JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "A lot of times when we're out there, especially in The Winston, guys want to win no matter how many dollars are on the line. But you start getting that kind of money out...
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"A lot of times when we're out there, especially in The Winston, guys want to win no matter how many dollars are on the line. But you start getting that kind of money out there and it's going to take the excitement level up a notch I'm sure. That's a lot of money. It's a race everybody wants to win, but I think guys want to do it more because they just like to win rather than half a million or million or whatever. That certainly is a nice added bonus.
"You want to have all your fenders on the car if you're going to win, just like any other race. I think you'll take extra chances. You'll put your nose in places it maybe doesn't belong at times. I think that's because not only is it a non-points event but because it's a short event. You've got to make moves and you've got to make 'em fast. You've got to get to the front as fast as you can. It's hard to get much more aggressive than we have in the past here at The Winston, but I think you're going to see a lot of aggressive driving.
"The 600 on the other hand is always a race where you have to conserve some. The way they're running races this year you can't conserve much, even in a 600-mile race. They're building the cars, engines, tires, everything to last at high-performance levels. I think you're going to see guys run extremely hard, but it's a 600-mile race and sometimes survival comes into play. It's usually won in the last 100 miles of the race. If you're not there at the end, you're not going to win.
"Cars change (during the 600). It depends on how warm the weather is during the day. It'll usually cool off quite a bit as it goes into darkness. The lights come on, and that's when you really see the race start to change and come into its own. Different cars that weren't so good during the day really start to pick up at night. I know I've won the race before, and I wasn't very good when they first dropped the green flag. As soon as the lights came on, my car came to life.
"It's difficult when they start qualifying and it's daytime. It's hot out and then it goes to nighttime. The guys going late have such a great advantage. I think (changing qualifying starting time is) a great way to cut back the advantage and try to make it equal for everybody.
"I like the way the sport is headed. It's really getting a lot of response from the fans. They really seem to enjoy it. More and more sponsors are getting involved. More and more team owners and drivers from different organizations, different types of motorsports are getting involved. Obviously there's a reason for that. It's because NASCAR Winston Cup racing is very exciting and competitive. It's working well for a lot of different organizations, but we've got to make sure it doesn't get too big, too fast. Growth is good, but I think it's the pace of the growth that's important and you've got to keep an eye on it.
"I wouldn't change too much right now. We look at what they're doing next year, adding two races. Competitors maybe wanted to see some events go, but it's just because we know how hectic the schedule is right now. We want to see growth. We want to see new venues, and we don't want to see any go away. We just know how many days of the year we're racing and how tough it is on our pit crews and the guys who work at the shop and go to the race track.
"NASCAR racing has generated a lot of top athletes, guys who are recognized as more than just a race car driver. They're recognized as athletes and also marketing tools. Some of the best marketing for some companies around the country and the world have come out of NASCAR. I definitely see the sport on a new level, and it continues to grow.
"It's such a prestigious race and guys want to win The Winston. It doesn't necessarily matter how much more money it continues to generate. We're making a bunch of money as it is right now. It's nice to get the purses up, mainly for the car owners. The drivers like to see those dollars, and they want to win it. It just makes the prize that much bigger, but it's the prestige of the race. You're racing in one of the fastest races, one of the toughest races and one of the most aggressive races you're running in all year long. I think the competition is what drives us more than anything.
"Guys get a little antsy. I have before. We all have. It certainly happens. You can't win it on the first lap. Even though that last segment is only 10 laps, 10 laps is longer than you think around here.
"The first two 30-lap segments for me are almost too long. The field gets spread out. I don't even know what the rules are this year. They change every year. All I know is you've got to be in a good position those last 10 laps if you're going to win it.
"The last few years, running down pit road as fast as we can (for The Winston qualifying) is exciting. It's exciting for the fans and exciting for the drivers, but it's dangerous for the pit crews. That's probably the biggest thing that NASCAR looked at as to why they wanted to change that. I think this year it will be a lot safer and just as exciting. You've still got a pit stop in there. I like the idea of starting at a standing stop and then going. I think that's going to be cool.
"The pressure is on. We all want to win the big race even though it doesn't pay points toward the championship. It's a race you want to win. There's a lot of money on the line. We're all fierce competitors. This is one of the toughest races and one of the most prestigious races to win."
DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"The worst thing I could do is come here and make a mistake and tear up the car. The best thing we can do is just finish and be happy we're in the race. It was a pretty exciting deal. The pit crew did a great job. The first lap I got loose in the middle of three and four and lost a little time there. I was pretty happy with the second lap. First or last, it doesn't matter. I'm just happy to be in the race. I'm happy with it. It's a difficult situation. It throws a lot of variables in there, and you can make a lot of mistakes. I was real confident in my ability to make a good lap. I was afraid I was going to make a mistake on pit road, but the guys made a great stop. I'll be happy if we end up in the top 10 because that was a pretty big mistake I made over there in three and four. That lost a lot of time for us. The second lap on the track was real comfortable. We were fast this morning for some incredible reason, but after it got hot, we couldn't back it up. It's a hard situation practicing in the day and qualifying at night. This is a bonus race for us."
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo)
"It felt like we were on seven cylinders. The carburetor or something messed up. It started fluttering right off pit road. It sputtered and sputtered all three laps. We're lucky to run as fast as we did. I just felt like we had a shot at being up front. It's just a shame."
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"When I went into the pit stall, the car stalled. The whole rhythm got the guys mixed up. When that happens you've got to get one foot full throttle and I'm sure the wheels are spinning and everything else. I just didn't do my guys much justice by getting in there very good. The car felt great on the laps, but it's just real unfortunate. Trying to get the car restarted just messed the whole thing up. The car felt good on the race track, so I'm looking forward to next Wednesday night's qualifying. That certainly wasn't what we were looking for. We put pressure on ourselves. We want to qualify up front and we want to finish up front. Track position is so important these days. You've got to get everything you can. We look at it as quite a bit of pressure."
KENNY IRWIN (No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"That wasn't very good. Our come around lap wasn't as good as we practiced earlier. Neither timed lap was very good. I'm surprised it was actually that good."
MICHAEL WALTRIP (No. 7 NationsRent Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I was real happy how I got off pit road. I got it going in a hurry and it stayed hooked up. We ran a 29.70 on our first lap and that was good and then I got a little loose on the second lap. We'll take the whole deal and break it down and try to figure out how we got beat by four seconds. Our right front tire changer, Travis Block, is out with a knee injury. That didn't help matters. I always thought it was real cool coming down pit road. Last year I was fortunate enough to go up on top and do the TV on it. Man, it's exciting when you're up there watching those cars come down pit road. Safety is a concern, but they made the cars come to a complete stop before they let anybody come down pit road. I liked that. That was fun."
TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"That wasn't as good as we hoped we were going to be. We were pretty good in practice. It doesn't really matter where you start in this thing. There's so much to it, the pit stops and getting off pit road. I think we've got a pretty good car, so we'll just get ready for the last practice. There's only 20 cars. It's not like there's 40, so I really don't think it matters where you start."
JOE NEMECHEK (No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"We had a missing lugnut there at the end. That was our own mistake. We were second on the board, and we got moved to the back, but I'll guarantee you we come back to the front. My first timed lap was a 29.57, and I think Bill Elliott is the only one who ran faster than that. I'm happy with that. Our car is running good. Our second lap wasn't as good as our first lap. I don't understand that. In practice, our second lap had been just as good as the first. We've been working real hard on that, but when you miss a lugnut, it's a whole team effort. The whole team has to get in there and dig. One person made a mistake, but we'll be back to the front. The guys joke about it. This is a car we actually raced at Bristol, so we don't need it for awhile. So we're either going to bring the trophy back or the steering wheel. We laugh about it. There's a lot of money up for grabs. It's a dash, but we're starting too far back right now. It easier when you're up front, but if your car is handling good, you can get to the front."