Dover: Team Monte Carlo notes and quotes

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) “The car is really good. It’s a shame we didn’t qualify better. The car was certainly capable of qualifying up front. It’s nice to come here and practice and feel the...

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)

“The car is really good. It’s a shame we didn’t qualify better. The car was certainly capable of qualifying up front. It’s nice to come here and practice and feel the car working well. I’m real happy with it. This place changes quite a bit. Track conditions, they get rubber down on the race track, so we’ve just got to be able to adapt to that. “It just depends on when they (cautions) come and how they come. They could fall in your favor when maybe you’ve made a few passes and you need to catch the guys that are about a straightaway ahead of you. Then there are times when you’ve got a rhythm and things are going well for you and you don’t want any cautions and they fall. It just depends. If you start the race and your car is working good, you don’t really want any cautions. You don’t really want any other guys to be able to work on theirs and get theirs better when yours is good. We’ve just gradually work our way to the front, and if that takes the whole race, that’s fine with me. “Maybe it’s all our friends at DuPont pulling for us up there at Wilmington. They certainly do a lot for us throughout the year, but it’s nice to come up here and see all their employees and customers. This is one of those tracks where we hit it off right away, especially after they put the concrete down. We’ve been real close to some wins here the last few times. Sometimes you lose it on fuel mileage and sometimes you just miss it. It’s one of those tracks I feel confident and feel good about. We’re real excited about this weekend. “You never expect to see it this competitive. That’s real incredible. It says a lot about the sport. It says a lot about the good teams that are out there. Even some of these rookies are doing a fantastic job. They’ve got good teams and it’s showing on the race track. “Any time it’s that competitive it’s tougher than ever. A guy who can consistently run in the top five, he’s the guy you’ve got to look out for for the championship. Right now, Bobby Labonte is the guy doing the best job of it and he’s the guy leading the points. Look at a guy like Ward Burton. He’s been right there, solid all year long and he’s second in the points. We’ve been a little inconsistent, but at the same time we’ve been consistently running 10th or 15th, so that’s where we’re at in the points. We’re not that far out of it, but we need to get those consistent top fives to move up. “If you hit on things and get a rhythm going, look at a guy like Dale Jr. They’ve got things going their way, and a guy like that can get some momentum. He’s got the confidence and the team’s got the confidence. All of a sudden, boom, they start winning a lot of races. It can happen. I’m sure it’ll happen in the future, but right now it seems like there’s a lot of different guys winning. “Maybe it’s just the setup under the car. I do like this race track the way you’ve got to drive it, but you’ve got to constantly change the way you drive this race track, but the setup we hit from the beginning when they first put the concrete down worked well for us. We’ve been able to work with that basic setup and just work around it and fine tune on it every time. The cars get faster, tires get faster, other competitors get faster. You’ve got to change what you do. You can’t stick with the same old thing, and that’s from a driver’s standpoint and the team’s standpoint. “I just drive it as hard as I can until they tell me to conserve. If I need to conserve, they’ll know. If I need to drive as hard as I can, then they’ll let me do that. Until you know how many laps to go and how far you can go on fuel, and the way the cautions fall, then you’ve really just got to run your own race and run as hard as you possibly can until you know if you need to conserve. “It can work in your favor or it can work against you. It seems like here, it (fuel mileage) has worked against us. Maybe some other places it’s worked for us. Even when you win a race on fuel mileage, you say, ‘I’d rather had a faster car and won.’ That’s the way you want to win races. At the same time, this is very competitive and there’s strategy involved. The best teams usually come out on top, and if that means the team that did the best job on fuel mileage or calling the shots in the pits won, then that’s the way they won. “I guess if you had to compare it to any place, I’d compare it to a big Bristol, but it’s quite a bit different than Bristol. Just the way you drive the car is different, but we do bring the same cars, so it must have some similarities. “Right now, the less mistakes a driver makes will earn him a lot more points, but I still think it comes down to a total team effort with the car working well, the driver driving well and smart and the pit crews making good stops. This has been the type of year where it’s tough to see a guy with a type of dominant consistency. If you had to point at a couple, it’s the guys leading the points. Nobody has really dominated the series this year, but you’ve got to look at it in a different way. Dominating the consistency, and that’s what Bobby Labonte has done the best so far and that’s why he’s leading the points. Ward Burton has been very consistent, and nobody has won a bunch of races and made up a bunch of points. Guys that are constantly there in the top five, and sneak in those wins every once in awhile. “It’s like a basketball game. It’s hard to get on a roll and make up a 12-point deficit. If you’re down in points, the way you make up a lot of points is like in a basketball game. Shoot a lot of three pointers and hope they go in. If you’re down a lot, you take risks and chances and you want to get in victory lane as much as you can and lead laps as much as you can. These days, it’s very tough to do that.”

ROBBIE LOOMIS (Crew chief No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo)

“We’re trying to mix it up a little bit. Yesterday we tried to live by the book pretty much, and we didn’t wind up too good. We’ve been going back and forth all year to be honest with you. We go by the book (past experiences) and run like crap and then we throw that out and do it another way. We’ll have a bad run and get nervous and go back to the book. As far as the approach, they’ve had so much success but a lot of the stuff they did was repetitious. We’re trying to find a balance now with the new bodies and Goodyear changing the tire. It takes different things. You can’t stick by the book and get things worked out. “We did the tire test up here about a month ago, and we feel real good about the tires. The tires should be really good. It’s a little bit tighter tire than we’ve had up here in the past, but it seems to be a real good tire. “We look at it because they lost a race up here on fuel mileage, so we try to work real hard to make sure we can do 100 laps. More cars will be in that 100-lap window, so that’ll be a smaller part than what you’ve seen in the past. I think you’ll get 100 laps out of the tires. They seems to be in real good shape. “I think we should get our second win of the year here. The car looked real good this morning in practice. Jeff really liked it. We need to get it a little bit better, but we’ve got one more hour to do that. “The day we (Petty Enterprises) finished second up here to Jeff with (Bobby) Hamilton, I think we started 32th or so. If your car is working good, no problem. This is a track where you’ll see cars working terrible and you’ll see a handful of cars working real good. If you’re in that group working real good, you can pass pretty easy.”

DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo)

“We were two hundredths off what we ran this morning in practice. We should have run a little faster in qualifying, but at least we got in the field without taking a provisional. We would have got bumped out if we had stood on our time. I think the track is faster today. It’s cooler. This is our Bristol car, and I think it’s going to race good here. I wish I could have been a little faster. I thought we could have run a little faster, but we’ll take it and go from here. Maybe we can get a good finish and make up a few points tomorrow and move on up in the standings.”

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ward Burton , Bobby Labonte