Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Driver Notes & Quotes For The Quaker State 400 at Kentucky

MARTIN TRUEX JR. ON KENTUCKY: “Kentucky is a great track and it’s certainly deserving of a Cup race. I’ve raced there in the Nationwide Series and won the pole and had a shot at winning every time I’ve raced there. A lot of the teams used to test there so it’s not totally new to us. I love the place. The fans are really supporting the event. It’s completely sold out so it’s going to be fun. Plus, NAPA is running another special paint scheme to help fans save money throughout the month of July with mail-in rebates on select batteries like the NAPA Legend 75. Fans can get $10 off. Select alternators and starters are also part of the deal. Plus, my boss, Michael is running in front of his hometown crowd and saluting his brother Darrell for making it into the Hall of Fame. It’s really going to be special.”

KEVIN HARVICK ON KENTUCKY: “I’d say every one of us has been there in some way, shape or form. Some of the guys may not have raced there, but I know for me, when I first raced there was in 2001. Through the years, there has been a lot of testing that has taken place at that particular race track. I think it’s a race track everyone is pretty familiar with, but not familiar with this new-style car there, as everything was probably done with the old car. So it’ll still be a challenge for sure. I think just knowing that the tire is good. It’s a very durable tire. You’re not on edge. I think the biggest thing is just putting that to bed and knowing that we’re not going to have any tire issues. For me, I’m a rhythm racer. I’m not going to be one of those guys who’s just going to go out there and shove the thing in the fence by just trying to go fast right off the bat. I’m going to creep up and kind of know the limits of my car and keep pushing them until I feel like that’s the edge.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 288 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. The team utilized this car eight times in 2010, earning one win (Michigan, 8/15), three top-five (Fontana, 2/21; Indianapolis, 7/25) and six top-10 finishes. Harvick also raced this car to a fifth-place finish earlier this year at Pocono (6/12).

Busch is using Kansas car this week
KYLE BUSCH ON WHAT TYPE OF RACING TO EXPECT AT KENTUCKY: “I couldn’t expect anything but some good, hard racing. Kentucky is a fast racetrack. There are a lot of sweeping corners, there, so you’ve really got to keep your momentum going and it’s a big momentum-type racetrack. There’s a lot of throttle-on time there. You carry a lot of good speed but, yet, the place is really wide, so you’ve got room for maneuverability. You can run the bottom. It seems like you can run the middle. I don’t know how great the top will be, but we’ll have to see once we get there and what kind of tire we’re on.”

KYLE BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: This chassis will make its second-ever start in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. No. 308 made its debut last month at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, where Busch started third and finished 12th.

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON KENTUCKY: “Been there (Kentucky Speedway) in a Nationwide car and then when I first came on board, we tested there a lot. We didn’t have the testing restrictions that we do today. Turned a lot of laps over there; a lot like pretty much every driver out of my generation. We would be there amongst four or five other teams and guys running like crazy. I’m sure it’s changed a lot since the last time we were there and it looks like we have an open test day on Thursday, July 7 leading into that weekend. That will be good for all the teams. I don’t think we’ll have an advantage by any means. It will be nice to go there, get some data, get used to the track, work on some setup stuff and then kind of get the flow of the race track once again.”

DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON KENTUCKY: “We have all been there testing so there is no real challenge. Everybody has tested there at least a dozen times in their careers, so, it’s not like opening up a new place. We just haven’t had a full-on race there and everybody will be trying. When you test, you don’t get around cars as much. Everybody will be wantin’ to get on the race track and get around people and see how the aero is and see what you need to work on with your car when you are in traffic.”

EARNHARDT JR. CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Steve Letarte will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-657 for this weekend's Cup event at Kentucky. Earnhardt last raced this chassis to a runner-up finish at Kansas Speedway in June. The team will test this chassis during Thursday's open test at Kentucky.

JEFF GORDON ON KENTUCKY: “It has been a while since I’ve tested there so seeing if anything has changed. It’s a new track so we don’t have a lot of data. I mean some of the guys have run there in Nationwide maybe have a little more experience on the track. I think adapting to a track that you are not as familiar with from a driver standpoint as well as the set up, the springs and shocks and combinations, it’s a pretty rough race track, so I think to battle the grip level and getting the car aero-wise to get the most grip out of it but also handling the bumps is probably the biggest challenge from a technical standpoint. We used to test there all the time. It’s the one track that we could test at before it became a Cup track, so I think if we go back to those notes that’s certainly going to give some information but the most valuable would be the tire test that Mark martin did. That’s the most current data that we have with more of the cars and set ups that we are running today. We’ll hopefully get something out of it.”

CLINT BOWYER ON KENTUCKY: “I think it’s great. I’ve raced there a couple times in a NASCAR Nationwide Series car. That’s a huge fan base out there, there’s no question about that. Kentucky Speedway is the only place we can pack the house in a Nationwide Series stand-alone event. I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people at how many fans are attending that race. The track is rough. You’re really going to have your hands full trying to get a good package on your car to get through those bumps. The goal is to bounce through the bumps better than the next guy. No one is going to bounce through them well, but you want to be able to bounce through them better than the next guy. Noone really has an advantage from racing there before; I mean all these guys are professionals. It doesn’t matter where we go, they’re going to adapt and get up to speed. It’s going to come down to who can get their suspension and chassis packages working the best. They are the people that will prevail at a place like Kentucky Speedway.”

BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Will be using his 18th-place Kansas chassis.

Newman has plenty of track time at Kentucky (Getty)
RYAN NEWMAN ON KENTUCKY: “I look forward to going to Kentucky. I was one of the first people to win at Kentucky Speedway back in the ARCA series when they opened the place up in 2000. I think it was actually the track’s third race at that point, or something like that. I started on the pole, led a lot of laps and ended up winning the race, which was a pretty big feather in our cap at that point in time. It was my third start for Penske Racing in the ARCA Series, and I ended up getting my first pole and my second win. So it was a pretty big deal for me and that team and that point in time. So going back to Kentucky is going to be pretty cool for me. Going back to a place that few people in the Sprint Cup Series have won at and a place you have history at where other people don’t, is a good thing.

"I definitely think it’s a great track and a great market and I look forward to it. I don’t think there’s going to be huge challenges at Kentucky. Between our practice sessions – the opening test day and our practices on Friday – on top of the fact that a lot of guys have had experience there in the Nationwide or Truck Series. It’s part of the cookie cutter spectrum of racetracks where it’s a mile-and-a-half, semi-banked. I don’t think there are going to be any big issues. It’s a little bit of a rougher racetrack from what I understand. I haven’t been up there to test for a while. Just getting a good shock package and getting a good feel for what the tire is up there is going to be a big part of it, but we have a lot of practice to do that. If we don’t get it figured out by race time on Saturday night, it’s out own fault.”

NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: In five previous starts, chassis No. 39-609 has two top-five and three top-10 finishes. The car made its debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July 2010 in the Brickyard 400. The car got rave reviews, but Newman’s bad luck kept him from the finish he felt he deserved. Back-to-back flat tires early in the race trapped Newman two laps down and dropped him as low as 39th. But, thanks to the
team’s tenacity, Newman was able to stage an impressive comeback and got back on the lead lap with 15 laps to go to finish a respectable 17th.

The car’s second start came at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., last fall. After racing in the top-10 and even contending for the lead, Newman was forced to restart deep in the field with just a handful of laps remaining due to damage to his left rear bumper. Newman proved how strong his car and determination were in the last 13 laps of the 200-lap contest as he raced from 16th to fifth.

Its final appearance of the 2010 season came at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Newman was in position to score a top-10 finish, however, he was overtaken by several cars with fresher tires on a late restart and finished 20th. During the offseason, the car’s front clip was updated for 2011.

The car’s first appearance this year came in March at Auto Club Speedway. Thanks to key adjustments and pit strategy throughout the 200-lap race, Newman scored his third top-five of the season. Newman followed up that impressive run with a top-10 finish that didn’t come easily for he and his team at Pocono. With 21 laps to go, Newman lost third gear in his transmission. Thankfully, there wasn’t a late-race caution and Newman was able to fight through the adversity and hang onto a ninth place finish. Saturday’s Inaugural Sprint Cup Series Race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta will be the car’s third start this year.

TONY STEWART ON KENTUCKY: “I’m excited about going to Kentucky. I like going to new places that we don’t have history at. Obviously, there’s a lot of drivers that have run the Nationwide Series there and do know the track and what to look for. It’s kind of fun for a lot of us. None of us have raced there that don’t run the Nationwide Series on a regular basis. Even though at some point over the last seven or eight years, we’ve tested there, none of us have raced there. That kind of makes it fun. It’s neat to go in there and not have an idea of what to expect. It always makes it fun the first time. The first thing you do is try to figure the line out around the track and when we’ve tested there in the past, we didn’t have a lot of rubber down because there weren’t a lot of cars running a lot of laps.

"It was a lot harder to really get a gauge on what the line was around there. That’s what you’ll spend the first part of the day on – on Thursday, the practice day. You’ll just work on the line, figuring out your braking points, where you need to be getting back in the gas and at the same time the crew chiefs and the engineers are going to be trying to figure out how to get ride heights where they want it. The standard things that they do every weekend. The drivers are going to have to take a little bit of time in learning the race track. We’ve all had to do it all along the way, but that’s the first thing to do is just literally try to figure out where your reference points are for braking and accelerating for entering the corner.”

Montoya using third-place Las Vegas car this week
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON KENTUCKY: “To be honest with you, my first time around Kentucky Speedway didn’t go as well as I had hoped. It was a test session and the first time I ever drove a Cup car for Chip Ganassi. I hit the wall pretty hard. A lot has changed in those five years so hopefully there won’t be anymore contact with the wall this time around. We need a good run in order to have a chance to make the Chase this year. Every weekend counts and we’re starting to run out of time in the points battle. I’d like to get the Target Chevrolet out front early and stay there.”

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 42 Target team will bring Chassis #1105 to Kentucky Speedway this weekend. This chassis has already run four times in 2011 at Texas Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Kansas Speedway and got its best finish (third) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.

MARK MARTIN ON KENTUCKY: “I’ve tested at Kentucky before. This team has tested here before. But testing there and knowing you’re going to race on that specific track is different. It will be a help to us. A good starting point. But, really, when you throw in all of the testing time that all of the teams will get on Thursday, it will even out a little. That’s a lot of time on the track for everyone and I think that will prove to be the most valuable. With the amount of testing time we get on Thursday, we’re all going to be able to figure our own cars out. I don’t think we’re going to be as dependent on past information or knowledge due to that testing period.”

JEFF BURTON ON KENTUCKY: “I’ve always said that the tracks that can bring people in are the ones that deserve races. Kentucky Speedway, from what I’ve heard about their sales, the fans have really supported them. I think that’s a great thing. It’s cool to go somewhere else, to a new circuit. I always think that is neat. The local fans will be excited and energized about it and I’m optimistic. The only concern I have about Kentucky Speedway is how rough the surface is. These cars seem to put on the best races at tracks that are a little bit smoother. That’s my only concern about the race track. I think the race track itself is a good race track. I think it can put on a typical (Sprint) Cup race, which means it could be a great finish or someone could drive away from everyone. The bumps will be a huge factor as to who has success there and who doesn’t. It’s interesting because some people have raced there and some people that have not. A lot of times, when new race tracks are added to the schedule, no one has raced there. New Hampshire is kind of the same way. When it first came on, there was a group of us that had raced at New Hampshire three or four times before the Cup cars were ever there. In some ways, it’s an equalizer, and in other ways, it could separate some things a little bit because people have a lot of experience. There’s a thought that, that could really benefit those people.”

JAMIE MCMURRAY ON KENTUCKY: “I am looking forward to going to Kentucky this week. I have raced there a couple of times and have had good finishes each time. Of course, just because I have some experience at the track doesn’t mean things haven’t changed. We will find out what we have to look forward to for the weekend with the open test day on Thursday. I think it is good for our sport to have the Sprint Cup Series go to new places. It is always cool for new fans to be able to come out and see the sport up close and personal.”

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1004 will be making its 2011 debut this weekend at Kentucky Speedway. The chassis ran at Texas, Michigan and Pocono in 2010 and has served as the backup in eight races this season.

Brad Keselowski rolling with winning Kansas car this week (Getty)
BRAD KESELOWSKI ON GETTING AROUND KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY: “If you can get your car where it’s comfortable over the bumps in Turns 1 and 2, that’s obviously going to be the fast way around Kentucky. Sometimes that is easier said than done so some drivers will choose to enter a bit higher to avoid the bumps. Usually that will establish a second groove around the middle of the race, which can lead to some great side-by-side racing over the final laps. It’s definitely a place with a lot of character, despite the fact that it looks like a lot of the other intermediate tracks that we visit.”

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-747 during Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Keselowski drove this chassis to a victory at Kansas Speedway last month.

REGAN SMITH ON KENTUCKY: “Though I haven’t been to Kentucky Speedway in four years, the venue has crossed my mind a number of times since I last competed there in the 2007 Nationwide race for Ginn Racing. We were the dominant car that evening, but didn’t give ourselves a chance to win due to a fuel miscalculation. I qualified on the pole and led a number of opening laps (45) and felt we were going to win the race. But when I was leading and called into the pits for an early stop, I was already out of fuel and that put us a lap down and out of contention. I guess you can say I have some unsettled business to take care of at Kentucky Speedway this weekend. It’s a great track and the crowd support has always been fantastic. I was happy to hear when Kentucky was awarded a Sprint Cup date. Our Furniture Row Chevrolet likes the mile-and-a-half tracks and we’re aiming to come away with a good result in Saturday night’s race.”

Won three straight Kentucky Nationwide races
JOEY LOGANO ON KENTUCKY: “I don’t think my Nationwide success at Kentucky is an automatic given that it will be easier for me in the Cup car. The Nationwide car is different this year and it’s a lot different than the Cup cars. I think with the open test day there will be guys that figure out the track easier than others. A lot of the guys have competed in the Nationwide races here and before the testing ban the Cup guys used to test a lot here too. The good guys will figure it out on Thursday. I think a lot of teams will be trying other stuff too to help their entire 1.5-mile program. You don’t get opportunities to test like this very often so you have to take advantage of it while you can.

“This track to me is a combination of Chicago and Kansas. The banking is a lot like Kansas and the front straightaway and the way you go into the corner reminds me of Chicago. It’s just a little bumpier in the bottom lane. It will be interesting to see where the Cup cars end up running – if most will run the bottom or if they will move up to the middle and high grooves.”

“The last two weeks have been huge for The Home Depot Team. We are on a little run right now and hopefully we can get a good run in again this weekend. When you get good finishes like we have the last two weeks, everyone’s confidence goes up and you get that all important momentum on your side. We are starting to dig out of the hole we got into at the start of the season and are in the top 20 now.”

LOGANO NATIONWIDE SUCCESS AT KENTUCKY: Joey Logano and The Home Depot Team head to Kentucky Speedway for the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the 1.5-mile track. However, Logano has competed in the last three NASCAR Nationwide Series events at Kentucky and has won from the pole in all three races. The 2008 Nationwide victory at Kentucky Speedway was Logano’s first NASCAR win and it happened in just his third start. In addition to his Nationwide Series experience, Logano and the No. 20 Team participated in the Goodyear Tire test last month at the Sparta track.

LOGANO CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 20 Home Depot Team is taking chassis #309 this weekend to compete in the Quaker State 400. Logano drove this chassis just once this season to an 11th-place finish at Pocono Raceway in June. The back-up chassis is #303 that Logano will use in the test session at Kentucky on Thursday and most recently ran at Michigan International Speedway a few weeks ago.

GREG BIFFLE ON KENTUCKY: “A racetrack has to have character and Kentucky has character. The progressive banking off of Turn 4 makes it a lot of fun to race here. It’s going to be an exciting race, it’s going to be really fun. I’ve had some memorable races at Kentucky starting with the win there in the truck series in 2000. Then I remember in 2002 beating and banging off of Todd Bodine at the end of the Nationwide race. He got me by a fender but we had a lot of fun. It would definitely mean a lot to finish well at Kentucky this weekend in the first Sprint Cup race there and we need a good run.”

BIFFLE'S CREW CHIEF GREG ERWIN ON KENTUCKY: “We were part of the open tire test at Kentucky last month and I think that went pretty well for us. We’ll have the full day of testing on Thursday which should put everyone on even ground going into the weekend. Greg has run well at Kentucky in the truck and Nationwide Series but it’s been a few years since he last raced there and we feel the track has probably changed a bit. It’s one of the rougher track we race on so we’ll have to work on that part of the handling kind of like we do at Vegas.”

KURT BUSCH ON KENTUCKY: “The thing about Kentucky is that negotiating all the bumps is a major factor in getting around that place. What’s so great – and I personally applaud NASCAR for doing it – is that they gave us a ton of track time there on Thursday and that is cool. It definitely won’t offer everything to get us full-time ‘Cuppers’ up to speed with the guys I have mentioned, but it will certainly help out.”

Kenseth bringing a 2011 winning chassis this week
MATT KENSETH ON KENTUCKY: “I really don’t have any experience with the track at Kentucky. We used to test there quite a bit before the testing rules came into place but I’ve probably only been there three or four times in my career. I’ve never raced there and I’ve never been in competition at Kentucky so I don’t know a lot about the track. But I’m looking forward to getting there, getting on the track. It’s always really fun to go to a new racetrack and to run the first Cup race they ever have there because there’s so much excitement from the fans and the people from the surrounding areas and cities and all that, for us to come there and race. It’s always fun to be a part of those first events so I’m looking forward to a great weekend for our Crown Royal team.”

KENSETH CREW CHIEF JIMMY FENNIG ON KENTUCKY CHASSIS CHOICE: “We’re actually taking two cars with us this weekend to Kentucky. Since we have a test day on Thursday, we’re going to test chassis 733, and then on Thursday if we feel like the tires are wearing well and if the car’s handling well on the track, then we’ll most likely use 741 as our primary this weekend. The track surface is really rough at Kentucky so we want to see how the test goes and if we feel the data looks good, we’ll opt to run 741 since that’s been a race-winning car for us. We’re basing a lot of our planning for this weekend off of the No. 16 team’s trip to Kentucky for a tire test earlier this season.”

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