Team Monte Carlo Martinsville race notes

DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "This was a pretty rough race, even for Martinsville. We had a good race car. Circumstances, pit stops and track position told it all today. It wasn't a good day for all of that. I...

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

"This was a pretty rough race, even for Martinsville. We had a good race car. Circumstances, pit stops and track position told it all today. It wasn't a good day for all of that. I wish I had stayed out like those five guys did there with 50 to go or whatever it was. What a bunch of jerks. I'm talking about the way everybody raced today. I don't think the fastest car won, but the smartest man did. With the track position those guys had, man, I wish I had stayed out. I'd beat Mark pretty much all day. We had a good race car. We raced like mad for ninth place."

DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"I've never had a better car or had more fun to finish 26th. This car was great. We could run with them, but I didn't want to hold up the leaders. I just let them go because I didn't want to upset anyone by holding them up. We had to change batteries twice, and we're not really sure what was wrong, but we'll get things worked out and go get 'em next week at Talladega."

BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 MAX film Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"We needed long greens. On that one long green we had, we killed 'em. We came from 12th up to about third. We just couldn't get the long greens. Everybody drove bad, nobody was patient. We have such a good tire and the bodies are so good right now. Tires don't give up and nobody gets loose off. It makes it hard to pass. It's got us closed up about like the IROC Series. That's what we're here for, to put on a good show, but in order to pass, you've got to catch someone just right or lean on them a little bit and that's what was happening today. We second-guess it every time we make a decision about pitting, and you can't do that. If it was a wrong decision, we'll just try to learn from it. Evidently it (pitting) wasn't a good one. It didn't work. It's not fair to say anything because you don't know what would have happened if you had stayed out. I don't remember anything happening (with Rusty Wallace). I'm sure he don't remember anything happening, either. I don't think either one of us remember anything happening. Maybe it was a bad dream for both of us."

KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"I'm majorly disappointed. I hit the wall wide open. If the frame is still where we can adjust on it, we'll go back out. The throttle spring hung up on the side of the carburetor. Every time we've hit it wide open, it hangs up right now. The guys are just tore up. The motor men are just beside themselves. They just can't believe it happened. Every time they do it now it hangs up in the same spot. I don't know why it happened."

KENNY IRWIN (No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"I'm not really sure what happened. It looked like everybody just stopped in front of me and ended up getting into someone and busting the radiator."

STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"That was the most screwed up race I think I've ever been involved in. I'm talking about track position and just the way the whole race ran. Somebody got into me and spun me around instead of trying to pass me. Then they brake checked me and I got them turned around. I guess what goes around comes around... at Martinsville anyway. It's a frustrating place. You've just got to leave everything at Martinsville and go on and get back to racing again. It was just a weird race. You couldn't tell who was on the lead lap and who wasn't. The guys you thought were going to win the race finished in the top 10 and pitted late and couldn't get back through the field. Passing was tough. It was just a rough old day at Martinsville. The motor stayed together, but it usually does when we're running like crap the motor will stay together all day long. It's just when we're running good we have problems with it. Hopefully they've got it cured and we can get through the restrictor-plate race next week and get back to racing."

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

"It's great to get a top five. I'm glad all the fans stuck with us. We're going to get some more top fives and some wins this year. We needed to come in here and have a good run. We were good on long runs, but we weren't very good on short runs. It was a wild battle today. No tires, two tires, four tires. Some guys got caught up on the bottom on that last restart, and I got a few spots. I was trying to get Michael Waltrip, but it was crazy out. Track position was so much more important than anything else. Some guys could come up through there pretty good with four new tires. For us, two tires were good. We could go almost as good on two as four, and we needed the track position. We kind of got caught early with the tire rule. That's a good rule, but we got caught by it. We made up for it later.

"We came in here hoping we could get a good finish and score some points, but mainly just get some confidence and momentum. Coming out of here with a top five feels really, really good. I know these guys have worked hard and now we can go do that at some other tracks instead of short tracks.

"It was pretty rough out there, and I think it was because it was even tougher to pass today than I've ever seen it. Any time you go to a race track where it's tough to pass you're going to have a lot of guys bumping and banging. Any little inch you could get on a guy you took advantage of it. It was fairly typical Martinsville, but maybe a little more than normal. Guys just make the cars go faster and handle better. Track position was just critical, I mean absolutely critical. We made a great call there early. That tire deal we all wanted, probably a rule we helped get, ended up catching us. We made up for it there at the end by making some great calls and getting those tires off there and getting in the top five.

"I didn't have much left at the end. I used up every bit of it. I was having to run so hard because I didn't want to go a lap down. I couldn't pass. Even when I got back there I was faster than most guys, but I couldn't p ass. It was extremely hard. Robbie (crew chief Loomis) did a great job today calling the pits. He realized track position was important. Every opportunity he got to get us track position he did. It seemed to work out for us almost every time.

"I didn't (run with Rusty). When you're out front, things work so much better for you, and he was out front a lot. His car handled great, and he was fast, but I was really good on long green flag runs. Unfortunately, today we didn't have many long green flag runs. Rusty was in clean air, and I think if you can get air to the nose and not have anybody right on you or right in front of you, you can run your line and the car would do what you wanted it to do and you could make good, consistent laps.

"When you've done what this team has done and you go that long without even a top five, I don't care how good you are or how mentally prepared you are for that, it takes a toll on you eventually. Our guys have done a good job of keeping their heads on straight and not getting frustrated, and I'm proud of them for that. At the same time, we needed something like this to keep that going.

"I've led 400 laps of a 500-lap race and somebody won on fuel mileage. Any time you're at a short track, especially one like today where it's hard to pass, and a lot of contact out there, anything can happen. You could be the best car and that's not enough. I feel pretty fortunate and blessed we ran where we did. It was hard to say we were one of the better cars because we were always back in the back or in the middle of the field caught up somewhere. Things worked out in our favor and didn't work out so well for Rusty and Earnhardt and some of those other guys.

"It was a fairly typical Martinsville, but you just don't see that at other tracks where the speeds are much higher and usually you can find other ways to pass. When you're at a flat, half-mile race track or a high-banked half-mile race track like Bristol, you're going to see that. At the same time, that always takes you back to good ol' NASCAR racing like it was meant to be. We've all gotten our aero packages so much better and got our chassis working better. Goodyear has got the tires better. That's why when we get to some of these superspeedways, maybe you don't see quite as much side by side, but I think you're going to start seeing more and more of it because guys are starting to get a handle on some of the tires they've got out there. Today was a lot of fun. It was hectic, but it was a lot of fun.

"Today was like a win for us. If you look at the season we've had so far, a top-five is like a win. It's the first time I've left the race track this year where I really felt excited about going to the next one and felt happy and happy for the guys. It was a great effort all the way around. We got the most out of the car today. The previous races this year, we haven't. We've been much better than we finished. We're just not getting the full potential out of it. Just little things would happen to get us behind.

"They had pitted earlier and it just fell right into their laps (five cars that didn't pit down the stretch). It couldn't have been any more perfect for those guys. Had that been our situation, we would have done the same thing. We were in sync with all the other guys. We needed to come in and take two tires. That was the right thing for us to do. It worked out for us because we gained positions."

RICK HENDRICK (Car owner Hendrick Motorsports Monte Carlos)

"It was an interesting race. It just shows you there's a lot of good cars out there, and if you get good track position... Rusty looked like he was the class of the field, and Earnhardt was good. On long runs, Jeff was good, and probably one of the best cars out there all day was Nadeau's. He was fast. It was an interesting deal. I'm just glad we brought 'em all home."

"It wasn't what we wanted, but Jeff continues to creep it up there and they'll come back and be better and better and better, and that's what we've got to do."

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

NOTE: Team Lowe's earned $23,438 for the American Red Cross "Racing for Relief" program today. It's two-race total ($11,354 at Texas) is $34,792.

"It was an awesome race car, but we couldn't get rid of the push. We had the best car on the race track most of the day. I think Rusty Wallace had the best car, but it was a toss-up between Mark and us there at the end. Mark is my buddy. He was going to win this race. His car was pushing behind mine, and I wasn't going to sit there and cost him the race. I didn't want the other competitors to catch him. He'd do the same thing for me. It's just stinks. We had a tough day. We had some trouble in the pits. We had some trouble on the track. We had the best car at Atlanta last year and the alternator cost us the win in that race. Alternator probably cost us from winning this one."

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

"The alternator went out. We've been plagued by alternators and stuff for quite awhile. From what I heard on that radio today, I think that's Richard Childress' first mission tomorrow. I'm proud of the guys. We had to change the battery. If we could have got right up behind the pace car, we might could have pulled it off. The probably was on that caution, a lot of cars didn't put and that put us a half a field of cars behind. It was already down to eight volts and we had to cut our brake blowers off and our rear end blower. We had no choice but to suck it up and take our lap loss and go on. That put us two down because the 36 car had burned the whole field for not pitting yet. We got that one lap back and once you get your lap back, you might as well get fresh tires because you're at the back of the field. I really thought we were in good enough shape to get four of them, and we got trapped again, so we lost the one back that we had got back. It probably cost us four or five positions. I know the last few weeks has been a little dejecting after a race, but I feel good like I did after Atlanta. I know when you pick up the paper in the morning the results aren't going to be there, but we know in our heart we had as good a race car as the one that won the race here today. We made some changes Saturday and didn't have Happy Hour. Mike and I sat down for two and a half hours yesterday and we sat down again last night and contributed to some things we wanted to change on the car. It looked like we had a pretty good piece, especially on those long runs.

"You know the performance is there, and you know if you do that enough, week in and week out, sooner or later you'll make the right pit calls, the alternator will charge the whole race and the rod bolts won't break, a lapped car won't crash and you know if you do it long enough it'll fall your way."

MICHAEL WALTRIP (No. 7 NationsRent Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"I went to the bottom to block Bill Elliott and I ran into John (Andretti). I wish I could be smiling and laughing about committing a felony like Jeff Burton did. Obviously we didn't have a third-place car. We were good all day long, but we got more than we deserved. I just wish I could have finished fourth and John could have finished third. I hadn't touched anybody all day long. A guy that had done the same thing I'd done, fought and battled all day long, to get bumped at the end and took it away from him. That hurt my heart, and I hate that. I'd rather never win a race than to do that because I know what's it's like to lose and have somebody take it away from you. I feel like I took something away from John today. It was certainly unintentional. Everybody just piled together.

"We were real proud of our performance. We were unfortunate to qualify 34th. We got behind all day long. Early in the race when we all pitted under green, Bobby Kennedy (crew chief) called me in about two laps before the caution came out. There was a car beside me, and he said to wait until the next lap. Then there was another one beside me and then the caution came out. That was the luckiest thing that probably has ever happened to me. We took that and parlayed it into a good finish. We stayed out at the end of the race and got track position. We had a good enough car to hold it. We ran as good as the leaders most all day long. We were just kind of swamped in race traffic. It's just amazing to me that you can take 43 cars and have 'em run that close together on a half-mile track. Obviously I made a mistake and hit John. A lot of other people must have been making mistakes, too, because I saw a lot of guys spun out. My heart just hurts for those people.

"Bobby Kennedy was as smart today as anybody on pit road. All the boys that work on that car did a perfect job setting it up and getting it ready to race. We've had eight races now and something has gone wrong in six of them. We finished 11th at Bristol and third today. We feel like we're a better team than where we are right now. They say you've got to run in the top five before you can win one. I'll go to Talladega and be a factor in who wins that race, I can tell you that.

"I really like Bobby Kennedy, and I really like Slugger (Labbe), and I really like my team. We're going to stay together for the rest of this year, and I have no intentions of driving that car in 2001 if we don't perform to the level that I expect us to. Last year, quite frankly, was a disaster and disappointment. I started this year looking like I had one year to get back up to where I'd been my whole career into the top 20 and hopefully to the top 10 and contend for wins.

"My confidence level was already high going into Talladega. If you can remember going back to last fall, with 30 laps to go, I was leading the race when my engine broke. We tested over there the other day and we had a fast car. We've proved over and over again we know how to get to the front in these restrictor plate races. We've had good enough cars to contend at times. I'm excited about the car we're taking down there next weekend. We hope it's going to be able to contend with the Fords. At Daytona, we had the best Chevy there, and there was just no way to win the race. Those other cars were better than ours. Hopefully, the Chevy will be good enough to win. If it is, I know I'll be good enough to win. That's a good feeling."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Bobby Kennedy
Teams Hendrick Motorsports