Saturday, Feb. 20, 1999. North Carolina Speedway. Qualifying for Sunday's Dura-Lube/Big K-mart 400. Chevrolet notes, quotes. JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) -- "I thought we could run in the high .20 and we did.
Saturday, Feb. 20, 1999. North Carolina Speedway. Qualifying for Sunday's Dura-Lube/Big K-mart 400. Chevrolet notes, quotes.
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) -- "I thought we could run in the high .20 and we did. That's about as high as you can get in those .20s. That's a pretty good lap. The DuPont Chevy has been strong since we've been here. I'm real happy with that. I didn't know if we had a shot at the pole here. To get the pole here you've got to have a near- perfect lap. I pushed the nose just a little bit, but the guys did a great job. We didn't make a qualifying run in that last practice, so we didn't know exactly what we had, but it came in really nice.
"The track is a little tighter. It doesn't have as much rubber on it, but it's good. With the big spoilers, the cars are stuck nice now. I'm really looking forward to the race.
"I think the rain probably just washed a little rubber off the track. I noticed this morning the track was a little bit tighter. I was hoping by the time I went out to qualify that it would free up a little bit. I think it did a little bit, but not enough. I was a little bit tight. It was a great run for us. I'm actually very happy to be sitting in third. We're toward the front, get a good spot on pit road but don't have the pressure of you guys talking about me being on the pole. I like third.
"Last season was last season. This is a new season. We're trying to come in here to Rockingham and get the best finish we can. I feel very good about this race track. The last two times we've been here, we've been very strong. We won a couple of races. I don't know about the four in a row thing. We're just trying to put together a good string of runs. Those top fives we had last year to me impressed me the most. That's what we want to try to continue to do. We know we've got a car capable of winning, but you've got to have all the circumstances work out for you at the same time.
"I believe this is truly where the championship is going to be formed. I think the guys you see run well here, not just here but the next couple of races, are really the ones who will be a threat for the championship. We feel fortunate to get the season started off right like we did in Daytona but there's only four restrictor-plate races. Every race is important, but I think the downforce tracks are the ones that are really important. That's what we have in store, to see how Happy Hour goes and see who's running well in Happy Hour and who comes out of here with top five and top 10 finishes tomorrow. That's really what we're going to be able to judge off of. I don't think we can judge off of what happened in Daytona.
"I have talked to Rusty. I didn't want to be down there. That's where I had to go to make the pass. I had a lot of momentum. I moved down to where I didn't have to go on the apron, but Rusty kept moving down also. We both moved down there. We got down there and saw Ricky. Thank goodness he saw us in his mirror. I could see him at the last couple of seconds starting to move as far left as he could. There was a lot of grass there. There wasn't much he could do. I promise you I would have never run into the back of Ricky. That would have never happened. I would have hit Rusty before I hit you Ricky. I'm just joking. Don't run tell that to Rusty, but Rusty and I talked and he said it was a gutsy move. I didn't want to see a wreck. I was getting ready to let off just before we got to Ricky to get back in behind Rusty or to use him up a little bit and get back on the track. I would never have done that, but I wasn't expecting to be that far down there and Ricky be on the apron at the same time all that came down. I did have in the back of my mind Daytona 500, Valentine's Day, $2 million. There was a lot going on there, and I wanted to win really bad. I went with that move and I stuck with it. I stuck with it as long as I could, and luckily it worked out.
"When you have more spoiler like that you can run on the bottom a little bit longer. In the past, what's happened here, the downforce is not there so you can't keep the car on the bottom of the race track so you start to see the groove form up high. I think that has made for a really good race here, but this is really one of the few race tracks that it's really helped make a good race. I think that's because the pavement is worn down and it gets slick and greasy. At the same time, we couldn't run side by side much here even though there were two grooves. It was like one guy went up there and one guy went way down low. If you tried to get right up next to the guy, you really got loose bad. I think that's going to help us run side by side a little bit better. In my opinion it (bigger spoilers) is better in all aspects. Some guys might not agree because they had the balance of their cars just right with the way it used to be, but I definitely like it.
"The tires go off real quick here because it's very abrasive. You drive in the corner and you're basically just sliding the front of the car. It's not sticking to the race track and you just wait for it to stop sliding. You have to judge your entrance speed into the corners. What happens is as the track gets rubber on it from the bottom to the top, you start to find areas of the track that don't have as much rubber on it. Sometimes that's inches off the wall. Sometimes late in the race, you'll actually find it in the middle of the race track where other guys are running low and high. This is why I like this track. You have to search all day long for the right groove that matches the setup on your car. There's nobody that has the perfect setup for this race track because the race track is going to change all day long.
"I think this is one person's opinion (SI article). You'd be surprised, especially with being up there this week. I couldn't believe how many people from New York were like 'man, what a great race (Daytona 500). You've made a race fan out of me. I've never watched a race, but I watched that one. The closing laps.' Every interview I did, it seemed to be opening up the eyes of a lot of people and opening up the eyes to new fans that are going to follow the sport. I think the only thing missing from the people in that area is a race track. They have two football teams, two basketball teams, a couple of hockey teams, they've got everything. Man, they're big on their teams, the Yankees, the Mets, the Jets, the Rangers, they're big in those teams and they don't look outside a lot of that. If there was a race that came in there, I think they would get a great appreciation. Even down here, not everybody likes what we do, I'm sure. Not everybody watches it. I think most of 'em do enjoy it. I haven't read this (SI article), but I don't know if we can base what's happening in the Northeast or areas that are not big NASCAR areas off this article.
"I would say a few different groups have probably talked to NASCAR about wanting to do something in that area. I'd say he (Donald Trump) is probably one of them. I think NASCAR, I don't control dates and race tracks. Hopefully I help draw more ticket sales, but that's a good question for the guys over in the truck. If you've been to New York very often, you know it's not going to happen in Manhattan unless they're going to take Central Park out of the way. I don't think they're going to do that for a race track. You have to look where some of the other sport venues or arenas are, and you look where there's open land. If they came and said we'd like to make you an owner, I think I'd take a look at it. If they're doing it to attract a date, I think they'd be coming to the wrong person. I don't know where we can fit another date in there, but if we're going to do it, in that area, that would be a good area for us to be in. That is a place we struggle with trying to get recognition."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) -- "I needed about 10 more yards down there in one and two to get back in the throttle. I was a little off down there. I was good in three and four. The car is running great, and the engine is good. We'll be OK, hopefully. I think everybody is going to run fast. I would have liked to been down in the .30s, but I was just a little off in one and two. I needed to be a tick better. I think you're going to see some better racing on Sunday with the bigger spoilers. The tire wear should be better, and I think you're going to see some side-by-side racing. We had a good run at Daytona, and we want to keep it up here. We're concentrating on those top fives, and if we're around at the end, then we'll go for that checkered flag."
DAVE MARCIS (No. 71 Realtree Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "That was a good lap for us. It was much better than we practiced. I went over to Mike Skinner's guys and talked to them about some shocks this morning. They gave me an idea about the shocks. I put 'em on, but we didn't get any practice on 'em. That was the first run on them right there qualifying, and they definitely picked us up. That was a pretty good lap. I was pretty confident it would make it."
MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "Our Lowe's Chevy ran awful good right off the truck, and Rockingham is a place where we struggle as a rule. I think that should stay somewhere in the top 15 or 20 I hope. We're going to try to get this Chevrolet ready to go racing. Yesterday we thought we might have a shot at the pole, but it just wasn't as good today. We're going to take that and get it ready to race. We never ran over two laps at once yesterday. (Long runs) is what Happy Hour is for. Hopefully, we're going to be happy after Happy Hour. The car slid a lot worse in two. When we got off two and hadn't hit anything, I figured we'd better be a little more conservative in three and four. I probably left a little bit on the table in three and four, but as much as we've struggled at Rockingham, that's a good lap. We'll take it and start wherever we end up."
GEOFFREY BODINE (No. 60 Power Team Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "We picked up a bunch. We're pretty happy with that. We picked up about half a second. The more you run on this track the more slippery it gets, but it's pretty good out there right now. There are some fast cars out there and they're going fast. We'll just have to wait and see how we stack up."
DAVID GREEN (No. 41 Kodiak Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "The track is a little bit tighter right now, and we were a little tighter. We're going to keep our fingers crossed, but that should be good enough to get us in the show."
KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "I drove the car really hard and went through one and two really good. I got down into turn three and I chopped the corner. I didn't enter the corner as far out as I wanted to and it picked up a push. We should have run in the low .30s, but that's what everybody thinks. I'm just glad I'm on the low end of the .40s because it looks like between .40 and .50 will be a lot of spots. The weather didn't affect my car at all. Right now, is exactly about how it was when we tested, and this is what we ran when we tested. With a new team, if you reach for the stars and don't get there, you get a little disappointed, so we're right where we want to be with a new team. We're on the frontstretch and between the pole and me right now is not even a tenth, so we want to be consistent all day in the race."
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "We were fifth yesterday on the banzai run. We ran what we ran yesterday, but the car was a little tight today. Hopefully that will get us on the front straightaway. I don't ever qualify good here, but we race good. It looks like the normal deal for me. I can't tell any difference in the track after all that rain. It's still slick. It's still Rockingham."
BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "The car did what we needed it to do. I thought it was pretty nice of NASCAR to give us an extra set of tires this morning. The track is good. This place is pretty abrasive, and it doesn't change much. We're going to have a good race Sunday. I think you're going to see four or five grooves."
JOE NEMECHEK (No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "Our BellSouth Chevrolet ran pretty good. We weren't super good in practice, but the guys tuned on it a little bit and I had to check up a little bit in three and four. You've got to have a consistent car for the race. Last year I thought we were pretty decent, and I think we've made some improvements. We should be pretty good. I think the spoilers need to be even bigger yet for everybody. It just makes the cars more stable and keeps them from getting so loose."
KEN SCHRADER (No. 33 Skoal Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "You always want a little better, but we can't complain. It was the best we'd run. I knew it would be a little bit better. I was hoping for a little more, but we had a little problem off turn two. We just had to wait a little bit and that cost us some time, but we've got no complaints. We celebrated last year when we started 14th here, so I think we'll be better."
TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "I thought we could have been a little bit quicker. I really didn't get through three and four that good. That'll get us a good starting spot. We're on the frontstretch, so that's OK. We loosened our car up a little bit, and the track is tighter. It rained quite a bit. I like those bigger spoilers. The bigger the better."
MICHAEL WALTRIP (No. 7 Philips Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "We ran a .58 in practice, and I was all over the place. We made a couple of changes to the car, and when I made that run it handled good and stuck better. I figured I'd run in the .30s at least. I'm a little disappointed with that .49, but I'm happy we'll get on the frontstretch. It keeps you realistically thinking you can come out of here with something good. That's what we needed. I just got too high in turn four yesterday in practice. I got higher than I needed to be and had a problem keeping it off the wall. This backup is a good car, and I think we're going to be in good shape."
WALLY DALLENBACH (No. 25 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "We ran almost the same time that we practiced. We needed to go faster. We'll be pitting on the backstretch, so we've got our work cut out for us, but we've got a good car."