around and winning another championship. It's going to be a great thing when we win that eighth championship. I'm going to be one of the happiest people on earth. Dale and I seem to have a good relationship, and I think we're going to build it into something bigger and better."