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NAPA 500 - Nadeau Can Do
By Frank Ryan
November 20, 2000

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It was a hard fought battle

Jerry Nadeau drove to his first career victory today in the rain-delayed NAPA 500. Nadeau's victory was his first for Hendrick Motorsports and came in his 103rd Winston Cup start. Nadeau led 151 of the 325 laps on Atlanta Motor Speedways 1.54 mile quad-oval and bested 2nd place Dale Earnhardt by almost 2 seconds at the checkered. Rounding out the top five were Ward Burton, Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte.

Nadeau battled nip and tuck with Ward Burton for most of the afternoon, which for the most part was a two-car heat race with the others along for the ride. When Nadeau and Burton weren't at the front, 11 other drivers took their turn at the front leading for a combined 77 laps. Among the notables at the front were Bud Pole sitter Jeff Gordon, Jeremy Mayfield who lost an engine while leading, and ASA driver Scott Wimmer who led for 11 laps.

Matt Kenseth won rookie of the year honors

With the eighth and final caution period of the day coming out for a Scott Pruett wreck on lap 319, the stage was set for a single file restart with only six laps to go. From the restart Nadeau powered his way around both Bobby Labonte and Dale Earnhardt to once again land himself in the top spot. Without the lapped traffic to impede his progress, Nadeau gracefully piloted his #25 Michael Holigan Chevrolet to a 2 second lead over Dale Earnhardt to win his first ever Winston Cup event.

As with any first time winner, emotions run high. Today's race put Jerry Nadeau in an elated position of explaining how it feels to win his first Winston Cup race. 

"The last three or four laps were the most emotional laps I ever took in a Winston Cup car", said Nadeau. "I was trying to hold my composure. I didn't know whether I should burst out crying because I knew I had an eight-car length lead over Earnhardt. I knew I had a car to win the race, but I didn't know if I had a shot before the yellow flag because Ward had a pretty good lead. I was catching him about half a second or seven-tenths a lap. I was working that car so hard, and we put two tires on there. Ward didn't get a very good start when the green flag came out. I got up on the inside and I dragged-raced him into one. I just held on to it and pulled away. It was just an awesome deal.

Waltrip crosses finish line for last time

Prior to today's NAPA 500, the Atlanta Motor Speedway has not been particularly kind to Jerry Nadeau. In his five previous starts he never finished better than 20th position and had never finished on the lead lap. Today he broke out of that slump with a vengeance, as he became the fourth first-time winner this year, following initial career victories earlier this year by Dale Earnhardt Jr, Matt Kenseth and Steve Park. 

With today's victory, all eyes are looking forward to next year when Delphi Automotive and UAW-GM become the primary sponsors for Nadeau's ride. 

MICHAEL WALTRIP (No. 7 NationsRent Chevrolet Monte Carlo) ďI was real loose getting in all day, and I just probably let off a little earlier than whoever it was behind me thought. I could not run in the corner at all. I would spin out. I had already done it once. I would just ease in the corner, but then once I got through the corner I could nail it and we had one of the fastest cars out there. I was dealing with that, and then somebody got in the back of me and wrecked me. I donít blame them.

ďThe fire wasnít bad. It didnít hurt. I spun around and knew I was going to hit hard. Iím real big, so itís hard for me to get out of the car. When they said hurry up and get out, itís on fire, it probably looked a lot worse than it was.

ďDarrell has been the best inspiration and role model. He was 16 when I was born, and you know what heís been doing ever since then. I watched him, and I knew I wanted to be like him one day. If it all turns out like that that wonít be too bad of a deal. I was beating him today up until I had all my problems. Iím thankful for him. Heís a great champion and a great father. Iíve kind of modeled myself after him forever. If I could just turn out half as successful and half as good as he did, that would be a good thing. Iím just glad he got to do it under his own terms. You donít want to be forced out or have a problem and not be able to continue. That certainly wasnít the case for Darrell. He ran it all the way to the end.

ďI was looking forward to today. We had a fast car on the long run. We were as good as anybody. I hate we wrecked the last race of the year.

ďIím looking forward to next year. Those guys over there (at DEI) do it right. Weíre going to take the month of December off and try to get prepared and then really get after it in January. Thatís the plan right now.Ē

DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) ďWe were lucky to get that last stop and get four tires. We could beat Ďem on short runs, and then our car would get too tight. We were lucky to finish second. It was good to see a kid like (Nadeau) win the race. Of course, Bobbyís got it handled. We just didnít have enough. I was glad to get that caution and get four tires. I could run short runs.

ďI really feel bad about running so bad at Rockingham and Homestead. We should have been better at those tracks, and we also fell way back at Charlotte. If we could have capitalized on some of those races, we would have been better off. Those bad finishes got us where we were, and we had to race hard today to get back to second. This is the kind of race track you want to race at when itís one the line. This is one of my favorite tracks. Weíve got a win and a second here this season, and if we could have been more like that at some other tracks, it might have been different. I was glad to see Nadeau win his first race. The 25 car hadnít won in a long time. Tony Furr and the guys are a good bunch of guys and they deserved.

ďRichard Childress has a bunch of good guys, too, and theyíve all done a good job this season. To come out second in points is really pretty neat. I wish we could have kicked it up one more notch. Weíre going to try to capitalize more on our opportunities next year and not have the bad races we had this year. I think Kevin Hamlin (crew chief) and I have got things headed in the right direction for next season.Ē

JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) NOTE: Gordon scored his fifth straight top-10 finish with Mondayís fourth-place finish.

ďI was just thankful we got our lap back there and got four tires and had a shootout because thatís what I needed. I needed to be in traffic. When I was by myself I was real loose. We just couldnít seem to get the car tightened back up. We came back charging through up there after we had dropped back a little bit, and the car was real good. We were up to third or fourth and then it just got loose. The best thing that could have happened for us was a late caution and come in and get four tires. I thought I got third. I was real close there with Ward, but I got fourth and Iíll take that. Iím so proud of Jerry and that entire team. Theyíve been working so hard all year long, and heís been running great, especially at tracks like this. Heís helped me out, so Iím just really proud of him. I know how much Hendrick Motorsports is proud of this moment right now.

ďIt was great getting a top five. We werenít a fifth-place car today or a fourth-place car for awhile. We were at one time, but we got real loose and were just thankful to bring the car home safe in that shootout. It just showed what this team is made of. They never give up and when you never give up youíre going to keep on getting good finishes like that.Ē

MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Loweís Chevrolet Monte Carlo) ďI donít know what happened. We had a tire equalizing or something right before then. It kind of looked like weíd outsmarted them in the pits and had a good shot and then all of a sudden, we didnít get a set of tires like the other set. I donít know if one was equalizing or what happened. It was shaking my teeth out and was extremely loose. I wanted to win the race, but I really needed to finish the race. The caution came out, and I thought we were going to be OK. We got four tires and elected not to put fuel in the thing. We probably needed to. We needed some rear percentage in it because it pushed really bad on the restarts. We just came up a little bit short. This is a good race team, and I want to thank Loweís and everybody who has anything to do with this race car. This is a good race team. It has a lot of will to win and we will win some races. Weíll be OK. Weíre going to really miss Larry, but Royce (McGee) and David (Smith) and I seem to get along good and I think weíre going to be just fine. Iím looking forward to next year. We get to start at zero at Daytona.Ē

LARRY McREYNOLDS (Crew chief No. 31 Loweís Monte Carlo) NOTE: McReynolds called his final race as a crew chief Monday. Heíll work in the broadcast booth with Fox on NASCAR Winston Cup telecasts next season.

ďThe 18 was yarding us too much with the fresh tires, but I knew that was definitely going to put us in position to finish in the top five. When the caution came out with 15 to go, we still had a chance to win. Thatís what this race team has got to do, learn to capitalize on opportunities. Itís not done a good job on that in the two and a half years Iíve been here and the year and a half before that. Youíve got to capitalize when opportunities are laid in your lap. It was pretty cool strategizing today. It wasnít just ho-hum, pit, donít pit, come in, stay out, four tires. We did some two-tire stuff. We start doing the fuel mileage stuff from lap 130 on. That was pretty cool to get to that mode the last time I pulled the box. I can still do it, but it wonít count next year. I feel sad, but I feel relieved. I want to go up there and do an awesome job (in TV booth), and I think with the package theyíre creating I will. I want to see this race team move forward and get on track.

ďIím happy but disappointed in the race. As long as Ward was leading we definitely didnít need a caution to come out. It looked like we were going to finish maybe third. Once Ward pitted, the caution was probably pretty good news. We were back on the lead lap and were pretty loose. It was a Catch-22, but I felt like that put us in position to win the race, but we didnít capitalize on it. Thatís something this race team with Larry McReynolds and now without has got to do. If they figure that out, theyíll win some races.

ďWe were so far back, we finally worked our way into track position. We started looking at fuel mileage on 130 and we knew we could make it on two more stops. On a track this size where they have a lot of green-flag runs, youíve got to start thinking it way back in the race and work yourself backwards. It was unfolding. Only three cars could go the distance, the 18, 25 and us. I think since we werenít in position to win the race, the 18 and 25 decided not to gamble on it. Thatís what put us in position to finish somewhere between second and fourth. If we had just followed suit all day, we would have barely finished in the top 10. It was hard crawling down off that box. Iíve never sat on the box three or four minutes after the race has ended. I started thinking back real quick, to Ď92 here at Atlanta, losing the championship with Davey. Iím really disappointed I didnít get to go to victory lane with Mike Skinner and the 31 car. Itís been a long time since I worked with somebody I didnít get to do that with. On lap 310, I knew it wasnít out of the equation. I knew we could win, but it was hard crawling down off that box. I walked down pit road before the race and talked to every driver Iíve been a part of in my career and thanked them for those 20 years. I started with D.J. and Earnhardt and Brett Bodine, Kenny Wallace. I gave Darrell a big hug. Heís excited a lot like me. He hated to see the day end, but now we canít wait to see the new thing start. I think weíre going to create something really good for racing.Ē

JERRY NADEAU (No. 25 Michael Holigan.com Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Nadeau won his first NASCAR Winston Cup race in his 103rd start and became the fourth different first-time winner this season. He also moved up three spots to 20th in the final NASCAR Winston Cup Standings.

ďThe last three or four laps were the most emotional laps I ever took in a Winston Cup car. I was trying to hold my composure. I didnít know whether I should burst out crying because I knew I had an eight-car length lead over Earnhardt. I knew I had a car to win the race, but I didnít know if I had a shot before the yellow flag because Ward had a pretty good lead. I was catching him about half a second or seven-tenths a lap. I was working that car so hard, and we put two tires on there. Ward didnít get a very good start when the green flag came out. I got up on the inside and I dragged-raced him into one. I just held on to it and pulled away. It was just an awesome deal.

ďThe green flag was already waving and he (Ward Burton) was stopped. I said, Ďman, what the hell do I do here?í I just got on the inside and I saw Rusty on the outside and I just drag-raced Ward. I knew if I got past him I would get black flagged. I made sure I stayed up to his door. After that I just stood on it and held it wide open between one and two. We just had a perfect, perfect day, and it wasnít that hard to drive. It was just perfect. This is the way it is in Winston Cup racing. The car has to be perfect and everything has to go your way to win a race. Today, it was our way.

ďYou couldnít have written this any better. Michael (Holigan) is leaving next year, but heís been great to us all year long. I love doing the hospitalities for him. We had so much fun over there. Because I come from a building background working with my dad, you never know. We may meet each other down the road again, but itís been a lot of fun. Everything went perfect. We qualified great. It would have been great to sit on the pole, but the car just ran great. A few times late in the race I got a little worried because our right rear tire was getting right down to the cords every time we came down pit road. I knew I was driving this car way too loose. We tightened it up and there toward the end the car was perfect. Then I realized the 22 car was out so far in front, I didnít know if I was going to be able to catch him. Then the yellow came out. The Good Lord was looking over the top of me. We got a good run into one and that was it. Thatís all she wrote. Itís been a lot of fun this season. Itís been a weird year, and I know a lot of people said a lot of things that might have hurt me inside the way things went. The real people that watched us knew we could do this, knew we had a good week in and week out. Every time we went out we had a good car. Things just didnít work out our way this year. This is a good way for everybody to sit back this whole winter long and realize we finally got ourselves a win. Iím sure thereís going to be many more in front of us.

ďWe have a great communication deal. Thereís a lot of times we can be screaming to each other on the radio and cussing, try not to cuss too much, but itís hard not to. You look at the champions, the Earnhardts, the Gordons, the Labontes, two or three years ago I was watching these guys in my Winnebago trying to make it in Winston Cup racing. Just to be out there racing against those guys, itís a dream come true. I just had to hold everything together and try not to do anything stupid and come home in good position.

ďItís always good to get a run, but I knew I couldnít get by him because he was stuck on the outside lane. Everybody is going to try to make a run with five laps to go, but when I went to get on it, the green was already out. I got back off the gas. I saw Rusty coming. I said, is he going to get on it, is he going to get on it. I went barreling down on the inside. I knew I couldnít pass at the start-finish line, so I held on my brakes and my gas. Then I got off the brakes when I got past the start-finish line and took off and got by everybody and got clear sailing. It was a poor start. Nothing against Ward Burton, but the green flag was waving. You could plainly see it and he was not going. He was just trying to hold us up.

ďThirty laps from the end when Ward Burton had a whole straightaway lead on us, that was it. We just hauled the mail. I barely lifted out there. The guys did an awesome job. I donít know how to express it. My mom and dad arenít here. My wifeís not here. Sheís in school. My sister is down in Florida. All the people who helped me out my whole life are not able to see my first win in Winston Cup racing. Thatís tough for me inside. Iím sure tonight Iíll have lots more tears of joy. Itís just amazing. Iím so happy to do it the last race of the year.

ďGood things happen to good people. I waited a long time. Like the old saying, Ďsometimes itís good to wait to get a good deal.í I didnít hop around. The first person who came by and cheered for me was Bill Elliott, my old team owner. He was ecstatic. I can see him inside the car, and his arms were just pumping away. This is his home track. Itís been a difficult time. Going from the 9 car and the 13 car and the 36 car, every team that I was with basically went bankrupt or broke or just went downhill. This sport has risen to a new level and itís hard for people to hang on because of the budgets and stuff. I knew when I got on board with Hendrick Motorsports that I wasnít going to have a problem with budgets or cars or anything like that. Weíve got the best of everything. The thing that I had a problem with is that I knew it was going to take some time for me to get acclimated with good race cars. When youíve got good race cars, youíve got to run a whole different routine. I used to run all out and I used to wreck a lot of cars. Now, Iíve gained so much more patience because I know Iíve got a good car car under me. Iíve just got to be smart about it and be there at the end of the race. Thatís what this whole year has taught me. Granted, weíve wrecked some cars this season, but weíve led eight or nine races, had great starting positions, put the crowd on their feet on some moves weíve made. Thereís going to be a lot more of this in the future. Iím just ecstatic to be with the guys, to be with Hendrick Motorsports, Terry Labonte, Jeff Gordon. Theyíre great guys.

ďI made sure I had to stay far enough in front of him (Dale Earnhardt) so he wouldnít get a bumper on me. I knew if he could have got a shot he would have done it. The last three laps I was so emotional I didnít know how to handle myself. I was driving so hard, the hardest that thing could ever drive. The guys were like, Ďeight car lengths, nine car lengths, 10 car lengths.í You could hear their voices tracking it. We had a good car. Everybody saw it today, and a good car wins the race.

ďIt just means that perseverance pays. I waited. I had to find the right people, and I got the right people behind me. When Rick Hendrick gave me an opportunity to drive the 25 car, I knew it could be my chance. If it isnít then obviously Iím not made to be in here. This year has been a strange year, but all-in-all, everything Iíve done has paid off. Going to Europe, being with those teams that werenít that good, to be honest, helped out.Ē

ELLIOTT SADLER --21-- Motorcraft Taurus (Finished 42nd) -- "We just blew a hole in the side of the (engine) block. All of the temperatures and stuff were running fine, I don't know what happened. It was probably just a part failure or something like that. It's a bad way to start off a new deal. We didn't really want to start off this way, but that's kind of how this year has been for us. We've had stuff like this all year, but the Motorcraft car was running really good. We were coming up through the field pretty easily and I was looking for a good day today, but it just wasn't meant to be. I thought we had something good to work with because the car ran better than I thought without getting any practice. I'm gonna enjoy working with Pat Tryson a lot. He made some good adjustments to the car to get ready for the race and we were really close. I think we've got something to look forward to."

JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus (Finished 41st) -- DID YOU HAVE ANY INDICATION THE MOTOR WAS GOING? "Not at all. It was a great car. It was perfect. We spent a couple of days down here testing and working on all the race trim stuff and it was just absolutely perfect. My hat's off to all these guys on the Mobil 1 team and everybody at Penske engines. They've done a great job all year. We had a lot of momentum rolling in and I think second has been our worst finish the last five or six weeks, so that's pretty good. I felt like we had a shot to win today and that's all you can ask for. We'll go back and get ready over the winter, but we've got a lot of momentum rolling with this race team." HOW BIG DID IT GO? "It went big. I'm not sure what happened. You can't say anything. We've had an up-and-down year, but we've been leading everytime we've fallen out, so that's a good thing." IT SEEMS EVERY TIME YOU HAVE A DOMINANT CAR SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPENS. "That's part of it, but it's better than a lot of teams. A lot of teams are out here searching to try to go fast and I feel like we've found what it takes to run good everywhere we go. It's the whole combination. We've been working hard and while the rest of the guys have been worrying about points all year, we've been worried about how to get ready to go fast. We'll go back to racing for points next year, but what do you do? You run as hard as you can and that's all you can do. The good thing about it is we've led a lot of laps. If you look back, we've had a great year. A lot of teams in this garage area would like to have the year we've had. Even though we've had some ups-and-downs, it's still been pretty good." WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT DARRELL AND HAVING A CHANCE TO COMPETE IN HIS LAST RACE? "I mean, I wanted to win bad here today -- probably more than any race we've been to. My grandmother passed away yesterday and I wanted to win for my mom and the rest of her family and DW. He's been an inspiration in my career when I was coming up, and I'm just glad I got the opportunity to race with him. I'm real fortunate for that, but it would have been cool to win here today."

MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline Taurus (Finished 40th) -- "I think we broke the pulleys off the front of the engine, so we're all done, but the Valvoline Taurus was working well today. This has been one of those years for that kind of stuff. We broke things that we run forever and don't break, so I guess you chalk that one up to a little bit of bad luck and we'll have to make 'em even stronger for next year. I guess the harder we run these things and the more power we make, the more RPMs we make, you have parts that give you trouble that never have before maybe." HOW HARD TO END ON THIS KIND OF NOTE? "We weren't running bad today, so I like that. I thought the Valvoline team had a good car for me. We were chasing the setup around a little bit and if we could have improved on it much, we could have gotten real racey there, so I was encouraged by that and I can't help it the thing the broke."

DARRELL WALTRIP --66-- Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus (Finished 34th) -- YOUR THOUGHTS? "I'm broken-hearted. I don't know. It's hard to believe, man, that I ain't gonna do this no more. It's just hard to believe. I have loved this and I've done so much -- fought it so hard and so long -- it's hard to walk away from. Racing has been my best friend, next to my wife. She's my best friend, but racing has been our best friend I should say. It's provided me with a lot of opportunity and for that I owe God. I've been so blessed in so many ways and I'm so grateful. My heart just hurts so bad right now. I just want to go home and eat a turkey. I think that's what I'll do." WHAT WAS IT LIKE WHEN YOU TOOK THE CHECKERED FLAG FOR THE LAST TIME? "It was a lot of relief. In some ways a lot of relief knowing that I made it through the day. I've gotta tell you, I've been nervous the last several weeks. Larry Carter, my crew chief, bless his heart he has held my hand and encouraged me. It's been hard getting in the car these last few weeks. When you've come this far, so many things can happen. I've got a great future ahead of me in TV and I didn't want to jeopardize that, so, at times, I think it may have hindered my performance a little bit, but my guys have stood by me all year. We fought through this thing, but I have one piece of advice. Unless you have very serious reason to believe that you're gonna win a race in your last year, don't call it a victory tour whatever you do. Find another name." CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE RIDE FROM 1974-2000? "You know, it's kind of like that old saying 'the more it changes, the more it stays the same.' The run I had today was very reminiscent of some of the runs I had early in my career and I think that's what careers are all about -- they go full circle. You start out just working your guts out trying to win a race. You finally win one and then you wonder if you'll ever win another one. Then when you go for awhile and you don't win, you wonder if it's over or not. You just spend a lot of time in your career chasing that dream and chasing those victories. I tell these guys all the time, 'capture the moment, the precious present. There's nothing like it.'" WHAT WERE YOU CUTTING OUT OF THE CAR BEFORE YOU LEFT? "I wanted my steering wheel. I got that old Mercury you know, that was my first Winston Cup car, and I've got that steering wheel, and now I've got the last wheel I held onto. I wanted to have that put on the mantle, so we were just cutting some of the wires loose so I could take it with me. I've gotten a lot of nice gifts this weekend, a lot of things I'll cherish and I just wanted that to kind of go home with me. That and my uniform. I might take my glove, I don't know. Maybe I'll just take that stool over there and my shoes, and then I've always got my dogs so I'm gonna be OK."

NOTE: After the race Waltrip was presented with the green flag and checkered flag, which had been autographed by all the drivers in today's race.

RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus (Finished 7th) -- YOU MUST BE HAPPY WITH THE WAY THIS SEASON HAS GONE. "I really am happy with the way the season went. I mean, with four wins and nine poles and all those laps led, you've just got to believe it was a good year. I'm happy with it." TODAY CAME DOWN TO THE FINAL STOP. "The final pit stop was what killed us. The pit stop was the right call, but, doggone, on the restart there were a couple of guys that completely stopped and you just don't do that when you've got five laps to go. You've got to have a good rolling start and, boy, they almost caused a big wreck. I got the whole back end tore off my car and when I was stopped on the brakes everybody just drove past me 15, 20 miles an hour and that was it. If it went green I was gonna finish third and that was gonna be it because the 31 was gonna have to pit. Third was gonna be the finish and we ran third and fourth from the halfway point on, but the neat thing we did was stop and work on the car early to get it right because it wasn't right. By doing that, it netted out some good stuff."

JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo SUPERGARD Taurus (Finished 12th) -- "I was happy with the way we ran, but we had two extra pit stops that everybody else didn't have and that killed us. On long runs we were fast. We got hurt on cautions a little bit, but I really liked the way it drove on long runs. It's a brand new car, a totally different car than what we've ever run before and with only the little bit of practice we got on Saturday I'm very happy with the way we ran, it just didn't work out. I mean, we had a couple of problems and had to pit and nobody else had to do that. You can't spot the field that much time when you're pitting." WHAT ABOUT FINISHING THIRD IN POINTS? "It's been a good year. I'm disappointed the last two races we didn't end up as strong as we had been running, but that's the way racing is. You run well or you don't run well. It's not always easy."

RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus (Finished 24th) -- "It was a terrible day, we just missed it. Of course, we missed it all year, but the guys hung in there and we got fifth in the points. That was kind of what we were racing for today." THE CAUTION HELPED YOU AT THE END BECAUSE YOU NEEDED TO SOMEHOW PICK UP A COUPLE OF SPOTS. "I don't know. I don't know how it turned out. At the end we could run fast for 10-15 laps and that was it, then we were junk. So, I guess in that respect, it helped us and as far as track position probably gave us a chance to regroup and pass some guys." WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN TONY HAD HIS PROBLEM? WERE YOU AWARE OF THAT? "The biggest thing I was concerned with was that Tony was alright. It looked like he hit hard and he wasn't getting out of the car, so I was more worried about that. But then later on I said, 'Here we are having a bad day, but Tony is having a bad day and the 6 blew up,' so I thought we might have a shot at fifth. That's not the way you want to get that spot, but with the way our season has gone we'll take fifth in the points." ARE YOU SURPRISED TO FINISH FIFTH? "Yeah. That Phoenix deal set us back so far and we never could recover so late in the season. We were hoping for fourth in the points, but I'm pleased with a top five. I thought going into the season a top 10 would have been nice, so to finish fifth is really unexpected."

TODD BODINE --46-- Big Kmart Taurus (Finished 14th) -- "We were a lot better than what we finished. We finished 15th, but we were probably a fifth to seventh-place car. We just had a couple of problems and a couple of mistakes -- nothing major. It was a good day. We learned a lot. We pumped the crew up a little bit, they're excited for next year. We qualified fifth and to run that good in the race has given us a lot to look forward to. Kmart is the sponsor and with Travis and Carl as car owners, the crew, everybody is pumped up and I'm excited about next year." KIND OF A BITTERSWEET DAY THOUGH FOR THIS TEAM? "Yeah. Nobody wants to see Darrell leave. He's meant so much to our sport. He's a champion and an icon and nobody wants to see him leave, but, thank goodness, he's going to the broadcast booth and he can represent us up there. I know he'll do a great job for us, and, like I said, I'm proud to be the one that's taking over in his place."

DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus (Finished 15th) -- "It was like last weekend. We started out OK, we were just a little too loose, but then we got a set of tires that was just really, really bad. The car was just terrible at that time, so we started to try to make adjustments to that and we couldn't get the car hooked up the rest of the day. We just didn't go on new tires and wasn't any good later on either, so we're just missing it somewhere. We'll have to do some work over the winter and, hopefully, we'll be better when we come back here." WHAT HAPPENED TO PUT THE HOLE IN THE LEFT-FRONT? "Steve Park, when he passed me I don't know if he has something happen to his engine or what, but he passed me, pulled up in front of me and quit running and I ran into the back of him. That was that. It was nothing big."

BILL ELLIOTT --94-- McDonald's Taurus (Finished 11th) -- WAS IT AN EMOTIONAL DAY FOR YOU? "Well, I think it'll sink in later. I want to put this car up and keep it as my last Ford ride in Atlanta. We had a decent day. There were three or four cars you weren't gonna beat and I'm just proud to come out of here as good as we ran. We weren't that bad. We didn't have any race practice whatsoever, and I tell you, we didn't do bad for the way everything turned out and the way we ended up starting the day." WHAT ABOUT YOUR FINAL RACE IN A FORD? "I have a little bit of mixed emotions. In one way I'm glad the year is over, but a lot of things have changed and a lot of things have happened. I'll miss all my buddies at Ford, but we'll still be friends on down the road and look forward to new relationships with Dodge. All in all, things have gone well. It's been a great relationship with McDonald's and everyone, and now it's time to start another chapter."

MATT KENSETH --17-- DeWalt Tools Taurus (Finished 9th) -- WOULD YOU TRADE A POTENTIAL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR TITLE FOR ANOTHER WIN? "I'd trade it for another win for sure. Racing for rookie of the year is really cool and it is the rookie of the year championship, but it's different. You could finish 20th and be the top finishing rookie, so that means there were 19 other cars that whooped on us that day, so it's a little bit different. When you win a points championship like Bobby Labonte did, you know you beat all the guys consistently every week to win that championship, so I would definitely trade it for a win." YOU WERE REALLY STRONG EARLY TODAY. "The very first run wasn't too bad and then our car got really loose on us and we fell back quite a bit. We kept working on getting it better, but I'd wear the right-rear tire to the cords and I had to pit because we had the right-rear burned up. We got ourselves behind a little bit by pitting early and one time I went up and hit the wall and lost half the track to everybody pitting under green. Our car was probably a little faster than where we finished, but we made a lot of changes today and they all went in a forward direction."

ROBERT PRESSLEY --77-- Jasper Engines Taurus (Finished 13th) -- "The guys worked hard all day. I mean, right off the bat, on the first pit stop the 4 car had to stop hard and cut down and hit us in the right front. We spent the first 50 laps getting that ready, but the car was great. We got loose and had to gamble there a couple times on two tires. The car was just loose all day, but we got 13th and now we'll go home and get ready for next year."


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