Robby Gordon, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet Monte Carlo - "I'm a little disappointed to come back here and not be able to use the same set-up we used last year. Kevin Hamlin (crew chief) came here with something real close to that, but it...
Robby Gordon, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet Monte Carlo - "I'm a little disappointed to come back here and not be able to use the same set-up we used last year. Kevin Hamlin (crew chief) came here with something real close to that, but it just didn't work. We've had to keep adjusting and keep changing. We're real close to it but we're still working on it today, Saturday going into the final practice.
"So I'm a little disappointed. The tires are different now; the track is different. There are just so many different variables. But the good thing about it is that we'll be able to use what we learn this weekend when we come back here in the fall."
(On the track changes) "I don't think it's changing things much, it's just leveling out the playing field again. We found something at the first Loudon race last year that we were able to bring back to the second race and build on it that worked real well. Obviously, with the competition in the NASCAR paddock and all the teams that leak things to each other, before you know it everybody has the same stuff that you had at a race six months ago. So you have to be careful to hold that stuff inside."
(Is having three different crew chiefs in as many Loudon races - Royce McGee in '01 spring, Gil Martin in '01 fall, and Kevin Hamlin in '02 spring - a challenge?) "All those guys were Richard Childress Racing employees and they shared stuff back & forth very close. What we learned with Royce really helped out Gil when we came back last year because we had a really good set-up in that race. Unfortunately we had a bad pit call. We ran with those top five cars all day long. We should have finished in the top five in the first race. But we came back and we were able to capitalize on what we learned at the first race and improve on it. Now, we come back with a new racetrack, a different racecar, a different tire, and a different crew chief again. We tried to start off with what we had with Gil Martin but it just didn't work for us. The car was too tight. So, we've had to make adjustments to make the car handle better." Note: the Monte Carlo Gordon is driving this weekend is the same Chevy that he drove in the June Dover race (finished 8th), and at Rockingham, Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond this season.
Michael Waltrip, No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "Everything's going to be good. Our car is balanced and decent and we're really looking forward to this next practice because we think there are some improvements we need to make. We also want to learn more about the track. It's cool when you're decent; you're close. You feel like you've got a baseline there and so you can try to improve upon it. I like the track. It's better than it was. Anytime you can improve something that people thought was a mess and make it to where it's better, is good."
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "We've got a good package. It's working well. Our package is about mid-pack. The track's okay. It's a little tough to run on that bottom groove because it is kind of sloped the other way. But it's all right. I've never been good here so if I'm not last, I'm happy."
Steve Park, No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "Our practice was pretty good. I mean, we're not where we want to be. But it's giving us a good direction. It's good to be up in New Hampshire again and we're working really hard to find what we need to win. The track is really good. The improvements are really good. You can run the old groove - the outside groove - but I think that during the race the inside groove will give you a place to pass if you're good enough."
Joe Nemechek, No. 25 UAW/Delphi Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "We're just trying to get good balance on our racecar. We're just going to keep working on balance and making the tires live as long as they can."
Mike Skinner, No. 4 Kodak Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "We'd like to get a little more speed. We like to get the car freed-up a little bit right in the middle of the corner. Our Monte Carlo is just a little bit tight right in the center. But it's pretty good coming off the corner. We're fine-tuning. We're not quite where we need to be but we're gaining on it. We're trying some different spring packages in the left front and a couple sets of shocks."
Bobby Hamilton, No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "We never put on new tires, we stayed on old tires and we were actually the quickest car on old tires (in the first practice). We just tried to keep up with it like that. We've got a shot at winning this thing. We've definitely got a shot at a top five (finish) if we don't get in trouble. It's going to be more of a gas situation in the race, I think. They've got such a good tire here that you might take on two, you might take on none in certain portions of the race you might take on four - it just depends on how the cautions fall."
Jeff Green, No. 30 AOL Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "We found out that we could pass a little easier than in the past. The surface is good. It seems like the more we run on these tires, the faster we get. It should be a great race. The track is really not different. We're still racing on the same part of the racetrack we always did. It just gives you a little bit better exit where you can use that lower groove a little bit. You can exit off there a little bit easier. It just should make for a better race and it'll be a little bit easier to pass."
Terry Labonte, No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "Practice was not as good as we'd hoped for. We're making some changes, but we're not where we need to be. Our car is way too tight. That's kind of a characteristic of this track and it still is even though it's been disguised with some new pavement. It still reacts the same way. We've got to get our car loosened up a little bit."
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "First practice was pretty good and we're looking forward to the second practice. We were second-fastest in the first one so I think we'll be all right. With the sun coming out, we're trying to understand how the track's going to change and what the asphalt is going to do. We've been fighting a tight condition, so we're just going to continue to free the car up. But it's going to be an interesting race with the new asphalt."
"The sealer on the track was coming up. It reminded me of the way the Richmond race went. It's hard to adjust the car when you've got sealer coming up and the sun coming out. We're going to be guessing a little bit as to what the conditions are going to be tomorrow and what set-up we need. But I feel with the No. 24 team's past experience here and how well we've all been working together, we'll be in good shape.
"I think the sealer is coming up. You could see the color in the track changing. It felt like there were patches that I would hit where I would lose grip in the car. It seemed like a sealer change to me. Between turns three and four was the most visible place it was happening - in the middle of three and the exit of four. I could be wrong, but it just seemed like it was coming up. We saw something happen at Richmond where the heat of the day and these heavy cars brought the sealer up during the day. At nighttime at Richmond, we didn't have any issues. But when the sun came out today (second Happy Hour session) it seemed like it started softening up the sealer.
"There are a lot more mental aspects to NASCAR Winston Cup racing than I ever gave it credit for before. There's a lot to the morale and energy within the team. We had a very rough week in Chicago, but what we accomplished on Sunday afternoon as team turned that around for us. You want to think that a few conversations and a little bit of talking can motivate everyone and tell them it's okay, but proving it on the racetrack is what really does it. You can over-analyze things, put pressure on yourself, try too hard - there's a real fine balance between trying too hard and not trying hard enough. It's hard to hit. From the driver's standpoint, if you climb in the car and you're upset about something, and you carry the car in the corner a mile an hour faster and it won't stick, you can blow the whole lap. It's really hard to remember what you did in practice or what you did the lap before so you can go out and repeat it. That's 90 percent of the battle - especially in qualifying tri - to go out and repeat what you did in practice. That's part of the whole mental game of remembering your reference points and not letting the two hours between your last lap of practice and the time you go out to qualify play any mind games on you. That's the kind of stuff I'm trying to work my way through now."
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "It's going to be a good race. Even the start is going to be interesting. You've got the preferred line that's the outside, but then you've got a guy who's got the inside lane. When we go down into turn one, I don't know what the heck is going to happen. The fastest way around the track is not the inside, and yet if that guy just slides up a little bit and pushes you out of line, you're going to see some guys going backyards. So it's going to be interesting to see how it all unfolds. I think you're going to really have to think about making your passes and being extremely careful. In practice, I tried some moves on some guys and if it didn't stick, the guy behind you got some passing momentum to just drive right by you.
"If you ask me today what it's going to take to pass, it's getting position and going in there and just sliding that guy right up out of the groove. And that's going to make a lot of people mad tomorrow."