JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 AARON'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "I guess the '22' (Ward Burton) decided it was easier to spin somebody out than to pass them. I don't know what else to say." JOHN ANDRETTI, NO. 43 CHEERIOS/STP PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: (ON HIS...
JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 AARON'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
"I guess the '22' (Ward Burton) decided it was easier to spin somebody out than to pass them. I don't know what else to say."
JOHN ANDRETTI, NO. 43 CHEERIOS/STP PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
(ON HIS INCIDENT WITH ROBERT PRESSLEY) "Robert was an unfortunate victim of circumstance. I got up in the wall, came down in front of him and he didn't have anywhere to go. I feel bad for him and his team. I feel bad for my team. I just made a mistake. I shouldn't have and I'm disappointed that I did. But there is nothing I can do about it now."
KEN SCHRADER, NO. 36 M&M'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
"We were better than 16th. It's just that simple. I'm tire of finishing 16th, but at least we're making gains. We took a gamble early because we knew it was going to rain, and I was willing to take that risk. But it didn 't rain for another 100 laps or so, we pitted and went after the guys ahead of us."
WARD BURTON, NO. 22 CATERPILLAR PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
(ON THIS BEING A STRANGE RACE) "It was definitely not strange in the right way for us, that's for sure. "Mother Nature didn't cooperate and NASCAR threw the caution when a guy had blown up on the bottom. I don't know enough about that to say whether we needed a caution or not, but obviously had we not had a caution we had a big enough lead that Jeff might have run me down in another 20 or 30 laps, but he would have had to get around me then. But we gave the race away. That's for sure. We had the car to beat at the time that we needed to at the end of the race. I'm proud of the guys. They adjusted on it all day long and we had it pretty good there at the end of the race."
(ON THE CHANGING COMPLEXION OF THE RACE) "It was crazy. Goodyear came out with another new tire. Why? Who the hell knows, but it made all of us struggle. I don't think there is a car out there that doesn't have a Darlington stripe because we were just sliding more than gripping. But we all had to compensate a lot for that today and I think my team did the best compensating."
(DID HE BRUSH THE WALL TOWARD THE END OF THE RACE?) "I brushed the wall at least four times, maybe five. I actually hit it probably twice and then brushed it three or four times. I just gave the guy a little sheet metal to fix when we get back to the shop."
(DID THE PACE CAR HOLD HIM UP COMING TO PIT ROAD ON HIS FINAL STOP) "That's up to NASCAR to look at. They (the drivers that beat him out) are speeding right before they get into their box. Obviously NASCAR has been watching us for some of the things that have happened of late. But we didn't have a good pit stop. We had a 17-some-second pit stop and that cost us the race right there."
(ON THE INCIDENTS WITH JOHNNY BENSON) "The '10' car (Benson) didn't' have his radio on and I got into the '10' car. I surely didn't mean to. He just didn't know I was there. But he raced me really hard there (near the end) and about wrecked me one time. Obviously it was probably a little bit of a mistake on both of our parts."
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
"We had a good car all day. I made a mistake driving the car. I got into the wall in turns three and four. Then I went down into one and two and about hit it again, and thought I'd cut a tire down. To be on the conservative side we came in and pitted, and found out that we hadn't cut a tire down. That got us down a lap, but the guys had really good pit stops and got us track position on the lap down side, and we were fortunate enough to get our lap back. Once we got our lap back it was just a matter of coming from the back and trying to get them one at a time, and we got back into the top 10.
"We had a good day that turned bad that turned back to good again, so we're pretty happy with that."
(WHAT DOES A DAY LIKE THIS MEAN TO HIM IN THE POINTS RACE?) "It hurts us, but you look at the big picture. The points leader is our teammate and we' re really happy for him today. We're racing second through fifth right now is the way we're looking at it. We'll try to get Rusty (Wallace) and if we can get Rusty, we'll go on to the next guy. We just take one at a time right now."
RICK MAST, NO. 14 CONSECO PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
"We had a pretty good car today. The weather kind of messed us up on our pit strategy, but it worked out. We'll take a 12th and get ready for Richmond."
TOMMY BALDWIN, CREW CHIEF, NO. 22 CATERPILLAR PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
(DOES HE THINK THERE WERE VARYING SPEEDS ON PIT ROAD ON THE FINAL PIT STOP?) "We've definitely got that. But we didn't have a good stop. We had a 17-second stop and we had been doing '15s' all day. But I still don't think that would have won us the race. NASCAR is watching us pretty good from the incident in Watkins Glen, so we've got to be pretty careful. Between the '18,' the '2,' and the '3' car gouging on pit road like they do, they pick up one, two, three seconds by the time we get off pit road. "We're going to go back, we're going to look at the tape and we're just going to do what they do and see what happens."
BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
"I can't say enough about it. It was a total team effort. We didn't have the best race car all day, but we had a top five race car for a little bit of the day and a top 10 race car towards the end of the race. For while there when the '3' car (Dale Earnhardt) was first and the '88' (Dale Jarrett) was second and I was like fourth, we weren't going to pit because they weren't going to pit. Jimmy (Makar) said, "We'll just do what they do because that's who we're really trying to key off of.' When they didn't come down pit road and I did I said, 'I made the choice. I'm pitting.' Then I was like, 'OK, it better not rain because I am going to look pretty stupid here.' So we didn't pray for rain. Then there at the end, we weren' t praying for rain again. We thought we were going to go racing. Then when it started drizzling a little bit I though, 'Ooh, this could be good,' and it was. I've seen Jeff Burton do it here, so why not? It seemed pretty cool."
(ON THE LAST PIT STOP BEING THE KEY TO HIS WIN) "Obviously. We came in fifth and went out first. That was the total deal. I don't know what the pit stop was as far as time-wise (14.80 seconds), but we got on and off pit road. When I went down pit road I was watching those guys that we were beating and I said, 'Man, we're going to get us a good restart here.' When it started drizzling, that was the key. The race was over then when it started to downpour, so it was obviously the determining factor from finishing fifth or whatever to first."
(ON JEFF BURTON SAYING HE HAD AN ADVANTAGE IN WHERE HIS PIT BOX WAS LOCATED) "We picked that pit by virtue of our qualifying, which was 38th or whatever. So it wasn't by virtue of qualifying good and picking it because we wouldn't have picked it. And I'm not sure if we would qualify on the pole that we'll pick it again. I think we had a great pit stop. We didn't have any traffic in front of us or behind us on pit road when we pitted. Terry was behind us and he was in front of us one time on a green flag stop, and Brett Bodine was a lap down and we still got in and out. I can't say it's a good place or a bad place. It just worked out for us because we had to pick it because that was the next in line when we qualified so bad."
(WAS IT KEY NOT TO GET WORKED UP ABOUT STARTING IN THE BACK?) I think so. After we did all the damage (in Friday's crash) I though it was kind of a breeze, really, because we really weren't trying to go as fast as a lot of the guys were probably. I don't know. We just stayed on top of it. Everybody worked real hard as a team. The '20' car helped us out when we damaged that car and helped us get the backup car out and get it ready to qualify. Greg (Zipadelli) and Tony (Stewart) and the whole Home Depot team, they tested down here a couple weeks ago, I guess, so we had some notes to rely on with the backup car in race set-up. It's not like our primary car, like we got a lot of laps in it. We only got two laps in it and wrecked. The guys back in the shop bringing one (car) down - I mean it was a total team effort.
"We just never lost focus, but at the same time we weren't running very good yesterday afternoon either, so we had to come in this morning and make some changes. Still yet, we figured that we just needed to run the best we can. That was our thought process coming in here is no matter what goes on we're going to do the best we can and worry about everything else at the end of the day."
BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
(HOW CLOSE WAS HE TO THE FIRST CRASH OF THE RACE?) "I saw the smoke and we slowed up a little bit. Eddie Masencup (spotter) was telling me to let off and slow down. I looked in the mirror and I looked at them and they weren't slowing down as fast as I was, so I got back on the gas and was just going to have to pick my way through it. The smoke was down a little bit low. That was probably not as it probably could have been. There were some guys behind me that still got some damage on their noses and stuff like that. Fortunately we squeaked through there pretty good.
"Then there was another caution down there when the '22' got into the left rear of the '10' car and that was a little closer. The '10' car was sideways and I had to miss him, which I got a lot of practice last week at Bristol missing cars, so that was OK." (ON THE NEAR MISS WITH THE '60' CAR)
"Then I saw the '60' car - I saw the '60' car - I was off of turn two and I saw him spinning and I was off the gas. I guess he damaged himself enough that he couldn't see and he kind of eased on up the racetrack and I was like, 'Well he could ease on up the racetrack into me.' Then I went low and he eased on back down, so I was glad it was under yellow because I would have lost about 20 spots there trying to dodge him.
"We did have a couple close calls but we didn't damage anything. We didn't' do anything like that. But there were a couple close calls out there today. But that's pretty good for here if you can only have a couple."
(DID HE GET ANY 'DARLINGTON STRIPES' TODAY?) "I didn't get any today. I got all mine Friday. I didn't want to get anymore today. I got more than enough Friday. But I didn't get any. I had a couple of close calls. I usually don't run up that high on the racetrack and I ran higher today than I usually do, so I'm kind of getting used to it maybe."
(WHEN IS BOBBY GOING TO START GETTING EXCITED ABOUT THE CHAMPIONSHIP?) "I don't know. It's not over 'til it's over. That's pretty well probably a lesson I learned from my brother that he didn't even tell me. Just hanging around him long enough just taught me that. You work hard, race hard and if you get it, you get it. Until then you ain't got nothin'." (WHAT WILL HE REMEMBER MOST ABOUT THIS WEEKEND?) "I guess you've got to look at the positives on everything. I was praying pretty hard right before that wreck (on Friday). I don't know if you know the story or not, but I got out and I was running back to the truck to make sure we got the backup car out and I went into the NASCAR trailer and I asked Buster (Auton), I said, 'Could you give me a ride to the infield care center because I'm not sure I feel very good.' But the positive part about it was that it could have been a lot worse. It was a scary thing. There's no doubt about it: I was seriously praying at that point and time, and I saw a lot of stuff happening. It was a hard enough hit for me to be hurt. But the positive part was that I'm physically fit enough or it wasn't enough of an angle, or speed, or it was glancing enough, that it didn't have any bad effects. I think that was pretty important that we came away with positives out of that because it would have been a lot worse. I've been here before and I'm actually one for three. I've broken two shoulder blades here in two different wrecks, and I got out and I was like, 'Hey, I ain't got no broken shoulder blades, so I'm up now.' So I know how bad it could have been after what happened last year last spring. So the positive thing there was that I was able to drive. But it's going to be kind of hard to top the win. But to go through all the adversity of starting 37th - I didn't really think we had a shot at winning - that's for sure. I thought we had a shot for a good race. But to win the Southern 500.
"I'll tell you a little story, too. I was down in that little victory lane 20 years ago with my brother. That's pretty cool. I was real young coming in here, though. I want you to know. I was too young to be in here."
(WHAT ARE HIS THOUGHTS ON SAFETY ISSUES AT NEW HAMPSHIRE?) "We've got a device that Jack Roush's teams developed and we hope to have that on before New Hampshire - for the braking device. But I can honestly say that if this (his accident) would have happened in New Hampshire, I don't believe it would have been as good, just the way the track is configured. The straightaways are straight and the corners are like the way they are. If you just lay out a map, it's obvious if you lay the maps over each other. E ven though we've going faster here, the car took a better blow here than it would have there if the same circumstance would have happened.
"It is important, whether it's me or the guy that doesn't make the race, that we make sure that we're as safe as we can and feel as safe as we can. That is an issue, of course, that has been brought up this year by the two fatalities that have happened at New Hampshire. It should be addressed as fatalities and it should be addressed as important. And I know it has been, but we are going back there in a couple weeks and it will be on our minds when we go up there that that has happened. We hope to have the device in our car and are hoping that everybody will have it, too. That will be a step in the right direction on the competitor's part. Jack has come up with a lot of stuff for racing and that's definitely a good cause. As far as after that, there is not a great answer. But it would be encouraging for us if we did have some type of knowledge that if that did happen we would have a little better chance of surviving."
(IF THE DEVICE IS NOT IN USE BY NEW HAMPSHIRE, HOW DOES HE THINK THE COMPETITORS WILL FEEL?) "We can use it when it comes out, if it's next weekend, or New Hampshire or the weekend after. We're going to apply to our race cars as soon as it happens. NASCAR is not going to stop us, or whatever. When it comes out, it comes out, it's ours. We're going to use it."
(DID THE RACE SEEM STRANGE TODAY?) "It was a different day, I guess, than some of them, but was no different than a couple years ago when it rained and then it dried up and then it rained again. With the '3' and the '88' staying out, thinking it was going to keep raining, that was one big twist because they were fixing to win the race on a circumstances deal. Then when it didn't rain, they had to pit. Man, it was so close. With all the weather in the area today - it was obvious we had weather all around us. We had the rain early, and the pit stops the way they were going - yeah it was kind of strange in a lot of ways. It was a long day, obviously. We started at one (p.m.) and finished at whatever time. It just seemed like a long, long day. There were a lot of things that were playing upon the weather, to see what happened. Everybody stayed out for a while and didn't want to pit. The '5' car and a few other guys pitted because they didn't have that much to lose. They were at the back of the lead lap anyway. They ended up on a restart in front of us and ran a few laps, and then we pitted again, so it was kind of strange in a lot of ways. Sometimes no different than when we were in New Hampshire back last time we ran there. I guess sometimes it goes that way."
(HOW DID HE FEEL WHEN HE SAW THE RAINDROPS ON HIS WINDSHIELD?) "We said it wasn't over until it's over - really. It drizzled a little bit and I could see the rain. I could see it coming, but heck, it was coming all day, too. I knew with about two laps to go when it rained pretty hard over there in one and two and Jeff Burton popped me in the butt, he was giving me a thumbs up because he knew it was over basically. He'd been through a lot more weather things than I have. I was like, 'I ain't letting my eyes off that pace car until they do something, red flag or checkered flag.' Then we came by and they were talking on the radio, 'Stay calm. We've got a race to win here. We've got a race to run. We could still run 45 laps.' About that time they threw the checkered flag: 'OK, it's all over now.' It was chaos, everybody on the radio talking. It was pretty much unbelievable.
"It's pretty neat because we go to Indianapolis and we had a fast, fast race car and win that race up there. Today, we didn't have the fastest race car. We just didn't have it. It just wasn't going to be. So you win one by having the fastest race car and you win one by having a sixth or seventh place. It's pretty cool. It gives you the opportunity that you do have a chance if you do everything right."
(ON PONTIAC SWEEPING DARLINGTON IN 2000) "That's really good for Pontiac. Ward had a fast car again today. They've just got this racetrack figured out, really good, fast and everything. I guess it's a great year for Pontiac at Darlington."
JIMMY MAKAR, CREW CHIEF, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
(DOES HE TAKE TODAY AS A SIGN THAT STRANGE THINGS HAPPEN SOMETIMES TO TEAMS THAT WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS?) "I certainly think it shows the strength of our race team. We had some obstacles thrown at us that were going to be hard to overcome and I think what it proved is that we've got a great race team that 's got a lot of dedicated individuals that can rise to the occasion when it' s called for. I think that is more the key of what happened here this weekend. We very easily could have come out of here and not won the race and finished fifth, and I still would feel like it was a very good weekend, again because of what Bobby said. It was a total team effort from back at the shop to the '20' bunch helping us out to Bobby driving today to the guys working hard all weekend here. Every little aspect of Joe Gibbs Racing was tested this weekend. We were very, very fortunate I think to obviously win the race. The pit crew put us out first, but The Good Lord brought the rain and that wasn't by anything we did."
(IS A DAY LIKE TODAY WHAT CHAMPIONS ARE MADE OF?) "The championship is something that is accumulated from all the races all year long and you can go back and pick races out that were key things to happen to get you there. I think the key when you are running for a championship is that when you do have adversity and you do have a bad day that you never give up, that you don't take a 20th place car and finish 20th. You take a 20th place car and you finish 15th. You always dig. You always try to get that one more position no matter what it is for, whether it's for 35th or 34th, or first or second. That's what we're doing. We come to the racetrack and we come here to run first and anything less than that is not what we want, but we're going for what we can."
(WHAT DID THEY DO ON THE LAST PIT STOP?) "The last pit stop was four tires, no fuel. We had plenty to get to the end of the race, so we decided not to do any fuel and take a chance on spilling some and then having a guy slip coming around (the car)." (ON THE STRANGE NATURE OF THE RACE) "I think it was much more strangle for y'all than it was for us because, yeah, there were a lot of circumstances that came up. But in the pits we sort of had a strategy that we were working out all day long. We really never varied off of that very much. The only time that we did something that wasn't sort of thought about, planned and talked about was the incident where Bobby made the decision he was talking about in the car to come down pit road at the last minute. But up to that point we were just doing normal things - watching the weather, obviously. But as scattered as it was, we really had good confidence, at least early in the race up 'til the latter portion that whatever rain we did get, we would be able to get back racing, so that was sort of the mindset we took throughout the whole day that we were going to get most of this race in, if not all of it."