Darlington Chevy Friday qualifying notes

Friday, March 19, 1999. Darlington Raceway. TranSouth 400 first-round qualifying. Chevrolet notes and quotes. JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "That was an unbelievable lap for us. I knew the car was fast, but I ...

Friday, March 19, 1999. Darlington Raceway. TranSouth 400 first-round qualifying. Chevrolet notes and quotes.

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "That was an unbelievable lap for us. I knew the car was fast, but I really didn't have any idea it had that type of a lap in it. We were very, very close just unloading off the truck. It makes you very proud to be a part of a race team like this to have a car that's that good off the truck. We only made about five or six laps all day today. We just fine-tuned on it a little bit and tried to free it up. I knew going through one and two it was really awesome. It was more up to me to make sure I pushed the car hard enough because the car was capable, probably more than what I was capable of. The race is a totally different package. You start talking about being good after 10, 20 or 30 laps. There's a lot more that goes into trying to be good at the end of a long run. This is still Darlington. It's going to be slick, and we're going to have our work cut out for us. It's good to be able to get this part over with and be able to start up front. That's half the battle.

"You hope you can hit everything right at the right time. Every once in awhile it happens, and it happened for us today. It had to be pretty comfortable for me to be able to run that hard. It wasn't the prettiest lap, but when you're running that fast you want to be able to keep it on the edge. This happens every once in a great while, and you hit everything just right. These guys hit the chassis and engine combination just right and I hit all my marks on the track. When you see a lap like that, it's fun to be a part of something like that. We're real proud of this qualifying effort. This is a great track for us, but the Southern 500 has been a better race for us than this race. It's hard to improve on what we've done here the past seven races.

"I was giving it everything I had today. I made a pretty hard lap in practice, and only ran a .68. Mark ran a .61, and I knew I needed to beat that somehow. I had no idea when I came off four that it was that good of a lap. I don't know if a lap can ever be perfect, but the car was unbelievably good. It did everything I wanted it to do, and I carried a lot of momentum. We had good corners in both ends, but we had the total package today and that's what made it such a great lap.

"It surprised Ray and it surprised me. That was probably the most confidence I've had in a race car in a long time for qualifying."

BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "The car drove good and the motor ran good. Gary and them made a little adjustment on the air pressure, and it really went through the corners good. We picked up from practice, and that's what you're supposed to do."

GEOFFREY BODINE (No. 60 Power Team Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "That was pretty good. I'm really proud of this team. The car was great in one and two. I slid the nose just a little bit in three and four, that means the front didn't turn quite as good as I'd like for it to. It's still a darn good lap. Last week was a great run for us. It was a disappointing finish, but we're still very excited about it. We've had good runs everywhere. We need a little better racing luck, and we'll be in victory lane."

Friday, March 19, 1999. Darlington Raceway. TranSouth 400 first-round qualifying. Chevrolet notes and quotes.

MICHAEL WALTRIP (No. 7 Philips Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "That wasn't bad. It wasn't perfect. Bobby Kennedy and the crew made a couple of changes right before the end of practice and it woke the car up for me. That 24, you guys keep your eye on him. He's going to be something. A 28.39 at Darlington when it ain't been paved in awhile, well, that's pretty impressive. Somebody said I was off to a hot start. I said compared to the 24, I'm just off to a start. He just continues to amaze me. He's awesome."

WALLY DALLENBACH (No. 25 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We picked up half a second from practice, but that wasn't enough. It was the same deal here in the fall. We couldn't get the car to qualify, but it raced real good. We thought we knew what the problem was in qualifying so we brought the same car back. I don't think we'll bring it back next time."

DAVID GREEN (No. 41 Kodiak Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We struggled here today some, pretty heavily. We're making steps, and I'm pretty happy with the team. The competition level in Winston Cup is pretty stiff, but the Kodiak team is working pretty hard. If we can inch up on it, we'll be better off. I'll take that lap."

JOE NEMECHEK (No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "This has been a pretty tough track for our team in the past, but the BellSouth Chevy ran good today. That's the fastest lap I've run all day and the track seems to be speeding up. I made a couple of little mistakes, but that's about all we had. We've got to get a better race setup. They brought a different car here than we normally run. It's got a good feel to it. If we get a good race setup in it, maybe we'll be around at the end."

TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I kind of messed up a little bit and it pushed out on me. I was trying too hard, and we probably lost a tenth or so. We've been pretty good in practice. I just hope we qualify in the top 25 and we'll go from there."

DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "We needed to go faster in three and four. It went good through one and two. We need a little more somewhere. We've just got to pick it up."

MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "The driver is just killing this race team in one corner or another. We kicked their tail in one and two. I got in the corner in turn three real good. It stuck and I turned that thing down. When I hit the gas, I just tried to get a little more than was there, and I cost us a little bit from four to the start-finish line, but we'll take it. We're at Darlington. This is a place where I don't usually qualify or run very good. Hopefully we can race 'em Sunday."

KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I'm really happy, but it's disappointing when you're excited about 23rd. We struggled all morning, but everybody picked up. I gave it everything I had. I got up on the steering wheel like old Cale used to do. I got it through turn two and I knew I was home free." Friday, March 19, 1999. Darlington Raceway. TranSouth 400 first-round qualifying. Chevrolet notes and quotes. Page 3.

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "You learn to respect a track from the start. If you can respect a track then I think you can progress and it's a challenge for you. I think you earn a lot of respect in the garage area when you win at a track like this.

"I think it definitely played a role in why I'm not doing 14 or 15 (Busch) races. We wanted to keep the numbers down. I feel like what I do every weekend is risky and dangerous. I really don't try to think about that. I think about how we can make the cars as safe as possible and how we can keep good people to have good race cars and fast race cars. We've got a first-class operation that allows us to go out and hire top-notch people. Maybe we had to pay a little bit more to get those guys, but I feel like what we're going to get in return is a quality, safe race car, just like what we have on the Winston Cup side.

"I felt the speed I carried through one and two was just about as fast as anyone could carry through one and two. Three and four is a tossup. That's normally where you determine if you have a good lap or a bad lap because there's a hundred different ways you can run through that corner. You can run down low, the middle, up high. It's a tough turn to get through, but I carried a ton of speed through one and two, carried a lot of speed through three and four and I got through three and four pretty good. I knew it was a good lap.

"Qualifying is pressure. There's no doubt about it. My hearts beats harder getting ready to qualify. I think more about that one lap. I get really into a zone or mode before I go out to qualify, much more than I do before a race. Before a race, I've got 400 or 500 miles and I can be calm and patient and relaxed. When I get ready to qualify, I've got to pump myself up because I've got to push really hard. I've only got one lap to do it, and I've got to hit every one of my marks just right. At the same time, I've got to make sure I get the most out of that race car, especially when I have a race car like today. The car was probably more up to it than I was. Once I started that engine up, my job was to get the most I could out of it.

"We all take injuries in a different way. I've been bumped and bruised and pretty sore after some wrecks. I feel like my back and neck have been stretched out quite a few times from flipping the sprint cars and midgets. I've never been hospitalized. One time I broke my nose just walking down the street when I was about four or five years old. I think I re-broke it one time hitting a wall in a quarter-midget. I've had some nasty wrecks, but I've been pretty fortunate. I think the worse wreck was last year when I wrecked at Michigan. I was in the Human Resource Center all weekend long. They do the shock treatment, ice and heat, ice and heat. I was bumped up pretty good.

"This place is all about carrying speed for 50 or 60 laps on old tires. It's old Darlington. The track is very abrasive and the tires wear out very fast. The pace slows down tremendous. I think the spoiler and air dam rules are making the cars very comfortable. I don't know how much of a role that's going to play when the race starts. It's going to make the cars feel more comfortable. If we're running faster, we're going to wear out the tires even faster, so I think it's all about getting into a rhythm and pace and being able to keep the right balance on the car from front to rear on the long runs. Our typical strategy here is not to be the fastest car on new tires but try to be the fastest car halfway through the run to the end of a long green-flag run."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Kennedy