DALE JARRETT AND DALE EARNHARDT SWAPPED THE LEAD OF THE WINSTON 500 AT TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY SEVERAL TIMES DURING THE SECOND HALF OF THE RACE, BUT IN THE END IT WAS EARNHARDT ACROSS THE LINE FIRST. EARNHARDT'S MARGIN OF VICTORY OVER JARRETT...
DALE JARRETT AND DALE EARNHARDT SWAPPED THE LEAD OF THE WINSTON 500 AT TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY SEVERAL TIMES DURING THE SECOND HALF OF THE RACE, BUT IN THE END IT WAS EARNHARDT ACROSS THE LINE FIRST. EARNHARDT'S MARGIN OF VICTORY OVER JARRETT WAS ONLY .114 SECONDS. RICKY RUDD, WHO STARTED SECOND ON THE FIELD, FINISHED THIRD WITH A ROBERT YATES ENGINE UNDER THE HOOD. JARRETT INCREASED HIS CHAMPIONSHIP POINT LEAD TO 246 OVER BOBBY LABONTE AND 319 AHEAD OF THIRD PLACE MARK MARTIN. FORD LEADS THE MANUFACTURER STANDINGS WITH 12 VICTORIES AND 204 POINTS. CHEVROLET ALSO HAS 12 VICTORIES BUT TRAILS WITH 194 POINTS AND PONTIAC REMAINS IN THIRD PLACE WITH SIX WINS AND 172 POINTS.
88 - Dale Jarrett - Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus: (finished 2nd) "I could have caused a big wreck there, and we have the championship to think about and that's what really matters. Dale Earnhardt is just the best tactical guy. I want to congratulate him. We had a good car, and we made some adjustments to help us." WHAT WAS THE DECIDING FACTOR? YOU SEEMED TO BE STRUGGLING AND THEN YOU CAME TO THE FRONT. "The problem was three and four wide up there. That was the biggest thing. I knew my car, if I got it in the middle or on the high side, I was gonna be too tight, and that could create a problem not only for me or somebody else. So I said, I'm just going to ride here on the bottom. We've got plenty of time to adjust this. It's a 500-mile race, and of course the first couple hundred miles don't really matter. I didn't see them paying any points for those. We just hung back and Todd got the car adjusted and the guys made good pit stops there at the end when we had to have them." YOU MAINTAINED YOUR POINTS LEAD TODAY. "That was definitely the goal today. We came here to win, and I almost pulled that off. The car was a little off, not bad, just a little bit tight from the center of the corner out so I just kind of set a pace that wasn't gonna get us in trouble. Even though it wasn't up in the front I saw a lot of hard racing early in the race. Then we made a couple of adjustments and got the car a lot better. After it got to be past the halfway point we really got the car adjusted well and we got to the front. We actually thought we had a good shot a winning there at the end. They were two-wide behind me, and I kept thinking if they could stay that way it would be beneficial to me, but both lines came up on me pretty quick. It looked like the inside line was moving pretty quick, and Earnhardt had enough help behind him to make the move that he did. He just got there a little quicker than what I anticipated, and he squeezed his car in there. I could have probably tried to block him out, but it might have caused a big wreck. We certainly didn't need that. Nobody needed that. It's not as bad when you lose to the guy. He's probably the best at this type of racing. It was a good day for us. We gained some more points for our championship."
10 - Ricky Rudd - Tide Taurus: (finished 3rd) "It was really teamwork. I haven't had the luxury of teammates in the past. Thanks to everybody on Dale Jarrett's team, Todd Parrott and everybody on the 28 team. It went beyond the motor. Those guys helped us with chassis, helped us with shocks and Michael McSwain, our crew chief worked with those guys. Todd came over to my motorhome last night and we talked about springs and shocks. We didn't know what we were going to do. It was different. I just laid back the first part of the race and tried to get used to driving it. Then I felt like I knew what was going to happen when I put it in different situations, and I picked up the pace. And here we are in third place. I couldn't say enough about what Yates and all the guys have done for us." SO THE DIFFERENCE WAS THE HORSEPOWER. "Well it was horsepower and it was handling and a bunch of things. It wasn't just the motor. It was a combination of things that made our car go fast. Just like I said I had to learn how to drive it. It drove a little different, but once I learned how to drive it and got confidence in it. And with 30 laps to go, I said now is the time to go or time to wreck. And luckily we didn't wreck. It was really a good race. It gave me a different perspective on how to race at Talladega. The car could go wherever I needed to put it. I wish I could have helped Dale out a little more. But he drove places that I couldn't quite get there." AS WILD AS THINGS WERE THE LAST 30 LAPS WERE YOU SURPRISED THERE WASN'T A BIG WRECK? "It wasn't because we didn't try. I can tell you that. It was some wild racing going on. But all day long everybody was fairly courteous. We went down the backstretch five-wide and when you got to the corner the guys the needed to give way gave way. There were a lot of close calls I'm sure. And I'm sure Dale saw more than his share."
JARRETT: "Yeah, it wasn't just the last 30. It started from lap one from what I saw so it was 188 laps of it. But I think like Ricky said, that's as much patience as I've seen people show even though it may not look like patience when you are four and five wide. As Ricky said when you got to the corner and everybody needed to straight up, then everybody was doing that, letting somebody in, backing out, moving up. Even though it was hard racing, I saw people doing things out there that made for a lot of good racing." DID YOU HOOK UP WITH EARNHARDT? "Before that last restart they radioed and said we need to get hooked up again do like we did in the spring. Except we radioed back and said we needed to reverse the finish. He obviously didn't agree with that. We've finished second to him a number of times, but I think he finished second to us at Daytona. We're trading back and forth." DID ANYBODY HAVE AN ADVANTAGE? "I couldn't see anybody with an advantage. It was just a matter of getting yourself positioned right to really get a run at the right time. This isn't to take anything away from Kevin Lepage, but he really looked like he was going to win the race there at the end. And their speedway program hadn't been that strong up until this weekend, and he got himself in a position to almost win a million dollars. That's probably as even as I've seen the cars at any point in time.
RICKY HOW FAR WERE YOU BACK ON THE LAST LAP? "I was fourth or fifth, something like that. When you have people on the outside and inside you don't know for sure. I think I had Bobby Labonte to get by." DO YOU LIKE THE RESTRICTOR PLATES? "This has been one of my better tracks. It just seems like if there is a wreck I'm in it. I was lucky today to miss them. The first ten laps you kind of hold your breath, and then you say it doesn't do any good to hold your breath. You just have to say if a wreck happens, it happens. There's no use worrying about it."
JARRETT: "I think when Ricky comes over to our deal next year, he'll like it a lot better. We have obviously good engines. He got a taste of that today. And Todd Parrott is really good with these cars at these places. He's going to help both of us next year. But you just have to get in it and go. After a day like today, you really like it. You look back on it, and you think about all the fun things that went on out there and how exciting it was. I've had days that wasn't too much fun, but you still have to enjoy it. That's part of it."
28 - Kenny Irwin - Texaco Havoline Taurus: (finished 10th) "We had a good car. We run up front most of the day I think. It was just kind of going back and forth. The last lap I think we were sixth or seventh, somewhere in there, and I kind of went for it, went in the middle and it didn't work out quite like I thought. But we'll take it, so we'll be all right."
2 - Rusty Wallace - Miller Lite Taurus: (finished 11th) "I'll tell you what, that was about the hardest 11th place finish I've had. It was a typical Talladega race, but only a little big crash if you could call it that and we barely missed it. The car just wasn't as good here as it was at Daytona (this was the same car). It was so tight there at the finish that we were just going for everything we could get. It was a nice surprise that there wasn't another big crash there in the last couple of laps. It was that close out there."
6 - Mark Martin - Valvoline/Cummins Taurus: (finished 15th) "I'm glad it's over with and I'm glad nobody got hurt, but that's not real racing. I'll be anxious to get to Rockingham."
12 - Jeremy Mayfield - Mobil 1 Taurus: (finished 16th) "We did about everything we could do. Luck and being in the right place at the right time are the things that make the difference in these plate races. Sometimes we were in the right place, but it wasn't the right time. A couple of times it was the right time. We just couldn't get to the right place. The car was pretty good but the luck just didn't work out. When (Terry) Labonte blew, he ended up popping us and it messed up our rear end. That really cost us the rest of the way. That deal up in turn one, I don't know. We were four wide and I was second from the bottom. We went into (turn) one and at least two of us - the two in the middle - had nowhere to go. I hate it happened. But I'm not sure what else we could have done. We had a million reasons to want to win this thing but, you know what? We've still got a million reasons to want to win Rockingham worse than anything."
16 - Kevin Lepage - TV Guide Taurus: (finished 18th) WHAT HAS CREATED THE DIFFERENCE IN YOUR TEAM? "It's Pat Tryson. Pat Tryson come aboard about seven races ago, and he's done a great job of turning the moral of this race team around and the performance. Without his expertise we wouldn't have done what we did here today. And with the support of TV Guide and everybody else from the Roush Racing Engines and the guys at Liberty, just everybody, it was a team effort. I was just happy to get to run up front today." THERE HAVE BEEN SOME DOUBTS ABOUT TV GUIDE AND YOUR TEAM COMING BACK NEXT YEAR. "I'll guarantee you right now the 16 team will be back next year, and with performances like this on a week to week basis, TV Guide's got to come back. Everybody on the team, everybody in the engine department and in Liberty have worked really hard to give me a great racecar. At the beginning of the day I said to Pat Tryson, I'm just going to ride here. I'm seeing some things going on I'm not really comfortable with. I'm just going to ride for now, and when it's time to go you tell me and I'll go. We were up there in second, and got a little aero tight there at the end. And Ward got underneath me and after that I was just a sitting duck. I didn't have no friends out there the last three laps which I expected that. I had a whole bunch of friends early on and they got us up to second. My hats off to Pat and the guys did just great pit stops today. Pat's the motivator, and he got the 16 team turned around. Our first chance to run together was for the No Bull and we had a chance."
9 - Rich Bickle - Cartoon Network Taurus: (finished 41st) "I think it was with Johnny (Benson) that we got together with a little bit. Its just part of it. I don't think he knew it was four-wide, and he wanted to get down in the three-wide groove. It's just Talladega. We're putting on a show for these race fans, and all I can say is I've been having a pretty good time running this Cartoon Network car. It was just a short day." DO YOU DISLIKE TALLADEGA? "No, I love it. I mean you've got to love it. A lot of guys hate this place, but it's the most exciting race. It is probably the least physical of any track to drive on, but mentally it's just unbelievable. By the time you get done with this race you are pretty much drained. A lot of people hate this joint, but I think it's a rush going like that, that close. We're going to have five-wide here in the spring. There's room for it. It's just one of those days. We were trying to get this car to the front, and we had a pretty good car. The guys made some changes there after the first stop and it was going a little better. I liked going in the middle there. It was kind of my territory. If I could have got somebody to go with me I think I could have gone to the front."
26 - Johnny Benson - Cheerios Taurus: (finished 42nd) "I guess we were four-wide and I was up top. I don't if anything happened to the three guys below. You just can't go four-wide here. That happened earlier a couple times, and it was just fortunate nothing happened then. There's just not a lot of room. I got clipped in the left rear a little bit, and I spun." HOW WAS THE CAR? "It's hard to say. We made it to 10th, then 9th, then made it back to 28th and then back up. It's hard to say." DO YOU DREAD COMING TO RACE? "Only when this happens. Other than that it's okay."