Pontiac Racing Loudon qualifying notes

JOHN ANDRETTI , NO. 43 CHEERIOS/STP PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "With the restrictor plate you've got to change oil and stuff to get ready to qualify. We ran all the way to the end of the last (session) and we went out early (in qualifying), so we didn't...

JOHN ANDRETTI , NO. 43 CHEERIOS/STP PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "With the restrictor plate you've got to change oil and stuff to get ready to qualify. We ran all the way to the end of the last (session) and we went out early (in qualifying), so we didn't get the oil temperature up. It hurt us quite a bit because the motor was stumbling and all that, but it will be in the race. I don't know where we'll be and I don't know how easy it will be to pass, yet."

RICK MAST , NO. 14 CONSECO PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "We're pretty pleased with that. I think (engine builder) David Evans and the guys at the shop went to work Friday, and I don't think they've been to bed since then. I think they finally got to bed Wednesday night. It put them and all the motor builders in the garage area in a strain. But it was definitely tough on us because just last week was the first week with our motors. They ran real good at Richmond and today, the motor is real good here today. I'm real happy with that. The motor we qualified with is the same motor we're going to race with. We didn't qualify as good as I wanted to, but we're in the show."

JOHNNY BENSON , NO. 10 AARON'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: (WHY DID HIS SPEED DROP FROM PRACTICE?) "I wish we knew. It just slipped and slid. It's hard to get heat in the tires. I thought we were definitely going to be better than that. I figured we would run at least a 'flat' (30.000 seconds), maybe a little bit better. But, I don't know. That's how it goes. I probably tried extra hard because it's going to be awfully hard to pass. I think where you start is probably where you're going to finish, so I was kind of hoping to do a little bit better than that."

KEN SCHRADER , NO. 36 M&M'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "A good bit earlier in the year we were really struggling. But we've been in the top six or seven both practices, so we've got a good race car. We'll just work now on getting for tomorrow. But boy, I knew when Bobby (Labonte) ran that lap it was going to be tough."

(HOW MUCH DIFFERENT IS IT DRIVING AT NEW HAMPSHIRE WITH A RESTRICTOR PLATE?) "I didn't notice much of a difference. I just went around there as fast as I could either way - with a plate or not. I really think whether you're sitting on the couch at home or sitting in the grandstands here at Loudon - if no one told you, you wouldn't notice it."

TONY STEWART , NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "I hate restrictor plates. Still do. Always have, so there's nothing different this week. Hopefully we can put on a good show for the fans because it sure feels terrible in the cars."

MIKE BLISS , NO. 27 VIAGRA PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "We didn't know what to expect. Nobody did until we unloaded. We unloaded in the top 10 and we've been in the top 10 all weekend. We thought we had a shot for the pole. I just felt like we did. The first lap stuck pretty good, so I got a little greedy on the second lap. I went into one a little harder and it started to stick. Then I just got off the throttle and it got loose on me, and I had to back-pedal. If I hadn't had that it would have been real, real close to the front row. I know it would have. After I went through one and two on the second lap I almost went to the garage because it was so bad, but then I went through three and four real good and thought, 'Dang.' I just got greedy."

(ANY APPREHENSION IN COMING TO NEW HAMPSHIRE ON WITH LEASED ENGINES?) "We didn't know. We lease motors from 'T&L.' I was surprised. They have run real well. We've changed a lot of gearing and a lot of pipes yesterday. For tomorrow we have no idea what to run for gears there. We've got an idea, but it's a whole new ballgame."

(ON SOME GUYS SAYING THAT WHERE YOU START IS WHERE YOU'LL FINISH TOMORROW) "Well, we've still got to do pit stops. There are a lot of things that can happen in the pits, out of the pits, there is going to be strategy, there is going to be two tires. There are guys going for half of the race on tires and fuel probably. You don't know. The tires will last a long time with no power. So I think there will be a lot of strategy because of getting stuck back there in the field and not being able to come up through it."

(HOW EXCITED IS HE?) "I'm pretty pumped. I didn't think we'd be that good because of what I screwed up out there. But I told the guys that I want to be on the board at the end of the day. This is good for us. We've been struggling."

(HOW IMPORTANT IS A GOOD FINISH TOMORROW?)  "Very important for us.  Like I
said, I've been struggling real bad.  We just need a good finish."

BOBBY LABONTE , NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "The car was good when we made our qualifying run prior to the end of practice. We had tried a lot of stuff before that on the first set of tires, and really could run about a '45' (30.45 seconds). We thought we had tried enough stuff that we really weren't learning anything else, so we went ahead and put on our set of tires to make a mock qualifying run and ran an '82' (29.82 seconds), I think it was and pretty much said, 'Let's just leave it alone.'

"It was good throughout practice. We had a good practice in leading up to qualifying."

(DID HE GET A CHANCE TO TEST ANYWEHRE THIS WEEK?) "No, actually we didn't. We talked about it, but we didn't have time. We had a lot of stuff going on at the shop and we just didn't have a chance to go anywhere. So I worked in my basement all week and they worked on motors all week, but we didn't go anywhere."

BOBBY LABONTE , NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: (ON THE IMPORTANCE OF WINNING THE POLE BASED ON THE UNCERTAINTY OF TOMORROW'S RACE) "I think it's real important, not just for pit position, like always, but for the chance that we can start up front and see how it is. If it is tough to pass, definitely the position to start with is good. I'm not saying we'll stay there all day. But it's just like anything else. It doesn't really matter where you start, but if you start up front, it sure is nice."

(CAN THE RACE BE RUN ON TWO PIT STOPS TOMORROW?) "I'm not really sure yet. I'm sure we can go a lot further than we did last time, but I'm not sure we know the number just yet. We'll probably fine-tune that as we go or figure that out more this last practice. I'm sure that (crew chief) Jimmy (Makar) and (engine builder) Mark (Cronquist) have an idea in their mind because they know what the fuel flow was on the dyno compared to what it was before, so they've calculated that out. They just didn't tell me."

(DOES HE FEEL LIKE THIS IS 'HIS YEAR' YET?) "I think we're still digging. We've had some good fortune throughout the year. We've had some great races and been real fortunate. It just makes you more excited about each race that you go to, but I feel like we're still digging. I feel like we can't relax at all. It's like Jeff Burton - he's not giving up, neither can we, neither can (Dale) Earnhardt, neither can (Dale) Jarrett, Tony (Stewart) is fifth in points and Rusty (Wallace) is sixth in points. We're definitely in the mode just like we were throughout the first 25 races. We've got to work hard and make each one count, make each lap count and make each position count. We're still working hard at it. I think it's actually where you're more focused now than you might have been 10 or 20 races ago. You know what you've got in front of you now."

(HAS HE LEARNED ANYTHING IN PAST CHAMPIONSHIP RUNS THAT WILL HELP HIM THIS YEAR?) "I think so. Just the fact that consistency is the key and those years we were consistent. In '91 we won the points in the Busch Series. In '92 we lost by three and last year we finished second. You learn a lot and you try to focus on everything. Sometimes you can kind of pinpoint problems that keep you out of it, but then again, sometimes you can't. I think you learn a lot, but there are things that you just figure upon and you just realize what you're doing in the stream of things. You've kind of got a better grasp on it, but it's nothing that says, 'We've got 20 more horsepower or better somethings,' or something like that. You can't really figure that into it. I think it's just a matter of a lot of times everything just falls in place for you. There are guys that have won championships before where it might not be falling place and it's not a tangible thing. It's just a lot of little things."

(WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF THERE HAD BEEN NO PRACTICE YESTERDAY?) "I think this morning we would have started off the same, but we would have changed a lot of stuff. There was just kind of like a free practice the way I look at it. Then this morning we came in here with our mindset of, 'Well, we've got to go qualify now.' Yesterday we weren't really trying to qualify. We weren't really trying to have a race set-up. We were kind of in between. That kind of got our bearings going as far as driving in the corner and what the car might take for today, so it was kind of a 'freebie' practice. That's what I think it was."

(ANY IDEA WHAT THE RACING MIGHT BE LIKE TOMORROW?) "It's kind of hard to tell. I can't predict that. I really don't have a good feeling for it yet. I'm not really sure. We haven't even practiced with anybody to speak of, so I'm not sure what it's going to do."

(IS THERE ANY DIFFERENCE IN HOW JOE GIBBS IS MANAGING THE TEAM THIS YEAR IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP RACE?) "I think it's probably a work in progress. It didn't just happen overnight. We've all been together for a long time. Everything is maturing and we're just working real hard at it. Over the course of the years you find your mistakes or faults and mistakes and faults, and you just try to make them better. I think his prize possession is making sure that we all stay focused on it, keep upbeat and if you have a bad day, don't let it get you down too far. That keeps the motivation going and keeps building a strong team and keeps a strong team strong, week in and week out and never lets you lose focus on what you're working towards. It's no different than it was five years ago. I think it just all comes together when everything else is working, too."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton