Dale Jr. is first Chevy at Martinsville. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Terry Labonte lead the way for Team Monte Carlo in the Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway by taking 5th and 6th, respectively in their Chevrolets. Dale Jr. moved into 9th in the...
Dale Jr. is first Chevy at Martinsville.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Terry Labonte lead the way for Team Monte Carlo in the Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway by taking 5th and 6th, respectively in their Chevrolets. Dale Jr. moved into 9th in the point standings, and Labonte took his 2nd top-10 finish of the season. Bud Pole winner, Jeff Gordon, used extra muscle to bring his Dupont Monte Carlo home in 23rd place after losing the power steering pump mid-way through the race. Post-race comments follow:
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo- finished 5th:
"We had a good car. We finally ran good here. We came here before and ran pretty decent and had a good car. I'm real proud of my team and how they've been getting us up front at these racetracks. We didn't run good at Bristol or Darlington last year, but we're really doing it now.
"We're going after this championship and we're going to win it for all these race fans and for Budweiser and Chevrolet and all the people who help us out. As soon as we can get some more top fives we'll be up there and we'll be really stomping our competitive foot. But today was a tough day. It was one of the toughest races I believe we've run in a long time."
On running better at Martinsville
"Yeah, especially when the car doesn't have too much wrong with it. We've had to re-skin the whole thing every time we've been here, so maybe they can just put a new nose on it this time. I'm real proud of everybody and how hard they worked. We came here in 10th (moved up to 9th in the points after Martinsville) and it's paying off. I can't say enough about how good a job Tony (Eury) Jr. and Tony (Eury) Sr. are doing and all the rest of the guys on the brew crew are doing a good job this year."
Terry Labonte, No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo - finished 6th:
"We came here and we unloaded good and these guys are just doing a great job. It's always hard to pass at Martinsville. It took me a little while to get going. And there at the end, my car was a little bit loose and I couldn't come in and work on it because of track position, so we just had to try and ride it out. We just kind of hung on there in sixth. The car ran good for us all day. We qualified good. I wish we would have won. I wish we would have gotten a top five. But we got another top 10. Like I said last week, I really feel like we're going in the right direction with this team. Today was just another step that way."
How good does it feel to finally be running up front again?
"It felt good. And we even led a lap. This Kellogg's team is really coming together. They're doing a great job. I wish we could have come in and worked on the car there at the end, but track position is so important that we couldn't."
What had changed on your team?
"We've been building new cars. That's the biggest thing is the equipment. We've been working on getting the cars more like the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon and the No. 25 (Jerry Nadeau) so we can compare notes. And I think that's been the biggest thing."
What do you say to all those people who thought Terry Labonte was washed-up and couldn't drive anymore?
"I never said I could drive."
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet Monte Carlo - drove nearly half the race without power steering - finished 23rd:
"It's like running five or ten miles. Those first one or two miles were a killer and then you get numb and do what you can to get to the end. I didn't want to get out because we had such an awesome racecar. The car was driving so good and I was so mad, that I think that's the only thing that got me through it was my anger. Every time I went in the corner I was so mad that I just had to jerk on the wheel.
"But that was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in a racecar, so in a way that's a good character-builder for me and this team. But what a great racecar we had and that's what's getting us through all this. When we're not having good days, we have good racecars that are capable of really good days."
How did you steer?
"I had to double-grip it, man. I had to take two handfuls. I was driving like Mark Martin out there. I had my hands over here and I'd pull it all the way over there. At the beginning, when the car was tight and the pressures were down, it was extremely hard. But once the pressures built up and the car started freeing up, it made it a little bit better for me. That's why we were able to run the leaders down in that long run. I'd just get into a rhythm and get tugging on the wheel and grab another handful and go. It wasn't what I wanted to do out there - especially at Martinsville. But we had to take what we could get and to get a 23rd out of that, we can't complain too much."
On the possibility of putting Jerry Nadeau in the car to relieve him "Well, when the first caution came out after about 60 laps I said, 'Guys, I don't think I can make it'. They said they would put another power steering pump on it or they would put Jerry in the car and that he was standing by. But I decided to go a little further and see what would happen. I just started getting into a rhythm and knew how good the car was and I knew how many positions we were going to lose if we came in and tried to fix it or if we came in and tried to put Jerry in there. And I didn't want to put him through what I was going through. He'd already had a bad enough day as it was. I didn't want him to have to get out there and tug on that wheel like I was. We got what we could out of it. I'm proud of this team."
You don't even look tired
"Well, my arms feel tired. I wish you could feel what they feel like. They're not too bad right now, but tomorrow I'm going to be hurting bad."