Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Driver Notes & Quotes for 2011 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

Harvick rolls out a brand new chassis this week (Getty)
KEVIN HARVICK ON THE ADJUSTMENTS MADE THROUGHOUT THE DIFFERING CLIMATES: “You can definitely do it either way. You can make it better or you can dial yourself way out. I’ve been a part of that race several times where you start the race really good and by the time its dark you are in big trouble. So, you definitely have to have some past history as far as what the race track does and that’s one reason why the All-Star Race was so important. Just for the fact that everything you do in that race is at night and the (Coca-Cola) 600 is going to end at night; you have to take what happens in the All-Star Race and then what you do in the day time practices and mix those two together. You also have to rely on a lot of past notes and things to try to have a setup that’s adjustable. A lot of adjustments made during the race are out of past theories and past experiences. If your car is not doing something and it’s getting dark rapidly, you are going to have to make a change on the fly without your car doing something. You are just going to have to trust it’s the right change and just make it if the time is right as far as the sun going down and when the darkness is coming.”

HARVICK ON THE DIFFERENCE 66 LAPS MAKES IN THE IS RACE: “I think, as a driver, you are mentally prepared and kind of just know how long a 500-mile or 400-mile race is, but I think the people who worry about it the most are the engine guys just because everything they do is set off of 500 miles, so they probably worry about it a lot more than we do.”

HARVICK CHASSIS SELECTION: He'll race chassis No. 353 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This is a brand new No. 29 chassis that will make its on-track debut this weekend.

Bowyer is using runner-up Texas car this week (Getty)
CLINT BOWYER ON THE COCA-COLA BEING A BRAGGING RIGHTS TRACK: “It is, but it’s always been a tough difficult track for me to get a good finish at. I’ve had some hard hits there along with some bad runs and bad luck. Things always seem to happen to us at Charlotte. It’s just not one of my good tracks. However, our cars are running well right now. Everything changes when your stuff is running well and you’re going down a path where everyone’s on board and comfortable. It doesn’t matter what your history is at that track, if your cars are running well and you’re on a roll, you can keep it going, no matter where you’re at.”

BOWYER ON THE HARDEST PART ABOUT 600 MILES AT CHARLOTTE: “Oh man, you just need to keep getting track position and keep everything in good shape. Everything has to be good the entire night. Everyone has to hit their marks. Pit stops have to go well. Transitioning the setup into the night has to be smooth. Everything has to be good for such a long period of time.”

BOWYER CHASSIS SELECTION: Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 350 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala, built new for the 2011 season, last saw action in April at Texas Motor Speedway when Bowyer led 44 laps en route to a runner-up finish.

JEFF BURTON ON THE HARDEST PART OF THE COCA-COLA 600: “A lot is talked about going from day to night, but I, personally, think that’s overblown. I’ve won that race. Never before have I run horrible during the day and, all of a sudden, taken off and run well at night. I think you have to run well both during the day and at night. Most of the drivers who win run well during the day and the night. It’s hard comparing day practices to a night race – there’s no question about that. But, that’s the same for everyone.”

BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Jeff Burton will pilot chassis No. 359 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. This Caterpillar Impala will be put through its first paces of competition this weekend.

REGAN SMITH ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “We’ve seen the highs and the lows in the past three weeks, and the highs are what we need to get back to. After the big win in Darlington (May 7), we had a mechanical issue in Dover and last week at the Sprint All-Star Race a fuel problem kept us from making a charge at the end. The good news is that our Furniture Row Chevrolets the past two races have been solid and that’s what I am looking for again for the Coca-Cola 600 — a strong race car, capable of running up front. I love this track, and deep down, I know we can do well here. We just need to avoid the gremlins and not make mistakes.”

GREG BIFFLE ON THE COKE 600: “It takes a lot of patience. It’s such a long race and it requires a totally different mind set. It’s kind of like two races. The first half is survival and the second half is making sure the car will handle well into the night and then making you’re way to the front if you’re not already there. We learned a lot in the All-Star race last weekend and I think we found a few things that will help us out a lot this weekend. I’m pretty excited about it. We should have a good run in the 600 and I think this team will continue to progress more and more over the next few weeks.”

DAVID REUTIMANN ON TAKING THE ALL-STAR CAR BACK FOR THE 600: “Normally there is a time period between races where we take the Aaron’s Dream Machine back to the shop, take it apart, go over it and send it back out for a race maybe a couple weeks later – which is how we normally do it. We felt this Aaron’s Dream Machine was so good – we feel like all our cars are very good, but we felt a good connection and something going good with this car and we didn’t want to take a chance at jeopardizing that so we went ahead and decided to use the same car. That just means that the guys here in the shop are going to have to hustle. We have a great group of guys, whether it be down in the fab shop or out on the shop floor that will be able to get it turned around. I appreciate the opportunity and the effort to do that because certainly that wasn’t something that we had in the plans. Any time you change plans it means a lot more work for a lot of people, so those guys are down there busting their tails getting it turned back around. I really appreciate the work that they’re doing.”

Ragan hopes to recapture magic from Showdown (Getty)
DAVID RAGAN ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “All-Star weekend was a good outing for us and hopefully we can build on that. The Coca-Cola 600 is a totally different mindset, but Drew and I have a good plan for the race. I’m pretty excited about qualifying Thursday evening after last week; it’s all about track position so it’s important to start up front. We are taking the same car that sat on the pole in Texas and finished in the top 10. Texas is a similar race in that we started in the day and ended at night, so we should have some good notes to go off of.”

RAGAN CHASSIS SELECTION: Ragan will be driving the same car that sat on the pole in Texas and finished seventh.

MARK MARTIN ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “I’ve said many times, in my opinion; this is the coolest venue in the world. I’ve always loved this race track. I think it’s a great facility. The track is great to race on. It represents our sport well. And I love the fans here and their enthusiasm. So it’s great that we race here. It would be harder for me to hit a golf ball than it would be to drive a race car. There’s a physical aspect to what we do that is not really common knowledge, just like the aspect to golf or drag racing or anything else that I don’t necessarily acknowledge because I have no great interest in that so I don’t look at it and analyze it that close. But I think that anything you do on a professional level that the Indy 500 is or the Coca-Cola 600, anything you do on a level like that is extremely intense, physically and mentally, in different ways.”

PAUL MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 356 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet Impala is a brand new addition to the RCR fleet, and will see its first laps on the track at CMS.

BOBBY LABONTE ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “The Coca-Cola 600 was my very first win and my brother (Terry) finished second – - it was a great time for both of us. I had been second a few times before and we had won some poles and came close to winning. A first win is something you cannot go back and repeat. You’ll never forget that. It was a very special time in my life.”

DALE EARNHARDT JR ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “I like running here and I’m glad the track is fun, it is a fun race track. The two corners couldn’t be any more different from each other. (Turns) one and two seems like it’s a half mile longer than (turns) three and four. Three and four is real tight and tough to get through, the suns sort of bakes on that corner real bad. One and two is kind of long and fun and pretty drawn out for you. And there’s great racing here and the walls are yellow oddly enough. There are just all kinds of cool things about this place and neat things about it.”

New chassis this week for the 99
CARL EDWARDS ON RACING AT CHARLOTTE: “I’m coming off the best and biggest race and win of the year. Winning the Sprint All-Star race ranks right up there with winning the Daytona 500. I’ve been testing at Road Atlanta with my team and they are still pumped about the win too. We are all excited to go back to Charlotte this weekend and run a much longer race. This is the race that I train and work out for all year. This race is made for me; it’s a long, grueling marathon of a race.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The Aflac team will be bringing chassis RK-765 to CMS. This is a brand new chassis with the final Scotts EZ Seed paint scheme of the season.

MARTIN TRUEX JR ON RACING AT CHARLOTTE: “I’m glad we got to run the Sprint Showdown because the 40 laps we raced, it told us a few things about our NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota. We’re keeping with our original game plan and bringing a brand new NAPA Toyota. I’m looking forward to keeping our momentum going. I think and I hope the tide has turned on our season. We have the potential to turn a good season into a great one.”

JAMIE McMURRAY ON CHARLOTTE: “I am looking forward to Charlotte this weekend. Our team had a lot of success at this track last year and this is one of my favorite places to race. However after last weekend in the Sprint All Star race we learned that we have some work to do if we are going to repeat that 2010 success. We will be working on some changes to our cars for this weekend and as always our guys are giving it 100% commitment to make us more competitive. One of my favorite things about this race weekend at Charlotte is that we get to watch our teammates from the IndyCar side race at Indianapolis early in the day on Sunday and then the track always has some cool pageantry with all the military that gets you pumped up and ready to go! Racing on Memorial Day weekend is a reminder to give thanks to all the men and women that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, which allows us the opportunity to do the things that we love.

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet (NSCS): Chassis #1104. Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion has decided to bring Chassis #1104 to Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. This chassis was raced last weekend in the Sprint All-Star race where McMurray started ninth and finished 17th.

New car for Montoya this week (Getty)
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “It’s the longest race of the season so there’s always a chance for things to go wrong. It’s a race where we start out with daylight and then end at night. That means you’re constantly making adjustments to get the handling right under different track conditions. We’ve learned a lot over the course of the last few weeks and the guys have been making a lot of changes to our Target Chevrolet’s so I’m feeling pretty good about the direction we’re heading in. The focus is to get us back up in the point standings and start competing for wins again.”

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: No. 42 Target Chevrolet (NSCS): Chassis #1108. Crew Chief Brian Pattie elected to bring a brand new chassis #1108 to Charlotte Motor Speedway.

JEFF GORDON ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “I think the strategy (for the 600) is to get to halfway and be on the lead lap. I think that is the key. When you are on the lead lap at the halfway point, then that is when the race begins. You know 300 miles is a long way, and as long as you are on the lead lap I feel that you have a real shot at winning the race and tuning on the car and getting it where you need to be and be fast at the end. To me what is so difficult about the 600 is you are pretty much are practicing during the day to try and get ready for a night race. You start the race in the late afternoon, early evening. The track temperature is still pretty warm and it cools down quite a bit as you go into the night so the track conditions change dramatically. Your setup has got to be flexible and then it is a very, very long race so hydration and just trying to stay up with the changing conditions of the track to me are the most challenging part of the race. In order to be good at the end, we’ve struggled at the beginning at times and that just makes that first 100 miles go by so slow. It seems to me when the sun goes down the track conditions get better it seems like the laps start clicking off and then the whole race goes better.”

TONY STEWART ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “What you learn during the All-Star will help to get ready for the 600. The entire field is going to do that so it gives everybody the same opportunity. I don’t know that there is anything difficult about the 600. You still approach it the same as you do a 500-mile race. You just have to get your car balanced. The hard part is you start with it hot in late afternoon and then you are going to have quite a bit of time for the track to change a bunch from the beginning of the race to the end of the race. That is probably the biggest challenge but it is always a challenge when you run night races when you are going to start late afternoon.”

RYAN NEWMAN ON RACING AT CHARLOTTE THIS WEEK: “We’ve got top-five finishes and have been knocking on the door at each one but this is a big weekend and the Coke 600, being a Coke driver now adds a little extra to it, but Memorial Day weekend is really special for us with the Army and the all the great festivities and functions the track puts on for Memorial Day. That to me is as much special as the Coke 600. It all depends on how the car is handling and how hot it is outside. That additional 100 miles when you’re leading the race and the car is pretty good it probably lasts forever but it’s just another 100 miles, it’s just logging some time. If the car is really misbalanced and you’re fighting loose entry and struggling and up by the fence it can be miserable because there’s times when you’re a 15th-place car and you’re running 15th and you know you are at the best of what you can get 500 miles in and you’ve still got 100 miles to go and your shoulders are tired, your elbows are wore out and you’re looking out the right side of the car, so it all depends on how your car is handling really.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “Regardless of surface, that track (Charlotte Motor Speedway) is still challenging. It shows up in different ways. The temperature of the track and the rubber going down changes so much from the start to the finish; and really, from when we make decisions based on our set-ups in Happy Hour. That track goes through a bunch of changes. You have a Nationwide race and then all of our stuff day to night. So it is a handful. And you find that the winning car is usually un-drivable at the start of the race and you just have to nurse it along and not make mistakes. And I’ve made a few mistakes here of late. I’ve spun out a lot off of Turn 2 and I really hope to not do that again (laughs). But it’s a challenging track and a challenging event when you have such a fickle surface to race on. It really is. When they put that new surface down we lost the advantage we had. We still seem to run well there. We’ve been in contention and have been in the top five and been running well. So, we’re there. I enjoy that track. The old track, and how rough it was and abrasive it was, really fit my style. We had a great set-up for it and I knew how to drive the track. The rougher the track, the better in my opinion; I seem to do better at those tracks. So, in time, the track will get there.”

Busch brothers fare well at Charlotte (Getty)
KURT BUSCH ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “Dominant wins like we had in the 600 last year are pretty few and far between. The cars are so equal these days that strategy has pegged the meter in importance. Just look at the last few races and how Regan Smith won at Darlington and Matt (Kenseth) won at Dover. A win is a win and we need one no matter how it comes. The biggest and most important thing is leading the final lap – the checkered flag lap – and winning the race.”

KYLE BUSCH ON GETTING A TRAFFIC TICKET GOING 128 MPH IN A 45 MPH ZONE: “Today I received a traffic citation in Iredell County. I was test driving a new sports car and I got carried away. I went beyond the speed I should have been going on a public road. I apologize to the public, my fans, sponsors, and race teams for my lack of judgment. I take responsibility for my actions and I can assure you that something like this will never happen again. I thank the Iredell County Sheriff’s Department and all law enforcement for the hard work they do every day to protect the public and to enforce the laws in a fair and equitable manner.”

KYLE BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 283 - This chassis will make it fifth-ever start in Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. In its first start last September at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, Busch started ninth and finished ninth. The No. 18 team brought No. 283 back for the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth last November, where Busch started 29th and finished a disappointing 32nd. Busch competed with this chassis in the Ford 400 Sprint Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he started 33rd but finished 32nd after being spun and making hard contact with the frontstretch inside retaining wall while running in the top-five late in the race.

In its most recent start at Texas in April, Busch started 11th and ran within the top-five before a loose wheel caused an unscheduled green-flag pit stop and relegated him to a 16th-place finish.

JOEY LOGANO CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 20 Home Depot Team is taking chassis #287 for Logano this weekend. The team raced this chassis at Auto Club Speedway earlier this year to a 25th-place finish after an engine change and a pass through penalty. Logano also drove this chassis to a seventh-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October and to a fourth-place finish at Texas in November.

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