NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
TEAM CHEVY POST RACE NOTES AND QUOTES
AUGUST 4, 2013
KASEY KAHNE SCORES SECOND WIN OF SEASON IN AGGRESSIVE FASHION AT POCONO
CHEVROLET SWEEPS TOP-FIVE FINISHING POSITIONS
LONG POND, Pa. – August 4, 2013 – Kasey Kahne saw a seven-second lead in his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS erased by a late caution, but rallied back on the final restart of the GoBowling.com NASCAR Sprint Cup race to make an impressive pass on the outside in turn two for the win, with two laps remaining. It was a bittersweet win for Kahne in that he had to take it from his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS, on his birthday. With their 1-2 finish today, both drivers moved up one position in the point standings, to eighth and ninth respectively.
Kurt Busch was also hunting for a win in his No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevy SS on a birthday that he shares with Gordon, but brought home a third-place finish. Busch stays very much alive in the hunt for the Chase with his 13th position in the point standings with five races until the cut-off.
Last week’s winner Ryan Newman, No. 39 Haas Automation 30th Anniversary Chevrolet SS, was in the thick of things for much of the race and brought home his second straight top five with a fourth place finish at Pocono Raceway. With the finish, he moves to within nine markers of the final Chase “Wild Card” position.
Another Hendrick Motorsports driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., rounded out the top-five in his No. 88 National Guard Youth Foundation Chevrolet SS to give Team Chevy their first top five sweep of the 2013 season.
After starting on the pole, and leading 43 laps, Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Plane Chevy SS cut a right-front tire at the mid-way point, but consistent repairs by the pit crew enabled him to rally back for an impressive 13th place finish. Johnson remains the series point leader with a 77 point advantage over second.
The next stop on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tour will be Sunday, August 11 on the in road course in Watkins Glen, NY.
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET SS – RACE WINNER
KENNY FRANCIS, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET SS – RACE WINNING CREW CHIEF
THE MODERATOR: Let’s hear from our race winner for today’s 40th Annual GoBowling.com 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race here at Pocono Raceway, and our race winner is Kasey Kahne. He drove the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. It’s Kasey’s 16th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win, his second victory in 2013, and his second win at Pocono. Kasey now is 8th in points in the current championship point standings; however, he’s got two all‑important victories now heading into as we go five races to go before we set the Chase field.
Congratulations, Kasey, certainly an outstanding race down the stretch with you and your teammate Jeff Gordon. Maybe just talk about that final part of that race there, that last restart. Let’s go back to the restart before that. You had the lead, caution came out, Gordon took the lead. Maybe just kind of go back over that for us, because that was some really good racing.
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I just felt like we had our Farmers Insurance Chevy was the best car. Kenny called a great race with strategy and kept me in the front the whole time once we got there. We started 18th, so we had a little ways to go, but we were gaining on the leaders from the time the race went green off of everything I could see with markers and things.
But, yeah, when the caution came out, we had a pretty big lead. I knew Jeff was going to be tough. I felt like he was beating me on restarts a little bit. I always struggle on them. I need to work on that and just keep getting better with my starts, but he got a great start.
He was on my left rear off of turn one, and was able to kind of side draft me down the backstretch and just stayed under me. He finally got by off turn three. So at that point, I just tried to stay with him. We had five laps, so I thought I may get another opportunity to get by, but it was tough. It seemed like with him in clean air; it was going to take more than five laps. It was going to take more like ten laps.
Then the caution came out, and on that caution, I just knew it was two laps to go, it’s whoever gets the lead, whoever gets clear is going to win the race.
I had some help from Kurt Busch, pushed me down the front stretch, and I just drove into one as far as I felt I could, and I got some speed and momentum down the back and beat Jeff to turn two. That was kind of the race at that point. Once I cleared him getting into two, from there it was just don’t make a mistake and try to run the quick lap on that last one.
THE MODERATOR: Kenny Francis, congratulations on the win here today. You and Kasey Kahne certainly have teamed up over the years to turn in a lot of wins. But this has to be one of the more, I would think, gratifying wins that you all have put together.
KENNY FRANCIS: Yeah, they’re definitely all important, but this one was pretty special looking at all the crazy stuff that’s happened to us over the summer and the past eight to ten weeks. We’ve had a lot of good race cars and didn’t have much to show for it. So to come here and dominate the race and get the win in the end, that was pretty cool.
So that was a really cool pass he made on that last restart. We were all about to jump off the box when he did that. So, you know, it was kind of nerve‑racking. You’re sitting there racing your teammate, and you want them to have a good finish too. But at the end of the day, we’re out for ourselves. I’m just thankful that we were able to get the win.
Q. When you saw the extra caution come out, what was going through your mind? First of all, you got three guys behind you who are desperate for wins. You know, Junior just, he’s good in the point standings, but he still would like to win desperately. Then Jeff and Kurt that really need a victory to solidify their chase aspirations. I mean, what was going through your mind?
KASEY KAHNE: I just knew that it would probably be three‑wide going into turn one and down that front stretch everybody gets such a good run. The draft comes into play as you come up through the gears. So it was just crucial getting into one and getting to the backstretch. I was able to drive in. My braking and the way the car was set up, I could drive into one and into two really hard all day long. So I felt like if I got there and I was close to anyone, I could drive in as far or further than them, and that’s what we were able to do.
I knew I had my hands full because those guys want to win just as bad as we do. I needed one bad. I felt like our team did. We’ve been, like Kenny said, we’ve been really fast this whole season, especially through the summer months. Just things have happened and we don’t have much to show for, but today we finished it off and put a full race together.
Q. Kasey and Kenny, talking about some of those issues this race in June, you didn’t even get to finish the first lap before you had to pull into the garage, and now this one you were in victory lane. If I remember correctly in that race, you felt once you got the situation fixed, you were running really strong. So what does it feel like to capitalize on what you may have had in June?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, this was the same car. So Friday we started practice similar to that and felt really close to how
I felt in June. The track didn’t change much and the tire didn’t change. So it was not having practice yesterday didn’t bother me at all because I knew that we had put 40, 45 minutes in on Friday and we’re in a good spot.
Just preparation, the guys did a great job, Kenny and the whole team, bringing back the same car. It was fast the first time we were here, and we were able to show how fast it was today.
KENNY FRANCIS: Yeah, that first race, we had that U‑joint problem and went behind the wall, and it took us about 50 laps to figure it out and get it sorted back out. But we went out and ran that whole rest of that race and started off kind of easing around there and realized how fast the car was. It was after the race, it was amazing how many other crew chiefs and crew members and stuff came up to us over the next few weeks. We were like, wow, I can’t believe how fast your car was. So it was cool to bring that same car back and actually win the race. It doesn’t always happen that you come back the next time to Pocono and the set‑up works. Usually you’re scrambling again.
Just fortunate that we hit on such a good set‑up on the first event that transferred over.
Q. Little bit more about the emotions of coming back to Pocono, as I heard in your post-race television interview, you mentioned Jason Leffler and another friend who had been in the hospital, and Eldora had happened a couple of weeks ago, and you only had one break. Was it a little emotional coming back? You recalled leaving and hanging out with Jason? Just you’re a family it seems in the NASCAR community. Your job goes on and on, so was there some kind of poignant memory coming back here since June?
KASEY KAHNE: I think there definitely is. I think this summer has been tough on some racers. A lot of things have happened with people I know and different guys involved in racing. Jason, I thought about it on my way up here on Friday, I was like, man, the last time I was here he flew with me here and flew back with me. Just me and him. We spent a bunch of time together and then that happened that Wednesday. So it was tough.
There are so many people that are good friends with Jason and knew him really well, so I just wanted to mention something about him. Then Gary Zeronian is a guy that when I moved to Indianapolis in ’99, I met Gary, and we became really good friends and I drove his Silver Crown car on and off for a few different years, probably like three or four years. We won some races together.
He’s just a great guy. He was at Indy with us. We had lunch and spent Sunday together. He was at the car before we took off for the race, and then after the race he had a heart attack walking to his car. So he’s been in Methodist all week, but he’s recovering.
I think it’s just been a tough summer, and I wanted to mention some of that because a lot of my friends feel the same way about those two guys. So I just said something when I was in that interview.
Q. Kasey, on the second to last restart, you chose the outside and Jeff Gordon passes you. On the last restart he chooses the inside. Did you have any regrets that you should have chosen the inside on the second to last restart and when he chose the inside did you think this is my second chance and it’s going to come to me?
KASEY KAHNE: I thought Jeff would probably choose the inside because I knew he was good down there throughout the whole race. I had the restart on the inside early in the race and stuck with Keselowski until I cleared him.
So I felt good about being down there, but to me it was more about getting momentum off turn one. When Jeff gave me the outside, I was pretty happy about that because I thought that that may have given me a chance and an opportunity to get back by him. It’s tough though.
You go down the front stretch, everybody’s pushing and the air is working differently, the transmissions and gear ratios are a little different, so everybody has a different run. Then once you get to turn one, if you miss your mark a little bit, you don’t pick up the throttle, he hits it right. That’s what he did to me on the start before. He just got off turn one a little bit better than I did and was able to get the lead.
So it’s all so close. The competition and I think my car and Jeff’s on those restarts were really similar. I don’t know. It could have gone either way, and I’m just glad I didn’t give that one away, because I knew we had the best car. If I didn’t win the race today, I would have felt pretty bad about giving it away.
Q. Is it getting tougher on restarts to know which lane to choose?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, because I ‑‑ I mean, I don’t know. I think everybody’s car you kind of have the spot that you want to be and you’re looking for. Jeff was tight so he wanted to be on the white line and try to hook his tire on it, he was telling me after the race. But you’re thinking about going down the straightaway, some tracks you have more grip on the inside or outside on the initial start, and other tracks once you get to the corner, you have more grip on the inside or outside. So just how do you play that?
A lot of times the leader is just in control and can make that work. But with these long straightaways, it seems that this place is a little more difficult as a leader. I think everybody’s just a little bit closer together on these starts, so it could go either way.
Q. It doesn’t matter and we’ll never know, would you have caught Jeff without the last caution or ‑‑ you were making up ground, but was it enough time that you even worry about that now?
KASEY KAHNE: I don’t know. I felt like that first lap I was right with him, and the second lap I was on him and got loose in the middle of three, and he pulled me down the front stretch and I was reeling him back in. I think we had two to go or three to go. So we would have definitely had a shot.
We had speed. I could move around. But to actually clear him and make the pass, I think it would have been really difficult. So I’m glad that second caution came out there and gave us another shot.
Q. Those restarts, obviously there are always a lot of hair‑raising moments in the cars. Can you get a sense of what kind of hold‑your‑breath moments those restarts were or any more so than what you guys go through a lot of race weekends at the end of the race? Can you also talk about just how Kurt Busch pushing you, how that helped and how that was such a factor for you on that last restart?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I think the hair‑raising spots are when somebody’s pushing you and they can hook you a little bit. I think it happened with Newman and with Dale. Both times it got me kind of whipping right before I got to turn one, so that will get your attention. Then just trying to drive into turn one as far as you can and downshift to third and still make the corner and not enter too hard and push your tires, but go as hard as you possibly can.
So those are the spots that, to me, are interesting. I think the further you get back in the pack where the air is ‑‑ more guys have runs and things like that, they’ll get three and four wide, that is a tougher spot. When you’re coming off the front row it seems you can enter the corner about two wide, which isn’t too bad.
But, yeah, Kurt pushing me was key. I don’t know if he had a lot of places to go when he first got to me, because we weren’t to the line, so he had to push me. At that point we got through the gears fine and we just kind of h
ooked together like we were at Daytona and started making ground, and we were catching those guys all the way to turn one and then drove up beside Jeff once I got there.
Q. Kenny, I heard you tell Kasey near the end that he had a different second gear than what Jeff had. Can you talk about the decision to choose the certain gear? Also, is that something that is common in all organizations? Is that something that each team gets to choose or would other organizations say everybody’s running the same gear?
KENNY FRANCIS: I think it’s pretty common that different drivers and different driving styles use different ratios. Everywhere I’ve been, it’s been multi‑car teams. But here in particular, NASCAR changed the rule for second gear for this particular race, so I think there were a number of different people trying philosophies. So that is the advantage of having your teammate and you know what he’s got.
He knew that already. I just wanted to make sure he remembered.
KASEY KAHNE: Jeff knew we had it too because he slowed down on that restart, so that would benefit him with the ratios. I noticed that. I knew he was going to. But, yeah, Jeff knew what was going on.
KENNY FRANCIS: Yeah.
Q. He said that he did, yeah.
KASEY KAHNE: Did he? Yeah.
KENNY FRANCIS: No one really knew what to do. With the lack of practice, we didn’t really get a chance to do any restart simulations, which we were planning on doing. Here, it’s not like another ‑‑ here you’re allowed to change ratios through the weekend, so we had some opportunity to play with it if we’d had practice.
So I think there was just some uncertainty with the rule change and wondering what the right answer was. I think we picked the wrong answer, but luckily we got away with it.
Q. You got that all‑important second win today as far as towards the Chase. You talked about you haven’t had anything to show for it the last couple of weeks. You probably thought you were a championship contender all along, but does this win kind of signal to maybe some of the other people that, hey, don’t forget about us, we can make some noise if we make the Chase?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I feel like it does. It gives myself confidence and gives the whole team confidence, Kenny, and the pit crew guys and everybody that’s part of it. It closes the gap. If we finish in the top 10 and get into the Chase, it will be closer to Matt and Jimmie who already have four wins. So I think wins are key for sure.
Then just for our points, I mean, the Chase is what it’s all about in NASCAR. I mean, you need to make it for the sponsors, for the teams. We’ve been right there on the edge with kind of the way our summer went. So it was nice to get two wins. It gives us much more hope going in. We’ll just start a lot closer.
KENNY FRANCIS: I think also it gives you a little more flexibility to be able to take more risks in the upcoming races. You’ve already got your two wins. There is a good chance you’re going to make the Chase either way, so now you can maybe take a little more risk. Where if this doesn’t work out, it could hurt bad. Now you’ve got something to fall back on now.
There was a call today we had to make that was a little risky that I thought, well, we’ll just have to do it and see. It was one of those two‑tire stops and we couldn’t quite get as much gas in it as we wanted, or if we did, it was going to take more time. So definitely having another win gives you some more opportunity to play a little different strategy or take a chance or maybe take a chance on your set‑up before the race or something like that in the upcoming races.
KENNY FRANCIS: It was one of the yellow flag stops where we took two tires. It was, I don’t remember, two‑thirds of the way through the race or something.
Q. I think we covered this when you won in 2008 here, but I think you spent some time on some of the smaller tracks around here a few years ago when you were just coming up. Can you talk about coming back here and what it means to you to win here? Can you also talk about the unpredictability of the races here? We had a very different race here in June; can you explain why these races are so crazy in varying differences?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I felt like the track was really similar today to what it was in June. Not a lot of change in the racetrack and the tire and the combination of the cars and things. So the race may have played out a little different today, but I felt pretty similar to how I did in June.
Yeah, I raced a lot in Pennsylvania. Raced Sprint Cars and midgets and things around here. I lived in Tower City for like a month and a half one year, which was hard on me. That was a long time in Tower City. But I had a good roommate, Rick Hawk. I lived with him and his family, so we had a lot going on.
But it was cool. Pennsylvania racing is tough. All the Sprint car racing is really hard, really difficult. The guys are on top of their game all the time, so it’s a good spot for myself when I was in Sprint cars to race and learn. I felt like I made a lot of gains when I was racing around here.
Q. The Hendrick cars the last two weeks in particular have been really, really strong or cars with Hendrick engines too. Is it more difficult or easier to close a gap or gain an advantage when you’re trying to do it against your teammate versus another organization?
KENNY FRANCIS: I think it’s more difficult. Those guys are hard to race. It’s hard to beat Jimmie and Jeff and Dale and the Stewart‑Haas cars are strong. They’ve been getting stronger every week for the past couple months. I don’t know. What do you think?
KASEY KAHNE: I think it’s more difficult. You know you have very similar cars and engines and all of that, so you know you can run those lap times and things if one of the other guys is beating you. But at the same time, when someone hits on something and it’s working for them, it’s tough. Jimmie and Chad do the best job of that each year.
I have a great team with Kenny and Keith and all the guys behind us. I feel like we can run with them if we do everything right. So we’re just doing the best job we can and trying to get to that point and have some confidence here when we enter the Chase.
THE MODERATOR: Kasey and Kenny, congratulations on certainly a big win here today at Pocono, and we’ll see you at Watkins Glen.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED SECOND
KURT BUSCH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING/DENVER MATTRESS CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED THIRD
THE MODERATOR: We’re going to roll into our post-race for today’s 40th Annual GoBowling.com 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race here at Pocono Raceway. Our race runner‑up is Jeff Gordon.
JEFF GORDON: Could you have fixed that last caution for me?
THE MODERATOR: I tell you, Jeff, yeah. The race runner‑up is Jeff Gordon. He drove the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, and certainly, Jeff, as you alluded to here right now, you had that race in your grasp there. That last caution came out, and certainly it was tough to overcome the 5 car. He had a great run on you there.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, he was superfast all day. I mean, those guys they deserved and earned that win today. We had them though. We certainly had the position. We got a good restart. I’m pretty
disappointed that I allowed them to get to the outside of me down in one. That is the advantage you have of being second. Just like the restart before that, I had a little bit of an advantage by being in second to get position on him. And I thought that last one that I did everything I needed to do, and I looked in my mirror and I really thought that the inside lane got a good run on Kasey, so I thought all I needed to do was get in here and get the bottom and I’d be good. But, man, he got a killer run and blasted on the outside of me. Caught me by surprise, I’ll be honest. In that case, and in that scenario, it just kills your momentum.
So I feel fortunate to finish second. I feel like we had a great day all in all, and I’m very proud of that. It’s something we can build a lot of momentum on. Yeah, I’m frustrated right now because we had a shot at it. We know how important wins are, but second is a great points day for us as well.
THE MODERATOR: Ninth in points right now, Jeff. We’ll take questions for Jeff Gordon.
Q. You alluded to this, but as we saw in the truck race yesterday and to a large extent today, being the leader on the restart didn’t seem to be an advantage. Could you just comment on that a little bit?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, the bigger the rear spoilers get on the vehicles, cars, trucks, the bigger hole you’re punching in the air and easier it is for guys to get runs either behind you or stall you on that side. But that wasn’t necessarily the case today for me in that last restart.
I got a good restart. I think I caught them off guard. I took off a little early, maybe. It was questionable. Yet, I got up in front of him and did what I felt like I needed to do, but, obviously, that wasn’t the case.
Yeah, once he got to the outside of me, then that same scenario and aerodynamics really stalled the car out and put me in a bad position going into the tunnel turn. I really just kind of had to give it up at that point.
The caution before that, I was able to get the run and be the car that was in a better position. You know, he did a great job. I mean, that’s all you can say.
Kurt Busch, come on up here and have some fun with me. Come on.
THE MODERATOR: Kurt Busch, the birthday boy.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, absolutely, let’s celebrate.
Q. Kind of following up on what he was asking, Kasey chose the outside on the restart prior to that, and I think most guys were choosing the outside all day long. Was that not a consideration for you because you had taken the lead by being on the inside and choosing the outside wasn’t even a given?
JEFF GORDON: I was terrible on the outside all day. The outside is good if you have the run on the exit, but I was having so much trouble getting in the corner on the outside that I was more afraid of losing it that way. My goal was to get a good restart and have the lane to myself, which I did.
Now, looking back on it, I probably would have rather put him on the inside. If I had known I was going to get that good of a restart, I think I would have rather put him on the inside and then I don’t think he could have gotten to the outside of me.
It doesn’t matter. You’ll go through that a million ‑‑ I’ll go through that a million times. Listen, I’ve given away a lot more races than I’ve won. So whether it’s restarts ‑‑ I mean, I’ve missed shifts here before. So I’m happy that we were in position. I’m bummed that it worked out the way it did. I’ll try to do it better the next time, and hopefully it works out.
THE MODERATOR: Let’s now hear from our third place finisher in today’s race and that’s Kurt Busch. He drove the No. 78 Furniture Row Denver Mattress Chevrolet to a fine showing here today.
Kurt, congratulations on a good performance. Kurt’s 13th place, but he’s only 11 points out of that top 10 position, so it gets very interesting now with five to go before we set the Chase field. Kurt, congratulations.
KURT BUSCH: Thanks, Kerry. It was definitely a run that we were able to close the chapter, so to speak, on having a little problems here or little problems there. What I mean by that is we executed really well today with pit strategy, the pit stops, two tires, four tires, and to be in position at the end.
We even, when the 48 had their trouble and hit the fence and threw debris out on the track, we were even able to get into the pits before they closed them and get some tires on the car. So that’s just Todd Berrier, a head’s up call.
The way we made changes to the car, it just seems like the team is flowing really well, and I’m excited for this portion of the season, because we now getting to back to all these tracks a second time, and we have fresh notes of working together on this Furniture Row Chevy team.
What I’m happy about is this group of guys, we’re small, but we can shoot from the hip a lot and make up a lot of ground by being aggressive with going back to a track a second time knowing exactly what we did wrong the first time around.
So even though we didn’t win, I feel good about this third place finish. Even though we didn’t gain points, this was a championship‑effort‑type day.
Q. Kasey was told something on his radio before that next to last restart, that him and you had different second gears. Is there or what is the reason for that?
JEFF GORDON: Because I wanted the one that I had and he wanted the one that he had. I mean, NASCAR has given us the flexibility to play around with second and third gear. We shift here and that’s probably why. So we felt like we were getting beat on the restarts the last time we were here, so, as a company, we adjusted that and they went a little further than we did. I think it helped me.
But when you get that good start, you’ve got to make the most of it, and that’s where I feel like I let the ball drop there. But, yeah, we did have a little bit different, and we knew that going in. He was having pretty decent restarts all day long. They were very minor. I mean, we’re talking little tiny bits of difference.
Q. How critical was that last pit stop, and you did fight back from that, but did that play out in the end result or whatever?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I felt like our last pit stop wasn’t ‑‑ it wasn’t great, and maybe it was a little less than average, so it put us behind the 24 and the 39. I was trying to hustle as much as I could on those fresh tires to get in front of those guys, and it didn’t materialize. So when you’re pushing hard early and then you get stuck behind guys, it just adds to some of the ill‑handling of the car.
So, yeah, I mean, this is a game where you have to be perfect, and getting on and off pit road is my duty and the time that we spend in the box is the pit crew’s, and we win as a team and we finish third as a team.
Q. Jeff and Kurt, for you guys, we talked on Friday about the inconsistency of all the guys that are in this fight to get into the Chase. At this point, it’s not a win, but just putting together a couple of good finishes in a row and doing that for a few weeks, do you think that’s going to be enough to make up the difference, because everybody can’t seem to get it together for more than a couple weeks in a row?
JEFF GORDON: Well, for us, I feel like we’ve pulled together some decent finishes but it hasn’t been pretty. Today was an impressive run for us internally. Just well‑executed, like Kurt was saying, good stops. Everything just kind of went ou
It’s too competitive. The cars are too tight in how they’re built, how they perform, and everybody’s too good on pit road, and the drivers and the crew chiefs. So you’ve got to execute well.
I feel like we’ve been fortunate to get some of the top 10s that we’ve gotten here recently, and today I felt like we finally actually went out and earned that one.
KURT BUSCH: To follow up, I feel like we’ve been fast every week when we unload and practice, and we qualify well and we start the race decent. We’re just not closing the door. Today was one of those finishes where we closed the door, and it just gets me so excited to know that an area that we’re weak in, we need to polish up on it and fix it. The only way we’re going to make the Chase is to fix that weak area.
The way that you run consistent, even though Jeff finished second today and Biffle finished top 10, Truex, I think, was struggling today and came back and finished 15th. This is a competitive group. The top seven guys, I would say, are locked in. Kahne probably moved himself into a pretty good spot with two wins now, but there is still a lot of see‑saw going on with guys. Like Biffle with one win, Stewart with a win, Truex with one win, and me and Jeff are winless, but here we are finishing second and third, so it’s tight.
Q. First of all, you’re top 5 this race is all Chevrolet. So want to talk about your confidence in that manufacturer, and also with Watkins Glen coming up, you talk about a lot of these tracks you’ve come back to for a second race. But Watkins Glen is a one‑off. It’s the second road course, but just this one race coming up, you’re both excellent road course racers. Obviously, Jeff you have several wins, Kurt, not at the Glen, but you have a win and you’re a strong road course racer. How much effort are you putting into that race? I know they’re all important, but the notebook is looking for those second visits to the other tracks, but talk to me about Watkins Glen?
JEFF GORDON: You approach Watkins Glen like every track. It’s a track that you have to go perform well at. I think the competition has gotten so much stronger at the road courses than it used to be. Where I used to go to the road courses feeling confident that we were going to gain points and have a shot at winning, these days, I’ve got to fight hard to get a top 10.
But I feel good about our road course program this year. We finished good at Sonoma. Felt like we learned a lot at the end of the second half of the race at Watkins Glen last year. We kind of more did a test more for Watkins Glen than we did for Sonoma prior to Sonoma, so I’m hoping that pays off.
But I’m looking forward to the Glen. This stretch of races that are coming up, I think it’s one of the reasons we made the Chase last year. They’re just good tracks for us, and if we can start to put the execution together with the performance, I feel like we have a shot at staying in the top 10. You always want those wins, as Kurt was alluding to because you don’t want to see yourself just squeak outside the top 10 and then not have the win.
We’re going to be on ‑‑ the closer we get to Richmond, the more aggressive we get. But I also think consistent top 5s would do it. I think that would get us in. But that’s a lot to ask for. But I think the Glen is a race we can perform well at.
KURT BUSCH: For us, we actually went and used one of our NASCAR tests at Watkins Glen, and I’m glad we did. I feel like there are track that’s I’m good on, and I feel like there are tracks that I struggle on. When we went there, we opened up Pandora’s Box with some braking issues, brakes, so we were able to master that by the end, and I feel very confident now heading back there not to just have speed in qualifying but to have speed throughout the race. It’s an important race. Sonoma is on the calendar in June, and the middle of August is much more important.
Q. Kurt, I saw you guys looking at the replay. Can you talk about the last restart, because it seemed maybe Kasey got a little bit of a slower start and Jeff got a really good one, and maybe you kind of gave Kasey a little bit of a push there?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, man, what’s up?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I was waiting to get out of here before Jeff saw that.
The way it all turned out is Jeff just caught Kahne sleeping. I’ve seen Kahne struggle a little bit on some restarts, and when he did, he slipped the tires at least twice. Then when he shifted to third gear, it was all wrong again, and I hesitated. My front bumper hit his rear bumper, and the only option I had at that point was to push.
I could have went four wide or five wide. I mean, the 88 got to my inside, and at that moment I was just hoping for the best. Who knew Kahne was going to squeak out and get alongside the 24 and beat him down into turn two. So the only option I had was to push him at that point, and it’s just the way that things fall.
It wasn’t premeditated. It wasn’t planned. Gordon went from winning to finishing second, and Kahne went from finishing second up to winning. My car might have had something to do with the draft on the outside lane.
Q. Kurt, you’re up to 13th, 11 points out of 10th. If you top 5 the rest of the way or top 10 the rest of the way do you feel like you’ll make the Chase?
KURT BUSCH: We just need to have nice, smooth races and execute just like today. What’s amazing is we finished 14th last week and gained one point. We finish third this week and gained two points, so it’s so tight.
When you’re running against Jeff Gordon, a four‑time champion, Keselowski, a champion from last year is in this mix, Biffle is strong, Truex won earlier at Sonoma, this group of guys are all Chase material. For us, we’re just putting the blinders on and worried about the 78, and I’m just excited to go back to these tracks a second time and execute with the mistakes we made the first time around.
Q. Chevrolets sweep the top 5 today; I think Chevy has had six of the top seven at Indy. These are tracks that are usually indicative of how you guys run it at the big speedways. Is the difference that pronounced? Does Chevrolet have that much of an edge at this point in terms of horsepower and everything?
JEFF GORDON: I’ve never driven a Ford or Toyota, so I don’t know.
KURT BUSCH: Let me answer that. I’ve driven them all.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, go for it.
KURT BUSCH: No, go ahead.
JEFF GORDON: Not driving those, I don’t know. I know we’re making great power at Hendrick. I’m very happy with my horsepower. I think that our cars are really good right now as well. Chevy certainly contributes to that in their research and development in how they work with the teams. I know three of those top 5 were Hendrick cars.
I think Jimmie had an issue, I think he would have finished in the top 5 too. So Hendrick cars last week and this week were pretty strong.
But, honestly, I give Kurt a lot of credit, because those guys ran so well earlier in the year at some of these bigger tracks doing some things that our Spies out there capture, and we had to go to work because we were getting beat by some things that we weren’t trying and doing. We went to work, and I think we’ve made some gains.
Q. Do you have any thoughts?
KURT BUSCH: When I saw the group of Hendrick cars up front, it’s that sheer torque that they have on corner exit. I had the chance to drive the Phoenix Raci
ng Chevy, and it might not have had 100% effort, and what I mean by that is they didn’t go to the chassis dine owe a lot, so some of the power might have been lost in the drive train.
But to experience the low‑end torque, it shows up here every time you have a corner exit. In turns 1, 2, and 3, and the Hendrick power just has great power on the low end.
I think where I am with the ECR Engine and Childress’ group, they have great top end, and that shows when we unload, and the track is fast, and we keep the RPMs up. That is just a little difference, and that is just a little difference in Chevys versus the Fords.
The Toyotas the first time here were detuned a little bit, so we were able to take advantage of that the first time. But overall the Hendrick guys last week, there were four of the top 5. It’s a combination that when they start rolling, it’s a tough steamroller to slow down.
Q. Jeff, when you took the lead from Kasey coming off the restart, that was great racing. How hard is it, how fun is it to go two‑wide all the way around this track?
JEFF GORDON: It’s not something I recommend, but it was necessary at the time. To be honest, I got a good restart on him on the inside, and I was able to pull in there and get even with him into one. I tried to roll around the bottom to get a good shot off and he slipped. I was pretty surprised I was able to actually get to his left rear and by catching him where I did, sort of like he did with me, it just stalled him out, and I had a good run going into the tunnel.
I was pretty aggressive through there to hold the position. Because I thought if I could get underneath him or stay underneath him going into three, it seemed like the inside was the preferred line. The outside was pretty slick and that was the case. He kind of had to give it up to me when we got to three.
I was driving as hard as I knew how to drive once I got in front of him and when I was up beside him. But at the same time, he’s your teammate. He’s a good friend of mine, and the last thing I wanted to do was wreck either one of us as well. But he was fighting hard, I was fighting hard, and it was fun.
When it all ends up like that and you’re the leader, it’s a lot of fun. I didn’t want to see that last caution that’s for sure. He was better than me. He was going to catch me, whether he could have passed me, I’m not sure.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, Jeff, Kurt, congratulations on a strong performance today, and we’ll see you at Watkins Glen.
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