Pontiac Racing Pontiac Race Notes

JOHN ANDRETTI, NO. 43 STP/CHEERIOS PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "I'm pretty happy. I think it was that screwed up deal at the beginning where everybody behind us pitted and got tires. We had a really good car but everybody behind us had a better car...


"I'm pretty happy. I think it was that screwed up deal at the beginning where everybody behind us pitted and got tires. We had a really good car but everybody behind us had a better car because they had new tires. We talked about it and we were going to come with the leaders. But we weren't close enough to the leaders to worry about what they were doing. We probably should have gone ahead and done it. But you don't want to give up a bunch of track position, and then all-of-a-sudden, nobody else behind you pits. So you are a zero if you do, you're a zero if you don't. Considering everything we had to come back from, it was a pretty good day. Jeff Gordon got really lucky on that one deal, and he is the one that got us a lap down. Otherwise, circumstances would have been different for us. So the beginning hurt us, but that's the thing that killed us."


"The Caterpillar team did a great job for me. If we keep knocking on the door we'll get one." (DISAPPOINTED?) "Not really. I'm not going to put any undo pressure on ourselves. If we keep running like that, a win will come for us. It has been awhile, but we got a top five finish and I'm happy with that." (HIS RACE IN GENERAL) "We adjusted on the car all day. We started out way too tight and we got loose on long runs. Right there at the end was actually our better run. We just didn't have the track position. But we're pretty happy with a top five finish this early in the season." (DID YOU THINK YOU COULD WIN) "Oh yeah, I'm thinking about that every time we get in the car. It just wasn't our day. It was track position. The 18 and the 3 car and the 20 really for that matter had gotten away from us a little bit on the end of the last run before this one. We had just gotten really loose and that set the stage. We were able to adjust the car and they did a great job of that, and came back and got the 20 car, but we just ran out of time." (DID YOU ADJUST TO BE TTER AT THE END) "Yeah, right there at the end. That's how we got the 20 car. We were actually quite a few tenths quicker than the 3 car and I think we were at least the same speed as the 18. So had we had track position we could have mad e whale of a race out of it." (DID THE MONTE CARLO LOOK EQUAL TO THE GRAND PRIX) "I raced with the 4 car at first and the 4 car was, at times, faster than I was. He was getting the job done. At the same time, the 2 car and the 99 and some of the other guys had some trouble in Fords, but the Fords were right there among us. It was pretty equal from what I saw." (ON COMING SO CLOSE AGAIN TO A WIN) "The media is my friend. But I can't let the media put undo pressure on myself and my team. I feel like if we do that, I'm going to drive and take chances I shouldn't. At the end of last year, Tommy and I were both trying and doing things that were over our head - over what the equipment would let us do. We've just got to keep doing what we're doing. We're trying to run all the laps first, and race as hard as we can every lap, also, but we've got to finish the races to try to win. We've just got to wait our turn. If we keep getting good cars like today, it will come." (HOW DID YOU FEEL THIS MORNING) "I felt good. I was pumped up. My wife fixed me a good meal this morning. I got up and played with Jeb and Sarah, so I was ready to go." (DID DAVE BLANEY NOT QUALIFYING HURT YOUR EFFORT) "It probably didn't effect the data today, but it definitely wasn't good for Bill Davis Racing. In time, we hope to work as one team, but it's going to take some adjusting." (ANY SURPRISE WITH WHO PITTED ON THE FIRST STOP) "It was pretty early. With the 2 car leading, he decided not to come in. Our chassis had actually faded. We had fallen back five or six spots, so that was a pretty good move for us to come in, not only to adjust the car, but also to learn from the adjustments. We really didn't lose but about six spots when we came in, so it was a good wise decision to do that because we learned a lot about the car for the rest of the day." (ANYTHING ABOUT ROCKINGHAM YOU LIKE SPECIFICALLY) "There have been some times like this race last year, I ran lousy. This past fall race, we finished second. Tommy and I and Doug and all the guys just came up with a good set-up that helped us run today, but it wasn't the same set-up. So it is more about team. I've just been fortunate to have some good teams give me some good cars here."


"It was a lot of hard work. We changed motors this morning and we had a problem with one part inside the engine after we buttoned it up and were thinking everything was fine. We checked one last thing and something didn't look right, so Mark changed the motor. So they put a brand new engine in it last night. I had all the confidence in the world in Joe Gibbs Racing, and Jimmy and Mark and everybody that works here for giving me a great race car to work with. Jimmy can vouch that we worked really hard on the set-up today, because this track is really temperamental, I think. We still adjusted on it all day. I don't know what perfect is here. We adjusted on it. We were too loose, the too tight and then we never really got it freed up. Earnhardt was so good on long runs we knew we had to adjust for the short runs and be better, and know we're going to give up a little bit. Do you go fast and give up, or do you try to take care of your tires and give up less? He'd been doing it all day, so he was better at it evidently. If I tried one time, was that going to be enough or not? It worked out good enough at the end that he wasn't able to catch us or pass us. He was catching us every time at the end of a long run. We just were able stand up in front of him that time." (WHAT MADE THE CAR BETTER TODAY) "It was just some changes we made this morning, that you never know until you get on the racetrack. I came in there kind of early and talked to Jimmy a little bit and we made few changes from yesterday afternoon. We finished practice, talked about making some changes, and then before we got on the racetrack, we changed some of that. We just tried to make sure we hit everything right. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don't. This track is so finicky as far as handling goes, it is hard to get perfect for a 65 lap run. Yesterday I ran 50 laps of practice and I was about to wreck at the end, so to go 65 laps today, I had to be pretty patient with the car." (TRAFFIC) "In that last run I caught a lot of traffic and they were all just trying to maintain their position on the racetrack. It was hard to get by. High, low - what do you choose, because some guys were passing high and some guys were passing low, so you really had to pick and choose. Earnhardt caught me a little bit through traffic, even though he had to go through it. I wasn't quite as difficult because it seemed like once I got through it, it spread out. When I caught it they were all bunched up. Then they spread out when I got through it. You can run high. You can run low, which makes it a beauty throughout the race as far as your set-up goes. You can change your line and change your strategy as far as running throughout the race - bottom, middle, top and even higher." (JOE GIBBS RACING) "It goes back to a lot of hard work on Jimmy and Greg's part on both teams. This is a brand new race car we tested over the winter time. We brought it here, and thought it would be maybe a tick better, but didn't know. I don't think it was much different than our other cars. I just wanted to try it myself basically. I think it just goes back to hard work. It's the same thing that we had here last time. If you look at our lap times I don't think it is much different than last fall or last spring. Even though there is a year on the racetrack, Goodyear brought a different tire so that makes it a little bit better. To win this early is exciting. To know we've got that underneath our belt we can just go week in and week out, just like we did this weekend and last weekend. Just work as hard as we can for today, and really don't think much past today. I'm not sure I'm going to sleep tonight to be honest with you. I know the next thing will be, 'Well, do you think you are OK for a championship?' This is only the second race. We've got a long ways to go. I'm not even thinking about that. All I'm worried about is today. Tomorrow I'll worry about tomorrow."


"The guys on this Home Depot crew did a great job, Greg and all the guys. We got a lap down early and kept working at it and kept trying to get back on the lead lap. We got on the lead lap and got in the top five. Probably the driver was hurting us a little bit today. He probably drove a little too hard at the beginning of runs and was hurting the tires a little too much. We couldn't get the balance right. It was either a little too loose or a little too tight. We at least have a good starting point for the fall race now. We got going pretty good in the middle part of the race. But I think Bobby and Earnhardt and those guys, a bunch of them made improvements on their cars past that point. We kept trying to make improvements but we went a little too far on the next stop and then had to come back, and came back too far the last stop. We couldn't get it quite right but we were pretty good today." (DID YOU EXECUTE A LOT OF PATIENCE TODAY) "You always have to here. It is so hard on tires. This new tire they brought, it took us a while to really get acclimated to it. I'm not sure we really figured it out yet. The nice thing is we will have a pretty good starting point as far as set-ups for the fall race now." (WORKING WELL WITH BOBBY LABONTE) "We always work together. That's what being part of a two-car team is all about is helping the other guy out."


(HIS INSTRUCTIONS TO BOBBY AT THE END) "We had talked about how strong Earnhardt was those previous two runs. We knew he had a very, very fast race car at the end of it, but both times he would just get to us at the end of a run. So we knew going into that last segment there that we were going to have to get a lead and he was going to have to run us back down, and have a lead that was going to be enough that he wouldn't have time to get to us. That was sort of the game plan all along, was to get out front far enough to where he didn't have enough time to run us down before the end of the race." (ON EARNHARDT) "I typically give Bobby lap times of the car behind so he knows how he is running, and there was one segment there where we were leading the race, and all of a sudden Earnhardt ran up to second. He was like a tenth and a half per lap faster than us and I made the comment that I had no idea where he had come from, but he is a tenth and half quicker than us. Then somebody mentioned he was running the top line and that he had changed his line a little bit. I think he found a good place on the racetrack. His car was working very well late in a run. That sort of set the stage. We knew he had found something for late in runs, and we were going to have to counter with something of our own."


(ON RETURNING TO GREAT RACING AFTER DAYTONA) "Daytona was a great race. It's just not like what you are used to seeing. But to me it was the greatest race I've ever run there because I did not have to be bare knuckled, scared to death, all day long. I could drive my race car. So think about it. If we all said it was a great, we'd all feel like it was a great race. Then everybody would be happy. But it was a good race, just like this one here. It was a good race. Daytona was good, so was this." (WHY WAS THIS ROCKINGHAM RACE SO MUCH BETTER) "I was fortunate enough to be three-wide here last year with Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon early on, maybe not as much as today. But I'm not sure why it all of a sudden just showed up. I don't think it just showed up. I think it's been there. That one caution flag where a lot of guys didn't pit 19 laps into it, Rusty and I stayed out, the top 15 stayed out and other guys came in and Bobby Hamilton and Ward Burton and those guys came by us and then we all got exchanged on tires - that created for a lot of racing throughout the whole pack, I think. Maybe that's what we're talking about as far as that goes because we were two laps down and then guys would come in, we were back on the lead lap and then we were two laps down. That made for a lot of great racing because the tire wear does give out after 50 laps." (MORE FUN RUNNING DIFFERENT LINES) "Yeah, that's one thing about Rockingham. Four race ago I couldn't say that because I never could find the right line. But the past three races we've been able to hit upon the right combination where it works out good for us. I've always liked Rockingham because even when I didn't run good it's like, 'Well, at least you can either get out of the way or find something to make your car better if you weren't as good.' We ran low for a long period of time. My car was pushing and I still ran low. Then I got loose and I ran up high. At least you can have different options to run. That's why I think it does lend to good racing and side-by-side racing, and options for Dale Earnhardt to have it better on a long run and Bobby not to have it as good on a long run, but better on a short run because of the lines that we were taking. Maybe next time, I might try to think about what he did and try to work on that point." (HOW IMPORTANT TO GET THE WIN HERE) "This is one of the tracks that I didn't really run good at until the past two races. You know what top fives and top 10s have been for me. Early on, it's great. Last year we were so close a few times, and then we won on gas mileage at Dover. I told my wife it's going to happen when it happens and when it's meant to be. This is just neat. To be able to come out of Daytona and focus back on not being somewhere for 10 days or 11 days, trying to find a half a horsepower or a half a count of drag less, and come over here and be able to drive off in the corner too far or not far enough, and use the brake and use the gas pedal, and slip and slide - I thought that was a lot more fun for me today. I told Jimmy, I think I came here in 1978 and ran a go-kart. I came here a lot of times in a go-kart and never won, so it was pretty sweet to win at Rockingham." (DID HE EASE OFF AT THE END) "I did take care of my tires more that last run - 65 laps that we had or 64 laps on tires - because I knew the last time in 64 or 65 laps, he was on my bumper, and before that he passed me. So I knew, 'Now, could I slow down and be faster at the end like he has? I don't know. My car might not let me do that.' His set-up was different. I'm sure it was a lot different than mine." (DID YOU PICK IT UP THE LAST TWO OR THREE LAPS) "We hit a lot of traffic. I think that had something to do with it. He got caught a couple times. I just hit my marks better when I got a free lap. I was better and faster down low, but I was wearing out my tires quicker. So for the most part that run I was up high. Then I got down low. Whether I had anything left, it was just by virtue of having something left more than I had the previous times." (DID HE THINK EARNHARDT COULD CATCH HIM) "Yeah, I though he could. Like I said, he had done it before and he got to our bumper. When we left pit road we got off pit road in front of him and the two times before that I had to pass him, and he just let me go. I know his philosophy for the day was to take care of his tires and be better in the long run, and he just said, 'Here, you take the carrot and you go as fast you can and I'll catch you in a little bit,' and that's what happened. So that last time I thought he was going to come up on me again. Jimmy said, 'You've got five and half seconds on him,' and it wasn't 10 laps later it was three and a half. It wasn't 10 more laps and it was two and a half. And we had done raced through traffic, slipping and sliding and all that stuff, and I was afraid he was going to get to that point again like he had earlier and get me. But either I had something left, or time ran out." (DOES EARNHARDT MAKE YOU NERVOUS WHEN HE'S IN SECOND) "Yeah." (HOW NERVOUS) "Yeah. Real nervous. We were on the way to a photo shoot and he passed me on the road one time, and I got nervous then. There is not difference in that." (ON JOE GIBBS MOTHER) "I know it's a personal matter. But all I do know is I asked J.D. (Gibbs), 'How is your grandmother,' and he said, 'Holding on.' That's all I really know to be honest with you. I knew he went down there during Daytona week all week back-and-forth, and went back Wednesday. That's all I know." (GIBBS RACING WINNING FOUR OF THE LAST FIVE WINSTON CUP RACES) "Over the winter, I get nervous. I'm always like, 'Can we get back on track, can we get back on track.' I have no idea. You never know what the competition is going to bring to you. After we got down there (Daytona) last week, we were kind of like, 'OK, we can get better than this. We can get better than this.' We came back with a good run through some adversity - through the pit road deal last week. A top six finish - man, that was good. We were happy with that. We weren't satisfied, but were happy that we came from where we started to that point from 10 days earlier. Then today, it's just another great tribute to hard work by a bunch of guys. It's a great team effort again. We can't ask for anything better right now." (DRIVING IN VARYING SPEED TRAFFIC) "I gave a lot of input to our spotter. You can look in the mirror like I do every lap. I look in the mirror every lap, and it seems like you can see a guy - he looks like he is back there and the next time you know, he is right beside you because he has got tires on. You get lulled into it sometimes because you don't realize they've got tires on. I relied on Eddie (spotter). I told him, I said, 'I could use some good words like 'coming strong, behind you - new tires, fresh tires, really coming, 40 laps on them or whatever,' just to give me an indication. You slow down probably two seconds from the time you start until the time you pit. You can see a guy come by and just blow right by you on tires. You really have to be watching so you can change your groove to accommodate where he is going to pass you, because chances are he is going to pass you on the inside for the most part." (DID IT SEEM SUSPICIOUS WHEN EARNHARDT LET LABONTE PASS HIM) "No. I was suspicious before the race started. It was just one of those deals. I knew in practice yesterday the way his car looked like it was set-up different than mine, and I kind of had a feeling what his strategy was. I knew he had to stick with it, or he would have been worse off at the end. I wasn't too suspicious. I knew what I had to do because my set-up was accommodating for me. I think I learned a little bit on that deal. Hopefully, I just took it as good advice instead of being suspicious." (WHAT HAS LED TO YOUR NEW FOUND SUCCESS HERE) "Gee, I don't know. We went about the combination of a set-up a lot different than before I think. The past three races have basically been the same thing. We were just kind of beating a dead horse for awhile set-up wise, and we were just gaining a little bit and a little bit. This race last year we came in with a little different set-up, and I was able to give them better feedback. It just kind of grows from there."


(PIT ROAD IMPROVEMENT BY THE TEAM TODAY) "Pitting is always important. Every race we go to we all know how pit stops can contribute to winning a race. We were embarrassed at Daytona to put it honestly. When we got home on Monday morning, we all sat down and talked about it, and tried to figure out how we were going to fix the problem we thought we might have had there. That's what we did. We put our heads together and came up with some ideas on what we could change on our pit stops - the way we did them, the mechanics of them - and alleviate that situation we had in Daytona from ever happening again. Today was the first time we tried it. We didn't know if it would work or not. But obviously it worked very well. We were very happy with the way things worked out. The guys did a tremendous job on both teams. We weren't pitted together on pit road, but the way the stops went, we were very pleased with them." (HOW MANY LAPS UNTIL EARNHARDT CAUGHT LABONTE) "I think about four or five probably. I don't know. Four or five before he got to us, and then it was up to my little friend right here to take care of the business when it came time to take care of business. He would have caught us in four or five. But catching and passing are two different things."


"James Ince made a lot of great calls today. The guys did great pit stops and allowed us to get back to 14th. That's about as good as we were. The car wouldn't go the extra long program like we needed. But I think we've got an idea for the next time we come back. The guys did a tremendous job all weekend." (SHORT PITTING) "Every time you come and short pit, you know that you're going to be a second and a half or two seconds faster here at Rockingham, so you've just got to be careful. Like James said, 'Go as fast as you can, but don't cause a yellow.' That's what we needed to do. I think we pretty much did that all day. We didn't cause any yellows, so that part ended up good."


"Coming in on the first caution was the best move we made all day. New tires were definitely the way to go there. The car was good all day. We only had to make one change all day because the car was really handling good. We had a great charge late in the race to pick up some positions. This isn't bad."


"You're going to get sick of hearing this. We're building. We had some good stops. We made adjustments where we needed to. The crew learned some more, I learned some more. We're feeling it out, learning how to make it work. We're building. It will all come with time." (ADJUSTMENTS) "Early on, we lowered the track bar, experimented with rubbers in the front right. The car was pushing. We were trying to work that out."


"I don't know what happened. I really don't. Either a tire went down on the right front or something broke in that right front assembly. All of a sudden, I'm into the wall. It's a shame. I thought we were holding our own there for awhile. The crew gave me some real good pit stops for our first effort this season. After the repairs we made, we got back on the track and the car felt really good. Toward the end, we were posting some of our best laps. I wish it could have been better for everyone. But we'll go out to Las Vegas and see if we can improve there."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Ward Burton , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton
Teams Bill Davis Racing