Watkins Glen Chevrolet Race Notes

Sunday, Aug. 15, 1999. Watkins Glen International. Frontier @ The Glen. Chevrolet notes and quotes. DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) "We didn't have the car to run, and we weren't in position to run. It was a...

Sunday, Aug. 15, 1999. Watkins Glen International. Frontier @ The Glen. Chevrolet notes and quotes.

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

"We didn't have the car to run, and we weren't in position to run. It was a bad day. I got by Darrell on that last lap and I got off in the corner and I think he was back there with me. It wasn't Darrell's fault I wrecked. I got in that styrofoam or whatever it is. I got into the back of Skinner. That ain't too hard to do here. That 600th straight start was pretty sorry. It isn't one I want to remember."

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

"I don't know (concerning incident with Earnhardt). We were just racing real hard and got turned around there. I don't know what happened. We still have to work on our gearing package more. We improved it from last year, improved the engine from Sears Point a lot but everyone was just racing real hard. We lost a lot of track position early in the race but the guys did a good job on pit road. Larry (crew chief McReynolds) did a good job. We didn't turn a screw on that race car all day. The car drove awfully good today, but the gear leaving the pits really cost me a lot of time and really hurt me during the restarts. It's a top 10, and that's what we need to do. In order to finish in the top 10 in the Winston Cup points, you gotta run in the top 10 and we managed to pull it off. We pretty much planning on doing that no matter what and the way it came down probably didn't help because some guy has fresher tires than we did. But that's the way we chose to run this race. We ran it this way last time. If it had stayed green, we would have had a much better day."

WALLY DALLENBACH (No. 25 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"It was just a little bit tight. That last set of tires was just a little bit tighter than what we had. The guys did an excellent job. We had a 25th place car, and we changed everything but the number on it this morning. We had no idea what it was going to be like, but I'm real proud of them. We didn't have anything to lose. We went for it. The first time the car was on the track was basically the first green flag lap. That's how much we changed.

"We figured that if we were in the mid pack we'd short pit. That's worked for us before, and it worked all day. We caught it just right. Actually, our car got faster and faster as the fuel load burned off. I wasn't afraid of being on eight or nine-lap older tires than the other guys. We gave up a little bit there when they put on the fresh tires, but all-in-all, we were pretty good. We're definitely better on the long green-flag runs. The greener the better. I was just glad everything happened behind me on that last lap.

"The 24 and 87 were awfully strong. We were a top-five car, but we just couldn't get there. We knew we had to make a big change on the race car because we were about a half second off. We made the changes and it worked. Obviously we don't need two days of practice. We had a different race car today. We were off at Sears Point this year, and I didn't run here last year. When we first got here, I knew we had our hands full. The guys deserve all the credit. They turned the car around.

"This is the same car we had at Sears Point, and I wish we could have qualified better here, but I think we would have been about the same if we had. A couple of cars out there were pretty good today."

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

"It's been a good day for us. We're lucky to come out with 19th. We just lost the brakes on the Square D Chevy. It had no stopping power. I had to slow down real bad in the chicane twice for missing it (the chicane). It killed me on a lot of passing points. The guys gave me a good car though, and we finished 19th."

BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"We got to lead some laps today, and that was a lot of fun. It's too bad we weren't out front when it really counted. We smashed in the front end and the car ran a little hot, but we made it to the end. We should have had a better finish, but that's the way it goes sometimes."

STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"We brought a brand new car here. I did a little act with the other road course car at Sonoma and killed it. So the guys worked real hard getting this one ready for The Glen. We had a fast race car. We had a little carburetor trouble on Friday and didn't qualify well. These guys fought back the rest of the way, and we had a good steady car today. We moved up all day long and we're real happy. With the lack of practice we had, we're real happy with the finish. This is the fourth top 15 finish for this team, and that's the consistency we're looking for. If we can keep doing that, we can improve and finish in the top 10. I'm pretty excited about everything that's going on here."

JOE NEMECHEK (No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"I drove my car in way too deep and here comes Bill Elliott and I knew there was no way he was going to make it. I still had to go around the corner or else get penalized. When he runs into my back tire, it's kind of stupid. It's a shame. The last lap, running good, the car is tore all to hell. We were running eighth and ended up 38th or something. We were having a good run. Both road courses this year we ran good and didn't get good finishes. I was running third at Sears Point and Bobby Labonte had brain fade. That's all part of it. I don't know what Bill Elliott was thinking today, but that's all part of racing. I'm still kind of hot right now, but I'll cool down and it'll all go away. We'll be friends again tomorrow.

"I wish Ron could have won the race. He had a heck of a car. To come out of here second is a big shot in the arm. He's one of the best road course racers I've ever seen, and that's why he's got the opportunity. We're going to see what happens with that deal. We still have some more races to run, Busch races and truck races, so we'll just see where it goes."

TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"We almost pulled off a top-10 finish. Things really didn't go our way, but that's the way it goes on these road courses. If we could have finished one spot better, all three Hendrick Motorsports Chevys could have been in the top 10. We'll try to get 'em next week at Michigan."

RON FELLOWS (No. 87 Bully Hill Vineyards Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"I'm sure tomorrow I will feel better with second place. Brian Pattie, this kid is just an awesome crew chief. The four races we've done together now he hasn't made a bad call. We were very loose early and made a couple of tire pressure adjustments. We were fine the rest of the day. For the amount of time we put in to put this deal together, all of Joe's (Nemechek's) guys, I'm real proud of the effort they put in. Second place to Jeff Gordon is not that bad.

"I love this place. Watkins Glen has tremendous history. Great people are running this track. Race tracks like this just aren't built any more. High speed corners, it's just tremendous to drive this place. I'm still disappointed. I wanted to win.

"The only time I thought about it (who I was racing) was early when I passed Dale Earnhardt. I thought that was pretty cool. He may have been weaving just to let me go, but I gave a wave to him. After that, I was focusing. Other than catching Jeff Gordon, I couldn't really tell you who I was passing. They were just cars to get by trying to get to the front. I watched Jeff Gordon's car and used what I could to take advantage of where I was just a little bit better. It just wasn't enough.

"First would have been a dream could true. When you consider this deal came together Sunday night after the Busch race a couple of months ago... I just can't say enough about Brian Pattie (crew chief) and all the guys on Nemechek's team. The effort we got from SABCO to get the engines. It's pretty good results.

"We had a little problem. I think it was fuel pickup. We had seven cylinders in the Busch race. If we had had seven cylinders at the end there, I don't know where we would have finished. It was just a little miss. I think it was fuel. It wasn't the difference between winning and finishing second. I guess second place in a Winston Cup race, yeah, I hope it's my biggest payday. I love sports car racing, and I really enjoy this race track. I'm proud of the effort the guys put in and local sponsors step up to Winston Cup. It's a big accomplishment for them, too.

"I thought it could go either way. It actually gave my brakes a chance to cool off. I was working real hard, making ground up underbraking through the corners. I thought it gave me a shot to get close. I needed to get a run at him (Gordon) off the restart and maybe get a shot at him going in the loop. I had quite a tall first gear and I needed to hang back and take a run at him at the green. He saw me back there. He took off.

"The Camaros I used to race was the best training for these cars. They require a lot of finesse. They're quite heavy, but they do require a lot of fine tuning. I know what I want on a road course, and I guess that's the difference. When you've got a team like Joe's with Brian Pattie, Brian has quickly come to understand my driving and what I need the car to do. In that short amount of time on Saturday morning, we got the car race ready. We had some bad luck on Friday, but we ended up with a pretty good car in a short amount of time and that's not an easy task.

"Oval racing is different, but racing is racing. We're going to continue to pursue racing this year with Nemechek's team. I have a tremendous amount of respect and it's a real level of comfort working with Brian that I'd really like to continue to build on. I'm sure he's going to be doing most of the talking."

"When they saw the Winston Cup schedule for 1998, they saw there was going to be a conflict with the Busch weekend, so in December of 1997, Brian called me. We met in March and put the deal together. It's slowly built from there. As a group, we've got a pretty good record together. We just need to keep plugging together to move to the ovals.

"We came in maybe two or three laps earlier than we wanted to, but I just sit behind the wheel and Brian makes all the calls. To get that close to a win in Winston Cup with the limited amount of races I've done, it's disappointing, but I can't say enough. The effort they put in to get this done, we're pretty happy.

"I guess the only worry I had, you go in the corner and start the corner on asphalt, then you get in the center of the corner and you're on concrete, you come off the corner on asphalt. Maybe the asphalt came out beyond the center of the corner but didn't. I really don't have any complaints. As you go in, the concrete is a little bit rough. It's just fine tuning with the shocks you've got to do. Any kind of a loop they throw in, it could be a benefit or a hindrance. I think the smart teams make it work for them. I have no complaints about the surface.

"We've done pretty well here. I won here in '94 in the rain. '95 is probably the year that changed my career somewhat. That was to go to the Chevrolet team with Buz McCall, and I've been with GM ever since developing this Corvette program for long distance races. It's kept me very, very busy and continues to. Herb Fishel has been a big supporter of mine, and I thank him for the road racing opportunities. It's going to continue to keep us pretty busy.

"You've got to keep it on the road. A lot of areas where I was making up ground were in the corners and under braking. That's where you get yourself in trouble, braking late with a 3,400-pound car. That's the only thing I had to be careful of, not getting in too hard. It's a finesse game with these cars. It's a controlled aggression. You can't totally hang them out. That was for me to factor in with brakes. We came up a little soft with the brake pedal and that's why that last caution probably didn't hurt us any."

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

NOTE: Gordon won his fifth straight NASCAR Winston Cup road races on Sunday at Watkins Glen.

"You never know when it's going to be your time to win another race, especially with the type of season we've had this year. We've been running great and everything looks good and then you have some type of little problem. So, it's nice to see everything go flawless for us today and the car was absolutely flawless all weekend. These guys did a great job and I was having run driving it.

"Based on common sense, you see something shiny and wet on the race track it's not worth it. Rusty was pushing me really, really hard at that time and it just wasn't worth it for me to push that hard when I see fluid on the track all the way around for two laps. I knew there was going to be a caution. I just didn't know when. He was willing to take that chance, so I said, 'hey, go ahead.' My car was really, really good. I didn't want to give up the lead, but I said it just wasn't worth it."

"Just getting some laps on the concrete, and the track is a little bit faster, so I think it was just messing with the springs and shocks really.

"It's not hard for me to go back just three or four years ago when a good race for me was if I stayed on the race track and didn't miss a shift. Or I guess I should say, didn't miss five shifts. Nowadays, it's just trying to get the most out of the car and be smooth and not be too aggressive. I was real proud of everything. Ray and these guys built me a car that was easy to drive I guess because it was so much fun. I was just really about to get out there. The brakes were good. Everything worked well for me. I didn't miss a shift all day. I was pretty proud. I got sideways one time in the inner loop when Ron Fellows was behind me. That was the only time I said, 'Jeff, don't do that again.' I was pretty happy for the most part.

"Three or four years ago, I was just trying to keep the car on the track and trying to shift without missing shifts. It's funny because when I look back to when we first started coming to these road courses, I can physically see where other cars were beating us. I didn't know how they were doing it, but I could see it. Every time we'd take notes and I went to Ray and Brian and said we've got to do something here and here. They're killing us here. We went to work in those areas and we got better in those areas. I was able to get more comfortable with shifting. When you get more comfortable with shifting, you're able to get more aggressive with your driving style. You can get the most out of the race car in all the corners.

"The perception of other people, not us. We know that every season isn't going to be a season like we had last year. We also know that we're competitors. We like to win and we like to win championships and we know what it feels like to do that. At the end of the year, if we're not the champion, we're going to feel like we didn't accomplish our goals. At the same time, it's hard to look at this season so far and say it's been a disaster. It just hasn't been as good as last year.

"I just wanted to get a good restart. Some areas, Ron was better than I was. Coming up off the, I don't know, you've got me confused with the turns here. Some are saying seven, some are saying 11. I count seven, so I would call that five, the carousel turn up there. He was stronger than I was off that turn. I knew if he got close to me in that area, he could make a pass. If he made a pass on me, it was going to be very tough for me to get back by him, even though my overall lap times were a little bit faster. It's very important to not only get a good restart but drive hard into turn one and get through the first couple of corners and get some distance between us. That took a lot of pressure off when I did that. When I got through the esses and had some distance that took a lot of pressure off. I was able to be smooth and not be too aggressive. Once I did that, I felt pretty comfortable with it and then I just tried not to make too many mistakes at that point.

"I couldn't hear what Ray was saying on the radio. I didn't know where I was to be honest with you. With all the different pit strategies that were going on, we knew there would be a lot of shuffling. I wanted it to go green at that point. I wanted those other guys to come in and pit under green and shuffle things back to where they were before. You just focus on racing the guys you were racing, Rusty and Ron. Luckily we were able to get out ahead of those guys and we were picking off guys one at a time. I was just trying not to abuse the equipment. I knew I needed to save a little bit for later in the race. You've got to be conscious of your brakes here. You can run hard every single lap, but if you do come down to a one or two or five-lap shootout at the end, you're not going to have anything to race those guys. You've got to keep that in mind. Plus, I think it helps you be a little bit smoother by not being too aggressive.

"I race with the best race car drivers in the world every weekend and it's a privilege any time you get into victory lane. I think it definitely is very gratifying. I know how good Ron is. He's so smooth. He makes no mistakes. You always wonder what these guys have, they're road course specialists. You wonder what they have that you don't have, and it's nice to put a package out there that was able to pull off a win, especially with a guy like that chasing you. Racing a guy like that makes you a better road course driver, so I enjoy that.

"At times, I had Ron on my bumper. I wanted to stretch it out and get some distance between us if I could. At times, I would try to run a hard, fast lap and I'd actually slow down. Once I got in a rhythm and slowed myself down and didn't make mistakes, the times started coming back down. For the first time on a road course, when the fuel level went away, the car actually got better. That says a lot about Goodyear and the tire they brought here.

"I admire Mark Martin a lot. I remember when I first came into Winston Cup how dominant he was on road courses. I thought if there ever was a time I could compete with him on the road courses, that would really be doing something. We're certainly doing that right now. When you do things that make history or statistically accomplishing things like that, you don't understand it as much until down the road when you look back on it. I know some day I'm going to be able to look back on everything I've accomplished and say wow, it's amazing. Right now all I'm thinking about is carrying my momentum into Michigan and trying to beat D.J. This was a sweat win for us. What we've done on road courses lately has really shocked me. It's unbelievable. When you do something like that, it's nice to know it gets you in record books."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Ron Fellows , Buz McCall , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports