Led by Jeff Gordon, Team Monte Carlo takes the first four starting spots for the Virginia 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Martinsville Speedway. Gordon was the quickest in his Chevrolet, followed by Bobby Hamilton, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Terry ...
Led by Jeff Gordon, Team Monte Carlo takes the first four starting spots for the Virginia 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Martinsville Speedway. Gordon was the quickest in his Chevrolet, followed by Bobby Hamilton, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Terry Labonte.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo - Bud Pole winner:
"I've got to thank the guys on this DuPont Chevrolet. They just never gave up and kept working on it throughout the whole practice session getting it better and better. We started out tight and then we got loose. But Robbie (Loomis, crew chief) made some great adjustments there at the end of practice. We scuffed the tires and luckily got a real good lap there. The car just turned real good in the middle and allowed me to get on the gas hard up off the corner. I couldn't be happier, more surprised, and more proud of this team and this effort. We're just thrilled to be on the pole here at Martinsville.
"I tried to carry a lot of speed to the line and I took it out a little bit wider. I knew my last lap was going to be the one going to have the best time. I tried to get the most solid lap that I could. I drove in deep and got on the brakes hard and I was getting everything out of it that I possibly could. I was doing that just to get in the top 10 or 15 because we weren't very good in practice. I certainly wasn't expecting that type of a lap. This is awesome."
Did your 2nd place finish last week in Texas give this team some momentum?
"We certainly hope so. There's no doubt about it - that 2nd place finish did a whole lot for us. We hope that we can capitalize on it by continuing that momentum. This pole today certainly does that for us."
Terry Labonte, No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo:
"The Kellogg's Chevy ran good. This is a brand new car and the guys did a great job on it. We unloaded good and we're looking forward to Sunday. This is the first time we've had a real short track car in a while. We were pretty good from the first time out. We just need some more new cars. But we're doing good. I knew the first time out we were going to be good because the car unloaded good. It was a good run for us. I haven't started up front here in a long time - maybe in 20 years. But we have really raced good here quite a few times. We have not always qualified good here, so that's a pretty good indication for us that we're close to that race set-up and we should have a good race."
Bobby Hamilton, No. 55 Schneider Chevrolet Monte Carlo - qualified 2nd:
"We didn't cool it much. I think the more heat you get in these tires, the better they are. I knew if we didn't slip much, we'd have a shot at it (the pole). Martinsville is a good racetrack for us. If we have to race on Monday, well the race I won here was on a Monday. So maybe that will play a part and help. This speed is about what I thought we would run."
"We have a real good car for here. I think it led the most laps here in the spring ('01) and then we had a shot at winning the second race here but got into a little scuffle. It's the same car, we haven't touched it. It's got the same body on it. The motor program has gotten a lot better. Goodyear has brought a great tire back. I picked Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Terry Labonte and three or four other cars that I thought could beat what we ran. So actually, I thought we'd end up about fifth. So to end up second, is just awesome. I think if Dale Jr. hadn't got on the curb, he would have been sitting on the pole and we would have been third."
On the sunny forecast for Sunday
"What's cool about these concrete corners is that if it gets slick, you lose forward bite but the front end gives away too so it's just a little bit of a balance issue. But the tires run forever here. You'll come in and take on four - sometimes two. The weather here is usually not an issue as long as it's dry."
How important is your spotter's role?
"I have an easier job than he does. This place and Talladega the next two weeks will keep him kind of busy."
On the strategy of starting on the outside front row and being there at the
"We've always been pretty good about being here at the end at this race. The key to this thing is brakes and keeping the front end on it. Sometimes you have a mishap that you get tangled up in. But this type of race you have to be pretty aggressive but you can actually space yourself out and stay in clean traffic a lot except on restarts."
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo - qualified 3rd:
"Testing really helped us a lot. To be able to run that fast on our first lap, we really worked on our shocks and stuff to get that. We wanted to get the pole. I felt like we had a pole-sitting racecar. I made a mistake. I got up on the curb between turns three and four. I didn't think the car would turn that good."
How do you turn that frustration into a good race?
"It turns into confidence, I think. Hopefully. We'll see how practice goes."
Do you have the qualifying thing down now at Martinsville?
"Yeah. We got our car driving good and that's the most important. I feel like I can drive the car if it's good. We came here and we really worked at it. I think we've got a great racecar for the race. If we can be up in the top five at the start, we'll be there all day, I promise."