* Tony Stewart's victory in the 2001 Budweiser Shootout gives Pontiac its first-ever victory in the event and GM's first win in the event since 1997 (Jeff Gordon). BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: HOW WAS YOUR CAR...
* Tony Stewart's victory in the 2001 Budweiser Shootout gives Pontiac its first-ever victory in the event and GM's first win in the event since 1997 (Jeff Gordon).
BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
HOW WAS YOUR CAR TODAY? "Our car was really good and Tony's car was really fast. We hung out there for a long time together. Then we got detached there with a few laps to go and I could never get back up there. The high line was definitely working best and I thought I'd try something different. It didn't look like I could win on the high line anyway because everybody was going to stay there. I thought I'd try something different and go down the bottom and see what would happen.
"Our car was a little bit loose, but as loose as it was you could still keep up. We had a really good run going, but I picked the wrong line. But I figure [Dale] Earnhardt picked the wrong line at Talladega (in October) - he probably didn't want to be where he was when he was 18th with four to go and I thought, 'I'll try it and see if it works out.' It was close, but we had a good run."
HOW MUCH DO YOU HAVE TO BLOCK AND DRIVE DEFENSIVELY? "How brave do you want to be? Do you want to cut somebody off a whole lot and see where you're at or do you not want to do it as much?"
CAN YOU MAKE MOVES ON YOUR OWN WITH THE NEW AERO PACKAGE?) "You still need some help to make some big moves, but at the same time, it's Daytona. It's a handling track, too."
HOW PROMISING IS IT TO SEE YOUR TEAMMATE RUN SO WELL TODAY? "It's good. We ran pretty good there for a long time together and then I fell back. We just kind of hung around after that and that's all we could do. But, it's good that both cars ran good."
DO YOU THINK THE RACING WILL BE BETTER THIS YEAR? "I said it was exciting last year from my point of view, so that's not the right question to ask me. It is what it is, and today was a good day for everybody it looked like. I was real happy with our car. It might have been a little bit too loose, but other than that we were OK."
JIMMY MAKAR, CREW CHIEF, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
ON THE RACING OVERALL "It was what we had at Talladega. It's going to be a positioning thing. If you get a run on somebody, that's kind of the deal. Tony (Stewart) did a good job of blocking and that's what it boiled down to having to do to win the race. That's pretty much what you're going to have to do to win the race."
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE USE OF THE REAR VIEW MIRROR IN THIS RACE "That's the thing you better have adjusted the best to run down here this week."
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
ON GETTING BY DALE EARNHARDT AT THE END "We just got a really good run. When Dale got by me I noticed that my car pulled up to his pretty good. I asked the guys on the radio how many laps were left and they said, 'Two.' Knowing that he is going to do whatever he can on the last lap I kind of felt like after I made the move and got by that I may have made my move too soon. But at the same time, I feel like I may have caught him off guard and that he may not have been looking for it to happen with two to go. He may have thought it would happen with one to go. I just got a really good run and I knew if I checked up that the guys behind me would have probably gone by. I didn't realize that we went by on our own, but we just got a really good run on him and because of that we were able to get back in front."
HOW DID YOU KEEP DALE EARNHARDT FROM PASSING YOU AT THE END? "I kept watching what he was doing behind me and watching how he was trying to get his runs and then get that momentum built up. I was trying to do everything I could in different parts of the track to try to break his momentum or make sure he didn't catch me in the wrong spot. I wasn't just running wide open in front of all of those guys - especially the last lap. I made sure that he didn't catch me on a spot on the track that was going to give him an opportunity to go by and make sure that it kind of choked him up at the same time."
DID YOU HAVE TO CHANGE LINES A LOT AT THE END? "I really didn't have to move too many times. I think I blocked him (Dale Earnhardt) twice probably at the end of the race and I think I blocked [Dale Earnhardt, Jr.] Junior a couple times and Dale Jarrett once. Everybody kind of got their turn at getting blocked by me. That's still what I hate about restrictor plate racing. I think this blocking stuff is dangerous. Jeff Gordon about crashed the whole field early in the race and it's not something he is doing intentionally. It's just that when guys get such a big run and a guy swerves over in front of you, you've got to slam on the brakes and somebody behind you is not going to expect that. I'd like to see it to where we weren't blocking each other, but when everybody else is doing it you've got to do it, too, to win the race. We did what we had to do. I didn't do anything any different out there in that race than anybody else would have done. As much as I hate it, I had to do it, though."
WERE YOU ABLE TO FIND A DIFFERENT GROOVE WHEN YOU WERE BEHIND OR WAS THAT SOMETHING YOU HAD TO DO? "Where cars were catching you and where you were pulling away from cars depended a lot on not only where the second place car was, but the third and fourth place cars, as well. It depended on how they caught the second place car and when that guy got the push. It depended on where they caught you. When they would catch a few then that would give you a push. It just seemed like it was real repetitious that the guys were catching me at the end of the back stretch. Our car drove really good through [turns] three and four and that was probably the reason why we could pull away a little bit off of four, and our car was a little bit on the tight side in [turns] one and two, and that may have made it to where it helped them get a little better run down the back, also."
ARE WE GOING TO SEE A BETTER RACE ON SUNDAY? "Absolutely. That's what I've predicted all winter when people asked me what I thought Daytona was going to be like. I think what we learned at Talladega and what we saw at Talladega was going to provide for a lot better race for everybody. Today was probably as good a test as you're going to see until you see the '125's.'
"This was the most fun restrictor plate race I've been able to run. I watched guys in front of me and it looked like an old dirt race. The guy going in on the bottom would slide up the racetrack in front and the guy that was getting passed for the lead would turn it back down and drive back under him driving off the corner. It was a lot of fun to race like. It was something that I don't think anybody has seen here for a long time. It was kind of fun to do it that way. It gave us opportunities to really race each other in the cars instead of just riding around in them today."
WAS THE FOUR-TIRE STOP PLANNED? "We pretty much had planned four tires. Nobody had really mad really long runs to see how their car's balance was going to change. When we made it that far on tires I thought if we ever get a caution at the end and they don't come in, then the four tires were going to be better than two in my opinion with the way the cars were moving around. We had pretty much set the day up with the intentions of starting with a four-tire stop and then if something happened during the race where it looked like we needed to take two [tires], we would change."
DID YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR CAR WAS A LITTLE OUT OF CONTROL AT TIMES TODAY? "Definitely. There were parts in the race that I was moving my car around on the racetrack away from the traditional groove and was trying different lines to see if I could find a spot on the track that had a little bit more grip. I definitely think it's made it better. It's put a little bit more of the driving back in our hands and put a little bit more of our own fate in our own hands, as far as where we run on the racetrack and how our car is set up. I think that is what has made for a lot better race today. Guys weren't able to just hold it wide open all day. I think were having to lift, and at times, brake even. It made it to where we can actually go out there and somewhat race each other - as good as restrictor plate racing can get, I guess."
DID IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE THAT IT WAS DALE EARNHARDT BEHIND YOU AT THE END? "It didn't matter who it was, in all honesty, while I was on the track. It was a guy trying to beat me for the win. After the race was over - to beat Dale Earnhardt on a restrictor plate track in his own element, where I would call him a specialist - yeah, it means a lot today. But on the racetrack it didn't matter whether it was him or my teammate or whoever else. It was another competitor trying to beat me for the win. Now it feels pretty special to know that you beat Dale Earnhardt at his own game."
COMPARE THE FEELING OF BEING A ROOKIE HERE WHEN NO ONE WILL DRAFT WITH YOU TO NOW WHEN YOU ARE A WINNER HERE "It's like anything else. When you haven't run with these guys they are going to be a little leery in tight quarters with you. As tight as we have to race with each other and physically push each other down the backstretch at times, it's a trust and a confidence thing. I don't know if after two years of running Winston Cup that they're starting to gain confidence in me or what, but I'm noticing I'm getting a little more help than I was in the past. I think if you go out there and you're running safe and you're not doing things that they think are putting yourself and them in a predicament and putting themselves in a dangerous situation, when you need the help you'll get it there, and you'll find yourself with more partners to run with."
HOW MUCH BUMP-DRAFTING DID YOU DO AND HOW MUCH DID YOU HAVE DONE TO YOU? "I didn't do any. I had a lot done to me. "At times, it was as hard to run with a car behind you down the straightaway as it was to run in the corners. My teammate pushed me a couple times, Dale, Jr., pushed me three or four times down the back and [Dale] Earnhardt pushed me - not because he was wanting to push me, but because I was blocking him. There were a lot of times that I got caught. The biggest thing was making sure that when they got to you that they weren't getting you at an angle because if they got to you at an angle you really had to chase the steering wheel to keep the car underneath you."
DID YOU THINK ABOUT CHANGING YOUR PIT STRATEGY WHEN SOME CARS CAME EARLY IN THE RACE? "We really didn't. I saw them come in. I told the guys they were on their way. In the next lap, I think we were all kind of thinking about what we should do. I came through the tri-oval and I said that I think we needed to stick to the game plan and that's what we did. We pretty much played our race out the way that we had planned it. I thought it was really the good move for a while when we caught Rusty [Wallace] and Jeff [Gordon] and Dale [Earnhardt] Sr., and got them a lap down for a second. I thought if we did get a yellow, we had these guys stuck. I'm not really sure which way was the conservative way. There were pros and cons to short-pitting. There were pros and cons to running the run out and changing late. It just worked out in our favor.
"There were two different scenarios that could have played out and depending on if there was a caution and when it came out, that was going to dictate how the strategy ended up being affected."
ON RUNNING SO MANY LAPS AROUND DALE EARNHARDT, JR. "I was really comfortable running behind Junior. We've run enough with each other now that I'm really comfortable when he is behind me. He is a pretty aggressive guy and he can work you pretty hard when he is drafting behind you. But he showed me a lot of courtesy today and I tried to do the same thing when I was behind him."
"We really worked well together. We both got shuffled down at one point, and we got together right away. As soon as we locked up together, we stayed together. We got apart again and then got back together, so I think we were both really confident and really happy with the way we had run together all day. When we had the opportunity to get together again, we stuck together. I was hoping it would be between him and I (for the win) because I felt like him and I had run the two best races of the day up to that point. I was hoping that it would come down to him and I at the end, instead of his father."
WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT THERE WERE NO CAUTIONS TODAY? "I really was, to be honest. When Jeff Gordon got in the lead and he was weaving back and forth down the backstretch, I thought, 'All somebody going to have to do is be up two inches further than what Jeff thinks and when he comes down across the racetrack at the angle that he was coming down, it was going to turn him. And if he does that next Sunday it is probably going to happen eventually because guys are getting such a big run. I don't think people are anticipating how fast guys are closing on each. When guys are changing lanes like that, it's extremely dangerous. I don't like doing it. I do not like blocking - especially early in the race like that where there really wasn't a lot of sense in doing it because it really didn't matter. I think you're going to have some (cautions) on Sunday, but I was really surprised it didn't happen today. I think guys were pretty content to race with two different lanes early in the race. Then late in the race when it was getting close to the end, then you saw guys starting to have to change lanes to protect a lane at that time."
ON THE FACT THAT HIS CAR SEEMED TO HANDLE BETTER THAN ANYONE THAT PITTED LATE OVER THE LONGER RUN "We had talked about the balance of our car and we were a little bit tight up to the stop. We talked about and discussed what kind of changes we were going to make. When we did come in and make that pit stop, we didn't make a real gross change, but the change we made, the car really responded well to it and gave me a lot of hope that the set-up was a fairly balanced set-up. We're hoping that is something we can transfer over to our '500' car."