NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
FEDERATED AUTO PARTS 400
RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER RACE NOTES & QUOTES
SEPTEMBER 5, 2014
CHEVROLET GRABS SIX OF THE TOP 12 STARTING POSITIONS AT RICHMOND
Point Leader Jeff Gordon Will Start on Front Row in His Chevrolet SS
RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 5, 2014) – Jeff Gordon put Chevrolet on the front row for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season finale at Richmond International Raceway (RIR) in his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevy SS. The current point leader’s second-place qualifying effort was his fifth front-row start in the last seven races.
Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson qualified third in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS. Johnson, a three time winner at RIR, will look to improve his Chase standings with another win at the 0.75-mile speedway on Saturday night.
Kevin Harvick continued his strong qualifying efforts for 2014 by posting the fourth fastest time in today’s session in the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS. This is Harvick’s 13th top five start of the year. Rookie of the Year contender Kyle Larson made a strong bid to keep his hope alive for a Chase berth with an eighth-place qualifying run in the No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS.
Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch posted the ninth fastest time in the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevy SS. While Ryan Newman, another driver on the Chase bubble, will start 12th in the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS.
Brad Keselowski (Ford) won the pole and Joey Logano (Ford) will start fifth to round out the top five starters.
The 400-lap/300 mile Federated Auto Parts 400 from Richmond International Raceway is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, September 6th. Live coverage will be available on ABC, MRN, Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 90 and NASCAR.com.
POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 2ND
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 3RD
KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 8TH (HIGHEST QUALIFYING ROOKIE OF THE YEAR CANDIDATE)
YOU QUALIFIED THIRD AND JEFF GORDON QUALIFIED SECOND. THAT SHOWS THE POWER OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS. TALK ABOUT PRACTICE AND HOW YOUR CAR IS SHAPING UP, AND YOUR OUTLOOK FOR TOMORROW NIGHT:
JOHNSON: “It’s been really stressful to be honest. The time of day when we practice and how abrasive the track is really makes it tough to know what your car is doing and if your changes are improving your balance. So there was plenty of confusion through practice. When we switched into qualifying trim our last two runs on scuffs were pretty fast but amongst all the confusion on our stickers we were slower. And you never go faster on scuffs; especially here. So it was kind of a bizarre set of circumstances for us. But we stayed the course and tried to find a little bit of truth through our notes and just conversation in the transporter and came out and had two great qualifying sessions. So, I’m very pleased with the effort. But again when the sun was out today and if you weren’t going out on stickers each time, it was really difficult to know if you were advancing your car. Evidently we did throughout the course of the day, but it didn’t make the practice sessions easy for us.”
HOW CRITICAL IS IT TO START UP FRONT AT THIS RACE TRACK?
JOHNSON: “Passing is really tough. Even the lane that you’re in on a restart has a huge impact here. Although the middle groove seems to be working okay through practice and I hope that’s a good sign for the race and that we’ll have side-by-side racing and an outside lane working in. But track position, being in the right lane and then that pit stall pick; those are really important here because it’s just tough to complete a pass.”
JEFF GORDON JOINS.
WHAT’S YOUR OUTLOOK FOR TOMORROW NIGHT AS YOU’D LIKE TO SECURE A FOURTH WIN?
GORDON: “I’ll admit that today was tough. It was kind of a frustrating day because of the conditions. It’s a new tire based on what we had the last time we were here. So we were trying to learn that. And the hot conditions were making you slip and slide around. I’ll be honest. I’ve been confused most of the day. Even in qualifying I was sliding up the race track and running a groove I really didn’t want to be running. Yet we were fastest in the first round and second fastest in the second round and I’m sitting here baffled by it. That just tells me we’ve got a really good race car that’s got good speed in it. We’ve just got to get that balance right and keep working hard and we’ll be able to put in a good effort tomorrow night. I’m certainly proud to be on that front row. Brad (Keselowski) put a great lap up there. That was incredible what he did that second round.”
ALSO JOINING US IS KYLE LARSON, OUR TOP SUNOCO ROOKIE OF THE YEAR CANDIDATE. YOU HAD TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOUR EFFORT.
LARSON: “It’s a decent starting spot for us. It’s a big race for us tomorrow night. We’ve got a lot on the line and we have to run really good. If we don’t win, we’ve got to hope for a little bad luck for (Greg) Biffle. We’re off to a decent start. Jeff (Gordon) was mentioning how practice was kind of confusing. I felt the same way. In the first practice, I thought I was really bad and we were here for the tire test and I thought we were really good at the test and that whole first practice I thought we were really bad. And then in the second practice, for whatever reason, I felt good again. So, I’m pretty confident now with the Target Chevy and I think it’s a top five, or six or seven car; so hopefully we can turn that into a win.”
EARLIER TODAY, YOU SAID YOU FELT LIKE YOU REALLY NEEDED TO GET A HOLD OF THIS TRACK. DO YOU HAVE IT NOW? DID YOU FIND SOMETHING OUT TODAY?
JOHNSON: “We’re going in the right direction, but as everybody up here (media center) said, it was really confusing in the practice sessions today. I felt like, compared to the field, we were a decent car. Late in our qualifying runs we seemed to work our way toward the front and hopefully we can take what we learned in qualifying trim and apply that to the race. But, it’s sill Richmond. I’m not breathing easy yet. If we get to the final pit stop and I’m running up front all night, I’ll breathe a lot easier then. But this track still is probably one of the toughest ones on me.”
HOW MUCH OF THE CONFUSION TODAY WAS HEAT-RELATED AND/OR TIRE-RELATED
JOHNSON: “It’s hard to pin it on each one. It’s always baffling to us how we practice all day long and then go race at night. Jeff (Gordon) and I were talking about this before practice started. It would make more sense to have a Cup practice session after the Nationwide race and let us practice at night to get ready for a night race. It’s something you have to get used to in the Cup garage. It’s what we deal with all the time; but it is highly confusing to practice in the heat of the day and then go race at night.”
GORDON: “We’re not saying come in as early as they did today. We’re saying come in later and practice later. The only think I’d add to that is this tire seems to be laying a lot of rubber down. And so it looked like during the day, especially in the heat, it was laying rubber in the groove kept getting wider and wider. You just don’t know if it’s going to do that at night.”
JOHNSON IS EXCUSED. QUESTIONS FOR GORDON AND LARSON:
IT’S SUPPOSED TO RAIN TOMORROW. HOW MUCH COULD THAT MAKE THIS MORE BIZARRE IF THE TIRES AREN’T PUTTING DOWN RUBBER AND IT’S ALL WASHED OFF?
GORDON: “About any track you go to, that changes the conditions. But when you have an abrasive track like this with a tire that’s putting rubber down, you get big swings. We’ve dealt with that here before where it’s rained prior to the race and then you go out and start the race and in 25 or 30 laps, your car goes from being really good to really bad or from really bad to really good. It just changes a lot. So, if that happens throughout the race, then you’re going to be dealing with those types of circumstances and that just plays havoc on the team and the engineering in trying to adjust the cars and you as a driver. But you can’t predict that. You’ve just got to deal with it.”
ON THE GROOVE GETTING WIDER, ISN’T THAT BETTER FOR THE SHOW?
GORDON: “Absolutely. If we were racing during the day I’d say we’d have a multi-groove lane all the way up to the wall. But we’re not racing during the day. We’re racing at night and those cooler temperatures typically don’t move the track up quite as much. So, it was fun in a lot of ways to run the way we were running today, but you feel like you’re out there really not learning anything for the race. You feel like you’re just making laps because the conditions will be so much different.”
COMING INTO THIS RACE, WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER TO BE AN ACCEPTABLE EXPECTATION FOR THIS RACE AT THIS STAGE OF YOUR CAREER AND ALSO OF THE SEASON?
LARSON: ‘We’ll I guess anything less than a win this weekend for us and the situation we’re in would be hopefully not be meeting our expectations. We’re expecting to win. That’s kind of what we have to do this weekend since we’re so many points behind Greg Biffle to get into the Chase. If we finish second and don’t make it into the Chase we’ll be disappointed.”
GORDON: “He’s got more on the line this weekend than I do. We’re just trying to keep the momentum or regain it. The last couple of weeks haven’t gone as well as we’d like. This is a big race for us just trying to get another win and really carry that momentum to Chicago. This is not in the Chase and we’re already in it, so you’re not necessarily taking a whole lot from this race and applying it into the Chase, but you are going to take that team effort for sure.”
HOW INTENSE IS YOUR ROOKIE SEASON? JEFF DO YOU THINK HIS ROOKIE SEASON IS FAR MORE INTENSE THAN WHAT YOU WENT THROUGH?
GORDON: “I don’t wish a rookie season on anybody. Mine wasn’t great I can tell you that. I tore up a lot of equipment. He (Kyle Larson) so much of myself, but I always say with far more talent. I mean I love his background and what he has accomplished at such a young age. He has such a bright future so I think that you are going to see him do I think similar to what I did, which is next year – because you have to remember stock cars are pretty new to him. He hasn’t been racing stock cars his whole life. He is on a steep learning curve and I think that as good as he has been this year I think next year he is going to go to a whole other level just from having that comfort level of what the cars are like, what the 500-mile races are like, what the track conditions are. My rookie year is still to this day the toughest year I had. It’s not because I wrecked a lot it is because I just felt like everybody was judging me and watching me and critiquing me. Everything I did good or bad you just felt like you couldn’t do anything right. Even when you did it right then they expected more. If you did it wrong they were like ‘oh well he doesn’t have what it takes’. It’s tough being a rookie, so good luck with that I hope you are having a great year (laughs).
LARSON: “I’m having fun this year. I feel like as a rookie this is my first time – well now that we are to the second half of the season, but before it was tough getting up to speed kind of in practice. And knowing what you needed the car to feel like in practice so you don’t fire off the race really bad. I felt like the first third of the season we or I wasn’t good at that where I would always try to go faster and faster in practice. And then in the race I would be extremely loose. Now I think I have a better feel for what I need in practice and can start the races off better and that just kind of helps your whole race out because you are not playing catch up as much. I have enjoyed my rookie season. It has been a lot of fun. We have been running pretty well too most races when we don’t have a bad issue or something. I feel like we have been out running Austin Dillon almost every race too, which is nice. Hopefully we can just keep it going and make a great rookie year if we could get in the Chase.”
WILL YOU WATCH THE NATIONWIDE RACE TONIGHT TO SEE WHAT THE TIRES DO?
LARSON: “I’m in the Nationwide race so that helps me a lot knowing kind of how the tires and cars the balance changes throughout a run. Because yeah, it is way different than the previous tire we had. I didn’t get to run on the last years tires for what Cup ran so I don’t even know what those felt like. It’s always nice for me to run the Nationwide races because I think it helps me learn how the track adjusts throughout the race and I can kind of figure out the lines quicker it seems like when I run the Cup races.”
GORDON: “I will be laying on my couch, actually I’m building a model right now I’m going to be building my model while I’m watching the race. My crew chief is going to be texting me the tire situation.”