BOBBY HAMILTON, NO. 55 SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC CHEVY MONTE CARLO, having qualified 23rd, will start in the back for tomorrow's race. Between today's two practice sessions, the team discovered a miss in the motor. Once they tore the engine down they...
BOBBY HAMILTON, NO. 55 SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC CHEVY MONTE CARLO, having qualified 23rd, will start in the back for tomorrow's race. Between today's two practice sessions, the team discovered a miss in the motor. Once they tore the engine down they found a blown head gasket. They will change engines and move to the rear of the field.
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 GM GOODWRENCH CHEVY MONTE CARLO: ON TIRE WEAR:
"We're just trying to figure out where to run on the race track. And the big thing everybody is lacking is forward bite, so we're just trying to get all the forward bite we can get in the car and still make it turn. We're just trying to keep it all balanced and get as much grip as we can."
TWO OR FOUR TIRES IN THE RACE? "We only ran 50 laps (in the first practice) so it's going to be hard to tell until you get a full straight run on them."
ANY MORE RUBBER ON THE TRACK TODAY? "It's a little bit better; it's still not very good up off the corners; it's still really slick. At least now I think now there's going to be two grooves; it could be a good thing."
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVY MONTE CARLO: ON TIRE WEAR:
"Well, I don't know really. We haven't really looked at the tires or finished that up yet. It will be interesting to see. I think tire wear is going to have a big role tomorrow. It's real tough to really get a hold of this place, so it's probably wearing out the tires pretty good."
IS THERE MORE RUBBER ON IT? "Not really, because during that practice everybody tried to move up to the top where the old concrete's at, and it seems like everybody likes running up there better. We ran pretty hard in these corners during that practice and I didn't see a whole lot of improvement."
WILL IT GET BETTER AFTER THE MODIFIEDS RACE TODAY? "The only worry I got about that is the (way the) grooves are cut into the track, in some places it's lower than others, so there's no way for the rubber to get there. It doesn't look good."
MICHAEL WALTRIP, NO. 15 NAPA PARTS CHEVY MONTE CARLO: ON TIRE WEAR:
"I don't know. We ran a lot of laps on our tires and real consistent and steady, just battling for grip. But I think, all in all, the changes that were made here at Martinsville is exactly what needed to be done at Bristol. They need to grind that track, smooth it up, so that it opens up some more grooves at that track. It's a disaster to race at Bristol. I think what we learned here could be applied at Bristol and we could see better racing there. Time will tell about tire wear. There's a modified race today. I don't think it's going to be much of an issue. They've basically doubled the racing groove here at Martinsville with what they've done, which is really cool. They've hindered running on the bottom more than they've helped running on the top, but by hindering the bottom it opened up the top, so hopefully we will see a little bit better race tomorrow."
HAVE YOU DETERMINED WHETHER YOU'LL CHANGE TWO OR FOUR TIRES TOMORROW? "No, but probably four, I would imagine."
STEVE PARK, NO. 1 PENNZOIL CHEVY MONTE CARLO:
ON WINNING A RACE THIS YEAR: "We're not giving up just yet. There's five races to go. We ran good not only in Talladega, but Charlotte, even though we got a lap down because of the rain early. We're not done just yet. We feel that this team, if it can continue to run as good as it has in the past, that there's definitely a win left in it."
TONY GIBSON (NEW CREW CHIEF) SAID THAT HE'D RATHER HAVE YOU AT 90 PERCENT AND GROWING TO 100 THAN ANY OTHER RACER AT 100 PERCENT. ON THE CHEMISTRY: "It's working really good. I've known Tony for a while. My dad actually raced with his brother in the ARCA Series. Tony is a good fit for me; he's a good fit for this race team. We just welcome him with open arms. Losing a crew chief is like losing your leader, so getting one back again with the quality of Tony is what's going to put this Pennzoil team back on top again."
TONY SAYS HE USED TO SNEAK YOU INTO THE HAULER WHEN YOU WERE 9 YEARS OLD: "He's a Daytona Beach native, so when I used to get into the race track with my dad, I used to have to go in, because I was too young, in the actual bin of the truck and Tony kind of helped shove us in there. Between there and racing in New Smyrna and stuff, Tony's known me longer probably than I've known him. Back then it wasn't as tight of a security as it is now. Once you were in the pits if you were 10 you were in. Like my dad said, Just don't leave because you couldn't get back in again. The sport's changed a bunch. Now we have all these great race fans in the pits. We love what we're doing; we love to go and race cars and I'm so happy that Tony's on board. We look at what's going to put this Pennzoil team back on top, and Tony's definitely the key to that. You guys talk about chemistry all the time and Tony's the guy that is like putting on a real good, comfortable pair of shoes. He just fits right in with this whole race team. We're looking forward to the rest of this year, and definitely next year."
ON TIRE WEAR: "Actually, we were expecting to see worse tire wear, but right now it's not that bad. I saw Rusty (Wallace) running the top groove of the race track. You never saw that at Martinsville before. There might be some side-by-side racing that we haven't seen in the past."
MORE THAN ONE GROOVE? "I think so. It showed that in practice. I was watching guys on the outside, I was like, ^ÌWhat are they doing up there, it's Martinsville.' I think because of the track being ground on the bottom guys are looking to where the track's not ground for more grip. It's definitely going to open up two grooves come race time." TWO OR FOUR TIRES? "I hope we take four every time we come into the pits. But that's just the driver's standpoint."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVY MONTE CARLO:
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT GOING TO BE TO BE UP FRONT AT MARTINSVILLE? "I think it's going to be extremely important. The way the track has been ground down you can run the bottom for a little bit, but then the grip just does away, tires go away, and you go up to the top of the track. It's going to be a two-groove race track, but I don't think anybody is going to be able to really do much on the bottom after you run a little bit. So, I think starting up front on the outside is possibly going to be to our advantage. We're real happy with the great qualifying run."
TALK ABOUT THE TRACK. DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THE GRINDING? "I knew about it. I don't know why they did it. I think it's a mistake, but it might be a mistake that pays off for them, because it is going to make it a two-groove race track. If a guy can get his car working good on the bottom he can make some passes. But I think it's going to be really, really hard to pass; it's eating the tires up. You're going to see guys really working their hands a lot. They're going to be all over the place. I don't really understand exactly why they did it the way they did it, but we're going to make the best of it, and it might end up being a really good race."
WILL IT AFFECT PIT STRATEGY, TWO DIFFERENT STOPS FOR TIRES AND STILL NOT NEED FUEL? "You might be right there. Tire wear is pretty bad, but I don't know. Once the rubber gets laid down on the track the tire wear should get better and better, we hope. We'll see if we can't go a little further than what we're seeing right now."
WHY DO YOU THINK THE POINTS RACE IS SO TIGHT THIS YEAR? "I think that the whole sport is more competitive; everything is tighter, it's much harder to win these days because track position is so critical and you can play different pit strategies to win races these days. And we've seen a lot of guys have failures and get caught up with problems. There's no one guy that's just gone the whole year with just great luck and great speed. Every time somebody gets momentum, something seems to break and so you've had a lot of different guys lead the points, had a lot of different guys that are capable of winning the points all year long. It's going to be exciting."
IN YOUR FOUR CHAMPIONSHIPS YOU'VE WON THE MOST RACES OF ANYBODY, AND THEN WHEN YOU FINISHED SECOND ONE YEAR YOU WON FIVE TIMES AS MANY RACES AS THE CHAMPION. DOES THIS POINT SYSTEM WORK? "I think it does, because it pays for consistency and if you do what you're supposed to do, which is win races, get the most points, and be consistent when you're not winning, make sure you get in those top fives, top 10s, you're going to win the championship. I would like to see where 30th place on back maybe pays the same amount of points or something like that, because I think it's ridiculous for you to go out there and have to ride around after you've wrecked your car just to get another three points, or five points; I don't know if that's necessarily worth it."
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVY MONTE CARLO:
ON TIRE WEAR: "Tire wear is a little bit higher, but, typically, just like at every other race track we go to, it's going to get better as the race progresses. We're going to have to be careful; it's a touch-and-go deal. If you run up high your tire wear isn't going to be as bad, but early on in the run the low groove is faster. So, it's going to be a situation that you're going to have to feel out and for 500 laps around this place, anything can happen, and you've got to adjust it the whole way around. Still haven't figured out why they ground it, but I guess they will give us a good answer at some point." WOULD YOU HAVE TESTED HERE IF YOU HAD KNOWN THE TRACK WOULD CHANGE? "Unfortunately, what happens is all these track promoters, they go and make all these changes to the race tracks, but we're out of tests. Even if we wanted to, we couldn't have come test, because NASCAR limits us to so many test sessions a year. So, they go here and Loudon and tracks like that and they make all these changes, and we can't come and test. So, we don't know what to expect when we get here." DO PATCHES LIKE THAT INVALIDATE YOUR TEST? "Yeah. If you had come here and tested then they came and ground the track, everything you learned at your test would have been a waste. Some people did test prior to that. We tested in the spring. We're getting on top of it, but it's still a mess out there right now."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVY MONTE CARLO:
WAS YOUR TESTING INVALID ONCE THE TRACK WAS CHANGED? "You get used to a grip level and of what the car's capable of and if there's something that changes that grip level it's going to change your breaking points and how you get on the throttle and everything that goes with it. It'll change everything, from the setup to the feel that the driver's used to feeling for the amount of grip that's there, so it does make big changes."
YOU HAVE TO GET USED TO IT QUICKLY: "You have to adapt quickly as a driver and as the team to figure out what adjustments you need to get a hold of the race track and a place like here it's so hard^Êyou're focused on breaking and forward bite and spend so little time in the center of the corner it's a real tough place to feel what's going on, because there is so much going on around you. I've been real pleased with the way the team's been able to come together and attack this new surface. It's only our second time here in Martinsville so maybe that's going to work in our favor too."
HOW ARE YOU GOING INTO THIS UNCERTAIN RACE TRACK? "After Talladega anything can happen. Tony (Stewart) is starting 31st or back in the pack. People might think that could cause problems. I started on the pole in Talladega and was wrecked before the green flag ever fell. I don't think it matters where you start, everything's got to be on your side, you go out and give 100 percent and there's things that are out of your control that you can't be responsible for that you can't let bother you. That's the way Talladega was for us. We're just hopefully going to stay up front, stay out of trouble and collect some good points."
DOES IT LOOK LIKE YOU'LL HAVE TO RUN HIGH TO SAVE TIRES? "It seems like you can run on the bottom at the start of a run and then you move towards the top as the tires get older and you start to lose forward bite. I think the groove's going to keep moving around and changing. And we're able to find a good balance and run on the bottom of a track with 60 laps on our tires. I think the fastest way around would be down there; that's where the passing's going to be done, but you will be able to protect your position if you're on the top and running respectable laps. One, you're not driving on the ground surface so it won't chew the tire up and you get more distance to complete the turn so it's not as hard on the tire. But I think the biggest thing is you're getting the car rotated early and can drive off the corner straighter and have more time to roll into the gas and it keeps you from abusing the rear tires. You're rebuilding your speed so much, it's easy to spin the tires." HOW PERPLEXING HAS THIS WEEKEND BEEN? "It hasn't been a huge feel difference inside the car. Overall grip's been different. It hasn't been a real big undertaking for us."
-team monte carlo-