Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Driver Notes & Quotes for All-State 400 at the Brickyard

Jimmie Johnson has won at Indy three of the last five years (Getty)
JIMMIE JOHNSON ON THE BRICKYARD:  "My view is shaped in the 30 or 40 years of watching and there are certainly other names that go further back that mean a lot more, but during my time watching Rick Mears – I don’t think I remember watching (AJ) Foyt win there, but certainly remember him hammering on his car one time on pit road. I have to think from a dominant standpoint it would be Rick Mears. Watching Helio (Castroneves) win those three that he has won – I guess that would be the other one that comes in my mind first.”

JOHNSON ON THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON: “I would say parity is really the first thing that comes to mind. You can flip it around and maybe say the lack of a dominant team as well. There have been guys that can flex muscle at times, but no one consistently has just schooled everybody. It’s been very, very equal this year and unpredictable if you will. A lot of first time winners, which is great to have and no runaways right now. It’s been an exciting time for the fans I believe. Then also we’ve been acting like fools out there at times so that’s always spicing things up.”

JOHNSON ON THE CHASSIS SELECTIONS FOR THE CHASE: “Yeah, we do develop through the course of the year, favorite cars or cars that we think certain wind tunnel numbers and characteristics in the way that they drive will apply to different tracks. On our side, we might put a car on the shelf and hold off for the Chase to use it."

"It’s so tough because every race counts and if you can take a car and get a win with it and get some bonus points – seeding process and all those things that go on then you want to do that and you’re going to take that chance. Yes we do start earmarking some cars and want to take them places, but we find that we just keep using what we need. We want to go to every race and win. It doesn’t happen as often as you’d think and when you talk about the favorite car anymore, the differences are so small that I’m not sure us drivers can really feel it anymore. The rules are so tight and strict that one car will blow a little better in the wind tunnel and we’re talking just a few points and we’re like, ‘That’s our best car.’ But if you really look at it, it’s nothing. It’s the smallest differences anymore. We look at that and we try to do that, but it’s not like we haven’t raced a car for months just because we’re saving it for the Chase. Our stuff we use on a regular basis.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Johnson will pilot brand new chassis No. 681 in Sunday’s event. Johnson finished 16th in backup chassis No. 623 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.

Kevin Harvick has a 9.9 average finish in 10 Brickyard starts
KEVIN HARVICK ON RACING AT INDY: “When you go to Indy there can be nobody sitting in the grandstands and it’s still the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s still been there for 100 years and still is our second biggest race that we go to. So for us, it’s where you bring your latest and greatest car, your latest and greatest engine, and it’s just kind of like the Daytona 500. It’s all about trying to win the race and putting it on the line to do that is what it’s all about. It’s a prestigious race to win and nobody in the garage is going to go there with any intention other than to try to win the race when they unload their cars.:

"From the first time we stepped foot in that place it’s been a good race track for us. We’ve had good results there. I enjoy going there. It’s just one of those places where I really like going to. All the guys enjoy going there and being able to just race there is an honor. It’s been a good race track for us. It’s flat and we’ve always been good on the flatter type race tracks and I think that’s got something to do with it as well. Really it’s just getting off of all four corners and being able to make your car turn well enough to be in the gas so you can get down the long straightaways. I would say (Turns) 2 and 4 are probably the most important corners because you have so much distance to carry down the long straightaways. It’s definitely a challenge every lap. If it’s really hot it becomes even more of a challenge. It’s just a fun place.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 304 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. The No. 29 team has utilized this car twice so far in 2011, scoring a sixth-place finish at Bristol (3/20) and a 17th-place finish at Darlington (5/7) after late-race contact. Harvick also drove chassis No. 304 four times in 2010, earning finishes of third (Richmond, 5/1), fifth (New Hampshire, 6/27), ninth (Richmond, 9/11) and 13th (Phoenix, 4/10).

JEFF GORDON ON RACING AT INDY: “I think NASCAR had a test session here in 1992 or 1993, and I was bummed that I didn’t get the chance to participate in it. When I finally got the chance to drive down the front straightaway, it was like ‘whoa.’ And then to win the inaugural race? Unbelievable. It’s still like that for me — just an incredible feeling driving here. But it also always takes me a few laps to get up to speed each year. The first time you drive off into (turn) 1, it’s like ‘whoa, I can’t make this corner.’ Then you realize you let off (the accelerator) way too early. I don’t think what I’ve done should ever be compared to what A.J. Foyt or Al Unser or Rick Mears did here with their four Indianapolis 500 victories. And I don’t think Michael Schumacher’s five wins (in Formula 1) should be compared either. They are all completely different disciplines — sometimes on a completely different track.”

Ryan Newman is looking for some home cooking Sunday
RYAN NEWMAN ON INDY: “Doing what we do, we’ll take a week off anytime you can get it. This is a demanding sport. We work so hard to get the things that we do on the racetrack, sometimes it’s nice to take a weekend off away from the racetrack, neutralize yourself. I had a nice week away working on my hobby farm and even when and four-wheeled with (Tony) Gibson and some of the guys, so it was nice. It was kind of a Catch 22 having the off-weekend, but we’ve still got our momentum and we’re going to Indianapolis as the most recent race winner, so we have that on our side.

“To be honest though, we didn’t kick it out of gear for very long. And we are definitely going into Indianapolis with a lot of weight off our shoulders and a smile on our face is going to be really nice for our team and organization. New Hampshire was huge for our team and even bigger for our organization. I don’t know that I realized how big until the next day when I was doing interviews and someone told me the stat about the last time that a team started 1-2 and finished in those exact positions. As much as I study the history of this sport, I was stunned by that stat and really honored that I was part of something so big. We made that race ours – all the guys came together and made it happen – and I’m just really proud of what we have accomplished.”

NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: This will be the first start for Chassis No. 39-677. The new chassis for the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team was wind-tunnel tested this month and will turn its first laps on track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday.

DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON INDY: “At Indy, it is real tight getting into Turn 1. If you can roll down into that corner, there is a lot of speed to be gained there because as you go around the track each corner seems to be easier and freer to get through. Turn 4 is the loosest corner. So just turning down in Turn 1 and getting the car turned and being able to carry speed into (Turn) 2 I think creates a good lap. From there, you build on the momentum and speed from what you did in Turn 1. It all has a repercussion on each following corner.”

DALE JR. CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 team will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-617. Earnhardt last raced this chassis to a seventh-place finish in the 600-mile event at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May.

Stewart and Newman both hail from Indiana (Getty)
TONY STEWART ON RACING AT HIS HOME TRACK: “It’s my home race, obviously (IMS). Growing up in Indiana and every year watching the Indy 500 and the whole month of May leading up to it, a race at the Brickyard is more than just a regular points race. It’s always been a big race to all of the Cup drivers, but then when you grow up in Indiana, it just makes it that much more important. It’s a place that is a momentum-driven track. You don’t just have two ends to the racetrack and two big 180-degree corners. You’ve got four 90-degree corners to negotiate. If you have one bad corner at Indy and if your car’s not right, you’re going to be bad in four corners versus two corners a lap. And with it being two-and-a-half miles, you carry so much speed, if you lose momentum at that track, it just seems like it’s really a big penalty."

"In an Indy car you just don’t lift – if the car’s right. But in a stock car, even if it’s right, you’ve got to lift and you’ve got to brake for at least two of the corners. With the other two corners, you just lift, basically. It’s a challenging track in a Cup car. It’s a challenging track in an Indy car too, but if you can get it right in an Indy car then you can run it wide-open around there, and that’s one less variable you’ve got to worry about when it comes to getting around the racetrack.”

STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: This is a brand new race car that has only been tested in the wind tunnel. The Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will mark the first time Chassis No. 14-671 turns a wheel on the track.

CLINT BOWYER ON RACING AT INDY: “It’s a lot of fun to be able to go to Indy. It means a lot to everyone to have the chance to race on that track with so much history behind it. We have to get better at that place. Our first run there was very good, but since then, we’ve been mediocre. We have to get ourselves back to running well on those kinds of race tracks."

"With that being said, I think we’re bringing a new car there. We’ve tried to put some things together that I think will be the latest and greatest. We’re hoping to get the best result out of it. Indy is a big deal. In the sport of auto racing, Indy is one of the biggest deals out there. I think that the Daytona 500 is the biggest race of the year and Indy is the second biggest race of the year. Jeff Burton and I sat on the front row the first year I was there. It was a great feeling to be able to lead the field down through there into a sea of people. It’s just an unbelievable sight to see and to be able to soak that all in is a pretty cool feeling.

BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 368 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This is a brand new No. 33 Chevrolet Impala that will turn its first laps during opening practice on Friday at the Brickyard.

Montoya a threat to win at Indy in any kind of car (Getty)
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON RACING AT INDY: “I won the Indianapolis 500 and I think winning the Brickyard would be really cool. It would be cool to have both wins there. We run really well there. And it is not because I really know the track. I ran the Indy Cars once there and the road course was the other way around for Formula One. It just suits my style I guess. I really understand what we need to do to make a car go fast around that track. I do think that this year is going to be a bit closer then what we saw have seen in the past, especially after our tire test there a couple months back, but we should be okay. It should be fun.”

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: New car this week that ran laps during June's Goodyear tire test.

PAUL MENARD ON INDY: “I love Indianapolis and I really look forward to going there every year. I was eight years old the first time I ever went there, and it was the coolest experience I’ve ever been through. I’ve been a huge fan of Indianapolis ever since. We would go to the (Indianapolis) 500 to watch my dad’s cars race. Indy has my two favorite races. My favorite one to watch is still the (Indianapolis) 500 and my favorite one to race in is the Brickyard (400). It was very exciting as a child to be at the (Indianapolis) 500 because it was a big, historical event. Indianapolis has a special place in my heart. I just love that race track.”

MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 364 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet Impala is a brand new addition to the RCR fleet for the 2011 season and will make its first paces this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Martin has finished 11th or better in six straight Indy races
MARK MARTIN ON INDY: “This track has so much historical significance to racing as a whole. Knowing who’s raced here before you, who’s walked through that same garage, it’s really very cool. There’s not a driver in NASCAR who won’t tell you that, next to the Daytona 500, the Brickyard is where they most want to win a race. It’s just got that kind of meaning to it. I haven’t gotten a win at either of those tracks in my career, but I’m hoping it changes this weekend. Finishing second, in any race, isn’t something you should be disappointed with yourself about."

"In 2009, the (No.) 5 team was right there at the end. To fight Jimmie (Johnson) for that win was huge for me and the team. It was hard not to get it, but we were all pretty happy to be fighting for it. Looking back I don’t think there’s anything I could have done differently to get it. I had it all hanging out. In 1998, Dale Jarrett was actually the car to beat. He had some fuel issues and Jeff (Gordon) just ran away with it from there. We’ve been close. Two runner-up finishes isn’t something I’m going to dwell on or be upset with. They sound pretty good to me.”

JEFF BURTON ON INDY: “I think it’s an honor to go to Indy every year. The history is unbelievable. There is nowhere we go where you get the sense of people like you do at Indy with the grandstands on both sides of the front straightaway. It’s fun going there because we didn’t create the history. We go there on someone else’s coat tails. We made Daytona, Darlington and Charlotte. We didn’t make Indy. It’s a cool race and it means a great deal to race there."

"When you walk out on Sunday afternoon to start that race, it’s like nothing else. The driver’s introductions there are pretty cool. It’s amazing to see that many people and the excitement at Indy is cool. It’s an open-wheel, sacred-ground race track and the fact that we can go there and race is truly an honor."

BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Jeff Burton will race Chassis No. 367 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s Brickyard 400. This is a brand new Caterpillar Chevrolet that will be put through its first competitive paces this weekend.

REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING CHEVROLET – 27TH IN STANDINGS: “Taking in all factors about this weekend’s race, I truly feel that our Furniture Row Chevy has the potential to do something special at Indy,” said Smith. “We had a pretty good run going last year until a mechanical issue, which was also the case the year before. It’s been a pretty good year, but still could be better. Yes, we’ve had some things go our way, but there have also been races that we let a strong performance slip away due to unforced errors. But Indy is a track that we know we can do well on.”

JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET – 29TH IN STANDINGS: “It’s hard to believe that it is time to go back to Indy already! Indy is a special race for all of the teams, everyone wants to win at the Brickyard. This is one of the races that all drivers and teams specially prepare for. The teams build new cars, the engine shops get their best engines prepared, there is just a lot of emphasis on this race. It was really cool to win there last year especially for Chip Ganassi. Being able to win the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same season was really special for our organization. Indy is such a unique track and requires a little bit different set up than so many of the places that we race . It will be cool to get back there, plus Indy is just such a fun town to go visit!”

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: New car this week that ran laps during June's Goodyear tire test.

Zippy and Logano: 12th & 9th at Indy
JOEY LOGANO ON INDY: “I can’t wait to get to Indy, but I think when you are running well you always look forward to going to the next race. After the weekend off, I’m fired up to get back at it with the momentum we have. I’m actually really excited about this race and to see how we will do if we can start where we qualify. Track position is so important at Indianapolis because it is so hard to pass. It was a battle to get the finishes we’ve had after starting in the rear two years in a row after changing engines.

“I know we are bringing a new chassis this weekend and Zippy (Zipadelli) always brings fast cars to Indy. The big question mark will be the tires. Goodyear is bringing a different tire this year. The first practice is going to be really important to see how close the balance of the car will be off the truck.”

LOGANO CHASSIS CHOICE: Zipadelli and the No. 20 Home Depot Team elected to bring a new chassis, #316, this weekend to compete at IMS. The back-up chassis is #303 that Logano tested on the Thursday of Kentucky and most recently ran at Michigan International Speedway in June.

MARTIN TRUEX JR. ON INDY: “We participated in the Goodyear tire test back on May 3 and 4. Our job was to put tire rubber down using the old tire. The test didn’t give us a huge advantage, but the extra track time gave us some ideas and showed us we had good speed. We’ll just see what tire Goodyear brings and go from there. The NAPA team is bringing a brand new Toyota. It has a completely different work up from what we’ve raced over the last two months. Knowing I had a fast car last year and at the test has me pretty pumped up to go the Brickyard. I love racing there and I hope to keep the momentum going for a strong showing in the second half of our season.”

DENNY HAMLIN ON INDY: “I think we’ve shown at Indy that we have what it takes to win there and the team really builds great cars for this track. It’s a track where JGR cars have won before and a track that I really like from the driver’s seat so we go there feeling like we can unload fast, get better in practice, and compete on Sunday. To win here you need the car, the driver and the crew all at their best, and then have a lot of things go your way. We have had our share of issues at Indy, but if you take those away there is no reason we can’t run up front.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI ON RACING AT INDY: “You can’t go to the Brickyard without thinking about what the track means not only to NASCAR, but to auto racing in general. Being from the Midwestern section of the country myself, I always looked to the spectacle of the Indianapolis 500 and wondered what it would be like to compete there. Now we have the Brickyard 400 for stock cars and it has become one of the most prestigious races in the country as well. Hopefully we can get a good, solid run in this weekend and make a move back toward the top 20 in points. We’ve always been able to qualify up front on flat tracks. Now we just need to continue to finish up there too.”

“It definitely gives you a sense of pride when you go to Indy as a member of Penske Racing. You look at everything Mr. Penske has been able to accomplish there in open-wheel racing. It would be one of the coolest things I could ever do in a racecar if I could get him his first win in the Brickyard 400. We’re going to give it our best shot this weekend. We’ve obviously been able to improve our program over the last couple of months so I feel good about us going there and challenging for the win.”

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-748 during Sunday’s Brickyard 400 presented by Big Machine at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). Keselowski drove this chassis to a second-place finish in the All-Star Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. The finish propelled him into the All-Star race, where he posted an 18th-place result.

Only Indy top-5 for Busch came in rookie year of 2001
KURT BUSCH ON INDY: “It’s only natural to have in the back of your mind what it would mean if we can win the race – the really big picture of the significance of a Brickyard 400 win for Roger and Penske Racing. With Roger’s success in the open wheel ranks at Indianapolis – with an incredible 15 wins and 16 poles in the Indy 500 — the significance of putting a win there in the NASCAR record book is certainly magnified. It would be a major accomplishment to be the first Penske Racing NASCAR driver to score that victory.

“When you look at all of ‘the Captain’s’ accomplishments and the records for Penske Racing, the significant major voids in stock car racing are a win in the Brickyard 400 and a NASCAR Sprint Cup points title,” continued Busch. “I know those are major goals for Roger and I want to be the driver who delivers the goods to him. I felt like I contributed somewhat to Roger winning the 2008 Daytona 500 in that I did push (Ryan) Newman across the line to take the win. So, winning the Brickyard 400 and winning a Cup championship are huge goals of ours.

“Everyone remembers just how close that Rusty came to winning at Indy,” Busch said of Rusty Wallace. “Rusty finished second three times and nearly notched that big win in the record book. So the desire and incentive to win in NASCAR at Indy for Roger Penske is so obvious that it shouldn’t call for much explanation.

“A win there on Sunday would be as prominent and important of a feat that’s possible,” Busch added. “For me personally, it would be a thrilling experience I’d always remember and hold at the top of the list of my accomplishments.”

GREG BIFFLE ON INDY: “Yeah, and we came so close last year. We feel like we’re capable of winning it. We kind of proved that last year and we feel like we’re coming back with even a better car. Matt has done a lot of homework on it, so we feel really confident. I certainly think we can win this race. I feel good about it.”


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