Chevrolet Rockingham qualifying notes

JERRY NADEAU (No. 25 Michael Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We were OK in practice, not the greatest car. We made a few changes. I've never qualified good here before. If we can get somewhere in the top 15 I'll be happy. We...

JERRY NADEAU (No. 25 Michael Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We were OK in practice, not the greatest car. We made a few changes. I've never qualified good here before. If we can get somewhere in the top 15 I'll be happy. We struggled a little bit in practice, but I know we'll have a good car for the race on Sunday. I felt good in both ends of the track. It might have been a little bit free in the middle of three and four. I don't think I gave up too much. That's the best I've ever run through there."

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "We picked it up at the end of practice, and we ran just about what we ran in practice. Typically, I'd say we'd be in trouble doing that because you need to pick up some from practice, but it was a good lap for us. The car was just a little tight, but it was a good solid, effort for us. The tire will be just like it was at Darlington. The cars don't start out with a lot of grip, but hopefully they'll stay consistent a little bit longer. They just don't have a whole lot of grip like you do here on fresh tires, but we were running pretty good for the tires that we've got for them being harder. I think it'll be a positive thing. "I always want to go faster. I think we tightened the car up just a little bit too much. I wish we hadn't done that, but we thought it was going to be a little free like it was in practice. That set just seemed to stick just a little better than we expected. "I'm glad we only run that (superspeedway restrictor-plate races) four times a year. You'd force a lot of guys into early retirement if you did it much more than that. It's so competitive these days, you've got to run hard just about every lap, every track you go to. That's one of the things I've seen in competition over the years, how hard you've got to push it from the first lap to the last lap. "It was so mentally exhausting last week. You're trying to watch about 10 different things going on at one time. Then you're trying to listen to your spotter and your crew chief. I was just really glad it turned out the way it did. I knew it was a spectacular race. I just wasn't sure how it was going to end. For me to end up in the top five, I was pretty happy with that. "We ran a great lap there at the end of practice, so to be able to back that up in qualifying was good, but you've got to expect a lot of guys that will pick it up. My car got tight and the sun is out pretty good right now, so we might be in pretty good shape. "I was a little surprised we ran that well at the end of practice because we were like 17th on the list most of the practice. Finally, we were able to go out there and put both ends of the race track together. It felt really good. I was a little bit loose in the center of both ends, so we tightened it up. Sure enough, we went out there and it seemed like the tires or track or both tightened up on us. I was able to get in the gas early, but the front end didn't stick as well as I'd liked for it to have. We lost a little bit of time, but we ran almost exactly what we practiced, which isn't a bad thing. It seemed like a lot of guys had trouble backing up what they ran in practice, so I'm happy with third. I think that's a good effort for us. "It (tire) reminds me a lot of Darlington, which Rockingham has a lot of similarities to Darlington. It eats the tires. They came with something similar to that. I'm not sure if it's exactly the same, but it has that same feel where on new tires when you go out to make your qualifying run, your car isn't stuck like glue like it used to be. But at the same time, I don't think it's going to fall off as fast. You made one run on your tires for qualifying and that was it. You're done. If it wasn't right then, you're in trouble. Basically you had three runs all day long that counted for qualifying. Then you get into the race and I think this tire will be much better for the race like we saw at Darlington. It'll be a little more consistent even to start off with a great feel and a great grip. It seems to be more consistent throughout the run. I think they saw good results at Darlington, so they decided to bring it here, also. I almost thought about scuffing them today, which is unheard of at Rockingham. I didn't end up doing that. It does seem like they take a little bit longer to get the heat built into them, to get the grip that you're looking for. "When you're not going for the championship this year, that's pretty much what you've got to look forward to. We certainly haven't hidden the fact that this is a rebuilding year for us. There have been some real frustrating times, but there have been some highlights, too, that have us very optimistic about what we're going to be able to do during the offseason for next year. I'm certainly looking forward to this offseason and getting next year started. I know we're not going to be so far behind and that all we've got to do is fine tune from where we're at now. Last year, we were hiring people left and right and doing all kind of things trying to build cars with the new bodies on them. We knew we had our hands full coming in. This end of the season is important to us. We want to make sure we can learn as much as we can. There are a lot of different setups these days under these race cars. A lot that has to do with the downforce and the bodies and the configuration we have. We've learned a lot with the bodies. We're trying to take all we've learned and put it out there. Maybe we can learn a few more things and make the team gel because that is our goal, to go into this offseason thinking we've got a shot to win this championship next year. "I think between Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte, and I guess you can throw me into that, over the last four or five years have all been battling for championships. I think they've got as much experience or more than anybody. The difference is they're at the top and they're leading the pack. I think you're going to see them react the way they have all year long, and to me, that's what's gotten them to this point. They've got their act together, and I don't think it happened over night. They've been doing this the last few years to get to this point. They're more prepared, I think, than anybody else out there. I think it shows. I think that's going to be a big plus for them in these last few races. This is not a team that I've seen get caught up in the pressure and the championship and falter because of it. I've seen it as a team that's poised and has good experience working together as a team and are able to utilize that. "We're real proud of him (Ricky Hendrick). He's shown a lot to all of us here recently. It's good to see. He's going to have some fun next season in the truck series. He'll be someone to watch also."

DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "The car just ain't driving right. I don't know why. It's probably handling and a lot of other things. I'd just better keep my mouth shut about it. We've just been struggling all day."

BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "The car drives real good. I think the best I've ever qualified here was 19th. Most of the time it's in the 30s. I like slick race tracks, so if it keeps driving good I think it'll work out in our favor. They can't build a tire that will hold up here. They do the best they can but after five laps they're gone. I'll know more about it after practice Saturday."

MICHAEL WALTRIP (No. 7 NationsRent Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I spun the tires up off the corner in one and two. I tried to hit three and four right, but I didn't know if it was going to push or be loose. I think we've run the same speed the last 10 times we've been here. I guess that's all I'm good for right now. We'll start decent and get to work for the race."

KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "That wasn't bad at all. Rockingham has always been a good place for us. We've been pretty strong lately, so maybe we can rally into Sunday. This was a good car for us at Darlington, and I don't see why it can't be just as strong here." DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "I think we needed a .50 versus a .60. I don't know where that's going to end up. That was pretty good. We were real loose in practice. I wish I'd put a little more bite in it. I couldn't mash it as hard as I wanted to in one and two. Three and four was pretty good. Still, I just didn't go to that gas hard because it was so loose. It was a lot better in qualifying, but we needed to run a .50 or better. I'd really like to start up closer to the front. Bobby is sitting on the pole so far, and he's qualifying good. He'll race well. Hopefully we can get up there and race with him and make something happen. Right now, we've still got time (to catch Labonte). Bobby is fast, and we've just got to get up there and race him. That's what it's all about."

STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I was a little bit surprised it was such a good lap because we were loose in practice. The sun popped out and I was loose on the straightaway I think. We got a little loose off turn four coming for the green flag and slid all the way through one and two. I had my hands full. If Earnhardt's watching, I made my money today. I had to work hard for it. We struggled a little early in practice, but we got it turning pretty good and got just a little loose there. This whole team has been doing a good job. I'll bet it was pretty exciting for the fans up there. I was just about sideways coming for the green. I got real sideways again in three and four. We had to work hard on that run. We were 10th in practice and we ended up 17th, so that'll give us a chance to start working on the car and getting it ready to race Sunday."

MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "That was our third lap on the race track. We went out this morning and I thought that I just asked too much of cold tires. As soon as we got up on the race track, the car spun around there and tagged the inside wall. NASCAR said somebody had gone by there and lost an engine or something because there was a lot of oil on the race track. These guys have worked hard. They didn't have this car in a qualifying mode at all and they had to change everything on it. We made some more changes after we ran the two laps of practice we got. It was a good effort. I had to let off the gas coming to the flag. I got a little loose. I had to lift again on the lap. We loosened the car up a little too much, but that should get us a good starting place." NOTE: History of backup Monte Carlo that Skinner qualified: It ran its first race at Atlanta in March, won the pole at Fontana and also raced at Texas, the Coca-Cola 600, first Michigan race and both Poconos. It was the team's primary intermediate car before the one that was first raced at Indy.

JOE NEMECHEK (No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I'm glad that one is over. That was a pretty hairy lap. It's about the loosest we'd been all day long. I couldn't get through one and two good because it was trying to break the back tires loose and in three and four, you hit those first set of bumps and it jumped the back end sideways. I stood on it wide open, and we were lucky it made it out of there. The team has been working hard. We've got a little momentum going, and we're looking forward to this weekend."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Ricky Hendrick , Michael Ho , Mark Martin