Rockingham - Chevy Sunday Notes

Sunday, Feb. 21, 1999. North Carolina Speedway. Dura-Lube/Big K 400. Chevrolet notes and quotes. DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) -- "I was off the gas pretty much and when I got in the corner the car ...

Sunday, Feb. 21, 1999. North Carolina Speedway. Dura-Lube/Big K 400. Chevrolet notes and quotes.

DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) -- "I was off the gas pretty much and when I got in the corner the car just started to take off. I thought I caught it, but it hit the loose stuff and I did hit the wall then. The wreck happened in front of us on the front straightaway. I got off the gas and went rolling into one. The car just took off. It wasn't handling all day long. We were handling a big push after about 30 laps. I was fighting it the whole time. We didn't have the combination today.

"We were really off on the chassis. We were off after 15 or 20 laps. I missed the setup on the car. I probably should have gone softer on the back and softer on the front, too. Me and Kevin worked awful hard to come up with it. The guys did a good job with the car. We were too tight after 15 laps or so. We popped the wall pretty hard and knocked the fuel pump and everything off of it."

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) -- "It was unfortunate. We were running good and doing exactly what we wanted to do. We led at times. I think we were going to be a big factor at the end. These guys don't let me down very often, especially with the engine department. Today it just blew up and I lost oil pressure. It was frustrating because we had a good run, but at the same time, we've been very fortunate. These things are bound to happen eventually. I've been telling everybody we can keep winning races if we keep having good fortune and the blessing we've been having. Today pretty much shows that it doesn't matter what you do in Daytona. You've got to do it every weekend. I got shuffled back there. I wasn't very good on new tires. Those other guys were strong on new tires. I was going to let 'em go because they usually backed up to us on long runs. My car was a little loose early on, but no sign whatever (of engine problem) until I got to the start-finish line. The thing just let go. It doesn't matter what you do from the last race. It's what you do at the next race. For us to win the championship, we have to be consistent every weekend now. We got a jump start on a lot of those guys last weekend. This is going to close things up quite a bit and there are going to be some guys who get a jump start on us now. I always knew they (Rainbow Warriors) were (human). Maybe everybody else didn't."

MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- NOTE: Skinner leads the series standings for the first time in his career. After the first two races, Skinner holds a 29-point advantage over Rusty Wallace. "We had a lot of momentum toward the end of last season. This team started coming together somewhere around Sears Point last year. We had some terrible runs, but we also had some good runs and some top fives and some top 10s. We just need to keep on having good finishes. If we have good finishes and keep from tearing up these race cars, this team will get stronger and stronger.

"If we're leading the points headed into the last race of the season, then I'll think we've got a shot to win it. We're still the hunter. We're still hunting our first win. As much as we struggled here at Rockingham, this is like a win for this team. This was pretty awesome. I think I was a little gun shy on the adjustments. I didn't want to tell Larry to adjust too much, and I don't think Larry wanted to adjust too much. We knew we could get a top 10 finish out of here and come out of here in pretty good shape in the points. That's the main thing, just keep getting solid runs. If we keep getting solid runs and don't tear up this Chevrolet, it's going to be pretty good. This is a pretty good little hot rod here. I can't wait to take it to Bristol.

"We've experienced this (media attention) in the truck series before. It's really no extra pressure. It's just one of those things you deal with, and it's a damn good problem.

"Our goal was to get out of here on the lead lap with all the fenders, and we accomplished that. I probably had every guy on this team come up to me this morning and say, 'Mike, if you get out of here on the lead lap with all the fenders on the car, you'll have a good finish.' We felt like we'd be in the top 10 and I think we finished sixth. I probably should have gouged it in there on Jeremy, but Jeremy always races me clean, and I wanted to race him clean. That wasn't for the win. That was for fifth place, the heck with it.

"We were just a little short all day. At one point in the race, we had the best car for 20 or 30 laps. We were faster than the leaders, but when it fell off, it fell off more. As much experience as I had in that truck series when we had to take care of the tires, I should be pretty good at that. I'm getting better, but I think our car just has to be just a little bit closer. Like Larry (crew chief McReynolds) said after the race, we've got a place to start now. Now we need to take this setup and fine tune it.

"We need to win a points race. As much as we've struggled here at the Rock, I'll take this finish and be very happy with it. This team has really come so far. The pit stops were awesome all day. I think we lost one spot, one time. That's pretty awesome. That's something to be proud of. The pit crew has been great. We're talking to Lowe's about our future. Hopefully we'll have a long future with Richard Childress Racing and Lowe's Home Improvement and Chevrolet."

LARRY McREYNOLDS (Crew chief No. 31 Lowe's Monte Carlo) -- "The points leader situation is certainly something to be proud of, but we just got going. It's like saying we led the first 10 laps of a 500-mile race. It's nice to do, but you've still got a long way to go. I'm proud of this race team. All winter long, I kept telling people this race team has what it takes. I've been in situations where race teams were awfully good and where race teams were not awfully good. I just knew the fire in my belly was telling me this race team is strong. Everybody has got hold of the rope pulling in the same direction. It's the first time I've been in that situation probably since 1994 with Ernie Irvan. If you've got 'em doing that, it's hard to beat these guys. If you don't have 'em doing that, including the driver, you're not going to beat these people. They're just too tough. They've got all the bases covered. I'm excited. We're going to win some races. Until you win, there's this little voice that keeps asking if Mike Skinner can win. Even though I know in my heart that on any given day we can do it, we've showed the strength over the last part of last year and the beginning of this season, but until you step across that line and go to victory lane on American soil, the voice will keep haunting you. I feel like it's close. What a place to do it, other than maybe Las Vegas and we can get that No Bull Million.

"I went to Daytona knowing that. Everybody went to Daytona saying we could win the Daytona 500. I went there knowing it and feeling it. I came here a little skeptical. We'd struggled at Rockingham, but the great thing about this race team is we sat down and talked about it. We made notes. We learned from what we should have done and what we shouldn't have done. I think we grabbed a big notch on Rockingham now.

"Rockingham. We looked at our three biggest weaknesses and they were Rockingham, Darlington and Dover. He told me all along if he could come out of there with a top 10 or 12 finish, he would feel pretty awesome. We were pretty close to a top five. We learned today. You can't learn a lot four laps down finishing 18th, kind of like we did here in November, but you can finish sixth on the lead lap and go back and critique. We can build on that.

"This team has a lot of potential. It didn't take me long to realize if we could just get everything plugged into the right hole, that the people are there. The dedication is there. The focus is there, and it's there in that driver. It's going to happen. It can happen. We've got a lot of racing to go. We've just got to take 'em one at a time. "Mike needs more time, more experience and more good runs. You make a lot of your luck. Maybe at Daytona and Talladega, the racing gods can shove you in the right line or shove you out of the right line, but you make a lot of your luck. Mike drove a smart race today. He was on top of that wheel, focused. He didn't talk a lot on the radio. He didn't try to be a color analyst with all the things that were going out there. He gave me enough information that we could work on the race car, and that's what we needed."

BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "We had a good car. We broke the power steering with about 30-40 laps to go and we were just holding on then. We took care of the tires, and that's about all we could do. If we could have ever got up front, we would have been real good. We had to fight that lapped traffic. It was a good car. We won't change anything when we come back. The motor was excellent, and I'm really looking forward to this year. The guys have turned it all around. We need to make good showing for our sponsors. They deserve it. They worked with us last year and stayed with us. We got top 10 in the points last year, and we're going to go after it this year. Runt Pittman quit coming to the races and stayed at the engine shop. That helped a lot getting the motors turned around. They're really good right now. The new cars are good. It took half of the season to figure out what kind of cars I liked and what I didn't like. They had a lot of race cars. They had 19 race cars when I went to work there. It took awhile to go through them and figure out what I didn't like."

TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "We just weren't good enough today. We were pretty decent on long runs, especially early in the show. That was probably our strong point. We probably weren't as good on the short runs as some of the other guys. It's a top-10 finish, so we'll take it and keep working hard and try to get better."

GEOFFREY BODINE (No. 60 Power Team Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "We were competitive all day long. We just couldn't get good track position and capitalize on how good this car was. Everything went really good. I can't wait to get to Las Vegas.

"I love these Chevys. That's all I needed. We're going to win some races. We're considering this our first race together as a team. Daytona is another kind of racing. We were running good there and just got in a wreck. To come here with this brand new team and run competitive all day long, we just never could get track position to capitalize on how good our car was. The crew did a great job in the pits. It was a pretty exciting finish at the end. We're going to get better and drive that Chevrolet into victory lane before the season is out. I tested a Chevrolet for the Stavola Brothers at Atlanta last year before the race and I knew these cars were good then. It just felt good. We haven't tested anywhere except Daytona until now, so I didn't know what to expect, but it really felt good. We didn't qualify as well as we wanted to, but we sure did run good and that's important. Jim Long has come a long way in this business as a crew chief. I'm glad he's my crew chief now. The whole team is really good. Jim has assembled a great team, and team is very important in this sport."

KEN SCHRADER (No. 33 Skoal Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "We're making gains at Rockingham. I wish we could have stayed on the lead lap and raced with 'em, but 11th ain't too shabby. We're third in the points, but that doesn't mean too much after the first two races. If we're there after 32 races, then it'll mean a lot."

KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We've got to be realistic. It's a brand new team. Kenny Schrader, my teammate, and I were only one spot apart the whole week, qualifying and the race. It was a dogfight out there. It was a really aggressive race. I'm happy to come out with a 13th. It gives us something to build on."

WALLY DALLENBACH (No. 25 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) -- "It was a really weird day. The car just wasn't good until we got about 10 laps on the tires. We needed some long, 60-80 lap runs. We probably could have stayed on the lead lap and got a top-10 finish if it hadn't taken so long for the tires to come in. That's a decent finish, and we're ninth in the points after two races. That's encouraging."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ernie Irvan , Mike Skinner
Teams Richard Childress Racing