Homestead Chevrolet Saturday morning notes

DALE EARNHARDT (Driver, No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo, car owner No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "Steve Park and the guys tested here and they felt good about it. It's a Pennzoil race, and they needed to put a big emphasis on...

DALE EARNHARDT (Driver, No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo, car owner No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"Steve Park and the guys tested here and they felt good about it. It's a Pennzoil race, and they needed to put a big emphasis on this race. Steve and Paul Andrews and the whole 1 team has really made a big turn in the last half of the season. They're tuning and getting better and Steve has found his niche with the team and his comfort zone with the cars. He's doing a great job. Even before he won at Watkins Glen (Aug. 13), I've seen a big difference in the team and Steve. Steve is just doing a great job. I think it's as much Steve and a team effort together as it is anything. When you run good it promotes good morale in the team and at the shop and everything. The first half of the season, the 8 car (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) shined a lot. The 1 car had some problems. Now they're shining and it makes 'em feel really good. I spend time there at the shop with them, but I've got a big responsibility here. My focus is getting us (3 car) going like we need to go. "I want to win the race. I can't worry about the championship. I just need to win a race. The numbers will still work, but Bobby (Labonte) has got to have terrible luck two races and we've got to have great luck. Let's move on. Kevin (crew chief Hamlin) and I are getting in this thing, and we're going to figure out where we're at. We stumbled last week at Phoenix. We didn't feel like we had the car under us like we needed. We had some problems there. I think we'll get it turned around."

PAUL ANDREWS (Crew chief No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I think if we can run like we did at Phoenix we'll be in good shape here Sunday. We ran in the top five all day and were in contention to win. We'll need good pit stops, just the normal things. You almost have to have a perfect race now to win, and I think we're in a position to do that. We've got a good starting spot, obviously. Our pit stops have been awesome the last several months. We've just got to run good. We've got to get the car turning good all day, and get it turning off the corners as strong as you can. It's pretty tough to keep them turning here. Sometimes when you get it turning good in the middle you can't come up off the corner hard. You've got to have all that put together. "Last year we were at a little disadvantage here with the Chevrolet. This year, we'll have to wait and see. I think qualifying shook out pretty good. We've got a Chevrolet, Ford and Pontiac up front. I think the aero packages are more evenly matched even though the Chevrolet is still lacking a little bit of front downforce compared to the Ford and Pontiac. I think we'll be able to work through it. We've had some real good tests lately and we'll see. We still get pretty tight in traffic compared to the other brands, but we'll just have to see what happens. "I think it's been pretty trendy for the 1 car to be the best Chevrolet for a long time. We've always had good race cars and we've been qualifying good. If you look on the board during the race, most of the time the 1 car is the leading Chevrolet. That's where we need to be, and we're going to try our best to make it all happen Sunday. "Earnhardt (car owner) comes over and gets information. He's the boss, and he comes over when he's in trouble, so we have to help him out when we can. He came over right away yesterday. It's not one little thing that makes the car good or bad. It's the whole package. It's the whole chassis package, the whole aero package. It's everything. It's not one little thing. You can't come over to somebody and ask them what springs they've got and expect to go over and put those springs in and go out and be fast. It doesn't work that way. It's the whole combination. "I've always wanted to race and loved to race. I think our group of guys right now is the same way. We enjoy going to the race track and running good. It's a pretty awesome feeling to go to a race track and know you're going to be in contention to win and always be in the top five in qualifying and have a shot at the pole. That's what we look for really. We're looking for the true, hard-core racers. We'll probably be glad for the season to be over for a week or so, but we'll be ready to go when it's time to go. We've got a bunch of guys who want to race and love to race and enjoy doing it. "We've got tests planned for the offseason. We're going to build three new cars. We're going to do some wind tunnel testing and we'll probably go to some non-sanctioned race tracks in December and test some things and try to understand more. We'll see what we can come up with."

STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We were the last car to go out (in Friday qualifying) and Ricky Rudd really set the mark and gave us something to shoot for. We were good all day in practice, and we thought we had something for the top five and if we could get it right there at the end, maybe a pole. Dave Charpentier made a good call right there at the end to get the car a little bit tighter for me. I knew after I went through one and two, the way the car stuck up off two that we'd have a good lap going. I just tried not to mess it up in three and four. "We got the first part of our job done. Qualifying really hasn't been one of our finer points really in the beginning of the year. Since the win at Watkins Glen, we've really picked things up. Our qualifying has been really good. We're real confident in our race setup. Coming off a top-five finish at Phoenix, we'd like to finish it up with a top-five finish here at Homestead and try to put the car in victory lane. "We've got a good starting spot. We'll be able to see the pace car good at the drop of the green flag and lead everybody down. Time will tell. We don't want to be too impatient and burn the tires off the car too early trying to lead. We'd like to lead a couple of laps at the beginning and settle into a good pace. It is a 400-mile race, and we're just hoping to settle into our good race pace, get through out pit stops, get to those last 50 miles and then go for the win.

"It (win at Watkins Glen) just really motivated the whole race team. We went from just begin competitors to being winners. I think it's just shown that this race team has grown from a startup team that Dale Earnhardt started a few years ago to a team that's capable of running for poles and running for wins. It's been an honor for me to be a part of that and watch that team grow. We haven't had all this given to us. We've been through some broken bones and some crashed race cars and some tough times. Pennzoil has just been a super sponsor. They've stuck by us. At the beginning of the year we decided to put everything we've worked towards, not only together but to keep it together for the next two years. That just showed the confidence Pennzoil had in this race team and me and the confidence Dale Earnhardt had in me and this race team. It's all paid off. Now we've just got to reward everybody with poles and victories." "I'm in the best shape of my life right now. I've taken on a strict workout program since I broke my leg. It all started with the rehabilitation of the leg and continued on to something that I'm constantly in the gym everyday we're home and even when we're on the road here at the MRO. I feel like I'm physically in the best shape of my life. Mentally, I feel great. We've got a great race team that feels great, that feels good about themselves, that feels good about their driver. Things are just working. Our pit stops are where they need to be. Everything is in place for us to run well on any particular weekend. I think we've shown that the last few months."

They used to call Harry Gant Mr. September, but I think they're going to call Steve Park Mr. September. "We did the same thing last week at Phoenix. We had a car that was probably capable of qualifying in the top 10. We sat and talked after our last qualifying run and I told them what I needed in the car and me and Dave and Paul just kind of put our heads together and made some changes. It shows to go out there and put that car on the edge, you've got to have a lot of confidence in your crew and team. These guys are just building me great race cars. I've got all the confidence in the world that when I get behind the wheel that I've got what I need to go fast. I don't have to second guess what I'm in. We did the same thing here. We went out. We had a top 10 car, a top five car. I told Paul if he could just get that car where I could drive it off turn two real good that I could put the thing on the pole and put it up on the front row. He held up to his end of the bargain. He told me before we went out that we'd made these changes. We almost put a pound of air pressure in the right front and decided with the cloud cover and everything else, we decided not to do it. It just shows how well we're working together. We're all on the same page and how much confidence we have in each other's decisions. I just went out there and drove it as hard as I could and Paul held true to his promise. After that car stuck up off turn two, I knew that's what we needed to be on the front row. I just had to be careful not to mess it up in three and four because I have a habit of doing that sometimes. "I think a lot of us sat at that media tour at the beginning of the year at Dale Earnhardt, Inc., and things we had talked about at the beginning of the year were hopefully having the opportunity to continue to work for Dale Earnhardt and in order to do that we had goals set for ourselves to get a pole, to get a win and to finish in the top 10 in points. Those are goals we had set. We've exceeded all those expectations. We're just shy of the top 10 in the points. We kind of let ourselves down in the middle of the year. With the change in the tires we've seen over the course of the beginning of the year to the end, there was a little bit of a curveball through the middle of the season. We rallied back, got the win at Watkins Glen and continued that success through the rest of the year. We're living up to what we set out for the goals we set at the beginning of the year, so I think other than being in the top 10 in points, we've realized all our goals."

"We tested here at Homestead before we went to Phoenix. We were at Phoenix and we were struggling for a little bit. We used some of the stuff we learned at Homestead that helped us at Phoenix, but it's kind of caught in between. The setups are kind of in between. You can't run a full Homestead setup at Phoenix and you can't run a full Phoenix setup here at Homestead. "We took some of the things we learned here testing and made it work for us at Phoenix. We're hoping we can take some of the stuff we learned in the race at Phoenix and use it here at Homestead and try to run in the top five. "I've been on a roll in racing. I've just never gotten on that roll in Black Jack for some reason. I don't want to jinx us. We can do things wrong. We're just trying to stay focused on doing the right things. One of the guys asked if I was going to make it look that easy on Sunday. Qualifying wasn't easy. We were down here testing for two days, went back and evaluated what we had learned. It takes a lot of hard work. It all looks like fun and games and glory, but a lot of hard work goes into these accomplishments. The chemistry we have is clicking right now. It happened with Gordon and Evernham in the past and you've seen it with other drivers and crew chiefs. When I'm thinking one thing, I don't even have to say it. Paul puts his head in the window and is thinking the same thing I'm thinking. We're in the zone right now. We're hoping we can carry that momentum through this year and into next year and get that top 10 in points we've been looking for and get a few more victories. "My parents celebrated their 38th anniversary (Friday), so maybe the pole will be a good anniversary present for them. They're not here. They're going to go to Atlanta. They came here last year. We had a friend of ours who used to live here that passed away this year, so they decided to stay home and go to Atlanta."

"I just think we get along so good. The guys that work on the car, the guys that work in the shop, we hang out together, we work together and we race together and we're all friends. There's not one bad seed in the apple. With the success we've been having, it just breeds more success. It's almost contagious. It runs through the whole Pennzoil team. You hear people build momentum and carry momentum. That's where we are. These guys are pumped up. They went from being a new team that we put together a few years ago and finally got people together we were happy with and won a race. It's just been a momentum builder from there. They're happy to be where they're at. They're happy to be with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. We've got a great sponsor. The hardest thing to do right now is keep this whole thing together. Keeping it together is what it's all about. When you qualify good and run good it seems like it makes everybody happy. Hopefully we'll stay together through the winter and pick up where we left off. "We owe Pennzoil one for last year. They came on board to sponsor the race. We didn't really run that good last year. We felt it was important to come down here and test and try to redeem ourselves this year. We're real confident in our race setup. I'll be I lost eight pounds down here testing. They didn't let me out of that race car. We went from doing qualifying stuff until we were happy and did race stuff until the sun was down behind the bleachers and it was dark. We put a big effort into coming back here and r edeeming ourselves from last year and qualifying well and racing good on Sunday. "I'm kind of surprised that a Ford or Pontiac isn't on the pole because we're not really known for our front downforce yet. We just kind of snuck one in on them. We had good horsepower and a good race car. We tested for two days and we're pretty excited about it."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Steve Park , Harry Gant