Saturday, Oct. 23, 1999 North Carolina Speedway JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "Nothing ever changes. We're just going to try to put the most effort into each and every event. We've got some unique race tracks...
Saturday, Oct. 23, 1999 North Carolina Speedway
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"Nothing ever changes. We're just going to try to put the most effort into each and every event. We've got some unique race tracks coming up that would mean a lot if we could win at them. Rockingham is a track where we think we can win. Then we go to Phoenix, and that's one we haven't won at. We'd like to get a win at. Then we've got Homestead, and that's the first time there for us. We're looking forward to that. We won at Atlanta last year, and we'd like to win there again this year. We've got four good race tracks coming up for us. We'll try to learn a lot at Phoenix and Homestead and hopefully make a bid to win for the first time at those tracks.
"I can't say that winning 10 races this year is something that we're trying to do. We're trying to win as many races as we can, and right now we're at seven. Our goal is to win eight. If we get to eight, then our goal will be to run nine. We're trying to make sure we finish races first, trying to do all the things that should have put us in championship contention. We're just trying to get things consistent and get good finishes, and we know if we're there at the end of the race we're going to have a shot at winning.
"We get an extra day of practice at Homestead. It's a tough race track. It's big and flat and fast and the setup is going to be pretty important. Coming out of Phoenix, that'll be a good thing because Phoenix is such a flat, fast track. We're going to learn a lot about the flat tracks at Phoenix, and that should help us get ready for Homestead.
"I've got a good pit stall (at Rockingham), and I'm really happy about that. Brian Whitesell and I went down and looked at pit road, and said we'd love to get this one or this one and we hope no one gets this one. We got the one we wanted, so it shouldn't change things too much. Pitting on the back straightaway is a huge disadvantage. There's just no way of making it fair. Having one pit road makes it fair for everybody.
"Phoenix is a flat, fast race track and it is tough to win there. I thought we had a car capable of winning there last year and then the rain came. We weren't able to see what we had for them at the end, so each time we go there we learn more and more. It's one of those tracks where we don't go testing. We go and learn as much as we can each and every race. It seems like we gain on it each time we go. Hopefully we'll gain a little bit more than we did the last time we were there and we'll have a shot at winning. That was pretty strange out there last year. The rain came and it was big. I guess that's the way it happens when you're in the desert. It rains pretty hard.
"I think the track (at Rockingham) is the same as it's ever been. There are dips and bumps. Any time you put a tunnel under a race track, there's going to be bumps. I don't care how good of a job they did. It's no different here than it is anywhere else. You have a tunnel right in the middle of three and four and there are some big dips and bumps over the tunnel. Other than that the track is fairly smooth. There's a patch off turn two. I like this race track, so I don't really have any complaints about it. I think the configuration and surface of this race track really falls into the way we like to run a race. Tire management is a big issue here, and I think that's one of the things we do best.
"You set the car up not to go rocket fast on new tires and early in the run, and then you tell the driver not to push the pedal down too hard. You see some guys running the car sideways, running real, real hard at the beginning of the run. It's tough. Sometimes they'll have you by a quarter of a lap. You just say to yourself they're going to come back. When they come back enough times, you realize you're doing the right thing.
"You want to go hard and fast, and it's still hard not to want to do that. I think there are times in the race when you've got to get track position and you've got to keep it, so you've got to run a little harder than you want to, but if there's a way you can keep the car as straight as possible without burning the tires up, it'll pay off in the long run. It's tough to do, but the way we set up the car and because we've won races doing that, it's one of the things we do best.
"Here and Darlington are a lot alike. The surface is very similar. I think the conditions around this race track, the sand and type of dirt and type of weather are very similar. The race surface is very similar also.
"The grip goes away in five or six laps. When it goes away, you've just got to learn to drive the track so it doesn't eat the tires up. These tracks go through weather conditions and they do get worse. The worse they get, the more I like 'em. I don't want them to ever repave it. Even though I won this race when they repaved it, I still would like them to keep it old where it's tearing up tires. I think they're just wasting time repaving this place and Darlington.
"As much as I love winning the championship, there are good and bad things that come along with it. That week in New York will kill you. You're basically up there celebrating and having a good time. Then the week after that you're trying to recuperate. I don't mean from partying. I mean from getting up early every morning and going to bed late at night and talking so much you don't have a voice anymore. It drains you mentally and physically. If I had my choice, I'd rather be there the whole week, but because I'm not, I'm kind of looking forward to coming up there on Thursday and staying there Friday and kind of enjoying New York a little bit. When you don't win the championship, there are other things you get to enjoy in New York, other things you get to do.
"We put pressure on ourselves every race anyway. We're doing the same things we would be doing if we were running for the championship. I would like to hold on to fourth or better in the points. There are just different types of pressure. I'm relaxed and having fun right now because the way the race team is reacting to the changes. That's why I'm having so much fun. All the distractions weren't much fun. Now that the distractions are out of the way, we're enjoying ourselves.
"I think it's smoother than it looks. It really is amazing. I'm having a ball, and Brian is doing a phenomenal job and the guys are supporting everything that's going on. That's what's important. When you've got the support of the team and everybody that's involved is enjoying what's happening and they're playing a part in it, man that's it. That's what it takes. That's why they call it teamwork. You look at any of these teams that have one little glitch in their program, they're probably not winning races and battling for the championship. Right now, we don't have many glitches."
KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
NOTE: Wallace led second-round qualifying on Saturday with a lap of 156.161 mph. He'll start 26th in Sunday's 43-car field.
"You would think that would be a real depressing situation for us since we had a shot at the pole yesterday, but we look at this as an opportunity to persevere and overcome and build a little bit of character. That's the only way we can look at it now because it was devastating yesterday. If it was going to happen at Rockingham, it happened at the perfect time because this is the first time they've got an all front-stretch pit. If it would have happened a race ago, we would have been in deep trouble. I feel good about it.
"The starter locked into the flywheel yesterday. It engaged and would not disengage. We did everything we could do on the line to turn the motor over manually with a wrench, to putting it in third gear and push starting it. It was just welded in there and it wouldn't let the flywheel turn. I'm glad it wasn't something internally in the motor because that would have been somethin g we would have had to worry about, but it was just a simple little starter. We were on the five-minute clock and didn't have time to fix it. That was an awfully quick time this morning. It's been a long time since Rockingham has been this cold. That time would have put us in the top eight yesterday, so I'm ready to go.
"We'd better be able to win from 26th because that's where I'm starting."