NOTES AND QUOTES Las Vegas 400 Las Vegas Motor Speedway March 7, 1999 Note: Three Pontiac Grand Prix drivers earned top-10 finishes today. They were Ward Burton (second), Bobby Labonte (fifth) and Ernie Irvan sixth. It's the second ...
NOTES AND QUOTES Las Vegas 400 Las Vegas Motor Speedway March 7, 1999
Note: Three Pontiac Grand Prix drivers earned top-10 finishes today.
They were Ward Burton (second), Bobby Labonte (fifth) and Ernie Irvan sixth. It's the second consecutive race Pontiac has earned second-place manufacturers points. Burton and Labonte are now No Bull 5 contestants for the upcoming Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Pontiac Grand Prix): "They're really tough at these kind of places. Jeff's team and him have really got that together. My Caterpillar team did a heck of a job and gave me a heck of a car today. Hopefully, that's just a sign of things to come. I got a little too tight on the exits towards the end. I was trying to crowd him as much as I could without wrecking him. I don't want to wreck my brother. That's just all I had. If it had been earlier in the race, we were better than he was. Right then, he was better than us. I'm glad for him, happy for him. If we've got to go for a million, we definitely want to do it at Charlotte. That's great. I'm happy to be on the program.
"I'm really happy for the team. I know it's the first time Caterpillar has been in the top-15, top-10 or top-five. It's the first time in a couple of seasons that I've got a team I'm capable of winning with this early in the year. We beat everybody but one car. I feel pretty disappointed not beating that one car, but if I have to lose to somebody I'd want to lose to my brother. That still doesn't give me a lot of consolation. I'm really happy for everybody on the team. They've worked real hard.
"I wasn't giving him an inch. I even thought about moving him up a little higher, to be honest with you. I knew if I did one of us wasn't going to make it out of the corner. He's been so good since he teamed up with Mark (Martin) and Roush and all the guys supporting him. We knew yesterday, Tommy (Baldwin) my crew chief said the 99 car was going to be the one to beat. Jeff's a little bit younger than I am, so back in our go-kart days we didn't race much against each other. We did in late model stock and had a few heated battles. We had a few heated battles in the Busch Series also. This is about the first time in Winston Cup that right there at the end of the race we were going for the win.
"When Jeff got to the low side of me in one and then I got him loose by passing him on the outside, I saw my car was better on the outside right then. He taught me something, so I moved up high. For 15 laps or so I was probably able to inch away from the 99, but I started getting tight under power. I was just searching after that trying to find somewhere on the track where I could free the car up. I just didn't do it well enough.
"When I got into racing it was kind of late, a little bit later than Jeff. When I ran my first street stock race I was pretty much tunnel vision from there. That's what I wanted to do. I really had no outside vision other than running the local race tracks that I'd ever be anywhe re like this.
"The 99, 12 and 22 had two tires prior to that last stop. The last time we all took on four. The pit crew has been working all winter and that's the first time in Winston Cup that I've come in leading and gone out leading. They just did a fabulous job in the pits all day long. Even when I went through the grass like a clown out there we still came out leading the race, so that was a great pit stop. I can't blame that on anyone, can I? I just came in too hard. I watched them do it yesterday and I just waited too long to come in. That was a pretty helpless feeling when I was going around out there.
"There's pretty much two grooves out there. The last time here Taurus dominated. We were the only GM car in the top-10 for the first 120 laps last time. It's really a difficult track to get right. There's not much in between. You're either on or off. Even the first-place guy to the 10th-place guy it's a huge distance. A lot of places the 10th-place guy can see the leader. Not here. There's just a ton of difference from being good and bad.
We qualified two outside poles the last three times (at Atlanta). During the race, we've gotten way too tight. Tommy went to Atlanta with me this last time and we finished 12th. But we were top-five top-10 most of the day. Right there at the end with 25 to go, a lot of people behind us put on two tires. We just didn't get a chance to get caught back up. Our qualifying effort is great. I have a feeling we can go down there and sit on the pole. We need to work and get the long runs a little bit better like we did today.
"At Daytona we were pretty good. We finished sixth in the (Shootout), ninth in the 125s, and we were running in the top-10 most of the time in the 500 and we just barely got in a wreck. That was disappointing for us. When we went to Rockingham we were nothing like we thought we could be. The problem Tommy addressed this morning with the front end sliding on long runs, we fixed it, but we didn't fix it at Rockingham. To come here and get a little momentum, finish in the top-five and qualify for the first time for the No Bull 5, that will give us a lot of confidence for the next two races coming up.
"You don't want your brother to beat you. But at the same time I love my brother and we're close to his family and I want the best for my brother. I do know Jeff can't do anything in a race car that I can't do. Today he was just a little bit better when he needed to be better to beat me. Hopefully, if the guys keep working and we keep communicating like we're doing, we'll get the better half of him next time."
BILL DAVIS, car owner (No. 22 Caterpillar Pontiac Grand Prix): "You're disappointed, but you shouldn't be. We learned right here a year ago that you can't beat downforce. We couldn't today. We certainly had the motor and I think we had an awfully good chassis, but those longs runs they caught up on us. I think the Pontiac teams are going to have a great year. Bobby (Labonte) is going to be there practically every week. Ernie Irvan certainly came out today and had a good run like we did. Obviously, Tony Stewart is going to have his bumps and bruises, but he's running great when he's running. I think the Pontiac teams are going to have a great season. We've got an excellent race car in the Grand Prix, there's no question about it. Atlanta is one of our best tracks and we've got Charlotte coming up, so we're looking for great things t his year."
BOBBY LABONTE (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix): "That was a good run. In that one little section of the race we weren't that good. The car just went away on me there. We were able to make a couple more adjustments and the 12 car had trouble there at the end. We were able to get a top-five. I like that No Bull 5 deal. I don't like being separated from it.
"It was tight and loose and all over the race track when we weren't right. It had no grip. We caught that caution flag and if it weren't for that we would have been dead ducks. That saved us. Fortunately, we got back up to fifth and got by Jeremy when he had some problems. Ernie held them off at the end. It was a good day for us overall. One segment it wasn't right, but it was definitely an improvement from last year here. We've got 31 races to go so we'll hold off on any championship thoughts. Getting those top-five finishes, that's what you've got to do. Gordon did that all last year and so did Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett. We've got to do that, too. For a race track where we've struggled, we're happy with this. We're not satisfied, but we're happy with it."
ERNIE IRVAN (No. 36 M&M's Pontiac Grand Prix): "We had a good day. Coming off our struggle at Rockingham, well, anytime you can come from the back and go all the way to the front and lead the race, that's what it's all about. Pontiac has given us all we need. Now we just need to keep working on it. There were times when it was probably the best car on the race track. There were times where it wasn't. We just needed to get through the center of the corner a little bit better so when we did pick the throttle up we would be pointed in the right direction. We're going to work on that. I'm not really sure what we can do to fix it, but we're sure going to work on it."
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 STP Pontiac Grand Prix): "We had a real strong car. We got caught behind on that crash on the back straightaway. What put us behind there is that a lot of guys two-tire stopped and it helped them and it hurt us. I don't know what the last caution was for, but that killed us. That would have put us back square. We had a great car on really old tires. They could get up and jump out in front of us for 20 laps, but the last 20 or 30 laps there was no question we could get by them. As long as we have competitive cars things will turn around for us. I went down in the grass to miss it, and it knocked the left-front valence in. We pitted a couple of times to get the valence back out. That really didn't hurt us. But when you're only 30 feet from getting your lap back and the caution comes out, it pretty much kills your day. We'll be real good in Atlanta. We didn't test there, and typically when we don't test we go faster. We should be all right."
RICH BICKLE (No. 45 Lucky Dog Pontiac Grand Prix): "We were just off chassis-wise. We couldn't gain any more at the end so we just kind of finished the race out. It just wasn't a good weekend. At least we qualified and made the show. It was definitely rough. I'd never run a Cup car here, so I guess we can use this as a big test."
DERRIKE COPE (No. 30 State Fair Pontiac Grand Prix): "It was very tight to start the race, way too tight. We didn't put a new set of tires on the last practice and the car was just way too tight. We just couldn't run. It just flat wouldn't turn a lick. We took a bunch of bite out and the car instantly came back. I got to running up there where I could race with people. If we hadn't been one lap down I think we would have been OK because we could have worked on the car from there. We felt like we were starting to become a bit more competitive then. But coming off turn two over there I was on the outside trying to get by Nemechek and it looked like somebody got turned around. They all stopped in front of Nemechek and I. I ran into the back of him and it just started an accordion affect. I saw Kenny Wallace in front of me and I tried to go through a gap and I hit Buckshot or somebody and that was all she wrote. It tore the nose up and the radiator and we had to come in and change all that. Obviously it wouldn't run too well after that."
BUCKSHOT JONES (No. 00 Crown Fiber Pontiac Grand Prix): "Some people wrecked up in front of us and it was all smoke. It flat-spotted the tires. A couple of people locked them down and got flats. I didn't even see what happened, but it happened up front. We finished it, but it was de finitely not pretty. We just missed the setup. We guessed. We weren't any good yesterday so we guessed today. It was way too soft up front on the springs. We learned a lot and changed a lot of things on the car. I got experience with the car, but not the kind of experience I wanted. But we made the race. Now the next thing to do is finish good in a race. I'm not getting down about it. It's a much better way to spend my Sundays, I can tell you that."
TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "There was just some guy out there in a hurry, I guess. It must be a 30-lap race today. They must have changed the length of it. I thought it was 267 laps. It was just some guy in a hurry and we just got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's just a shame. We had a really good race car yesterday in happy hour. We kind of got caught in the middle there at the beginning of the race. We were trying to be real patient in all honesty, waiting to get another spot and go back to racing. I had already gotten back by a couple of guys and we were going back to the front. We had a really good race car today and we hate it for Home Depot."