Pontiac Racing Dover race notes

Three Pontiac drivers finished in the top five at Dover Downs on Sunday (Stewart - 1st, Benson - 2nd, Labonte - 5th). That feat was accomplished one other time this season at North Carolina Speedway in the second race of the season. The last...

Three Pontiac drivers finished in the top five at Dover Downs on Sunday (Stewart - 1st, Benson - 2nd, Labonte - 5th). That feat was accomplished one other time this season at North Carolina Speedway in the second race of the season. The last time three Pontiacs finished in the top five prior to this season was in 1989.

Today's race marks Pontiac's first "one-two" finish of the season. The last came at Homestead last November.

MIKE BLISS , NO. 27 VIAGRA PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: (ON HIS ACCIDENT) "We were on the outside and the spotter said, 'Clear low behind the 18,' and the next thing I knew I was turned backwards into turn one. I don't even know what happened. It happened so quick. I thought it was clear."

WARD BURTON , NO. 22 CATERPILLAR PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: (ON HIS ACCIDENT) "I got loose in the center and chased the car up the racetrack. It looked like Dale (Jarrett) was committed to go to the outside. He just got into the back of me there. It was nothing intentional. It's just unfortunate for me, unfortunate for him."

DAVE BLANEY , NO. 93 AMOCO PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: (ON HIS ACCIDENT) "We just blew a right front tire going into three. That might be the biggest hit I've ever had in a stock car. But everything held up good. The car was good, the seat was good -- no problems."

RICK MAST , NO. 14 CONSECO PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "We started out not-so-good and just kept working with it all day. Finally at the end we got it pretty good. "The way the thing started out, we were junk and I thought, 'Boy, we are going to be 10 laps down by the end of the race.' I wasn't real happy yesterday evening in 'Happy Hour.' We changed the car around a little bit and we really didn't do the right things. But lo-and-behold during the race we finally did some stuff that worked. I guess the first three or four stops we made, we kept working with it and nothing was affecting it. It wasn't getting any better. All of a sudden, we did a little deal that the car responded to. So the next two stops, which were the last two stops, we did more of it and that's what brought the car to life at the end. If we could have started out that way, we'd have been better off. But the way it started, I'll take it. (ON IMPROVING SO MUCH DURING THE RACE) "That has been one of our weak spots, not being able to do things during the race to get it better. I noticed in New Hampshire we did it a little bit. But today was awesome from where it was to where it ended up." (WERE YOU CONCERNED AT ALL ABOUT YOUR RIGHT FRONT TIRE?) "You better believe I was. But Philippe (Lopez) had gone the safe route with everything and we didn't feel like we were going to have that problem. But you never know until you get out there and get going and a lot of the guys were having that trouble, but we didn't."

JOHNNY BENSON , NO. 10 AARON'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: (ON TIRE MANAGEMENT) "It's pretty tough to be easy on the right front here. This track is extremely fast and you need to make the car semi-comfortable getting into the corner, so you've got to have some spring there. You've just got to be smart and be smooth. We were loose enough all day; I don't believe we ever had a right front problem. I know a couple guys did, but I think it was less than what we've had normally. I don't know without seeing it. It seems like every time we are here we have a small problem, but all in all our Goodyears looked good all day. The last couple of sets were really matched up good and they were great. Our wear was good. The car was still a little loose, so we weren't worried about the right front at all." (ON WORKING HIS WAY THROUGH TRAFFIC TO GET TO THE FRONT) "I think everybody was really smart this time. I think everybody really raced pretty smart today. Dover has become a two-groove racetrack now, so you've got a choice. You don't have to have too big of a problem. You can run the top or bottom and find a spot that works good for you. There is a lot of room to pass here, although today it did get extremely hard to pass on the bottom. That usually hasn't been a problem here in the past, but today it was a little tough running the bottom, at least trying to complete a pass." (ON THE FINAL PIT STOP) "I made sure that I got on pit road without wrecking as fast as I could. I think that's where I made my time up because I could see where they slowed up and I just made sure to go a couple car lengths further in each part of that section to try to catch up before I got to pit road speed. I think we managed to get a couple there and our stops got faster the whole day. We started off a little slow because we were making a lot of adjustments. But then when we got our adjustments right and we weren't making adjustments on the car, the guys whipped off a couple good stops. I'm real proud of those guys and everybody on the Aaron's Pontiac. They just did a tremendous job today." (WAS HE CONCERNED ONCE HE GOT TO SECOND PLACE THAT HE MAY HAVE A PROBLEM?) "I didn't know anybody else running second had had a problem, so I didn't have that in my mind. But I saw us catching him there for a little bit and then I felt the car starting to slide around a little bit more than I wanted to see. Then eventually James (Ince) came on (the radio) and said, 'He's getting you by half-a-tenth, and then a tenth,' so we just wanted to make sure we finished the race and didn't have any problems and made sure that we finished second. I had to run pretty dang hard to stay in second. I thought we had a good shot, but we didn't. Tony (Stewart), Zippy (Greg Zipadelli), everybody at Gibbs Racing did a tremendous job and our guys did a tremendous job, too, so we're pretty happy to come out of here in second place." (WAS THE PACE BETTER AT THE BEGINNING OF THE RACE OR AT THE END?) "I think the pace was better at the beginning because the track was clean. With all the rain, we didn't have any grease and oil on there. Once that started getting on the track that slowed the pace down a little bit. So at the end it felt like I was running a lot faster and a lot harder at the end, but I know our times weren't quite as fast as the beginning." (HOW TOUGH AS THE SEASON BEEN, REGARDING SPONSOR AND OWNERSHIP CHANGES?) "It's been real tough. We've been on a very strict budget. We didn't have a budget, but not the good way. We had it the bad way. Everybody is just working really hard. We haven't tested as much as we would have liked. We haven't been to the wind tunnel as much as we would have liked. When MB2 bought us out, that was a really good deal for us. That's helped. I think we've helped them (Ken Schrader's team) tremendously and I think they've helped us. That's been a good thing. Aaron's coming on board was a great thing, but not enough - not enough for what we need to do and go out do a lot of things. But it did enable us to run the rest of the season and that's what counted."

TONY STEWART , NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "It seems like once we got some rubber on the track and everybody kind of calmed down, we got to the mandatory caution at lap 45. That gave all the crew chiefs a chance to look at their right side tires and you could really see what the wear was like. Then they could tell us what we had. "We really were dominant all day by any means. Jeff Burton, Jeremy Mayfield and Jerry Nadeau, those three guys were really strong all day. We were able to keep pace with them and run all the same lap times they were, within a half a tenth. But every time we got really close to them we were tight. Then when we'd get in front of them we were really loose with a car behind us. It was better for us just to kind of keep things tight and let them go on about their business. But the longer a run would go, we'd run them back down. We knew that we had a good car on long runs. It was just a matter of trying to get the balance right to where we could kind of run a little better earlier and be able to stay with them at the beginning of a run."

(COMPARE THIS WIN TO THE WIN HERE IN JUNE) "I don't think we dominated, to be honest. Those three guys (Burton, Mayfield, Nadeau), all three of those guys ran good laps all day. One at a time they had problems, whether it was engine problems or tire problems). We are always real conservative on our cambers on the right front and we are always able to make our car turn without putting a lot of camber in there, so we helped Goodyear from that standpoint because we don't have to do things to the tire to make it do things it's not supposed to do. But we just had a great car today. Our motor department, they've been working really hard, especially after the thrash they all had to go through working long hours for Loudon. We came here and I figured we'd be lucky if we had a motor that was going to be really strong because of the time that they dedicated to Loudon. But this was one of the best motors I've ever had here. Greg and the guys kept working on the car." "The best two runs of the day were the last two runs for us. The second to last run we were really good balance-wise for the first eight or 10 laps and then the car was a little bit free through the rest of the run until we made our last stop. I just asked them, I said, 'If you can just tighten it up a little bit we're going to be really good,' and that's what we had at the end. Those were consistently the fastest laps that we ran all day. The car was the best at the time of the race when we really needed it to be." (ON THE TIRE SITUATION TODAY) "We've never really had a tire problem. Goodyear has to do these things that they do to the tires to try to make up for three or four teams that can't make their cars turn. They notoriously blow out tires, so when they do that, Goodyear is worried about their reputation. "They brought a new tire here and we have to throw all of our notes away, and we have to start over. It's frustrating having to start over every weekend because three or four teams can't do their jobs right." (ON GREG ZIPADELLI'S ABILITY TO KEEP HIM CALM DURING THE RACE) "For two-thirds of the race, he just kept telling me lap times and kept telling me what the leaders pace was. He really wasn't telling me to take it easy too much. He just told me to take care of my car because of worrying about right fronts. But we never had a problem there all day. "He got real chattery the last two runs when we were leading. He was talking every lap on the radio. I think he was talking to calm himself down more than to calm me down because he kept saying, 'Take it easy.' I go, 'If I drive this thing any slower the car is going to fire me.' The car was really good those last two runs and I wasn't pushing it hard, but he was just trying to make sure that I wasn't using up too much race car." (ON THE DOMINANCE OF JOE GIBBS RACING AT DOVER) "I didn't know we dominated all the time now. You win two races and all of a sudden, you dominate everything. It's just a place that we both run well at. There are places that Jeff Burton and Mark Martin run well at. This is just one of those that we both seem to run really well. Bobby won last year here and we came close last year and then win twice this year.

"We always use the theory that 'two heads are better than one.' If Bobby rung good at a place, we typically run well and there have been a lot of places I know that Bobby has struggled at, and since Greg has come on board and I've come on, Greg's knowledge has helped their team get better at those places. We work really hard as a team to try to make sure both teams are competitive and I think it's showing up the way Bobby is running this year and the way he is in the standings right now." (WHAT MAKES HIM SO GOOD HERE?) "I wish I knew. I wish it was that way everywhere we went. There is something about both of the concrete tracks. The way you physically drive the track is the same here as it is at Bristol. It's just bigger here. It's twice as big here. But the way you physically drive the car is realistically the same. We always concentrate on getting in the corner and keeping the car on the bottom of the racetrack. That's the same thing you do at Bristol, also." "It seems like it's a little harder to do here all day. With the speed that we run it's harder to stay on the bottom. So we concentrate and we try to set-up our car here the same way we do at Bristol - not necessarily the same springs and shocks, but get it driving the same." (ON WINNING THREE RACES THIS YEAR AFTER STARTING DEEP IN THE FIELD) "We were both a little bit down on Friday. But we looked at each other and neither one of us was as down as much as I think we expected the other to be because we know that we run good on Sunday. It's kind of one of those deals where there are two events every weekend. There is qualifying and there is the race. Our emphasis is on winning races this year and not on winning poles. The poles are nice, but you get to take pictures with the big trophy when you win on Sunday, not on Friday. We're concentrating more on that. For some reason, I just haven't qualified as well this year. There have been a lot of variables that have been changed and there have been a lot of cases where I've not been as comfortable in the car because of those variables that have been changed. It's not that we don't concentrate on qualifying, but I've made a lot of mistakes trying to make up for things in qualifying. That gets us further behind than what we'd be if I just ran my normal laps. We were just better in the race this week."

BOBBY LABONTE , NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "This was a good run for the Interstate Pontiac. We finished in the top five and that was a good day for us. A lot of guys had some tough luck and you hate that for anybody, especially when a tire fails like that or whatever happened. That hurts. They can build new cars, but you don't want to see anybody hurt. It was just a good day for us. We'll just go back and get ready for Martinsville." (ON THEIR DAY OVERALL) "We were off and on all day. I don't think we were really on very much. We'd struggle with trying to get the car set-up right. I was pushing and loose and both at the same time. I don't think we hit the right set-up today, that's for sure. After about 35 or 40 laps on tires, we 'd even out with the leader. But still we lost so much there in the first 30 laps that it wasn't really worth it. We couldn't push it at the end, but we didn't' need to." (WAS HE WORRIED ABOUT HIS RIGHT FRONT TIRE?) "Sure. After you see what happens it concerns you a lot. There's no doubt about it. This place is always tough on them, no matter what. I think if we had the best day in the world, the best circumstances, you might still be a little worried about it. But today it seemed like we had a few more problems than we maybe needed to have." (ANY RELIEF AFTER TODAY, WITH REGARD TO THE POINTS RACE?) "Every race is important from now on out. One slip on our part and we could really lose a lot. But we'll just race real hard like we did today. We didn't hit the set-up right, but we worked hard enough to where we overcame some of it there towards the end of the race. "Plus, a day like today when there are guys that did have some tough luck that were in the points chase - we didn't want to see that for them, but at the same time we wanted to make sure we took care of our self after that happened." (ON GAINING POINTS TODAY) "Trust me, we ain't thinkin' about it. We're going to go race every race like it's the next one. We just work real hard at it. We don't worry about it. Jeff Burton has kind of summed up what I' ve been saying a lot of times, too: 'At the end of the day and at the end of the year, some lady is going to add up the points and what it is is what it is.' Right now, we've just got to run good and try to win races. If we can do that I think we'll be alright. "We've got to go all the way until it (the championship) is mathematically true and I don't even want to think about it until it is. Really, that is the way we've got to do it. If we sat here and did different, we would lose. Right now, if we lose it will be because something happens to us. We 've got to run like we did today - be a competitor. We weren't the fastest car, but we had a top five car for some parts of the day, and that's what we have to do." (ON DODGING ANOTHER BULLET TODAY) "Bullets can come ricocheting from any angle. I'm looking forward to Martinsville and we want to go up there and win the race. We can't go up there and say, 'Well, let's just try to survive and finish 15th.' We've got to go up there and really, really work hard, stay up front and lead if we can. I think we've just got to do that. Right now, we can't worry about points. All we've got to worry about is racing." (ON HOW A DRIVER TAKES CARE OF TIRES AT DOVER) "You're just being careful. You just try not to overwork it. But if you let off at the start/finish line, you're still going to be working the tires. You just feel confident in what you've got. I know what we had setup-wise and feel-wise and you just hope that you can feel yourself overworking the tire if that's what happens. "We just played our regular game today. We really did. It's no different than we usually do, what we feel is right - air pressure-wise, camber-wise and spring-wise. We were always the same."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeremy Mayfield , Ken Schrader , Jerry Nadeau , Mark Martin