The Daytona 500 saw mixed fortunes for the Chevrolet Monte Carlo drivers.

Michael Waltrip was the first Chevy in a race that saw the first Dodge victory in 28 years. Waltrip ended the day in fifth place following three wing-reduced Fords across the line behind winner Ward Burton. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was to become a familiar sight in the pits in the latter part of the race, with first a blown tyre, then later for resulting bodywork and brake damage.

The weekend had looked like being a good one for the Monte Carlo drivers. Chevys took the top five spots on the grid after winning both 125-mile qualifying races on Thursday. Bets were on for a Chevy driver, in particular Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt Jr., to take the title. But both drivers endured their share of incidents, finishing ninth and 29th respectively. Last year's winner, Michael Waltrip, who led laps 4 through 23, carried the Chevy banner to the brand's highest finish, a well-earned fifth. He was in 11th on lap 195 of 200 when a red flag was flown on lap 196 for a late-race crash, then charged into fifth for the finish.

Jeff Gordon and Sterling Marlin made contact on lap 194 on a restart. Marlin held on to the lead for one lap until the red flag, then was penalized to the rear for jumping out of his car and checking his damage while parked on the front straight. Gordon was also penalized for pitting too early. On the restart, Gordon fell to 10th, ending up in ninth for the finish. Gordon laid back for most of the race, then moved into the top five by midway, taking over the lead from lap 177 until 194, when he and Marlin got together.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., running second behind Michael Waltrip, blew a tire on the 22nd lap, which resulted in a caution-flag period. He made several pit stops for repairs to the right front fender, continued on without losing a lap, until the car had to be taken to the garage to repair a brake caliper.

A major crash in the front of the field occurred on lap 148, involving a number of top-runners, including Kevin Harvick, Bobby Hamilton, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kenny Wallace, among others. Gordon, Wallace and Earnhardt continued. All this meant that only two Monte Carlos finished in the top-10: Waltrip and Gordon.

Michael Waltrip in the no. 15 Napa Auto Parts Chevy Monte Carlo, gave his take on the race:
"We restarted and went back at it and I got up there from 11th to fifth. A good top-five finish for our NAPA Chevrolet. We want to see if we can put a lot of those together this year."

What did you think about Sterling Marlin getting out of his car to do some body repairs?

Michael Waltrip:
"I said, can I get out of my car and work on it? That ain't right. You can't do that. You can't work on it under the red flag. I don't know what his theory was on the stupid restart. They tell us to bring them down, no stopping and going. He stopped. That wasn?t good either."

Was it a battle of attrition?

"Battle of wrecks. That's what you?ll have in restrictor-plate races. We do that a lot here. The further it goes the more stuff you'll see. It gets wild. People get desperate at the end. I understand that. I was desperate too."

What did you think of Dale Jr's day?

"He had a great car today too. That's a shame. Whatever he ran over I ran over too. It hit my car, it sounded like metal clinking off the bottom of my car. Then I saw he had a problem. I didn't know what it was, I didn't see it, but it was something big."

You were the first Chevrolet, are the rules getting better?

"You want to talk about the rules now too? We talked about the rules for the last week. They chopped off their spoilers I never say a word. They chopped them off again and I never said a word. We just kept working on our stuff. Today we looked like we were a little bit overpowered. What are you going to do? I'm not going to bitch about it now."

Jeff Gordon in the no. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo, came ninth. He gives his take on the race in particular the 194th lap incident with Sterling Marlin:
"I should have just given up when he got beside me and still had a battle and a shot to win the thing. I hated to see that last caution. We were in a perfect position. Crazy race out there. I went from the back to the front, the front to the back. It was incredible. I?m just glad to finish ninth in the DuPont Chevrolet. It was a great effort for us today."

What about the earlier incident on lap 149?

Jeff Gordon:
"I was getting knocked from behind and pushed and shoved. I was trying to stay in line and I gave Kevin a little push and he got up beside the 40 car and then he decided to come back down and I just kinda held my line. I didn't go below the yellow line. I was trying to back down and let him back in, actually. So we touched and it spun him. It's unfortunate because he was running good. And he's doing a great job. It certainly wasn?t anything intentional. I hate to see such a big wreck like that."

Any car problems?

"There are so many cars that had problems today. We had a good handling race car, a fast race car, and we had great pit stops and we were able to work our way back up there and found ourselves in perfect position. Unfortunately, that caution came out and me and Sterling knew how important that last restart was, and he got a jump on me. I tried to block him and messed up both of our days."

Dale Earnhardt Jr., in the no. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo reviewed his race:
"I did not expect to win that race yesterday. I knew that that winning this race today was going to be difficult. I had a good weekend, a fun weekend. I was just pissed off I didn't keep up my string of first or seconds because I did that for about six races. That was pretty cool. It got real dirty, that's the only bad thing."

Tell us about getting back up to 10th after the blown tire:

Dale Earnhardt Jr:
"Yeah, we still had a good car at that point and we were working on some things in the pits to fix the fender a little bit, to even make it better. Then we had a tire blow on us and we weren?t able to show that until later. It's tough. We got behind, the car is still good, we can probably still fix it, put some sides and fenders on it and take it to Talladega and be fine."

Do you feel like some beat-up heavyweight out there?
"Yeah. We just kept coming back. It says a lot about the team, the guys, they don't want to give up; If one guy on the team gives up the whole bridge is going to fall. They all stuck together today, we had a good attitude. We?re going to come out of here with a good attitude going to the next weekend."

How will you remember this weekend?

"Probably just winning that Busch race, overcoming the flat tires and being competitive with no fender. That was cool. Sliding through the infield at 160 miles per hour with no brakes and no right rear tire. That was cool. A lot of neat things happened this weekend."

Tony Eury, Jr., Crew Chief for Dale Earnhardt, Jr explained what happened when Dale Jr. had to pit at lap 100 for a brake calliper repair. This lost Earnhardt 12 laps.

Tony Eury Jr:
"The brake caliper broke off the housing, I guess because the right rear tire blew coming into the trio-oval, wrapped around the caliper and jerked the caliper out of the housing. We had to come back here and weld it because NASCAR don?t allow you to run with three calipers, you have to have four calipers."

Did he [Earnhardt] hit the wall when the tire blew on lap 22?


Kevin Harvick, driving the no. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Chevy Monte Carlo, gave his version of the crash with Gordon:
"I tried to hold my ground a little bit. Gordon wanted in the same spot I did. I tried to block, he came up and all hell broke loose. The car was awesome. These guys put together a heck of a race car and we had a chance to win the Daytona 500, but that's the one downfall of this restrictor-plate package. You have to block, because if you get hung out you have to go to the back and start over again. I came down, we got together, and I wrecked."

His crew chief, Kevin Hamlin, summed it up succinctly "Our race car is tore up and our driver is OK. It's just unfortunately a part of restrictor-place racing when they're all bunched together like that going that fast."

Bobby Hamilton, who drives the no. 55 Schneider Electric Chevy Monte Carlo gave his views on the restrictor plates:
"I don't know that it's not safer because the speeds are slower. I know there could be a lot more discipline out there. There?s a lot of guys out there driving race cars who cannot afford to let off the gas because they would lose the draft. We didn't have to do that last year."

Did you expect this to happen?

"Yeah, I just can't believe it didn't happened earlier. I hope the race fans get a good race out there. It?s definitely safer, I don't think anybody is hurt, nobody flipped over. We cannot afford to let off the gas."