Chevy Rule Change "Right
(Mar. 7, 2000)
One crew chief was still on his way back from Las Vegas and another was already home in
bed after a Sunday night redeye flight when NASCAR issued a statement on Monday allowing a
rule modification for the 2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo in Sunday's race at Atlanta Motor
Speedway. The modification will allow Monte Carlo teams to extend their front air dam 2
inches forward below the bumper from the current measurement.
Dale Earnhardt, a seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion, is the
only Chevrolet driver in the Top 13 after the first three races this season. The driver of
the #3 Monte Carlo stands seventh, 73 points behind leader Bobby Labonte. Rookie Dale
Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #8 Budweiser Monte Carlo, is the next best Chevy in 14th
position; 121 points behind Labonte. Three other Monte Carlo drivers are in the Top 20 --
Terry Labonte (15th), Sterling Marlin (16th) and Kenny Irwin (19th).
Monte Carlo crew chiefs discuss the rule modification and how it
could help at Atlanta this weekend.
Kevin Hamlin #3
"It better help us because that's what we've been hollering for. I hope it's just a
temporary fix and they do something different yet, but I think it's a step in the right
direction. They'll have a better idea of how it works after the race. I think they're
planning to take cars back to the wind tunnel after Atlanta. Maybe they'll take two cars
from each make and get a really good reading this time.
"I just hope it doesn't mess up the balance we have on the car
right now. We need more front downforce and that's what this should give us. I just hope
it doesn't mess up the rear. You've got to have a tradeoff somewhere. If it helps one end,
it usually hurts the other. Richard (car owner Childress) has been yelling for them to
give us something. If this doesn't fix it, we'll work harder on something else to make it
better. We need more front downforce, and you just can't turn around and get that.
"It'll work more for us during the race than qualifying.
Anybody can go out there and hit it right with fresh tires and run one fast lap. We're
just looking for some consistency. We got on the tight side the longer we ran last week at
Las Vegas. More front downforce would have made us better there, that's for sure, but it's
pretty complicated. It's a vicious circle really. It's not as simple as people think to
get a chassis and aerodynamic balance. That's when you can really haul the mail. Usually,
one end or the other suffers. When you can get the car to stick in the front and the back
and have a neutral chassis setup, you can really mash the gas.
"We ran good at Rockingham, but it was a compromise. We ran
decent at Las Vegas, but if you made one adjustment, it would really react one way or the
other. We put half a pound of air in the tires on one pit stop and it got so loose that
Dale couldn't drive it. I've been with a lot of different drivers -- good, bad and the
best. I've worked on a lot of different cars -- Fords, Olds, Chevys and Pontiacs. I've had
all of the makes with good bodies and bad bodies, and I've had them with good drivers and
bad drivers. A good body and chassis can make a bad driver look good, and a bad body and
chassis can make a good driver look bad. You've got to have the total package to win.
"Dale feels good about the race team this year. We've been
fortunate to hit on some pretty good packages throughout the races. He can make up a ton
for you on the superspeedways. His driving style was right at Rockingham for the
conditions we were faced with, and if Vegas had played out, I think we had a shot at the
Top 5. He's positive. He realizes we're at a deficit with the car the way it is right now,
but he's focusing on what we've got.
"We just want to be equal with them. Look at IROC. That's as
equal as you can get things. You put Dale Earnhardt in an IROC car and he shines. Just
give him something to work with, and he'll drive the wheels off of it. If we were racing
the same bodies every week, he'd beat their butts. I've never seen Dale this pumped up. I
think he just feels good after the surgery. He has a positive attitude about his two
teams, and he feels like they're making headway.
"I feel good about it, too. Before the season I was a little
down and depressed because of the wind tunnel numbers I was hearing. Someone said people
are afraid of the dark because they don't know what's in it. You've got to be careful not
to race the wind tunnel numbers or the aero numbers, but you have to base something on the
numbers you're hearing. Sometimes you are afraid of what's out there in the dark. When you
hear the Chevy is better than the Pontiac in the wind tunnel, then you really scratch your
head. Total downforce is the main thing, and Ford still has the advantage there.
"It's a tough deal for NASCAR. They hear the Chevys crying
about what they want. They hear Fords crying about what we don't need and then Dodge is
coming in next year. I think you've just got to look at the competition on the track and
evaluate it. I don't think Jeff Gordon has forgotten anything. Robbie Loomis came over
from a competitive Pontiac team, and it shouldn't be that big of a stepping stone for him.
Mike Skinner and Larry McReynolds finished in the Top 10 in the points last year, and they
haven't forgotten anything.
"What's going on is a tough deal right now. I called the shop
from the airport in Cincinnati on Monday on the way back from Las Vegas, and they told me
about the rule change. The guys have been working hard getting the cars fixed. Our backup
car at Las Vegas will be the one we race at Atlanta, so we had to wait for the hauler to
get back on Tuesday to start fixing it. We're hanging in there, but if they keep pulling
away little by little every week, that doesn't help. We need some wins and Top 5 finishes.
The longer you keep waiting, the harder it's going to be to bounce back. We'll see what
happens at Atlanta. Hopefully, this will be a step in the right direction and the Monte
Carlos will be more competitive."
Larry McReynolds #31
"We won't know what's going to happen until we get to Atlanta. I'm a little nervous
and a little excited at the same time. It's another unknown, but I think it's a step in
the right direction. I'm nervous because when they did this in the wind tunnel with the
Daytona car, it helped the front and hurt the rear. That's been the curveball with this
car. You can't do anything on one end to help it that doesn't hurt the other. I'm tickled
NASCAR has reacted to the problem. Will it be the ultimate fix? I don't think so. If the
three different makes are battling three wide for the checkered flag at Atlanta, then it's
"The front nose might even help the drag at Daytona and
Talladega. It'll give the fans something else to argue about, too. Whether they understand
what valence pitch is or not, they'll be arguing about it because Chevy got something that
Ford didn't. As a competitor, I want every advantage I can get, but realistically, I'm
just asking for something so we don't have to go to the track with one hand tied behind
our back. If it's even, then it depends on the driver and crew chief and engine builder
and chassis man. The make of car won't determine who wins the race.
"Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked good on fresh tires at Las
Vegas for about 30 laps, but when the downforce kicked in, he went to the back. Downforce
plays a role when tires start sliding. You slide no matter where you go -- Daytona or
Martinsville. We've dug a deep hole for ourselves in these first three races. We're not
out of the picture, but we're at a big deficit. We can't afford to dig down any deeper.
I'm tired of getting my butt beat every week. I've had about all of that I can stand. I
really don't know what to expect at Atlanta, but at least we've got something to work with
now. We'll give it our best shot and see what happens."
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