Pocono Team Monte Carlo Sunday notes

TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo) AFTER CLIMBING OUT OF HIS CAR AND TURNING THE DRIVING DUTIES OVER TO RICH BICKLE “We decided before we came up here we needed to get a relief driver. Rich ran great in practice...

TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo) AFTER CLIMBING OUT OF HIS CAR AND TURNING THE DRIVING DUTIES OVER TO RICH BICKLE “We decided before we came up here we needed to get a relief driver. Rich ran great in practice for us, and he ran good up here last year. He’ll do a good job for us. The car felt pretty good. I hated to get out, but I didn’t really have any choice. I kept riding back there and riding back there and wondered if there was going to be a caution flag. I knew I was going to have to start running in a little bit because there might not be a flag. Fortunately for me, Mark blew up there and the caution came out. I’ll be ready for Indy. It really helped last week having an off weekend, and we’ve got another one next weekend, so that’s going to be a big help for us. Just running a few laps up here this weekend was also a big help. This injury takes six-eight weeks to get over. Indy is going to be four weeks. Hopefully that will be good enough. “I wasn’t really hurting today, but I was pretty uncomfortable in the car. The seat is too big, and the car was a little too loose for me. Rich likes it a little looser than I do. It was pretty good. I was just trying to stay out of trouble. If everything goes good, I think Rich can get us a good finish. If it had been my seat, I might have thought about staying in it today. If I hadn’t had the wreck at New Hampshire, there wouldn’t have been any doubt about it, but we just couldn’t afford to take a chance on getting caught in a wreck and having a setback in my leg. That could put us another six-eight weeks out. We just can’t do it. We’ve got too many good tracks coming up for us, so it’s just something we had to do. “Rich is going to run as good as he can and get us a good finish. He ran good here last year. He runs good at this track. He ran good in practice, and he qualified good. I was sitting back there running, and I know the car is a lot better than where I was running. “(Testing at Indy) probably didn’t help things, but I’m pretty hard headed. I tested up there anyway, and I needed to go up there and make some laps. Looking back at it, we probably should have taken somebody with us, but we didn’t. They told me if I wouldn’t mess around too much on it this week, that it would be a good bit better. I feel like it should be good. Sitting in the car doesn’t hurt, but we just couldn’t stand another setup up here.”

STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “It looks like we lost something in the motor. We’ve been behind all week. This is usually a good track for me. We had all the right springs and shocks and motor, but it was on the truck. It didn’t make any difference. The guys worked hard, but something came out the bottom end. This track is really tough on engines because you’ve got to turn so many rpm’s. You’re turning 9,000 going into one and 9,000 going into the back straightaway. I really enjoy racing here. We’ve had some real good runs here. We tried a chassis combination we’d never run here, and it was kind of tight. The caution came out and I think we got it fixed about halfway. Then we ran a few laps and lost something in the engine. We’ll just come back next week and try it again. We were decent here in the spring. We probably had a ninth-12th place car. We thought we had a handle on it yesterday and ran a big swaybar. It just pushed bad. We worked on it, and then it blew up. That’s it. It’s time to go to the house now.”

BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak MAX film Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “I felt it slowing down about four laps before that. It was a weird deal because I was actually letting off the gas every lap down the back straightaway to keep from beating on it until the end of the race. We broke a lifter in the engine. I took more care of that thing than I do with one at Martinsville. We were concerned about it anyhow because this place is tough on motors. Whatever went wrong was going to go wrong anyhow. If I ran it like I usually do, it would have probably let go 50 laps earlier. “This place puts on a good race, but the way they have aerodynamics now, you’re shifting every lap. Because of the long straightaways, you’ve got to turn ‘em 9300 and 9400 rpm’s. Just the best engine people don’t blow up. That’s the way it is. “We got up to fourth place, but that was just because of pit stops. I feel pretty confident that we had a top-10 car today. I’m pretty excited about that. Danny (new crew chief Gill) made some good calls. He sat down and figured the race out, how many stops he was going to make, and he stuck to the game plan. Every adjustment they made on the thing fixed it and helped it. We hadn’t been like that this year. Maybe our communication gap has closed up a little bit. If we get the motor thing straightened out, we’ll probably be running back up front again. “I’m tired. I’m so damn tired, I wish the season was over with right now. It has been so draining because of the way we’ve been running. That’s just the way I feel.” “We didn’t qualify good, and Danny was pretty beat up about that. I knew we had a pretty good race car. These guys are building special cars for each track, and you’ve got to do that now. You’ve got to have a car for Indy and Martinsville and Pocono. You’ve got to have a road course car, and we’re just starting to get our cars sorted out. I don’t think Danny was too disappointed today. I made it a lot harder than this for him in the truck series.”

DANNY GILL (Crew chief No. 4 Kodak MAX film Monte Carlo) NOTE: Gill made his debut Sunday as a NASCAR Winston Cup crew chief. He had been crew chief for Bobby Hamilton’s truck team with driver Joe Ruttman. “I was really wanting to get a full race under my belt. That was like running a truck race again. We seem to be clicking pretty good. I was surprised the car was as good as it was. We weren’t very good yesterday in Happy Hour, but we didn’t have any notes to go by. We kept adjusting on it and got it better. We really didn’t know where we stood going into today. It got real good. We were a little tight at the start, but we kept freeing him up. He was running within a couple tenths of the leaders, so I think we were headed for a pretty good finish. I knew we were a little out of sequence with the real fast cars. We knew we could make it the rest of the way on three stops at that point (when they were running fourth). We felt like some other guys might have to come in for a splash and go, so we were looking pretty good after that caution. I think we were headed for at least a top 15. We learned a lot here this weekend, but we didn’t learn how to qualify on a flat race track. We’re going back to Indy to test next week, so I’m sure we’re going to be working most on qualifying. I don’t think I did anything spectacular (in first race as a Winston Cup crew chief). Hopefully as I get to learn these cars a little better, we can continue running better and better the rest of the year.”

MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “We started out and made a small adjustment, what we thought was a small adjustment from Happy Hour. The last five minutes of Happy Hour, we found something that we thought was real good. We thought the Lowe’s Chevrolet was going to have a shot to run in the top 10, maybe the top five. We started the race, and we really made a bad mistake. We should have left it alone. It was really, really tight. We had prepared, and we had talked. That’s the advantage of Larry (crew chief McReynolds) and I having motor coaches out here. We get out here and we spend a lot of time together. We talk a lot and talk about what ifs and we prepared for the worst. We ended up hooking up a rear swaybar on a pit stop and losing all our track position. We came back and finished in the top 10. It was a good run for us.”

DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) “I felt it going down down the front straightaway. I was already past pit road. It made it through turn one OK and the tunnel turn it went down pretty good and it started shredding up here in turn three. It shook the whole front end apart, the bolts and the nuts were loose. I had about a round of play in the steering wheel. I’d go in the corner and I had to be ahead of it. We took a big enough hit (in the points). That was one of our biggest worries, taking a big hit in the points. We were running too good to have that kind of day. We’ll just have to rebound and come back and get ‘em at Indy. I like Indy. I think it’s a good race track for us. We tested good up there. We’ll be good.”

DAVE MARCIS (No. 71 Realtree Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “The speeds are up, and we’re turning more rpm’s. The engines are just working harder. We had problems on the low end, and that shouldn’t have happened. Normally we finish these races when we qualify. I think six people have had problems since we fell out, so we could have got a good finish out of this. That equates to money to me. If I hadn’t broke, we could have had a pretty good payday, but that’s the way it goes.”

JOE NEMECHEK (No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “I’m not sure exactly what it was, but it had to be something real important in there. It didn’t like it when it broke. We started running on seven cylinders and it started eating itself up. It finally broke a piston there at the end and broke a valve through it. We were running decent, looking for a top 10 or 12 run. We were there. Now we’ll be ready to go to Indy. This isn’t typical for us. It looks like most guys are having bottom end trouble. This was top end related stuff. Bottom end is crankshafts, rods and pistons. Top end is valve train, valve springs, rocker arms, valves, lifters, stuff like that that makes the valves go up and down. I think we broke a rocker arm or valve or something. Normally something in the top end would break because you’re turning so many rpm’s.”

JERRY NADEAU (No. 25 Michael Holigan.com Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “We struggled with the car all day. Finally, when we got it pretty good, I don’t know -- I went into turn one and the car just wouldn’t turn. I thought I had a right front tire go down, but that wasn’t it. It’s a shame. The guys worked hard to get the car right. Today just wasn’t a good day.”

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) “It affected it a little bit. It knocked the fender in and knocked the right front tow out on the car. The car didn’t seem to react quite as good, but it was still pretty good there. There at the end, I felt like I was just about as good as anybody. It’s so hard to pass. You get up to ‘em and the car starts pushing. We wanted to free the car up a little bit, but that’s what it did. It made it tough for us to get our track position back. What happened, I went in there and had new tires on and the 27 drifted up the track and I went underneath him. I thought he was giving me room, and then he came back down and we hit and he spun. We were pretty fortunate today. For all the things that happened to us to come away with a third-place finish because I lost fourth gear there at the end. All the pieces that were flying around there in the transmission, I’m surprised we even finished. “I made a couple of moves. Me and Jeff (Burton) were side by side there a couple of times, and it got pretty exciting. I realize that I needed to not overheat my tires and try to stay with those guys. I was hanging right there with them. Then with 10 to go, the fourth gear was just gone. If you don’t have fourth gear here, you’re not going to win the race. I didn’t have the speed down the front straightaway that I needed. I just had to let off the gas to keep from over revving the engine. The car was pretty good, but I’ll tell you what. Racing right now at Pocono is a lot different than it’s ever been. Really, it’s been kind of this way all year long. You can’t pass if you get behind a guy. Jeremy looked like the only guy out there all day that could really, really pass. He was fast, really, really fast. Other than that, it seems like you just ride behind the car in front of you until they make a mistake and then hope you can get side by side with them. If you get side by side, you hope you can make the pass. We were better this time than the last time we were here. We were actually able to get our nose underneath the guy. Now our decision is do we take this car to Indianapolis because we weren’t planning on it. It seems like a pretty good car, the best car we’ve got in our stables right now. “This is a great run for us, and I feel like this team has really turned things around. I see the chemistry really come along. Pocono is a place there’s long straightaways, so you’ve got to have a good motor. You’ve got to have a good aero package, but there’s corners, not really the same as Indianapolis, but maybe kind of similar. I think if there’s any place you can compare to Indy, it’s Pocono. I think this is somewhat of a preview. I think if you run well at Pocono, you typically run well at Indianapolis, but I think there’s a handful of guys who didn’t show how strong they can be here today that will be at Indianapolis. I don’t know what happened to Mark Martin, but I’m sure he’s going to be strong at Indy. Dale Jarrett was pretty good today, and I believe he’ll be strong again at Indy. It’s going to be interesting, but again, track position is going to be very critical. How well you qualify versus how well you keep that track position in the race is going to determine how you finish.”

ROBBIE LOOMIS (Crew chief No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “Compared to the way we ran here the first time, we’re pleased, but we’re not happy. We thought we had a good shot at winning the race. I guess with about 15 laps to go we broke the transmission. We’re fortunate to finish third. When you shift at a place like this, it’s just real hard on ‘em. We lost a gear. I think the motor problems today was evident of how everybody keeps stepping up their programs. It’s so competitive, you’ve got to go for every bit of timing. People are turning a lot of rpm’s and getting more and more gear in these things. You go through a stage where guys break motors, and they come with better pieces and better parts. Then all of a sudden, you look out there and people start blowing up again and they start working on pieces and get better and better. Randy Dorton and the guys at Hendrick Motorsports have a great engine program, and they do a bunch of R&D. That really helps out. This will definitely give us a boost going to Indy. This race track is a lot like Indy, and it gives us a lot of confidence because we needed to work on our flat track stuff and we think we’ve made some gains.”

DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “I guess I’m pretty happy for a backup car. We ran out of gas on pit road or we might have been a little better. What can you say? I was driving as hard as I could drive. I’ve got blisters all over me. I’m fine. I was a little more sore muscle wise (from wreck in practice on Saturday). My joints and all are sore, but my head wasn’t really hurting me today. It was just a typical race, and I’ve got aches and pains from that.”

STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “We elected to go with two tires on that last pit stop and top it off with gas and get back out there. We had a loose race car to start with and the two tires made us a little bit looser. We had to fight to try to get that track position back, and when you get that far back, it’s tough. The leaders line up and take off and leave you fighting for scraps. “We pitted for our last pit stop and didn’t get enough fuel in the car, so we had to pit again and lost our track position. We made up some ground, but we just couldn’t make up all the ground we’d lost from having to pit again. We were just too loose for our run at the end. We easily had a top 10 car. We’ll get ‘em at the Brickyard.”

RICH BICKLE (No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “I’m pretty happy but on the other hand, I’m pretty mad at myself because I didn’t get a good restart the last time. Starting 20th, they could jump you and pass you. I was on the wrong end of it twice, and I didn’t take advantage of it when I had a chance. We probably had a top five car if we could have got the track position, but to bring this thing home 11th, still rolling, everybody is happy. Only a couple of guys were quicker than us at the end. We were a little quicker than Rusty at the end. I had good equipment here the past two races. I’ve always considered this the worse track for me on the circuit. Now I get a good car and things work, it makes a big difference. I don’t know what’s going on. I used to love the high-banked tracks. Now it seems like I do well on the flat tracks. I don’t know what my performance will do for me today. There’s a lot of blind guys in this garage area sometimes, but I don’t think today’s run will hurt.”

TED MUSGRAVE (No. 01 BellSouth Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “I’m a little disappointed. I thought we had a top-10 car today. Let’s just say we let some guys get their points today. We just missed the setup a little bit there. We went back out second round qualifying. I told Sterling that I was going to work on the qualifying setup and get the race setup from him. We were second-day fast and did a pretty decent job on that deal. That got me behind on the race setup. I asked Sterling what to do, and he said he didn’t know because they were junk. It was like starting all over. We took a gamble on it, and it was close but no cigar. We talked about it during the race. We know what we need, and we’re going to work on it now. We learned a little about what it takes to be fast at Indy. We picked up half a second by trying a couple of little things Saturday morning. That relates to Indy, so we’ve got a little bit of a head start going up there.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Dale Jarrett , Michael Ho , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports