Chevrolet Thursday Daytona notes

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Automotive Chevrolet Monte Carlo: How is practice going for you? "Real good. The times mean nothing that are on the board because our car is real good. We led a lot. We're having to run up front with some good cars.

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Automotive Chevrolet Monte Carlo:
How is practice going for you?


"Real good. The times mean nothing that are on the board because our car is real good. We led a lot. We're having to run up front with some good cars. I'm telling you, this new package, it's anybody's game. I don't know if I've seen anybody that has an advantage over anybody else."

Do you have to be in good athletic shape to compete for500 miles at Daytona?
"I feel like I'm in really good shape. The Daytona 500 is a little bit different. Unless it's really hot, it's not a very physical race. When we leave here and go to some of these other tracks, the driver's condition is extremely important. But this is one you can getaway with. But being mentally focused, being mentally fit, is the most important thing here at Daytona."

Do you think if you put all your eggs in one basket and all your energy toward the Daytona 500 that you might slide backwards during the balance of the season?
"Oh you can. We stopped doing that. Atone time, we put all our eggs in one basket for Daytona and we found that it hurt us. We've been focusing on places like Las Vegas and Homestead -- more on our short track program, more on our intermediate program -- than we have on Daytona. And that's because we know how important those tracks are going to be. That's not saying that we don't think Daytona is a big race, because it is. And that's why the guys at the engine shop have put a whole lot of effort into it. We were fortunate. Wept a body on the car, and massaged on it, and put a lot of work into it. But I think that we try to spread out our time among our whole program, not just Daytona.

"If it's your year, it's your year. Things don't necessarily have to go well at Daytona. In '95 when we won the championship, I don't think we finished very well here at Daytona. One of those years, I know we didn't finish very well at Daytona. It's not how you start the season off, but you can't have a horrible race. If you finish 43rd here, you're going to have a very rough season. If you come out of here in the top20 or 25, you've still got a shot at it."

What do you have planned for Valentine's Day?
"We're just going to go out to dinner for a real nice evening. It's just that quality time that I like to spend with my wife. Give some cards and gifts and things like that. You never get to do what you really want because you're limited because you're here in Daytona and you have to be on the track the next day and race. That makes it tough. But still, it's a special occasion. I want her to feel special. Yeah, I think most guys can be romantic when they have time, you know. It's all about making sure you take the time."

Royce McGee Crew chief, No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo:
Are things going well in practice so far this week?
"We're pretty excited. Monday we had a real good practice; we ran a long time. Tuesday we came in here and made a few changes and shook it down a little bit to see how far we could go on gas mileage. We run the thing out of gas and see how much volume it'll really hold. The 125 (race) is different. You want to be able to start that thing up and go 125 miles without having to take any gas on. You don't want to pit if there is any way possible. So, we looked at that.

"In the past four or five years, you've been able to go 125 miles without having to get no gas. Well, with this new restrictor plate, the new aerodynamics and all, makes a little more drag on the car. Gas mileage went down a little bit. So now you have to crunch the numbers, trying to make sure exactly, exactly that you can get 125 miles. We're looking at that real hard to make sure we can do that. Mike (Skinner) is real happy with the way the Chevrolet's driving. Our Budweiser Shootout wasn't as good as we hoped. We tried some things in that Budweiser Shootout and we're looking forward to having that opportunity to try something in the 125's to see if we can make it better. We used that as a little experimental race. It didn't pay off for us. We went back and looked at the stuff we really knew good about, put that in the car Monday morning and ran real good with it.

"Mike's real pleased about the way the balance is on the car. It got real loose in the Shootout. Every other time we've been here, we've got progressively tighter as the run goes on. So, we say okay, let's try these new little things and see what happens. Well, it did get loose -- a little too loose. I'll take that blame on myself for trying something new as a young crew chief and probably not having as many notes as I should to record back to or situations to look on to. But with Larry(McReynolds) leaving, I still have a lot of experience of being around and understanding that stuff. We took a gamble, trying to make our car freer, but it just didn't pay off for ourselves."

How much will drafting and the new aero package affect gas mileage?
"Drafting affects the gas mileage a bunch. If you get out of the draft, obviously it takes more fuel to make your car run. And the way the draft is now, the guys are playing with the throttle a lot. They're on and off the throttle because the cars are catching each other so much faster. You might be able to conserve a little bit more fuel in this aero package because it makes such a bigger hole in the air when each car goes through it. So if you sit there and ride 4th, 5th, 6th,and conserve a little gas, you might be able to have a little cushion to make your run right there at the end with three or four laps to go."

Is today a critical day in your overall preparation for the Daytona 500?
"By today, Wednesday, you'd better have your act together on what you want to run for the 125's, basing all that on your 500. You want to run your 125 with having the fastest car you can have, the most drivable car you can have because you're not going to stop -- you don't have a chance to work on it. And that's what we're looking at is having our race package for the Daytona 500 so we can analyze that first fuel stop run as if it was the Daytona 500. We can come in there and say at the end of this 50-lap run, we need to make X-amount of changes when we hit pit road. Did we get too loose, were we too tight. Do we need to make just a small aero adjustment or do we need to make a wedge or track bar change."

Do you think anybody has a bigger advantage with these aero packages?
"We haven't seen the cars run in a race yet. We've seen each other practice out here. The Budweiser Shootout, yeah, we only had one Dodge in there and a couple Fords. We had a couple of scenarios where the guys couldn't see real well. I don't think we'll really understand that good until the 125's."

Kevin Hamlin, crew chief, No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet Monte Carlo
On breaking a motor
"Better to break a motor today than tomorrow. We were kind of kicking around putting a new motor in it anyway. This one is our Budweiser Shootout motor and it had about 300 miles on it. It's kind of like a qualifying motor almost. So we already had 300miles on it and we were trying to figure out how far we could go in the 125since it's a non-points race it's a good race to try and figure some of that stuff out. Guess we just figured it out ahead of time."

Is fuel mileage a concern?
"If we ran this motor, I had the gas mileage figured out because this is the same motor we ran in the Budweiser Shootout so I knew where our mileage was. I think the other motor will be pretty close to the same. It's going to be pretty close on gas mileage for everybody anyway. The restrictor plate size and the aero package of course, but now with everybody running like they are, they're working the accelerators more and it uses more gas when you do that. And we're running more gear than what we ran before with the other size restrictor plate. So you make more horsepower, you gotta add more fuel."

How is the car handling?
"We don't know what it's going to be until we race tomorrow. The track keeps getting slicker and slicker and slicker. But we're pretty close to where we were for Sunday's set-up so we think we'll have something to work with anyway. It might not be the best, but that'll give us a shot for what we're looking at for Sunday anyway."

, No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo:
"The car is good. If I do get back or behind someone, the car does pull up real good. I can seem to go to the front of the draft whenever I need to. We were racing a little bit too hard today. I don't know. It's fun, but it just depends on what company you're with."

Terry Labonte"The car's working pretty good, really. Tomorrow is going to be a good test for us. We can out here and run good for 10 or 15 laps, tomorrow's 50 laps will really give us a good indication for what we're going to have on Sunday. You're still going to want to fine-tune it a little bit, but we think we're good."

How is this aero package working for you?
"We've had to really work on our chassis to get our car handling right. You know you can go to Talladega and you can't hardly make your car not handle good and you come over here and the track is so much different to get our car handling good. Every practice is very important. We make changes and try things with every one. We just really try to look for that right combination. We're changing the engine now for tomorrow, but the one we're putting in is better."

Bobby Hamilton, No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo
On driving the No. 08 Diet Dr. Pepper Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the Busch race this weekend
"It's a situation where I told Dr. Pepper and little Bobby that I'd do two races for him to help that deal. So Daytona is one and the new track in Nashville is the other one. It's just to help promote them."

How is your car for tomorrow's race?
"I think it's okay. It's like a crapshoot because the weather's changed up on us. It's going to be interesting to see what happens. When this place gets sunshine, and a bunch of these vehicles get out there and practice, it gets slicker and slicker. And you do all you can do, but very seldom does anybody say they've got the perfect racecar. The new aero package has hurt the fuel mileage on our car just a shade. It's real inconsistent because they draft up so good. You're on and off the gas a lot. We're getting real inconsistent readings. We've actually had one run that we couldn't make the qualifying race without stopping. And then we just had one where we could have run an extra 10 laps. It's just really inconsistent. But I look for it to get so slick that everybody's going to come in and make at least one stop anyhow. It's not what we normally do, but I think because they will draft up good and there's going to be so much passing, the tires will be an essence. And after they spend so much time drying this racetrack, they blow all that diesel fuel off that thing and everything, and then when the sun pops out it gets slick. It's the only way we can dry it, but it still leaves an oil base."

Do you think anyone has an advantage for this race?
"I actually think it's pretty equal. You know, you hear all this stuff every year. Everybody comes in here and says, 'So-and-so is at a disadvantage'. Heck. Somebody's at a disadvantage every year. That's the way it's gotta be. It makes it interesting for the drivers, the team owners, and I guess for the media, too. It does the same thing. It's all part of Speedweeks"

How important is it to do well at Daytona?
"To me, I think the big thing is for Square D and for Chevrolet. I think it's a big deal. They put a lot of stock in this race. And it's a big race. For me, I could win the Daytona 500 and turn around and win Martinsville, and I'd be just as happy at Martinsville as I would at Daytona I can promise you. But winning's tough. It's so competitive just about anywhere you went it's worth a lot of joy. The Daytona 500 doesn't mean who's going to win the championship. It hadn't been in the past, anyhow. But you look at who's won the championships and they've won 500's. So that pretty much tells the story right there."

Terry Laise, GM Racing Chassis Aerodynamics Engineer
How does 2001 Speedweeks compare to last year's Speedweeks relative to Monte Carlo and the new aero package?
"The new aero package that NASCAR went to, starting in Talladega last October, kind of equalized the racing competition a great deal. Up to that point, the Monte Carlo suffered a pretty severe drag disadvantage to all the other cars. But this package has made the Monte Carlo more competitive. We jumped on it as soon as they told us about it with a very heavy development program, and theca is now competitive.

"That package has increased the drag dramatically on all the cars. However, that increase drag package has made it so the cars can draft better. So they race, and pass, and despite small differences, the drafting keeps the pack together."

Have you seen any significant advantage among any of the manufacturers?
"Well, if you look at the Budweiser Shootout, I don't think you saw anybody show a glaring advantage. Every brand led except the Dodge. Some of the drivers said they didn't think Bill Elliott was trying too hard, but we'll find out more about that tomorrow. But it appears that Dodge has done a very good job on their new car -- taking the basic Taurus design and improving on it."

So how do the cars stack-up?
"Well the qualifying would indicate that Dodge is a little bit ahead. I suspect they are, but we'll just have to let it play itself out. We'd like the competition to be equal. We always want the competition to be equal. We think our good drivers and teams will take care of the difference if the cars are equal. We'd like to have NASCAR be absolutely certain that they've got the cars where they belong."

-TMC

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Kevin Hamlin