Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Driver Notes & Quotes for Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

Harvick has two Daytona wins, including last July (Getty)
KEVIN HARVICK ON DAYTONA: "I think as a team we have a set strategy that we’re going to go into that race (Daytona) and see how it works. Whether that’s right or wrong, I don’t know. We’ve talked about it for a couple weeks now and have a good plan. The racing would be the same way that it is now if the race tracks – the worst thing in the world that happens to this sport is repaving race tracks. That is the absolute worst thing you can do to make the racing bad is to pave a race track. You look at some of the race tracks that have been paved for five or six years now and I don’t know if it’s the type of asphalt or whatever they’re doing, but the racing isn’t the same that it was and the race tracks just don’t get bad. Basically, if Daytona and Talladega would have been paved like they are now, however many years ago and everybody would have figured out how to do – that car would have done what we do now, it’s just that there’s enough grip on the race track with the way that the asphalt is to allow you to do that. There’s really no way to fix it as far as I’m concerned. Unless you just say, go back to the no bump-drafting in the corners. That’s the only way you can really fix it until the grip goes away. Paving the race tracks are a killer for the racing.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Will race chassis No. 343. Harvick has competed in this car twice so far in 2011: he led five laps before finishing 42nd when the car’s engine expired at Daytona in February and scored a fifth-place finish at Talladega in April.

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON DAYTONA: “I think we have more options as competitors (than at the Daytona 500) to make passes for the lead or to work your way through traffic and play some strategy and different things there. I feel as a group we’re all smarter and will be a more competitive race with the push draft, but I don’t see any reason why we’d be in a big pack. Until we have to lift and we can’t run nose to tail, I don’t see us getting away from what we’re doing. Certainly it’s been a year now since it’s been repaved. Maybe there’s a little bit of a loss in grip. If it was a day race, I think you might not be able to push each other around, but the fact that it’s still a night race, I think when the race comes, we’ll be pushing.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Will be using his winning Talladega chassis from April.

Junior has had some rough times at Daytona
DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON RACING AT DAYTONA: “We’ve got a fast car. We sat on the pole there (Daytona) in February. We rebuilt that car and we’re taking it back. And I’m sure it’ll be great. I’m sure it will race really well. It looks like you’re just going to have to team-up with a guy and work with him all day long and try to stay out of wrecks and push him to the lead or get pushed to the lead you know, I don’t know. It’s all going to come down to circumstances. I don’t enjoy the two-car draft because when I push somebody I can’t see around him. And I would like to be in control of my own destiny all the time; be in control and be able to win the race. I was happy to push Jimmie (Johnson) to the win but in a perfect world, me and him both would rather just be racing our own cars and not have to worry about being obligated to push anyone to the win. You want to drive your own car across the finish line and that’s the way it ought to be. I think I learned more at Talladega. We ran okay at Daytona but it’s just circumstances. I thought it was a lottery five years ago (but) good Lord, it’s ridiculous now.”

JUNIOR AT DAYTONA: In 23 points-paying NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Daytona International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has recorded two wins, one pole position, eight top-five finishes, 13 top-10s and has led 395 laps. In February, Earnhardt earned his first Sprint Cup pole position at Daytona. He has an average starting position of 10.7 at Daytona, which is a personal best for Earnhardt.

EARNHARDT JR CHASSIS SELECTION: Crew chief Steve Letarte will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-629. Earnhardt last raced this chassis to a fourth-place finish after pushing his teammate Jimmie Johnson to the win at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in April.

Brad Keselowski finished 41st in the Daytona 500
BRAD KESELOWSKI ON PENSKE'S RESTRICTOR-PLATE PROGRAM: “Our speedway program is very good, very strong. I’m very happy with where we are with our cars. We led laps with our Miller Lite Dodge in the Daytona 500, and at Talladega, but we don’t have the finishes to show for how well we have run in those races. I just need to continue to make the right moves in the race and catch the right breaks. So far we’ve run up front, but we’ve had terrible luck with the restrictor-plate races. If we can get a little bit of luck on our side, I really think we can be a threat at any of the speedway races.”

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-639 during Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. This is a new chassis to the No. 2 fleet.

CLINT BOWYER ON RACING AT DAYTONA: “I think my radio box is a little more advanced (than at the Daytona 500). It’s a little more easier to navigate. I can find my teammates. I think it even has a really cool light on it that lights up whose numbers they are so they’ve worked on it really hard. Other than that, just making sure you bring the fastest bullet to the race track. That’s all you can do. We were good there obviously in the 500, we were good at Talladega, I mean missed it by inches. This is a great opportunity for us to capitalize hopefully and get our first win of the season. It’s time. We need to do that. Obviously for the Chase and everything that happens with these crazy wildcard for the last two I’m telling you there are 15 teams that are plenty capable and have been in the Chase. That’s the thing; if you look at the top-15 teams they’ve all been in there and should be in there. But you’re just going to have to do a better job than the rest and beat them out of it.”

BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Will be using the same car that won at Talladega last season and finished runner-up there this year.

Gordon sat on the front row in this years Daytona 500
JEFF GORDON ON RACING AT DAYTONA: “Just the bump drafting. That you can push all the way around the race track now. I think when we go back to Daytona; it will be about the temperature, the track and whether the grip has gone away at all and whether we can still do that. I’m expecting – right now I’m expecting us to be able to do that so it’s going to be about finding a partner, a drafting partner to work with and me and Mark (Martin) obviously worked well together at Talladega so we’ll have to look at maybe going that same route for Daytona. You know it’s not really about whether you have an opinion or like it, it’s just the way it is. If you want to be good and have a shot at winning, then you have to learn how to do it well. You have to learn how to cool the engine and you’ve got to find somebody that you can stick with and they can stick with you all day to be there at the end to win the race.”

RYAN NEWMAN ON DAYTONA: “I look forward to coming back there; and getting a little more experience from Daytona and Talladega, I’m sure our teams are going to be more competitive than they ever have been at that type of racing. It’s going to be hot. It will be interesting to see how much grip there is in the race car after this spring and if we still have to run wide open or if we have to lift at all. The racing itself, I wouldn’t say is my favorite kind of racing, but I do prefer it more over the old style of drafting, I guess you could say, that we have always done there. It’s nice to have an impact as a driver on the abilities of tandem racing, but I would rather be racing side-by-side, three-wide or four-wide or running wide open and having my car do the work than something else pushing me.”

NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: This will be the first start for Chassis No. 39-664. The new chassis for the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team was wind-tunnel tested just a
couple of weeks ago in preparation for the Coke Zero 400.

TONY STEWART ON DAYTONA: “Well, you just know you’re going to be partnered-up all day. I think it’s a bigger challenge for the crew chiefs going into Daytona next week, trying to figure out how to keep the cars cool and try to keep from the swapping down to a minimum and try to figure out how you can stay in line longer without having to do that exchange.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR. ON DRAFTING PARTNERS AT DAYTONA: “I think everyone has a handful of drivers that they like to work with. I know there are guys out there that when I get to them or they get behind me, I can trust them. I think what we saw at Talladega is what we will see on Saturday and that is teams dictating their drivers to draft and stick together all day long. There’s a need to keep it all in the family. We’re formulating our team strategy right now.”

MARK MARTIN ON DAYTONA: “I can honestly say that I like this style of racing way better than those big 35-car packs that we used to race in. There is just so much more that goes into this. It’s finding the right partner; finding which is better pushing. There’s got to be so much trust there. And then your spotters have to be working together and, most likely, one of them will do all the work for both teams. It’s tough. It’s mentally tough. That’s one of the reasons I like it so much. There is a huge challenge that goes into this style of racing that we don’t typically see every weekend. I know it’s a lot to get used to, but I love it. I’m looking forward to getting back out there and working with Jeff (Gordon) again.”

Montoya has fared very well at Daytona
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON RACING AT DAYTONA: “I think the easiest thing with the hotter conditions and the bump drafting there (at Daytona); if people were spinning around when we had 60 or 70 degrees track temperature, it’s going to be quite a challenge with the hotter conditions. It’s going to be interesting how people will approach the race. Because at the end of the race it’s going to be two-by-two-by-two with everybody pushing. The question is if you’re going to do it all night. Yeah, I think it’s better (two-car drafting) because you can make something happen. You know when you are three-wide before at Daytona and you were fourth row you were stuck. Now with it this way you can pass people, you can make something happen. I think that is great for the sport. When we were running in the second group going into the last lap and we left the door open for Carl (Edwards) on the bottom and I think we should have closed that door a little bit earlier. A lot of it goes on the lead guy. When you are pushing you go where the guy goes. So I think that was the harder thing.”

MONTOYA LIKES DAYTONA: Montoya has nine NSCS starts at Daytona International Speedway. He has picked up three top-10 finishes at DIS, all of them coming within the last four races. His best finish at the “World Center of Racing” came earlier this season in the Daytona 500, when he started in the 13th position and took the checkered flag in sixth.

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #902 was run three times during the 2010 season, finishing 10th at the Daytona 500 and third in both Talladega races. The Target team also used this chassis in all four restrictor plate events in 2009 with a best finish of ninth in the July race at Daytona.

McMurray has two Daytona wins (Getty)
JAMIE MCMURRAY ON DAYTONA: “Daytona is always a fun place for me and of course after 2010, it is really special. I am looking forward to another restrictor plate race from the standpoint that we had a good car in both Daytona and Talladega, but came up short in the end. We were down a cylinder with only a handful of laps to go at Daytona in February and couldn’t work together with our teammate and drafting partner Juan Pablo Montoya, to help push for a solid finish. Of course we are going to see more of the same two-car draft tandems. That makes for a interesting race, because the car in the back of the tandem really has to trust the spotter and anticipate the moves from the front car in order to get around. We will plan to pair up with our teammate (Juan Pablo Montoya) and stick together and hopefully have some luck go our way to be a factor at the end of the race.”

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1009. This chassis was last raced earlier this year to a 21st–place finish at Talladega Superspeedway. It was also used in this season’s Daytona 500, finishing 18th, and both Talladega races last season, where it came home second and 36th.

JOEY LOGANO ON DAYTONA: “Daytona is just one of those unpredictable tracks. When you unload you pretty much have what you have. There’s not much you can do at that point to improve your race car. These two-car drafts and new style of racing make it so important to take of your equipment and make sure you are there at the end with a drafting partner. But everyone knows and everyone has seen that pretty much anything can happen.”

LOGANO CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 20 Home Depot Team is taking chassis #298 this weekend to compete in the Coke Zero 400. This chassis served as the back-up chassis at Daytona earlier this season but has never been raced. The back-up chassis is #293 that Logano drove in the Daytona 500 and to a top-10 finish at Talladega in April.

REGAN SMITH ON DAYTONA: “I enjoy the road courses, but the comfort zone for our Furniture Row Racing team is superspeedway racing and that’s why we’re anxious to get to Daytona for this weekend’s race. We’ve had some success this season and it was all triggered by our strong Daytona Speedweeks performance back in February. We started the season with a second-place finish in the twin qualifying races followed by a seventh-place finish in the Daytona 500. With the ECR (Earnhardt Childress Racing) engines under the hood of our Furniture Row Chevrolet plus our background in superspeedway racing I feel really upbeat about this weekend. We have what it takes to win this race. We came close in the 500, and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be contending for the win on Saturday night.”

CARL EDWARDS ON DAYTONA: “Daytona is such a different race now with the new surface. It is all about pure speed and partnering up with someone. I know this weekend I don’t want to finish second like I did in the 500. I will be doing everything I can to win this race. The 500 in February was the closest I have been to winning at Daytona in a Cup car and I really, really want to win there. That would be cool.”

EDWARDS AT DAYTONA: In 13 NSCS starts at DIS, Edwards has achieved four top-five and six top-10 finishes. Edwards’ best finish at Daytona is second place, captured in this year’s Daytona 500 and in July of 2008.

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 will have Subway as the primary sponsor for the second of three races this season. The team will be bringing RK-677 this weekend to Daytona. It is the same car Edwards drove at Talladega in April when he finished sixth.

GREG BIFFLE ON DAYTONA: “I’ve always liked the night race at Daytona. My first ever Sprint Cup win was this race in 2003 so it’s definitely a race on the schedule that means something to me and that I look forward to. Racing at Daytona under the lights adds a little extra excitement I think for both the drivers and the fans. We could definitely use a good finish and we need to avoid a bad finish at all costs. We’re getting a little too close to the Chase to have many more bad races. We had a decent run with this car earlier this year at Talladega because we were able to work well with Carl. If we can pair up with Carl or another good drafting partner this weekend, we should do well.”

BIFFLE'S CREW CHIEF GREG ERWIN ON DAYTONA AND THE CAR THEY'RE BRINGING: “We’re taking the car that we finished seventh with at Talladega earlier this year. Greg and Carl worked really well together to stay out of trouble and finish up front in that race and we hope to be able to do the same thing this weekend. We’re taking these weeks one race at a time and just focusing on running well and being in contention for a win at the finish. That’s what we’ll do this weekend and hopefully it will work out the way we hope.”

DAVID RAGAN ON RACING AT DAYTONA: “I can’t wait to get back to Daytona. Daytona is a track we’ve always run well at and we even had a chance to win the 500 earlier this year. We need to get a good run to get our season back in gear. We’ve struggled some the last few weeks, but I’m excited to race Saturday night in the Coke Zero 400. We’ve got a fast UPS Ford and we’ve got good teammates to work with.”

RAGAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-691 Last ran the Duel at Daytona – finished 20th; Backup: RK-717 Brand new chassis.

Busch won everything but the 500 last time in Daytona
KURT BUSCH ON TWO CAR DRAFTING AT DAYTONA AND GETTING HIS FIRST PLATE WIN: “We’ll see how the track has matured since the repave and what the grip level will be like. It’s going to be hot and slick because it’s July in Florida. We’ll see if we can still hook up in that two-car draft. The grip level was extremely high in February. I anticipate the grip to be good this time around. If so, you’ll see two-car drafting just like we had in February.”

“We certainly want to finally win us one of these things (restrictor-plate race), that’s for sure. But, we still have to keep focus on this season and what it’s going to take to move forward in the effort to make the Chase this year. We need to win races because that will be so important come September. At the same time, we have to stay consistent in posting the top-five finishes and top-10s. The bottom line is that we have to go after those race wins as hard as we can, but still exercise conservatism, if you want to call it that. Unlike the guys back there in 15th to 20th in the points who can gamble on fuel mileage and roll the dice out there in every race, we have to look at it as the big goal of completing all the laps and getting the best possible finish we can in every race.”

KURT BUSCH'S CREW CHIEF STEVE ADDINGTON ON DAYTONA: “With the Speedweeks that we had in February, we’re excited to head back to Daytona because Kurt is such a great plate racer. We won the (Gatorade) 125. We won the (Budweiser) Shootout. We want to get Kurt a restrictor-plate point’s win. The restrictor-plate engines at Penske are awesome. The guys are working really hard on the cars. I feel good about it. I feel like we can go win. Our testing is paying dividends and everyone on this Shell/Pennzoil Dodge team is working their butt off. We just need to keep the momentum going and go get us a win at Daytona.”

- From several team press releases

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