Daytona 500: Team Monte Carlo race notes

It looked like Chevrolet Monte Carlo had it made at this year's Daytona 500, with Chevys taking the top five spots on the grid after winning both 125-mile qualifying races on Thursday. The bets were on for a Chevy driver, in particular Jeff...

It looked like Chevrolet Monte Carlo had it made at this year's Daytona 500, with Chevys taking the top five spots on the grid after winning both 125-mile qualifying races on Thursday. The bets were on for a Chevy driver, in particular Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt Jr., to take the title. But both drivers would endure their share of incidents, finishing ninth and 29th respectively. Last year's winner, Michael Waltrip, who led laps 4 through 23, carried the Chevy banner to the brand's highest finish, a well-earned fifth. He was in 11th on lap 195 of 200 when a red flag was flown on lap 196 for a late-race crash, then charged into fifth for the finish. Ward Burton, in a Dodge, took his first victory at Daytona.

Jeff Gordon and Sterling Marlin made contact on lap 194 on a restart. Marlin held on to the lead for one lap until the red flag, then was penalized to the rear for jumping out of his car and checking his damage while parked on the front straight. Gordon was also penalized for pitting too early. On the restart, Gordon fell to 10th, ending up in ninth for the finish. Gordon laid back for most of the race, then moved into the top five by midway, taking over the lead from lap 177 until 194, when he and Marlin got together.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., running second behind Michael Waltrip, blew a tire on the 22nd lap, which resulted in a caution-flag period. He made several pit stops for repairs to the right front fender, continued on without losing a lap, until the car had to be taken to the garage to repair a brake caliper.

A major crash in the front of the field occurred on lap 148, involving a number of top-runners, including Kevin Harvick, Bobby Hamilton, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kenny Wallace, among others. Gordon, Wallace and Earnhardt continued.

Only two Monte Carlos finished in the top-10: Waltrip and Gordon.

MICHAEL WALTRIP, NO. 15 NAPA AUTO PARTS CHEVY MONTE CARLO: "We restarted and went back at it and I got up there from 11th to fifth. A good top-five finish for our NAPA Chevrolet. We want to see if we can put a lot of those together this year."

ON MARLIN'S GETTING OUT OF THE CAR TO WORK ON IT: "I said can I get out of my car and work on it. That ain't right. You can't do that. You can't work on it under the red flag. I don't know what his theory was on the stupid restart. They tell us to bring them down, no stopping and going. He stopped. That wasn't good either."

BATTLE OF ATTRITION? "Battle of wrecks. That's what you'll have in restrictor-plate races. We do that a lot here. The further it goes the more stuff you'll see^ÊIt gets wild. People get desperate at the end. I understand that. I was desperate too."

ON DALE JR.: "He had a great car today too. That's a shame. Whatever he ran over I ran over too. It hit my car, it sounded like metal clinking off the bottom of my car. Then I saw he had a problem. I didn't know what it was, I didn't see it, but it was something big."

FIRST CHEVROLET, ARE THE RULES GETTING BETTER? "You want to talk about the rules now too? We talked about the rules for the last week. They chopped off their spoilers I never say a word. They chopped them off again and I never said a word. We just kept working on our stuff. Today we looked like we were a little bit overpowered. What are you going to do? I'm not going to bitch about it now."

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: "I should have just given up when he got beside me and still had a battle and a shot to win the thing. I hated to see that last caution. We were in a perfect position. Crazy race out there. I went from the back to the front, the front to the back. It was incredible. I'm just glad to finish ninth in the DuPont Chevrolet. It was a great effort for us today."

"I was getting knocked from behind and pushed and shoved. I was trying to stay in line and I gave Kevin a little push and he got up beside the 40 car and then he decided to come back down and I just kinda held my line. I didn't go below the yellow line. I was trying to back down and let him back in, actually. So we touched and it spun him. Its unfortunate because he was running good. And he's doing a great job. It certainly wasn't anything intentional. I hate to see such a big wreck like that."

"There are so many cars that had problems today. We had a good handling race car, a fast race car, and we had great pit stops and we were able to work our way back up there and found ourselves in perfect position. Unfortunately, that caution came out and me and Sterling knew how important that last restart was, and he got a jump on me. I tried to block him and messed up both of our days."

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: "I did not expect to win that race yesterday. I knew that that winning this race today was going to be difficult. I had a good weekend, a fun weekend. I was just pissed off I didn't keep up my string of first or seconds because I did that for about six races. That was pretty cool. It got real dirty, that's the only bad thing."

ON GETTING BACK UP TO 10TH AFTER THE BLOWN TIRE: "Yeah, we still had a good car at that point and we were working on some things in the pits to fix the fender a little bit, to even make it better. Then we had a tire blow on us and we weren't able to show that until later. It's tough. We got behind, the car is still good, we can probably still fix it, put some sides and fenders on it and take it to Talladega and be fine."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE SOME BEAT-UP HEAVYWEIGHT OUT THERE? "Yeah. We just kept coming back. It says a lot about the team, the guys, they don't want to give up; If one guy on the team gives up the whole bridge is going to fall. They all stuck together today, we had a good attitude. We're going to come out of here with a good attitude going to the next weekend."

HOW WILL YOU REMEMBER THIS WEEKEND? "Probably just winning that Busch race, overcoming the flat tires and being competitive with no fender. That was cool. Sliding through the infield at 160 miles per hour with no brakes and no right rear tire. That was cool. A lot of neat things happened this weekend."

TONY EURY, JR., CREW CHIEF, DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVY MONTE CARLO (Lost 12 laps after going to the garage for brake caliper repair on approximately the 100th lap). "The brake caliper broke off the housing, I guess because the right rear tire blew coming into the trio-oval, wrapped around the caliper and jerked the caliper out of the housing. We had to come back here and weld it because NASCAR don't allow you to run with three calipers, you have to have four calipers."

DID HE HIT THE WALL WHEN THE TIRE BLEW ON LAP 22? "No."

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 GM GOODWRENCH SERVICE CHEVY MONTE CARLO: "I tried to hold my ground a little bit. Gordon wanted in the same spot I did. I tried to block, he came up and all hell broke loose. The car was awesome. These guys put together a heck of a race car and we had a chance to win the Daytona 500, but that's the one downfall of this restrictor-plate package. You have to block, "cause if you get hung out you have to go to the back and start over again. I came down, we got together, and I wrecked."

KEVIN HAMLIN, HARVICK'S CREW CHIEF: "Our race car is tore up and our driver is OK. It's just unfortunately a part of restrictor-place racing when they're all bunched together like that going that fast."

BOBBY HAMILTON, NO. 55 SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC CHEVY MONTE CARLO: "I don't know that it's not safer because the speeds are slower. I know there could be a lot more discipline out there. There's a lot of guys out there driving race cars who cannot afford to let off the gas because they would lose the draft. We didn't have to do that last year."

DID YOU EXPECT THIS TO HAPPEN? "Yeah, I just can't believe it didn't happened earlier. I hope the race fans get a good race out there. It's definitely safer, I don't think anybody is hurt, nobody flipped over. We cannot afford to let off the gas."

DAVE MARCIS, NO. 71 REALTREE CHEVY MONTE CARLO (out of race after 79 laps):

"When the race began the car was great and then it got a bunch of paper across the grill and the water temperature went up to 260 degrees and I was going along working the accelerator trying to pump cool fuel in there and keep the piston tops cool. We were lucky, we got the caution, we got it cleaned up, water temperature came back to 200 degrees. We were sitting there going along trying to catch up, but ever since it's been that hot the engine hasn't run right. We caused some problem when we got to 260 degrees."

"It's been a great week, a great 125-miler, just overwhelming support from the fans, the Richard Childress organization, our organization, Bill Jordan from Real Tree. We didn't want to end it like this. We wanted to get a good run like we did in the 125-miler, but these things you just don't never know."

ANDY PETREE, CAR OWNER NO. 33 AUTOLIV CHEVY MONTE CARLO (MIKE WALLACE, finished 21st):

"We'll make a decision on Rockingham in the next day or two. We're taking a long-term view of our situation. And we're looking not just at next week, but next month and way on down the road too. The best possible scenario for today would have been the 33 and 55 leading all the laps and one of them winning the race and the other finishing second. I don't know that we won't see something like that some time.

"As far as the future is concerned, I think a lot of people saw what great exposure we can give a sponsor. We've had a lot of great exposure from our friends in the media the past 10 days. And we've done our part on the race track, giving them a reason to follow us. We qualified great, and we had a super run in our qualifying race Thursday. Mike (Wallace) has done a great job for us, and has lived up to being the hottest driver on the circuit.

"I hope the folks at Autoliv are pleased with their 10 days with us. They sure seemed to be. Our deal was for this one race, but we're hoping they saw the potential of this race team.

"Don't get me wrong. We need a sponsor on the 33 car. I think we're going to get one, and whoever it is is going to get one heck of a deal.

"We're moving forward.  Whether that specifically includes Rockingham
next week, we're just not sure right now.  There will be a lot of
Rockinghams in our future.  I'm glad there will be more Daytonas too."

-tmc-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Ward Burton , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Michael Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Sterling Marlin