At the upcoming Virginia 500, Round 8 of 36 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, April 14, 2002, Team Monte Carlo will be looking for its first victory of the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup season. Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo and...
At the upcoming Virginia 500, Round 8 of 36 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, April 14, 2002, Team Monte Carlo will be looking for its first victory of the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup season. Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo and Bobby Hamilton, driver of the No. 55 Schneider Electric Monte Carlo, are the only two active Chevrolet drivers that have posted wins at Martinsville Speedway. Gordon has won on the .526-mile oval three times (fall '96, spring '97, and fall '99) and Hamilton has won once (spring '98). Last year's Bud Pole award for the Virginia 500 went to Gordon; while Hamilton won from the pole in '98 and was the pole-sitter when Gordon took the win in '96.
With three wins and 14 top-ten finishes in 18 races, you seem to get around Martinsville pretty well, don't you?
"I'm excited about it - especially after our run last week in Texas (finished 2nd). We needed a little bit of a momentum booster and that, I think, has helped us going into Martinsville, which is one of my favorite tracks. We've been taking a little bit different car there the last couple of races and it's qualified well, but it hasn't raced as well as we would have like it to. So we're going back to a combination - or more back to the old style we've won with. As long as we can get it qualified up front, I think we've got a real good shot of winning that race."
Was your 2nd place finish at Texas a kickoff to a turn around?
"I certainly hope so. Unfortunately our finishes haven't been any indication as to how we've run. We've run pretty well here in the last four or five races - really, everywhere except for Las Vegas - we've run well and had a shot at winning races. But that doesn't matter if you don't bring it home in those positions. We've had our problems this year, but a 2nd place last weekend in Texas - a place that hasn't been very good for us - is a big momentum booster for us in helping turn our season. But we're 6th in points. We haven't had the finishes that we want, but I can't say that it's been an awful start for us either because we are still in the top 10 in points. We're certainly not out of this thing. If we can get some momentum, I think we can win some races."
Are you glad to be going to a place where you might not even hear the term "aero push" all weekend?
"I can't wait for that. I'm sick of saying it and I know you guys are sick of hearing it. But it's not a myth; it's definitely a fact. And believe it or not, we will have a little bit of one in Martinsville."
With one win, five top-five, and seven top-10 finishes in 13 races at Martinsville, why do you run so well at that track?
"Martinsville is a very disciplined racetrack, and that might be something to it. Andy (Petree, team owner
has a real good racecar there and I've run good there in the past. It's just that you cut your teeth on shorts tracks most all your life and even though you'd rather run the big racetracks, I think everybody is good on short tracks. It just depends on what kind of equipment they have."
On getting around the track
"You can't give up anything. You've got to go through the middle of the corner. And when you get through that corner, it's because the car is good and free. But all of a sudden you can't push the accelerator down because the car is too free. When you get to where you can push the accelerator down, then it won't turn in the middle. So, it becomes somewhat of a driver's type racetrack to know where you need to give to gain at the other end. Track position and pit work is as important as having a good racecar and having the driver do a good job. It really takes the total package there to have a good day."
On the heat at Martinsville
"We're all pretty much used to that, but it comes early. We usually gradually roll into the temperature thing. But we leave rainy Texas with cool temperatures and go to Martinsville. Everything in the cars at Martinsville runs real hot. So, naturally the internal temperature of the car is 140 degrees and the driver hasn't been used to that all year. We run Martinsville and then we go to Talladega, where things are not usually so bad. So I think Martinsville is the first of the evils when it comes to heat."
-team monte carlo-