Watkins Glen Team Monte Carlo Sunday notes

RON FELLOWS (No. 87 Bully Hill Vineyards Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “That was a lot better than I thought it was going to be in race trim. We kind of suspected we were in pretty good shape. It was just one of those things. I think we were...

RON FELLOWS (No. 87 Bully Hill Vineyards Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “That was a lot better than I thought it was going to be in race trim. We kind of suspected we were in pretty good shape. It was just one of those things. I think we were stronger than we were last year, but when you do it just once a year it makes it very difficult. It makes last year look more difficult than maybe we thought. I was actually surprised at how well it was going. “We lost something under the hood. We lost a couple of cylinders, and it was a shame. It was a really good car. It’s just one of those things. Everybody has worked hard. We had a real good race car. We knew it coming in here. It’s a once in a year shot. It kind of makes last year look a lot more difficult than we thought. It happened during a second to third shift just at the start-finish. “It was going really well. I was surprised at the pace. I wasn’t being super aggressive. I was being patiently aggressive. It’s just a shame for Bully Hill Vineyards, Brian Pattie (crew chief) and all of the guys. It just happened all of a sudden during a second to third shift at the start-finish bridge and that was it. “We were in good shape. We made a little adjustment with our gearing, figuring we were going to have to race hard. We were good. It was good to get to see a few of the better engines in the field as we got closer to the front. We were in pretty good shape. It’s a shame. It really is. I don’t know how high we got up to. 13th? Geez. “Under caution I saw the 24 and 20 sitting in the pits. I said, ‘well, those are the two toughest guys I thought we were going to be up against.’ It’s an opportunity lost. You can’t wait. You just kind of make it happen. When I got behind Matt Kenseth, I was cooling the brakes a little bit, closing in on him carefully because I had a big gap to whoever was behind me. I could see the scoreboard and see the laps. I was surprised how few laps had gone by. It was an opportunity to kind of cool off a little bit, but for naught. “I got boxed in. I’m not sure by who. I think somebody checked up in front of him (Darrell Waltrip), and I popped him in the tail a little bit. It didn’t do any damage to either him or me. “It looks like last year was a lot more difficult than we thought. It’s a shame. The car was really very good. What do you do? We’ll just regroup. We had a good piece. We had a good motor. We’ll keep working away and come back next year.”

DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “The car wasn’t shifting into third gear too well all day. It got worse and worse every lap. Finally I shifted into third gear coming off the front straightaway and didn’t have any third gear. It broke a linkage on the shifter and finally when I went through the inner loop up there it just locked up and spun the car out. It’s just a tough break. It seems like bad luck is all we’ve had lately. It’ll swing our way. We’ll just have to wait and see and keep on trying.”

TODD BODINE (No. 34 I Love N.Y. Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “Something happened in the clutch. The clutch is slipping for whatever reason. We really don’t know. It didn’t do it at the start. We moved up real good, and then it started slipping bad and kind of went away. Right there with new tires, with all the torque the motors put out and new tires and you get all that grip, the clutch just couldn’t take it. It finally slipped for good. It’s a shame. I love N.Y. is a good term for me. I was brought up and born and raised right here. I love this state. We wanted to do good for the whole state. We had the whole state rooting us on I felt like. It’s just a shame we’re not in the rest of the race. “The race track is really strange. There’s not a lot of grip like there normally is. I think the worst thing they’ve ever done to this race track is put that concrete down. It’s ruined the racing line. You can’t get any grip on it. It’s rough. They really hurt the race track when they did it. It’s strange. The track is really strange today. We had a real good car. We moved up real good and then the clutch started slipping and we dropped back. It stopped slipping and we started picking up. I was running very competitive times, just a couple tenths off the leaders. We pitted for tires and with new tires and all that torque in the motor the clutch just couldn’t take it. It finally just gave out. “This is my third Winston Cup race this season. I want to get back to Cup. I’ve made no bones about that, but I want to be there in a competitive situation with good people. I’m not going to go back just to be a Winston Cup driver. I’ve got a good team in Busch, and if we can’t get the right deal for this team to go Cup or for myself to get the right ride and go Cup, I’ll just stay in this car and we’ll run Busch again. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m very happy where I’m at, but I really do want to be in Winston Cup.”

STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “It’s emotional. I’ve got to thank Dale Earnhardt and Teresa and Dale Earnhardt, Inc., and Pennzoil. They’ve stuck by us through thick and thin, broken bones and everything else. We told them we’d bring ‘em to victory lane, and they stuck by us and here we are. This Chevrolet Monte Carlo hot rod is hard to beat, but that Ford was coming pretty tough there at the end, but I felt we had something to hold them off. Mom and Dad, we’re coming home to party. Since Paul (crew chief Andrews) came on board, he’s really turned this team around. We work so good together. Goodyear has come with a second generation tire that’s really working great. We’ve been working hard trying to figure it out, and I think we’re on to something right now.”

DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) “I’m so proud of him (Steve Park). They’ve been needing something to turn ‘em around. Maybe this will be it. Park has done a good job for us. Damn bad luck has got us. I guess I just lost it. (Watching Steve Park jump on the car’s roof after winning the race). Tell him to get off the roof. They’ll disqualify him. I didn’t see the race (between Park and Mark Martin). You’ll have to talk to someone who saw it. I wish I had been up there with ‘em and been a part of it. I’m just proud for Steve. I didn’t have any contact with Steve during the race. I just had a lot of contact with the wall and the Styrofoam. It just got out from under me. We lost some more points, and now Jeff Burton is right behind us in fourth place. I think the car was going to be pretty good today, but we’ll just have to forget out it now and get ready for next week at Michigan.”

JERRY NADEAU (No. 25 Michael Holigan.com Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “We’ve been having trouble since the beginning of the race getting in third gear. Coming off turn five I went to third, and I heard it break. I was riding around in second and fourth, and that was just too hard. It finally got bound up in fourth gear. It’s pretty disappointing, but what are you going to do. Everybody knew we had a fast car. We came all the way up to second. That’s just the way my luck’s been all year. There’s not much we can do about it. I think the Good Lord has chapters, and today wasn’t my chapter. One day it will be. We’re running strong. We’re competitive. We’re not doing anything stupid. We just had something bite us today. We’re doing all we can do. We were using a new transmission and it just kept locking in gear. Coming off turn five it broke. It just shattered. It wasn’t our day. We’ll get ‘em next week.”

KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “The first set of tires we had were good, and the last set of tires we put on were magnificent. We were struggling midway through the race because the set of tires that were on were junk. I was sliding all over the track. But once we got that last set, we began to march. That’s when we passed about seven cars. There was a huge difference in tires today, and fortunately, we got the best set toward the end of the race. Jimmy (crew chief Elledge) did a great job with our pit strategy. He kept the car out as long as possible before our first pit stop to set us up for the end. The scheme gave us at least five positions.”

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) “I’ve been saying all weekend that if we don’t win it, I sure would like to have a good, strong finish and we just didn’t have an opportunity to do that, unfortunately. We got going and I got a run on Tony (Stewart). I told myself that every chance I get to make a clean pass I’m going to take it. I made a clean move, and I don’t think he (Tony Stewart) wanted me to pass him. We ran side by side in an area you can’t run side by side. I think he hit the curb and ran me into the wall. It’s one of those things, two guys going for the same spot. Maybe I was trying to go too hard too early, but I think there could have been a little more consideration there. “On a road course, you take the opportunity whenever you get it and you don’t get it very often. I think you treat it a little bit differently than an oval. I didn’t do it on the first lap, but I did do it on the second lap. If I hadn’t had a clean move on him, then I would have been regretting it. Right now, I’m just mad I’ve got a wrecked race car. That thing was running almost as fast as the leaders with it as torn up as it was. I think it would have been real good in once piece. “It tore it up. The rear track bar was totally bent, so obviously the rear end was moved around. It definitely wasn’t the same car, a lot of body damage. I knew it wasn’t going to be the same car. It ran pretty good. It was unfortunate we got a lap down. We kind of messed ourselves up a little bit there in the pits. We couldn’t get the fender off the tire in time and we got a lap down. Once you get a lap down on a road course, there’s no way you’re going to get it back, no way. Luckily for us, we just stayed out in front and we finally did get our lap back, but it was too just too late by then. “I think it could have been avoided. I don’t know whether it was intentional. I wasn’t driving the car. He probably hit in the inside curb. Everybody knows you can’t go through there two wide. I let off coming into the top of the esse. I saw he wasn’t going to let up. I let up and he still hit me. It was unfortunate. “Two cars can’t go through that area side by side. It can’t happen. One person has got to give. I felt like I had the position on him. I felt like I wasn’t the one to give, but I did still try to give and it didn’t help.”

BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “We were real happy with the car. If we had pulled a little different gear it would have helped us. We know now what other people pulled. We’ve torn up so much stuff and broke so much stuff that we said we were going to be conservative. We’re so far back in points, we need to finish. We finished 16th and that’s like a win for us because we haven’t been finishing. They’re working hard now trying to turn it around. Danny Gill (crew chief) made excellent pit calls. The guys worked good together all weekend. Actually we were pretty good all weekend. We just got clean lap on the race track for qualifying because everybody kept wrecking and everything. It’s a good weekend for us. There’s a lot of progression being made right now, and when we put it all together, I think we’ll be in good shape. It’s definitely a stepping stone. When you get in this bad a shape, it took a long time to get this way. It’s not going to happen overnight. If we can just hold everybody together and keep digging, we’ll be in good shape. We had a real fast car at Michigan last time and cut a tire down and totaled the car. We’re carrying a new car. I told them once we get past Michigan we ought to be on the incline from here on out. I actually ran about the first half of the race today and just stayed out of trouble. I was just taking care of the brakes. I didn’t want to tear up anything or miss a shift, so we just rode the first half of the race. “A lot of stuff is going on behind the scenes that are making the race team better and a lot of that came into play today. We’re just going to try to keep digging.”

JOE NEMECHEK (No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “That’s another top 10 finish. We were hoping for a little more, but we gained three spots in the standings and improved on our road course finish at Sears Point (11th). The guys did a good job in the pits today. It’s too bad Ron Fellows had problems. I saw him coming and it looked like he had a car that would have been tough to beat. We’ll keep plugging away and try to get ‘em next week at Michigan.”

STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “If you had asked me three years ago where I’d get my first win, I would only hope it’d come at Watkins Glen because this is the place it seems like I got my start. It got me noticed for Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Inc. To come up here and sit on the pole in the truck race and the Busch race and run the modified up here and Busch North and now Winston Cup and to win, who would ever believe it. It’s just so exciting. To have it come on a day when you’ve got a guy like Mark Martin run you down at the end. A young guy like me is not used to the pressure of having Mark Martin behind you to try to hold off for a win. The guys did a good job of telling me to stay focused and to save the brakes and save the tires and don’t make a rookie mistake and don’t make a young driver’s mistake and overdrive the car. We had a good race car. We kept the brakes and tires underneath it. Mark is a professional. He ran me clean all day long. To have him come up alongside and give me a thumbs up at the end was great. “We were just racing. Jeff (Burton) really didn’t get into the back of me hardly at all. We were just racing for position. He was doing what he needed to do to get by me. Starting 18th, we had to pass a lot of these guys, so we kind of knew what they had. Toward the end we were able to run away from Jeff a little bit, and I think he was holding up Mark. Toward the end Mark got by him and was able to run us down. I think Mark had a good race car. It was just a racing deal. Jeff raced me clean the whole time he was behind me, and we were just racing out there. I had to stay calm, keep my composure and don’t make any mistakes. That’s really hard when you’re on the verge of winning your first race and you’ve got seasoned veterans behind you. “I only looked maybe once a lap just to see where he was and that was on the backstretch. I didn’t want to get so focused on what he was doing. I needed to stay focused on what I needed to do. My spotters kept me aware of how many cars he was behind me and stuff so I tried not to look in the rear view mirror to see where he was. I knew it would distract me and I’d miss the corners. My spotter just kept telling me to hit my mark and not worry about the car behind you. He was a little bit better than me in some corners, and I was better than him in others. It just kind of equaled out where he couldn’t get a run on me and I couldn’t pull away from him.” “It was just a good race and track position is key here on road courses. I think if I was running second behind him (Mark Martin), I wouldn’t be able to pass him, either. We were just fortunate we had a good race car and good pit stops all day long. Pennzoil has been standing behind us the past three years during tough times. “We’ve been on our crew. Every week it seems like our pit stops have been hurting us here and there. These guys never gave up. We switched a few people and got some new personnel and practiced three days a week. When you come to a road course, you’ve got to take everything you learn and kind of put it in reverse mode because you’re going the wrong way. We had a meeting this morning to make sure everybody stayed focused and worked together as a team. These guys were pumped up. They knew we had a good race car in Happy Hour yesterday. They just pulled together as a team and got us good pit stops we needed and got us out front with a five-second lead. We were able to maintain it to the end. When you’re trying to decipher what it takes to win in Winston Cup, it takes a perfect day, a perfect day, you’ve got to drive perfectly and have perfect pit stops. If you’re lacking one thing, you’re not going to win. “We didn’t win it on a fuel mileage deal. We had to race our guts out to win it and beat a guy who’s known for winning a lot of races on road courses. It’s funny. If you watched TV and read newspapers over the last few days, they had all these road racing expert up here. You’ve got Mark Martin and Jeff Burton, guys that run awesome on road courses. Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart, the list goes on and on. We definitely weren’t a favorite. We had to come from 18th. We didn’t qualify on the pole. We had to come from deep in the field. We had to pass cars and we had to race to get it. We had to be one of the best to win, and that just makes it even more rewarding to know we didn’t beat ‘em with fuel mileage or have it be a fluke. We’ve lost a lot of races with flukes also, with mechanical trouble and stuff. To be able to have the car stay in one piece, to have great pit stops and beat a guy like Mark Martin makes this win something I’m always going to remember. “We fly a flag if one of the DEI drivers wins. We fly their flag for a week. It always looks good to have your team flag flying out front. We’ve had Dale Jr.’s out there and Dale Earnhardt’s. Now Steve Park’s, that’s an honor. Dale is going to buy lunch for everybody this week. That’s another perk we have for winning. I think it just really makes everybody look like they made the right decision. We’ve signed for two more years and it was important for us to do that early in the year. I think I put a lot of pressure on the team and Dale and our sponsor to get that done so Steve Park as a driver could focus on winning and not worry about what the silly season was going to bring. We got that out of the way early on in the year, got the contract out of the way and it enabled us to get back focused on the job at hand and to try to make our team a winning team. I think it’s paid off. “We need to get a little bit of luck on our side it seems like. We had a good car at Sonoma and we had a power steering problem. We had a fast car in Texas and had a motor problem. We’ve just had some mechanical problems when we’ve been in a position to win to take us out of victory lane. We couldn’t put our finger on what it was going to take to win. We just knew that for some unforeseen circumstance we had been eluded in victory lane and we felt that if we just kept putting ourselves in position to win and kept being a fast car in practice and keep being fast in Happy Hour, the win would come. We figured that once the first win would come, we’d get over that hump and the second and third wins wouldn’t be too far behind. It raises morale. It shows that the whole crew and team puts us at the next level. We’re labeled as winners now. When you look at top fives and wins, we’ve got a notch in that column. There’s a lot of guys in that garage that haven’t been able to win at this level. I think you can take that momentum not only from a driver’s standpoint but from a team’s standpoint, a crew’s standpoint and take that momentum and use it through the second half of this year. Now that we’ve won, we’ve got to win again. We just need to win again. After all the fun we’re going to have tonight, winning is hopefully going to become a regular thing for this team because these guys work their tails off. “We had a real fast car in practice. We wanted to qualify. We felt like we could have real good track position after qualifying. Even after Happy Hour we had a good car, but there were still a handful of guys that were better than we were. Me and Paul had dinner last night and talked about what we wanted to do. We made some last minute decisions to change the shocks around a little bit and Steve Hmiel and Dave Charpentier had a couple of good ideas about what we needed. It’s so hard to describe that. A driver doesn’t talk as intelligent as an engineer does. When you tell them you’ve got a little wiggle waggle you need to get fixed, an engineer says, ‘a little wiggle waggle.’ You say, ‘yeah, if you can fix that I can really drive the hell out of this thing.’ They’ve got a tough job trying to figure out what we really need in these race cars. Me and Paul communicate real good. We’ve got a real close team there. We made a shock change and some other changes this morning that’s really what we were looking for yesterday. It was really just a good, educated guess on what we thought we needed with the limited practice we had yesterday. “It just motivates you. It motivates you from a driver’s stand point and it motivates the whole team. We work as one unit at the race shop and we compete against each other at the race track. Yesterday Dale Jr. crashed the car in practice and there were half a dozen Pennzoil shirts over there working on that car trying to get it ready for them. To be able to see that team win so early on, obviously Dale Jr. has got tremendous talent. His team has been together for a very long time, and they’ve won championships in the past. They’ve had a winning combination in the past, so it really didn’t surprise any of us that they came out and won right off the bat. We took that energy they had and used it to our advantage, to make our team a team that was pumped up and saying, ‘man, this is just showing we’ve got the equipment to win and the people.’ We’ve just got to get that chemistry and get it working together and not have people quit and have too much turnover in employees and just go do what our job is and that’s win races.”

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Darrell Waltrip , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Steve Park , Ron Fellows , Michael Ho , Mark Martin