Las Vegas Chevy Preview

Tuesday, Feb. 29, 2000. CarsDirect.com 400 NASCAR Winston Cup Race Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Chevrolet notes and quotes. LARRY McREYNOLDS (Crew chief No. 31 Lowe's Monte Carlo) "A couple of the Chevys were good at Rockingham. Dale...

Tuesday, Feb. 29, 2000. CarsDirect.com 400 NASCAR Winston Cup Race Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Chevrolet notes and quotes.

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

"A couple of the Chevys were good at Rockingham. Dale Earnhardt and Bobby Hamilton had their Monte Carlos hooked up. Some of the Chevys were OK. The 1 car was respectable. The 24 wasn't that good, and we really missed the boat. It looked like the Pontiacs picked up where they left off last year, and there's no reason they shouldn't. They've got the same car they had last year.

"I worked with Dale Earnhardt a year and a half, and I've watched him for 10 years, and what he did Sunday at Rockingham was the most patience I've ever seen him put forth in a race car. He really saved those tires the first 15 or 20 laps. He may have given up too much to Bobby Labonte after that last pit stop, but he did a great job. More than downforce played a role at Rockingham. Driver finesse with those tires really came into play.

"I'm not sure what to expect at Las Vegas. I think the Pontiacs will be just as tough there as they were at Homestead last year (a 1-2 finish with Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte). The Fords will be good at Vegas because drag will come into play. We're going to take the same car we ran at Homestead last year with a 2000 body on it. (Mike Skinner led the way for Team Monte Carlo with a sixth-place finish last year at Homestead and finished fourth in 1999 at Las Vegas).

"The 3 team tested at Las Vegas before Daytona, and we learned a little from that test, but we're going off what we did at Homestead last year and our 2000 Monte Carlo test at Homestead as much as anything for Vegas."

The 31 team stands 17th in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings after the first two races, 120 points behind leader Dale Jarrett. After the first two races in 1999, Skinner and company had two top-six finishes and led the standings.

"We're nowhere close to where we were this time last season," McReynolds said. "We've finished 16th and 21st in the first two races. A lot of that was self-inflicted at Rockingham. Our teammate finished second there, and we had access to everything he did, so we just missed it. At Daytona, a lot of it was out of our hands. We couldn't control all of our destiny down there.

"One thing I've promised myself and the team this year is that we're not going to dwell on last week, but we've got to learn from it. Mike has run well in the Winston Cup cars and the trucks at Las Vegas. We finished eighth out there with Dale Earnhardt two years ago, and Mike finished fourth last year. We're taking a chassis that Mike likes, and it's just about a do-or-die week for us. We've lost as much ground as we can stand to lose.

"I don't see too many of those teams ahead of us right now bobbling. Do you think Dale Jarrett or Bobby Labonte will bobble? The 24 is behind right now, but they'll pick it up. You only get a few mulligans in this game, maybe two a season, and I think we've already used two. When I play golf, I need a mulligan on every hole, but you don't get one on every hole in golf and you sure don't get one in every race.

"We've got to get up in the top 10 and stay there. We had a red line on a chart in our break room in 1998 and that red line was on 15. We tried to finish 15th or better in each race. We moved that line up to 12 last year. This year, we moved it to 10, but we're a little short of that line right now. You've got to run in the top 10 and then in the top five. When you do that, the wins will come.

"Our goal this year was to finish in the top five or six in the points, but you can't do that finishing 21st and 16th. We led the points last year after Rockingham through Darlington, and we were never lower than 12th. We were somewhere between eighth and 12th the last half of the season last year.

"This business is like real estate and diamonds. It's only going to keep going up. The bar continues to be raised. The good teams are only going to get stronger. We're supposed to be getting better, too. That's what we're banking on."

And what is McReynolds banking on away from the track in Vegas?

"My wife, Linda, and I are going out Wednesday morning and take an extra day just to relax," McReynolds said. "I've never been to Hoover Dam, so we might go see it. I might play a little Black Jack, but I don't plan on leaving a lot of money there. I take what I'm going to lose and if it's gone in 10 minutes, then that's it.

"I don't usually bet on the race, but they've got some interesting bets out there. I looked last year and you could bet on who would have to take a provisional starting spot or which set of brothers would finish highest. You could bet on just about anything, so I might check it out, but I won't do too much gambling. We have to gamble enough every week on the race track."

BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak Max film Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

NOTE: Hamilton, 42-year-old driver of the Morgan-McClure Motorsports Monte Carlo, won his last race on April 19, 1998 at Martinsville Speedway. Last Sunday at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, the Nashville, Tenn., native moved from 37th to the front in 85 laps and led a total of 41 laps before a faulty distributor knocked him out of contention. He finished 40th in the 43-car field and is tied for 41st in the series standings after the first two races of the new millennium.

"I'm still not over it," Hamilton said Tuesday afternoon. "You can't give 'em away like that when they're that easy. The car was dialed in, and it would have been easier to win that race than Martinsville. I knew in Happy Hour on Saturday that we were going to be good. We've just got to figure out a way to make it last.

"I really don't know what to expect at Las Vegas. We tested out there, but we're taking a different car for the race because of the aero rules. We're going to take the same car we ran at Dover last year. It's identical to the car we ran at Rockingham last Sunday, and I guess we had the same kind of luck with it. We were running fourth at Dover and cut a tire.

"Vegas will tell everybody where they stack up for the season. It's a high-speed flat track. You can't run up against the wall and hustle the car at Vegas like you could at Rockingham. Qualifying will be important for us. We qualified 32nd out there last year, and we need to improve on that. I know the Fords and Pontiacs will be hard to beat, but we had 'em all beat for awhile at Rockingham."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Mike Skinner