TEAM MONTE CARLO CREW CHIEFS REACT TO NASCAR RULE CHANGE FOR CHEVROLETS AT ATLANTA -- One crew chief was still on his way back from Las Vegas and another was already home in bed after a Sunday night redeye flight when NASCAR issued a statement on...
TEAM MONTE CARLO CREW CHIEFS REACT TO NASCAR RULE CHANGE FOR CHEVROLETS AT ATLANTA -- One crew chief was still on his way back from Las Vegas and another was already home in bed after a Sunday night redeye flight when NASCAR issued a statement on Monday allowing a rule modification for the 2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo in Sunday's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The modification will allow Monte Carlo teams to extend their front air dam two inches forward below the bumper from the current measurement.
Dale Earnhardt, a seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion, is the only Chevrolet driver in the top 13 after the first three races this season. The driver of the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo stands seventh, 73 points behind leader Bobby Labonte. Rookie Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo, is the next best Chevy in 14th position, 121 points behind Labonte. Only three other Monte Carlo drivers are in the top 20 -- Terry Labonte (15th), Sterling Marlin (16th) and Kenny Irwin (19th).
Team Monte Carlo crew chiefs discuss the rule modification and how it could help at Atlanta.
KEVIN HAMLIN (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo)
"It better help us because that's what we've been hollering for. I hope it's just a temporary fix and they do something different yet, but I think it's a step in the right direction. They'll have a better idea of how it works after the race. I think they're planning to take cars back to the wind tunnel after Atlanta. Maybe they'll take two cars from each make and get a really good reading this time.
"I just hope it doesn't mess up the balance we have on the car right now. We need more front downforce and that's what this should give us. I just hope it doesn't mess up the rear. You've got to have a tradeoff somewhere. If it helps one end, it usually hurts the other. Richard (car owner Childress) has been yelling for them to give us something. If this doesn't fix it, we'll work harder on something else to make it better. We need more front downforce, and you just can't turn around and get that.
"It'll work more for us during the race than qualifying. Anybody can go out there and hit it right with fresh tires and run one fast lap. We're just looking for some consistency. We got on the tight side the longer we ran last week at Las Vegas. More front downforce would have made us better there, that's for sure, but it's pretty complicated. It's a vicious circle really. It's not as simple as people think to get a chassis and aerodynamic balance. That's when you can really haul the mail. Usually, one end or the other suffers. When you can get the car to stick in the front and the back and have a neutral chassis setup, you can really mash the gas.
"We ran good at Rockingham, but it was a compromise. We ran decent at Las Vegas, but if you made one adjustment, it would really react one way or the other. We put half a pound of air in the tires on one pit stop and it got so loose that Dale couldn't drive it.
"I've been with a lot of different drivers -- good, bad and the best. I've worked on a lot of different cars -- Fords, Olds, Chevys and Pontiacs. I've had all of the makes with good bodies and bad bodies, and I've had them with good drivers and bad drivers. A good body and chassis can make a bad driver look good, and a bad body and chassis can make a good driver look bad. You've got to have the total package to win."
KEVIN HAMLIN (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo)
"Dale feels good about the race team this year. We've been fortunate to hit on some pretty good packages throughout the races. He can make up a ton for you on the superspeedways. His driving style was right at Rockingham for the conditions we were faced with, and if Vegas had played out, I think we had a shot at the top five. He's positive. He realizes we're at a deficit with the car the way it is right now, but he's focusing on what we've got.
"We just want to be equal with them. Look at IROC. That's as equal as you can get things. You put Dale Earnhardt in an IROC car and he shines. Just give him something to work with, and he'll drive the wheels off of it. If we were racing the same bodies every week, he'd beat their butts. I've never seen Dale this pumped up. I think he just feels good after the surgery. He has a positive attitude about his two teams, and he feels like they're making headway.
"I feel good about it, too. Before the season I was a little down and depressed because of the wind tunnel numbers I was hearing. Someone said people are afraid of the dark because they don't know what's in it. You've got to be careful not to race the wind tunnel numbers or the aero numbers, but you have to base something on the numbers you're hearing. Sometimes you are afraid of what's out there in the dark. When you hear the Chevy is better than the Pontiac in the wind tunnel, then you really scratch your head. Total downforce is the main thing, and Ford still has the advantage there.
"It's a tough deal for NASCAR. They hear the Chevys crying about what they want. They hear Fords crying about what we don't need and then Dodge is coming in next year. I think you've just got to look at the competition on the track and evaluate it. I don't think Jeff Gordon has forgotten anything. Robbie Loomis came over from a competitive Pontiac team, and it shouldn't be that big of a stepping stone for him. Mike Skinner and Larry McReynolds finished in the top 10 in the points last year, and they haven't forgotten anything.
"What's going on is a tough deal right now. I called the shop from the airport in Cincinnati on Monday on the way back from Las Vegas, and they told me about the rule change. The guys have been working hard getting the cars fixed. Our backup car at Las Vegas will be the one we race at Atlanta, so we had to wait for the hauler to get back on Tuesday to start fixing it. We're hanging in there, but if they keep pulling away little by little every week, that doesn't help. We need some wins and top five finishes. The longer you keep waiting, the harder it's going to be to bounce back. We'll see what happens at Atlanta. Hopefully, this will be a step in the right direction and the Monte Carlos will be more competitive."
TONY GLOVER (Crew chief No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"The rule change is a start, but I don't think it's enough to fix the problem. We need more front downforce. How? I'm not sure. I haven't been in the wind tunnel enough with the car to know. We never got the car balanced at Las Vegas. We were either loose or tight and sometimes we were both at the same time. That's pretty damn tough to do, but we did it. It's weird because Sterling (SABCO teammate Marlin) did the same thing. It's just so unpredictable, but hopefully this will help."
"It's hard to say how much it will help, but from the wind tunnel numbers I've seen, it should cut the deficit in half. It's probably not going to be enough, but it's better than nothing.
"We've not had the performance on the track we've wanted this season so far, but it's been a pleasure working with Kenny Irwin. We've got a new car and Kenny's new, so we had to figure out a lot of things. I know we've only got one Chevy in the top 13 in the standings, and that doesn't say much for our camp. The bad thing about it is that we've got a better race car than we had last year. The Pontiacs had us killed last year, and we've narrowed the gap a little with them, but those Fords have a showpiece. I guess they're No. 1 when it comes to NASCAR politics.
"We want to do the best we can every week. If 10th is our best, then we'll be happy with it. It's hard to be happy with 10th, but it's a hell of a lot better than 20th. We (SABCO) have two cars in the top 20 in the points, and Chevrolet only has five in the top 20, so at least we have two of the most competitive Chevys. Maybe they'll be even more competitive at Atlanta.
"I hope we can have a good race at Atlanta. We're working hard getting our cars ready with the new rule change. From a spectator standpoint, I don't think I've seen a good race this season. Hopefully we'll see one Sunday."
JIM LONG (Crew chief No. 60 Power Team Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"The rule change should help us get our car balanced. We've been fighting chassis loose and aero tight. That's not a good situation. Our car has been real loose in the corners. Even when we got it right, it was right on the edge. When Ted (substitute driver Musgrave) got behind a car Sunday at Vegas, the nose went right up the track. Aero tight means there's just not enough front downforce. When you're running behind a car, you might lose 50 percent of the downforce. When you don't have much to start with, you're in trouble.
"If you're at a track where you've got to race some nose to tail, like Atlanta, you're in severe trouble. I think the rule change will be really good. Whether it's just a band-aide or it's really going to help enough, well, I guess we'll find out soon.
"I was in the bed sleeping Monday afternoon after a redeye flight back from Las Vegas and they called me and told me about it from the shop. Our cars worked late Monday night getting the cars ready. We'll finish them up today, so it was about a one-day project.
"Ted has been doing a real good job for us. We've had so many problems to start the season. We didn't make it at Daytona, and then Geoffrey (Bodine) got hurt in the truck race. We've been struggling with the aero. We've really been backed in a corner and I was about ready to pull the trigger, but Ted has been a blessing in disguise. Ted is a good chassis man, and he's really helping this team while Geoffrey recovers.
"Those Fords have been really tough. Dale Earnhardt Jr. could run with them with fresh tires at Las Vegas, but when the grip went away and downforce took over, he went backwards. I think the 6 and 99 were just playing with everybody anyway. When we got our car perfect, they were still three tenths a lap faster, and I don't think they were racing to their full potential. Hopefully, we'll be more competitive with them at Atlanta."
LARRY McREYNOLDS (Crew chief No. 31 Lowe's Monte Carlo)
"We won't know what's going to happen until we get to Atlanta. I'm a little nervous and a little excited at the same time. It's another unknown, but I think it's a step in the right direction.
"I'm nervous because when they did this in the wind tunnel with the Daytona car, it helped the front and hurt the rear. That's been the curveball with this car. You can't do anything on one end to help it that doesn't hurt the other. I'm tickled NASCAR has reacted to the problem. Will it be the ultimate fix? I don't think so. If the three different makes are battling three wide for the checkered flag at Atlanta, then it's mission accomplished.
"The front nose might even help the drag at Daytona and Talladega. It'll give the fans something else to argue about, too. Whether they understand what valence pitch is or not, they'll be arguing about it because Chevy got something that Ford didn't. As a competitor, I want every advantage I can get, but realistically, I'm just asking for something so we don't have to go to the track with one hand tied behind our back. If it's even, then it depends on the driver and crew chief and engine builder and chassis man. The make of car won't determine who wins the race.
"Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked good on fresh tires at Las Vegas for about 30 laps, but when the downforce kicked it, he went to the back. Downforce plays a role when tires start sliding. You slide no matter where you go -- Daytona or Martinsville.
"We've dug a deep hole for ourselves in these first three races. We're not out of the picture, but we're at a big deficit. We can't afford to dig down any deeper. I'm tired of getting my butt beat every week. I've had about all of that I can stand. I really don't know what to expect at Atlanta, but at least we've got something to work with now. We'll give it our best shot and see what happens."