Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Driver Notes & Quotes for 5-Hour Enegy 500 at Pocono Raceway

Biffle looking to get back to the winner's circle at Pocono
GREG BIFFLE ON RETURNING TO POCONO WHERE HE WON LAST FALL: “Well, I’m definitely looking forward to Pocono this weekend for several reasons. It’s always good to go back to a track where you are the most recent winner but I’m also excited that we’ll be shifting again. Pocono is really more like a road course than a traditional oval so shifting is important to make the car perform properly and allow for better racing. It can be a difficult track because all three corners are completely different which makes handling an obstacle. We can just go there and try to run as well as we did when we won and hope for the same result. I’m also excited to go do a little fishing up there on Saturday afternoon.”

GREG ERWIN, BIFFLE'S CREW CHIEF, ON POCONO: “NASCAR has relaxed the gear ratio rule to allow shifting at Pocono which I think will make for a better show for the fans. By being able to shift, the drivers will be able to accelerate better off of the slower corners for faster and more competitive racing. It just adds another element to the race and I think it will obviously be an advantage to the drivers who are better at shifting and road course racing. We’d love a repeat win there and that’s what we’re aiming for.”

DENNY HAMLIN ON WHY HE'S HAD SO MUCH SUCCESS AT POCONO: “It’s tough to say, I mean, because we’ve won there in different cars, different lines. The patch is no longer a huge advantage like it used to be in turn three and I run a much different line than what other guys run. I don’t know. I just search around and seem to find what works. The thing is, though, I’ve got cars good enough to where I can run 80 percent all day and still be able to keep up with the guys. That’s what makes it easy for me to look really good is the fact that I don’t have to push my car over the limit and it still has speed.”

HAMLIN'S GOALS FOR THE NEXT 13 RACES BEFORE THE CHASE STARTS: “My goal right now, if I had to set out where I want to be going into Richmond — I’d like to be top-five in points. Fifth is a good number and a feasible goal where we can reach. If we go on a run and win every race, sure we can be first, but a feasible goal is to be top-five so we don’t have to race our way into Richmond. That’s the goal. We don’t want to have to go to Richmond and still not know whether we’re going to be in the Chase or not. We need to be consistent and we need to learn how to finish races consistently in the top-five, not top-10 — top-five. Obviously, we are getting better and our cars are getting better. I’m pretty sure we’re going to be good and in that position when we get to Richmond and not panicking whatsoever. We’ve made up a lot of distance in these last few weeks, so we have to keep that going.”

Harvick bullied Logano at Pocono last season (Getty)
JOEY LOGANO ON POCONO: “I’ve ran really good there and I’ve run really bad there. I’ve been kind of confused there before. I like it. I think it’s fun. It’s really interesting because you have three way different corners, so trying to get your car to handl e good in all three corners is really tough. Trying to figure all that out and racing there is fun. You have that long straightaway in the front and even the one down Long Pond is really, really long too. It’s always good racing there and on restarts, it’s nuts because you can go four and five-wide into turn one, so it’s a lot of fun.”

LOGANO CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 20 Home Depot Team is taking chassis #309 to Pocono for the 200-lap race. This will be the first race of the season for this chassis. It’s new to The Home Depot Team’s stable of cars. The back-up chassis is #275 that Logano most recently drove in the Martinsville race following a practice crash that damaged his primary car. He went on to finish the race in the 13th position.

BRAD KESELOWSKI ON VISITING POCONO AS A CHILD: “Pocono is a place that I’ve been to many times with my family. My dad always ran well there in the family ARCA car and those are my earliest recollections of the track. He did make one Cup start there, which is pretty cool. His experience is something that I’ve definitely leaned on as I continue to get up to speed there. It’s a pretty tricky place but I feel like I made a lot of gains there last year. I think some of the speed that we’ve found over the last few weeks will transfer to Pocono and that has me excited that we can grab a good finish.”

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will use chassis PRS-736 during Sunday’s 5-Hour Energy 500 at Pocono Raceway. Brad Keselowski drove this chassis to a 36th-place finish at Richmond International Raceway in April.

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON HOW TEAMS CALCULATE FUEL MILEAGE: “Really it’s kind of a basic science. As the runs develop, you see some trends based on speed of the laps. Kind of the fuel-air mixture at times makes a difference if it’s a dense night. Some other small, decimal point adjustments that they make in the overall scheme of things. Really what happens is they plug the gas tank into the car, assume it’s full, judge how much is possibly laying on the ground and then weigh the can and figure that all out through kind of eye balling it and kind of the weight of the gas can when it’s done to see what’s in there. It’s not a very exact science and it’s amazing how close the guys get when they say you’re going to run out on the backstretch and damn if you don’t.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: He's using the same car that raced at Dover and Fontana this season.

DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON RACING AT POCONO SITTING THIRD IN POINTS: “Definitely this year, I’ve run some really good cars and I’ve had some real good times racing and being in those cars. I just enjoy competing where I feel like I should be able to compete. I have an opinion, personally about what kind of talent I’ve got and where I should be running in the races. When I’m close to that or doing that or matching that then I get happy and I feel content and satisfied and obviously this year has been a better year for me. It could be even better and hopefully we’ll get to that next level, but for the most part definitely having fun. Definitely having more fun. When the race weekend sneaks up on you week after week after week, you’re not so upset about it. Sitting at home is pretty fun, but now when Thursday and Friday rides around, creeps up on you out of nowhere, you’re not disappointed about it, you’re like, ‘Alright man, let’s go to the next one and let’s see what we can do. Let’s see if we can go out there and make some more good things happen.”

Harvick finished fourth in both races last season (Getty)
KEVIN HARVICK ON RACING AT POCONO: “I enjoy driving the track. It’s fun to try to get your car set up right because the corners are so different and there are some bumps and things that give the race track character. This part of the season over the past several years has been really good. Pocono’s a fun race track to race on. The past couple of years, it’s come down to strategy and we’ve been solid. It’s got that unique patch in turn 3 that seemed to kind of lose some grip last year, so hopefully that’s gone and it’ll be kind of even from top to bottom as far as which groove you choose."

"It’s a fun track, and really rough in Turn 1 on the bottom. A lot of times you run through the middle. If your car’s working really good you can run anywhere you want through Turn 1. The tunnel turn is a really fast corner that you run right at the bottom. It’s got a really big curve at the bottom that you really don’t want to hit at all, because it jumps you up in the air. It’s a challenging race track, and has three totally different turns. The tunnel turn is a very challenging corner. It’s very inviting to drive the car in too far and then you push up in the center of the corner. When you get it right, it’s a really, really fun corner to go through because it’s really fast and the car’s right on the edge getting into the corner and you’re in the gas really early on exit. The car just kind of has that loose swing as you come up off the corner and you’re right up against the wall. It’s really flat. There’s a little bump in the middle of it that you hit. It’s really fun when your car is right. If it’s not right, you lose a lot of time there.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 288 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. The team utilized this race car eight times in 2010, earning three top-five and six top-10 finishes. The top-five runs includ second-place finishes at Auto Club Speedway (2/21) and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (7/25), and Harvick’s win at Michigan International Speedway (8/15).

Stewart has two wins at Pocono, including 2009 (Getty)
TONY STEWART ON RACING AT POCONO: “All three corners are different – that’s the most challenging part. It seems like you can always get your car good in two of the three corners, but the guys who are contending for the win are the guys who can get their car good for all three corners, which is very hard to do. It seems like if we can get our car to go through the tunnel turn well, then we’re normally able to get it to go through the rest of the racetrack well. The tunnel turn seems to be our toughest turn on the racetrack. Getting through turn two and the last corner of the racetrack that’s flat, long and sweeping – those seem to be the toughest two corners to get through. And if you’re a little bit off, you’re a bunch off. If there’s a guy who can get all three of those corners right, then that’s the guy who’s going to win the race.”

STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 14-640 - This car debuted in May at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway where it enjoyed a solid outing, qualifying ninth and leading six laps before finishing seventh. It’s since been tested in the wind tunnel, and Sunday’s race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway will mark its second career start.

CLINT BOWYER ON POCONO RACEWAY: “It’s fun. I’ve gotten to where I enjoy Pocono. I think it’s one of the tracks that we can win at. It (the patch) has (changed the racing), but it’s starting to wear out now. I think by the time we come back this year, we’re going to be going back down around the bottom of the track and making some head way.I’ll never forget the day when I was catching Jeff (Gordon) and getting ready to pass him. He was four or five car lengths ahead of me and we went down into turn one. All of the sudden, his brakes went out. I’ll never forget until the day I die how fast he accelerated away from me because I was hard on the brakes and decelerating myself. He stayed the same speed. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I couldn’t believe how fast he went off into that corner. It really opened my eyes to how fast you’re going.”

BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 350 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala, built new for 2011, has now seen action twice this season. The first being a runner-up finish at Texas Motor Speedway in April and the most recent coming two weeks ago in the Coca-Cola 600 when Bowyer brought home a 15th-place effort.

RYAN NEWMAN ON POCONO: “Pocono is about as complex as the road courses are. Road courses, you get a lot of different turns and straightaways. You can easily package that into three or four different corners the way a car drives. Pocono is very different in all three corners, so it’s very complex when it comes to setting the car up and from the driver’s standpoint. It’s all about matching up the combination of how the crew chief sets up the car relative to how the driver drives the racecar to make a happy package and have a shot at victory. Fuel mileage can also be crucial at Pocono. The bigger the racetrack, the more sensitive it is when it comes to fuel mileage. Each lap is 2.5 miles, there. Getting back to pit lane when you’re close to running out of fuel, it tends to be a place where the driver really has to manage his fuel when the crew chief asks you to save some fuel. There are a lot of great things that could happen at Pocono that we don’t really have at some other racetracks. You get to places like Pocono, Indianapolis and Michigan and fuel mileage can be as much of a crew chief’s friend as a foe.”

Gordon's fourth Pocono win came in 2007
JEFF GORDON ON POCONO: “It is just long. I mean, 500 miles at Pocono is like 600 miles Charlotte. It is just very long. The corners are all unique and challenging, so, when you have a long race and you have challenging turns like you have at Pocono, and if the weather is warm too, it can make for a very long day that can be very challenging mentally and physically. They are going to let us shift this time so I am pretty excited about going back to shifting at Pocono. That is one thing, getting the gearing right and getting those shifts smooth. And power. You have got to have good horsepower. At a place like that, the straightaways are so long but, you know, you have three distinct corners that are all unique and different. Trying to get the car balanced to go those three corners fast is also a big challenge. I think taking away the shifting eliminated some opportunities to pass. I think by bringing it back is going to make it yes, more competitive. More exciting racing I believe.”

MARK MARTIN ON RACING AT POCONO: “Well, it looks like Mother Nature may be our biggest competitor right now. (LAUGHS.) We’ve struggled a bit at Pocono in both races last year. The tires would be so, so good at the start of the run, but as soon as they wore out we were just too loose. We showed improvement in the second race and I think we learned a lot. Hopefully we’ll unload off the truck pretty good and not be fighting the handling too bad early on.”

Montoya should benefit the most with shifting allowed
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – 15TH IN STANDINGS: “Pocono is a long race. It is one of those places where you think, we should just run 400 miles there, you know? It almost makes the Coca-Cola 600 seem short! It’s very challenging because it’s really old asphalt and it’s really bumpy and every corner is different. So to get the car right, is really hard. You’ve just got to learn to drive it where it’s okay in a couple of turns. If you can get it good in two out of three (turns), you’re good. Our Target Chevrolet has been good there over the last few years so we’re expecting a strong finish this weekend.”

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1103 - Crew Chief Brian Pattie and the No. 42 team will bring chassis #1103 to Pocono Raceway this weekend. The last time Montoya used this chassis, he finished in the 12th position in the Sprint All-Star Race. Prior to the race at Charlotte, this chassis started on the pole and had a tenth-place run at Auto Club Speedway in March of 2011.

MATT KENSETH ON RACING AT POCONO: “There are a lot of things about Pocono that we focus on heading into this weekend. Fuel mileage is a big deal because it is such a big track and you can’t run very many laps on fuel there. All three corners are very unique; Turn one is really rough and bumpy which makes it hard to find a good groove, and honestly, all three turns are a challenge to get through fast. The straightaway is really long and you tend to spend that time thinking about the corners. It is the corners I guess that are the biggest focus for me because it is a challenge to get your car handling all three of them correctly, and it will be even more of a challenge now with shifting again.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-751 (last run at Richmond)

PAUL MENARD ON POCONO RACEWAY: “Pocono is very similar to Indianapolis, and we had a really good test there a few weeks ago. All of the things that we learned will transfer over to Pocono, I’m sure. You have to set the car up for three different corners and a long straightaway. It’s definitely a unique place. It’s a great track. The mountains are really nice. It’s a nice change from the bigger cities that we go to. I really like going to Pocono.”

MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 347 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet Impala was a brand new addition to the RCR fleet for the 2011 season and was last seen on track at Dover International Speedway where Menard brought home a 24th-place result after starting from the 20th position. This car also saw paces earlier this year at Auto Club Speedway where Menard started 15th and finished 16th.

Burton had great practices at both 2010 Pocono races
JEFF BURTON ON POCONO RACEWAY: “I haven’t really thought that we’ve been in position to win races there (at Pocono). We’ve run solid top six, top seven but being able to win there, we haven’t quite gotten there yet. We struggle with getting the car to rotate in (turns) one, two and three and still get off of four and five. I don’t get why every race track we go to has four corners and Pocono has five, yet it really has three. I have yet to understand that. However, it’s very difficult to get the car right on both ends of the race track. This biggest thing is it’s so rough. The thing about Pocono is you start your braking while you’re still going straight. So you really don’t get the sensation of speed like you do at Texas (Motor Speedway) or somewhere like that. But, when you get there (to the turn), you’re going a lot faster than you should be. It gets really, really rough. The car is bouncing around and moving around a lot. It will get your attention, but it doesn’t feel that fast. When something goes wrong in turn one, you feel like you’re going really fast. A lot of that speed sensation goes away because you’re straight-line braking.”

BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 317 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built new for the 2010 season, Burton drove this Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala to an eighth-place finish at Pocono Raceway in August before piloting this No. 31 racer to a 24th-place result at Michigan International Speedway two weeks later and to a 23rd-place result at Auto Club Speedway in October. After going through offseason modifications, this RCR entry last competed at Bristol Motor Speedway in March and Dover International Speedway last month where Burton was credited with 17th- and 11th-place finishes, respectively.

JAMIE MCMURRAY ON POCONO: “Pocono is a fun place to race, but it is a difficult track to get set up just right with all three corners being so different. Trying to find a balance to get through each of the different corners is a challenge. Horsepower is also key. You need to motor past people up off the corners, especially off turn four with that long front straightaway. I look forward to having a strong run in our McDonald’s car this weekend. We certainly need to have a swing of good luck here soon and this would be a great place to make that happen.”

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1102 - Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion has elected to bring Chassis number #1102 to Pocono Raceway. This is the same chassis that McMurray drove earlier in 2011 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and most recently at Dover International Speedway in May.

Busch had career best runner-up finish at Pocono in 2010
KYLE BUSCH ON THE HARDEST PART OF POCONO: “The hardest part of the track, for me, is probably turn one, and then turn two is the second-hardest, and then turn three is the third-hardest. Turn three, last year, because of the patch they laid down. We couldn’t go down low and get underneath somebody and get a run on them because, when you come off the corner, you’re 8 to 10 mph slower than the guy on your outside, and they’re just going to blow right by you going down the straightaway.”
Since the track is unique, where is the best place to make a pass at Pocono?

BUSCH ON HIS FAVORITE PART OF THE TRACK TO PASS ON: “Most of your passing is going to be done probably through turn one and off of turn one and getting into turn two, if somebody can get a good run off of turn two, get back up high and get in line to get on that patch getting into turn three. Besides that, in turn one, we just can’t get the cars to turn down there because there’s so much load on the bump stops from going 210 mph down the front straightaway and then trying to slow it down to about a ‘buck-40’ (140). Turn two is kind of bumpy and kind of rough. There are different areas where you’ve got to maneuver through the tunnel turn to get your car right. If you miss it just by a little bit, you tend to knock the wall down off the corner, so it’s tight.”

KYLE BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE - Chassis No. 302: This chassis will make its third career start in Sunday’s 5-Hour Energy 500 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, as this car has finished no worse than third in its two previous starts. No. 302 made its debut in April at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, where Busch started 11th and led a race-high 151 laps before bringing home a solid third-place finish. The No. 18 team brought this chassis to Richmond (Va.)International Raceway in late-April, where Busch started 20th and led four times for a race-high 235 laps en route to the Crown Royal
400 victory.

REGAN SMITH ON POCONO: “If we can have an error-free race I think we can come out of Pocono with a strong finish. We were decent there last year, and after only five career races at Pocono I am understanding the tunnel turn and the configuration of the track much better. It’s a different place and experience is important. Pocono is where we need to start nailing down consistent performances in our Furniture Row Chevrolet. Lately, it’s been one good race, one bad race. You can’t have that, we need to start stringing some good runs together. The potential is there, but we need to avoid mistakes and mechanical issues.”

DAVID RAGAN ON POCONO: “NASCAR relaxed the transmission ratio rule allowing drivers to shift, which will be something new for me at Pocono. Pocono is a good track for us and a place our engines run really well. Should be a good weekend to keep the momentum we’ve built up going for our UPS team.”

RAGAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-759 Last ran Dover – finished 28th; Backup: RK-695 Last ran Phoenix in 2010 as the No. 99 – finished first

CARL EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis: RK-732 – Ran at Vegas (1st) & Darlington (2nd).

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