Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Revised Sprint Cup Standings following Daytona 500













1 --   Matt Kenseth 47 - 1 1 1 1 0 202
2 -1   Dale Earnhardt Jr. 42 -5 1 0 1 1 0 202
3 -2   Greg Biffle 42 -5 1 0 1 1 0 202
4 -3   Denny Hamlin 42 -5 1 0 1 1 0 202
5 -4   Jeff Burton 40 -7 1 0 1 1 0 202
6 -5   Paul Menard 39 -8 1 0 0 1 0 202
7 -6   Kevin Harvick 37 -10 1 0 0 1 0 202
8 -7   Carl Edwards 36 -11 1 0 0 1 0 202
9 -8   Joey Logano 36 -11 1 0 0 1 0 202
10 --   Mark Martin 35 -12 1 0 0 1 0 202
11 -10   Clint Bowyer 33 -14 1 0 0 0 0 202
12 -11   Martin Truex Jr. 33 -14 1 0 0 0 0 202
13 -12   Marcos Ambrose 31 -16 1 0 0 0 0 202
14 --   Bobby Labonte 30 -17 1 0 0 0 0 202
15 --   Dave Blaney 30 -17 1 0 0 0 0 202
16 -15   Tony Stewart 29 -18 1 0 0 0 0 202
17 -16   Kyle Busch 27 -20 1 0 0 0 0 202
18 --   Terry Labonte 27 -20 1 0 0 0 0 202
19 --   Tony Raines 25 -22 1 0 0 0 0 202
20 -19   Ryan Newman 23 -24 1 0 0 0 0 202
21 --   Landon Cassill 22 -25 1 0 0 0 0 202
22 --   David Gilliland 21 -26 1 0 0 0 0 201
23 --   Regan Smith 21 -26 1 0 0 0 0 200
24 --   Casey Mears 19 -28 1 0 0 0 0 199
25 --   David Reutimann 18 -29 1 0 0 0 1 196
26 -25   Kasey Kahne 15 -32 1 0 0 0 1 189
27 --   Michael McDowell 14 -33 1 0 0 0 0 189
28 -27   Jamie McMurray 13 -34 1 0 0 0 1 188
29 -28   Brad Keselowski 12 -35 1 0 0 0 1 187
30 --   Aric Almirola 11 -36 1 0 0 0 1 187
31 -30   A J Allmendinger 10 -37 1 0 0 0 0 177
32 -31   Juan Pablo Montoya 8 -39 1 0 0 0 1 159
33 --   David Stremme 7 -40 1 0 0 0 1 156
34 -33   Kurt Busch 5 -42 1 0 0 0 0 113
35 -34   Jeff Gordon 5 -42 1 0 0 0 1 81
36 --   Robby Gordon 3 -44 1 0 0 0 1 25
37    David Ragan 1 -46 1 0 0 0 1 1
38 --   Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 0 -47 1 0 0 0 0 202
39 --   Elliott Sadler 0 -47 1 0 0 0 0 196
40 --   Joe Nemechek 0 -47 1 0 0 0 0 194
41 --   Trevor Bayne 0 -47 1 0 0 0 0 164
42 --   Danica Patrick 0 -47 1 0 0 0 0 138
49    Jimmie Johnson -23 -70 1 0 0 0 1 1
43    Michael Waltrip

0 0 0 0
44    Robert Richardson Jr.

0 0 0 0
45    Bill Elliott

0 0 0 0
46    Mike Wallace

0 0 0 0
47    Kenny Wallace

0 0 0 0
48    J.J. Yeley

0 0 0 0

SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500k: Martin Truex Jr Race Preview

CORNELIUS, N.C. — No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. didn’t lead the lap he wanted to lead in Monday night’s Daytona 500. But, he led the second most important lap.

Truex collected the $200,000 “Daytona 500 Mid-Race Leader Award” for leading at the completion of the 100th lap in the 200-lap race at Daytona. The award combined with his 11th-place purse money made Monday’s payday of $535,052 the richest in Truex’s 226-race NASCAR Sprint Cup career.

Truex and the No. 56 team now travel to Phoenix International Raceway for Sunday’s race. The No. 56 will sport a special black paint scheme. It launches NAPA’s $19.99 oil change special and it’s only $12.99 after a mail-in $7 rebate.

TRUEX ON DAYTONA BONUS: “That was pretty cool and a heck of a way to start the season. I have to say thanks to Denny Hamlin for pushing me to the lead. I think it was a great thing the track added to the race. We sure knew what was on the line. We were pretty pumped up about getting it.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR. ON RETURNING TO PHOENIX: “This track is one of my favorites. Last race, we raced in the top 10 all day until we got put down a lap when the caution came out when we were in the pits. I am anxious to get back out there with our new chassis. I think we have a car that can win this race. Chad has a good idea of what our NAPA Toyota needs for me to run well. Our focus is on Turns 3 and 4, but we also need a strong throttle off of Turn 2 so I can carry the momentum into the final corners.”

TRUEX ON RUNNING THE NAPA FILTERS TOYOTA: “Our Phoenix car has been on the shop floor for several weeks now. It looks awesome. I’ve always loved driving a black car as it reminds me of my hero, Dale Earnhardt.”

CREW CHIEF CHAD JOHNSTON ON NAPA TEAM’S PROGRESS: “I believe this race is a good indication on the strength of this team and our ability to compete against the usual powerhouses in NASCAR over the long haul. We’ve come a long way. I think it helps that Martin and I have similar personalities. Martin also realizes now that this entire team is in this together and our successes or failures do not fall squarely on his shoulders.”

Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 Team Penalized For Infractions At Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 29, 2012) – NASCAR has issued penalties, suspensions and fines to the No. 48 team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as a result of rules infractions found on Feb. 17 during opening day inspection for the Daytona 500.

The No. 48 car was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the rule book or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event); and 20-2.1E (if in the judgment of NASCAR officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance will not be permitted – unapproved car body modifications).

As a result, crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec have been suspended from the next six (6) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship events, suspended from NASCAR until April 18 and placed on NASCAR probation until May 9. Additionally, Knaus has been fined $100,000.

Driver Jimmie Johnson and car owner Jeff Gordon have been penalized with the loss of 25 driver and 25 owner points, respectively.

Source: NASCAR, Press Release

Hendrick Motorsports Statement Regarding Suspensions

Hendrick Motorsports Statement Regarding Suspensions

CONCORD, N.C. – Hendrick Motorsports will appeal sanctions announced today by NASCAR related to the No. 48 Sprint Cup Series team.
“Our organization respects NASCAR and the way the sanctioning body governs our sport,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “In this case, though, the system broke down, and we will voice our concerns through the appeal process.”
Adjustments to No. 48 team personnel are not planned while the appeal is ongoing.

NASCAR suspends Jimmie Johnson's Crew and Car Chief

Knaus faces six race suspension
Per,  NASCAR has suspended two members of Jimmie Johnson's Sprint Cup team following infractions found at Daytona International Speedway, but Hendrick Motorsports has already filed an appeal. NASCAR announced Wednesday that crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec have been suspended from the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship events, suspended from NASCAR until April 18 and placed on NASCAR probation until May 9.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Daytona 500: Juan Pablo Montoya Post-Race Q&A

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – Sidelined in crash with jet dryer truck on lap 160

“I’m ok. My foot hurt, but I’m ok. For as big of a hit that way; I’m pretty good to be honest.”

“Something fell in the rear of the car and the car just spun into the jet dryer. I felt a vibration and came in. They looked at everything and everything was ok and I still told them ‘I think there is something broke’ and I was coming back into the pits and the car just spun by itself.”

“He came with me (in the ambulance). He was pretty scared, but he looked ok.”

“I told them when I left the pits something wasn’t right and I felt a weird vibration when we were with the pack. Every time I got on the gas, it vibrated. So, I came back in and they checked all the rear-end and they said it was ok. I was going down the back straightaway, and I was going in fourth gear, but, we weren’t even going that fast. Every time I got on the gas I could feel the rear really squeezing. I got on the brakes to travel up and while I was telling the spotter to have a look on how the rear was moving, the car just turned right.”

“To be honest with you, it is tough. We were running a really smart race. Everyone on the Target Chevy really did a good job today. Just move on to Phoenix.”

“I did the pit stop and when I came out of the pits I felt a vibration in second gear. I told them I think either a transmission broke or something. I went to third gear and when I accelerated the vibration came back. I came back into the pits, they looked at everything tight and ok. I went again and I was in fourth gear. I wasn’t even going that fast and it was moving and traveling a lot. It just felt really strange, as I was talking on the radio the car just turned right.”

“Oh yeah, it burned the helmet and everything. It’s not where you want to finish the Daytona 500. Everybody on the Target team, with this great Chevy car, did an amazing job today. We didn’t bump anybody, nobody bumped us, and we only had 40 laps to go. I thought we had a great car. I thought we were in the right place. Everything was working well and go through that, it sucks.”

“My foot hurts. I was full on the brakes and when I hit, I hit driver’s side and my foot slipped onto the clutch and it scratched the top of my foot.” 

“I have hit a lot of things, but a jet dryer? I mean, no.”

“No, I was too busy. I really got out of the car fast. I looked up and I saw the guy out of the jet dryer. I saw a little bit of fire, my car was on fire. I saw the ambulance and walked to the ambulance.”

“I am always really quick to get out of the car. In open-wheel they always check you at the beginning of the year and you have a certain time you have to get out. You really learn to get out of the car fast.”

“I am sure he is pretty shaken and is going to be sore, but I think he is ok.”

“I didn’t think about the truck, I thought ‘I’m actually hitting the jet and it’s not going to be fun.’ Before I got there I was thinking ‘this thing is going to be on fire pretty bad’ and it was.”

“I saw the flames. My helmet got a little burned and everything, but move on.”

2012 Daytona 500 is Most-Watched in FOX History

Daytona 500 Powers FOX to Primetime Win Against Strong Competition

New York & Daytona – It took 36 hours to complete from its scheduled start time but fans won’t soon forget the 2012 Daytona 500 and the dramatic events delivered for FOX Sports.
For the first time in the race’s 54-year history, rain postponed Sunday’s 1:00 PM ET start until 12:00 PM ET Monday with continued showers in the afternoon delaying the green flag until 7:00 PM ET. 
A total audience of over 36.5 million Americans watched last night’s race, according to fast national ratings issued today by Nielsen Media Research, making 2012 Daytona 500 the most-watched in FOX history. The 36.5 million total viewers, a measure of the audience that saw at least a portion of the race, is +22% higher than last year’s total audience of 30 million and +22% better than 2010′s 29.8 million. Yesterday’s total audience is the second best ever for a Daytona 500 on any network behind 37.0 million viewers in 2006 on NBC.

FOX won the primetime night among Adults 18-49 and total audience figures, a significant achievement going up against original episodes of popular network programs like ABC’s The Bachelor, CBS’s How I Met Your Mother and NBC’s The Voice, which was -10% lower in the Adults 18-49 demographic last night than it did a week ago. The Daytona 500 on FOX posted a 4.6 and averaged 14.1 million viewers from 8:00 – 11:00 PM ET, making it FOX’s most-watched Monday night in 16 months, dating back to Game 5 of the 2010 World Series.

The 2012 Great American Race, which included a fiery crash caused when Juan Pablo Montoya hit a safety truck/track-drying engine and red flagged the race for over two hours, earned an 8.0/14 rating/share and averaged 13.7 million viewers. While down slightly from last year’s Sunday afternoon race that occurred without any significant delays, (-8%, 2011 Daytona 500 – 8.7/20), Monday night’s race was up +4% when compared to the 2010 event (7.7/16), which saw lengthy delays for pothole repairs to the track. 

Ratings for the 2012 Daytona 500 grew gradually through the first two and a half hours, climbing to an 8.2/12 (14.2 million viewers) in the 9:30 half-hour when the Montoya wreck occurred. Ratings grew further at 10:00 PM, peaking at an 8.8/13 (15.1 million viewers.) When the epic race concluded, Matt Kenseth emerged as the winner, capturing his second Daytona 500 victory in four years.

FOX Sports delivered live coverage of the 54th Daytona 500 for more than 11 hours over the course of three days. The NASCAR on FOX crew started reporting on Sunday from the rainy Daytona International Speedway, bringing viewers live interviews, updates, predictions and analysis from 12:00 – 5:15 PM ET in the hopes of a window opening up for racing.  FOX Sports produced nearly the entire five hours live, including interviews with drivers who came to the Hollywood Hotel prerace set and in their haulers, as well as NASCAR officials in the booth, only briefly going to a replay of the end of the Budweiser Shootout and clips from SPEED’s Top Ten Daytona 500 Moments. The team was back again at 7:00 PM ET the next night for the historic Monday primetime running of the Daytona 500.  The never-before-seen fiery crash halted action on the track for more than two hours, but sent the NASCAR on FOX crew into overdrive interviewing 21 drivers. When FOX Sports signed off Tuesday morning at 1:00 AM ET, another six hours of live coverage was in the books. National ratings for Sunday’s programming won’t be available until Thursday March 1.

Top-rated markets for the Daytona 500 include: Greensboro (18.1/27), Jacksonville (18.1/27), Charlotte (16.7/26), Greenville (16.7/26), Dayton (16.1/25), and Orlando (16.0/26). Markets seeing the biggest growth from last year include:  New Orleans (+46%, 7.3 vs. 5.0), Salt Lake City (+33%, 8.1 vs. 6.1), Ft. Myers (+30%, 15.5 vs. 11.9), San Antonio (+17%, 7.5 vs. 6.4) and Tampa (+17%, 12.5 vs. 10.7).

Source: FOX Sports Media Group, Press Release

Roush Yates FR9 Claims Second-Consecutive Daytona 500 Victory

Powers Kenseth to his second Datyona 500 win

Mooresville, NC (February 28, 2012) Matt Kenseth took full advantage of the horsepower in his Roush Yates FR9 engine to take the checkered flag early Tuesday morning in the first ever nighttime running of the famed Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Kenseth’s win granted Roush Fenway Racing its 300th all-time victory during the kick-off of the organization’s 25th anniversary of racing.

The Roush Yates Ford FR9 engines looked strong throughout Speedweeks leading up to the Daytona 500, which included Kenseth winning Thursday’s second 150-mile qualifying event. His Ford teammates, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, swept the front row for the Daytona 500 during last week’s qualifying session so it came as no surprise that Kenseth’s No. 17 Best Buy Ford Fusion was going to be a contender.

In all, 13 teams had Roush Yates Ford FR9 power under the hood when the green flag eventually waved to start the rain-delayed 54th running of “The Great American Race.”

“I have to give a lot of credit to Doug Yates and the guys at the engine shop,” said Kenseth in Victory Lane. “We had great horsepower. I could get a pretty good start on the bottom and either Denny or Dale Jr. could push me for awhile and then they just couldn’t stay attached and I would get away from them just in time to get in front of Greg and the two of us together could make some unbelievable speed. I have to thank Greg (Biffle). We worked together really good all day long. He had a really fast car all day as well.”

In what can be argued as one of the most bizarre Daytona 500′s, Dave Blaney was leading when a problem with Juan Pablo Montoya’s car sent him spinning under caution into a safety truck. The truck was holding 200 gallons of jet kerosene and burst into flames upon impact. The inferno took over ten minutes to extinguish and NASCAR red-flagged the race for over two hours with only 40 laps remaining.

“This is a special night,” said team co-owner Jack Roush. “It feels great. It is very fitting that Matt won the 300th victory that we have had since we started in 1988 and (crew chief) Jimmy Fennig has been with us for most of the time and Matt has been here most of the time as well. It is great to celebrate our 300th win here with the 54th Daytona 500. This is Matt’s second 500 win and that makes it special as well.”

“It has been a long but rewarding week for Roush Yates Engines,” said Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates Engines. “To sit on the front row, win in the qualifying races, and win the 54th running of the Daytona 500 is everything we worked for during the off season and more. I’m proud of my guys at the shop and I’m excited to give Jack his 300th all-time win in the series. This is a great way to start off the season and I can’t wait to get to Phoenix.”

Commemorative t-shirts celebrating Matt Kenseth’s win with his FR9 engine are on sale now at
Roush Yates engines also excelled in the dirt world this week with Josh Richards, Dennis Erb Jr., and Scott Bloomquist finding Victory Lane at Bubba Raceway Park, East Bay Raceway Park, and Volusia Speedway Park. To find out more about all of Roush Yates engine packages and the drivers behind the wheel, visit

Source: Roush Yates Engines, Press Release

Daytona 500: RCR Racing Post-Race Report

RCR Post Race Report — Daytona International Speedway
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
RACE: Daytona 500
TRACK: Daytona International Speedway
DATE: February 27, 2012

Race Highlights:
  • Richard Childress Racing teammates finished fifth (Jeff Burton), sixth (Paul Menard), seventh (Kevin Harvick) and 27th (Elliott Sadler) in the 2012 Daytona 500.
  • Burton led two times for a total of 24 laps and spent 199 of the 202 laps in the top 15 (98.5 percent). 
  • Burton’s 6.22 average running position was second-best in the 43-car field. 
  • Burton had the third-highest driver rating with a 117.7. 
  • Menard turned the fourth-fastest green flag speed (198.452 mph) and the ninth-fastest speed in traffic (198.404 mph) according to NASCAR Loop Data Statistics. 
  • Leading the field for two paces of the Daytona 500, Menard tied for eighth in the Loop Data category of Laps Led. 
  • Harvick recorded the fastest green-flag speed of the Daytona 500 with 198.665 mph. 
  • Harvick posted the second-best speed late in a run, second-best speed in traffic and the sixth-best fastest speed early in a run. 
  • Prior to the issue with the fuel system, Sadler spent 35 laps running in the top 15. 
  • Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag in the 2012 season opener and was followed to the finish line by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Burton. 
  • The next NSCS race is the Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, March 4, televised live on FOX beginning at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and broadcast live on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM Satellite Radio beginning at 2 p.m. EST.
Paul Menard, No 27 PEAK/Menards Team Finish Sixth In Hot Season Opener 
Paul Menard and the PEAK/Menards team overcame fire and rain to claim a sixth-place finish in the 54th running of the Daytona 500. The No. 27 team started from the 37th position after being collected in a multi-car accident on lap eight of Thursday’s Duel 150 qualifying race. The Slugger Labbe-led group went to work to prepare the backup car for the “Great American Race” at Daytona International Speedway. Inclement weather postponed the green flag until Monday night, setting the stage for a historical primetime showing of the season opener. The first cautions of the night occurred quickly with Labbe making the call to remain on track at lap-13 yellow flag to lead a lap and earn a valuable championship point. Menard raced in the top 10 until the yellow flag was displayed on lap 63. With the memories of two early exits during Speedweeks still fresh, Menard opted to drop to the back of the pack. Another caution occurred on lap 128, during which Menard told his team that ‘when it’s time to go, we’ll be able to go.’ While under caution on lap 158, an odd sequence of events led to a massive fireball on the backstretch as a jet dryer erupted in flames. The field was placed under the red flag for more than two hours. When the pack returned to green-flag racing it was a 34-lap race to the checkered flag. Restarting 15th, Menard survived the final three multi-car incidents to cross the finish line in the sixth position, his career-best finish at the “World Center of Racing.”

Start – 37 Finish – 6 Laps Led – 2 Points – 6

First of all, I have to say thank you to Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) and the No. 27 team. This was the third car we unloaded in Daytona and the fact that the backup car was really fast and drove great says a lot about the work these guys do. They never gave up. We were fortunate and had a pretty uneventful race, really. We just kind of rode around the first half of the race anticipating some big wrecks; there were a couple, but not as many as we thought. I figured it was time to go about lap 120 and to work our way up there, but it was hard to pass. We could get two cars pushing for about half a lap or so before you could separate them. It was just a lot of riding around the bottom. Sixth is still a good finish and a solid start to our season.”

Harvick, No. 29 Team Notch Seventh-Place Finish in Daytona 500 
Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team finished seventh in the 54th running of the Daytona 500 that ended early Tuesday morning after being delayed one day by rain and more than two hours by a fire that erupted as a car made contact with a jet dryer in Turn 3. Harvick started the race from the 13th position but found trouble early as he hit the orange pit road commitment cone as a wreck occurred on lap two, causing minimal damage to the front end of the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet. The team pitted twice to work on the nose and changed tires, added fuel and made a small chassis adjustment. Harvick restarted the race from the 34th position when the field took the green at lap seven. Harvick and the group of drivers he was running with worked to stay in line to remain within range of the lead pack of cars. Harvick ran anywhere from the 11th position to the third position during the middle portion of the race, making routine pit stops along the way. Shortly after the team made their final pit stop of the night under caution at lap 158, another competitor’s car made contact with a jet dryer in Turn 3, sparking a large jet fuel fire. Safety personnel worked for two hours to put out the fire as more than 200 gallons of jet fuel burned. The race restarted just after midnight with less than 40 laps remaining and Harvick scored in the third position. He worked the bottom and outside line for the remainder of the race with help from his Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton. The final caution of the night pushed the race into overtime with a green-white checkered finish. Harvick restarted in the sixth position, while his RCR teammates Burton and Paul Menard restarted on the bottom in the fifth and seventh spots, respectively. Without drafting help, Harvick did the best he could to stay ahead of the two-car tandems behind him and took the checkered flag in the seventh position

Start – 13 Finish – 7 Laps Led – 0 Points – 7

“Right off the bat we got into a little argument with the cone (the orange commitment cone) there. We had to come in and fix the hole in the nose. We just decided to take care of the car for the first 100 laps and make sure it didn’t get too hot. Then there at the end, we just couldn’t get everything organized. You want to be in the front when you have those green-white-checkered situations like that because you can’t get everybody from the first two back attached enough to get going. Overall it was a good day for our Budweiser Chevy and definitely a lot better than last year when we left here.”

Burton Posts Solid Fifth-Place Finish in Bizarre Daytona 500
In front of a Monday night primetime audience on FOX, Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team survived one of the most bizarre races in not only Daytona International Speedway history, but NASCAR history and posted a solid fifth-place finish in the 54th running of the Daytona 500. For the first time in history, the “Great American Race” ran on a Monday night after consistent rain showers covered the Daytona Beach, Fla., area from Sunday afternoon into Monday morning. Once he finally took the green flag around 7:15 p.m. on Monday night, Burton immediately drove his Chevrolet Impala into the top five after starting ninth. He ran single file for the first 40 laps before making a charge to the front of the 43-car field notching the lead on lap 41 and never relinquishing it until a four-tire pit stop under green-flag conditions on lap 57. Once the pit stop order cycled through, the 44-year-old veteran held the point position again from laps 61-67. Burton continued to run in the top five until the caution flag was displayed for a slow car that was stalled out on the race track. While Burton slowed his car down to caution-flag speed, he communicated to crew chief Drew Blickensderfer the No. 31 Chevrolet was out of fuel. Burton immediately hit pit road for service and fuel, but would have to restart at the tail end of the longest line when he went back to green-flag conditions since the Cat Racing driver pitted while pit road was officially closed. Within five laps, the South Boston Va., native was back in the top 10 until the next caution flag was displayed. Under the caution, one of the most bizarre incidents in NASCAR history occurred when the driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet lost control of his car due to mechanical issues and slammed into a safety truck carrying more than 200 gallons of kerosene. Immediately, the collision caused a huge explosion while the remainder of the jet fuel ignited on the asphalt surface in the turn three area of the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Once NASCAR and DIS track safety officials contained the blaze, it took more than two hours to dry the track and repair the damage to the racing surface. Burton and many other drivers were able to get out of their cars during the two-hour red-flag delay. Once the drivers were called back to the race cars, it was 34-lap dash to checkered flag. Throughout the final 30 laps, Burton maintained a position in the top 10 before hooking up with Richard Childress Racing teammates Paul Menard and Kevin Harvick in the final 10 laps, which included a green-white-checker finish, posting fifth, sixth and seventh-place results, respectively. With the strong effort, Burton now sits fifth in Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings
Start – 9 Finish – 5 Laps Led – 24 Points – 5

“We had a good evening. We ran in the front most of the night and were able to keep ourselves in good track position. We thought we had a really good shot at it. Paul (Menard) was hooked up to me and we were coming pretty hard on them going into three. The group on the outside got a run on him and just sucked the air of each other. It’s so hard to get tandemed-up. In the past, we could get tandemed-up a lot better. NASCAR did a great job. To be honest, I didn’t think they could make these kinds of changes, but they did a great job of breaking up the tandem. It made for a completely different race.”

Fuel System Issue Plagues Sadler, No. 33 Team at Daytona
Elliott Sadler and the No. 33 General Mills/Kroger Chevrolet team avoided numerous on-track incidents in the 2012 season opening Daytona 500, including a two-hour delay due to a jet dryer fire, but an issue with the fuel system early in the event ultimately resulted in a 27th-place finish. With inclement weather delaying the start of the ‘Great American Race’ more than a day, NASCAR’s ‘Super Bowl’ was rescheduled to run Monday night in front of a primetime television audience. After a fourth-place finish in the qualifying race lined up the No. 33 Chevrolet in the 10th position for the 200-lap main event, the Emporia, Va. native, was a mainstay in the top-15 in the early going. Soon before the halfway mark at the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway, Sadler radioed crew chief Gil Martin with a concern which would affect the outcome of the race for the No. 33 team. The red, white & blue Chevrolet had lost fuel pressure which led to multiple trips to pit road to diagnose the issue, causing Sadler to lose two laps to the leader in the process. While the General Mills/Kroger team worked out a strategy to work through their fuel system issue to allow them to complete the race, action literally heated up on the track. While the race was under caution with 40 laps remaining, something broke on another competitor’s car sending it barreling into a jet dryer cleaning the track in turn three. Though there were no injuries, the impact caused the jet fuel to explode and erupt in fire, sending strong flames into the air and requiring NASCAR and track officials to scramble to contain the fire. After working for two hours to clean up the mess from the blaze, the race resumed with only 35 laps remaining. Sadler and crew continued to nurse the ailing fuel system on the No. 33 Chevrolet and were able to manage the 27th-place finish

Start – 10 Finish – 27 Laps Led – 0 Points – n/a

“It’s really unfortunate. I was really excited about the opportunity to race in the Daytona 500 again this season and we knew we had a good car. It started to lose fuel pressure before the halfway mark and Gil (Martin) and the guys did what they could to get us to the finish. It’s not what we hoped for with the General Mills/Kroger Chevrolet but hopefully we can learn something from it they can use at the next restrictor-plate races.”

Source: Richard Childress Racing, Press Release

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Daytona - Jimmie Johnson Wednesday Press Conf. Transcript


FEBRUARY 22, 2012

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed tandem versus pack racing, winning the Daytona 500 and other topics. 

WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET NOW GETTING READY FOR THE DAYTONA 500? “From this point, moving forward, it’s really trying to understand the track and how much it changes as we get to Sunday’s race. In years past we would see the (Budweiser) Shootout and the cars drove perfect. The track is green. Temps are low. The things helping the cars are really nice. As you get into this week, into the Duel (150-mile qualifying races) and then the (Daytona) 500, the balance of the car changes quite a bit. I don’t know how much that is going to happen. The track still is very forgiving; has a lot of grip right now. The thing I am going to be most aware of moving forward is the balance of the car, the handling conditions of the car throughout the course of a fuel run, making sure it drives good through the entire Duel, and make sure it will do that throughout the entire 500.”
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO APPROACH THE DUEL? “I feel like things are going to calm down versus what we saw in the Shootout as we get into the week. The Shootout, without any points and the line and everybody so charged up, everybody was willing to take chances; and a lot of them. The 500, there will be some issues and things like that will pop up early and midway through the race, but I think everybody will be relatively well-behaved. Then we will get to the end, and then really put on a show for everybody. (LAUGHS) The opportunity to pass is there with this combination. I think we are going to have an exciting Daytona 500. I want to use this race car in the Daytona 500. I don’t want to lose it in practice or in the Duel.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE SENSATION IN THE CAR IN THE TANDEM VERSUS BEING IN THE LARGE PACK? DOES IT FEEL ANY DIFFERENT? ARE YOU EXPERIENCING ANYTHING IN THE CAR THAT IS DIFFERENT IN TANDEM VERSUS PACK? “The tandem, you are going a lot faster. So, there is that element of speed that was with you. It became more comfortable to tandem race when we able to share spotters and move around on the radios. Now when you do it – one – it is tough to keep the car cool. Two – you don’t know what is really going on and you are looking for a hand signal, or really anything (like) that to try to know what is ahead. But, from a sensation standpoint, it is really the speed. Then we have to be so far out right now to cool as the pusher, that you feel like the guy you are pushing can get turned around any moment. Those are the two sensations and concerns that you have.”

LAST YEAR’S CHASE ENDED WITH A TWO-MAN RACE BETWEEN TONY (STEWART) AND CARL (EDWARDS) AND THIS YEAR’S DAYTONA OPENS WITH TONY RUNNING FOR THE WIN IN THE SHOOTOUT AND CARL WINNING THE POLE. DOES THE REST OF THE FIELD LOOK AT THEM AND THINK WE ARE STILL CHASING THEM OR IS THERE A CLEAN SLATE HERE? “I think we are still chasing them, but in my opinion it is not due to what has gone on in Speedweeks. It is the way they closed out last year. We all know when we get to Phoenix it is a totally different style of racing and both of those guys were quick in Phoenix and at (Las) Vegas. When we get into the meat of the season, they ended up as the best two cars. That’s more of a statement to me than what’s taken place here at Speedweeks.”

HAVING WON THE DAYTONA 500 EARLY IN YOUR CAREER, CAN YOU FEEL FOR WHAT TONY IS GOING THROUGH HAVING WON THREE CHAMPIONSHIPS; HAVING BIG VICTORIES INCLUDING THE BRICKYARD 400, BUT STILL NOT BEING ABLE TO CAPTURE THE DAYTONA 500?  “I don’t know what that is like. I can remember watching…  I am surprised that he hasn’t won it, now that I think about it. I remember watching (Dale, Sr.) Earnhardt and even Darrell Waltrip for so many years trying and then get it. I know he’ll get one and it will be awfully special. I am very glad to have won mine and certainly I want to win more. It is something that is top of every driver’s list. I know it is top of his.”

IT SEEMS LIKE IN THE SHOOTOUT THE YOUNGER DRIVER’S HAD MORE DIFFICULTY SINCE THEY WEREN’T AS ACCUSTOMED TO RACING IN PACKS AS THE VETERANS ARE. DO YOU THINK THEY WILL BE ABLE TO GRASP THAT AND PRACTICE BEFORE SUNDAY? “It is going to be tough in a short period of time. Some of the guys coming in have only tandem raced. When you are tandem racing, you are forced to partner with someone; if you like them or not, if you trust them or not, (and/or) regardless of experience or if it is a rookie driver. Where in the pack you have a little bit more free will and you can choose who you want to work with a little bit more. So, not only does a rookie driver have to face the issue of not having any pack experience, but also, the guys around them. There’s a lot more decisions that take place in pack racing. They are probably fighting a double-edged sword.”

YOU WON (DAYTONA 500) IN 2006 AND THAT WAS THE SAME YEAR TONY CAME IN HERE AND SAID SOMEONE IS GOING TO GET KILLED IN THIS KIND OF PACK RACING. THEY OTHER NIGHT HE SAID IT WAS GREAT; HE LOVED IT BETTER THAN ANY OF THE TWO-CAR DRAFTING. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE IN THE PACK RACING IN 2006 THAN WHAT YOU ARE SEEING OUT THERE NOW? “Not much. I think the biggest deal was that the Shootout was a non-points race and now we have points racing. I would assume the interviews following the Duel, and also the 500, will be much more similar to what we saw in the past when a pack crash would take place. The Shootout is fun. You don’t have much to worry about. It’s an all-or-nothing scenario. When you get into points races, our interviews will change. Our opinion changes dramatically. I think not only drivers, but the fan base too, forgets that at certain times pack racing wasn’t all that entertaining. We need to have realistic expectations of what the race will look like. I promise you it will be an exciting finish, but there might be some points where we are logging miles. We don’t need to tear up race cars because we all want a shot at winning the Daytona 500.”

ARE THESE PACKS MORE DANGEROUS WITH THESE CARS THAN WHAT YOU HAD BEFORE? “No. The same elements are there – speed and contact. If you turned around and get a nudge in the wrong way your car can go airborne. That can take place in a pack or in the tandem. I think it is the same risk level either way.”

WHEN YOU WON THIS RACE IN ’06, HOW DID THE REALITY COMPARE TO HOW YOU HAD ALWAYS ENVISIONED IT IN YOUR MIND’S EYE? “Boy, I’d never thought it through. Things slowed down. It was surreal. It was just a wild experience. I’m trying to remember back exactly; been a few years. No one can prepare you for it. Especially being a driver that hadn’t won a big race or a championship before, I had no clue. Not only what took place with the emotions and the things that went on in victory lane, but the days to follow and what went with that. It was an eye-opening experience. Unless you have been through it before, I don’t think you can prepare yourself for it. I’m sure Trevor (Bayne) experienced that and has talked about it a little bit first-hand. There is nothing that gets you ready for it, and it is more than you have ever hoped, to be honest with you, or ever dreamed of. It is one heck of an experience.”

IN THE LAST 10 YEARS THERE HAS BEEN 10 DIFFERENT DRIVERS TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500. WHAT MAKES IT SO DIFFICULT? “There are so many circumstances out of the driver’s control that lead to it. Your ability and your decision don’t create the win. You rely on the draft, and what other people do within the draft. If somebody chooses to work with you, and give you that push that gets you to the win; you’re the hero. If they choose someone else, you’re the guy falling down the back straightaway and comes around in 15th (place). We don’t have the control as individuals on the track like we do at other race tracks. It is more of a collective group out there shuffling things around. Whoever is at the head of the line coming off of (turn) four in most cases wins.”

WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP, OTHER THAN MOTORSPORTS, DID YOU HAVE ANY SUCCESS IN ANY OTHER SPORTS OR PARTICIPATE IN ANY OTHER SPORTS? “I participated, but really no success. Plenty of failure. (LAUGHS) Just some general stuff in school. Playing different stick-and-ball sports. I was on the swim team until my junior year in high school, and then the fact I was racing and making some money racing, I was considered a professional athlete, and couldn’t compete in my high school stuff. That was the extent of it. I was happy I had racing, because I wasn’t the best at the other stuff.”

MORE SO AT TALLADEGA THAN AT DAYTONA WE’VE SEEN SOME OF THE GOOD CARS GO AND HANG OUT IN THE BACK OF THE FIELD. FOR AWHILE AND LET EVERYTHING SETTLE OUT. WITH THIS PACKAGE, ARE YOU ABLE TO DO THAT AS MUCH AS YOU HAVE IN THE PAST? TONY MADE IT SOUND EARLIER LIKE YOU WERE GOING TO HAVE TO STAY IN TOUCH WITH THE PACK THIS TIME. “I agree with that. If you can time it right, and miss the big wreck, and be at the back, there is a small chance that would work for you. I think this package lends itself to racing. You need to fight for track position lap after lap. If you get mired in the center of the pack, there is really nowhere to go. People race a lot different in the 500 than they do in the Shootout. In the Shootout if you have a run you are going to take it and see what happens. You have nothing to lose. But, there is a lot more strategy; many more calculated moves and decisions in a real race, in the 500 especially. I think you will see guys race from the start of it all the way through.”

YOU WERE FORTUNATE TO GET THE OPPORTUNITY WHEN YOU DID AND THE WAY YOU DID. WITH THE ECONOMY AND EVEN THE BIG TEAMS CUTTING BACK, MAYBE IT IS A LITTLE HARDER. DO YOU SEE NOW THERE IS A CHANCE THAT GOOD, CHAMPIONSHIP QUALITY DRIVERS MAY NOT GET A CHANCE BECAUSE THERE ARE NO OPPORTUNITIES? “It is hard to say. I definitely know that the economy has impacted our industry dramatically on a lot of levels. From a team owner’s standpoint, it is probably one of the scariest positions to be in. One of the first areas that major corporations cut is marketing when they need to pull back and times are tough. That is where our livelihood comes from is their marketing budgets. I understand the cycle and the evolution. But, to get to this level it is just tough, period. That probably makes it more difficult in today’s world with the economy being soft like it is. We are seeing a lot of things showing that it is coming around. Hopefully it turns soon and the young guys that are in the queue now can live it out and ride it out, so that they can get a chance when the time comes. It is crazy to think that Ricky Stenhouse, Trevor Bayne, you look through and those are the first two that come to mind with great success and white race cars. Not a full-time ride for Trevor is pretty crazy.”

I KNOW YOU ARE A PRETTY EVEN-KEELED KIND OF GUY, BUT AFTER LAST SEASON IS THERE ANY KIND OF EXTRA EAGERNESS TO GET THE SEASON GOING TO SEE WHAT  YOU HAVE THIS YEAR? “I am excited to get to work. I really enjoyed my off season. Took the time I needed personally to get ready for the season. We’ve been testing quite a bit already. Have seen some great progress. I think when we get to Bristol; we will have a good idea of where we stack up. Phoenix with a mile track, Vegas with a mile-and-a-half and Bristol with a short track, we’ll have a good sense of where people are for the first half of the year and I hope this No. 48 car is at the top of the list.”

NASCAR HAS INDICATED THAT THERE IS PROBABLY GOING TO BE SOME SORT OF PENALTY FOR THE C-POST SITUATION. IN THE PAST YOU HAVE DONE VERY WELL THINKING OF 2006 WHEN CHAD WAS SENT HOME. WHAT SORT OF IMPACT OR EFFECT DO YOU THINK IT WOULD HAVE IF HE IS SUSPENDED AGAIN THIS YEAR OR AT THIS TIME IN THE SEASON? “It is not good for any team that goes through it. It certainly puts a tough wrinkle on things, but at this point I would be purely speculating. I am hopeful and want to be optimistic that wouldn’t be the case, but I don’t have any more news. So, we are going to have to wait until Tuesday to see where things shake out.”

DO YOU FEEL ANY ADDITIONAL PRESSURE TO TRY AND GET A DAYTONA 500 WIN FOR CHAD SINCE HE IS THE ONLY ONE IN THE CROWD THERE THAT DOESN’T HAVE THAT? DO YOU FEEL FOR HIM AND WANT HIM TO HAVE THAT? “There is definitely a piece of me that wants to have that Victory Lane photo with him. He was certainly a huge part of us winning in 2006, but I want him to have the photo to put on his desk that he was there in Victory Lane. It adds a small percentage to it. Nothing can dilute or change my mindset and desire to try to win the 500. That is pinned already. It would be a nice perk though, to do it for that reason.”

About Chevrolet
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world’s largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature spirited performance, expressive design and high quality. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at

Daytona - Tony Stewart Wednesday Press Conf. Transcript


FEBRUARY 22, 2012

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET met with media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed pack racing and tandem racing at Daytona, new crew chief, Steve Addington, how the Budweiser Shootout might compare to the Daytona 500, practice this week, and more. Full Transcript:

“I’ll be honest. I’m not exactly sure what’s different from what we ran last year to this year. I know that they’ve implemented a couple of things that they’ve done to the Cup car, but I honestly don’t know exactly what those are yet. But we’ll learn and we’ll adapt to it pretty quick and figure out exactly what we have to do to be good in this Oreo car on Saturday.”

“I don’t know if it will be a rivalry because of it, mainly because we have so much respect for each other. But I kind of thought that too after we ran second the other night and then Carl got the pole. I thought, man, we’re both picking up right where we left off. I hope it’s that way for both of us. It would be great to start the year off like we finished it last year to have a run like that. But it’ll only be good for NASCAR if both of us can run that strong against each other and be head-to-head each week. I don’t think one or the other of us, just running off and having a great run the first ten races is going to be a good deal.”

“I wish I knew (laughs). I wish I knew how to control and be 100 percent in control of what was the first act. So many things change in this sport versus other sports. The competition and technology and everything changes weekly. So you can imagine how much stuff changes over the off-season. I think NASCAR has done a good job. I think the (Budweiser) Shootout was a perfect example of how hard NASCAR is working to try to make sure they come up with great rules packages. We’ve got a new car that’s coming out in 2013 and I think everybody is really, really going to like. I think it’s a cool-looking car. I got to see it first-hand. So I’m excited about that. But I think the racing this year will be just as good as it’s always been; and potentially even better. I think you’ll see a bunch of guys that actually get on a roll this year.”

“I think a lot of it is that the bumpers didn’t line-up as good then as they do now. So if you do get put in a situation where you do run into somebody it doesn’t just instantly wreck them. And that was kind of the thing that you worried about was just getting run into from behind. We’ve had to push ourselves as drivers over the last couple of years to learn how to do this two-car deal (tandem racing) and you take a step back to going back to pack racing and it’s like wow, it’s just so much easier. You’re not having to hold your breath all the time and not having to clinch the steering wheel so tight all the time. I think mainly the difference between now and ’06 is just you know that the bumpers line up and ’06 was before they repaved the track, too. So we’ve got a lot more grip in the race track which gives us a little more security also.”


“There was a lot less of it then, for sure. We’re still going to have a lot more of the pushing style than what we had back in ’06, but back then the track couldn’t handle it. The track was worn out and didn’t have a lot of grip. It had a lot of bumps in it. Now, the track is really smooth. It has a lot more grip to it so it’s a lot easier to do what we’re having to do now versus back then.”

“(He brings) a lot of knowledge. I got to work with Steve a lot at Gibbs, when he was with Kyle (Busch). We didn’t work hand-and-hand with him but we got to be around him a lot and just listening to his comments and team debriefs and just casual conversations in the shop, he’s got a very calm demeanor but he’s a guy that when it comes time to make that big call, he’s the guy that you want on your side to do that. I think he’s ready.”

“I think kind of similarly to what we did basically at the beginning of the Shootout. I think we’ve got a really good car for Sunday, so you want to get the best finishing position you can in the Shootout without beating up the race car. So, we’re going to try to do everything we can to now put ourselves in bad situations. But when it comes to the end of the race tomorrow, we’ll push really hard to see how far up we can get and try to get a good spot, but I guess the biggest variable in the equation is just don’t hurt the car that we’ve got. We’re locked into the race and I think even if we don’t get the starting spot we want, I still think you can come from the back much easier and get to the front. The biggest thing is to just take care of the race car. But the racer in you at the end of the day still wants to go get the best finish you can.”

“I do agree. I would say it’s about a three-to-one advantage. The pack racing versus the pushing, I think you’ll see the pack racing for the majority of the day. I think guys are going to want to control their own destiny a little more and you aren’t going to lose the pack if you’re not paired-up with somebody and pushing the whole race. So that, I think, is what you’ll see. At the end I can almost guarantee you that there’s going to be a tandem-style deal, at the very end of the race. How long we can push depends on what kind of air temperature we have and that’s the biggest single variable is how much air can we get in the radiator? So, it’s hard to say right now. If that temperature goes up ten degrees, it could take it from two laps to a lap. But I don’t think guys can do it for near as long as what they were before.”

“I think I’m pretty happy with it for this week. It obviously is going to come down to a two-car deal at the end of the race. But at least for the whole race you’re not going to be watching packs all day. You’re actually going to be watching guys who can drive themselves to the front and it’s going to rotate and circulate. Guys are going to get up there and then get shuffled back. But yeah, for the most part I am pretty happy with it because nobody has come up with a better solution. And trust me; I’ve tried to think of all kinds of ideas. I think NASCAR is smarter than I am. It’s hard to find a package that gets done exactly what they’re wanting to get done here. And a lot of that’s (because) we’ve got a race track that has so much grip in it that we can do things that we normally wouldn’t be able to do if it didn’t have that kind of grip. So, there’s nothing wrong with what we’ve got. Obviously they always want to make it better, but I think they’ve done a really good job in the off-season of trying to find a balance to make it to where we won’t do it as long and where we kind of get away from each other for the majority of the race.”

“I’ve got a couple of ideas (laughs) and none of them would be trying to block him. That would have been the last idea I would have had. But that wasn’t anything I even thought of. If you try to block that guy, you’re just going to get wrecked and you’re probably going to wreck both cars. The guy behind there, once he gets pulled out there and gets coming up, if you try to block, you’re just going to drive across his nose and wreck yourself. So it’s just trying to figure out what different scenarios that you can run and I’ve got a couple of ideas in my mind but I don’t want to share them with everybody (laughs), to be honest. I might need them for Sunday.”

“I’m not doing any lobbying. That’s (Greg) Zipadelli’s job. Honestly, it really doesn’t matter to me. It’s the same for everybody. The longer that we can two-car-push, the less I like it. So I’m all in favor of them trying to find ways to keep the packs broken up. So I think NASCAR has done a pretty good job of trying to figure out scenarios. Even little things like just coming down pit road and sitting in your pit box, that builds temperatures. So they have to figure out a lot of different variables (for) not only what’s going on on the race track, but simple things like if you get a piece of trash on the nose of the car it could literally cost you to have to come in and pit versus what we’ve had in the past. They’re trying to look at all the variables that could happen in all different scenarios and trying to find a perfect package.”
“I’m not sure I really needed a break. I took a little bit of time and took about five or six days and went out of town. But for the most part, I was pretty content. I was happy to see how excited the guys were during the off-season. It was fun to watch and be around Zippy again and definitely wanted to spend time with Steve Addington. So I did the things that I wanted to do. I still went and ran Short Track races and had fun. So, I had a good off-season; it just wasn’t much of a break from everything.”

“Yeah, when we get finished here, I’m going to go find out what the plan is from Steve Addington and see exactly what he’s got in mind. I’m not sure what that plan is. I know there is going to be guys that aren’t going to practice very much. In my opinion, we wouldn’t run a lot today to get ready for tomorrow’s race. I think you see how tomorrow goes and see what the variables are and figure out if we need to spend more time working on a couple of variables that we thought we could make better. But if they are better today, then I’m not sure if we would spend a ton of time together.”

“Yeah, we have. We got that agreement done I think three weeks ago. So we’re very excited about that. Glen Styers (track owner & sprint car racer), I saw him down here at Volusia this week and got to race with him. He’s excited. I’m excited. We had a good time up there.”
“I don’t think we feel jinxed. We’ve had some really good cars here and we’ve just missed. I mean, we ran second to Dale Jr. that one year. I don’t remember what year it was, but we had a really, really good car. And I had a pit road speeding penalty coming in on a green flag stop and had to go to the back. And we worked our way back up to the front and I got loose in front of Kurt (Busch) and Kurt didn’t have anywhere to go and it took out both of us from the 500 that year. So we’ve had some good opportunities. We’ve been leading late in these races and so I feel like (with) the law of averages, we’re going to get one eventually. But I mean there have been a lot of them that have slipped away and slipped through our fingers. But we’ve had good luck here; we just haven’t had that good luck during the 500 yet. So we’ll just keep digging.”

About Chevrolet
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world’s largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature spirited performance, expressive design and high quality. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at

Daytona - Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Wednesday Press Conf. Transcript


FEBRUARY 22, 2012

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed winning his second Daytona 500, drafting styles and working with Tony Stewart.

WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK ON THE DUEL TOMORROW AND THEN THE DAYTONA 500 ON SUNDAY? “We probably will practice very little.  When we get into the qualifying race we will race pretty hard, but race smart.  Hopefully we will not have to pull out a back-up (car).  You would love to win that race (the duel qualifying race) and make a statement going into the (Daytona) 500.  It would give the team some confidence; get your sponsors a little extra coverage.  Winning would get everybody in good spirits for this Sunday.”

WE’VE SEEN THIS TACTIC USED MORE IN THE PAST AT PLACES LIKE TALLADEGA WITH PACK RACING, WHERE THE GOOD CARS WILL OFTEN GO HANG-OUT IN THE BACK FOR AWHILE.  TONY STEWART AND JIMMIE JOHNSON BOTH SAID WITH THIS PARTICULAR PACKAGE, YOU CAN’T REALLY AFFORD TO DO THAT.  WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT? “I don’t really think about it.  I want to go up and win the race. I just don’t spend a lot of time thinking about riding in the back. I don’t waste a minute of the day doing that (laughter). I know what you are trying to ask me, but I don’t know.  I don’t have an opinion about it.  I think you could do it, if that is something you wanted to do; I think it would work.  However I don’t plan on doing it.  I never really plan on doing it.  It may sound like we make that decision prior to the race; but you make it during the race when something happens, or you see something happen that you don’t like. You’re like ‘man, these guys are probably going to wreck; I don’t want to be right up behind it. I can’t get around them because the track is four or three wide or whatever.’ So you move back a couple of hundred yards.  I think it is poor judgment to think about it during the week, because you are not thinking about what you need to do to win the race.  You are thinking about going backwards.  That is not something I want to concentrate on.”

ARE THERE SOMETIMES WHEN GUYS WAIT TOO LONG TO TRY TO MAKE THEIR MOVE? “Yeah, I’m not good at riding in the back.  I have never made it back to the front at the right time.  We’ve always, me and Jimmie (Johnson), have tried to do that the last couple of trips when the tandem was all you did all day long. We didn’t get to the front.  When it came time to go to the front we were either not fast enough or they were too far ahead, or the track was too blocked and we were behind too many cars.  I don’t think I’ve ever used that style and made it work for me.”

HAVE YOU SEEN ANY PARALLELS BETWEEN TONY STEWART’S RECORD AT DAYTONA AND YOUR FATHER’S (DALE EARNHARDT SR.)? YOU KNOW TONY PRETTY WELL, DO YOU THINK IT WEARS ON HIM THAT HE HASN’T BEEN ABLE TO WIN THE (DAYTONA) 500? “Parallels? Not really.  I think Daddy (Dale Earnhardt Sr.) has won thirty-something (total) races here and I don’t know who is close to that or who would be next.  I was real happy when I won the (Daytona) 500 because it happened so early in my career.  I know other drivers aside from my father have had to wait a long time to win that race and some who have never won it.  That was probably one of the biggest reliefs about the whole deal was that I did get my Daytona 500 win. I wasn’t going to have to keep coming back and wondering when it was going to happen, if it was going to happen.  It’s a very frustrating deal.  Tony has come down here with a lot of great race cars.  He’s talented enough to know how to win this race. Things just haven’t worked out for whatever reason.  I think his talent will carry him for so many more years and I think he will be in enough competitive race cars to have plenty more chances to win it.  The odds are really good for him compared to other people in the field.  I wouldn’t get too concerned or worried about it if I were him.  It will eventually come about.”

TONY (STEWART) WAS YOUR DANCING PARTNER FOR A LOT OF YEARS SO YOU KNOW THE KIND OF TALENT THAT HE HAS AND THE SKILL LEVEL OF THE TWO TOGETHER.  CAN YOU ADDRESS THAT?  ALSO, IF YOU HAD TO SELL WATCHING SUNDAY’S RACE TO THE CASUAL SPORTS FAN OR PERHAPS THE FAN THAT WALKED AWAY BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T LIKE TANDEM DRAFTING, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THAT FAN TO GET THEM BACK? “Tony is a great guy to draft with.  He is, for whatever reason, always thinking the right things.  He knows where to be to be safe.  He knows what to do when he wants to go forward. He has a good way about calling his race from the seat at Daytona and Talladega.  He has made that style work where if you want to go and chill out in the back, he knows when to go.  He knows how early enough to go to be able to win the race, but not go too soon to get into that last accident.  He is just really clever and really smart. He is a great guy to draft with.  He sees things happen before they happen. He is checking up when it is time to check up; just doing really important things.  He is very easy and very nice to draft with.  I’m sure he will probably want to work with his teammates, but if I get the opportunity to work with him, that has always been a bonus for me and worked out well for me.  I would tell the fans that were turned off by the last couple of years that NASCAR has done a ton of work. I’m surprised at how hard they went after it and how many changes they were willing to make. They really just opened the whole book and went after a lot of different aspects with the car to make the car respond. From what I have seen so far we are really pack racing pretty hard, more than we ever have.  With the new asphalt the cars can really get on top of each other and stay there.  Nobody is really chasing their cars around the race track at all.  I think we should have close to record lead changes, if not breaking the record.  We should have a pretty tight pack, probably the tightest pack from front to rear that we have ever had.  I just can’t imagine the racing getting more competitive than what it is or what it is going to be this week.  I would hate for anyone to miss that because I think it is going to be pretty epic.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE WITH THE RULE CHANGES THEY MADE THAT THIS PLAYS INTO YOUR HANDS A LITTLE BIT AND IS MORE LIKE THE STYLE OF RACING WHERE YOU WERE REALLY GOOD HERE? DOES IT GIVE YOU MORE CONFIDENCE GOING INTO THE RACE BECAUSE OF THE CHANGES THEY HAVE MADE? “Yeah, I would agree with that.  I feel like I’m definitely more comfortable with this style.  I feel like I’m more in control of what is happening. In the (Budweiser) Shootout I felt like I was able to formulate a plan to get to the front and take the lead.  I would see something I wanted to do and try to go do it and it would happen. That was a good feeling.  I do feel more confident than I did coming down here and tandem drafting.  I never felt really great about that.  It is a completely different style of racing and it’s not what I enjoyed.  I definitely feel better about this.  Still, tandem is going to win the race.  It won the Shootout and it will probably win every other race down here this week. For the most part, I feel like I can be in a better position with this style of racing coming into those last few laps.  Hopefully, find the right partner right at the right time like Kyle (Busch) did to win the Shootout and win my share of races down here.”

IN TERMS OF THE CONFIDENCE, IT SEEMS LIKE IT IS NIGHT AND DAY FROM WHAT YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT LAST THURSDAY TO WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW.  DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS RACE FOR YOU IS RIPE FOR THE TAKING AND HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT TO WIN THIS RACE? “I don’t know if ripe for the taking is… that would be a little bit of an overstatement. I still feel like so many people in the field have a chance to win.  Anyone in the top 35 cars are capable of winning the race and you never know who is going to come off turn four battling for the lead and weather you will be in that mix or not.  I do feel like I have a better shot at winning in this current style of racing.

“With the new pavement and a tire that doesn’t wear out, you don’t really have to work on your race car and try to work on the handling. You can’t out handle somebody.  It is just really close all day long. I just want to win anywhere really.  I just want to get that done so I can think about the next one.  I want to get the streak over with and get back to victory lane.

“We lost a million dollars by not being in the winner’s circle program last year for the company. They could use that money. There are just so many benefits to getting in the winner’s circle.  Not only will it help our team and validate what me and Steve (Letarte, crew chief) have been trying to do over the last couple of years.  It is the Daytona 500 the biggest race of the season; it would be pretty spectacular for me personally to win it. It would do so many other things that I can’t list right now for the team and the company going forward. It would be awesome.”

I’M GUESSING THAT THROUGH WATCHING YOUR DAD (DALE EARNHARDT SR.) YOU HAD AN IDEA OF WHAT IT MEANT TO WIN THIS RACE.  WHEN YOU WON IT HOW DID THE EMOTION AND THE REALITY OF THAT MOMENT FIT WITH WHAT YOU HAD ALREADY ENVISIONED IT BEING LIKE? “I had no idea what winning that race would feel like until I won it.  I didn’t know what to compare that to. When you win that race it is really hard to explain.  It’s just really hard to explain.  All the things that you want out of life and all the pressures you put on yourself or you feel from other people all the things you want to accomplish; everybody sort of has this mountain in front of them that they put in front of themselves that they want to climb.

“For a moment or for a day you are at the top of that mountain. Nothing matters, all your wants and needs, all the problems you have little petty things that bother you everything goes away.  You just feel like you have realized your full potential.  Everything is sort of just maxed out for the day.  All the things that you wanted to achieve.  Obviously you set a lot of goals for yourself and that is just one of the goals.  But just for a moment, just for that one day whether it is thirty minutes or an hour after you cross that finish line you feel like it can’t get any better than this.  It is a pretty incredible emotion.  I feel so lucky to have had that opportunity to experience it.  It is such a special moment.

“Every time I see a replay of me and my crew celebrating below the flag stand, it all comes back so clearly.  Every time I see that I just think about how fortunate I feel to have won that race.  Some of the greatest drivers come through this sport and don’t win it.  It just doesn’t seem right, but only certain ones get that opportunity.”

A LOT OF PEOPLE DEBATE WHAT YOU ARE THINKING IN THE CAR. YOU SAID YOU DON’T SPEND A LOT OF TIME THINKING ABOUT BEING IN THE BACK.  HOW MUCH OF WHAT YOU DO OUT THERE, WITH THE WAY YOU LOVE THIS SORT OF RACING, IS INSTINCT AND HOW MUCH OF IT ARE YOU ACTUALLY THINKING IT THROUGH EVERY MOMENT? “I think it is all instinct or you make your decisions really right at the moment they happen.  I wouldn’t know what to tell you if you asked me to form a strategy.  I wouldn’t really know what to tell you to do if you were about to run the race.  I really wouldn’t know what to tell you do to as far a series of moves or what kind of mindset to have.  There is no sure strategy that is going to keep you out of a wreck or having you lead the race off turn four. You just have to go throughout the race and hope you continue to make every decision right.  Kind of like a line of dominos you just hope everyone that falls hits the next one.  Eventually, you come off the last corner and you are in position to try to make that last decision that is going to win the race.  That is about it.  I think you just have to have good instinct about drafting and what is happening around you.  What people are doing and how you can use what somebody else is doing to help you.  You have to be really selfish and always want to help yourself and always do what is going to help you.  Which is really not my personality, but for whatever reason I’m pretty good at it.  Hopefully it will work out for us.”

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