Good Ol' Boys - NASCAR

Talladega Post-Race Quotes

October 16, 2000


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STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “It was pretty wild out there today. Used to, if you were in two lanes and the inside lane stopped, you could shoot to the outside and pass. Now you pull up there and it just stops. That’s why everybody is peeling down on the bottom. I don’t know why everybody stops when you’re on the outside. Most of the time it stops on the outside. If you get a good push on the outside and then get back down, you’re OK. I sat there and rode and rode and nobody could pass from the outside. They had a big run going and couldn’t get by. You think you’re going to pass them because you’re running five mph faster when you get to them. You pull out and just stop. I believe I liked it like it used to be. They could give us a bigger plate and if they want to slow us down they could put a bigger spoiler on the rear. It depended on who you got with out there, but it was pretty wild. We lost another engine, and that put us out, but we were having a lot of fun.”

DAVE MARCIS (No. 71 Realtree Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “We gave it our best shot. We had the best of everything today. We had Richard Childress’ engine, and the guys helped us on the body. Kevin Harvick’s pit crew came in to help, and I was trying my best. It was a lot of fun. I never spoke to Dale (Earnhardt) about anything before the race. It was hot in the there.

“It’s much different. It seems like down low is the line. It seems like the low line is the line without a doubt. I tried and tried and tried with Dale to get him by (up high), but I just couldn’t get him by.

“I think we burned a piston, but I don’t really know why. I was running a tick warmer than I wanted to, but when you’re sitting there in that draft that’s part of the deal. I doubt if anybody is running as cool as they want to. I was seeing 230, 235 on water temperature, but when I would move to the inside on just one lap, it would drop down to 220. Our goal was about 215, but I gave it my best. I tried and tried hard. Richard Childress brought in Kevin Harvick’s pit crew and they worked on the body. It was their engine and I just can’t thank them enough. I don’t have the money to pay ‘em, but they put a lot of effort into it. Our sponsor, Mr. Bill Jordan and Team Realtree and everybody on the car and my guys and all the RCR crew, I can’t thank them enough.

“Right there toward the end before we broke when we made that pit stop I really think the car was capable of going up front. I was going to try to hang around that top five or three or take the lead if it was available. The last 30 laps you’re going to see a hell of a race here today because anybody that works together in the middle line, if you get the right cars to go with you, there’s a super hole up the middle, but you need the right cars. You’ve got to have the right cars. If you ain’t got the right cars it don’t work.

“It’s frustrating, but what can you do? Our effort was there. I don’t know what to do about it. The effort was there. It just didn’t work. I’m just thankful for all the fans that hang behind us. We can do it if we’ve got the equipment, but it’s tough to get it. Talladega has been a good track for me. The car was super comfortable. I think I could have led the race, but I chose not to close the hole. We didn’t need to cause a wreck. I don’t think they can get it any better. When you see 30 something cars in a pack, three wide, four wide, the distance we cover from front to rear is maybe 300 or 400 feet, you can just about cover everybody up with a blanket. It’s as good as an IROC race at Daytona or Talladega.

“I’ll get ready for Rockingham. Hopefully the enthusiasm built here this week will carry through to Rockingham. I’m 59 and everybody gives up on you, but given the equipment and a car that’s working good, and if everything goes well, I’ve still got the desire, and I guess that’s a big problem. I love racing too much, and being competitive. I guess I just get a big bang out of it.”

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) “I’d say those last 15 laps here were the most horrifying and the most exciting I’ve ever run in my life. I put the 24 car in spots I’ve never put it before. With the late caution like that everybody was pretty bunched up, although they were pretty bunched all day long. You’ve got to give NASCAR credit. They did what they were looking to do. It was a pretty awesome day from where I was sitting to have those few accidents and none of them serious. It was pretty amazing. I didn’t know what was going on (when 6 and 4 cars wrecked). I was just coming to pit road. I’d been waving my hand. I got on the brakes. The next thing I knew I saw cars in the mirror. I let off the brakes and tried to get ahead of ‘em. We got lucky that nobody got into us. With all the bad luck we had yesterday, I’m sure good God was looking over everybody today. I guess we were using our heads. It didn’t look like it at times, but the results were pretty good and I’m proud of that.

“It just depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a lot of lead changes, that’s the way to do it. There’s a lot of positive things that have come out of it, but I don’t know. It was a little too exciting at times for me. I’m sure the fans loved it. By the looks of them still standing here, I’d say they did.

“It’s hard to beat the racing you already have here at Talladega. As a driver, we like to get out there and shake it up some, but three and four wide is one thing, but I think at times today it got a little too crazy. We put on a great show and the cars were comfortable to drive. I think it did what NASCAR set out for it to do. I’d say the fans are pretty happy with it.

“The thing I’m concerned with Daytona is the handling. Daytona is a handling race track. As long as the cars handle decent, we should be able to do the same thing there, but not quite what we did here today. You just didn’t want to be the leader. The problem wasn’t the tires (not getting any on last pit stop). The problem was I was out front. I would much rather have been sitting back there fifth or sixth and had my eyes on the guys up there in front. When you’re the leader, you’re going to get shuffled out pretty quick.

“You just can’t lead. It’s impossible. Every time we were leading, I’d tell the guys to be prepared to go backwards, but we were real happy to finish in the top five. That was a good run for us. I think everybody started getting more comfortable with what was going on out there. The car drove real well, which they always do here at Talladega. That middle groove. You had to use that middle groove. That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, but I’m really proud of everybody. I try to say they’re using their heads, but I’m not exactly sure if it wasn’t pure luck because at times it was really, really wild out there. That’s just Talladega. That’s the way it is here.

“I saw ‘em spinning around behind me (6 and 4). My spotter said wow, wow, wow like there was something I could do. I was already committed to pit road and was slowing the car down pretty fast. I don’t know what happened to those guys behind me. I’m just glad they didn’t get hurt and that they didn’t get into the back of me. I was just coming when they told me to come. I didn’t know if anybody else was coming or what, but I had plenty of room behind me. I gave plenty of signals and I was all the way down on the apron before I let off. I know it wasn’t what I did. It was just something those other guys were trying to do back there.”

“Talladega and Daytona has turned so much into block the lane because you can pass, you’ve got the momentum to pass but the thing is people are constantly blocking you and then you have to check up. That’s kind of what causes some problems out there sometimes, but it seems like the only way you can get to the front is get that middle lane going and shove those guys apart and then get in the middle lane and go forward. It wasn’t easy to pass. If you were single file you could pass all day long.

“The last place you wanted to be on a restart here today was in the lead and I was there twice. I had good experiences of going backwards there a few laps, but the DuPont Chevrolet team did a heck of a job. What a weekend we had. Yesterday was just miserable, but to come back and bring the backup car out and to have the type of run we had from 43rd today, my hat’s off to the team. They did an excellent job. I’m tickled to have fourth. I said earlier in the day it’s just a crap shoot as to who is going to come out up front and who’s not. Earnhardt is as good as anybody as timing that thing right and coming out up front at the right time.

“I thought they were pretty good. I think as long as the drivers use their heads and we try to control ourselves, we can put on a heck of a race. I’d say the fans certainly enjoyed that one. It was pretty hairy at times, white knuckling it through some areas where I never thought my car... I don’t know how wide my car is, but I know there are some spots out there that weren’t as wide as my race car that I was putting it in. That’s what you had to do there at the end, kind of push your way around if you want to get to the front. That’s not always the way we want to do it here at Talladega, but it worked today.”

TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “I got in the middle there and I don’t even know who was behind me. Somebody behind me gave me a push and we passed some cars. They kind of got jammed up on the inside and we got by some. It was a good run for us. I was really happy to finish fifth. We’ve kind of struggled some here lately. Maybe this will give us some momentum for the rest of the year. Everybody did a great job out there today. You saw a lot of patience with a lot of the drivers. It’s too bad we had a couple of little problems and had one there at the end, but other than that, everybody did a good job. Any time you come down here, you always worry about the big wreck or something, we didn’t have it today until the race was over. You didn’t really know where you wanted to be for awhile, and then it seemed like the inside and the middle were the places to be. You could really get a run on somebody and get there on the outside, but you couldn’t go anywhere once you got there. We ran a lot of laps on the yellow line all the way around the track. The bottom lane was the fastest lane. I’m sure these rules are going to work at Daytona in February. It wasn’t a bad race and you saw so many guys who used their heads out there. It was a good race. I don’t where where I was on that last restart, but I got back pretty far there one time. I don’t know how I got back there, and I don’t know how I got back to the front.”

DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “I think it’s a lot safer out there than it was. Guys don’t take as big of chances. At least, it didn’t look like to me they were because you could go from the front to the back real easy. I wanted to be out front there at the end. I got a run on him (Skinner) and went to pass him and the only place to go was on the apron, so I hit the apron and said ‘maybe I won’t and maybe I will.’ I got loose and had to back off. It didn’t look like we were going to win it, but it cost us a good top five, I think. The decision was my choice. I’m fine with it. We’ve had a good car the last two weeks, and hopefully we’ve got things turned around.

“It’s been awhile since we’ve had a car that good. We got to lead some laps. I don’t know if that was just because if everybody else didn’t want to. We were trying to think about how we were going to run those last two or three laps. Mike Skinner got up there and mixed it up with us. I tried to get him on the apron. It was now or never. It was my decision. We probably could have finished in the top five or six if I had just cut a rug behind him, but I wanted to win. We came home 14th, but I’m still happy.

“I was happy with leading the race. That’s what it’s all about no matter where you finish. I had a good time from where I was sitting. We had a real good car. Some guys probably didn’t have their cars as good and didn’t enjoy it as much. Dad just got a great run on the outside. Skinner was not going to win the race in the position he was in, so I either had to get by him or finish behind him.

“I thought the race was really competitive. You could take a break, go to the back and get ready to go to the front. We could take the lead when we wanted, do whatever we wanted to do. Where I wanted to be was up front.”

STEVE PARK (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “I got hit after I’d crossed the start-finish line (on last lap). It was like something you’d see in an ARCA race. I didn’t have a scratch on my car all day long. It was a brand new race car. I was 20 or 30 cars past the start-finish line and everybody started checking up. I guess the guys behind me were racing for the start-finish line. I don’t even know who hit me. I just got turned around like I got hit wide open after the start-finish line. I don’t really know what happened, but it’s the kind of stuff you shouldn’t see in Winston Cup. Now we’re loading up a torn up car. We finished without a scratch. I guess we just didn’t get it loaded fast enough. We had a good race car. With the old way, you can’t pass because of the restrictor plate and now we run four wide and you can’t pass because the track ain’t wide enough. All the drivers used a lot of patience today. I thought the first three-quarters of the race was real good. We’re going too fast here to be racing four wide and having all the mayhem go on. It’s hard to say. We had a good car. We ended up getting torn up, so I’m a little sore about that.”

MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “I thought I was doing the right thing, but obviously we weren’t. You don’t have any friends down there toward the end. I was trying to take care of Bobby Labonte. I didn’t want to wreck him. I didn’t want to get involved in the championship. I felt bad about when we got together before and I was being real careful with Bobby. He ended up racing me pretty clean. We had the car to beat. We had an awesome race car. We sat back there in the pack all day and saved the car. I sat back there in the pack all day minding my business. When it was time to go I tried to go and couldn’t go. It was pretty hairy, but that’s Talladega. All those people standing up cheering are going to buy tickets and come back and see us again. That’s what we wanted to happen.”

JERRY NADEAU (No. 25 Michael Holigan.com Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “I tell you what. If they were selling tickets here for $1,000, I would have paid for it because I would have loved to sit in the stands to watch this race. That was a race. It was so nerve-wracking. I told the guys to count down every lap from 15 to go on. I think I went from 30th to 10th to 15th and finally ended up 13th. The last three laps were the most hair-raising laps I’ve ever raced in my life. Every car was bumping, but it was a clean bump. Fix, six-wide, we were down in the grass on the backstretch. I’m just happy we came back in one piece, which makes it a good day for the team. At certain points, it could have been our day, but you just have no control here. Dale Earnhardt planned it right. He was in the back of the pack and he weaved his way up on the last lap and held everyone off. I don’t quite have the experience Earnhardt has to win a race here. We had a fast car. In fact, we probably had a car fast enough to win here. Overall, it was a fun day.”

LARRY McCLURE (Car owner No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Monte Carlo) “We had a good car. We had a good run going early. I guess we just got shuffled to the rear and he was making a run back through there. I don’t know if those guys just didn’t wave him off if they were going to make a pit stop or if they just got off the gas to go down pit road and caused his wreck. I’m sure he was pretty well focused on what was in front of him, but that’s the best we’ve run in a restrictor-plate race in a long time. It seems like people are still afraid of the yellow car from the past. It’s hard to get drafting partners, but the stronger we get the more they’ll jump on the bandwagon with us. It’s not like it used to be. You create such a wake behind the race car everybody can draft up to you even though you may be stronger than they are. It’s disappointing, but we’re going to Rockingham. We’ve got four races left and we had a really good car there last time. Bobby did an excellent job, and I think we can maybe end the season here on a high note if our bad luck doesn’t continue to follow us. We’re taking the same car back to Rockingham, and it was pretty dominant.”

KENNY WALLACE (No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “My teammate was right behind me. Earnhardt is a good guy. He thanked me a bunch there on the back straightaway. It was just Talladega. I just can’t say enough about ending the year on a high note with these guys. Earnhardt just puts himself in those positions. I had no choice but to hit him and keep pushing him into the lead. I finished second at Loudon last year, so I tied my best ever finish. It was just a deal where I think all us veterans caught ourselves out there today going this is ridiculous. A lot of us were just taking turns. I know Joe would run around the back for awhile and he’d shoot up the middle. I’d ride the back awhile and shoot up the middle. The key for my team was the four tires at the end. You wouldn’t have thought that would help, but it helped me make some daring moves and be aggressive and turn right-left through the corners. I was just able to get up there and go.

“It was coming through the tri-oval and he (Earnhardt) got his nose underneath Andretti and I was doing everything but hitting him through the tri-oval. We got through there, and I was worried we were going to get hung on the outside there. I don’t know what happened, but my teammate came behind me it was like I had turbos. I realized once I hit him I wasn’t going to lift him. That was a good thing, Chevrolet front bumper to Chevrolet rear bumper. Sometimes you hit these guys and it lifts them up. I hit Earnhardt once square and I knocked the hell out of him three or four times and I personally won the race for him. And he owes me. You’re at Talladega, thinking you’ve got a shot to win the race, and he’s just the master. He pulls down and he’s got a guy behind him that pushes him to the win. Me and Joe knew what we had to do, but when us three broke away there on the last lap, it was over because we didn’t have any help.

“When I went through the tri-oval I rode the brake because I didn’t want to him when we were turning the wheel. I’ve seen that on TV enough. I rode the brake a little bit. I had Joe right there. When I got through the tri-oval at the start-finish line, I hit him once, twice and we were gaining on him and the back straightaway was where the huge shove was, about three shoves. Then I pushed by him and I thought I was in trouble and I looked behind me and Joe kept pushing me. We had a breakaway. That was Earnhardt and Talladega.

“We were doing some ridiculous things. We were letting halfway out of the throttle all the way down the back straightaway. We were running half throttle most of the day. It was strange. If you felt super and ran wide open and jumped out, the things on the roof or something, you just couldn’t go. Usually I run wide open just about the whole race here. We just couldn’t get going.

“Since I came to this team, my worst finish here has been sixth. Andy (car owner Petree) has a tremendous superspeedway program. My mentality here is when they drop the green flag, let’s see who’s going to race today and who’s going to play the fool I guess you could say. We did the same thing today, but at the end there with 20 to go you’ve got to do things you don’t want to do. The biggest thing was my crew chief putting on those four tires there at the end. We did that by mistake. We came in to put right sides on and I came in and locked up the brakes. Little E was pulling out in front of me. Those four tires enabled me to go from the back, turn right and left through the corners and just pass everybody.

“The slingshot was not there. I wish it had of been darn it, because there would have been a big wreck and me and Joe... Joe might have won. You drive mostly in your mirror as you do in the front and you push your gas pedal through the floorboard, and I about broke my right arm waving him on. Come on, come on. We couldn’t do anything because it was just us three in a breakaway, but I tell you what. How can NASCAR do any better of a job? It came down to the last half lap to determine the winner. I looked in the stands and everybody was on their feet. I knew it was a good race. I don’t think the rules can get any better. They can change them all they want.”

JOE NEMECHEK (No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “It was definitely wild. It was the wildest race I’ve been in in a long time. We had to get to the front, and it seemed like I had a couple of good runs going and I got cut off a couple of times and had to get on the brakes and it bogged me down. There at the end we got in the second line and something happened. Mike Skinner and I don’t know if it was Dale Jr. got together going into one and kind of boggled that line down and Kenny and I just shot down. I started to help Kenny get by the 3 car, but we didn’t have enough to do it. They kept telling me to work with Kenny, but I was going to work with myself. I’ve got to get by him. It was a good race.

“I’m glad it’s over. It was one of those days you could get stuck in the middle or you could get stuck on the outside or you could get stuck on the bottom. Sometimes getting stuck in the middle, man there were cars all around you. One lap you’d be fifth and the next lap you’d be 25th. With about 10 to go, I thought I was going to end up about 15th. I knew where I needed to be and I wasn’t in a position to get there yet. The holes opened up and I had to push my way through. I had to use my bumper the last few laps. It got me to the position where I could get to the outside lane. My car seemed to like that second lane. Kenny was in front of me. I tried to give him a push and all of a sudden, Earnhardt kind of shot up in front of him. Once he got in front of him, I knew that lane was the place to be. Then the bottom guys started running into each other and that was all she wrote.

“You’d be lucky having a good draft on the backstretch to get up to ‘em and give ‘em a little bump draft. Now, your closing rate is fast. The people who were smart, before they got there they were on their brakes pretty hard. A few of them would do some stupid things early and try to make it four wide, but for the overall part, everybody used their heads. I think that driver’s meeting they had was the best thing that ever happened here.

“We had motor. We could get up there and you could push guys down the straightaways. It seemed like the limiting factor was the front car today. The front car could only run so fast and all the other cars kept closing up. It was just like an accordion. You’d close up and everybody would jam on their brakes. Then you’d take off again and they’d stretch out. It’d close back up. You had to time it just perfect in using the draft off the other cars whether it’s the inside lane or outside lane to get the good momentum.

“I’m absolutely drained right now. My head hurts. My body’s tired. It’s hard enough looking forward, but you had to be watching the mirror, watching forward, watching the guys on each side of you. We were running four inches apart going around the corner three wide all the way down the bottom of the race track. A couple of times I got turned sideways in turn three and coming through the tri-oval. It was all you could do just to hang on, so overall, I think the race was pretty good. We had a lot of different leaders, a lot of different people got to the front.

“I was already hooked up with Kenny. Earnhardt, Kenny and myself, we were committed to the second groove. I knew coming into the last lap the bottom guys, they always do it, they’re going to hang each other out on the little flat before you go into turn one. I don’t know who did it to who, but I saw them get all jacked up and I said, ‘this is perfect.’ It gave us enough momentum and the three of us just pushed on by. Three laps earlier Gordon kind of hung me out, and we slipped back some spots and got back by him. We were lucky we got back to that position.”

DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) “I was very lucky. I kept working the outside and it didn’t work. It got three wide and it didn’t work, so I started working the middle. I knew I had to pass those guys on the inside. I kept working the middle and kept working the middle and finally it started moving and then Kenny Wallace got behind us and when he got behind us we started to the front. We finally got it to the front and Kenny hung on. He was going to try to make a move down the back straightaway, but I kept moving and he really couldn’t make a run on me. It worked out, and he stuck with me through three and four and back to the line. I was proud to make old Richard Sturtz here a millionaire. He’s worked hard all his life and he deserves it. Winston is awful good about putting this together. I’ve been involved in a couple of No Bull Fives and never won one. It’s pretty unique to win one.

“It was one of them deals that nobody really knew. Somebody had to help you and work with you. They thought that was what was going to happen and Skinner was on the bottom. I couldn’t pull in behind Skinner and help him. Dale Jr. was there. I just took the outside and raced on around with Kenny Wallace behind me, and it worked out great. I don’t like restrictor-plate racing.

“To think anybody could start from back in the field with 15 to go and win this race is beyond me because as the day when on we went back and forth and nobody had a dominant car that could stay up front if they didn’t want you to. They could draft by you or work by you. For it to come down with several laps to go, we weren’t looking that good. We had gotten right-side tires, and it just didn’t look like we had an opportunity to win the race, but I was working awful hard to try to get back up close to the front and get in contention to finish good, a top 10 finish or whatever. When we got on the outside, or actually in the middle, I tried the outside a couple of times and got shoved back again, I just started working the bottom in the middle and worked the bottom in the middle and I finally got on the outside of the inside line and was basically in the middle and kept working. Kenny Wallace got in there with me and Nemechek and they pushed me to the front. I pushed Skinner on the back straightaway coming to get the white flag and took the lead. Basically we got away from the field. They started stacking up three wide. You guys saw it. I couldn’t believe it. Coming off two, I worked up and down the back straightaway so those guys couldn’t get a run on me and break up that air. It worked pretty well. We got back to three and we were in line and I was pretty impressed I beat them back to the start-finish line because knowing now it was Nemechek and Wallace and they were teammates, I know they didn’t want to sit behind me and run. We were fortunate. Good move, good race car and good team, good pit stops all day. I can’t say enough about the way they worked together. I’ve got to hand it to the race drivers. They all worked good together. I know there at the end they got a little antsy, a little bumping and a little bit of rubbing. I know they wrecked there at the start-finish line. They were going for it, but it was a pretty good day, seeing that kind of racing side by side and three wide and four wide at times and nobody got in trouble. It was a great day actually. It was good hard racing, but I still don’t like restrictor plate racing. I think the rules they did with the spoilers and tops made the race more competitive. Again, I still don’t like restrictor-plate racing. I’m not that good at it.”

DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) “I don’t know how I won it honestly. With 10 to go I think we were 22nd or something. We had moved up and got pushed back again. I was up and down there between 10 and 15 to go. To be 18th or wherever we were with five to go is pretty impressive and says a lot for the rules and spotters and everything to make the racing more competitive. The problem is it’s hard to move through these cars. You’ve got to work your way around and by them. We just were fortunate to get hooked up with Kenny and Joe Nemechek there and work our way to the front. Basically that’s how I won the race because Kenny Wallace and Joe Nemechek got in there and all three Chevrolets got together and worked their way to the front.

“He was bumping me when we got by Skinner and those guys. We were bump drafting quite a bit. I came off two and I worked up and down the race track and kept the air broke up and they couldn’t really get a run on me and get ganged up together and get a run on me. I think that was the key to being out front and not getting passed. I think within another lap and a half he would have and those guys behind them were going to get hooked up. It was one to go and we worked ‘em one lap and beat ‘em.

“I was fine. I had to squeeze up because of the apron. I had the front end in front of him (Rich Bickle) and I was going to try to go for the hole. I went for the hole and made it. Fortunately nobody else wrecked behind me and we got through there OK.

“You’ve got to gain every race like that and if we can gain 50 or so every race down to the last race it’d make it a heck of a race at Atlanta. Charlotte was a good race for us, but we should have finished better than we did there. Dover was a good race for us, but we should have finished better there and didn’t. We’ve got to start having the luck like we did today at Talladega, and capitalize on our good finishes and beat Bobby. Hopefully Bobby finishes further back than us. If it gets down to two or three races to go and he’s still got 100 or 150 points on us, it’s going to be tough to beat him. If we can get it down to 150 or less with a couple of races to go I think we’ve got a shot at putting the pressure on. Anything can happen.”

BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “It was unfortunate that we wrecked because the car was awesome. I was just biding my time waiting until the right time to go to the front. The motor was strong. I think we might should have taken on four tires instead of two because two tires tightened up the car. Mark Martin decided to pit and he just checked up. I had nowhere to go. I didn’t see any hand signals telling me he was going to pit. The steering wheel got me pretty good. It knocked the breath out of me. I’m hurting right now, but I’ll see how it goes tonight. I think NASCAR made the right changes. I like the changes. We really wanted this win, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

KEVIN LEPAGE—16—FamilyClick.com/TV Guide Taurus—DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED YET? “No, it’s something in the motor. Lost oil pressure and started to slow down, so instead of staying out there, we decided to come in and take a look at it and see if we can figure out what’s wrong with it. We still don’t know what it is, but we had a good race car, that’s for sure.”

DID IT GIVE YOU ANY WARNING AT ALL? “It started to slow down just a little bit going down through the tri-oval and it had some smoke in the car, and I looked down and the oil pressure was gone, so, obviously, there’s something going wrong, we just don’t know what it is right now.”

UP TO THAT POINT, WERE YOU HAPPY WITH THE CAR? “I believe, really, I thought we had something to win the race with.”

JEREMY MAYFIELD—12—Mobil 1 Taurus—“I’m not sure right now. It looks like we might’ve broken something somewhere. Just had a good car. We were just kinda sitting out there making laps and that was kinda our game plan, Rusty and I both. Could pretty much go anytime we wanted to, that was the good thing about it.”

JIMMY SPENCER—26—Big Kmart/Route 66 Taurus—“We broke a shock mount, just pulled it right out of the plate. First I ever had that happen. The car was running really good. We were just sitting there waiting, like I guess a lot of other guys are. But our car was really strong, and every time we needed to we could get up there. Ain’t gonna do it now.”

CAN YOU GET BACK IN THE RACE? “Oh, yeah. We’ll fix it pretty easy, just take a couple of laps, gonna lose a lot of laps, because we can’t replace it the way we want to. The way it pulled it out of the piece, we gotta put a piece of tubing in there. So, it’s not too good.”

ELLIOTT SADLER—21—CITGO Taurus—“We run good all day. I was running fifth going into turn three and then ended up 17th, just got caught on the outside and didn’t have nowhere to go. When I get some more experience and more people to work with us, we’ll be okay.”

WHAT WORKED TODAY? “We just had an awesome race car. That S.O.B. run bottom, top, it didn’t matter. Just needed a little more help.”

BILL ELLIOTT—94—McDonald’s Taurus—“We got hot. That thing pegged the temperature gauge at the end. I don’t know why.”

BEFORE THAT? “Before that we had a good day going, but it started running hot, even leading the race. Man, I don’t know what happened.”

BRETT BODINE—11—Ralphs Supermarkets Taurus—“We just hung around, that’s all. We didn’t have much of a race car and we just tried to keep it out of trouble and get what we could out of today, and that’s about all we could accomplish.”

DID YOUR CAR HAVE THE ABILITY TO GAIN SOME GROUND WHEN NEEDED? “No, our car wasn’t quicker. Anytime I tried to be aggressive I’d lose spots, I couldn’t be aggressive. We just didn’t have a very good race car.”

MATT KENSETH—17—DeWalt Tools Taurus—HOW DID IT LOOK FROM THE TRACK? “It was real scary. You had to let off the gas almost every lap or you’d run into the back of somebody and the lines were really moving around a lot. You’d really get slowed up into the corner, the whole line would start slowing up. You knew when they threw the white flag that nobody was gonna lift for a lap and they were gonna steer and find whatever lane they could, and that’s pretty much what happened. I know there was wreck after the finish, and that’s too bad because everybody made it all day and really used common sense, but when they want to score the points and score the victory for the last lap everybody is just gonna stick it wherever they can.”

THE EXPECTED BIG WRECK WAS AVOIDED DURING THE RACE. “They were real stable, they drove real good. It was a different kind of racing. I liked it better as far, you know, throughout how the whole race went because you didn’t have to be an inch away from somebody’s bumper and be wide open, you could let off the gas and rest a little bit and then catch right back up again because of the bigger hole in the air. It just makes it scary there at the end.”

ANOTHER GOOD FINISH. “It was a good run. It’s hard to say what’s a good run here. If you can finish—if there’s 27 cars on the lead lap and you finish 27th and you got a line there at the end you finish first, it’s a good run. So, if you make it to the end without wrecking and you can walk out of here and everybody was safe, so that was a good day for us.”

YOU RAN NEAR THE FRONT AND LED A COUPLE OF LAPS. WHAT WORKED? “Our car was pretty good. We really were just pretty careful in the beginning. I was real paranoid about the big wreck happening and I didn’t want to be in the middle of it. So, we pretty much rode around in the beginning and then after our first tire stop I didn’t really have a drafting partner anymore so we just started driving hard and staying up in the draft—and we handled good. A couple times we drove all the way to the lead and stayed up there. Our car was real slow by itself, we were the last one to make it on time, but when you get in a big group of cars, it can take a last-place car, almost, and make it a car that can run up front. We still have some work to do to improve our speedway program, but it was a real good finish for us.”

A TOUGH DAY FOR FORDS, PLUS THE RESTRICTOR-PLATE CHANGE YESTERDAY. WHEN YOU GOT IN THE CAR TODAY, DID YOU HAVE A GOOD IDEA OF WHAT IT COULD DO? “You didn’t know what was gonna happen because of the draft and big hole in the air and going back and forth, so we really didn’t know that for sure. I think we all were disappointed they dropped the Chevy spoilers down. They were the top-four positions here in April when we raced here last, and I think they won again and all finished up front, so I think they did penalize us a little bit. There restrictor-plate thing was no big deal, that was equal for everybody. But the spoiler thing I thought was a little unequal.”

DALE JARRETT—88—Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus—“Couldn’t get much more than that. It was wild racing, they got the passing at the end. It was just surprising the outside groove wouldn’t work at all. That made it tough. You checked up there on the bottom and you could sit there and ride or see you could get out there and go, and I got out and tried to go and tried to make it where I could put myself in a position to win, and it just didn’t work.”

IF THESE WERE THE DAYTONA 500 RULES WOULD THEY NEED TO BE FINE-TUNED A LITTLE BIT? Daytona is so different than this it’s really hard to say. The car seemed to drive okay, and that’s the main thing, handling’s a key down at Daytona, so it looks like it oughta work..”

DRIVERS SEEMED TO BE CALM IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE RACE. “Everybody did a good job there, but, you know, when it gets down to trying to get positions and trying to win the race, then everybody’s has to do what they gotta do. I thought everybody did a great job.”

MARK MARTIN—6—ZEREX/Cummins Taurus—“Nobody got hurt.”

YOU BROUGHT HOME THE BANNER FOR FORD TODAY WITH YOUR SEVENTH-PLACE FINISH. “Well, that ain’t nothing to brag about. We did the best we could here today. That wasn’t racing, but I sure was proud to see those drivers, everyone of ’em deserves a gold medal.”

WHAT HAPPENED? “I was getting ready to pit and somebody didn’t know it. You know, that happens sometimes when you get ready to pit. Somebody behind me didn’t know it.”

RICKY RUDD—28—Texaco/Havoline Taurus—“Our guys did a good job, it’s just that string on the outside ganged up and caught us there at the end. What really hurt was Earnhardt, Jr. drove down on the flat down there, came back on the race track and just about wrecked the whole field, and that’s why I got jumbled at the last lap.”

HOW DID THE RULES CHANGE WORK OUT FOR YOU? “I thought it was good. I thought it was better than it has been.”

JEFF BURTON—99—CITGO SUPERGARD Taurus—“We weren’t in it all day. We cut a tire, and we just never had anything go our way, so I don’t know. You’d have to ask somebody who was in the middle of it. It looked like a mess, though.”

HOW DID THE RULES CHANGE WORK OUT FOR YOU? “If you had a Chevrolet it worked out great.”

STACY COMPTON—9—Kodiak Taurus—ARE YOU OKAY? “Yeah, all’s fine. We don’t know what happened. Somebody turned somebody after the checkered flag, and we had it missed, and, of course, trying to get stopped, somebody run into the back of us and turned us into the outside wall. Luckily it wasn’t any worse than it was. We got whoa’d down pretty good, but still got into the outside wall, still got into somebody, I’m not sure who. Hate it for this Kodiak Melling team. We had a good car all day. We had to equalize a tire twice and went to the back both times, and that last run we gained about 12 spots on that last 15 laps. That’s sorta the way the year’s went, but all in all, we can’t complain with the run. We’ll just dig down a little harder and figured out why we had to equalize those tires and come back and get ’em next time.

COULD YOU MAKE UP GROUND WHEN NEEDED? “We got so loose when the tire equalized, we dropped back and almost lost the draft one time. Fortunately we were able to draft back up to those guys. The draft worked well. I commend all the drivers out here. Up until the last lap it was a heckuva show. I think the fans got their money’s worth. It was a good race. I still think we need to slow ’em down just a little bit. I think we need to put the handle back in the race car, but still it was a good race.”

THE HIGHEST FINISH BY A FORD WAS SEVENTH. AND, THE RESTRICTOR PLATES WERE CHANGED YESTERDAY. WHEN YOU GOT IN THE CAR TODAY, DID YOU HAVE A GOOD IDEA OF WHAT IT COULD DO? “We had a good idea, but two inches more spoiler across the rear, that’s a lot. I think it’s hurting ’em a little bit. It’s hard to say. You look at how good the Chevrolets and Pontiacs ran in practice—we felt like we draft good, and we did, but the Chevrolets were a little bit better than us today and I’m not sure whether it was the spoiler or whether we just need to do a little more homework, but we’ve been awful good all year and a couple of rule changes and seventh is the best we finished. So, I think the rules need some adjusting and I’m sure NASCAR will do what’s right.”

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