Rockingham Chevy Race Preview and Quotes

DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "I'm in fair shape. I'm in a lot better shape than I've been in here in the past. I feel good about our qualifying effort. That gives us a good opportunity to go forward instead of...

DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo)

"I'm in fair shape. I'm in a lot better shape than I've been in here in the past. I feel good about our qualifying effort. That gives us a good opportunity to go forward instead of having to work from the back. You've got to manage the tires. You've got to. Position and race traffic works, too. We're just going to use our heads and we'll be fine. I think the Fords are going to be a factor. They've got a lot of downforce, and they're trying to balance like we are. They've got a lot of front downforce that we ain't got. My car is a little skatey in the middle. The Pontiacs look real good, Bobby Labonte and them. We're struggling a little bit, but we'll be OK. We'll just have to get after it like we do every year here. We'll drive the wheels off of it, but we'll be up against the wall if we ain't handling.

"The car and Kevin (crew chief Hamlin) got the balance on the car. That's a big thing. You've got to understand the balance on these cars. If you can get the balance halfway decent and get the car turning, you can get hooked up and go. I want to outrun them all, not just one of them. It would have been great if we could have won the pole yesterday, but we got close. I'm really happy and sort of surprised at what we ran in qualifying. It would have been great to outrun them all, but maybe we can do that Sunday. That would be even greater."

MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"When you take all the tape off the front end of the Monte Carlo (qualifying trim), you've taken all the downforce away. That's why the car handles real good in qualifying and will probably be a little too pushy getting in the corners in race trim. It's got pretty good rear grip and not too good front grip. We're unhooking the rear trying to make up for the front. That's basically what we're doing. I hope a Chevrolet with a 31 on it wins Sunday. We're going to do the very best job we can. We're going to keep working on this thing until we get it developed and get Chevrolet back up front.

"We're not great on the long runs, but we're not terrible. It's just one of those situations where you've got to get in the race and see what happens. What we've seen here historically is one manufacturer's car runs one way in practice and then you get in the race and they all stack up and you've got all the air running around the cars and they run different in the race. We've just got to get in race configuration. We've done it on a superspeedway, and now we need to do it at Rockingham and see how we stack up.

"Ten would be a good number. If we could come in and get tires after every 10 laps without losing laps, I think we can win this race. I don't think we can do that. I think they're going to make me stay out there 60-100 laps. That's a long time on these tires. After 10 laps, you're just sliding around. We made a couple of 30 or 35-lap runs this morning. I'd say we slowed down about a second after 30 laps."

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)

"It looks like a lot of guys are having trouble in traffic, not just the Chevys. I know my car in traffic, when I'm behind cars, it really starts to lose the nose. That's what we expected. By myself, I felt really good. Here and Darlington, those two places, have similar characteristics. They really eat the tires up fast, and this race is really about tire management."

"You've got to be smooth and in the throttle and just take care of everything. Downforce certainly helps that, too. Last year, I tried to take care of my tires all I could and it didn't make a difference really.

"Anything is possible. We saw that last year with (Tony) Stewart. They've got good cars and good equipment and they've got some good guidance. I definitely think that experience really helps a lot here manage the tires and know where you can stick your nose in there and ride hard and when you need to take care of everything. If they (rookies) learn that early in the race and it doesn't set 'em back too much, I think you'll really see them come on strong toward the end.

"I think the only thing they can change (on pit road) is the car stops and then they go over the wall. You're going to have to have somebody there to monitor every single car. Right now, they get one pit box away and they can go over the wall. They're already in front of the car. Most drivers know whether they've got brakes or not, but a lot of times, especially at a place like Daytona, your tires and brakes and everything are so hot, you come in there and you just barely get on the brakes and the tires lock up and the cars just slide. I don't know. It's either that or slow the pit road speeds down. You do that and everybody is going to be complaining about green flag stops. I'm sure they're looking into it because we definitely don't want to see those things happen.

"You don't go run after a tire on pit road when your guy is leaving. If the tire is out there and it's not yours, it's somebody else's responsibility to go out there and get it. It's always the driver's responsibility to not hit it.

"I don't know what they are wanting to do and what they're going to do. I think we need something for Talladega and Daytona. We got beat pretty good in qualifying. I want to sit on poles and I want to be fast. The race is what matters to me. Right now I feel pretty good, but I know I don't have the front downforce that I'd like to have. I get behind another car and I lose the nose. I don't know if that's happening to everybody, but I know it's happening to me.

"If you look at our setup compared to what we've had here in the past, you'd consider it loose. It doesn't seem like the car actually starts the race loose because the last time we were here we started the race loose and stayed loose and never got tightened up until the end. We don't want to be in that same situation. We want to be conservative and learn as much as we can about this car but be able to have adjustments to where if it gets real tight we can free it up as the day goes on.

"As far as the setup compared to what we'd normally see, I'd say it's pretty drastic if you look at the numbers of the springs and things like that. But the car itself, when it starts off, is not actually real loose. It's not like I'm driving the car sideways in the first five laps and it gradually tightens up. It's just the setup has to be much freer to get these cars to turn because we're compensating.

"Traffic is something we're going to have to be real cautious about. I don't think I'm going to be able to really race anybody real hard. It takes the nose and shoves the nose. I can get side-by-side with them with no problem, but it's just I can't drive behind them. To be able to set up somebody, you've got to run behind them a little bit and get your nose in there and try to turn them and go underneath them. Right now, I can't do that. Wherever they are, I'm going to have to be somewhere else, which doesn't make for a bad race. We'll have two or three or four different grooves here when this race is over.

"Braking and acceleration. You can't overdrive the car into the corner. You've got to let the thing roll and float into the corner and let the car do the work instead of you trying to manhandle the car and just make it do what you want it to do. Let it kind of drive itself. It's like that egg everybody talks about. You just squeeze down on it as you move through the corners.

"When I was a rookie, I could go fast. I could do a lot of things. I just couldn't keep the car going straight because I kept backing it into the wall. If I hadn't back it into the wall at times, we would have been front runners. If those guys (rookies) don't back it into the wall, I think they'll be all right. They seem like they've got their heads on their shoulders a lot better than I did when I was a rookie.

"It starts at Daytona. For those of us who weren't in the race at Daytona, it starts now. Sometimes if you don't have a good start at Daytona or a good finish at Daytona you've got to really get your act together at the next race, which is Rockingham.

"It's no different than it's ever been, but actually, I think the tires are a little bit better than they've been. It's the same situation. I like the tire. It seems to be pretty good. Tires go away pretty fast here, but I'm not sure they're going away as fast as I've seen them in the past. I'd like to see 80 laps, but a guy could come in and get tires and really eat you up. On this pit road, especially now, no one wants to come in under green. You don't ever want to get caught under green, so I think I'd rather risk losing some speed on the track than coming in under green. I've made a 25-lap run. That's the longest I've run. This afternoon we'll get more rubber on the track and we'll make a longer run. I'll be able to evaluate a little better."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte