Darlington Pontiac Qualifying Notes

WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Pontiac Grand Prix): "From qualifying here last time (28th) to this time (2nd) is obviously a huge improvement. That's pretty much what the team has been doing for me. Here at Darlington we've got to work...

WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Pontiac Grand Prix): "From qualifying here last time (28th) to this time (2nd) is obviously a huge improvement. That's pretty much what the team has been doing for me. Here at Darlington we've got to work really hard on our race setup. I feel like we're a top-10 team here at Darlington pretty easily, but we've got to work really hard from the 15th lap to the 60th lap. That's what separates the girls from the boys, so to speak. There are three or four cars that we know that have setups that work for them everytime they come here. We need to become one of those cars."

EXPECTING THE SAME NOTORIOUS DARLINGTON TIRE WEAR? "I think Goodyear has a good tire, but I don't think anybody in the world can make a tire that will hold up to this track. It's almost like the first sub-paving you put the finish surface of pavement on. That's how abrasive it is. It's just impossible. If they make a tire hard enough to stand up to that, then of course, it's not going to have any grip at all. The key is for a guy not only to manage the tire wear and a lot of that is the car managing the tire wear, but to not wear out them out in one corner. Like a lot of times I'll wear the left-front out. Well, once the left-front wore out then the nose quit working. At the same time, you don't want to wear the right-rear out. You've got to get the car balanced so that it wears the front and the rear pretty evenly. That's a tough thing to do here."

IS IT IMPORTANT TO PASS CARS QUICKLY HERE BECAUSE YOU DON'T WANT TO GET IN MUCH SIDE BY SIDE RACING DUE TO THE FACT YOU NEED TO CONCENTRATE ON RACING THE TRACK? "Nobody wants to race side by side long anyway, particularly going into one and coming out of two. Those two areas right there are really tough and when you see people do that a lot of times you see them getting into trouble a lot of times. This is one of those tracks where you need to pass or let somebody pass you and be done with that situation. You don't want to stay side by side for long."

CONSIDERING HIS MODE LATELY, HOW DO YOU RACE WITH DALE EARNHARDT HERE? ARE YOU MORE CAUTIOUS THAN NORMAL? "I think that mode was created just because he had two good race cars the last two weeks. Dale hasn't changed. There are some guys you can race with 20 laps in a row side by side and there are some guys you can't. I don't want to race anybody side by side at Darlington! Really, when someone gets under me, not every situation but most situations, I let them go. I'll either get them back after a car adjustment or the next lap. This is not the kind of place you want to run side by side for too long. The track is not suitable for that. "Dale is such a smart, talented driver. He probably is a thinking driver more than anyone else in a car. At the same time, you kind of have to stay on your toes because sometimes you might not know what to expect. Dale and I, we've had some clashes. I've had some clashes with him where I was in the wrong and a couple of times he was in the wrong. Other than that, I don't feel like I've done more to him or he's done more to me. I just try to drive him with respect like I do everybody else, but still hard."

BOBBY LABONTE (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix): "I suppose it's the same deal here with tires. It's a little better with the new tire. I guess that's what we're hoping for anyway. My car's balance isn't very good right now, but I think we'll get better. It's a new tire construction, too. It feels a little different, a little heavier. We're not great right now. We're better than some and worse than others. It's still too early to tell. As many times as we've gone for the million now you'd have to think one of these times it's going to be ours. You would think so, but you never know. We want to finish good regardless so we can have another shot at it next time. Each time we're in it we've got a shot at it that 38 other guys don't have. If you keep shooting you're going to hit something. At some point in time you're going to luck up and hit the side of the barn."

IS IT CRITICAL TO DISPOSE OF OTHER CARS HERE QUICKLY IN ORDER TO CONCENTRATE ON RACING THE TRACK? "If you race somebody side by side for a full lap here if you don't wreck it's going to be a miracle. It's that tough. If you run side by side, you're probably going to wreck. You just really have to race the race track and when it's all over with you see what you have at the end."

EARNHARDT'S IN A RACY MOOD THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS. DO YOU RACE HIM ANY DIFFERENTLY NOW? "I'll race him just like normal. It's no different. I remember at Bristol about three years ago he pulled it by me on a restart and his car was torn up, but he was fast. I figured the best thing for me to do was just let him go. I'd do that again tomorrow if he comes up on me in a hurry to do that, especially if it's early in the race. I'm not going to let up at the end of the race. If a guy is going to come up on you, why take a chance of somebody hitting you. I'll follow them for 20 laps because my car may get better and there's will get worse. But at the end of the race, that ain't gonna happen. He might get to do the same thing like he did last weekend. I guess he lives up to that commercial where he plays the Tasmanian Devil. His wild side comes out."

TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "It seems like it's the same old deal here with the tires. I really don't have any complaints right now. Everybody is on the same tires so it really doesn't matter to me. I don't care if it throws sparks off it when we start out and we're five seconds slower as long as it's the same for everybody. You just try and get the balance of your car as good as you can and try to make it as easy on tires as you can. It's the normal deal when you come to Darlington. You just try to be real careful with tire management. Nobody's gotten out of that mode. With this new tire you still have to be in that mode."

HOW IS YOUR CAR'S BALANCE RIGHT NOW? "I would say were decent, but I wouldn't say we're where we want to be yet. With a million dollars on the line I want the thing to drive itself around corner and stick like it's stuck to flypaper. We're just going to keep working at it. I do think we have something to work with right now."

ARE YOU ABLE TO PUT THE MILLION OUT OF YOUR MIND? "Yeah, you have to go into it just like it's another race. I'm sure if we're second or first with 10 to go it's going to be on my mind pretty heavy. But there are a lot of guys running quick here this weekend. There are only five of us up for the million. It's not like the whole field is. You pretty much have to treat it like another race. A million would make for a nice honeymoon next year. It would pay for the whole wedding, too."

TODD BODINE (No. 30 Bryan Pontiac Grand Prix): "We had a great car yesterday. We ran really well from our second run out on. We knew we had a good car. In practice we ended up ninth-fastest. In qualifying, the distributor broke. It's a shame when everybody in this garage area standing on top of these trucks was timing the corner speeds and they saw how fast we were and here we are going home. This team has gone home enough. They don't deserve to have to go through this again, especially with the kind of race car we had. It wasn't a matter of 'Are we going to be in the top-10 in qualifying?' It was a matter of 'How close to the pole are we going to get?' When you have a car that good it's pretty disheartening."

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Series NASCAR Cup