Texas Pontiac Saturday Report

NOTES AND QUOTES Primestar 500 Advance Texas Motor Speedway March 27, 1999 Note: Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix driver Tony Stewart is coming off a career-high sixth-place finish in last Sunday's TranSouth 400 at Darlington Raceway. He leads...

NOTES AND QUOTES Primestar 500 Advance Texas Motor Speedway March 27, 1999

Note: Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix driver Tony Stewart is coming off a career-high sixth-place finish in last Sunday's TranSouth 400 at Darlington Raceway. He leads the NASCAR Winston Cup rookie of the year race heading into tomorrow's Primestar 500.

TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "I guess the day before races that my car's the worst, it seems like I race the best. I feel like we've got a lot of work to do still. I feel like we haven't found the right package yet that we're looking for. It's not for a lack of trying right now. Those guys threw everything we had at it for the first hour of practice this morning. I'm sure we're going to wear all the jack screws out again this afternoon. We're throwing a lot of things at the car to find out what really works for us right now. It's hard. I don't have a lot of laps here in these types of cars. We're trying to find the proper balance. This track is tough in order to get the car really good."

HOPEFUL OF GETTING THE BUSCH RACE IN SO THE GROOVE WILL WIDEN A LITTLE? "It's narrow. It's probably worse when your car is not running or driving the way you want it to. My car is real line sensitive right now. If I miss my mark by a foot going into the corner it takes me half a corner to get the car back to where I want to be on the race track. Hopefully, the groove will widen up and it won't be as sensitive that way. It just shows us we still need to work on our race car."

WHERE WILL MOST OF THE PASSING TAKE PLACE IN THE RACE? "By me it's going to be under caution if I pass somebody. Right now I don't think I can pass anybody on the race track unless they're really far off. I saw some guys try to pass in practice but I never saw anyone actually pass anybody unless somebody had just come out of the pits and really wasn't up to speed yet. I think it's going to be all right for tomorrow. If we get the Busch race in the track should hopefully widen up a little bit. I think it will be all right. This is a situation we don't like to be in early on Saturday. We'd like to be a little closer than this and try to finetune in the afternoon in order to catch up to the track conditions. Right now, some of the cars that are driving a little better may have a little easier time passing. I don't really think I have enough experience to know where everybody will try to be passing right now."

SOUNDS LIKE PIT STOPS ARE GOING TO BE AT A PREMIUM TOMORROW. "It could put a lot of emphasis on that. The guys worked real hard last week and this week on pit stops, too. The guys are working real hard on knocking their times down on pit stops with a lot of practice. I think their effort is going to show up on Sunday. Hopefully, we can make the car a little better to where we don't have to rely so much on them. I'd like to allow for myself to do some of the work."

ARE YOU AHEAD, BEHIND OR ON SCHEDULE AS FAR AS YOUR EXPECTATIONS HEADING INTO THE SEASON? "I feel like I'm ahead of schedule really. My goals at the beginning of the year are the same ones that I still have. They are make it through first round qualifying each week and try to finish as many laps as we can in the race. So far we're six for six in qualifying and with the exception of Las Vegas we've finished all the races and been no worse than one lap down. I'm happy with the way things are going right now. I guess I haven't really sat down and tried to think whether I was ahead, behind or whatever. As long as I've met the goals each week then I've been happy with that. I've concentrated on learning. I'm trying to finish every lap and learn as much as I can each week. The knowledge that Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett, Bill Elliott and those guys that have been around here a long time, I'm not going to learn all that they know in one year. I'm not even going to scratch the surface in a year. I'm really working hard to gain as much knowledge as I can and learn as much as I can. That's been the nice thing about having Bobby (Labonte) on board. I have him to go to. We struggled this morning and I went right over to him and said, 'What do you think? This is what I'm doing. Am I doing anything wrong? What if I try this? What's this going to do?' We just keep plugging away and as long as we meet those two goals each week then the rest of it is a bonus."

WAS BOBBY'S QUALIFYING PERFORMANCE CONSIDERING HIS SITUATION AN INSPIRATION? "Absolutely. It makes me feel kind of bad. He's crippled and he goes out and runs a lot better than me (laughing). It shows me I've got to pick up my end of the deal a little bit."

HOW ARE THE TIRES HERE? "Hard. They seem very hard. I don't know about wear right now. They keep comparing this to Atlanta. The car doesn't feel like it gets down into the race track as far as the tire. It feels like it just sits up on the track and if you're tight, you're tight and if you're loose you're pretty loose. It's putting a lot of emphasis on guys getting their cars right this week."

Note: Jimmy Dean Pontiac Grand Prix driver Derrike Cope qualified 36th for Sunday's race -- the last starting spot based on speed. Cope wouldn't have qualified for a provisional. He paced inside his trailer after his second round qualifying run and couldn't bare to watch the computer monitor tracking time trials.

DERRIKE COPE (No. 30 Jimmy Dean Pontiac Grand Prix): "I don't know what to say really. It's been a struggle since we got here. It's actually been the worst our car has driven this whole year. After yesterday, we made some changes, a lot of changes to the car. I'm talking about from shocks, to truck arms to everything because we just couldn't seem to get through the corner. This morning I got to where I had some feel in the car. Then I could drive it through the corner. We had to qualify on cold tires and I had a couple of moments out there where the car turned completely sideways when I went to the throttle in three and four. I just turned right and stayed in the throttle. We're fortunate. I'm happy for Jimmy Dean and Bryan. I'm happy for State Fair because their headquarters are here and we've got a big hospitality program planned for tomorrow with all the sponsors. We've been struggling. We just need to get some races under our belt and keep trying to put some points on the board so we have some recourse when we make a mistake or have a poor day. Right now, we don't have that. "I've been getting grayer and grayer (hair) by the moment. You hate to be that far back, but yet you're elated to be in the race because we've just struggled so much. We've got a lot of work to do. We're trying to attack it like a football player. We're trying man for man to go to each area and find the problem and accomplish your assignment. That's all you can do. Right now we're really pounding the pavement hard. It's an extremely difficult race track. It's one of those race tracks where the margin for error is very, very little. If you're off just a little bit some where, it magnifies the situation. We've come a long way since we first unloaded. I'm tickled right now."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Derrike Cope , Bill Elliott , Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart