Joe Nemechek, driver of the No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet Monte Carlo led all Team Monte Carlo drivers with a fast lap of 179.351 mph at The Brickyard on Tuesday in the first day of a two-day General Motors test session preparing for the...
Joe Nemechek, driver of the No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet Monte Carlo led all Team Monte Carlo drivers with a fast lap of 179.351 mph at The Brickyard on Tuesday in the first day of a two-day General Motors test session preparing for the Brickyard 400 on Aug. 5. Johnny Benson posted the fastest overall speed in a Pontiac at 179.480 mph. Jeff Gordon holds the track record with a lap of 50.108 seconds, 179.612 mph set here last August in his No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo. Forty-seven cars belonging to 27 teams posted times on Tuesday. Both of Benson's Pontiacs were in the top 10, while Nemechek's 33A Monte Carlo was 12th fastest overall at 177.581 mph. Fresh off a runner-up finish last Sunday at Loudon, N.H., Nemechek talks about his season, outlook for Brickyard 400 and dealing with the loss of NASCAR Winston Cup driver Kenny Irwin. The GM test session will resume on Wednesday at 8 a.m. central, but the track will close at 9:30 a.m., allowing drivers to attend Irwin's funeral in Indianapolis at 10 a.m. Testing will resume from noon until 6 p.m. <pre> Here are the top 15 speeds in Tuesday's test session. 1. Johnny Benson No. 10a Pontiac 50.145 seconds, 179.480 mph 2. Joe Nemechek No. 33 Chevrolet 50.181 seconds, 179.351 mph 3. Steve Park No. 1 Chevrolet 50.244 seconds, 179.126 mph 4. Ken Schrader No. 36 Pontiac 50.303 seconds, 178.916 mph 5. Geoffrey Bodine No. 60 Chevrolet 50.304 seconds, 178.912 mph 6. Dale Earnhardt No. 3 Chevrolet 50.317 seconds, 178.866 mph 7. Jerry Nadeau No. 25 Chevrolet 50.360 seconds, 178.713 mph 8. Ward Burton No. 22 Pontiac 50.424 seconds, 178.486 mph 9. Rick Mast No. 14 Pontiac 50.473 seconds, 178.313 mph 10. Johnny Benson No. 10 Pontiac 50.547 seconds, 178.052 mph 11. Kenny Wallace No. 55 Chevrolet 50.589 seconds, 177.904 mph 12. Joe Nemechek No. 33a Chevrolet 50.681 seconds, 177.581 mph 13. Jeff Gordon No. 24 Chevrolet 50.706 seconds, 177.494 mph 14. Ken Schrader No. 33m Pontiac 50.734 seconds, 177.396 mph 15. Mike Bliss No. 27 Pontiac 50.780 seconds, 177.235 mph </pre> JOE NEMECHEK (No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "They built me a brand new car to come here and it drives good. You get out there and you know right away what it's going to do. I think if we work on it some more it'll be really good. Both of our cars are driving good. One is the car we raced at Pocono, and the other is a brand new car just like it. "Indy is different from Pocono, yet it's close to being the same. You've got to get set up for turn 2 or turn 3 at Pocono for all of the turns here. Our new car is just a little different from the one we run at Pocono, and they're both fast, so we're pretty happy right now. "When we were under green as the race was winding down last Sunday at New Hampshire, that was the best we were going to get (running second to eventual race winner Tony Stewart). He was too far ahead. It seemed like we could make little gains on him. I thought we ran a real competitive race looking at the lap times. Tony was setting the pace and we could keep up with that pace and a lot of times beat his pace. It depended what traffic you were around. There were so many factors that went into it. Some of the stuff you could control, and some of it you couldn't. If it would have gone another 10 laps, there probably would have been a little different outcome. "It was questionable if we were going to make it to the end. So many factors were involved, but we'll take that second-place finish and try to run with it."
COMMENT ON KENNY IRWIN "It's a scary deal and no one really knows why that stuff happens. It affects me more than it affects most other drivers just because I've been through it, losing a brother. It's unbelievable. I cannot figure out why this keeps happening to all these young drivers. It's strange. It's stuff that shouldn't happen, but yet it does. A lot of those guys working on that team are the same guys who worked for me. I went and talked to them right away, but it's just tough. It shows you The Lord works in mysterious ways and you never know what's going to happen. "When you go out on the race track, you've got to be focused on what you do, but it's going to be in everybody's mind for a long time. You don't get rid of it. It's been three years since my brother got killed. I still think about it every day. There's nothing you can do about it. You've just got to figure out how you can live your life the best you can every day. You can't let life go by without taking advantage of every minute of your life and try to be a better person. "It's a strange deal. I wouldn't say Kenny Irwin was one of my best friends. He was a friend. I didn't know him that well. When you're going out of a place and a new guy is coming in, it's just like good luck to you and you go about your business. Felix Sabates and all the guys stayed in touch with me, and it's just a tough deal. It's just like the sponsor, BellSouth. They had their brightest moment ever in racing at that race track and now they've had their saddest moment ever at the same track. It's just a really tough deal."
COMMENT ON PREPARING FOR BRICKYARD 400 "We're doing all we can to win this race. If you can get the car to drive good and the motor to run good, you're going to run well. Then you've got to have a little bit of luck so you're running at the end. We've always qualified well at Indy. Normally we're a contender. If the motor shop keeps working hard and can give us a little extra power and we get our cars tuned up, I think we're going to have a shot at 'em. Your car's got to handle. You've got to have awesome power because these straightaways are long, long, long. You're in the gas for a long time. The more power you have, the quicker you're going to go down that straightaway. The problem is you're going to be going faster at the end and you've still got to get around the corner. If you can put it all together, you're going to be fast. "This place is kind of like a road course because you've got so long to get set up for the corner. Then you've got to do everything you can when you get to that corner to get through it fast. It's kind of like a road course, keeping the momentum and doing everything you can to get through that corner right. Yet, you have to do it four times with two real long straightaways and two short straightaways. Power is a big key. Handling is a key, and you've got to have a good aero package. "It's just like anywhere. It's like a restrictor-plate race. If your car is working good and you get up there and race 'em and battle 'em, it's fun. If you're not running good or handling good, it's awful. We're going to work hard for a couple of days so we can come back in August and have a lot of fun.
WHAT'S THE OUTLOOK FOR SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON? "If we can keep running like we're running right now, I think we might have a shot at winning a couple of races this season. You've got to keep running consistent every week. If we can keep getting cars and getting cars driving like I had it at Loudon, we'll be in good shape. We had a good car at Daytona for the Pepsi 400. We might have been down on power a little bit, but we finished 11th. If we can keep that momentum up, we're going to be in pretty good shape."
ANDY PETREE (Car owner No. 33 Oakwood Homes Monte Carlo) "Joe is a good race car driver. That's what's turned our deal around. The cars are getting better and better. I'd like to see us have some more good runs like we did at New Hampshire. If we can keep our cars together, that'll keep us going. We wrecked a lot of cars and had some motor problems, so we want to be more consistent and stay on the race track. "I think the Monte Carlo is a good race car. We just really haven't had time to refine our program because we wrecked a lot and had some motor problems. It was hard to get caught back up. Once we quit wrecking, it's starting to show. The last car we wrecked was in The Winston. Since then, we've been building back up. New Hampshire showed we can win. Up until then, there was doubt, but there's no doubt now. We didn't inherit second. We earned it."