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NASCAR WCUP: Pontaic teams discuss day at Gatorade 125s

Posted By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel

(ON FINISHING 11TH AND QUALIFYING FOR THE DAYTONA 500) "I'm so happy I can't stand it. "I've been against all odds for two months. I made a move to go with a new team and just because they don't have a sponsor, people look at me like I'm dirt. It hurts because I'm used to being on top. I'm a Wallace. There is no better feeling than to get in to the Daytona 500 by just literally racing your way into it. We raced our butts off.

"I'm so happy right now. My brother, obviously, is going to be in the race. My brother Mike finished 13th and I finished 11th. Man, we're in the Daytona 500 and that's a dream."

(ON THE LAST COUPLE LAPS) "I was just praying that when Ron Hornaday spun out that I would just be able to just finish it under the checkered flag. When they said, 'One to go,' I was like, 'Oh Lord.' I got my mirrors adjusted right and I had to start blocking. You know in one lap, you can lose seven spots, so I'm just thrilled to death right now."

(HOW ABOUT SPONSORSHIP?) "I don't care about sponsorship right now. This is all I care about right now.

"I want a sponsor and if corporate America doesn't want to sponsor a race car for the biggest race in the whole United States with the biggest TV viewer ship, then it's their loss. But I can tell you what - if you sponsor my race car, you're going to get on TV and you're going to sell product, so I'm the guy to be with."


(ON HIS INCIDENTS) "I don't know what happened. The first time I just got into a push. The second time, I don't know if somebody dumped something or what, but then the guys started wrecking in turns three and four. It just went straight and hit.

"It's been a great car. But I'm sure it bent the clip. The (steering) wheel is off pretty bad. We'll just have to see what we do from here."


(HIS IMPRESSIONS OF THE RACE) "We didn't race a whole lot. We did for a little bit there, but there were a couple of cars leaking oil and we got oil on the windshield a couple of times. We couldn't hardly race just because of that. What little bit I saw was pretty wild."

(ON HIS CAR) "It'll race better on Sunday. Today's not a race. It's just a qualifying race. We've already established a qualifying spot, so today was just kind of a test deal."

(DID YOU GET MUCH OUT OF TODAY?) "Not really. Not like we wanted to. We would have loved to have raced hard for the win, but it just didn't turn out that way. We'll just have to go back and practice this weekend and see what happens.

"We just didn't get to learn what we wanted to learn today, but that's the way it goes."


"We bounced around a little bit, but we were good. We stayed better on a long run. I'm looking forward to the '500' because our traditional 'lap 40 problems' haven't shown up, yet."

(HOW ABOUT ALL THE DAMAGE ON THE BACK OF YOUR CAR?) "That's just from out there. It's a little wild, but a lot of fun. A lot of fun."

(ON HAVING A QUIET, BUT SOLID WEEK) "This is the car we ran at Talladega last year and it was good, so we're excited. We just need to keep working on it a little more."



(ON QUALIFYING FOR THE DAYTONA 500) "I'm very happy for the Conseco Pontiac, the whole team. I hate to see the way that we made the race, but that tells me how good the team was last year to get a provisional. It definitely wasn't because of my driving that got us here. It was because of these guys working their guts out. They definitely wanted to see the car go up front and we had it to the front and back a couple times in the '125.' That shows me what it's going to do for the '500.' It's just one of those things where you're going to have to hang on, you've going to have to find out where you want the car to work - high or low. Right now, I couldn't tell you where I want the car to work. We're going to have to figure that out when it comes Sunday because of the weather.

"Every time I go out and race with these guys in Winston Cup, I'm learning. That might have been a rookie mistake in tearing the car up, but luckily it's just sheet metal and they can fix it. I've looking forward to the '500.'"

(HOW WILL YOU PREPARE FOR THE DAYTONA 500?) "We're going to miss the first practice because we definitely want to fix this car. It's a good car. We've got another good car if we have to, but we haven't had any time on it. This thing's been out there the whole week and we definitely know it's a great car to 'suck up,' so we're going to fix this one."

(ON BEING TREATED LIKE A ROOKIE) "They were definitely treating me like a rookie. I learned a bunch right then. Every time I tried to help somebody, I got them back to the front and they would dropkick me and I went back to the back. I know in the '125s' it's 'fend for yourself.'

"A lot of people had told me they were going to work with me. I think there are some people that when the green flag drops, they forget what they said. When it comes to that point I think I've always depended on one other guy. I got him to the front and then I got left behind. It wasn't his fault, but we got him in the race and that was Mike Wallace."

(WHAT KIND OF EMOTIONS HAVE YOU BEEN THROUGH TODAY?) "I'm going to go back and watch the tape. I'll probably have tears in my eyes because I can't believe it. I'm pinching myself, knowing that I'm in the Daytona 500 the first time that I've ever tried to do it. Like I said, it wasn't because of me. It was because of this team."


(DID YOU THINK YOU WERE GOING HOME AFTER THE WRECK?) "You always think for the worst and hope for the best. I prayed to God that we weren't going home because these guys have been working their guts out. I know they've liked what they've seen with a driver out there dicing it up. They've said if it's like this every week and we can come home with a good finish, then that's what we need. They'd rather work on the car here instead of working on it when it's sitting at home. I'll give them 120 percent every week if they just keep giving me the good cars they've been giving me."


(ON WHAT HAPPENED IN THE INCIDENT WITH THE '21' CAR) "I just got a little bit loose and then, I didn't know it, but Kenny (Schrader) got in the back of us. He didn't do anything wrong - it was because we got loose first. What do you expect running six inches from each other? It makes for interesting racing.

"But, we had a good day. It was just a matter of trying to keep the car underneath us. I couldn't run up on the top for that long, but we had a good run none the less."

(HOW DO YOU FEEL FOR SUNDAY?) "We've got some work to do. If it stays this hot we've got some work to do. But we've got a pretty good car right now. I'm pretty happy with it for the most part."

(WHAT DID YOU LEARN TODAY?) "I learned I need to do a little bit more work than I thought I did." But we had a real long run there, the tires got hot and the track was slippery. One of the cars in the race before us laid a lot of oil down and made the track really slippery for our race."


(ON THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF MISSING THE DAYTONA 500) "This is difficult because we were good enough to be in the race. The caution came out at a very inopportune time for us. There were guys out there oiling down the racetrack and NASCAR wouldn't do anything about it. I got oiled down twice and couldn't see. Then we didn't take tires on the last stop and that really just killed us.

"It's just a culmination of things that really just led to our demise. But it was a great effort by the guys and all the sponsors that helped us get here. I certainly felt like we had an opportunity to get in the race. We were in a position when that caution fell. It's just unfortunate. It's one of those things. We just came up short and we'll have to regroup.

(WOULD YOU HAVE BEEN OK IF THE RACE HAD STAYED GREEN?) "Yeah, because I had just cleared that group on the bottom side and then the caution came out. I was sitting in prime position and we would have been in pretty decent shape. But anytime you get a caution like that where they put new tires on and we didn't, I just didn't have the same stick to beat them with. At that point, I was pretty much at their mercy and I didn't have much left.

(DID YOU THINK YOU HAD A SHOT ON THE LAST RESTART?) "On the last deal there with one to go, I got blocked by (Ron) Hornaday, who was wrecked, and he blocked me from having any chance at getting a run on those guys. It was just stuff like that.

"The whole day out there, there were some pretty ugly things happening out there. I was really disappointed in a lot of those guys."

Text Provided By Al Larsen

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