Chevy Racing–Phoenix–Jeff Gordon

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 PEPSI MAX CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed learning the new race car, the softer Goodyear tire, Danica Patrick’s performance at Daytona, an extra day of testing in Las Veqas, and more. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
 
WHAT ARE YOU LEARNING ABOUT THE NEW RACE CAR?
“The car’s got good grip and I think the tire and the car combination is a good one. It feels good out there. We’re proud to have Pepxi MAX aboard our Chevy SS this weekend.  We’re looking forward to getting more laps in the car and we just shook it down in race trim and then did some qualifying runs. The car had good speed and we didn’t draw the best of (qualifying) numbers, so we’re going to try to make the most of our qualifying effort here and then get prepared tomorrow.”
 
TONY STEWART SAID YOU’LL BE SPENDING THE NEXT FEW WEEKS LEARNING ABOUT THE CAR. AT DAYTONA, IT SEEMED LIKE YOU PRACTICED FOREVER. DO YOU FEEL LIKE MAYBE YOU NEED MORE PRACTICE TIME WHEN YOU GO TO THESE NEXT FEW TRACKS?
“Absolutely; any time things change with as drastic of a change that we’ve had for this year with the new car, you want as much time on the track as you can. In Daytona, those of us who were in the Sprint Unlimited felt like we got a good amount of track time in real race conditions to get the idea of what the car was going to draft like out of our system in enough laps there. Here, we want to go fast. We want to qualify good. That’s going to be a huge key to the race this weekend. And once we get through qualifying, then we’re going to want to try to get as many laps as we can.
 
“I was a little surprised we didn’t have an extra day here, where we do have an extra day next week at Vegas because I think this track can be just as tricky to figure out as Vegas. But we’re just going to make the most of the time that we have. You’re certainly not going to see us sitting out any practices (here) like you did at Daytona.”
 
IS THIS TRACK DIFFICULT TO PASS ON?
“Yes and no. It seems to be like that last couple of times we’ve been here that the groove has widened out and the cars on the longer run have gotten tricky to get into certain sections of the corner. Like in Turn 1 under braking, it’s hard to be consistent with that entry as the air pressure builds up and the heat builds up in the tires. So, sometimes that opens it up for opportunities. But other than that, yeah, this is typically a tough place to pass on, especially since they repaved it.”
 
ON THE TRACK SURFACE AND THE TIRES AND THE WEATHER
“I was very pleased with everything I felt out there. I thought the tire and the track conditions were not as edgy and unpredictable as what we’ve seen in the past here, which tells me that the pavement is aging, which is a good thing. The tire, luckily Goodyear came and did some testing here and found that now we’ve lost a little grip in this track and now we can soften this tire up and maybe we can have some falloff over a longer run. So, everything I think has come together pretty nicely.”
 
HOW IMPORTANT IS TESTING FOR YOU NEXT WEEK?
“It’s very important. If they’d give us an extra day going into every race track, we’d take advantage of it. When you have telemetry on the car, especially on a race weekend, and you can gather that much information and learn more about the loads and the bumps and what the car is going through; ride heights of the front splitter and all those things, it’s valuable information that we will utilize and try to make the most of it for Sunday.”
 
DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME?
“Well, not until you just brought it up. It’s hard to get away from it. They’re still using it to advertise for the race and it was a big story. We’re really focused on this new car. Luckily we’ve got enough things going on that it takes your mind off of it once you get out there on the track. We’re just focused on getting the most out of the car and having a good, solid, and fast race car and a good weekend. So, at this point, I’m not thinking about it.”
 
ON HOW HE WILL RACE CLINT BOWYER
“You know, I’m going to race him the way that I’ve always raced him. We’ll race hard. We’ll race hard for position and hopefully we don’t have any incidents. I can’t run every lap worrying about every guy I’ve ever had an incident with.”
 
NOW THAT YOU’VE PRACTICED AT PIR, HOW DOES THE NEW CAR COMPARE TO LAST YEAR’S CAR?
“Well, ask me that question after next week.  I can tell you the difference between here with the older car. Again, the tire is different and that changes things. But it feels great. It’s got good grip and the car drives really well. But that pushes you to be more aggressive with it and then you start finding the limitations. And that’s what a race car is supposed to do. And so far, I’m enjoying the characteristics. You’ve got to understand too, it’s not just the body and the aerodynamics; it’s some of the things that NASCAR changed for this year (like) the bushings and the splitter structure. It’s just a lot of things that they’ve implemented (like) no rear sway bars that we’re trying to learn and understand and then a lot of downforce in this car. So, far, everything that I can feel in making runs by myself is very positive.  But I’d really like to see what happens once we get out there with more cars and in a race and understand what kind of characteristics we’re going to be dealing with and how important is track position. With this car, are we going to be able to dive to the outside and make some moves? Or how close are you going to be to be able to get up to the guy to turn underneath him? All those types of things we won’t really know until we go through a race.”
 
WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THE JERRY CLEMENTS DECISION BY NASCAR?
“I think that it’s very clear to me that NASCAR has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to things that are detrimental to the sport and that could have a negative impact on the sport. Obviously I don’t know all the details, but obviously whatever was said drew them to that conclusion that it was something that really could impact the sport negatively.”
 
THIRTEEN (13) DRIVERS HAVE LED THE INDIANAPOLIS 500 AND THE DAYTONA 500 AND DANICA PATRICK JOINED THAT LIST LAST WEEKEND. WHAT SORT OF ACCOMPLISHMENT IS THAT FOR HER?
“That’s a big deal. That’s huge. I’ve never run in an Indy 500, but I don’t feel like it’s really easy to lead an Indy 500 and I watched Indy 500’s where she led and it wasn’t like it was just under caution or anything like that. She got herself in position. I saw her have some great runs at Indy.
 
“And Daytona, typically I would say it’s not the hardest place to lead at, but this particular Daytona 500 was very difficult to lead at. So, I think that it’s quite an accomplishment and I thought she did a great job all day to keep herself in position. I know she probably feels like she made a little mistake there at the end, and lost some positions, but to come out of there with a solid run like she did was a great way to get the season started.”
 
THERE SEEMS TO BE A PRETTY GOOD FIELD OF YOUNG DRIVERS. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE YOUNG DRIVERS?
“Give me some names.”
 
BRAD KESELOWSKI
“He’s a young driver? (laughter) I’m thinking (in their) twenties. Ah, that’s a young driver to me. I think Ricky (Stenhouse) is a great talent. I love his background with dirt track and the way he’s brought himself up through to this level. He’s got a lot of talent. Keselowski has impressed me. He’s not a guy that I think a lot of people had on their radar as being able to come into the sport and take an organization that has never won a championship and get them to a championship. It is talent, but it’s also just willing to work just as hard as you can and do whatever it takes and he’s got that great work ethic. So, as far as those two guys, those are pretty high on my
list.”
 
CONSIDERING THE POPULARITY OF THE RAINBOW WARRIORS BACK IN THE DAY, DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAN COME TO YOU AND SAY HE BECAME A FAN OF YOURS BECAUSE OF THE BRIGHT COLORS OF THE CAR?
“Absolutely; primarily with kids, it just seemed like the neon colors just stood out so much. And it’s funny now. And actually, this just happened this past weekend in Daytona. I met a young lady who was 30 years old and she shows me a picture of when she was 10, and she was this big and now she’s this big and she was saying how big of a fan she was because of the bright colors of the car.
 
“So just recently I had an experience where; I think a lot of young new fans, when they watch for the first time whether they’re at the track or at home, they go okay, who am I going to pull for? And they either do it based on the driver in an interview, or they do it on the car. And we had a lot of people that became new fans of mine because of the rainbow-colored car.”
 
ON THE JEREMY CLEMENTS ISSUE, DO YOU THINK YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT HE SAID? DOES THAT MATTER?
“Personally, I’d like to know. I don’t think it’s anything that I ever would worry about myself saying or getting in that situation, but I’d like to understand the situation and the environment that it was in. That’s obviously a pretty severe penalty; and I think whatever his actions were, must have been pretty severe. But just out of curiosity, I’d like to know. From what I understand if I asked the proper person, I might be able to get that information.”
 
ON THE NEW TRACK-DRYING TECHNOLOGY, WE HAVEN’T SEEN IT IN ACTION YET, BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK OF IT?
“Oh, I was so hoping to see that last week at Daytona (laughs). I thought it was going to rain Sunday morning and I thought it would clear out just in time for them to get that thing out there and see how fast it could dry.”
 
HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK IT IS JUST TO KEEP FANS ENGAGED IN THE RACE TO HAVE THAT TECHNOLOGY?
“Oh, I think it’s important. I think it’s been a long-time coming. Obviously it’s not perfect and it needs some work, but it’s a great step. These fans, if you had the opportunity to get a race in and keep the fans engaged at home as well as here at the track, for all that they go through to get here and potentially either keep them from having to leave because it’s just getting late and they have to go home for work the next day, or to prevent it (the race) from having to go to the next day, I think that’s huge. I’d like to see more tracks have it available.”

Chevy Racing–Phoenix–Jeff Burton

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CHEERIOS CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed the performance of the new car on track at Phoenix, what he is looking forward to next week at Las Vegas and other topics.  FULL TRANSCRIPT:
 
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW CAR HERE IN PHOENIX?
“We fought a little bit of problems we didn’t think we would fight.  We have been loose and that just wasn’t in our mindset.  We thought we would come here and fight tight.  We have fought loose most of the day.  A little bit of surprise, but a surprise shouldn’t be a surprise with a new car and all new stuff.  We are trying to adjust a little bit with it.”
 
HOW ARE LAST YEAR’S CAR AND THIS YEAR’S CAR DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOU’VE SEEN SO FAR?
“Honestly, I think it is too early to say.  I think we really need more time, more racing that kind of thing.  Right now I think that they drive good.  It’s not like they drive bad.  No matter what the car is, no matter what the rules are, the people that do the better job with it, drive it better, set it up better, do better pit stops they are the ones that are going to win races. No matter what the car is that is what the focus has got to be.  We are just a touch behind right now, but we feel like we can see where we need to be.”
 
WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU LAST WEEK?
“I was catching David Reutimann at a pretty high rate of speed and I went to go underneath him and he blocked me to the left.  Then I went to go above him and he blocked me to the right.  On that one it didn’t work out very well for us.  We hit exceptionally hard.  Blocking is part of plate racing.  David reached out to me, apologized to me and said ‘I’m sorry it was my fault, I certainly didn’t mean to put you in that position.’  I know David didn’t.  Plate racing puts you in a position to do things you wouldn’t normally do.  That is kind of what it was.  We just came out on the short end of the stick of it.”
 
NOT THE FINISH THAT YOU WANTED LAST WEEK.  HOW DO YOU BOUNCE BACK FROM THAT?
“If in this sport every bad finish you have that is disaster then you are going to have a terribly long life.  Jimmie Johnson wrecked the third or fourth lap last year. Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, a lot of big names wrecked early in the race. You can’t have your tail tucked between your legs coming to Phoenix you have just got to go race.  I think the biggest thing you could do is worry about where you finish and you need to focus on what you need to do to finish well.  If you focus on that you don’t have enough time to worry about all the other crap.  Daytona is Daytona and next week Phoenix will be Phoenix and we will be on to (Las) Vegas.  Obviously, you’ve got to have good finishes you can’t just keep writing them off, but the only way to do that is move forward and focus on what’s next.”
 
WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THE JEREMY CLEMENTS DECISION BY NASCAR?
“It’s really difficult to comment on it because I don’t have a lot of facts.  One thing for sure that I don’t like to do is I don’t like to talk without being educated about something.  There are a lot of what if’s and a lot of stuff that is out there that you are having to make it up.  You don’t have enough facts.  Certainly, I don’t think NASCAR would suspend someone for something small.  I don’t think they would.  I don’t know what was said.  I don’t know how it was said because we don’t have that information.  Until I have that information it’s really hard to make a comment on it. I do want to get a little more information because I want to make sure I don’t do something wrong.  It’s just hard to have an opinion because there is not enough information to have an opinion.”
 
DO YOU FEEL FOR THESE NEXT COUPLE OF TRACKS COMING UP YOU GUYS SHOULD HAVE SOME MORE PRACTICE WITH THE NEW CAR? 
“I think (Las) Vegas we have a whole day.  We’ve got a whole day of practice.  I think that is good.  I think having a little extra time out here would have been a cool thing.  I think (Las) Vegas is good.  They are giving us some more time at Texas I believe than they normally would.  We do have a few more tests this year.  Yeah, I think a little more time this week would have been a good thing.  (Las) Vegas is a good idea.  A little more time at California wouldn’t hurt anybody’s feelings.  Giving more time at Bristol or Martinsville, those tracks are so unique to themselves I don’t think that necessarily is needed.”
 
IT’S THE 5OTH YEAR OF RACING HERE AT PIR.  WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY AND BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT?
“My favorite memory is me winning here twice.  My biggest disappointment was the year it rained.  I was sitting there running third or fourth and we pitted along with everybody else on the lead lap.  It rained during that caution, we had weather radar, but you are in the desert you are thinking surely to God it’s not going to rain it out.  Rusty Wallace I believe won the race in the rain.  Everybody pitted under that caution for rain (laughs).  That was probably the dumbest move that every race team in NASCAR made on that day. The last guy on the lead lap didn’t stay out. That was probably the most disappointing day.”
 
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE DONE AFTER LAST SATURDAY’S ACCIDENT IN DAYTONA?
“I think there has to be a thorough investigation.  I think the degree in which obviously people were injured that was a fluke accident. A car getting in the fence I don’t think at this point we can necessarily call it a fluke accident because we have seen over the last little bit of time we have seen several cars get airborne.  (Brad) Keselowski and Carl Edwards at Talladega then you go back… Keselowski and Carl (Edwards) at Atlanta that car got up in the air.  So I don’t want to say that getting in the air is a fluke.  I think we need to work harder on keeping the cars on the ground, which this car, honestly, has a lot more work done on that. As far as the fencing you have to stop and do research and understand how to do it better.  Everybody wants to fix it today, but the right way to fix it is through a thorough analysis.  Do a thorough analysis, get all the information then make a decision.  I think everybody, meaning well, wants to try to say here is what you need to do, but until you really understand it, it is hard to know what to do. I think it also reminds us that, and I’ve said this for years, safety is not a goal.  It’s not something you can reach.  It’s a continuing effort.  It’s a continuing mind set, it’s a continuing desire to be better at it.  You can’t say ‘okay we are here’ and move on.  By no means am I saying NASCAR has done that.  I think NASCAR deserves a tremendous amount of credit.  I think they have led motorsports as it relates to safety over the last 10 years there is no question about that.  In no way am I saying NASCAR has been not being aggressive, but it is a reminder that we have to continue to be.  It’s a reminder that we have to always be looking to be better.  We can never get to the point where we say ‘okay we are there, now we get to relax’.  You can’t have that mindset when it comes to safety.”
 
DOES IT GO BEYOND JUST BUILDING THE CARS TO THE SPECIFICATIONS NASCAR GIVES YOU? “I said it a long time ago, that I believe this is a community activity. When NASCAR wasn’t as proactive as they are today, I was standing up saying that we as a community need to do a better job. Meaning the teams, the drivers, NASCAR, the sponsors, the manufacturers…we collectively need to do a better job. I said that years ago, and got told I was crazy, and had a lot of press g
iven to me. But, that is still true today.  We as drivers can’t look around the industry and say ‘Well, y’all are supposed to take care of us. We’ve got to be proactive. We’ve got to be pushing the ball.  Car owners have to be pushing the ball. Team members have to be pushing the ball. NASCAR…it takes all of us. We can’t just give. We have to be willing to give of our time. We have to be willing to give money. We have to be willing to give effort to try to make a continuing effort if we want racing to be safer. I think we all do. I’ve heard some people say racing isn’t exciting because it is safer. That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard in my life. We as a community have to make sure we stay together and work, and don’t just put it on NASCAR’s shoulder. I think that is unfair to put it on the tracks and NASCAR. I think that is unfair. I think we have to do it together.”
 
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GOING BACK TO LAS VEGAS? “I think the day of testing is going to be real cool. I think having an opportunity working on this car on a race weekend rather than a test is going to be really good for everybody. And then seeing how they race. Seeing how they respond in the race. We’re going to try to jump to conclusions based on Thursday’s practice. But the fact of the matter is, until Sunday is over, we’re really not going to know. Going to through that process to me is going to be a good time. It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to that getting started. The mile-and-a-half tracks is the place where this car I think will excel.”
 
THIS NEW AIR TITAN TRACK DRYING TECHNOLOGY WE’VE YET TO SEE IN ACTION. ASSUMING WE DO AT SOME POINT, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT JUST TO KEEP FANS ENGAGED, AND I GUESS EVEN THE TV AUDIENCE? “I’ll be honest, I would never have thought of that, but we need to dry the tracks quicker. But when you do, and they went out and did that, then it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. That’s part of my point about doing things as a community. If all of us ban together, we come up with better ideas. I do know that the Daytona 500 last year through Twitter talking to fans, the impact that had on them, not being able to stay, that’s a big deal. That’s bad for our sport. Anything we can do to lessen that opportunity is the right thing. Having said that, I wouldn’t have thought about it. I wouldn’t have thought well hell, we need to find a better way. I just wouldn’t have. There’s no question that’s a positive. No question.”

Chevy Racing– Phoenix–Tony Stewart

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 BASS PRO SHOPS/MOBIL 1 RACING CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed the learning process for the new race cars, Danica Patrick’s performance at Daytona, his opinion of the Phoenix International Raceway track, and more. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
 
HOW IS THE NEW CAR HANDLING?
“So far, so good.  We are just a little bit tight, balance-wise; but other than that it drives really good.”
 
WERE YOU EXPECTING WHAT YOU FELT?
“I didn’t know what to expect.  It’s a new car and I don’t know how anybody knows what to expect until you get out and run it. So, you guys (media) are going to have the same questions for the next four weeks and we’re still going to be learning for the next four weeks. So, give us about four or five more weeks and we’ll be able to give you a lot more answers than what we’ve got today, so far, on what it feels like.”
 
LAST WEEK WAS NOT THE WAY YOU WANTED TO START THE SEASON. HOW DO YOU GO FORWARD OR BOUNCE-BACK FROM IT?
“Easy. We’ve left there (Daytona) 43rd (in points) and won a championship in ’02. So, you just put it behind you and it’s no different than if you get in a wreck on any other week. You can’t change it. So, you’ve got to focus on what you can change and that’s the week ahead.”
 
ON HIS HOSPTAL VISIT WITH THE FANS AT DAYTONA
“It was good. It was a good visit.”
 
YOU ARE ONE OF 13 ON THE LIST OF DRIVERS WHO HAVE LED AT THE INDIANAPOLIS 500 AND THE DAYTONA 500. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU?
“It’s pretty cool. To be honest, as a race car driver, it’s an honor to just be able to compete in both, let alone lead laps. So, the good thing is we’ve got you guys (media) to tell us the cool stats because we don’t know that stuff until you tell us. But, that’s a pretty cool honor to be in a group of 13 people.”
 
ON DANICA PATRICK’S PERFORMANCE AT DAYTONA
“I thought she did a great job last week. She played a very, very smart race because it’s very easy to get over-anxious and want to do better than where you’re at; and cause yourself to have a worse day. And I thought she displayed a lot of patience and that’s really hard to do sometimes. So, I thought she did a great job.”
 
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY AT PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY? WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE MEMORY AT PIR?          
“My favorite memory is oh man; probably the first Copper Classic I ran. The worst memory was the first time they started changing it; and the very worst memory is the second time they changed this track. Every time they change it they keep screwing it up and making it worse. It was really good the way it was. It was a lot of fun back then.”
 
HOW CLOSE ARE YOU WITH THE CAR RIGHT NOW? HOW MUCH WORK NEEDS TO BE DONE?
“I just answered that when you asked the first question about it. We don’t know. We’re in a learning process right now. We’ve got an hour and a half of practice. We’ve got a whole day tomorrow to get ready for the race. Every time we go on the track we’re going to keep learning right now. I just don’t honestly have an answer to that. We just don’t have a lot of time and we’re not going to have for four or five weeks. It’s going to take some time for us to learn these cars and you’re not going to learn it in an hour and a half. If anybody tells you they’ve got it all figured out after an hour and a half of practice, they’re lying to you. You can pretty much write down in stone for the next five weeks that people are going to be learning a lot going to different race tracks and trying to get a handle on what this car is actually going to be.”
 
YOU TALK ABOUT NOT HAVING ENOUGH TIME AND YET DAYTONA SEEMED LIKE A MILLION PRACTICE SESSIONS.
“Well we had all the practice time we wanted at Daytona. Nobody wanted to use that. This is a little different deal here where you’re running by yourself. This is the first time that we’ve all had a new car, guys. We’re not reinventing the wheel. It’s the same thing that we did with we had the CoT car and the same thing that we’ve had every time a new manufacturer had a new body style. So we’re not totally starting from scratch or reinventing the wheel. You’re just going to have to have the time that you do have to learn and everybody has the same amount of time. So, it doesn’t really matter how much time you’ve got.”

Chevy Racing–Phoenix–Danica Patrick

DANICA PATRICK, NO. 10 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed her success at Daytona, expectations for weekend at Phoenix, comparison of her first Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500 and other topics.  Full transcript:
 
TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR PHOENIX THIS WEEKEND:
“It was nice to come here at the end of the season, and race in the Cup race. It was also nice to have Tony Gibson as my crew chief.  I feel like it will give us a good baseline of where we need to start setup-wise for the weekend, so we can kind of pickup where we left off. I feel like we were pretty decent at the end of the race. Is qualifying on the pole, and leading laps what we should be thinking based on last weekend? No. I think we need to…I need to keep realistic expectations, and I think everybody else does too. Daytona is a very unique place, and this is kind of where the bulk of the season really starts. Things like being able to get up-to-speed quickly; knowing what I want in the car; how to push it to its limit and what its limit is are things that are going to begin to be tested now. That’s something that you don’t really face at Daytona.”
 
CAN I TAKE YOU BACK TO INDIANAPOLIS IN ’05 VERSUS AFTER THE RACE AT DAYTONA? OBVIOUS DISAPPOINTMENT FOR WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN; BUT WHEN YOU LOOK AT HOW YOU HAVE IMPROVED AS A DRIVER IN BOTH SERIES, WHAT DO YOU TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR PROGRESS? “They really are very similar in a sense with my first Indy 500 and my first…wasn’t my first Daytona 500, but my first year full-time in the Series with the whole pole position potential. And with leading in the race, and being fast, and being a contender then kind of losing it a little bit at the very, very end. Very similar. I feel like now days having the experience that I had in IndyCar, and understanding how media works. What it is like to be busy, and do a lot of interviews and a lot of things outside of the car. And also building a great team helps me manage and tolerate all of that is very different than it was back in 2005. I kind of feel like it is another weekend now. Last weekend was what it was. But we’re moving on, and maybe perhaps in 2005 it was kind of a little bit of an ongoing excitement level, and hope for me. But I think I’m a little more mature now to know that these things come; they go. We’re going to have great weekends like maybe last weekend. And we’re going to have bad ones. I don’t know where they are going to pop up, but I don’t doubt that they will. I just feel more mature to be able to handle all of it.”
 
THERE ARE 13 NAMES ON THE LIST OF DRIVERS WHO HAVE LED THE INDIANAPOLIS 500 AND THE DAYTONA 500. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE ON THAT LIST? “When I heard that statistic. Joe (Crowley, public relations) is a wealth of knowledge, and knew that when we were walking back from pit lane after the race. He then sent me more information about who had led more than five laps, and things like that. So, I got more information beyond that. He’s going to have to become one of the historians of IndyCar and of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and maybe of NASCAR as well. But anyway, enough about Joe (LAUGHS). It is a statistic like that, that I personally I felt was the biggest one from the weekend. To look at the list of names, and to fall under them; while I’m honored to be a first woman to do something; those are great. You can’t take those away. A first is always wonderful. But, to fall into a historical statistic that is small, that is a small group, along with other drivers, and have it not be about being a male or a female, that is something that I aspire to as a driver. I hope that when I am done racing that people remember me as a great driver. And, if they remember me as a great girl driver, that’s fine too. But, I hope they remember as a great driver, and a list of others. I feel like that is one of those statistics that’s just genderless, and that’s pretty neat for me.”
 
THIS WILL BE YOUR SECOND TIME IN THE CUP CAR HERE AT PHOENIX. IN THE NATIONWIDE CAR, DID YOU NOTICE THE TRACK’S CHANGING A LOT FROM THE FIRST TIME TO THE SECOND TIME YOU WERE THERE, AND SO ON? HOW MUCH SHOULD WE EXPECT THAT BECAUSE YOU RAN WELL HERE IN NOVEMBER? “I would say that tended to happen wherever I went.  I felt like it was a little bit more about being a new track to me more than anything. The first to the second time is still going to show a steeper incline in performance, than perhaps the sixth to the seventh time. But Phoenix is one of those places that, man, even in the Nationwide car, I just couldn’t get the hang of it. I came here many times, and continued to kind of suck. I feel like at the end of the year was more of a breakthrough in the Nationwide car, and also in the Cup car, it was a good weekend. The best weekend I’d had in a Cup car. I really think that is what led me to want to do more double duty weekends this year. Haven’t been able to work that out yet. But, I think that driving both of the cars really just keeps you sharp. I feel like I have practiced the Cup car, it helped in the Nationwide car. Then when I had done the Nationwide race, I really felt like it led to helping in the Cup race. I think that was probably also a big contributor to why last year at the end of the year it was a good weekend.”
 
WHAT WAS YOUR DEBRIEF LIKE WITH TONY STEWART (CAR OWNER) AFTER DAYTONA 500, WHEN YOU WERE PERHAPS KICKING YOURSELF OVER THE FINISH OF THE RACE? WHAT IS HE TELLING YOU ABOUT PHOENIX? “I was. I was disappointed at the end of the race that I just didn’t have a better grasp as to what I needed to do to shoot for a better finish than where I was. Although….if they had just thrown that yellow, you know?  Third.  But you have to finish the race, I understand. That’s good for the sport when we finish under green. It makes it exciting. It really helped teach me. I feel like what happens at the end of the race and how to set them up. (Dale Earnhardt) Junior is really good at those big speedway races and knowing how to set things up. But, I just felt like…I was just frustrated that I didn’t have a better plan. Tony told me that he really thought that…he said ‘I really feel like you had more to lose in your position, than you had to gain by trying something. So I think that you did the right thing’. So that made me feel better – a little bit. Was I still mad that I went from third to eighth on the lap? No, I was still disappointed in it. But to have somebody like Tony Stewart say something to me like that was very kind, and it put it in perspective. I also Jimmie (Johnson) he did a nice job. We had a little conversation, and I said to him…he told me I did a nice job too. And I said I had wished I had a better plan, but thank you and I have a lot to learn. He said that the two wins he had, he didn’t have a plan, and sometimes you just have to take it on the fly and work with what happens in the moment. He very kindly later that day, at the end of the day said he’d seen the end of the race, and said, in his opinion, the only thing I could have done was back up to Junior when he backed up, but as far as what happened on the back straight when Junior went low, in his opinion, he thought I did the right thing. So to have somebody like Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson tell me that on some level I made good decisions out there at the very end, was a really nice thing for them to say. It makes me feel a little bit better. I still feel like I want to have a better plan in the future, but in that moment that I had made some good decisions. So, it was appreciated.
 
“When we had our competition meeting about the race, and we all kind of talked about what we were thinking going into Phoenix, and the track, and what issues we’d had from the year before. I feel like collaboratively we all had similar feelings. It’s always nice when we have the same opinion on what is about to happen the next weekend based on what we felt the year before.
Hopefully we’ll be…we just want to be better in qualifying. That is my personal goal for the weekend is to be able to improve from last year in the qualifying. Have a better run and feel good about it instead of being sideways in three and four (turns) and not qualifying very well. That’s what I’ll be working towards in this one session we have.”
 
COMPARE THE IMPORTANCE OF WHERE YOU ACTUALLY FINISH ON SUNDAY, VERSUS HOW MUCH YOU LEARN AND GROW ON FRIDAY, SATURDAY AND THROUGHOUT THE RACE ON SUNDAY? “I feel like the both lead to good things. If you learn and grow, you are going to finish better. That learning curve is different for everyone, which is why it is difficult to say where I should be at a certain point in time because you just don’t know at what point in time that an athlete or driver something is going to click and make sense, and you figure something out, and get more comfortable. I guess I would say the most important thing overall, if you look at the big picture, is to learn and grow. Good races and good finishes can just happen, and sometimes you don’t know why. Sometimes it’s because of other people’s misfortunes, your luck – which is a big part of the sport. But, learning is something that is going to pay off over time far more than being lucky one weekend.”
 
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR MINDSET AND CONFIDENCE COMING OUT OF DAYTONA IS THIS YEAR COMPARED TO WHAT YOU DEALT WITH LAST YEAR? “Completely different. It was a very difficult year last year at Daytona. It had the high of qualifying on the pole in the Nationwide race to having an accident with my teammate in the race. Then falling out of the Duel and the 500 at the worst possible times. It’s a nice reminder. I was hoping going into Daytona that I would be due a good weekend in Daytona, and sure enough it was. I feel like last year, maybe that frustration and exhaustion kind of spilled over into a couple of days of work during Phoenix week that I had to do to the weekend. Coming here again in the Nationwide car for the third or fourth time and being like 20th, and just feeling really kind of bad about myself, and storming off from all of you from pit lane, and deciding that I didn’t finish well enough to answer any questions. It is a different perspective. I feel just a little more mature. I feel like even if it would have been a weekend, I was more prepared to handle it. But, at this point in time, understanding that it is a whole new race, completely different track, and this is when the real season starts. Maybe I guess coming away feeling a little bit more calm; or humble; or understanding the ebb and flow of racing. I think that comes from having a good team around me that helps me understand that we are going to have good and back weekends, and we are going to stay together no matter what happens.”

Chevy Racing– Phoenix– Dale Earnhardt Jr.

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) and discussed racing at Phoenix, lessons learned from Daytona and other topics. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
 
ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING ON THE TRACK HERE IN PHOENIX?
“We’re just looking forward to getting out on the track and seeing the difference in the tire and how that might be something I like better.  Hopefully, the car comes off the trailer pretty fast.  Just a lot of anticipation and nerves right now.  Just ready to see what kind of work we need to do and how close we are to being competitive.  We’re going to run a couple race runs and then we’ll go right into qualifying and get ready for qualifying later this afternoon.”
 
HOW MUCH OF TODAY’S PRACTICE IS MORE OF A TEST SESSION?
“It’s pretty time limited as far as practice goes, but the car shouldn’t be too different.  The chassis is really the same chassis and the splitter and everything is still there so the same fundamentals should work as far as nuts and bolts, springs and shocks and bump stops and stuff like that.  The body on the car is quite different so just how that aero is going to affect the setup and what adjustments you might need to make due to that  The tire is going to probably the biggest or I’m hoping the tires a big change because I haven’t ran good here since they repaved the place.  I’m hoping a change to the tire might be a move in a good direction for just me personally.  We’ll just have to see.”
 
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT WITH THE NEW CARS AT THIS RACE?
“I really don’t know what to expect.  I don’t think I would expect anything really different from what we saw last year.  This surface is very new.  For us to be able to put on the best race we can put on, the older surfaces, the surfaces that have a few more years on them tend to do better.  Tend to widen out and give us more grooves to run in the corners.  The tire change might help us in that direction in that regard.  The track being out here in the desert helps us.  This place should age pretty quickly, much like the beach — Daytona Beach.  It’s just a matter of time.  This thing will better and this track will get better and better.  I like the car.  Some places it’s going to look similar to what we had in the past and other places it might put on a pretty exciting show or a better show.  I think it will keep getting better.  I say it may put on a similar show at some places and that’s due to the surface really.  A lot of tracks have been repaved and they are just not widening out right off the bat.  When you put down a new surface its pretty single file for a couple years at least three or four races before we really start moving up the race track and changing lanes and running different grooves.”
 
HOW DID YOU FEEL AFTER TAKING A HARD HIT ON SATURDAY?
“I didn’t know how hard it was.  I was pretty good until we got into the fence.  I knew I was going to hit the fence because when I hit whoever, the 7 (Regan Smith) or whoever tore the right-front off, I couldn’t steer the car anymore so I knew I was going to hit the wall, but I wanted to stay in the gas long enough to cross the start-finish line and get whatever position I could.  The 99 (Alex Bowman) come from the infield up in front of us and we both hit the wall a good bit.  I was concerned just how my body was going to react to that and I was glad to be able — I felt pretty good after the wreck and that evening and the next day felt awesome and was able to get in the car and everything came naturally and was able to put together a good race.  I was real happy that I was able to pass a personal test I guess.  When you have concussions sometimes they’re easier to get the second, third, fourth time around so we survived that one.  We’ll move on and try not to get in anymore wrecks.”
 
WHY DID YOU START DRINKING CARROT JUICE?
“A buddy of mine was talking about this detox diet, it’s like a 15 day deal and for the first eight days you drink prune juice and then the last half of it you drink carrot juice so they were just picking on me, somebody that was talking in that podcast, I guess it was Mike Davis.  Just misinformed, I’m not drinking it all the time, but just during that little detox thing.  It was pretty tough too.  I was surprised I was able to make it.  It was like just fish, chicken and raw, steamed vegetables and then there was like two days where you just ate vegetables and fruit.  That was pretty tough for me to not have any meat.  I think the older you get the more you have to do to kind of maintain a healthy weight.  That’s really what it’s about for me is just trying to maintain my weight so I don’t have to keep getting my driver suits altered throughout the season.  Last year I was like, ‘Man, they’re shrinking, something is wrong with the washer.’  This off-season I lost a lot of weight, lost about 15 or 20 pounds and just trying to do a better job of managing my calories and stuff like that.  I never really worried about it before.  Just eat all kinds of stuff like pizza and wings and stuff every day and not really watching portion controls and stuff like that.  Just getting out of control so reining all that back in, not getting too crazy about it though.  I’m no health freak by no means.”
 
DOES THAT MEAN NO MORE HELLMAN’S FOR YOU?
“Well, you have to mix it in there every once in a while.  It’s part of the recipes.  Like I said, I’m not really a health freak or anything, but I am counting calories, I will say that.”
 
DO YOU APPROACH THIS RACE LIKE A MILE-AND-A-HALF TRACK OR A SHORT TRACK AND HOW MUCH TIME AND EFFORT HAS GONE INTO THE CAR FOR PHOENIX?
“We just can only test at certain tracks, we can’t test at tracks that are perfectly relative to Phoenix, but we can go to Nashville, which is as unnatural compared to Phoenix as you can get I guess.  We go out there and run around in circles and try to learn something.  It’s a tight box that we’re in as far as the testing goes and that’s got its pluses and minuses.  When we go test we’ll go to Gresham and Nashville and places like that and learn the limited amount of information you can learn.”
 
HOW MUCH VALUE IS THERE TO RUNNING THE NATIONWIDE CAR TO GET YOURSELF READY FOR SUNDAY?
“When the track is so unique such as Phoenix, I think it’s very valuable.  When it’s Daytona or Talladega where the drafting is completely different between the two cars and there’s not really anything to learn about the tire or about a setup or anything like that, there’s no real benefit other than just doing it for fun.  When you come to a technical race track that’s still relatively, the surface is new, the tire is new, everybody is still trying to find out a few secrets and gain some information on the competition then it’s a great opportunity.”
 
WHAT DID YOU TAKE AWAY FROM THE DAYTONA 500?
“We got off to a good start just like we did last year.  I really think that if you put yourself in a hole early, no matter how good of a team you are, you’re going to be one of those guys that are sitting there at Richmond or the last couple races before the Chase really digging and worried about your opportunities and position and worried about the guys that you have to beat.  You’ll be sitting in that 10th to 14th place position sweating it out.  It’s a distraction that I’d rather not have to put the team through or have to go through myself.  If we can put together a solid 10 races and get a good foundation of points together then we should be able to steadily maintain that throughout the rest of the regular season and go into the Chase comfortable and not have to really sweat
it out and start thinking that you can mentally prepare yourself for the Chase better I believe when you don’t have to worry about those last few races.  Mentally, it’s just easier and emotionally it’s easier.  That’s what I took away from that.  We certainly had a unique race.  Learned a lot about the drafting and how it’s different and hope to be able to take some of that stuff to Talladega and run well or do well.  Really it was about, I told one of my guys on my team that I’ll think about what I should have done different for the next 11 months until we get to go back to Daytona and try it again.  I should have went earlier to try to get to second sooner to have that lap or two that I needed to make a run on Jimmie (Johnson), but I was worried about getting freight-trained and going to the back like we had seen so many guys do throughout the race.  I was a little apprehensive and that’s why that move didn’t come sooner.  You learn a lot and learned a few lessons there that I can take and try to utilize at Talladega.  Other than that, it’s more about trying to get those points.  They are so important.”
 
DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT FOR NASCAR TO COME AWAY FROM THE NATIONWIDE WRECK STRONGER FOR FANS WHERE THAT WAS THEIR ONLY EXPOSURE TO THE SPORT? “Absolutely and I think NASCAR is actively seeking solutions and alternatives to always make the sport safer, especially, we’ve done so much with the physical car itself.  There’s always opportunities and other areas where we can become a safer sport.  I’m sure that unfortunately incidents like that will draw attention, but in the long term a lot of positive things will come out of it.  That’s what I’m hoping anyways that we’re better off down the road because of what we experienced and it was a terrible experience for everyone that went through it.  It was difficult to watch and difficult to be a witness to, but I’m glad that no one was killed or anything like that.  That was my biggest fear was that we had lost a life or maybe multiple lives and that was going to be really difficult and it would have been really difficult to race the next day.”
 
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT NASCAR MEXICO RACING AT PHOENIX?
“I know that we’ve got more and more people from that country and from that region showing more interest in the sport.  There’s obviously a lot of involvement from NASCAR in Mexico and it’s growing with the series and everything.  Just a lot of interest as far as the drivers coming up here and trying to compete.  I think it’s exciting and just looking forward to seeing some of that result in good runs on the race track.  Some of them guys to come up here and run well and see what kind of talent they have to bring to the table and compete with.  I think the opportunities NASCAR can provide them down in Mexico will give them that avenue to be able to do that and to be able to come up here in some decent equipment and show what they can do.”
 
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WHAT HAPPENED WITH JEREMY CLEMENTS?
“It’s really unfortunate.  It’s just really unfortunate that he chose to make that decision at that time to use that language.  I don’t like it and there’s no room for that in my life.  It’s just unfortunate that had to happen to him.  I hope he can get that sorted out and it just looks bad on the sport.  One person’s mistake looks bad on a lot of people and looks bad on the sport.  It’s just unfortunate.”
 
HOW DID THE DAYTONA 500 CHANGE WITH THE COMMUNICATION RESTRICTIONS?
“That’s kind of been the case for a little while now.  It seems like it was several years ago when we were able to do that when it’s really only been a few.  I really never liked that.  I never liked to have that much access to all the other drivers.  I didn’t like having to switch the panel on the dashboard with different guys I could go talk to and I rarely used it.  I didn’t run well in those races either.  It just wasn’t natural.  It didn’t feel natural.  I didn’t want to be in the middle of their conversations and I didn’t want to have that access.  I’m a bit old school in that regard where it just didn’t seem like something that we should be doing.  It didn’t seem like it was a comfortable practice for me.  I never was really fond of it and was glad when it was taken away.”
 

Chevy Racing– Phoenix– Jimmie Johnson

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
SUBWAY FRESH FIT 500
PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
MARCH 1, 2013
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) and discussed his busy week following his second Daytona 500 win, his favorite and least favorite PIR memories and other topics. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
 
YOU’VE HAD A REALLY BUSY WEEK THROUGH ALL THE MEDIA STUFF, HOW NICE IS IT TO BE BACK TO A NORMAL SCHEDULE?
“I’m excited to be at the track and get back to something, just to be back to normalcy and get a good night’s rest last night. I got a lot of sleep, but I still think I need another night to catch up. I can feel it in my eyes and my face that I’m no quite back to normal.  What an experience.  (I) won the Daytona 500 in ’06 and then championships after. Maybe I just wasn’t aware of how much range the 500 had or maybe things have changed between ’06 and now. We certainly came off a very popular Daytona 500, but the reception, the reach of this win, it felt like I was on a champions tour, and it was for the Daytona 500.  Very special week for me, very tiring week, and I’m ready to get back in the car.”
 
WHY DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY, WHAT STANDS OUT?
“Everywhere we went, the fans that gathered to be a part of whatever show, the shows I was on, it just had a feel that it was really one of the biggest things that I’ve ever done in my career. It was just eye opening to me how big this race is and really the popularity of NASCAR right now, I think we’re off to a really strong start this year from a fan viewing situation, you know, from attendance hopefully will rally and follow. The impressions the eyeballs you know everybody that’s watching right now it was noticeable from my perspective.”
 
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT’S HAPPENING?
“I think it’s a lot of things.  I think the new car has brought a lot of excitement; Danica’s success in Daytona brought a ton of excitement. We can’t count out the personalities emerging in our sport. I think of Clint Bowyer and his fan base and the excitement that he brings, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, mine, Danica’s, I know that I’m leaving guys out, but I really think that the sports in a good spot. We’ve been growing over the last few years and a lot of it I put a lot of credit towards the personalities of the drivers coming out. It kind of goes back to the point a few years back when NASCAR said they were going to take the gloves off and let us have at it and that’s led to some exciting things on track, but also the emersion of personality and I think that’s been helpful.”
 
YOU NOTED WHAT DANICA’S (PATRICK) DOING; THIRTEEN PEOPLE HAVE EVER LED THE INDY 500 AND THE DAYTONA 500 IN THEIR CAREER, SHE’S ONE OF THEM NOW. WHAT’S YOUR REACTION THAT THAT, WHAT KIND OF ACCOMPLISHMENT IS THAT?
“It’s huge, I mean for her to lead both races that’s no small feat that’s big time stuff. I’m happy that she performed like she did on Sunday. It could have set her up for some criticism if she had a poor race and fell to the back and didn’t run right but she didn’t. She stayed up front all day long and raced for the win and I think on plate tracks she’s convinced me that she’s capable of winning the race.”
 
WHEN YOU WON THE 500 AND YOU REALIZED YOU WERE DOING DOUBLE DUTY THIS WEEKEND WERE YOU LIKE WHY DID I COMMIT TO THAT RACE OR WERE YOU EXCITED TO HAVE THAT MUCH TIME IN THE CAR?
“A little bit of both, I knew this week was going to be busy anyway. We had our national sales meeting for Lowes in Las Vegas, responsibilities for both cars and all of that. A busy week got much busier. I’m excited to get in the Nationwide car and get a feel for the track.  As things went by I was happy to see the media side slowing down and know that I was going to get back to driving race cars again.”
 
WHY DID YOU COMMIT TO THE NATIONWIDE RACE?
“Just truthfully to get better here at this track it’s tough to get laps on this track. We considered coming out and testing, but with the tire change and with them changing the testing policy for Cup it just wasn’t going to work for a couple reasons.  The next best thing was to run the Nationwide series race.  I have no clue what I’m going to learn from those cars to carry over, but reps on the track can’t hurt and ultimately that’s what I think I need.”
 
YOU HAVE BEEN SO GOOD HERE; CAN YOU EXPECT THAT TO TRANSLATE TO THE NEW CAR?  DOES YOUR PAST HISTORY HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THAT?
“The track here is so different than what it was before.  I just need to do something to try and improve this track and we were probably going to run top-10 if I didn’t blow a tire (in the 2012 fall race), but the way the Chase is settled anymore, you don’t need top-10’s, you need top-5s and wins.  We need to make sure we are covering our bases and we are ready for the race this fall.”
 
REGARDING LOWE’S RENEWING WITH THE NO. 48 TEAM AND HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS:
“It’s great to have it buttoned up and with the economy the way it has been the last few years, of course there has been some concern.  You know, I was confident as far as what the team provides for Lowe’s and the success we’ve had.  I felt like the partnership would carry on and we were able to get it done really early in a contract year. All those signs show how important this race team is for Lowe’s and how great the partnership is so happy to have it behind us.  If we got into the late summer months and didn’t have something locked in, far more concern would set in then. To get it done really after the first race of the year is a great sign of Lowe’s strength and the belief they have for this race program for marketing.”
 
YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500 TO GET IT DONE RIGHT?
“Oh no, as you can imagine with a big corporation and lawyers, and documents that this stuff has been well underway for a long, long time to get this thing done.   It’s just a great time to announce it following the 500.”
 
CHAD KNAUS NOTED AFTER THE DAYTONA 500 THAT HE WORKED 38 STRAIGHT HOURS ON THAT RACE CAR.  WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THAT AND HOW NORMAL IS THAT FOR HIM TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT?
“It’s not surprising.  I mean the guy works tireless hours and truthfully, I think his work ethic over the last 12 years in this sport has forced the garage area to do the same.  There have always been some guys that have been willing to put in the time but now it’s so close, if you don’t put in that kind of time in, you are not going to have the kind of race you want to have.  So I say it, and I think every driver says it when they get out of their race car; they have to thank the guys in the shop.   It’s for good reason because they work countless hours.”
 
DID HE CONTACT YOU DURING THAT TIME PERIOD?
“He was sending me text messages that day and when 6:48 came around and at the end, he said he saw 6:48 three times.  I think I was all cozy in bed and relaxing when the text came in. I try not to make him mad too often, but at that time I had to.  I said, ‘thanks man for doing it, but I am laying here in bed relaxing’.”
 
WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE WHOLE JEREMY CLEMENTS SITUATION? DO YOU THINK NASCAR HAD TO DO WHAT THEY DID THERE?
“I don’t know much about it because we have been so occupied with what has been going on from the Daytona 500 win.  I did hear about it.  It’s a huge statement that NASCAR is making and they don’t react this way for the heck of it.  So something big must have happened.”
 
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY HERE AND WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
“Favorite memory would be the fall wins.  Because the fall wins here have put us in position to….well I would actually say my best memory would be
my final championship.  We had a great race and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) had something work against them in pit strategy and that was the springboard that led to our fifth championship.  Worst memory…..first one that comes to mind would be last year and blowing a tire, and hammering the wall, and that leading to us not winning the championship.”
 
DID YOU SEE IN THE PAPER TODAY THAT DARRELL WALTRIP AND RUSTY WALLACE SAID YOU HAVE THE BEST BRAIN IN NASCAR?
“Really?  A brain, like between my ears?  (laughs).  I am just dumb enough that I am smart, I guess. I don’t know.”

Chevy Racing– Teleconference–Jimmie Johnson

 
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS, WAS THE GUEST ON THIS WEEK’S NASCAR TELECONFERENCE BELOW IS THE TRANSCRIPT:
 
THE MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Welcome to today’s NASCAR teleconference.  We are joined by Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet.  Johnson won Sunday’s 55th running of the Daytona 500, his second career victory in the Great American Race.
 
Jimmie, on Sunday you talked about the differences between winning the two.  What were some of the things that were different on Sunday?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Just savoring the moment.  It just seemed to go by so quickly in ’06.  I maybe didn’t savor the moments in ’06 as I did this time.  I didn’t have my daughter at that time either.  To watch her soak it up, it was very special for me.
 
Also to see Rick.  I’ve seen Rick Hendrick happy before in Victory Lane.  He had a glow to him like I haven’t seen in a long, long time.  So I was very pleased to do that.  The whole team is fired up from it.
 
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Jimmie.
 
We will now go to the media for questions.
Q.  You talk about the differences between 2006 and now.  It’s been seven years.  Chad wasn’t there then.  This had to feel like a totally different experience and a much bigger accomplishment.
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah.  I think there was a big push to be the team and driver to win this first Gen‑6 race.  We also felt like we were riding a great wave from the conclusion of last year’s season.  There was just a buzz in the air, a feeling prerace.  We just felt it was going to be a race that was highly viewed.  It kind of all played into it.
 
Chad did not experience those things in ’06, experience the victory celebration.  So to have him there, see the smile on his face, soak it in, it’s something that all racers dream of.  They want to win the Indy 500 or the Daytona 500.  To be able to pull that off a second time, to have Chad there, really share those emotions, experience those emotions, was key.
Q.  I’m curious the difference now and the last time you won it.  I’ve been seeing the tweets about Good Morning America, Letterman, all that. Can you describe what that rush is like after winning the Daytona 500?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  It really reminds me of a championship.  I won in ’06.  It was my first experience to the media tour that follows.  I didn’t have that again until championships.
 
Rick and I were talking this morning on the phone.  This is just like winning a championship.  This single event is that big.  It’s been a while.  I’ve been super busy.  I’ve learned to just relax, smile, talk about our sport, enjoy the moment.  It gets a little redundant, as you can imagine, answering the same questions over and over.
 
The opportunity I have to represent our sport, talk about the things going on in our sport is a big honor.
Q.  There’s been a lot of hype about the Gen‑6 car, including your new car smell commercial.  During your time at Speedweeks, maybe after, have you gotten any feedback from fans that they’re buying into the change?  Also, how different is it driving this car from the COT?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  All the traffic I have seen, talk to people about, it’s all been about the aesthetics of the car, how good it looks.
 
Plate racing, I kind of look at it this way.  Our fans really know our sport and plate racing is its own animal.  We lost the tandem and are back to pack racing.  I think everybody is holding tight to see how the car races at Phoenix, Vegas, Bristol, Fontana, to get back into the type of racing we see on a regular basis.
 
Driving the car, there’s so much grip in it, it’s going to promote aggressive driving and aggressive racing.  Phoenix is a newly repaved racetrack. The groove might be a little narrow to see the side‑by‑side racing.  I feel when we get to Vegas, we will have a downforce track under our belts, we’ll have a chance to see an amazing race at Vegas, great side‑by‑side racing that everybody will want to see.
Q.  Did it ever cross your mind during Speedweeks that maybe you should try to draft in practice since it’s the new Gen‑6 car?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  The drafting topic. We did.  We did in the Unlimited and also in the Duels.  We knew that there was going to be a learning process for all the drivers on the track. Our car inventory is low.  We’re trying to be prepared for the rest of the season.
 
I know it was a hot topic at different times.  But I’ve been doing this a long time and don’t need the experience in the draft on the track.  Just wanted to preserve our car, have a smart approach about refining our car and making adjustments to it.  Really running by ourselves a lot, look at the stopwatch, determine whether we made the car faster or not.
 
We stuck to our routine, it worked, and we got the win.
Q.  Since the repave at Daytona, how much closer is the racetrack back to the way most drivers like it?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  It has a ways to go, to be honest.  The repave was awesome.  It’s a very smooth racetrack.  They did a nice job with it. But it’s not the old, rough racetrack.  It’s funny because the old, rough racetrack led to a lot of single‑file racing due to the handling that was needed to run well there.  Now I feel like the track is getting into its sweet spot where you need to handle, but at the same time all the lanes are smooth where we can run smoothly and safely by one another, get some good two‑ or three‑wide racing.
 
As we understand the Gen‑6 car, understand the properties around the car, I think we can fine tune it more.  I’m sure people wanted to see three‑wide and 10‑deep on the field and I think we can get back to that point soon.
Q.  I know you’re not a structural engineer or track designer or anything, but going back to the Nationwide crash on Saturday, do you believe any changes are required to try to prevent what happened, including any responsibility on the part of the drivers, pack racing, at least at the restrictor plate tracks?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  I think it’s crazy to ask the drivers to do anything different.  It’s just impossible.  When the plates were put on the car, it requires a different type of racing.  Your speed comes from the car behind you.  So the pushing, not necessarily physical contact, but that bubble between the two cars, that bubble is what speeds things along the most and makes things happen within the draft.
 
You’re going to block.  You have to defend.  You have to do things on plate tracks that drivers just don’t like to do and it’s not what we’re used to doing, not what we’re used to doing.  But that’s the game, that’s the element.
 
To leave the rules the same and try to impose something on the drivers in how you perform out there, that’s unfair.  I mean, it’s absolutely unfair. But we need to learn from this.  There are things that we can do, eventually that we can do, to create a safer environment for the fans.  When you look at the evolution of safety, if you go back far enough, you look at the restrictor plate put in place after Bobby Allison’s crash.  We continue to make changes.  What we saw in Talladega with the crash that happened with Paul and Brad, there were some ideas about the fence posts, the gap between them, what needed to change.  Daytona implemented that into their track.  When you look at the proximity of where fans sit near the racetrack, there’s certain elements of our sport that are dangerous.
 
We don’t need them directed at the fans, but we need to look at all things right now.  Unfortunately, it’s just a fluke accident t
o kind of open everyone’s mind to have them look at this again. Thankfully everybody is okay.  We’re going to learn from it and move forward.  But there is technology out there.  We just have to find the right approach, methodical, smart approach, apply that to our sport, and not create another issue.
 
I know people have an idea of Plexiglas.  I don’t disagree with that concept, but the last thing you want to do is create another safety hazard.  If that wall was to shatter and send chards off into the stands, that’s a whole other issue we have to deal with. We have to be careful in how we approach this and I know that NASCAR and the tracks will be.
Q.  There was even some talk on Sunday morning if NASCAR would implement some sort of no‑blocking rule for the plate tracks.  Is that feasible or would it be almost like the yellow line where everybody is going to kind of test it, you’re just kind of racing in the moment no matter what?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  It’s so tough.  I know that everybody is concerned for the fans.  That’s where our priority needs to be. But as competitors on the track, I mean, it’s so tough for us to figure out what to do right, what the right thing to do is.  Everybody wants pack racing.  Pack racing leads to cars crashing and new risks for the fans, risks for the fans.
 
So here we are back to pack racing which everybody wants to see, a car crash happens, and the knee‑jerk reaction is:  Let’s eliminate blocking. That’s plate racing.  You cannot as the leader survive on your own.  You have to look in the mirror, spend 80%, 90% of your time driving the rearview mirror blocking the lead.  That’s what you do.
 
To take away the leader’s ability to defend his position, I mean, it’s just a crazy concept for me.  It’s not like open‑wheel racing where you go into a hairpin turn and you’re allowed one move to defend.  That’s what plate racing is:  you defend and you keep people attached to your rear bumper.
 
If that requirement is put on the drivers, I say break out the bulldozers and knockdown the banking.  Let’s take the plates off, make the track flatter where you have to lift, and let’s get rid of the draft altogether.
Q.  Speaking about the racing on Sunday, you were able to make the lower line work.  Any idea why you were able to?  Do you feel drivers were not making a lot of moves because they knew they were not going to be successful or were they just worried about wrecking too early?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Well, I think the middle part of the race, it was more about crashing.  Then as the race wore on, everybody favored the top, especially in our cars.  I’m not sure the Nationwide race was exactly that.  But everybody favored the top.
 
You didn’t want to lose track position during the race.  So it became kind of a defensive move to hop up there and stay in line and the only way you’d advance is if somebody got aggressive and pulled down. I had a good car, fast car, had a lot of speed in it, handled well all day.  With that and the aggressive side drafting I did, I was able to hang on the inside and make some stuff happen. When the 20 was in the race, we made some cool things happen on the bottom that others didn’t do.  When he was out and I was on my own late in the race, worked the side draft and fortunately caught a caution as I was ahead of the 2 and I was able to have lane choice at that point.
 
The right lane to be in migrates around (indiscernible) at the bottom, and with this package kind of smart driving, defensive driving from the drivers, it’s migrated back to the top.
Q.  Could you talk a little bit about the differences between your Speedweeks this year, not tearing up many cars, and winning the 500, compared to last year with all the penalties that came along with that, how having a good Speedweeks could help you as you move on to the upcoming races this season.
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  The issues last year definitely impacted Speedweeks, but it impacted the first quarter of the year for us, defending our position with the supposed violation.  Over a period of time we were able to get that all behind us and prove our case.
 
It’s such a distraction, I can’t even tell you.  Yes, it had a little impact on Speedweeks, but it carried on through the other races more so because it took time for our group to be prepared, sitting in front of NASCAR, all these committees.  That was time away from the shop and setups that we could devote to the 48 car.
 
So happy to not have any of that take place.  It will help the 48 get off to a quick start this year.
Q.  Yesterday morning you mentioned that you really enjoyed not having to start off with a DNQ.  At the same time your team, whenever you get in a hole, you seem to get together and work your way out of it.  Is there a difference in the attitude of yourself and your team when you do that?  You just seem to bounce back no matter what the adversity.
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Our team has been very good at that over the years.  I’m not sure if we have that in us or if we kind of discovered it along the way.  We hope it was in there. Each year we were faced with adversity, no matter what it was, we rally back.  We’ve had opportunities to lead the points, race for championships, win a bunch of championships and races along the way. It’s a very good trait to have for the 48 team.  We’re very proud to have it.  It’s been our saving grace in a lot of situations.
 
THE MODERATOR:  Jimmie, thank you for joining us today.  We know you have a very busy schedule the next few days.  Best of luck this weekend in Phoenix.
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Thank you.

Pittman Leads World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series Into Arizona

Pittman Leads World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series Into Arizona
Tucson International Raceway hosts Wildcat Shootout Presented by NAPA on March 9
 
TUCSON, Ariz. – Feb. 26, 2013 – Life is good for Daryn Pittman.
He’s back on the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series – piloting a car for NASCAR star Kasey Kahne – and after the first weekend of competition this season, Pittman is at the top of his game.

After claiming the UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment title with a win and a trio of top fives in three Florida races, Pittman is atop the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series standings. And he’s headed to a track where he hasn’t finished outside the top six.

Pittman and the Outlaws will compete in their first race in Arizona since 2009 and first at Tucson International Raceway since 2007 for the Wildcat Shootout Presented by NAPA Auto Parts on Saturday, March 9.

“It was a great way to start the year in Florida, but I think half of that is remembering it’s a long season; a lot of races,” he said. “That was just Florida. We’ve got to keep it going and carry that to Las Vegas and to Tucson.”

In three previous World of Outlaws STP Sprint car Series events at the 3/8-mile track, Pittman has finished fifth twice and sixth in the other race.

“It’s neat because it’s really not that big of a race track, but it’s fast,” he said. “It’s really wide and has really long corners. It’s really kind of unique. For the size of it, it seems like we get around it at half-mile (track) speed.”

By showing a receipt from any NAPA store, fans can receive $5 off their admission of a general admission, reserved or child ticket. Fans who purchased tickets in advance can receive a fan pit pass.

Rose to Miss the Next World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series Weekend

Rose to Miss the Next World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series Weekend
Gravel takes over at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas and Tucson International Raceway
 
LAS VEGAS – Feb. 25, 2013 – The old saying goes, if it wasn’t for bad luck, you’d have no luck at all.
Bill Rose probably wouldn’t mind having no luck after injuries have plagued his last three seasons. Rose, who broke his left forearm during an incident on the final lap of his heat race at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., on Feb. 16, will miss the next three World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series events because of the injury.

After a follow-up visit on Monday to a doctor in his home state of Indiana, Rose made the decision to sit out the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series doubleheader at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas on Wednesday and Thursday, March 6-7, and at the Wildcat Shootout Presented by NAPA Auto Parts at Tucson International Raceway on Saturday, March 9.

“The biggest bone in my forearm split in half,” Rose said. “My elbow’s all jacked up. My whole bicep is black and blue. (The doctor) wanted me to sit out for six weeks.

“The problem right now is I don’t have any grip strength. I can’t even hold anything with my hand.”

Rose is putting David Gravel in the car for those three races with the option of continuing to compete if Rose doesn’t feel ready to race on March 15-16 at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif. Rose, who is wearing a splint over his left arm, had his doctor make a different, specific splint that he can use to race.

“It’s a shame that he got injured again,” Gravel said. “I’m glad he chose me. To be in a World of Outlaws car is definitely huge and hopefully there’s more to come in the future.”

Gravel picked up his lone World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series feature victory at the Talladega Short Track on Oct. 22, 2011. He is currently 17    th in the standings after the opening three races of the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series season.

LateModel Florida/Georgia Speedweek Report

Mark Whitener – UDLMSC – Hendry County (Fla.) Motorsports Park

 

Ray Cook – Winterfest – Winchester (Tenn.) Speedway

 

Bubba’s Army Winternationals – Bubba Raceway Park (Ocala, Fla.)

NeSmith

Jan. 29 – Ronny Lee Hollingsworth

Jan. 30 – Ronny Lee Hollingsworth

Jan. 31 – Kyle Bronson

Feb. 1 – Ronny Lee Hollingsworth

Feb. 2 – Ronnie Johnson

World of Outlaws

Feb. 15 – Darrell Lanigan

Feb. 16 – Darrell Lanigan

Feb. 17 – Josh Richards

 

Winternationals – East Bay Raceway Park (Gibsonton, Fla.)

Fastrak

Jan. 31 – Mark Whitener

Feb. 1 – Mark Whitener

Feb. 2 – Mark Whitener

Lucas Oil

Feb. 11 – Dennis Erb Jr.

Feb. 12 – Scott Bloomquist

Feb. 13 – Dennis Erb Jr.

Feb. 15 – Don O’Neal

Feb. 16 – Jimmy Owens

Feb. 16 – Earl Pearson Jr.

Don O’Neal – Champion

 

UNOH DIRTcar Nationals – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, Fla.)

UMP/DIRTCar

Feb. 18 – Josh Richards

Feb. 19 – Josh Richards

Feb. 20 – Tim McCreadie

World of Outlaws

Feb. 21 – Scott Bloomquist

Feb. 22 – Billy Moyer

Feb. 23 – Darrel Lanigan

Josh Richards – Champion

 

Winter Freeze – Screven Motor Speedway (Sylvania, Ga.)

Screven Late Models

Feb. 8 – Ray Cook

Feb. 9 – Brent Dixon

World of Outlaws

Feb. 8 – Shane Clanton

Feb. 9 – Josh Richards

 

Battle at the Swamp – Waycross (Ga.) Motor Speedway

Super Late Models – Donnie Moran

NLMS – Brandon DeWitt

 

Darrell Lanigan – UMP/DIRTcar – North Florida Speedway

 

Michael Page – Cabin Fever – Boyd’s Speedway (Ringgold, Ga.)

JOHN FORCE REACHES SEMIS AT ARIZONA NATS

JOHN FORCE REACHES SEMIS AT ARIZONA NATS
 
PHOENIX, AZ —- John Force and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang got back into competitive racing shape today racing to the semi-finals at the 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals. Force won his first round match-up against Alexis DeJoria with his best run of the weekend a 4.047 second pass at 316.82 mph. He caught a lucky break in round two when Todd Lesenko was unable to get his Funny Car started and Force was awarded a single.
 
At the hit of the throttle in the second round Force’s Mustang went up in smoke and coasted the length of the race track. His “winning” time was 8.107 second. This slow ET spelled doom for Force in his semi-final race against Matt Hagan since he lost any chance for lane choice.
 
Hagan put Force in the suspect left lane and bucking the odds Force and his Mike Neff tuned Castrol GTX Mustang were able to post a solid run of 4.105 seconds. Unfortunately Hagan was in the right lane running 4.049. Force’s Funny Car actually was a little quicker than the scoreboard reflected.
 
“That last run I cheated the light a little, it probably ran 4.04 again. If you want to have a chance to win you have to get qualified. We gave everyone a chance when we got all four of our hot rods in the show. That is what is important. Robert Hight is still struggling. My Castrol GTX Mustang ran pretty good. We ran 4.04 in the first round and I have a car I can race with. (Crew chief) Mike Neff and (asst. crew chief) Jon Schaffer are doing real good. We are going to stay and test with Robert Hight. We’ll see what we can do with that. Brittany is learning every time she goes rounds and Courtney just missed in the first round. She had the hot Funny Car all weekend.”
 
Force moved from the outside of the Top Ten to No. 7 in the Mello Yello point standings, he is joined by No. 2 Courtney Force and No. 10 Robert Hight another JFR driver that moved into the critical Top Ten with today’s effort.
 
Despite Courtney Force’s outstanding performance at the O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. for the first race of the season and her team’s No. 3 qualifying effort this weekend, the 2012 Rookie of the Year exited the show in the first round of eliminations today.
 
Force made her best pass of the weekend on Friday to go to the top of the Funny Car field before slipping to the No. 3 position going into race day. She made a 4.064 second run at 315.71 mph, a track speed record, and picked up a total of 5 qualifying bonus points before Sunday.
 
In the first round of eliminations, Force faced Todd Lesenko and lost when her Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car smoked the tires right off the starting line. This was Force first loss to the Canadian whom she had defeated in three previous meetings.
 
“We were qualified good. It’s definitely a tricky race track. Man, you know things happen. We stumbled in the first round. We were a little surprised, but we learned something from it. It blew the tires off, I pedaled it and I couldn’t get around him. Congratulations to Lesenko and his team. We’re going to just have to get after it in Gainesville,” said Force.
 
The Auto Club Ford Mustang had a tough day at Firebird International Raceway. Robert Hight, the No. 16 qualifier, won a pedalfest over No. 1 qualifier Johnny Gray when Gray’s Pitch Energy sponsored Dodge brushed the guardwall in round one. Hight was smoking the tires himself and dodged a first round loss with Gray’s mistake.
 
In the second round he faced fellow Blue Oval driver Tim Wilkerson. Both Mustangs launched and Hight’s Auto Club Mustang went up in smoke almost immediately as Wilkerson pulled away with a 4.102 second run. Hight moved up into the Top Ten for his race day effort. The team will return to Firebird International Raceway for a full day of testing tomorrow.
 
The Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster was on the cusp of winning its first round of racing when victory slipped away due to a timer in the dragster deploying the parachutes slowing Brittany Force just as David Grubnic sped past her at the finish line. At the hit of the throttle both Top Fuel dragsters lost traction and Brittany pedaled her Castol EDGE dragster and was able to get it under control as Grubnic was in the right lane doing the same in his Optima Batteries dragster.
 
As both dragsters staggered down the track the seconds ticked by and at five seconds Brittany’s chutes deployed just before the finish line. The timed deployment is one of many safety featured a number of cars have to insure driver safety in the event of a runaway Funny Car or Top Fuel dragster. For the rookie driver is was a learning experience that she took to heart and did not begrudge.
 
“That first round was the first time I stepped on it and had to pedal it. It was a good experience for me since I had never done that before. That is not something you can test. I stepped on the gas twice and it got a little close to the wall so I lifted. We think my chutes came out because of the five second timer on my Castrol EDGE dragster. That slowed us down but it was a good experience for me,” said the Automobile Club Road to the Future Award contender.
 
“It is a lot more challenging to pedal this Top Fuel dragster than my A Fuel dragster. It was easier to keep my A Fuel dragster under control. This one surprised me but I was able to handle it. I just need a little more practice and I’ll be fine.”
 

Race Report- Week Ending 2/24/13

NHRA
Top Fuel — Tony Schumacher
Funny Car — Ron Capps
Pro Stock — Erica Enders-Stevens
Super Stock — Harry Doolittle
Stock Eliminator — Zack Torres
Super Comp — Jack DeRencin
Super Gas — Brad Pierce
Super Street — Kevin Kleineweber
Top Dragster — Chuck Hawk
Top Sportsman — JR Lobner

NASCAR
UNOH Battle at the Beach, Whelan All American- Steve Park KN Series- Cameron Hayley
Camping World Truck Series- Next Era Energy 250- Johnny Sauter
Nationwide Series- Drive 4COPD 300- Tony Steward
Sprint Cup Series- Daytona 500- Jimmie Johnson

Mopar Versus Mopar Funny Car Final at Phoenix

Mopar Versus Mopar Funny Car Final at Phoenix

Mopar vs Mopar in Funny Car final elimination round at Arizona Nationals
Capps beats Mopar teammate Hagan to earn Phoenix title win a week after a runner-up performance at the season opener
All four Pro Stock Mopars win first elimination round; falter in quarterfinals
Mopar leads the NHRA points standings in both Funny Car and Pro Stock classes with Capps and Nobile
 
Phoenix, Ariz. (Sunday, Feb. 24) – It was an all Mopar final in Funny Car competition, as Don Schumacher Racing teammates Matt Hagan and Ron Capps faced-off at the Arizona Nationals, the second event on the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series calendar. Capps followed up his runner-up finish in last weekend’s season opener at Pomona with a dominating title win by posting a 4.064 second run, his fourth straight 4.0 in his Dodge Charger R/T, to beat his Mopar teammate Hagan’s 4.15 second pass.  It was Capps’ 38th career Funny Car victory and his third at Firebird International Raceway.

“All of us at Mopar would like to offer congratulations to Ron Capps for his two consecutive final round appearances and a big win in Phoenix,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “The Mopar-powered Funny Car package looks strong again this year, and we look forward to Ron and his Don Schumacher Racing teammates contending for more wins in defense of the Championship title throughout what is sure to be an exciting and competitive season.”

“We are starting to feel like we are getting into the same rhythm that we were last year when we went to six finals in a row,” said Capps, who finished runner-up in the 2012 Funny Car Championship by just two points. “I think that both (crew chief) Rahn (Tobler) and I built up some confidence in each other at Pomona, and now here.”

For Hagan, his runner-up finish was a sign of good things to come for what is essentially a brand new Mopar team with the pre-season addition of crew chief Dickie Venables, assistant Mike Knudsen and a number of new crew members.

“I am extremely, extremely, extremely proud of this new, young, race team,” Hagan said. “For our second race together to come out here and go to the final, that’s huge. We have a lot still to learn but I think it’s just a taste of what you’re going to see this year out of this team. We take what we learned here and we move toward Gainesville.”

With the result, Capps takes over the lead in the Funny Car standings with 210 points while Hagan moves into the third spot with 151 points.

Fellow DSR teammates didn’t fair quite as well with losses in the first round of eliminations. Johnny Gray, who was No.1 qualifier for the event, didn’t have the run he was hoping for when, following a pedalfest, his pass was disqualified after making contact with the wall at the 1000 foot mark.  He is currently fifth in points with 122. Jack Beckman’s efforts were hampered with traction issues right at the start of his run, and with two first-round losses in as many events, the defending Funny Car World Champion temporarily drops out of the top-10 in the standings into 11th place.

In Pro Stock competition, all four full-time HEMI-powered Mopars advanced from their first elimination match-ups with Jeg Coughlin Jr. setting the lowest elapsed time for the round with a 6.537 sec and 212.49 mph pass. The quarterfinals, however, were a different story as all four saw their race day cut short.

Defending NHRA World Champion, Allen Johnson’s quarterfinal run elapsed time of 6.549 seconds was beaten on a holeshot by Greg Anderson’s 6.551 pass. Coughlin had an identical .022 second reaction time to his competitor Jason Line but lost the round with a 6.538 to 6.581 difference.

V. Gaines was defeated by Erica Enders who won with a .033 to .074 holeshot after both cars posted identical runs of 6.553 seconds. Vincent Nobile’s .025 second reaction time was beaten by No. 1 qualifier Mike Edwards’ .013 and then at the line by a 6.505 to 6.582 second difference.

Enders went on to earn her fifth career Pro Stock title by defeating Edwards with a holeshot win in the final round to move into second place in the standings.

Nobile still leads the Pro Stock Standings with 171 points, while Coughlin (149 points) is fourth, Gaines (142 points) is fifth and Johnson (107) is tied for seventh place.  

It has been a solid start to the 2013 NHRA season for Mopar with wins in the first two races with Capps’ Funny Car victory this weekend in Phoenix and Pro Stock HEMI-powered Nobile’s title win at Pomona. Mopar will work to make it three in a row as teams and drivers prepare for the 44th Annual NHRA Gatornationals, the traditional east coast opening event and the third of 24 events on the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule slated to take place in Gainesville, Fla. on March 14-17.

Chevy Racing– CHEVROLET SS WINS IN ITS NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES DEBUT

 
CHEVROLET SS WINS IN ITS NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES DEBUT
Jimmie Johnson Wins Season-Opening Daytona 500 for 2nd Time
 
DAYTONA, Fla. (Feb. 24, 2013) – Five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, won the 55th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday. It also marked the first victory for the recently introduced Chevrolet SS, which was making its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut.
 
“I’m very happy to win the first race in the Gen-6 car for Chevrolet in their SS,” said Johnson, who led 16 laps and took the lead for good shortly after the final restart. “Awesome day.”
 
Johnson, who also won Daytona 500 in 2006, now has 61 victories in 400 career starts.
 
“Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and Rick Hendrick on their victory in The Great American Race,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “And for the Chevrolet SS to win its first points race is incredible. This is a culmination of a tremendous effort by our engineers, owners, drivers, crew chiefs and teams who worked together to develop the Chevrolet SS race car. So much hard work went into preparing the Chevrolet SS for competition in the Sprint Cup series. We waited a long time for this race, and the performance of the No. 48 team made that wait worthwhile.”
 
Johnson finished 0.129 seconds ahead of teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS). It’s the third time in the last four years that Earnhardt Jr. has been the Daytona 500 runner-up. Ryan Newman (fifth, No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS), Regan Smith (seventh, No. 51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet), pole-sitter Danica Patrick (eighth, No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS) and J.J. Yeley (10th, No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet SS) also finished in the top 10 for Team Chevy.
 
It was the seventh Daytona 500 victory for owner Rick Hendrick.
 
Chevrolet now has 22 Daytona 500 victories, more than any other manufacturer. A Team Chevy driver has won seven of the last 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series openers at the 2.5-mile track.
 
PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
JIMMIE JOHNSON AND CREW CHIEF, CHAD KNAUS, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS – WINNERS
RICK HENDRICK, WINNING TEAM OWNER, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS
 
KERRY THARP: Let’s go ahead and start with our post race for the 55th annual Daytona 500 championship team. Our winning crew chief is here, Chad Knaus.
Chad, congratulations. I know this has got to be one of the biggest wins of your career.
 
CHAD KNAUS: Most definitely. Again, we can’t be blinded by the effects of what we had yesterday during the Nationwide race. I hope those fans are okay. I know many of them were planning to be here today and rooted the 48 car onto Victory Lane.
An awful lot of effort, from everybody’s part, from NASCAR, to all the teams, to get prepared for the Daytona 500 this year with the Gen‑6 car, a lot of work and huge, huge effort by the racing community as a whole. I think it was a great race, a lot of fun. Man, it’s pretty awesome to have been able to won it.
 
KERRY THARP: We’ll take questions for Chad.
 
Q. Jimmie has mentioned how one of the few things that the team would like to accomplish is to win a Daytona 500 with you here.
 
CHAD KNAUS: I knew that was coming out of you. Just knew it (smiling).
 
Q. Was that something that meant as much to you as it did to Jimmie and the other guys?
 
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, it really is. As you guys know, I eat, sleep and breathe 48. Anytime that I’m taken away from that racecar, I’m pretty sad. But when those guys were able to come down here and win the Daytona 500 in 2006 in my absence, I think that really solidified the strength of the 48 car.
Was I here? No. Was I here in spirit? Most definitely. I couldn’t have been prouder of the group of guys we had there. To finally be able to come down here and win and be a part of this is definitely a huge dream come true, mostly so David Newton doesn’t keep asking me about it.
It’s great. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a great experience. I just couldn’t be prouder of everybody involved.
 
KERRY THARP: We are now joined by team owner Rick Hendrick and our championship driver Jimmie Johnson. He becomes the 10th driver to win multiple Daytona 500s. He wins his second Daytona 500 in his 400th career start. 61st victory in the Sprint Cup Series.
How does it feel, Jimmie, to win the 55th annual Daytona 500.
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It is just awesome. There’s no other way to describe it. 400 starts, every one of those starts with Lowe’s and Hendrick Motorsports. To be the first to win in a Gen‑6 car, and that car is a Chevy SS, just a very proud moment.
Plate racing has been tough on the 48 as we all know for the last few years. Happy to get through it all. Just a strong racecar. I feel like the speed our car had in it allowed me to really have control of the race there late. I felt like I was sitting on something all day and was just ready to have some fun when it counted, and it did.
 
KERRY THARP: Rick Hendrick, congratulations on this win. As a team owner, your entire organization, talk about what it means to win a race of this significance.
 
RICK HENDRICK: Well, this is the Super Bowl of all of racing. I remember the first one. Every one of them has been special. But we had a dry spell down here. I think it was it ’06, and this is our seventh one now. You can be in front going into three and you never make it back to the line.
I was really happy today to see our cars be able to run 1‑2. It’s a great feeling. It gives you a lot of momentum to start the year.
 
KERRY THARP: We’ll continue with questions.
 
Q. Chad, when we talked on the media tour, you very clearly hinted that you felt you had something that was going to give you the best opportunity to be in Victory Lane at the end of that race. Back then you didn’t want to talk about exactly what it was. What do you think you had today that really gave you all this victory?
 
CHAD KNAUS: I think it was Jimmie Johnson, quite honestly. Jimmie did a great job today.
You know, we work really hard at Hendrick Motorsports to prepare for the Superspeedway races. We put a great product out there. I’m telling you, I know we worked at least 35 days straight on the car that we raced in the Daytona 500. I know I put in personally one day of 38 hours straight. I actually sent Jimmie a text, saying I’ve seen 6:48 three times today and haven’t been to bed yet.
I think what we have above everybody else is the desire to go out and win races. We’ve got 500‑plus employees at Hendrick Motorsports. When they all want to go out and win races, you put guys like this behind the seat, you’re going to see magic happen.
 
Q. Jimmie, were you surprised at the end as you started taking that inside line up through there, I kept waiting for somebody, Biffle, Danica, people running second, third or fourth, to drop down in front and let you push them along, were you surprised nobody jumped down in front of you and made you push?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: The last restart?
 
Q. Towards the end, second to the last.
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, when I was stuck on the inside lane down there?
Yeah, everybody was just playing the odds. The majority of the competitors wanted to run the top. The draft really works in numbers. There’s more there than the bottom. With the side drafting being as effective right now, you could really choke down the bottom lane and pin a guy against the line and slow him down and then get away and have that long line of cars to surge you past.
The game’s changed a little bit. It used to be defend the bottom, now it’s defend the top.
In the closing laps, we were all single file, I was leading, I wanted to see what would go on with the middle or bottom and not allow guys to set me up based on my lines. I ran the bottom
and no one had a run or did anything. It was an interesting race.
Learned a lot through the course of the race with the new Gen‑6 car. At the end when it was time to go, I knew we had a straight racecar with no scratches on it. We worked real hard, we had a game plan down here every time. Even though we were in single‑car drafts, we had an agenda and things we worked on and made the car a little bit better each day, kept perfecting it. I had one heck of a racecar today.
 
Q. Jimmie, I want to ask you about a side‑bar story that comes out of this race. Danica Patrick made history today being the first woman to ever lead a lap in the Daytona 500. What impressed you most about the way she ran this race and what do you think this does for the sport?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, she’s really comfortable in the car. Being close to other competitors, door‑to‑door, whatever environment takes place on the racetrack, at these speeds, she was very comfortable. Held a great wheel. Was smooth and predictable. Took advantage of runs when she had them. She did a really good job.
It was just another car on the track. I didn’t think about it being Danica in the car. It was just another car on the track that was fast. That’s a credit to her and the job she’s doing.
I think the style of racetrack really suits her. When we get to the other tracks, she has a tall learning curve ahead of her. She continues to show her ability to drive racecars. She made history today, and in fine fashion, too.
 
Q. Jimmie, with Danica and with Harvick dominating early, do you feel maybe you flew under the radar well into it than you have in some years? If so, did you like that?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I didn’t really think too much about it. In other years I’ve been down here so focused on the pole, caught up in the media, the buzz that surrounds that, being in the top five. As time goes on, it’s a nice week to enjoy after you win the pole, but it just doesn’t mean much for the race.
In my mind, I didn’t feel like I was under the radar. I felt like we were working hard to put the best product on the track. I had a good run in the Unlimited until we crashed. The Duel, I thought we were very competitive there. It was a sign of things to come.
I guess I was quiet in the overall spectrum of things from the media side. I think people in the garage, people knew we were sitting on a lot of speed and had a very good racecar.
 
Q. Motorsports has been known for streaks, dominance. I know you’re hoping to repeating the five years of championships. After two years of struggling here, I was wondering, any little bit of a doubt saying, Can we regain that? Aiming at a championship, any doubts creep in?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Doubts on the championship or plate racing?
 
Q. The championship.
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Plate racing, no. Man, it’s like playing the lottery. Everybody’s got a ticket. When the 83 car is up there running fifth or sixth in the closing laps, it just shows you how equal the cars are and what the draft does. I’ve struck out a lot at these tracks, left with torn‑up racecars. Today we had a clean day.
I didn’t doubt our ability to win; I was just frustrated with circumstances and plate racing. This will buy me a smile for I’m sure the rest of the year on the plate tracks.
 
Q. Thirty-five more races to go. Good start. How do you look at this now looking ahead to the rest of the season?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Definitely a great start for the team. When we were sitting discussing things before the season started, we felt good about the 500, but we’re really excited for everything after the 500.
So very hopeful and excited that our 48 car will be really fast in Phoenix, Vegas, moving forward. I think it’s going to be a very strong year for us.
 
Q. Jimmie, can you try to explain, you said on the last lap you backed up to the people behind you, Junior said he backed up, Greg said he backed up. I thought the whole idea was to try to go forward.
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, the way our cars work, there’s more help from someone pushing you than somebody towing you along. Been mentioned and talked a little bit about this week, the spring, some guys call it the beach ball effect. When the front bumper gets close to the rear bumper, there’s bubble effect that shoots the car ahead. We learned over the years, if you ride the brake and help the car catching you break through that little bubble and make contact with you, there’s more energy in that than the bubble effect.
Usually why we wreck is drag the brake, wait for contact, sometimes it’s not in the right spot, maybe it’s too hard, starts a wreck. But that’s the game everybody plays.
I didn’t pull back on the 16 at all. It seemed to me that everybody that’s won down here, the leader was in pretty good shape. I was looking closely at the 16, waiting for him to come with a run. Then Earl said the 88 had the run. Last I looked, he was fourth or fifth. I thought that was great because he’s probably going to stall out next to the 16, I was going to be up there all by myself in the lead and make it back.
He did have a big enough run to get by the 16, but I knew he didn’t have enough closing rate to get by my side and do anything. I felt kind of good about things coming off of four.
 
Q. Jimmie, about being under the radar. Usually in the old style of restrictor plate racing, there would be a harrowing moment or defining moment when you knew a guy was going to win or somebody had a dominant car leading into the weekend. It seemed like this weekend with the eradication of tandem drafting, everything in practice was limited. Today the racing seemed so different. Did you have a defining moment over the last week, or a time when you knew you could win this race, from 10 days ago to now?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: The rules package has the cars so close that it is tough to tell, even inside the racecars on the track. It was the Duel, I climbed out of the car, Chad and I debriefed afterward. I told him we didn’t have much speed. He said, Man, from what I saw, you looked as good as anyone if not better. Chad and I in our relationship, I couldn’t tell.
The same for yourself, you’ve been watching the sport a long time. The rules have the cars very close on speed. Throughout the week what I looked for was cars that could hang on to the draft. If they’re the last car in line, didn’t lose the draft, that was a fast car. That was one of the only indications I could consistently say was key. We found ourselves in that position a lot and never lost the draft.
For me the defining moment in the race was the caution coming out and the 48 being ahead of the 2. That gave me lane choice and really control of the race in the closing laps.
 
Q. Jimmie, maybe I’m reaching on this, but there at the end of the race you’re lining up against Brad. You lose the championship to him last year. Any extra motivation to go and get the 500 and beat him? Also, after going two years without winning a championship, to start a year with a Daytona 500 victory, are you able to take any ability to stick it to everybody and say, Hey, I’m back, I’m here, I’m coming back?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I don’t think we went anywhere anybody in the garage area, they’re wise to all that. We had great pace last year, championship form, had two bad races at the end.
You know, I’m just enjoying this moment. This is a one of a kind race. In the rush that follows, the notoriety that follows, it’s great for all of us. Chad, Rick, the company, Lowe’s, Chevrolet. It’s just time to sit back and enjoy.
When we pull into the gates at Phoenix next weekend, it’s a totally different game as we all know. We’ll enjoy this rush. If there’s some down points through the year, we’ll look back on this race and smile again.
As far as racing with Brad out there, you really lose sight of who is in what car. It’s just somebody between you and the trophy. It could have been anybody. I knew the 2 had damage and wasn’t going to b
e really fast. That’s the only thing I thought about regarding the 2, was he had some damage and hopefully I could get by him with the clean racecar I had.
 
Q. Jimmie, you just said you were aware the 2 had front end damage. It seemed like it took you a long time to get by him. Were you just sort of biding your time or were you surprised he was as fast as he was with that nose so torn up?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I was desperately wanting to get by him or in the inside lane. There were far more cars lined up on the outside lane than the inside. Who was behind us?
 
CHAD KNAUS: Denny.
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think the 9 was there at one point.
It was just so hard to make up time on the bottom because there were fewer cars. I was hanging on side drafting, doing all I could to hang onto the 2 when I was close to him and the 16. The caution truthfully fell at a good time for us. Right when we surged ahead, that allowed me to get ahead for the driver’s choice for which lane he wanted.
 
Q. Seemed like you were laying low for half the race. Was that the way things went?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I ran second to fifth all day really. But you had such a small opportunity of time to get something done, you had a restart, and that would shuffle around for three laps, then we’re all in line. Coming to pit road, Chad’s strategy on when we pitted, the guys, what they did on pit road, was great. We always got the lead as the result of one.
Once that single file, it would be foolish to pull out. You get back in line in 35th or something, so you just kind of hold your spot.
 
Q. Jimmie, I know it’s awfully early, but the last time a new racecar was introduced in ’07, Hendrick and you were strong right away. I look at this and I wonder are you maybe a little bit ahead of the rest? Is this a sign or is it too early to say that maybe you have something?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It is a little early yet. Once we get a downforce race or two behind us, we’ll have a better understanding. I have confidence because I know how hard Chad works, I know the tools and commitment that Rick has and gives us, how hard everybody works at our shop. We’ve had great test sessions.
Again, we felt like we had a shot at this race, but we’re really excited for the races to come.
But it is a little early. Maybe after Vegas, Bristol, we can see which team has the upper hand.
 
Q. Obviously it feels fantastic to do this. What does it mean to you that so many of your competitors come into Victory Lane to congratulate you in a moment like that? What does it mean to you to spend those types of moments with your family?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It means a lot. I mean, that hits me deep. We race against one another, do some awful things to each other out on the track as competitors. But it’s the ultimate nod for another guy to come in, if he’s a Hendrick driver or not.
Brad came by, Ryan came by, Mears came by, Gordon, Junior, Kahne. It’s really cool. It means a lot to me. I’m one of the few racers out there that’s concerned about friendships and relationships. I have a lot of friends out there on that track and I’m proud of that.
I’m also proud to have my family here. Chani and Evie mean the world to me. Chani has been by my side and supporting me and letting me focus on my job and do all that I need to to be a part of this race team.
I win, our family wins. To have that moment in Victory Lane is very special, too.
 
Q. You’re about to go through an entire gauntlet of publicity that will have nothing to do with racing. How much room are you going to give Jimmie to enjoy this before you haul back in to get ready for Phoenix?
 
CHAD KNAUS: Well, I already know he has appearances tomorrow morning, then he’s got to go to New York and do stuff there, stopping in Charlotte on the way. Tuesday, we’ll have a debrief. Thursday, we’re on track with the Nationwide car. He’s going to be pretty busy.
That’s the thing that’s difficult about our sport. You’ve got to move on relatively quickly and put the good things and the bad things behind you. So that goes both ways. Jimmie does a very good job of balancing that out. He’s going to have some serious obligations with all of you from a media standpoint. But he’ll be on point when it comes time for Phoenix.
 
Q. I’m not sure what we thought we were going to see down here, but after hearing all about the Gen‑6 car, how it was going to do this, that and the other thing, for much of the day it was just single file, parade style until the very end. Is this race so different that this car eventually will be very good at other places and may not be good here or are we expecting too much?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I think the cars are sensitive to side drafting, and that is some of what we saw. When we’re running single file, we’re just trying to get to the finish. We’ve all crashed so many times and have torn up so much stuff that a lot of that falls on the driver’s shoulders.
I feel for NASCAR, they’re trying to create a very competitive car. They want a side‑by‑side. The fans want a side‑by‑side. There’s a few guys willing to race. The spotters were all talking. I’d get word that three or four guys wanted to jump out of line, they were tired of riding. I thought they better get some friends.
I just believe a lot of the competitors just wanted to get to that last pit stop and race for it.
 
CHAD KNAUS: On that point, I’d like to add, there were a lot of stories going on other than the racing on the track. Racing is more than side‑by‑side and crashing. If you go back and look, there were different pit strategies, ways guys took the lead on pit road, two tire or four tire strategy. The racing was pretty good if you go back and look at the nuts and bolts of it. Just because you’re not running side‑by‑side doesn’t mean it’s a bad race.
 
Q. Jimmie, in the best laymen’s terms, because maybe the casual fans don’t understand how difficult it is to do what you guys do out there, is it particularly hard to win here at Daytona? If so, why?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, it’s about as tough as it gets here. The draft and the way you race here and at Talladega is much different than anywhere else. It takes vehicles around you to create opportunities to pass. You can’t do it alone. So it’s far different than any other racing we do.
When you put us here at the biggest race, the Daytona 500, everybody brings their A game. It’s the most difficult race to win.
 
Q. Jimmie, put this in some kind of historical perspective. I don’t know if you’re able to do this at this moment. Winning in your 400th career start, you joined a great list of people that have done that, Lee Petty, Richard Petty, Richard Pearson, Dale Earnhardt. What does that mean to you having accomplished that?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I had no clue about that. Just to hear those names and my name in that sentence is pretty awesome. The history side is hard for me because, one, I don’t know these stats. Happy to hear about them, though. I’m still in the sport competing, not in that mental space to reflect back all that much.
I am so proud to be in that same category with those guys, feel I have a lot of years left. I certainly hope to make more history and do other cool things within the sport.
It’s a huge honor. There’s no other way to put it. Any time you’re mentioned with those greats, it’s a huge honor.
 
Q. Switching to a new car, how long does it take you to discover the setups that you think are going to work? Some people mentioned it’s a lot like it was eight to 10 years ago. Are you finding any numbers that you have useful to this year?
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We never stop learning. Something’s always evolving and changing. Just when you think whatever mindset has become extinct, whatever setup is never going to be in a racecar again, a guy finds a way to make it work once again. We see this happen all the time.
This car is introducing some very old school th
ought, tools to be used on the racecar. So nothing’s really ever gone. It always seems to find its way back into the sport. We’ll learn all year and even past that.
 
KERRY THARP: Jimmie Johnson, Rick Hendrick, Chad Knaus, congratulations on putting on a great show here during Speedweeks, culminating with today’s victory in the 55th winning of the Daytona 500. Certainly a championship effort. We wish you the best of luck the rest of the accept. Thank you.
 
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS FINISHED SECOND

DANICA PATRICK, NO. 10 GODADDY CHEVROLET SS FINISHED EIGHTH AND WAS THE TOP FINISHING ROOKIE-OF-THE-YEAR CONTENDER

KERRY THARP: Let’s roll right into our post race for today’s 55th annual Daytona 500. What a great event it was out there today.
Our race runner‑up is Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Dale, really made a good move on that last white flag lap, coming on strong. Talk about the performance today of the 88 team.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I couldn’t have done much without Mark (Martin) helping me here at the end. I was hoping he was thinking what I was thinking as we come off of turn two on that last lap. I felt like we needed to make the move a little earlier than off of four.
I kept backing up, backing up, trying not to let guys get racing behind us too much. If somebody ducked out of line a couple rows behind Mark. I was going to have a gap, me and Mark could take off, not get hung up with those guys. Once we come off of two, mashed the gas, got a run on Danica, side‑drafted her a little bit. I don’t know why them guys didn’t pull down in front of me besides Jimmie, but we got through three and four with a pretty good run.
Once we come to turn four, we kind of run out of steam, didn’t have enough to get a run on Jimmie.
But real happy with the way the car run all day. You couldn’t pass much. But when I was able to really see what my car could do, it was plenty capable of winning the race. The guys did a good job all winter trying to prepare for running well. We got 1‑2 out of our shop. Really happy with Hendrick and all our effort.
KERRY THARP: We’ll take questions now.
Q. Dale, you touched upon the fact it was hard to pass. Reflect on the performance of the new Gen‑6 models and was it frustrating as it seemed for us looking that you weren’t able to pass that much?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I got to agree with Mark. I thought the car put on a really good show all week. We had a really exciting Shootout, the 125’s were pretty racy. The car proved at the end of this Daytona 500 that it will race well and put on a good show.
That first 150 miles, everybody commits to the top, there’s not enough guys to organize on the bottom, you get freight‑trained. There’s too much risk. You work all day on track position because you got to be toward the front to have a shot at it. You hate to give up any track position.
I saw guys like Gordon pull out, go to the back. Too much of a risk. If I could find a car with a gap in front of it, I had a run, I might have been able to side draft. But you have to be patient with that.
It was a great show. A couple adjustments with this car, the track is going to age a little bit more, the tire will change as the track ages. It’s going to turn into an even better race. I think no adjustments needed.
KERRY THARP: We’re also joined now by Danica Patrick. She is the highest finishing Sonoco Rookie of the Year. She came in eighth today.
Danica, talk about your run out there today. You were always running up front. Congratulations.
DANICA PATRICK: Thanks. You know, it was a solid day, steady day. Got off to a nice start. Wish I would have led at the very beginning. I thought I was going to. So it was nice to lead later on in the race, just to have done that, to lead laps.
But it was steady. I mean, I spent most of the day half throttle running behind people. So, you know, when you get in that line, that nice outside line where it’s just single file, I didn’t feel like it was a wise idea to drop low and try to figure out how to pass. You were going to probably find yourself much further back.
I suppose that’s the only downside to running in that front group all day is that I never got any practice passing, I never tried really anything. The only thing we really did was on those starts, the inside line had a lot of momentum for the first couple of laps. That was the most action that happened until the very end there.
Once that inside line at the end of the race had dedicated followers, it was strong. But once Jimmie got in the outside line, I think it showed that he was fast.
So congrats to Jimmie. It was nice to get a Chevy to win the race.
But, you know, overall steady day, steady day for me, nice day for Go Daddy, and the crew did a nice job in the pits. So really nothing super‑duper eventful.
KERRY THARP: We’ll continue with questions.
Q. Danica made more history today by becoming the first woman to lead a Daytona 500. Want to get your thoughts on that. What impressed you with the way she ran today and what this means for the sport.

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: She’s going to make a lot of history all year long. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch her progress. I think she’s done her best work in the Cup car myself. I think for whatever reason she seems to get a lot more out of that car.
Every time I’ve seen her in a pretty hectic situation, she always really remained calm. She’s got a great level head. She’s a racer. She knows what’s coming. She’s smart about her decisions. She knew what to do today as far as track position and not taking risks, like she said.
I enjoy racing with her. Look forward to more all year long. It’s just going to be a lot of fun having her in the series.
DANICA PATRICK: Thank you. Those are all really nice things and I appreciate that.
Q. Danica, will you ultimately view this day as a success or will you be kicking yourself over would have, could have because you were third with a lap to go?

DANICA PATRICK: I would imagine that pretty much anyone would kick themselves and say what could I have, should I have done to give myself that opportunity to win.
I think that’s what I was feeling today, was uncertainty as to how I was going to accomplish that. There was plenty of time while you were cruising along. I was talking to Tony and my spotter on the radio, What do you see people doing, what’s working, what is not. I was thinking in the car, How am I going to do this? I didn’t know what to do exactly.
So I feel like maybe that’s just my inexperience. Maybe that’s me not thinking hard enough. I don’t know. Getting creative enough. I’m not sure. I definitely was a little uncertain how I was going to be able to do it. I think Dale did a nice job and shows what happens when you plan it out, you drop back, get that momentum and you’re able to go to the front.
You know, I think he taught me something and I’m sure I’ll watch the race and there will be other scenarios out there that I’ll see that can teach me, too.
Q. Dale, late in the race, I think Danica had gotten by herself a little bit. You were one of the first guys that went up and worked with her a little bit. No hesitation on your part? When you ditched her there at the end, did you have any regret or remorse?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I was just trying to get the best finish I could. I wanted to get in the media center to thank my crew and everything. Was just trying to get on the podium.
Danica has done so good all week and her car has been great and she’s pretty tenacious out there, so I didn’t have any problem getting up there and drafting with her.
I went where I thought I needed to go to move forward. I’m sure on some occasions she was in that situation, involved in that situation, sometimes not.
I just went to where I needed to go all day long. You had to really pick and choose your battles and really be decisive on whether to go or not go on certain runs.
I really don’t remember much, except for the last lap, of the rest of the race, anything we did, who we
raced with even. It was a lot of fun. I had a good time.
Q. Did you like the rules package today? This looked like old school, like ’90s plate racing. How does this one compare?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I liked it. I think that the package is really good. The surface is still relatively new, which provides tons of grip. If we had the old surface with this car, it would have been an incredible race, people sliding around, wearing tires out, just trying to dig as hard as they could. We’ll get to that as the track ages. I’d hate to see them messing with the car to get a better package, because the track is in good shape. It’s down here next to the beach. It will wear out and age quite rapidly compared to Charlotte or some other tracks that have been repaved.
As the track changes, the tire will ultimately change and be able to wear and you’ll see guys moving around, different things happening.
I think it’s a great way to start the season. The car is doing everything we hoped it would do. I think it will just get better. It’s still a brand‑new car. We have a whole season and the future to improve it and learn how to make it tick. Looking forward to that.
Q. Dale, after finishing second, you had one of the best years ever in your career last year. How does this portend for the future?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I think it’s important to get a good start points‑wise. It’s important to put a good foundation of points together. If you get behind early, it seems like you’re still chasing that Chase spot at Richmond. It’s good to get a good start, get a couple points on some guys.
We’re a good team. Hopefully we can keep the pressure on them and stay up in the top five in the points and win some races. I want to really try to win some more races this year. That’s our focus.
Q. Danica, you had a great run going at Phoenix right to the very end. After such a great run here, you have to be excited going to Phoenix.

DANICA PATRICK: Yeah. It was nice to run like we did at the end of the year last year with Texas and especially with Phoenix.
I feel like it will give us a good baseline idea of how we need to set the car up. But it also is a new car, so we’ll have to adapt to that.
Tony and I are still figuring out how we get the most out of me with new tires in a qualifying situation, things like that. We still have a lot of stuff to work on.
But it was nice to have that race in Phoenix at the end of last year. While it might not be so much about Phoenix, I think it’s about Tony Gibson and everybody that works around him.
Q. Dale, following up on what Mark said about the sick feeling. You were on track when that horrible wreck happened. How did you feel to be able to race today versus how you felt 24 hours ago after the Nationwide race? How was the vibe different in the garage versus what it might have been last night?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Me personally, I was just really waiting to get the news on how everybody was, how all the fans were overnight, just hoping that things were going to improve, especially for the two critically injured. Just waiting for word on how everybody was, not really ready to proceed until you had some confirmation that things were looking more positive.
There’s so much going on at the prerace, so many distractions, once you got in the car and the race started, felt like business as usual. But like Mark said, I know there’s a lot of people still recovering, may have a lot of recovery in the future. Hopefully they’re doing well today and we welcome them back as soon as they get well, hope that they will come back.
Q. Dale, you didn’t have radio communication like you used to in the past. Wondering how you hooked up. Why couldn’t you catch Jimmie if you were hooked up?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I mean, I got the same equipment Jimmie does, so we were up against a pretty steep climb trying to get by him, getting a run on him. Mark and I did a good job as doing all we could from as far back as we were. I was surprised that the guys up front didn’t put up a better plan or laid back, or put themselves in a better position. Everybody is out there trying to do what they need to do. We just happened to make a choice. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.
Q. Danica, when you look at what you accomplished here and what you did do at Phoenix and Texas, do you now reset your expectations for what you might be able to accomplish as a rookie this year?

DANICA PATRICK: No. I mean, I think that would be unwise to sort of start telling myself that top ten is where we need to be every week. I think that’s setting up if failure. The list of drivers in the Cup Series is deep. This is a unique track. These tracks are different and unique. A lot about the car. I mean, you have to be smart enough to do the right thing at the right time. But it’s very much about the car.
I feel like I’m still sticking to let’s see how these first five races go where we go to a bunch of different kinds of tracks, see where we settle in, start to establish goals from there on out.
The only thing we can go off of is at the end of last year and running solid inside that top 20, hopefully get inside that top 15. That’s really all I can think right now. That’s all I can think. It might change after five races. It might be better. Who knows. It might be worse. We’re going to kind of pick up where we left off.
Q. Danica, by the time you got to your car before the race, seemed like the national anthem was starting and you had to hop in right away. I could be wrong. Was that at all difficult, the lack of time you had to unwind from everything?

DANICA PATRICK: You know, I feel like when there are pressure situations, tensions are high, I don’t get too flustered and I seem to be okay with them. So, you know, I was walking while the invocation was going on. By the time I got to the car, we did the anthem. There were a list of photos with people that we were meant to get and I didn’t do any.
I just got in the car. As soon as the anthem is done, I get in the car. Everything else has to take a backseat, because that’s what I’m there to do, is drive.
Q. Dale, you said on pit road you feel like with a few changes to the package, it could be great racing. What sort of changes do you recommend?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Seeing how the track changes. I had a really bad push in the Duel, just terrible, and I couldn’t believe the right front tire lived as well as it did. I was able to maintain with the pack. When the racetrack was a lot more worn out, I would have probably blown the tire out if I hadn’t come in the pits and fixed it.
Just the tire is very good. I don’t want to give people the wrong impression. As this track ages, they’ll be able to tune the tire, much like they are coming up with Phoenix. I think it will challenge the cars and challenge the drivers a little bit. It’s just a little easy to stay in the pack. I think it will get harder as the surface gets slicker.
Q. Danica, what was it like leading the field to the pole? Was there any time to look around or absorb the moment?

DANICA PATRICK: There were quite a few people out there when we walked out there for intros. I thought that was a hefty amount of people. That was pretty cool. You definitely got the feeling you were in a sea of people. Hopefully the fans enjoyed that.
That’s access to us that no other sport really gets that. I mean, the fans can really get to us. I hope they appreciate that.
And to be ‘on the field,’ that’s a cool thing for the fans to be able to do. But I got a feeling there, once you’re out in the car, I’ve been in these situations before, I felt really calm leading the field to the green. The front was the calmest place to be, so I thought as anything would go, I’m sure there were people behind me that were more nervous because up front is nice on these speedways.
Q. Danica, the owner of Red Bull has offered you, if you finish in the top 10 at the Daytona 500, the opportunity to test a Formula One car. Is that something you would be interested in, as a demonstration, not anything
serious?

DANICA PATRICK: I didn’t hear about that. That’s nice. I have been in that situation before, where someone has offered for me to test the car. It was a long time ago, quite a few years ago. Where do they test, in South Africa or something in the winter.
Anyway, for me, if I’m not serious about driving a Formula One car, I’m not a car geek. I don’t feel like I have to drive a Formula One car to make my life complete. Unless it was something I was serious about doing, my schedule is rather full anyway. Then it just opens you up for criticism. If it doesn’t go well, what are people going to say? That’s something that I don’t like to put myself in.
But it’s a very kind offer.
Q. Danica, as you became the first female to lead laps at Indy, you did here. I know you don’t like to think of your career in gender terms, but I was hoping you could describe what that means to you.

DANICA PATRICK: You know, honestly when I say that I wanted to lead at some point, it was just because I was disappointed I didn’t do it off the bat like I thought I should have. So it didn’t really have to do with being a girl and leading.
I think a stat that I found more interesting is only 13 people, including me now, have led Indy and Daytona. I thought that was a much cooler stat for me.
I’m honored. But, again, these are things that just happen along the way. I’m on the quest to be the best driver, run up front, get to Victory Lane. These things happen and I’m proud, but they’re not the ultimate goal.
Q. Danica, before the start of the race, making your way through the crowd, I think Tony found you and drew you close to say something. What words did he impart? What kind of calming effect did that have for you?

DANICA PATRICK: Well, he grabbed me first and I was about ready to unleash on someone (laughter). That happened first.
He just said, Block all this out. You go do it. It’s your time now. Focus. You’ll do a great job.
I’d love to be able to talk to somebody like Tony Stewart and just get the rundown on how it’s going to go, but you have to experience it for yourself. For me I also have to have experience to ask and figure out how to do them better next time. It’s not so easy as to talk to Tony and get the scope of it.
What he said was simple, but calming, and it probably was what also drove me to just, as soon as the anthem was over with, to get in the car. People are trying to make decisions around me. Are you going to do it? Are you not going to do it? I’m putting my ear piece in, if you want a picture with my back to you, that’s fine, but I’m getting in the car because it’s time to work.
Q. Danica, I think when you won the pole, there was a little bit of, She won the pole, she has a fast car, but how is she going to race when it comes down to it. Do you feel like in the bigger picture what you were able to do today perhaps showed and won some respect from the Sprint Cup guys?

DANICA PATRICK: Again, I think that’s a question better to those guys, better to guys like Dale and everyone else that I was around all day. I feel like they would be able to answer that question for you.
But I think it was better to have run up in the top 10 all day today. The pole was wonderful. Tony Gibson and those guys are the ones that should be really proud of that one, and I know they are. But today being able to stay up front, get to the lead at one point, just run up in the top 10, for me that was more of an accomplishment.
Guy on my team, Jay, was joking around before qualifying. He said, These two days are about us, next week is about you. He’s joking around, but he’s right. It’s about the potential of the car, Hendrick engines and chassis, and having that pub for Go Daddy, because there’s a whole week of media. That was for them, and today is the day that I can look at and be happy for certain things and learn from others.
Q. Danica, a couple times on pit road with that first pit stall, it was tough getting out of the pits. Wheel spinning, a couple times getting passed. Can you talk about the idiosyncrasies of pit road.

DANICA PATRICK: First pit box is the one you take when you qualify on pole. That’s just what you do. It was definitely different pulling out because everyone has momentum next to you. I mean, I think it’s a benefit under yellow because you’re just crossing the line, but after that, the momentum takes over.
It was different. I mean, I definitely felt like I had a lot of wheel spin. I don’t know if that’s the fact that there’s no rubber in front of me really, being in that first pit stall or not. I’m sure there’s great reason why you pull into that first pit stall.
It was nice to be there all day. It wasn’t until the end with the 9 that I had to worry about anyone pulling into the pit box behind me. We were in that and it was nice to have it. And I can’t miss my pit box either. Can’t miss it.
Q. Dale, you came really close to a second victory in the Daytona 500. How would you feel if you managed to get that second one, given how long it took your dad to get one?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, it’s like a drug, I assume. It’s such a high. You just don’t know when you’ll ever get that opportunity again, or if you’ll ever get that opportunity again. I knew before I won in 2004, I was reserved to the idea I may be trying to win this race my entire career, because I knew all too well how that was for my father.
I felt so much relief when I did win it. I’m ready to do it again. It’s been too long. Running second over and over is great and all for our team, a good start to the season, but I would love, even having to go through all the hassle that Jimmie is about to go through this week, it’s worth it.
Just before I take off, I just wanted to say that I noticed something last night coming out of the track for dinner, just seemed to be a different vibe inside the infield. People seemed more excited about what was getting ready to happen today. Even today, there seemed to be a whole lot more people here. Seemed to be a lot more excitement about the race.
That really was the biggest motivator for me today. I think we’re headed in the right direction. We may not be consistently each week. But I thought today for some reason it just felt like we’re on the right track as a sport. That’s got me really excited. So I’ll take off and see you guys next week.
DANICA PATRICK: I agree (laughter).

Chevy Racing– Daytona 500 Postrace

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
DAYTONA SPEEDWEEKS
DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER RACE NOTES AND QUOTES
FEBRUARY 24, 2013
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS – WINNER OF THE 55TH DAYTONA 500
 
THIS IS THE SECOND TIME YOU’VE WON THE DAYTONA 500, BUT IT’S BEEN A BIT OF A DROUGHT SINCE 2006.
“It has. Plate racing is awfully tough racing form of racing and there’s a lot of luck involved. Pack racing is a little different. You can’t ride and kind of wait for things to happen. You have to race all day long and fight for track position. And this race car, this Lowe’s Chevrolet, was so good. Chad Knaus and all of Hendrick Motorsports gave me a fast car and I could really stay up front all day long. I had a lot of confidence those final few laps leading the train because I knew just how fast this car was. It’s a big credit for everybody at Hendrick Motorsports.”
 
IT SEEMS LIKE YOU HAD A SPECIFIC GAME PLAN FROM THE MOMENT YOU UNPACKED HERE IN DAYTONA
“We did. We wanted to get this car to the 500. We knew it was the best car for us and I’m very happy to have it in the 500 and it certainly did its job for us. I just want to give a big shout-out to all the fans and I also want to send my thoughts and prayers out to everybody yesterday that were injured in the grandstands. Go to Lowe’s. Buy some stuff. Spring is coming. Go buy a Chevrolet. I’m very happy to win the first Gen-6 car race by racing the Gen-6 car for Chevrolet and their Chevrolet SS. It’s been an awesome day.”
TELL US WHAT YOU HAD TO DO TO KEEP IT OUT FRONT ON THOSE LAST COUPLE OF LAPS?
“I think it goes all the way back to when the caution came out and the fact that we were in the lead and gave me lane choice. The outside lane worked in most situations. The inside would rally from time to time. When I had lane choice I knew that we were set up to win the race and it was up to me to not make a mistake and blow it. This Lowe’s Chevrolet was so fast. Chad (Knaus) did an amazing job. We stuck to our plan all week long, kept the car straight through the practice sessions and the duel. We knew it was a very fast race car and it would race well. We got that done here today.”

YOU MENTIONED THE OUTSIDE LANE BEING THE STRONGEST. WHAT WAS IT THAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE THAT ENABLED YOU TO MAKE THAT PASS DOWN ON THE LOW LANE?
“Things just worked out well for me coming to the caution. The No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) got a big push and was way out and kind of falling back to the No. 16 (Greg Biffle). My lane was bunched up tight and helped me surge by the No. 2 at the start/finish (line) when the caution came out. That was really the move that set things up for us. At the end it got exciting. I was waiting for the run and it came further back than I expected. The No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) got a big shove and was coming up the inside. I moved down to defend that and we were able to get a one-two (finish) for Hendrick Motorsports. For the 48/8 shop so very happy there are a lot of people put a lot of effort into these cars, I want to thank all them.”

WHAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE ON THAT LAST LAP?
“Making sure I got down to get in front of the No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.), but honestly once I had control of the race, I knew I was sitting on a lot of speed with this car. It was so fast. I give it to my shop and my guys. They gave me a great race car.”

YOU’VE WON THIS RACE BEFORE, BUT THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS IT JUST HASN’T SMILED ON YOU. WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE MOMENTUM GOING INTO THE 2013 SEASON?
“There is no other way to start the season than to win the Daytona 500. I’m a very lucky man to have won it twice. I’m very honored to be on that trophy with all the greats that have ever been in our sport. Amazing day for myself, for this team, as the year goes we are excited. But next week is a whole different game. We will have to make sure we are buttoned up and ready to go there. Before I go I just want to send my thoughts and prayers out to everyone that was injured yesterday and I hope they are healing up and doing well.”

RICK HENDRICK – WINNING TEAM OWNER
CONGRATULATIONS JIMMIE JOHNSON DOES IT HERE FOR YOU TODAY:
“We have a hard time finishing these races, boy, to run one-two man what a day. I’m so proud of Jimmie (Johnson), Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) what a great move by Dale there at the end. (Sigh of relief) I’m glad.”

CHAD KNAUS, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS – WINNING CREW CHIEF
CONGRATULATIONS YOUR DRIVER BROUGHT YOU THE TROPHY HERE TODAY AT THE 55TH RUNNING OF THE DAYTONA 500:
“Jimmie (Johnson) did a fantastic job today. It’s been a tough week and a half down here in Daytona. Everybody needed to work together, NASCAR, all the teams to get these Gen-6 cars where we needed them so they go out there and put on a good show. I think it was a heck of a show and Jimmie did a fantastic job. The guys back in the shop they had to put in a lot of extra effort to get these cars built. I just can’t say enough about them. Man, thank God for Lowe’s.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR, NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED SECOND
YOU GOT BEHIND YOUR TEAMMATE JIMMIE JOHNSON, BUT WASN’T ABLE TO GET BY. HOW WAS THE END OF THAT RACE AND THE MOVE YOU WERE TRYING TO MAKE?
“Well, we just had a lot of help from Mark Martin at the end. We were able to lay back until the last lap on the backstretch there to get enough of a run. We got by a couple of them, but I looked up in the mirror off of (turn) four and Mark (Martin) was back there racing those guys and I lost my help. So when we got to Jimmie (Johnson) we didn’t have enough steam. I want to thank Hendrick and all the guys that work there. The engine was great. The car was real fast. You had to be real patient and if you tried to pull out you would go to the back of the field. We had to really be patient on them green runs to try to hold our track position and try to do things on pit road to get us up front. But at the end I knew the racing was going to get mixed up and it sure did. It was a lot of fun, just a great package, a couple of adjustments and man this is going to be awesome.”

YOU SAID YOU HAD THE RIGHT GUY PUSHING YOU
“Yeah, me and Mark (Martin) were just kind of sitting there and I was hoping he was thinking what I was thinking. So I was going to wait and back-up pretty hard to him and then get a run off of (Turn) 2 and then see what we could do in those last three-quarters of a lap. I just kind of ran out of steam off of (Turn) 4 and Mark didn’t get back to us. It just didn’t work out just perfectly. But we made a good move; just not enough race track. It’s real hard to pass the leader. Jimmie (Johnson) did a lot of good things there early or late in the race to stay up front. I was real happy with the HMS engines and all the guys in the shop did a good job all off-season working really hard trying to get these cars ready. It was a great finish for us and we’re going to be strong this year. I’m really excited about getting the season kicked-off with such a good finish.”
 
RYAN NEWMAN, NO, 39 QUICKEN LOANS CHEVROLET SS, FINISHED 5TH:
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THIS FINAL COUPLE LAPS?
“Not as eventful as I thought it was going to be. I thought there was going to be another yellow. Congratulations to Jimmie (Johnson – race winner) and his guys. It was a great finish it looked like from my standpoint. We mixed it up pretty good. Great day for Quicken Loans. Go online, QL.com. Five people will get their mortgage paid for a month. On top of that, we’ve got the Bloomin’ Onion. Great day.”
 
AS CRAZY AS YOU THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO BE?
“It was crazy no doubt, but I’ve been under the weather. And, we went through a lot of things on pit road. My guys did an awesome job to get my car back and contend in the Duels like we did. My best position all day was the last lap in fifth. I can’t say we are entirely satisfied with that, but after our day we’ll take that.”
 
ON LACK OF P
ASSING:
“You have 42 guys that are content with getting to the end. I mean this is a 500 mile race. We don’t race for the win at the 200-mile mark. It’s just the bottom line of it. We’ve gotten smarter as drivers because of the situations we’ve been put in. That is the way we are going to be; as smart as we can be. Not everybody is as smart. But, I made it to the end.”
 
ON HOW DIFFICULT HIS DAY WAS EARLY:
“Matt (Borland, crew chief) and the guys did a good job of fixing the car without losing a lap. We really didn’t have any damage. We shouldn’t have had any damage. We just had some actual body failures. The cars, as you saw in practice, were buffeting around so much, just didn’t have a couple of things reinforced as good as we should of. This is the best my week as been, so we should probably leave. (LAUGHS).”
 
YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT DANICA ACCOMPLISHED TODAY:
“I see her as a teammate, I see her as a driver. I know she is a girl. I know she is a female. We’re all drivers out there. I know it was big for her. If I was a girl, I’d probably be more competitive about it. But, I know it is big for her, and her sponsors. And everybody at Stewart-Haas. Proud of her. It is a good way to start the season. We won the pole. We got a top-five for the organization. Obviously (Tony) Stewart has a rough day.”
 
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RUN AND WHAT YOU LEARNED ABOUT THE NOSE OF THESE CARS BECAUSE IT CERTAINLY WAS AN ISSUE FOR YOU GUYS DURING THE DAY:
“We basically just had a body issue. The nose caved in, the hood caved in a little bit, but the guys did an awesome job with the Quicken Loans Chevrolet to get it fixed. You are right we did a lot of pit stops and I kind of lost track of what was going on. I had to worry more about my position than watching the race and educating myself. First of all congratulations to Jimmie (Johnson) those guys did an awesome job, put themselves in position and a good way to start the season for us with our Quicken Loans No. 39 team.”
 
REGAN SMITH, NO. 51 PHOENIX CONSTRUCTION CHEVROLET SS, FINISHED 7TH:
ON HIS DAY:
“It was a really good run for all the guys at Phoenix Racing and the Guy Roofing Chevy. We didn’t have the best car. We had a backup, but we knew that. We learned where our car worked, and didn’t work. Found out what the good parts, and bad parts were about it, and put it in the position it needed to be at the right times. That is the big boost that this team needs going forward this year. I think I am going to run like 10 races for them, so looking forward to the rest of them. We have a lot of speedways coming up. We’ll massage on this car and see if we can’t make it a little faster for Talladega and beyond.”
 
TONY GIBSON, CREW CHIEF NO. 10 GODADDY CHEVROLET SS, FINISHED 8TH:
ON THE RACE FOR DANICA PATRICK AND THE TEAM:
“I’m jacked up man, that was awesome. We definitely had a shot to win it there, and that’s all you can ask for. Can’t do nothing about those guys getting runs on you. It is just the way it is. But, I am so proud of Danica and everybody on the GoDaddy Chevy SS. It has been a great week-and-a-half. I couldn’t ask for it to go any better. She impressed the heck out of me the whole day long.  Getting on and off pit road. The pit crew did a fantastic job. I’m just looking forward to every week. Every week we are going to get better and better and better. There’s going to be some bumps in the road, but we’re willing to suck those on, and get us some high notes. I’m just jacked up. I’m so proud of her. She kept her head for a week-and-a-half. We wouldn’t let her race in the 150 (Budweiser Duel Qualifying Race). We wouldn’t let her practice hard. She came out here and ran up front all day long. To be the first woman to sit on the pole of the Daytona 500, and the first woman to lead a lap in the Daytona 500 is pretty damn impression. And the highest finish ever. What else you going to get from that.”
 
DANICA PATRICK, NO. 10 GODADDY CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 8TH:
YOU DIDN’T GET MUCH OF A RUN IN THE DAYTONA 500 LAST YEAR TELL US ABOUT YOUR AFTERNOON HERE AS YOU GOT TO RUN UP FRONT ALL DAY LONG:
“I think you said it right there. Ran up front all day long and we led a little. We stayed in the top-10 all day pretty much. Had nice pit stops by the GoDaddy crew, the car was fast and it’s always a little frustrating when you come through and your top three on that last lap. I will learn more for next time. I really didn’t feel like I had a great grasp as to ‘how do you go win this race’. I hadn’t wrapped my head around exactly how that was going to happen. I kept thinking about it out there because for the most part I was running half throttle for most of the race running in the line. I will know better for next time and for Talladega. I mean the same stuff will probably apply. Good job Jimmie (Johnson) we got a Chevy to win so that is good.”
 
YOU LED LAPS AND SCORED A TOP 10-FINISH. WHAT WAS YOUR GAMEPLAN FOR THE END WHEN YOU WERE SITTING IN THIRD?
“I kept thinking about it the whole time. There was plenty of time. I spent most of the day running half-throttle in the line. So I spent a lot of time thinking about what you’re going to do when that opportunity comes. And I it’s just tough to tell. I kept asking up above what it looked like and what was working. You needed a hole. You needed people to help you out. I had a little bit of help here today here and there. But I felt like if I were to dive low, I had a feeling I was going to get freight-trained. It was tough to tell. Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) did a good job of backing it up because it did look like we were getting away and it felt like it too because we were flat. We were not lifting those laps. And when you’re second and third and so on, you do. And so we weren’t. So I thought we were just pulling away a little bit. At the end of the day, it was a solid day for the GoDaddy car and the GoDaddy crew. They did a nice job in the pits and we stayed basically in the top 10 all day long. So I can’t really complain about that. It was nice. It was calm most of the time but it was fun when it got a little exciting.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 20TH
NOT THE FINISH YOU WANTED. TALK ABOUT TODAY’S RACE:
“It’s tough, really tough race. I love the start that we got and we were up front there and in great shape. We lost track position and it didn’t seem like we were ever going to get it back. Then we finally did and those last two restarts just didn’t go very well.”

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 30TH
WHAT HAPPENED OUT THERE?
“I’m not really happy right now. We had a CAT Chevrolet that was pretty good today. We lost track position because we had that tire cut. We were going around one of those cars and he just hung a right on me on the straightaway, just hung a right. I had to turn right to keep from hitting him and the thing hung a right, head-on into the wall. It’s pathetic to race like that. You’ve got to be smarter than that. I understand it is plate racing, you’ve got to try to block, but you can’t block somebody that is coming 20 mile an hour faster than you are. It’s just completely uncalled for.”

YOU ARE ALRIGHT?
“I think so. That thing hit really hard. I haven’t hit that hard in a long time. Broke the block in the car. It hit really hard. Like I said you have wrecks on plate races that are going to happen, but that is the kind of wreck that shouldn’t have happened.”

Chevy Racing–Daytona 500 Driver Comments

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
DAYTONA SPEEDWEEKS
DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER RACE NOTES AND QUOTES
FEBRUARY 24, 2013
 
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS, INVOLVED IN MULTI-CAR INCIDENT ON LAP 32 OF THE DAYTONA 500:
WHAT HAPPENED: “Somebody backed-up to my grill. It was just a little touch. I saw them when they were all getting together, and I said ‘Oh, they are wrecking’. And as soon as I said they were wrecking the No. 5 (Kasey Kahne) went left into me. I managed to brake, and just touched him a little bit with nose. Then somebody else wrecked a lot harder behind him, and came on my side and killed the car on the side. So, we are fixing it. We’re going to run out there and try to score some decent points.  You could see it coming. They were all checking up. And I thought ‘Somebody isn’t going to check-up and screw-up’. And, then, they did.”
 
UP UNTIL THAT POINT, HOW WAS THE CAR AND THE RACING? “It was good. For me, we were just counting laps. We felt we had really good speed, we worked with Tony (Stewart) earlier. Then I decided I was just going to get in line and ride here. We didn’t need to do anything. We were riding where we wanted to be. We said top-10, top-15, as long as we ride there, we’ll be fine. That was plan. Now we are adding pieces to the car again.”
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET SS – INVOLVED IN MULTI-CAR INCIDENT ON LAP 32 OF THE DAYTONA 500:
WHAT HAPPENED?
“I let off a little bit to miss the wreck. It looked like the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) hooked the No. 5 (Kasey Kahne) and that kind of just started a chain reaction. I don’t know who was behind me, but just one of those deals.”

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 BASS PRO SHOPS/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET SS – INVOLVED IN MULTI-CAR INCIDENT ON LAP 32 OF THE DAYTONA 500:
NOT THE WAY YOU WANTED TO START OUT YOUR SEASON TELL US WHAT HAPPENED?
“The hell with the season, I wanted to win the Daytona 500. We had a car that we could pass with today. We were passing cars by our self so. Happy with our car, was just waiting for it to all get sorted out again. I don’t know what started it, but we just got caught up in another wreck.”

KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET SS – INVOLVED IN MULTI-CAR INCIDENT ON LAP 32 OF DAYTONA 500:
YOU GOT BUMPED FROM BEHIND. IS THIS THE NATURE OF PLATE RACING?
“We were just running the line. The front three cars, for whatever reason, slowed down pretty quickly. So I was just on the brakes and trying not to hit Jeff (Gordon). The other cars behind me didn’t slow down in time. When I hit the grass is when it did the most damage to the car. But we had a fast car. This Farmers Insurance Chevy SS the last week has been fast. I wanted to race. I didn’t want to sit single file up by the wall like everybody was doing. I didn’t want that at all.”
 
CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT HAPPENED?
“The cars in front of us slowed up so I was just slowing up right on Jeff (Gordon’s) bumper there. I got hit from behind. Kyle (Busch) was probably getting pushed and it all happened so quick. But we had a fast Farmers Insurance Chevy SS and just got hit. I shot to the infield and when I hit the grass it blew the front end up pretty good. So that’s when we got injured the most, car-wise.
“The guys in front of me were all checking up. I was trying not to run over Jeff (Gordon) and I could feel a lot of momentum right there, so I was trying hard not to run over Jeff. Kyle (Busch) was probably feeling the same momentum from behind and hit me, which shot me to the infield. There were a lot of cars close together.”
 
TO BE OUT THIS EARLY, WHAT ARE YOUR EMOTIONS?
“Oh, it’s crazy. I can’t believe it. I mean, I wanted to race. I didn’t want to run single-file by the wall. That’s what we were doing and you still got caught in something. I really don’t know how it happened like that. I understand how that happens but it’s restrictor-plate racing and anything can happen here.”
 
IS THAT JUST RACING?
“There’s just a lot of momentum. I could feel a ton of momentum between like all of us right there except the three cars in front of me were stopped for some reason. So I was trying not to run over Jeff (Gordon), which I didn’t. The guys behind me obviously couldn’t stop because they hit me. But there was a ton of momentum for whatever reason.”
 
DID YOU EXPECT THAT SINGLE-FILE RACING?
“I expected it. I didn’t want it. I’d rather be racing all day than staying up by the wall.”
 
HOW IS THE NEW CAR? DO YOU THINK THE NEW CAR HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH WHAT’S GOING ON OUT THERE?
“Oh, the new car is great. There is nothing wrong with the new car. It’s a 500-mile race, so everybody wants to take it easy and wait ‘til later on and I’m not going to get to be there later on. I want to be part of that. It’s going to be pretty exciting there in an hour or so.”
 
DO YOU THINK WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY WAS A FREAK THING AT THE END OF THE RACE?
“Yeah, that was a freak deal at the end of the race yesterday. It’s crazy. It’s scary. I’m glad that everybody is okay to this point. There were some injuries and things, but it was just a scary situation. You look up in the stands and it’s packed with people and excited fans that want to see a show. There’s going to be a great show here today, but yeah, that was definitely a freak accident yesterday.”

John Force Racing– Phoenix Qualifying Report

FOUR JFR DRIVERS WILL HAVE SIGHTS ON PHOENIX WIN
 
CHANDLER, Ariz. — After two days of tough qualifying all three John Force Racing Funny Cars and the lone Top Fuel dragster will head into the final eliminations of the 29th NHRA Arizona Nationals with their respective focus on going rounds and continuing their winning ways in 2012. Leading the pack is 2012 rookie of the year Courtney Force the No. 3 qualifier with her Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car. She is followed by father and eight-time Arizona Nationals winner John Force, No. 6 and finally Robert Hight, the 2012 Arizona Nationals Funny Car winner, in the No. 16 spot. Brittany Force raced into the show during the last qualifying session and will go into race day as the No. 13 Top Fuel dragster.
 
The Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster battled through a number of mechanical issues most notably excessive clutch wear before post their best time of the weekend in the final qualifying session. For the rookie driver having one shot to make the field increased the nervousness factor but did not rattle the Auto Club Road to the Future Award contender.
 
“I was obviously pretty nervous about it but I always try and put all that out of my mind. My guys always tell me we are at West Palm testing and the car doesn’t know if you are in the show or out of the show. I am excited because for the second race in a row we got the Castrol EDGE dragster qualified and I was a little concerned about it,” said Force.
 
“One of my big goals is to get qualified at every event and we got in on the last run today. We are in for race day and I am excited about the first round. We are moving up in the qualifying order. We were 15th in Pomona and we are 13th here. I have a new team and we are figuring things out every run. I have made some mistakes as a driver but I am always learning on every run.”
 
Brittany’s final run of qualifying 3.831 seconds at 321.81 mph was representative of most of the other Top Fuel dragsters and she will race Dave Grubnic for the first time in round one.
 
Courtney Force not only qualified her Traxxas Ford Mustang solidly in the No. 3 spot today, but also picked up four qualifying bonus points making her total five for the weekend.
At the start of the day, Force posted a 4.081 ET at 305.36 mph putting her third-quickest of the session.
 
“On our first run out here today we ran a 4.08 and it was a great feeling getting the car down there. Our Traxxas Ford Mustang was running really well and we ended up being at the top of the pack. We learned from that pass and it gave us more to build off of so we were excited going into the final qualifying run,” said Force.
 
Force then came back and raced her Traxxas Ford Mustang to a 4.076 second run at 297.16 mph, shutting the car off near the finish line.
 
“Our second pass today put us as the quickest Funny Car in the field for that session which is always exciting, but especially because I had to get out of it early. The lane started pulling me over. The back tires just kind of washed out and when the car starts turning like that at over 300 mph you have to get out of it,” said Force.
 
“My Traxxas Ford Mustang still went 297 mph at 4.07 seconds. Just to run a number like that in the 4.0s when you know you lifted off the throttle at the finish line, really makes me excited about what this car can do. Ron Douglas has given me an awesome car to drive and he’s doing a great job,” said Force.
 
Force’s best run of the weekend was from the second session on Friday that sent her to the No. 3 spot; a 4.064 ET at a track speed record of 315.71 mph. Her first round match-up on Sunday will be Todd Lesenko in the No. 14 spot. She is currently 3-0 to Lesenko in previous events.
 
“I’m excited going into eliminations tomorrow. We have Todd Lesenko in the first round. I just have to keep this car straight, try to figure out this race track and hopefully we can go some rounds,” said Force.
 
John Force made significant improved from his first race in Pomona qualifying in the top half of the field for the first time in 2013. He will race second year driver Alexis DeJoria. The last time these two drivers squared off Force advanced to the second round even though he red-lit. In a surprising turn of events DeJoria crossed the center-line after smoking the tires and Force advanced due the “first or worst” rule of NHRA with crossing the center-line being a worse infraction than starting early. Force raced to the final that day and secured his spot in the 2012 Countdown.
 
Force’s best run of the weekend was a strong 4.10 second run at 312.64 mph during the first session today.
 
“We did our job again. We got all four of these hot rods into the show and that is what the sponsors like Castrol, Auto Club, Traxxas and Ford pay us to do. My hot rod is coming around. That 4.10 was a good run and I had my hands full on that last run today. I got with (crew chief Mike) Neff and we talked about how we can work through a couple of things. I am excited about getting this Castrol GTX Mustang in the winner’s circle,” said Force.
 
“Courtney and (crew chiefs) Ron Douglas and Danny Hood have that Traxxas Mustang flying. I am real proud of them and we are all getting info from all the teams. We have the One Ford approach over here and we’ll be OK. Robert and Jimmy are working together and I know they will be ready for the fight tomorrow. I am proud of Brittany and that dragster,” said the proud team owner. “They came down to the last run and had to get her in there and Guido (Dean Antonelli) and Eric (Lane) got the job done. That is two races in a row for the Castrol EDGE dragster and we are learning every run. I think they have (Dave) Grubnic from Kalitta Racing so that will be a good race.”
 
The trials and tribulations continue for Robert Hight and the Auto Club team. They made one significant run over the last two days a 4.321 second run that steadily slipped down the qualifying order to wind up as the 16th quickest run of the weekend. That was enough to keep them in the show but they will have to race No. 1 qualifier Johnny Gray. Gray backed up his best time (4.034 seconds) with a 4.045 second run before smoking the tires in the final qualifying session.
 
“We are struggling some, no doubt but we aren’t hanging our heads. We will be ready for Johnny Gray in the first round. (Crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) and (consultation) Ron Armstrong are looking at a couple of things and we’ll get this Auto Club Ford Mustang figured out. We made a lot of changes in the off-season and I am looking forward to seeing some progress. You look at the data and we are right there on the edge of getting some really good numbers,” said Hight.
 

Solid Qualifying Performances for Mopar at Phoenix

Solid Qualifying Performances for Mopar at Phoenix

Two Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars atop qualifying sheet with Gray claiming No.1 qualifier honors and Hagan second
Gaines is top HEMI®-powered Dodge as No. 2 qualifier and among four Mopars in top half of 16-car Pro Stock field
Mopar is 1-2-3 in Pro Stock point standings and 2-3 in Funny Car heading into eliminations on Sunday
Total of seven Dodge Avengers in Pro Stock field and six Dodge Charger R/Ts in Funny Car at Phoenix
 
Phoenix, Ariz. (Saturday, Feb 23) – Mopar drivers and teams rolled out solid qualifying performances for the Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway, the second event on the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. Don Schumacher Racing’s Johnny Gray drove his Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to the top of the scoring sheets in a dominant manner with the two best runs of qualifying, posting a pass of 4.034 seconds at 313.80 mph to earn the top qualifier honors. It is the second consecutive year Gray has earned the pole position at Phoenix and the fourth time of his career.

DSR teammate Matt Hagan put his Mopar into the No. 2 spot with a best run in Friday qualifying of 4.062 sec / 311.20 mph. Fellow DSR driver Ron Capps, currently second in the Funny Car standings on the basis of his runner-up finish in the season opener last weekend, posted the fifth quickest pass, while another Mopar teammate, Jack Beckman, has qualified tenth. Jeff Arend (13th) and Todd Lesenko (14th) bring the total to six Dodge Charger R/T entries in the sixteen qualified positions for the elimination rounds.

In Pro Stock qualifying, all four full-time Mopar entries earned spots in top half of 16-car field for final eliminations with a total of seven Dodge Avengers moving on to compete on Sunday.

V. Gaines led the HEMI®-powered contingency in both Friday qualifying sessions by posting the second quickest elapsed time run of 6.529 sec / 212.63 mph which was good enough to keep him in the No. 2 qualifier position. The No.1 qualifier moniker went to Mike Edwards who set a track record low e.t and top speed of 6.498 sec /213.13 mph.

Mopar’s Allen Johnson posted the best run of the third qualifying session with a 6.542 second, 212.03 mph pass to earn a three point bonus and secure a fifth place spot. Jeg Coughlin Jr., runner-up in the season opener, qualified right behind his teammate in sixth spot.

“We’re steadily making ground with both Mopar cars and the things we tried on mine in the third round, we put on Jeggy’s (Coughlin) car in the fourth round so he picked up a little there,” says Johnson. “We have very raceable cars for tomorrow. We’re not quite as fast as we want to be but we’re close and still leaving a little on the table. Having lane choice is going to be really critical for tomorrow’s racing as the right lane is much better than the left, so we want to maintain lane choice at all costs.”

Last week’s winner at Pomona and Pro Stock points leader Vincent Nobile claimed the eighth quickest qualifying run of the weekend, which means all four Mopar drivers will be given the all-important lane choice for first round of final eliminations. Nobile, Coughlin and Gaines currently hold the top three positions in the points standing while Johnson is in sixth place.

Three additional Dodge Avengers have made the field with Chris McGaha, Matt Hartford and Deric Kramer securing the 12th, 13th and 14th spots respectively.

Chevy Racing–Juan Pablo Montoya

 
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
DAYTONA SPEEDWEEKS
DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
FEBRUARY 23, 2013
 
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed the final practice session, how important getting a good start to the season is and other topics.  FULL TRANSCRIPT:
 
IS THIS THE FIRST TIME YOU HAVE SEEN BULLSEYE THE DOG BEFORE?
“No, the dog we had him…I’ve seen him a couple of times.  I think the last time I saw it was at Target 50th anniversary last year they had the dog there.  It’s amazing.  It’s pretty cool.  With the race suit on, I hadn’t seen it with the race suit on that is pretty cool.”
 
THE RACING SUIT IS AWESOME.
“I think so.  It’s called Bullseye.  It’s a great thing the Target dog.  It’s a cool dog and obedient as hell. (Laughs) not like me.”
 
IS HE A GOOD LUCK CHARM?
“I hope so.  Dario (Franchetti) took him last year to the (Indy) 500 and won.  So, it’s here and I think it would be cool.”
 
SO NO PRESSURE ON THE DOG THEN RIGHT?
“No, or me (laughs).  No, I think it’s pretty cool for everybody on the Target team this is awesome.  We worked really hard this year.  Last year was a tough year for us. We worked really hard and to start this year the way we have been running so far it’s pretty encouraging.”
 
PRACTICE WENT WELL WERE YOU PLEASED WITH EVERYTHING?
“Yeah, we finished third in our Duel and we practiced sixth today.  Yesterday we didn’t do any practice.  Our car seems pretty good.  It’s stable; it does everything that I want the car to do.  You still have to run 500 miles, be there at the end to have a shot at it.”
 
WHAT DID YOU WORK ON IN FINAL PRACTICE?
“A little bit of everything.  We felt we were too tight in the Duels.  I think most of the people were shocked how tight they were.  So we worked on it and we freed it up a little bit and it seemed to work a little better so it’s pretty good.”
 
WHAT IS YOUR STRATEGY FOR THE RACE?  
“We got a good starting spot.  We are starting seventh and I think that is a great thing.  It’s always a big question mark as to what do you do.  You still have to run 200 laps. You still have to be there at the end.  The first 150 doesn’t really matter.”
 
A LOT OF DRIVERS ARE TALKING ABOUT PATIENCE.  THAT DOESN’T SEEM TO GO HAND IN HAND DRIVERS AND PATIENCE:
“You do have to be very patient here.  We haven’t had the 43 cars on the track together yet. I think it might be a little bit different.  If you really think about it you look at the Duels were 20 cars each.  With 20 something cars each you don’t have enough cars to have two proper lanes. I think the race might be a little bit different because if you look at every other race the bottom works.  In our races the top works.  We will see.”
 
SOME DRIVERS HAVE SAID THEY ARE HAPPY THAT ALL THE ATTENTION HAS BEEN ON DANICA (PATRICK) THIS WEEKEND AND IT HAS KIND OF GIVEN THEM A CHANCE TO BE UNDER THE RADAR.  WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?
“I think it was cool for Danica and the sport to have her on pole.  Its attention that is great for everybody, all of us.  But when the green flag drops it’s the same feel for everybody.  Whoever can do the best job over the weekend and on that day is going to take the trophy home.”
 
YOU HAD GREAT LUCK HERE WITH THE ROLEX 24 HOUR WHAT WOULD IT BE LIKE TO BE IN VICTORY LANE ON SUNDAY?
“This year has been really good for me.  I have no complaints.  The Rolex win, I finished third in the Duels, we finished 10th in the Unlimited.  Things are going our way.  After last year I will take any bit of luck.  I’m excited.”
 
IS THERE A LOT OF PRESSURE TO GET THE YEAR OFF ON A GOOD START?
“We work as hard as we can.  That is all I can do.  I drive the car as fast as I can every time I’m in it.  I try to drive the wheels out of it every time.  That is all you can do.”

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