TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT MAYBE WINNING THREE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUTS IN A ROW? "How would you feel about winning three in a row? Would you be happy? Yeah, I'd love to win three in a row. Who ...
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT MAYBE WINNING THREE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUTS IN A ROW? "How would you feel about winning three in a row? Would you be happy? Yeah, I'd love to win three in a row. Who wouldn't? I'd love to win 20 in a row, but the odds of that happening are slim. The odds of winning two in a row last year probably weren't in my favor, but I won two in a row last year, so you never know. We'll know after 70 laps, won't we?"
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
ON JIMMIE JOHNSON "He had an awesome year (in 2002) and I'm real proud of him. I think he's going to have good year. I know how good his resources and equipment are, that's for sure. And, I know how good he is, too, so we're going to have a lot of fun. As teammates we've grown. With both teams working together under one roof for one year, having that experience under our belts I think will take us to a whole new level. I really hope to see several Hendrick teams battling for a championship this year."
WITH ALL OF HENDRICK'S RESOURCES, DO THE NEW TIGHTER AERO RULES PLAY TO YOUR ADVANTAGE, AS FAR AS FINDING SOMETHING THAT ANOTHER TEAM MAY NOT? "I'd like to think so. That's why I signed a lifetime contract with Rick. I think that year-in and year-out, over the long haul, that we've got a facility that builds championship-caliber race cars and teams. As it gets more level, does it mean that our resources become that much more important? I absolutely think so. I think the detail and the little things are what start to become important and that's where the speed comes in.
"That's where I'm putting my bet and my money down. I feel like we'll be successful because of it."
RICKY CRAVEN, NO. 32 TIDE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
ON MAKING THE SWITCH TO PONTIAC "It's encouraging. We're ahead of where we were last year on the track. We certainly have some work to do. Nobody is denying that. But, we're going to benefit from the Pontiac. The new Grand Prix is an exciting race car. It's a performance piece. I'm enjoying the beginning of the relationship with Pontiac, but looking forward to all of it and it being a long (relationship). It's a car and a group of people that are used to winning and they're used to success and we're determined to continue that success."
DO YOU THINK THE PONTIAC HELP YOU AT A PLACE LIKE DAYTONA? "Right now, that is one of the most encouraging parts of our program. The Daytona test we had was very good. We left here knowing that we have a chance to win the Daytona 500 and that is so big. That is so important for the people putting in the long hours, to understand that what they are doing is actually going to a cause and that you've got a chance. And, it's all about having a chance. We have a better chance to win the Daytona 500 than we did a year ago. I am convinced of that, and I think that the Tide Pontiac Grand Prix is a big part of the reason why."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 GM GOODWRENCH CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
WITH THE NEW AERO PACKAGES IN PLACE, WHAT KIND OF IMPACT DO YOU THINK THAT WILL HAVE ON THE DAYTONA 500? "I wish I knew. Right now it's just kind of a crapshoot. You don't really know how the inspection process is going to be and you don't really know anything about anything. All that we really know is how we tested and nobody really knows who was legit and who wasn't. But, we'll find out in a couple days and hopefully the RCR (Richard Childress Racing) Chevys are as good as they always are."
WHAT KIND OF RACING DO YOU EXPECT? "I think you're going to see good racing. I think it's going to be a lot like it was last year, but the cars are going to be even closer than they were then. It should go back to the two- and three-wide racing like it was in years past. You won't see as much passing as you did with the roof fins and things like that, but you're going to see very competitive racing because the cars are closer than they ever have been."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE NEW AERO PACKAGES AND INSPECTION PROCESSES? "I think the body situation is as close to even as they've ever had it. It was pretty lopsided the past couple years. But, I think right now it is as even as it ever has been. Now, it just boils down to NASCAR's inspection and then enforcing the rules and not just saying, 'Fix it next week.' They've got to crack down and enforce the rules. If they're going to make a rule book, they need to stick by it for everybody. They can't penalize our brand for winning if they're sticking to the rules. If there is a race team that is better than another race team, they shouldn't be penalized so that everybody else can keep up with them."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
DO YOU FEEL LIKE A SOPHOMORE NOW OR DO YOU FEEL LIKE A VETERAN? "The season was so long, I feel like I had my freshman and sophomore year all in one season. I felt like a learned a lot last year. With the success we had and the respect I was able to learn from the other drivers, that rookie feeling went away relatively quick. Going into our sophomore year, I think we're going to have a pretty solid year."
WHAT IS MORE EXCITING TO YOU - THE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT OR QUALIFYING? "From my aspect it would be the Bud Shootout. Qualifying doesn't involve the driver. It's what the team has been able to do on the body and what the engine shop has been able to find and do, and in a sense, what you're able to sneak through the NASCAR officials. The driver's aspect - it has a lot on it and it has a lot of importance. But, for an excitement standpoint and fun, I'm looking forward to the Bud Shootout."
IS QUALIFYING IMPORTANT HERE? "It is if you're on the front row. If you can eliminate having to worry about the 125s and taking that risk of damaging the race car - that's nice to do. We were able to have that luxury last year. If you believe you've got a shot at the front row, you need to go for it. If not - start working on that race setup."
TERRY LABONTE, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
DOES RUNNING THE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT HELP YOU AT ALL TOWARDS RUNNING WELL IN THE '500?' "I'll tell you what happens in the Bud Shootout, like Mark Martin said. He said, 'Everybody builds two cars when they come to Daytona. The fast one is the '500' car. The slow one is the Bud Shootout car. If somebody has got two fast cars, he's got a shot at it.'
"It's an exciting race. It's a fun event. It will kind of set the stage sometimes for the week coming up to kind of see how you think you're going to stack up and see how some of the other guys stack up."
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
ON WINNING THE DAYTONA 500 VERSUS WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP "Winning the Daytona 500 would be second, obviously, to winning the championship. No goal is larger or more prominent than winning the championship. But, of course, if there is a race that everybody would want to win it would be the Daytona 500.
"A lot of guys have home racetracks or areas that they would love to win at. But, the Daytona 500 -- every team puts more effort into this one race than any other."
WILL DAYTONA EVER BE JUST ANOTHER RACE FOR YOU? "With how I came up in the sport, with my father coming to this racetrack for so many years, it's always going to be a special place. I've said it in a hundred articles over the past three or four months about how excited I was to come back to Daytona and how great a place it is. It (the Daytona 500) is a huge race. When I ran my first Daytona 500, that was the first Daytona 500 I had ever seen. I had never been to one in person until 2000. We were always in school in February and whatnot, so I had never gotten come before then.
"It was like joining a fraternity when you qualified for the race and you ran your 125 and you knew you were in the field, it was like you had joined this big, old fraternity - like a huge club. It was a great feeling."