DAYTONA 500 POST-RACE NOTES JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet) -- (Gordon rolled into Victory Lane talking to team owner Rick Hendrick on a cell phone that was handed to him as he drove down pit road.) "I told you, man! I've got...
DAYTONA 500 POST-RACE NOTES
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet) -- (Gordon rolled into Victory Lane talking to team owner Rick Hendrick on a cell phone that was handed to him as he drove down pit road.) "I told you, man! I've got to go talk to the world, here, buddy! Thank you so much! We love you and this was for you, man! (Exiting car.) Whoooooooo! Yes! No offense, Mike (Joy, CBS Sports commentator), but that's the first person I wanted to talk to. This one's for Rick Hendrick. One-two-three -- that is so awesome. I couldn't have done it without those guys. That was teamwork out there on the racetrack at the end! I didn't think I could get by Dale (Earnhardt) but man, we were working him over pretty bad. I bet he was worried seeing thiose three Hendrick cars back there. Thank you, God. It was real frustrating (to be mired back in the field). I was sitting back there and I couldn't get anybody to work with me for a little while. It was really, really tough to get up through there. I was patient and I just prayed to God, 'If I'm going to glorify you on this day you gotta give me a caution!' Then the caution came out so this certainly is for God. "Am I here? Is this happening? This is awesome! When I won the Brickyard 400 in 1994 I thought that no moment could ever pass that one. This one has. I know this is only my fifth season in Winston Cup but each year I appreciate this race more and more every day. I'm so happy. "What a way to start out 1997. Speedweeks has been unbelievable. Daytona -- this is the race -- the big one! This is the one we wanted to win and it's just unbelievable that it's true right now."
RAY EVERNHAM (Crew chief No. 24 DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet) -- Thank God -- he's the one who makes all this happen. Boss (Rick Hendrick) -- you got your first wish -- one-two-three in the Daytona 500. I don't know...it's a long way from Wall (N.J.) Stadium (where Evernham drove modified stock cars before going to work for the IROC organization). He (Gordon) calls his own shots. He knows what to do and where he needs to be. He's done a great job and so has this crew -- all day. I know there's somebody driving up the road listening (to the MRN Radio broadcast) -- his name's Ken Howes (Hendrick Motorsports chassis consultant) and he's helped me a bunch this week. This is for Rick up at home. It's awful nice to see all three of those cars up front. Thank God that everybody's OK after the crashes. It's been quite a comeback for this team but we were fortunate. You've just got to be ready. You don't have to have the fastest car -- you've just got to be ready when the opportunity comes up. It's just been a good day.
HUT STRICKLIN (No. 8 Circuit City Ford) -- "It was a long day. We could never seem to get the handle on the car. For whatever reason, it was loose all day. We could never seem to get it tightened up. I was a pretty good ways away from all the wrecks. I didn't get caught up in anything -- that's the big thing. I knew it was going to be one of those days, so in that respect, I had a good day not to get caught up in anything."
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 98 RCA Ford) -- "I cut a tire and it cost us the day. The car ran best in the lead. I think if I could have got there, we would have been just fine. Nobody wants to work with you trying to get your laps back -- especially if you're a fast race car. At least it doesn't look like that (pointing to Dale Earnhardt's car)."
LOY ALLEN (No. 19 Remington Arms/Child Support Recovery Int'l Ford) -- "I wish we'd have run better. We didn't have a good finish. You want to run a little faster here and be up in the lead draft. I kept getting out of that and kept falling back a little bit. Toward the end, it seemed like we picked up a little speed. It was too little, too late."
LAKE SPEED (No. 9 Melling Engine Parts Ford) -- "We just had a rough day, a rough day. It was a rough weekend, I guess. The Melling guys prepare a good car and the backup car was pretty decent. It didn't seem like it wanted to run on the straightaway, but it would drive pretty good. We just have to come back the next time and do better. (What did you see in the last accident?) I didn't see anything. They just got caught up in front of us and there was a big wreck. There was no place to go."
DICK TRICKLE (No. 90 Heilig-Meyers Ford) -- "It just seemed like the car wouldn't take off at the start. For some reason, when we got some laps, the car would come around. It seemed like the motor wouldn't perform until it got three or four laps in it. We were starting to come back. I believe it was the first wreck -- I ran through some trash on the back straightaway and it exploded the right-rear tire. That knocked the quarter panel up inside and the drag numbers got real bad. I was barely hanging on the last part of the race. I think we could have come to the front if we hadn't messed up that tire. (On the accident.) All I remember is I saw some cars high and I saw smoke and I saw cars going every which way. I thought, well, I'm going to keep mine as straight as I can. But it plugged all up and I just went into the middle of the pile. I didn't see what started it. It was 10 cars ahead of me."
BRETT BODINE (No. 11 Close Call Phone Card Ford) -- "That last incident was a real close call. I was right behind Johnny Benson when he spun, and I couldn't see anybody through the smoke. I just got up against the wall and kept trying to whoa it down. We didn't run into anything. When I came through the smoke, my spotter told me stand on it, so I went ahead and got through it. The car just ran decent -- nothing special. We just kinda hung out all day and did what we could do. Eighteenth is a lot better start of the year than we did last year (when he crashed several times in his debut as driver/car owner). We're a lot better prepared for the upcoming races than we were last year after Daytona."
ROBBY GORDON (No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolet) -- "I was fortunate to get hit in that last accident. When they hit me, it knocked me right through the accident, so I got pretty lucky on that one. Like I said, the most important thing was to be around at the end and keep my nose clean, and that's what I did most of the day. Ricky Rudd stalled it leaving the pits the last time, and that killed me because I was right behind him, and I lost about six positions there. If that hadn't happened, I wouldn't have been in that last little incident when everybody was running into each other."
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 94 McDonald's Ford) -- "I was dead meat. I knew it, and it was just a matter of when and where. They got too good a run at me. I had a good race car, there was no doubt about that, but it just depends upon how much help you have from the back. I had as good a car as there was out there."
MARK MARTIN (No. 6 Valvoline Ford) -- "We had a good outing. I'm real proud of this race team. We're going to have a great year, I believe. This is the strongest team I've ever had. We would have liked to have won today, but we'll take what we can get."
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) -- "This was our best shot yet. It hadn't looked that good early, but the car was running fast. It had a lot of power. It was tight. I was just kinda riding the thing along. We were talking on the radio about what we could do to fix it and we had that pretty well figured out. Me and Terry and Hamilton just hooked and were running the leaders back down, and that dang thing just blew the motor. I can't believe it. I'm ready to go home -- now."