NOTES AND QUOTES Kmart 400 Michigan Speedway June 13, 1999 Note: Five of Pontiac's nine starting Grand Prix drivers finished in the top-10 today -- Ward Burton (fourth), Bobby Labonte (fifth), Ernie Irvan (seventh), John Andretti (eighth) and...
NOTES AND QUOTES Kmart 400 Michigan Speedway June 13, 1999
Note: Five of Pontiac's nine starting Grand Prix drivers finished in the top-10 today -- Ward Burton (fourth), Bobby Labonte (fifth), Ernie Irvan (seventh), John Andretti (eighth) and Tony Stewart (ninth). That's the most Pontiacs in a race to finish in the top-10 this season. It's the ninth time at least three have earned top-10 finishes in 14 races this year.
After 14 races, Pontiac drivers have compiled 18 top-five and 39 top-10 finishes. At the same point last season, Pontiac drivers had compiled five top-five and 15 top-10 finishes.
Note: Bobby Labonte led one lap today, allowing him to lead a race for the 13th time in 14 starts this season, tops on the circuit. Labonte earned his sixth consecutive top-five finish.
BOBBY LABONTE (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix): "The 88 car was pretty good all day. I never saw him but one time all day. Fuel mileage helped us again, but we don't want to have to rely on that every race. You've got to think that into your strategy here, but you've also got to run better than we did if you want to keep up with the likes of Dale Jarrett. But we did manage to lead and have another good day in the points with another top-five. I guess we can't be too disappointed, but I guess I still am a little bit."
JIMMY MAKAR, crew chief (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix): "I'm a little bit disappointed. We thought we had a little bit better car than that yesterday in practice. We thought we had a car that would at least be a contender to win the race. We had several segments where we were good enough, but the 88 car was good enough all day long. Once he got out there ahead of everybody it was really hard for anybody to run him down. There were cars such as ours that were as good as his, but that doesn't catch you up when he's got such a big lead on everyone. Without a caution flag, we were at best as good as him but we had no chance to beat him."
Note: Ward Burton earned his second top-five finish of the season and eighth top-10.
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Pontiac Grand Prix): "I'm real proud of the guys on the team. They did a real good job. We were a little bit off, but kept adjusting on it and beat everybody but three guys. The guys were awesome on pit road. We gained a little bit of time exiting pit road and we had stops of 15.40, a 15-flat and 16.50, so they've done their homework at the shop back home. We had great pit stops. Things are coming around. I wanted to win it for my buddy Kevin Hatcher there, but I couldn't do it. A few cars could go a little further than us on gas mileage, but we didn't get burned by it. We've gained a lot on that problem. We were a little bit off at times. I'm really proud to have a top-five finish at this point in the season. We're knocking on the door and we're going to get one before it's over with. It's hard to say if we're there not or yet. We're taking it one race at a time. We're trying to be the best car that week. We've had the best car two or three times this year and we just weren't able to capitalize on it. I really tried to win this race for Kevin Hatcher, and I just wasn't quite good enough."
Note: Pole-sitter Ernie Irvan earned his first top-10 finish in 10 races.
ERNIE IRVAN (No. 36 Pedigree Pontiac Grand Prix): "We just survived and had a decent run. With everything we've been through in the last couple of months, it's just like winning the race. We're not satisfied with it.
We had a 10th-place car and ended up seventh. We've got to work on it. Yesterday in practice we didn't get to work on it much because we got so loose and we really didn't get to adjust on it. We just kind of threw that whole practice session away and had to go back to our notes and try to make an educated guess. We went back to what we knew should work. It's the same Michigan that it has always been. We just tried to weigh everything out. It's definitely a step in the right direction. The pit stops were awesome. I learned a little about getting into the pits better. Obviously, I should know everything about getting in the pits. Everything ran true to a positive note today. I feel good about it. Our fuel mileage worked out. They said we could probably make it and told me to keep saving it as much as I could and that's what I did."
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 STP Pontiac Grand Prix): "We were the best we've been at Michigan since I've been in the car, better than both races last year. I feel like we can still improve. Last year when they had the smaller spoilers it was probably easier for us to be up there on a track like this.
The cars are easier to drive and set up now. You can really tell a difference. You've really got to get the car close to be in contention. I think we were pretty close, but we weren't anywhere near Jarrett. I think the re's less of a gap among the cars here now as far as with the way the rules are. They've tightened up the competition. It's tighter, even though it might have looked less today. The cream is always going to keep rising to the top. We just need to become cream and not coffee."
Note: Tony Stewart earned his fifth top-10 in his last sixth starts. TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "It's a top-10 finish and I should be happy with that, but we gave up a couple of positions. We didn't get all the fuel in on our last stop and I had to feather the throttle during the entire last run. I think we could have beaten a couple of guys if I had been able to go full throttle. I ran out just as Jarrett captured the checkered flag on the cool down lap. We were lucky to finish as good as we did, but it could have been better. Early in the race Geoffrey Bodine got into me coming out of four and that kind of messed up the right-front end. I could tell the car wasn't as good after that. I don't know what the deal was."
DERRIKE COPE (No. 30 Jimmy Dean Pontiac Grand Prix): "It was a pretty blistering pace set by the leaders and quite simply, we just couldn't quite keep up. We did finish the race and that's important. We keep saying we've got to crawl before we can walk. We're getting closer to walking."
DAVE BLANEY (No. 93 Amoco Pontiac Grand Prix): "Our goals were realistically to come in here and qualify in the first round and we did and not put a scratch on that car all day and we did and get a top-20 finish, which we were close to, until we ran out of gas there at the end. I've got to be pretty pleased. There were points in the race where we were as quick as a top-10 car. I'd have them adjust the car and we'd get way off. It was just me not knowing how much to go and what to do with it. I'm pretty happy with our first start this year."