Talladega Chevrolet Preview

Tuesday, Oct. 12, 1999. Advance material for Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. NOTE: Richard Childress Racing and Morgan-McClure Motorsports are tied with nine wins each in the 1990s in restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega....

Tuesday, Oct. 12, 1999. Advance material for Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

NOTE: Richard Childress Racing and Morgan-McClure Motorsports are tied with nine wins each in the 1990s in restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega. Dale Earnhardt has won all nine races for RCR, while two different drivers combined to win the nine events for MMM. Chevrolet has dominated restrictor-plate racing in the '90s with 26 wins in 39 events. Larry McReynolds and Mike Skinner, fresh off back-to-back top 10 finishes, are ranked ninth in the Winston Cup standings. They discuss the Chevrolet Showdown at Talladega and last April's race at the 2.66-mile track.

LARRY McREYNOLDS (Crew chief No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"I don't think there's any question that one of the RCR cars can go down there and win that race and break the tie. Dale's performance pretty much spoke for itself in May, and his performance speaks for him every time we go to Talladega. He always has a good race car and a good race engine. As we've said and I said before working with him and while I was working with him and after I've worked with him, the man understands the draft and where to put a race car and what to do with it at Daytona and Talladega probably better than anybody I've ever been close to working with. I'm sure it ain't something you learned totally from scratch. I think it's something he's just paid close attention to over the years he's been racing. He's seen what to do right as well as what to do wrong with a race car and where to put it and what to do with it.

"Mike is still hunting his first win, but I think at the three plate races this year and the two previous years, show that if we put ourselves in the right position and stay out of trouble and stay out of the grass, all those things that go with it and get to the end, then he's certainly a threat. Talladega last year, the October race, we led the most laps there and got shuffled at the end. He's learned a lot since that race. I saw a big difference in him a week later at Daytona when we went down there to make up the fire race. He'd learned from his experiences. There's no question the Morgan-McClure car will be good down there. It always is at Daytona and Talladega. I promise you the two RCR cars -- Dale's got the same car he won with and we've got the same car we seemed like we were going to be awfully strong with. We were strong at Daytona in July with both cars. There's no question we can go there and win.

"Why is the Chevrolet so good on the plate tracks? I think as in most plate races, you've got to have a good car. It's got to be aerodynamically sound, low drag but yet a drivable car. Morgan-McClure and Richard Childress Racing has been at the forefront of horsepower with restrictor-plate engines in the 90s. Robert Yates has good horsepower restricted and unrestricted. I can speak from first-hand experience. You know when those guys from our engine shop roll that engine across the road to go to Daytona and Talladega to qualify, as well as what they put on the truck to go race, that it's going to be a factor on qualifying day and especially on race day.

"I think the performance goes to show when you look at the win column, because of the races that Morgan-McClure didn't win or RCR didn't win, I know there's several that Robert Yates won. He's right in there in the thick of the 90s as far as restrictor-plate races. The common denominator between those three guys is that they put a lot of prestige, effort and energy in restrictor plates. They don't just do it four times a year. They're working on restrictor-plate horsepower year-round, and I think that's what you've got to do. With the movement of Talladega race to October, we used to car wise and engine wise when we completed the race at Talladega in late July for a couple of months we could shove the restrictor-plate stuff aside and breath a minute. Now, we race restrictor-plate stuff almost year round. It's the first race of the season and it's the fourth from the end. We can't quit working on our cars and they can't quit working on restrictor-plate horsepower. As aerodynamics get better and better on these race cars, more and more drivers understand the draft. A little bit of horsepower is a lot. It used to be rule of thumb that seven horsepower is one mph. That band is almost cut in half. There's no question in my mind. If you can find two or three horsepower gains from one restrictor plate race to another, you are walking like a proud peacock because you have made a big gain.

"It was an unfortunate incident. We hate it that we put ourself in that position. We took a good race car and took it out of contention, and I use the word, we. It is a we race team. We handle bad. We blow up together. We have bad pit stops together. We wreck together. It's not we won the race or we run good and Mike wrecked the race car. That's the theory we try to keep here with this Lowe's team. I think we have probably learned a good lesson. We had a good enough race car that day. If they shuffled us back to 20th, we had more than enough time to get back. If that had happened with 10 to go, I'd have said dad gum the racing luck, but I think we learned that 50 laps into a 188-lap event, as strong as we were. We had already been shuffled back to 12th once and was going back for the lead when this happened. There was no sense in pressing the envelop, but I'd much rather have a driver that you've got to constantly pull these reigns on because he wants to go to the front and he wants to win races. It's a lot easier to pull reigns than it is to push them. They bend pretty bad when you try to push reigns.

"I can't, won't and will not apologize for my reaction. I do apologize and hate the situation even happened. But I'm a big believer in you trace the problem back to the real source. The real source was the position we put ourselves in. It just happened that the wrecker people were the victims."

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

"I think we're long overdue to win a race at Talladega. We've been in contention just about every time we've been there, and we've had a really good car several times there. If we go there with as good a car as we had there last time, I definitely think we'd be in contention. Restrictor-plate racing is funny. When it comes down to the end, it just depends on being in the right place at the right time. I've had to gain some valuable experience, and my spotter has had to gain some real valuable experience. I think you have to get those scars before you can step up. I think this team is getting closer and closer to a victory. Whether it be at Martinsville or Charlotte or Talladega.

"Tony (Stewart) and I were mowing grass out there last time instead of running down the race track. I think it was equally as much my fault as it was his. It was probably the first time he had been up front leading a Winston Cup race. He was all excited. He had Dale Earnhardt and a few others breathing down the back of his neck. I needed him to cut me just a little bit of slack, and he didn't. If it had been Mark Martin up there, Mark would have let me in. As good of friends as we are, friendship ends when you get on the race track. It's just one of those situations where I should have known better than to pull down in front of a rookie, and he should have probably known better than to stay in the grass.

"There wasn't any hard feelings. He felt real bad about it, and I felt real bad about it. After reviewing it and looking at it the next day, I blame myself as much as I do him, maybe more. There's no hard feelings there at all about what happened at Talladega. You make mistakes in life whether it be on the race track or in life or whatever you're doing. If you learn by your mistakes and get better by them, then you don't get in that situation as many times. You can go back to Talladega and have the same thing happen but have it happen in a different situation. That's restrictor-plate racing.

"I've got some superspeedway experience now finally. I feel like I'm fairly good in the draft. I feel like we've got a fairly good race car. We're taking the same car we finished fourth with in the Pepsi 400. We were in contention to win that race. That car did run better at Talladega than it did at Daytona, so we're looking forward to it. I don't know that I'd call the Lowe's team a darkhorse. I think we're right up there and have got a shot to win that thing as much as the 3 car or 24 or 4 car. I can tell you one thing, Richard Childress Racing is going to gang up on Morgan-McClure's stuff if we have to to win that race.

"Lack of downforce on our cars (Chevrolets) makes them go good up the straightaway. The Monte Carlo is an awesome speedway car, but the same thing that helps us at Daytona and Talladega is what hurts us at Charlotte and Martinsville and Bristol and Dover and places like that where the Pontiacs and Fords have a little bit more downforce than we do and better balanced downforce. On long runs, when the tires start giving up, the bodies help those cars stick to the race track. I don't think it's lack of knowledge or shock program or crew chief setup or driver ability. I think it's basically it's the downforce package and balance of downforce that the Pontiac and Taurus has over us right now. Hopefully we've got an answer for that next year with the new 2000 Monte Carlo. We're really excited about that car. Right now, we seem to have a little problem with the balance on it, but we're working on it. We'll work on it some more on Monday and Tuesday after Talladega when we test there."

TEAM MONTE CARLO WINNERS CIRCLE

Here are the 24 drivers who have won races driving a Monte Carlo. Team Monte Carlo drivers have made Chevrolet's Monte Carlo the most successful nameplate in NASCAR Winston Cup history with 275 career victories.

Darrell Waltrip 48 Harry Gant 6 David Pearson 2

Jeff Gordon 47 Geoffrey Bodine 6 Buddy Baker 2

Dale Earnhardt 42 Richard Petty 6 Charlie Glotzbach 1

Cale Yarborough 38 Neil Bonnett 5 Ken Schrader 1

Bobby Allison 15 Sterling Marlin 5 Greg Sacks 1

Terry Labonte 15 Bobby Labonte 4 Earl Ross 1

Benny Parsons 14 Donnie Allison 3 Bobby Hamilton 1

Tim Richmond 9 Ricky Rudd 2 Joe Nemechek 1

26 Chevrolet restrictor-plate victories in the '90s at Daytona and Talladega

Chevrolets have won 26 of 39 restrictor-plate points races (67 percent) at Daytona and Talladega in the '90s. Joe Gibbs Racing and Bob Whitcomb Racing have won one each. Hendrick Motorsports won six. Richard Childress Racing and Morgan-McClure Motorsports are tied with nine wins each (18 of 39 or 46.15 percent) heading into the Oct. 17 Winston 500 showdown at Talladega between the two heavyweights from Team Monte Carlo.

Daytona 500 1990 -- Derrike Cope 1991 -- Ernie Irvan (MMM) 1993 -- Dale Jarrett 1994 -- Sterling Marlin (MMM) 1995 -- Sterling Marlin (MMM) 1997 -- Jeff Gordon 1998 -- Dale Earnhardt (RCR) 1999 -- Jeff Gordon

Pepsi 400 1990 -- Dale Earnhardt (RCR) 1992 -- Ernie Irvan (MMM) 1993 -- Dale Earnhardt (RCR) 1995 -- Jeff Gordon 1996 -- Sterling Marlin (MMM) 1998 -- Jeff Gordon

DieHard 500 1990 -- Dale Earnhardt (RCR) 1993 -- Ernie Irvan (MMM) 1994 -- Dale Earnhardt (RCR) 1996 -- Sterling Marlin (MMM) 1999 -- Dale Earnhardt (RCR)

Winston 500 1990 -- Dale Earnhardt (RCR) 1991 -- Dale Earnhardt (RCR) 1992 -- Ernie Irvan (MMM) 1993 -- Dale Earnhardt (RCR) 1995 -- Sterling Marlin (MMM) 1996 -- Jeff Gordon 1997 -- Terry Labonte

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Derrike Cope , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Ernie Irvan , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Mike Skinner , Geoffrey Bodine , Ken Schrader , Joe Nemechek , Sterling Marlin , Richard Petty , Benny Parsons , Bobby Allison , Donnie Allison , Robert Yates , Greg Sacks , Buddy Baker , Charlie Glotzbach , Harry Gant , Cale Yarborough , Tim Richmond , Mark Martin , David Pearson
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing