Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chevy Drivers Look to Dominate Phoenix Again; 10 Straight Wins Before Loss Last Fall

McMurray and Montoya discuss strategy before practice last week
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET – 17TH IN STANDINGS: “I am looking forward to Phoenix this weekend. Daytona is always a race that requires some luck and being in the right place at the right time. Moving on to some of the intermediate tracks that we run on more frequently, we can get a better gauge on what our team has to show. Phoenix offers a challenge because the corners are so different from one end of the track to the other. It is a place that is real fun to race if you hit the right balance. I am excited to get our Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet back on the track.”

No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet (NSCS): Chassis #1008. Kevin “Bono” Manion will bring chassis #1008. This was the chassis that McMurray drove to a 10th place finish in the fall race at Phoenix last year.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – 6TH IN STANDINGS: “Phoenix is a cool place. It is really tricky. Both ends are very different. It’s one of those tracks you look forward to going to because it’s so different. From what I heard they’re going to change it up a bit when we go back there in the fall so that’s a little disappointing. I haven’t seen the proposed plan but they are probably looking for better racing or something different. The racing has always been pretty exciting there I thought.”

No. 42 Target Chevrolet (NSCS): Chassis #1109. Brian Pattie and the Target team will be bringing Chassis #1109 to Phoenix International Raceway. This is a brand-new chassis.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/ AMP ENERGY CHEVROLET – 22ND IN STANDINGS – HAS TWO (2) PIR WINS – ’03, ’04: “I have a lot of respect for Steve (Letarte) as a crew chief. I’ve enjoyed getting to know him better these past couple of months. I’ve seen him make some awesome calls and do a lot of great things with Jeff (Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet). I really enjoy the way the team approaches their jobs and what their goals are. I like the way they go about business, how they conduct themselves. Those guys are used to winning. I like that pressure and sense of entitlement to winning. Handling is really important at Phoenix. It takes something special to make a car work really good there. Turns 3 and 4 have been a challenge for me lately. Both ends can be challenging but (Turns) 3 and 4 create a longer corner, and they are just so different from each other.”

Gordon one to watch at Phoenix with team changes 
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – – 26TH IN STANDINGS — HAS WON ONCE (1) AT PIR – ’07: “Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the entire No. 24 crew did a great job during Speedweeks. We had a fast car and were able to sit on the front row for the ‘500. Then, after the wreck in the Duel, they did a great job repairing the car so we could keep our starting spot for the race. The car was fast in the race, we just got caught up in an early wreck. They did an amazing job of getting that car back on the track Sunday, and that type of determination and teamwork is why I’m looking forward to racing with this group at Phoenix and the rest of the 2011 season. There will be some new things that we will need to adjust to this weekend. In the past, the sun can be difficult to deal with while driving into turn 1. Friday’s practice session will give us an opportunity to see what kind of challenge that gives us in February. And those practice sessions now determine our qualifying order. This should make qualifying very interesting with the fast drivers going out later and later. We could see the top spot changing after each run. Qualifying well here seems to help on race day. It’s not like Daytona where you can go from 10th to the lead in one lap. Sometimes it can take several laps just to gain one position. And the fewer positions needed to gain to get to the front, the better.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET – 25TH IN STANDINGS – HAS FOUR (4) VICTORIES AT THE ONE-MILE OVAL – ;07, ’08, ’08, ’09: “Definitely disappointed that they needed to resurface the track. I understand that at some point all tracks need it and they are at that point. We love the tracks that are worn out and on the verge of needing to be resurfaced. I think we put on our best races there. So, disappointed to hear it go but Phoenix has done a good job in speaking with folks, drivers, trying to understand the track from a safety standpoint and to make sure that we don’t have single-file racing starting at the first race after the repave. I’ve been in talks with Phoenix and the crew that is working on the track and I feel good about things and where they are going with it. If we don’t like it, which sounds like the chances are low, in time it will come back, just like a lot of the other tracks.”

MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET – 9TH IN STANDINGS – HAS TWO (2) PIR VICTORIES – ’93, ’09: “I love racing at Phoenix. I’m a big fan of short track racing. I grew up racing on short tracks and it’s just always been something I’ve enjoyed. I’ve had a lot of success at Phoenix, too, so that gets me pretty geared up when I get out there. There comes a time when you really aren’t sure you’ll ever get a win again. I was at that point (when he won Phoenix with Hendrick Motorsports in 2009). I knew our team was capable, but I hadn’t won in so long. That night was incredible. I was just so happy. Beyond happy. And to see the guys, Alan (Gustafson) and the crew guys, to see their faces. I’ll never forget it. Then to have as many of the other drivers and owners in this sport come to see me. It will be one of the most memorable wins of my career for sure.”

Newman beat Gordon off the line in a G-W-C Phoenix finish in spring 
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 TORNADOS CHEVROLET – 20TH IN STADINGS – HAS ONE (1) PIR WIN – ’10: “Phoenix is really one of my favorite racetracks because the design of the racetrack makes it fun and challenging to drive. It’s definitely a driver’s racetrack. We’ve always said that because it’s so unique. It’s different from one end to the other. And, therefore, the crew chief can only get one end perfect, it seems, and the other one the driver has to adapt to. It’s not a compromise if your crew chief does a good job setting up the race car, because you can do things to try to manipulate those opposite end of the racetrack. But when your car is not working it’s up to the driver to make up what you can of what’s left, and that I think separates the men from the boys at Phoenix. Phoenix is interesting because, I think every time we come back here, it seems like the track loses just a small percentage of grip, and that’s a good thing because the driver has to drive and hustle the car a little bit more and a little bit differently and still be smooth. It’s those aspects that make this track a lot of fun to me. And it is a special track to me. It’s where I started my Sprint Cup career. It’s the first track I raced on in NASCAR, so it’s an important place. And after last year with our win, it’s a special track for our team, too, so we are looking forward to going back there. It’s kind of funny actually. After the Daytona 500 on Sunday, I was making my back way to the bus lot and Jimmie Johnson saw me and he was like ‘Are you ready for Phoenix?’ and I said ‘Yeah, since like last Tuesday.’ It’s just a track that I have always liked from my USAC days. Back then, Phoenix was the place to race, so it’s kind of like a track that’s the backbone of how I’m used to racing. We ran so well there last year, and we seem to be in-tune with the racetrack, so we’re looking forward to continuing our streak of solid finishes there.”

NEWMAN CHASSIS SELECTION - Chassis No. 39-536: For Ryan Newman and the No. 39 team, chassis No. 39-536 has been a favorite. The Subway Fresh Fit 500k marks its first outing in 2011. Prior to this season, Newman piloted this chassis at three races in 2010 – twice at Phoenix International Raceway and once at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. In the car’s first outing at Phoenix last April, Newman took the lead on the final restart of the race and held on to the top spot for the final two laps to score his first win driving for Stewart-Haas Racing. In November, it was a key pit call, once again, that led to a runner-up finish. At Richmond, Newman finished 11th. The chassis also saw action four times in 2009 – twice at Phoenix with 16th- and 20th-place finishes and twice at Richmond with fourth and 10th-place finishes, respectively. During the offseason, the car’s front clip was updated for 2011. The car was also wind tunnel tested in early February with good results.

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/ MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET – 12TH IN STANDINGS – HAS ONE (1) PIR WIN – ’99: “I think everybody’s pretty worn out after being in Daytona for so long. Phoenix means a normal routine and a chance for the crew guys to get back to their families for a couple of days before heading to another racetrack. I think so. Daytona is a restrictor-plate race and, unlike Daytona, four guys can’t get in a line at Phoenix and go to the front. Daytona and Talladega (Ala.) have always just been two different forms of racing. With the draft being so important at those two tracks, it’s more of a team deal than an individual deal. What happens at Phoenix and the races after that has to be done on your own. You can’t help each other at Phoenix. You just have to go race.”

Stewart is bringing a strong chassis this week 
STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE - Chassis No. 14-587: This car made its debut in March 2010 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, where it qualified fifth and finished 26th. Prior to Martinsville, Chassis No. 14-587 never turned a wheel on the racetrack. With a new body honed in the wind tunnel, it was tested at The Milwaukee Mile June 1 in preparation for its second career start in June at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. There, Chassis No. 14-587 earned a hard-fought second-place finish, for after starting 25th, it fell to 33rd after a lap 36 pit miscue on the team’s first stop. Two late-race cautions allowed Stewart to regain his lost track position, and with a savvy two-tire pit call, Stewart wheeled Chassis No. 14-587 to pass second-place Kurt Busch on the penultimate lap. The car returned to New Hampshire for the first event of the 10-race Chase for the Championship, where in its third career start, it qualified third before leading three times for 100 laps. But while leading with less than two laps to go, it ran out of fuel. Stewart coasted around the 1.058-mile oval for the final circuit of the 300-lap race and finished 24th, the last driver on the lead lap. Clint Bowyer, who served as Stewart’s primary competition for much of the race, wound up with the victory. Chassis No. 14-587 revisited Martinsville for round six of the Chase, where it qualified sixth and rallied back from two pit-road miscues during the race, but a flat right-front tire with less than 10 laps remaining relegated it to a 24th-place finish. With another new body, this car makes its first start of 2011 and fifth overall this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.

REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING CHEVROLET – 6TH IN STANDINGS: “After Daytona 500 I found time to take a few deep breaths, and for a short time, rehashed what could have been. But then it was all about Phoenix and thinking about how important it is to maintain the momentum we gained during Speedweeks. While in Daytona, Phoenix’s one-mile oval was on our mind and we went to Disney World Speedway to conduct a test session. We were pleased with what we learned in the test and feel that Phoenix and the following races should be good for our Furniture Row Chevrolet. We’re looking for big things and know that we have the potential to produce positive results on a weekly basis.”

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