Fontana Team Monte Carlo notes and quotes

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "It's a good track for us, but we've been to a lot of good tracks already this year that in the past have been very good for us. I don't really judge the race track. The cars are ...

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

"It's a good track for us, but we've been to a lot of good tracks already this year that in the past have been very good for us. I don't really judge the race track. The cars are different and the tires are different. This race team has done an excellent job working hard to continually get better. Although we didn't qualify quite up to par to what we'd like to, the car seems to be good in traffic. We've got our work cut out for us to get up through the field. It's a little bit different deal here than it is at Talladega.

"I always expect to get to the front and run up front, and I know we're capable of doing that as a team. We're still trying to get our Monte Carlo to do what I like it to do and also learn these tires a little bit. We've struggled with that, there's no doubt about that. I feel like each weekend we go out, we get better and better. We're performing well at the short tracks. The draft kind of equals things out at Talladega, but this is a true test of where we're at today.

"It (Monte Carlo) does have a lot of drag compared to the other cars out there. We're working hard to make sure we have good fuel mileage. This track is wide and smooth. Guys are able to go quite a long way. We're going to get the best we possibly can. If we've got good fuel mileage, we hope it's a fuel mileage race. If we don't, then we just hope we're really fast.

"Talladega was a great confidence builder for the team. We wanted to get to victory lane, and we got there. You look at how competitive it is this year, and it's just unbelievable. Just to get to victory lane this year in the first nine races is pretty special for anybody. We're still looking for that consistency, and that doesn't mean we've necessarily got to come here and win. We want top fives and top 10s and when we're in position at the end of a race to win, we hope we can pull that off.

"I hope they cut back some days somewhere (for 2001 schedule). That's all I know. I think it's very exciting for the sport that it's continuing to grow and that there's new venues out there. There's nothing but good things that can come out of that, and I know there's a lot of fans that don't want to see races go away. It's a tricky situation for everybody. It makes it very tough on these teams because it costs more money. It's going to cost the sponsors more money. There are good and bad sides to it, but I think overall it's more positive than negative. We'll find a way to relax and get away as often as we can.

"We're still being real patient with everything. We still know we're not where we need to be to be championship caliber. That's when you're battling for wins every weekend. We want to get to that level. We're not quite there yet. We know we can win. That's certainly a confidence builder that we can come here and run competitive no matter where we qualify. This is a great race track, and it's a great race track for us.

"We're going to a great race track next week, too. I've run well at Richmond a lot of times. It's a good track for us. We always seem to be competitive there and qualify up front. I've had some great battles with guys there like Jeff Burton, right down to the wire, inches away from winning the race, but your fondest memories of any track are when you win. Richmond is one of the best short tracks we've got and one of the best overall tracks. It's fast enough where there are some aerodynamics going on but tight enough where you've got to get the car to handle. It's a great race track, a lot of two-wide and sometimes three-wide racing, a lot of different grooves. You'll see guys run on the bottom, on the top. Any time you get more than one groove, you're going to get guys who like it. It's a three-quarter mile track and you've got some decent speed."

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

NOTE: Earnhardt requalified on Saturday morning and will start 35th in Sunday's 43-car field.

"We made some improvements, but it still wasn't as good as we thought it could be. The car was there, the track may have been a little off from yesterday. The guys who got the early draw yesterday I think had the best opportunity, but that's the deal, that's racing. We did get in on time, so we're happy about that. We gave up a little bit in practice this morning, but I still feel we can jump right on a setup that will be good for us. I didn't want to take a provisional. I don't like to do that. I want to qualify for these races."

COMMENT ON 49TH BIRTHDAY TODAY

"I feel good. I think 49 is a great age. You've got a lot of experience. I've mellowed as I've gone on and got smarter. I still drive the race car pretty good. Maybe the reflexes are off just a little bit, but what I give up in reflexes, I'm smarter about it. My stamina is still there. I can still go the distance. That's important. If you can go the distance, you're all right. I've got a contract for a couple more years, so we're in good shape. I'm just enjoying it. We're going to have a good time here and see what we can do about winning this race. They can pick (on me) all they want (if they think I'm an old man). They'll be jumping off as fast as they jumped on, though."

LARRY McREYNOLDS (Crew chief No. 31 Lowe's Monte Carlo)

"It's always good to get your first pole. It's always good to get it early in the year. It's not that we're going to go to all the other races and not try to sit on the pole. We've put a lot of effort on qualifying. You want to start as high as you can. People in this garage will give you a story that it doesn't matter where you start. They're lying. It does matter, and you do care where you start. You don't come in here and just take qualifying day for granted. You get a good pit selection, track position. Some race tracks it's almost hard after 300 or 400 miles to come from the back. You can't ever get there. There's a chance this race can go green from flag to flag. We're going to work on that just like everybody in here does, but the thing you've got to be careful about is you can't get caught up in that. People will tune themselves right out of the picture trying to chase fuel mileage too much. You might get the greatest mileage in the world, but the motor won't run because you're leaned on it so hard and you've put too high a gear in the car. I'm really proud of everybody on this qualifying effort. It really was a joint effort. Mike stepped up and did his job. The guys on the car did their job. This is a car that has been a favorite car of ours. It's a car we almost won Atlanta with. I think we've got the best qualifying motor here we've ever had, and you package all that together and you come up with a pole. I didn't think it would hold up, but the sun came out and no one beat us."

"You just get a lot of things accomplished. You're in the Bud Shootout now. You don't have to go down there and run a qualifying race or whatever it is they're going to do. You've got the pole and you've got it done and behind you.

"If you call going back to the room and ordering room service and looking over all kind of notes celebrating, then I celebrated the hell out of it last night. It's an accomplishment. We're proud of it, but we had to get in here this morning and be ready for the race game plan. That's the thing we want to accomplish. We have tapped on that door. We have knocked on that door. We have beat on that door. It's time to kick the door in and go get this first win.

"So many play a role in the track record being broke. Maybe Goodyear came with a faster tire, but we've got better cars, we've got better engines, we've got better shock packages. Everything I think equates to track records, but the biggest thing about this Goodyear tire, whether people like it, whether people don't like it, it has solved so many problems. Forget speed. Forget winning races. Forget all those things. It has solved a lot of problems that has plagued a lot of people in this garage area at the fast, heavy, right-front loaded race tracks. The Charlottes, the Texas, the Fontanas, the Michigans, the Atlantas. Now we all come to these race tracks with the confidence that these guys can drive these things off in the corner and not have to worry about popping a tire. It equates to the development that Goodyear has done.

"Like I told one of the Goodyear engineers this morning, we're actually, because of what they've done with this tire, we're able to back off on some things that we used to have to do to make these cars turn and stay off the right front tire. That helps the package even more. Air pressure, camber, A-arm lengths, we're not having to be as aggressive with any of these things as we one time was. That's just helping the whole package. This time has been the poster child for blown right-front tires at high-speed race tracks. I think with all the time under our belt with this tire, you always worry about things happening, but I think when we start this race tomorrow, one of the least things we're worried about is blowing a right-front tire, as long as we don't get stupid with things like air pressure. You have to put a package around this tire. We saw it last year at Michigan. That's when they first came out with this tire. You can't just bolt these tires on with the same setup you won with two years ago. It don't work that way. You've got to work around it. I've been caught up in these dilemmas before where rather than go to work you sit back and complain. I think the people that are complaining are the people who thought they could bolt these four tires on and not work on their cars. The complaints are getting less and less because now people are beginning to realize how good these tires can be."

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Series NASCAR Cup