Note: Pontiac Grand Prix teams hope to continue the hot pace they have set through the first 10 races of the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. Pontiac teams have posted three poles, one win, 11 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes. A year ago...
Note: Pontiac Grand Prix teams hope to continue the hot pace they have set through the first 10 races of the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. Pontiac teams have posted three poles, one win, 11 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes. A year ago after 10 races, Pontiac teams had three top-five and nine top-10 finishes. That's an increase of 266.6 percent in top-five finishes and 177.7 percent in top-10s. Pontiac has three teams in the top-10 of the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings -- Bobby Labonte (third), Tony Stewart (sixth) and Ward Burton (ninth). Last year, Labonte (ninth) was the only Pontiac driver ranked in the top-10 after 10 races. Pontiac has had at least three top-10 finishers in six of 10 races this season. Pontiac Grand Prix teams look to showcase further improvement in Saturday's Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Note: Bobby Labonte has six top-five and seven top-10 finishes. Those marks are up over marks of three top-five and four top-10 finishes after 10 races last season. His point total after 10 races is 1,390, compared to 1,169 points at the same point last season.
BOBBY LABONTE (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix): "Everybody's got more spoiler now (new NASCAR rules for all makes versus last season) and that makes things more stable. To me, the Pontiacs are running better because of their teams, too. Look at Tony Stewart and John Andretti. Rich Bickle is running well lately and Kyle Petty had two consecutive top-10s before Talladega, and he ran well there, too. You can't count many Pontiac teams out now. While some are just tweaking here and there, others are improving by leaps and bounds. They're catching up quick. Look at Kyle's deal. the first few races they struggled and now they've gotten better. John winning at Martinsville proved Petty Enterprises has its act together. They put that merger together during the offseason and its just take a while for things to mesh together. I just think Pontiac has better quality in its teams. Tony's been running well all year. "I don't think people can argue we don't win races because we're running a Pontiac. I think this team has a shot to win almost every track we go to. The race tracks where we don't have a shot at winning are not because it's the car's fault. It's my fault. I don't think a guy who wins in a Grand Prix thinks, 'Man, I can't believe I've won because I'm in a Pontiac.' It's like, 'Hey, I won!' Pontiac teams can expect to win races."
Note: Tony Stewart is coming off two consecutive top-five finishes. After 10 races, he compares very favorably to the results Jeff Gordon posted in his rookie season. After 10 races, each had two top-five and four top-10 finishes. However, Gordon had four DNFs and Stewart has none. In addition, Stewart ranks sixth in points. Gordon was 10th. Two weeks ago, Stewart tested at Richmond and shattered the track qualifying record, nearly reaching 127 mph.
TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "We worked a lot on qualifying stuff and worked on some race setups. The hard thing is, the track puts sealer on it every year in the spring and it kind of makes you chase the race car around a little bit. You don't really know what's going to happen when you go back there. We're really happy with the way the test session worked out and I'm excited about coming back to Richmond. That's one of the tracks where I haven't had much luck at. I've never really run well there in a stock car. If we can go back there and run fairly respectably, I'll be happy with that. "If we can keep running in the top-five I'll be tickled to death. I'm just tired of everybody asking me when I'm going to win a race. When it's our time, we'll win a race. I keep preaching the same thing since the first day. All I want to do is be consistent. Right now we're doing that and that's the important part."
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 STP Pontiac Grand Prix): "I feel good about going to all the races with this team. I'm obviously better at some tracks than at others. I think Richmond is a good race track for me and this team. We ran well there last year. We made up a couple of laps under green and finished fifth in the fall race. We've got an opportunity to run good again there. The biggest worry I have going to Richmond is qualifying. We qualified ninth there last year, but we had to pit under green because we had a grill stuck on our back bumper. I'm not so worried about qualifying now there because of that. That proved wherever I start we'll get up front at Richmond."
KYLE PETTY (No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac Grand Prix): "My opinion is last year regarding Pontiac should have never happened. Ninety-seven was a great year for the Pontiacs, at least the last third of it (two wins). We ended the season strong and then they took the Pontiacs, all intents and purposes, out of the picture for the 1998 season. They took more spoiler and more front air dam away from us than the other makes. Now they've put the Pontiacs back in the 1999 season. We're basically back to the rules we ended the 1997 season with. When they changed the rules we were pumped up all winter long because we thought we'd be back to where we were at the end of 1997. Our team hasn't been able to capitalize on it yet because we moved my team back to Petty Enterprises and it's just started up. (Crew chief) Doug (Hewitt) and I are just getting used to one another. There's still been definite improvement for us. There's been improvement for the 43. All of us see improvement. Most of the Pontiac teams have improved. Ernie Irvan's team has improved, they've just had some bad luck."