Chevy drivers Johnson & Harvick on front row for Daytona 500 Jimmie Johnson, rookie driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo, will sit on the pole for the 2002 Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17. With only three Winston Cup races on his ...
Chevy drivers Johnson & Harvick on front row for Daytona 500
Jimmie Johnson, rookie driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo, will sit on the pole for the 2002 Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17. With only three Winston Cup races on his resume, Johnson became the third rookie in NASCAR Winston Cup history to win the Bud Pole (Loy Allen in 1994 and Mike Skinner in 1997). Kevin Harvick, the '01 Busch Series champion and Winston Cup rookie of the year winner, will start on the outside front row next to Johnson in his No. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Monte Carlo. Both drivers began their racing careers in California and neither has ever raced in this event. Chevrolet is the most successful nameplate of the Daytona 500 with 15 wins.
Jerry Nadeau, No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "Last year, we started dead last in the Twin 125's, so I'm not worried about anything. The UAW-Delphi team has done a good job, and we're looking forward to the race."
Jeff Green, No. 30 AOL Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "The guys did a lot of things this morning to make the car go a lot faster. We need the best time we can get. We know we can race good, but you don't know what's going to happen come Thursday. We made a few changes here and there and they tuned the motor up a little bit and tried to get the aerodynamics right. This is a big race for everybody, but this is AOL's first time here and we'd like to get them a win the first time."
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "I've got to thank everybody on this Lowe's team. It's a team effort and it's all coming together. All in all, it was a good lap. But it's a long afternoon. It's all about just making every race and that's our goal. The testing went well, practice has gone well, and we had a great qualifying lap. We're just hoping that it's going to hold up." (Did you know it was a fast lap?) "I knew we were going fast when I came off of turn 4 sideways. That was the first time I'd ever had that happen to me in my career, so I knew we were doing pretty good."
Hermie Sadler, No. 02 Little Trees Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "We're a little bit behind and we know that. But we're going to work hard and get ready for Thursday. This Chevrolet is about three years old but hopefully it will grab good for us. It's got good downforce, which is not good for today but it should be good for Thursday. We're going to work hard and I'm going to drive hard and hopefully we'll be here on Sunday."
Michael Waltrip, No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "I'm very happy. That's better than I thought we would run." (How does this car compare to the Monte Carlo that's sitting over at Daytona USA?) "I have such a good group of people building our cars, that I knew when they took that one, the next one I would get would be better. This is a new one yet from the one that we brought here in July and finished second to Dale Jr. They just keep turning out good stuff. It's going to be a good year for this team, I can promise you that."
Mike Wallace, No. 33 Andy Petree Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "We're definitely looking for a sponsor for the rest of the year, so we really want to have a good run here and open a few eyes for people. The guys have worked real hard over the winter and Andy told me I would be pleasantly surprised after qualifying. At the end of the lap, he came across the radio and said, 'Are you surprised?'"
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "My hat's off to these Goodwrench guys. They've worked hard all winter long. Richard Childress made a huge commitment to putting all three teams in one shop. We've got three times the amount of people. There's no reason why we shouldn't do better. We weren't here yesterday afternoon." (Why did you only run one practice session yesterday?) "We spent three days down here testing and this is the same car we ran last year. So we didn't want to put a whole bunch of laps on it. Nothing fell off and nothing was leaking. That was the best package that we could put together and we didn't think we need to do anything else."
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "We'll really happy with the effort by the DuPont Chevrolet team. These guys have worked so hard over the winter to prepare for Daytona. It's nice to see the results. They did a great job and so did the guys on the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) team. We've been about a tenth off of them ever since we've built these cars - from testing and practicing and now qualifying - but we're real happy with that. That was a solid lap. We hope we can end up in the top five."
How do the 24 car and the 48 car compare? "They're identical - the way they felt the way they drove. I saw Jimmie get loose over there in turn 4 during qualifying and I figured my car would do the same thing, and it did.
Do you think that people look at Jimmie Johnson and think of him as a second Jeff Gordon? "I had a lot to do with picking Jimmie to be a part of that team. Maybe I saw some of myself in Jimmie. I like his style. I like the way he does things. I like the way he handles himself in the racecar and I like the talent he has. This is just Daytona. You just hope that the experience of the other teams at Hendrick Motorsports will benefit a new team coming it. They've obviously done a great job of getting off to a great start here at Daytona.
"We (the drivers) don't have anything to do with what happens in qualifying here at Daytona. We push the pedal down and that's it. If these cars could be run by remote control, they'd run just as fast as we just ran out there. So that (driving ability) has nothing to do with it. When we get out there and draft and when we get to Rockingham, we'll find out what kind of drivers we have. Right now, we rely on the teams and resources at Hendrick Motorsports."
How is this Daytona 500 going to be different from last year? "It was kind of like the luck of the draw before - whether you were shuffling forward or shuffling back - is where you ended up at the end when the checkered fell. Now, you're going to have to think about what you do. You've got to plan your passes. You've got to plan your moves. You've really got to be a smart driver out there if you're going to get to the front and stay there. But I'm excited about that. I've got a great car and a great team. I like to plan my steps along the way."
"What's left to be gained in your car? "Now that we start drafting, we'll just try to get that spoiler out of the air. It's catching so much air out there that it holds you back from making the moves that you want to make. I've been doing some drafting in the Bud Shootout car. It's back to the way it used to be, but it's a little tougher. You've got to really plan your moves. And we're working on handling. The cars are real tight. We're trying to get the front end down and get the handling good so we can run wide open the whole time.
What makes it tougher to pass this year? "The rules. Now we're not punching as big a hole through the air so the cars can't suck-up quite as good. The restrictor plates put us a little bit down on horsepower. When you run up on a guy, the momentum isn't there the way it used to be. But I was not in favor of what we had before. I'm much more in favor of this. I think it could be even better. As a driver, I like to play more of a role in what's going to happen out there on race day."
Kenny Wallace, No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "I'm pretty happy with it. We picked up a lot. Everybody has been working hard. We made some adjustments and that's all we had. It's time to go race."
How similar are the DEI cars? "Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have cars that are pretty sweet. They've both won races here at Daytona. We're still bearing down on it. We were sixth at Talladega and we're hoping that this will be out shot. I'd like it to be my first win and get Pennzoil in Victory Lane for the Daytona 500."
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "That's kind of what I expected. That's how it ran in qualifying trim yesterday. We need to work on our qualifying motors or something to get a little faster. We're going to race again on Sunday and we're always a rocket ship. So it'll be fun.
"This is the same car we ran with here in the 400 and won with at Talladega, too. It's a fast racecar and it'll be leading some laps on Sunday."
How will this Daytona 500 compare to last year's race with the rules change? "It's just slowed down a little. It'll take you one or two laps to work up a pass on a guy. Sometimes it won't work out the way you want it. It's a little more challenging. Our Shootout car is the best car and I think our 500 car will be the best car. If we're in the right spot during the day, we should be up front in the end. You won't be able to pass the guy who is leading the race on the last lap. If we can be up front with three and two-to-go, we'll be doing some heavy-duty blocking."
Do the Chevrolets have an advantage? "It's how hard the guys work back at the shop and how much attention you put toward the cars in the off-season. That was pretty evident when we were down here testing. It's like the Ford guys have a little meeting before they came and said they were going to ride around. You're not going to get something for nothing, and that's what they were trying to do. I don't believe they're at a big disadvantage. I think they're just riding around hoping to get more spoiler cut off. We could have done the same thing. We could have gotten all the Chevrolet guys together and just rode around. But we come out here to see how we could make our cars better and those guys didn't. We're going to reap the benefits and those guys won't."
Mike Skinner, No. 4 Kodak Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "We went through inspection on the other day and the spoiler was okay. And then today, it wasn't. They just had a rough day. The guys worked real hard on the car to make it better. But we'll just come back next round and see what we can do. The car will race excellent."
Terry Labonte, No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "I'm real proud of our Kellogg's team today. They did a great job. We had a good test down here and hopefully we'll end up in the top 10 and that's good."