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Chevy camp working on 2000
Some drivers are testing the new Monte Carlos for next season
'99 News
Mike Mulhern, JournalNow

Homestead, Fla. (Nov. 16, 1999)
New Winston Cup champ Dale Jarrett, hotshot rookie Tony Stewart and the rest of the Ford and Pontiac guys all got to sleep in yesterday, but Chevrolet crews were up at dawn to test the new Monte Carlo they hope will be their ticket back to fame and fortune next season.

Chevy's top drivers are testing the new model here this week and at Talladega. If Chevy drivers had had their ''Y2K-MC'' in Sunday's Pennzoil 400, would it have been a better race? Even Stewart and Pontiac teammate Bobby Labonte, the class of the field in nearly identical cars, couldn't do much side-by-side racing in what was a boring three hours. ''The Busch race Saturday wasn't a great race. The Winston Cup race wasn't a great race,'' Steve Hmiel, the technical director for Dale Earnhardt's team, said. ''There's not a lot of framin' and bammin' like there used to be. These are real nice race cars, make a lot of horsepower, have a lot of downforce, great tires, and right now it's making for not very good racing. I don't know how to fix that. It's still real popular, but I'd like to see more side by side racing, and I'm sure everyone else would, too.''

Perhaps NASCAR officials need to start looking at the quality of some of their shows and do something other than simply coming up with more body templates.

But yesterday, aerodynamics was order of business. Chevy crews have been complaining about a Pontiac edge through the corners, an edge that shows up most dramatically on flat tracks, such as the 1.5-mile Homestead Motorsports Complex, and at the end of long runs when tires are worn and grip is difficult.

''But I think we need to be real cautious about taking away from what Joe Gibbs' team has accomplished,'' Hmiel said carefully as he watched Steve Park climb into Earnhardt's car to open the test. ''And we know what the Pettys always seem to do on a flat track. And David Green has plenty of experience here at Homestead.

''In so many cases people get frustrated and say 'The motor's no good,' or 'the body's no good,' or 'the driver's no good.' You just need to put the whole package together, and right now there are a number of people doing that. And some of them have Pontiacs. Like Tommy Baldwin (crew chie for Bill Davis and Ward Burton) is doing a good job.

Is this 2000 machine Chevy's ''Pontiac killer?''

''Not yet,'' David Smith, of the Richard Childress team, said. ''If we'd had this car Sunday we might have been a little closer, but we weren't going to run what those guys were. And there should have been four Pontiacs up front at the finish, but John Andretti and Ward Burton pitted and got caught on pit road.

''We've still got quite a ways to go before we get this car to where it needs to be.''

However, it has been a year since the first 2000 Monte Carlo ran its first track tests here, and Chevy teams got in another major test at St. Louis during the summer.

''We ran a little bit last week at Atlanta in our test there, the new car versus the current car,'' Smith said. ''We didn't see a whole lot of difference speed-wise, though it did feel different.''

Chevrolet has had an edge at Daytona and Talladega. Will the new Monte Carlo be better or worse at those tracks?

''We really can't tell, because we'll be testing now under the new rules with the stiffer springs, 350-pounds,'' Smith said. ''We really can't compare apples to apples. Now body-wise what we see in the wind tunnel this new car may be a little worse at Daytona and Talladega.''