Monte Carlo Dover race notes

Jerry Nadeau, No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet Monte Carlo - Involved in 5-car wreck on lap 2 (Notice the comparisons in Nadeau's performance last year at this time vs. this year: Entering the MBNA Platinum 400 in 2000, Nadeau was 30th in the point ...

Jerry Nadeau, No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet Monte Carlo - Involved in 5-car wreck on lap 2 (Notice the comparisons in Nadeau's performance last year at this time vs. this year: Entering the MBNA Platinum 400 in 2000, Nadeau was 30th in the point standings and had zero top-ten finishes. His best finish at that time was 13th at California. This year, Nadeau is 17th in points and has posted three top-ten finishes. His best finish so far in 2001 was third at Atlanta). "I had a run on Jimmy (Spencer) on the backstretch the lap before and he came down on me and I lifted, and I let him go. And then I had another run on him on the front stretch and I was up to his left front wheel. The guy who never forgets, forgot I was underneath him."

Michael Waltrip, No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet Monte Carlo (involved in 5 car wreck on lap 2) "Jerry (Nadeau) lost it for whatever reason. I thought I could get around him by going to the bottom, but that wasn't a good idea. We hope we can get the NAPA Chevy back out. It's a bad deal."

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo (4th win at Dover Downs - 54th career win): "We just had such a great car that wanted to be out front and stay out front. That's the best car I've ever had here because I could go out and I could lead even when the tires were down - when typically we'd be spinning out. The car just stayed with me over the long haul. It was great. I just can't say enough of this team - all the guys and this Dupont Chevrolet. They just did a phenomenal job in the pits all day. Just all around it was a great effort. Hopefully this is a sign of some great things to come."

In the second segment, you didn't have as big of a lead. Was that by design?

"No, I was just in a lot of traffic. The car was real good at times by itself, and at times it kept going back and forth between tight and loose. But there at the end, (Steve) Park gave me a heck of a run. Luckily we had the car dialed in right then."

With 50 laps to go, did you tell your crew to make any adjustments or to leave it like it was?

"Well, I think they freed it up a little bit maybe with some air pressure. Luckily we ran a few laps and got the pressure built up and that's why the car was just great in clean air there out in front. That's what we were hoping for was clean air, and we were. Man the car was just great. I just want to thank everybody from Dupont. I know that we've got a lot of other sponsors - Pepsi, Fritos, Quaker State, GMAC, Chevrolet - but this one's for Dupont. They do a lot for us. We got to see a lot of those folks on Thursday in Wilmington and they have a lot of customers that came to the race today. This one's for them."

Steve Park, No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo (finished 2nd): "What can I say about this Pennzoil Chevrolet? What a great racecar, what a great race team. I'm a little disappointed - man, Jeff (Gordon) was fast. He was just driving the wheels off that thing and I was too -- trying to catch him. We'll take second (place) today, but we're not happy about it. Paul (Andrews, crew chief) and the guys just did a fantastic job. I'd like to thank Pennzoil and all these great race fans here in Dover."

With limited practice due to the rain, how did that affect you?

"I think running the Busch race helped a little bit. Paul and the guys have really been in instrumental in helping us with that Busch program and getting it running good. And that's what it's all about. I run the Busch Series just to get better myself and try to learn something. We're just getting back on track. It's just the beginning of this Pennzoil team getting back up toward the front of the field."

"I thought we were going to have something there for Jeff Gordon late in the race. I was catching him at some points, and then he was pulling away. We just couldn't really get to his back bumper like we wanted to. We came back from a lot of adversities today. We had a tire go across pit road. We were running fourth and that put us all the way to the rear of the field. And then we spent the rest of the day just playing catch-up. And then with about 50 laps to go, the car started missing. I switched the ignition over and we were diagnosing it and we found out that the battery was going dead. So we had to shut off all our fans and it cooled off and everything else that we had on there was taking electrical power to try to regain the ignition for the engine. It made it to the end. It just shows you we've got some pretty good stuff. The water pressure was about 240 and things were getting hot. The car held up. I'm just proud of the whole team to come back from adversity and turn it into a good top-five finish."

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo (finished 3rd): "I think this car seemed to run a little bit better after I spun it out. We just made some adjustments. It was really, really loose. We tried to fix it and tried to fix it and finally I lost control of the car down the front straightaway. After that, we came in and did a lot of things to tighten it up and it got hooked up. We had a pretty quick racecar, we just didn't have track position."

Was it tough working your way back through the field?

"No, it was a lot of fun. When your car's just a little bit better than the car in front of you, it's always fun.

"We had a 'medium' car at Happy Hour and had to make some changes kind of towards Steve's set-up yesterday. Starting the race, the car was okay. We were all kind of bumper-to-bumper and that was pretty fun. Gordon took off. I thought we had a pretty good car. We tried to loosen it up little bit and we run it about two tire runs like that - kind of out of control. We were just kind of hanging on. Finally I spun out and it was lucky I didn't hit nothing. It gave us the opportunity to come in and we had plenty of time because we went all the way to the back because we spun out. We had plenty of time in the pits to make some adjustments. We got the car really good there at the end. Track position was the only thing that really kind of hurt us. We were running down Steve (Park) and the No. 24 (Gordon) there a little bit - maybe half a tenth every two laps or so. The car was good at the end. It would pretty much drive itself. Track position was what hurt us the most. We didn't pit during that last stop. It was kind of a gamble and I was kind of worried that it wasn't going to pay off for us, but the car took off."

Question to both Steve Park and Dale Earnhardt Jr.: How does today's performance plays into the rest of your season?

Steve Park: "It's been an up-and-down season. We were running real good at the beginning of the year. We were one of those teams that was using those controversial bump stops. So when they changed the rules, it kind of threw us a curve ball at Charlotte. But we had The Winston and the Coca-Cola 600 to try to get back to our original form. It goes back to what I've been saying in the past. We've got a great race team. We've got a great organization. We've got a team that is able to rebound from adversity - not only with rule changes like we've seen in the last week, but like today having a tire go across pit road and going all the way to last and working our way back to second. It just shows how good this organization is. This is a dream come true for all of us at Dale Earnhardt Inc. to get our cars to finish in the top five and try to be solid contenders week in and week out. Dale Jr. had a tremendous performance today and the Pennzoil team did. It's just a sign of things to come."

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: "Anything in the top ten, we're pretty happy. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves before to run good. We felt like we were a top three team every week, and that really was kind of ridiculous. Now, we just try to finish in front of our points position every week. We just try to run 10th or better or whatever it is. This finish is really going to help us out.

Question for Dale Jr. (DEI had such a great start to the season and now there seems to have been a lull lately. Can you talk about that?) "Well, I don't think that all of us were in a lull. Steve's run pretty good every week. We've been hit and miss. We've really started our season in Daytona really good and then from there on, didn't run good. And then after five or six races, we started getting a string of top tens there. At Charlotte, we missed the whole set-up. Even after what happened today - spinning out - we really shouldn't have finished as good as we did. So I feel real lucky to have finished like we did today. We just need to keep it up, but it's tough. It's tougher than I ever imagined to be competitive in this series and to be a top ten car every week."

Question for Steve Park (How good was Jeff Gordon today?) "Pretty damn good. That's like asking what happens to the racetrack when it starts raining. He was strong. My car was the best I've ever had here at Dover. And like Dale Jr. said, my car was so good, it was driving itself. I was almost like a passenger holding onto the steering wheel. There was times I'd catch him, and there was times I'd overdrive it trying to catch him and I'd lose ground to him. He had a strong car all day long. It was obvious I don't think anybody had anything for him. The end of the race proved that because we had a caution and he was still able to pull away from us a little bit. He was just good all day long."

Were there any indications during Happy Hour yesterday that Gordon would be this good?

"I didn't hear any of my guys talking about Gordon. They were taking about guys that were pretty fast like Skinner. We were pretty happy with our car. We only had that one-hour practice and we quit about 40 minutes into it and felt we had a pretty good racecar. Robbie Loomis and the guys over there have been doing a good job. I wouldn't count those guys out. They've been hit and miss a little bit like we've been this year. With the rule changes, I think it throws everybody a curve ball. But when they're on, they're on. On a week-to-week basis, I wouldn't count those guys out."

More comments from Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "The car was just so good out in front and that's what you look for here at Dover. These guys did an awesome job today. I couldn't be more proud of the way this Dupont Chevrolet and this whole team performed today.

Does it feel a lot like old times to come back in here and dominate?

"Well, yes and no. I don't quite ever remember dominating like this. It's been a while. But yeah, it feels good. This has been a track where we typically come into real confident. (Tony) Stewart has been so strong here the last couple of races that I didn't know if anybody could touch him. It's nice to be able to get back into the swing of things and get a car that did all the things I'm searching for as a driver and that Robbie and the guys are searching for in the set-up of the racecar. When the car performs like this, it makes my job a whole lot easier. It's a lot of fun to go out there and have a day like today."

When your car is really good, what does that actually feel like?

"Well, from here (in the stands), it probably looked like the car was on a rail and it was just easy to drive. But let me tell you, there's just no easy way around Dover. If you had scanners, you'd probably laugh. But I'd be pulling away from the rest of the field and I'd complain that the car was pushing. And it might sound like I was complaining, but this track is so hard to get the balance just right. What you have to focus on is being as good as you need to be to win the race. The same thing happens in Happy Hour. The times were fast and the car was really great. But I didn't feel that feel that I was looking for. There were times today when I had it, but there were times I didn't. I'd come on the radio and tell them we need to free it up or we need to tighten it up. We'd just bounce back and forth between tight and loose. It's never on a rail. This place chatters because of the concrete. And that little bit of chatter really plays havoc on the grip the tires have on the racetrack especially the shocks. So there would be times that it would even surprise me. I'd be in the middle of a corner and the car would cut down just the way I wanted it to. I'd start feeding the gas and all of a sudden it would just jump sideways on me. Actually, with 10 to go - when (Steve) Park was behind me and I was pushing hard - I came off of (turn) four an the thing almost turned sideways on me. It got sideways, but it almost came all the way around. And I thought, 'Oh boy, don't do that'. And that's just how temperamental this place can be and how you're on the edge at all times."

Was there any time - like when Dale Jr. spun out - that you felt like you might get hit?

"You never know with guys trying to make-up their lap. I tried to run pretty hard back to the line because there were some good racecars getting a lap down and I knew that if they got back on the lead lap that they were going to be tough to beat. So when things like that happen, I try never to stand on the brakes and just stop. That's how you get run over. I try to maintain a certain pace and speed to the line and I move down low to get away from guys. I saw Dale Jr. up there and I knew he was moving forward in the right direction. I was just waiting to see what these guys were doing around me. I didn't think anybody was really close to run into the back of me."

Did Robbie Loomis ever talk to you on the radio and try to reel you in?

"You're going to have to ask Robbie. I couldn't understand a thing he was saying all day long. It is so loud here, and the cars get so spread out, that all I could hear was a ringing in my ear. He'd ask me a question and I picked up bits and pieces of it. I knew when he said to pit and that was about it. Sometimes my spotter was trying to transfer information to me. We've been looking into some things to get the outside noise reduced so that I can hear clearer. This would be the perfect place to test it. I'd like for Robbie to answer that."

Can you describe some of the differences in the team from this year compared to last year?

"The guys are working just as hard, I'm driving just as hard. Our set-ups aren't that much different, but they're working. I think we've learned a lot about the bodies on these racecars and we've adjusted our set-ups. Goodyear has a little bit different tire. I've never been a fan of bump stops. I just said whatever we've got to do to make them work, let's make them work because other guys were going real fast with them. We finally started hitting on it last year at Homestead. We figured out how to get them working. I had to change the way I was driving to adapt to the bump stops. Jerry Nadeau was making them work really well. So we were going through some transitions. Robbie was new to the team and we were trying to learn one another's communication. He was trying to learn the team and the people that had been there for a while. We had

Question for Robbie Loomis: What were you saying to Jeff that he couldn't hear?

"He was communicating a lot about the car throughout the day. Yesterday in Happy Hour, we were real fast. I think we were one of the top cars. I know he heard me when I told him the tires looked good. He might tell me he didn't, but I know he did."

What were your concerns over the course of the race?

"The biggest thing is that this is Dover. And Dover is as tough as it can be on tires. But Goodyear did their homework and brought the best tire we've ever had here at Dover. We ran 86 laps at one time on a set of tires, and the right-front tire looked perfect. As far as safety and all that, Goodyear did a great job."

What adjustments did you make on the car before the race

"When we came in this morning, a lot of crew chiefs were talking about how good our car was. But they don't know as well as Jeff knows. When he's telling us it's doing something, you'd better be doing some adjusting to get it dialed in for him. It doesn't matter how fast he's running, he's just trying to get that feel he wants."

-GM Racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Michael Waltrip , Steve Park , Jerry Nadeau , Robbie Loomis