Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Driver Notes & Quotes for Atlanta Advocare 500

Kyle Busch looking better than ever, while Denny Hamlin struggles (Getty)
KYLE BUSCH ON ATLANTA AND DIFFERENCES IN DAY-NIGHT RACING THERE: “It takes a lot of things. You have to have a lot of grip, you have to have a lot of down force, you have to have tire management, a great engine and fuel mileage too.”

“We practice all during the day, so the daytime practice is easy for the beginning of the race, but how the race track picks up speed and certainly gets faster throughout the night and of course the balance can change a little bit. With the speed getting faster, certainly the loads change a little bit for you so you have to be conscious of that. The crew chiefs are good at what they do and that’s why they get paid the big bucks is to try to figure out what best suits the cars for night time because that’s when the race is going to end. Certainly, you want to be good at night.”

KYLE BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: This chassis will make its second-ever start in Sunday night’s Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. No. 318 made its debut in August at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, where Busch started 11th, led 27 laps, and brought home a solid second-place finish in the Good Sam RV Insurance 500.

JOEY LOGANO ON MAKING HIS 100TH START THIS WEEK: “It doesn’t really feel like it’s been that long. It’s gone by pretty quick. 100 races — I guess that’s a lot, but at the same time it really isn’t. Winning one out of 100 is not where we wanted to be so we need to win some more. It’s a steep learning curve, but it’s like that for everyone. I’ve worked really hard and I’m proud of what we’ve done so far. We’re not stopping — we’ve got a long way to go. We’re still working at it. We’ve come a long ways and that means a lot.”

LOGANO CHASSIS CHOICE: Zipadelli and the No. 20 Home Depot Team are bringing chassis #319 this weekend for Logano’s 100th Sprint Cup start. This chassis has been raced just once this season in Pocono where Logano captured the pole position. He ran in the top 10 most of the day but a cut tire with 12 laps to go which dropped him to 26th place by the time the checkered flag waved. The back-up chassis is #303 that Logano tested on the Thursday of Kentucky and most recently ran at Michigan International Speedway in June.

DENNY HAMLIN ON PRESSURE TO MAKE CHASE: “I think every week that leads into the first Chase race, there’s going to be more and more pressure. Especially if you’re going backwards and not forwards. The pressure will continue to build and that’s going to be a given. I feel better about it. I feel like we had some good meetings last week. I feel like we have a good game plan going forward on how we can improve our program, but it’s not something that’s going to change overnight.”

BRIAN VICKERS ON SCUBA DIVING AT THE GEORGIA AQUARIUM COMPARED TO ALL HIS OTHER ACTION SPORTS: “It was definitely near the top of the list. And one thing that made it really special, I don’t know about maybe in a dare devil- type way, but the thought of doing this with sharks and all these incredible fish in this beautiful, almost ocean-like experience in downtown Atlanta kind of makes it a cool experience. You can scuba dive over and swim to the glass and wave to the people and it’s actually one of the best diving experiences I’ve ever had.”

As Chase nears, is it 'Jimmie-time' for the sixth straight year?
JIMMIE JOHNSON ON ATLANTA: “I think regardless of what any driver or team has accomplished in the past, you’re always focused on where you are today. The success we’ve had over the last five years doesn’t guarantee anything for this year’s Chase so we’re living in the moment, we’re living in the now, worried about what we need to do today to win races. When I look at this weekend’s race and the success and speed we’ve had here over the last two or three years. I’m excited to come back and excited to be here. I feel that we will qualify well and have a shot at winning the race. I’m excited, I would love to have another win for the bonus points and also what it does for the team moral, the confidence it gives the race team moving forward. Any momentum you can build now is very helpful in the Chase. I say that in the back of my mind. I think of years where we’ve entered the Chase pretty far off, much further off than what some critics say where we are now and we still won the championship. So it’s not that you have to win but there’s nothing bad that comes from it and we’re here to win the race this weekend.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Johnson will pilot chassis No. 650 in Sunday’s event. He last drove that car to a fourth-place finish at Pocono Raceway in June. BACKUP: Johnson finished 16th in backup chassis No. 623 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.

KEVIN HARVICK ON ATLANTA: “You always want to run good, and any momentum is good momentum as long as it is headed in the right direction. Atlanta in itself doesn’t do anything for us performance wise just because it is so slick and so worn out. It is kind of its own beast. Running good anywhere is a good thing, especially as we get closer to the Chase. I feel good about the things that we have got going on leading into Chicago. I do not know exactly how much of that will bleed over into the next few weeks, but I feel confident. It is definitely not going to be from a lack of effort from all the guys internally and the things that we have going on right now. Atlanta is fast, very fast. You can race all over the race track, from the white line to the wall, and still be competitive. You have to have the complete package to contend for the win there and horsepower is always important. I just like the fact that the car slides around a lot and you have to move around the race track and really search for somewhere to find more grip in order to make the car drive well, and you have to still be able to make fast lap times hunting for places to find grip.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 353 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. The No. 29 team utilized this car to earn Harvick’s third win of the season in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.

Jeff Gordon is 'having fun' being competitive weekly (Getty)
JEFF GORDON ON ATLANTA: “It’s a great program by Sprint (the Sprint Summer Showdown), and I’m sure there will be additional excitement during the race – especially at the end if one or more of those (eligible) drivers are battling for the win. But since we’re not racing for that bonus this weekend, our focus is on the bigger Sprint prize – the championship. Another victory would go a long way when the points are reset after Richmond. I’m having so much fun right now. We’ve been real competitive recently and I look forward to going to the track every weekend. I think this No. 24 team can do some damage during the Chase and make a run at this championship. This has been a great track for me (Atlanta Motor Speedway), all the way back to my first race here. It’s real tough to get a ‘hold’ of the track, but the thing I love is you can run up high against the wall or down low on the line. You can search for the line that works best for you.”

RYAN NEWMAN ON ATLANTA: “Don’t get me wrong, we’re still in a battle to make the Chase. We remind ourselves every day that this is auto racing and you can take a quick dive in the standings. But what I like about our current position is that we control our own destiny for making the Chase. There’s no question that our finishes this year at the mile-and-a-half and two-mile tracks have made a big difference. We run the majority of races at these venues and if you’re going to be successful, these are the places you need to do perform at. This is an area we weren’t that good at last year and the work we have done since the off-season has paid some pretty good dividends so far. Atlanta is another mile-and-a-half test for us and I feel that our U.S. Army Reserve Chevrolet will meet the challenge.”

DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON ATLANTA: “Atlanta is a driver’s track because it is so wide and races so wide that there’s groove after groove after groove. I always look forward to going down to Atlanta. It’s incredibly fast, and we’ve run well there. I’m looking forward to working with Steve (Letarte, crew chief) and the guys to see what we can do this weekend.”

Stewart could use a repeat of the last Atlanta race (Getty)
TONY STEWART ON ATLANTA: “Just the balance change, really (are the challenges of going from daylight to night racing). If you notice the track cools down at Atlanta and it gains a lot of grip. It’s a very temperature-sensitive race track. So, the biggest thing is just keeping your balance and keeping up with it as it cools off. Normally, I can’t say that it changes a bunch balance-wise; it just changes a lot grip-wise. So, just having the car adjustable enough from the start of the race to the end of the race. Just understanding what you’re going to have at the beginning isn’t what you’re going to have at the end of the day; you have to be patient until it gets dark and until that temperature cools down. And once it starts settling into the nighttime hours, you can kind of get a better idea on what you’re going to have for the rest of the day.”

CLINT BOWYER ON ATLANTA: “It’s a fun race track (Atlanta Motor Speedway). I think it’s an important race track for us. I can’t wait to get there and race. It’s very competitive and I always race well there. It puts on a good show for the fans and that’s item number one right now. It’s fast and very slick. It’s multi-lined. Most of the tracks that are that fast, are one-lined race tracks. Atlanta is an exception to that rule. You can race up high, down low, in the middle and all over the place. Even from the first laps on the track, the grip level isn’t there that you would feel at other race tracks, but somehow the speed is. It kind of plays tricks on your mind because it feels like you’re sliding and you’re a little out of control, but halfway through the lap the car is accepting the speed and you hammer down. The first couple laps on the track, you have to adjust yourself."

"I think this will be a big show for them (the fans). Sometimes pulling back a date isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes you have to make it one big show instead of two mediocre shows. I think it’s more important to have something go off as a huge success than it is to be greedy and try to thin it out. I think the excitement level will be at a premium and things will get back to what we’re accustomed to seeing there.”

BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 368 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala, built new for 2011, has seen action twice this season. The first time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when Bowyer brought home a 13th-place finish after starting 26th and most recently at Michigan International Speedway when Bowyer came through the field to finish eighth after qualifying 35th.

MARK MARTIN ON ATLANTA: “With only having one race at Atlanta this year, it makes me more excited to get there this weekend. The racing is just so intense at Atlanta. It’s one of my favorite tracks for that reason. There are multiple grooves, and it’s usually clean, side-by-side racing. Lots of passing. It actually races a lot like a short track, but on a much bigger level, of course. Qualifying is wide-open, hold-your-breath-for-one-lap crazy. It’s a good time, and if you’ve got a fast race car it’s really fun.”

Menard is using winning Brickyard chassis this week (Getty)
PAUL MENARD ON ATLANTA: “My first Cup start on an oval was at Atlanta and I think we finished seventh. It’s an easy track to overdrive; tires fall off a lot and the pace slows down. It’s an easy track to overdrive and you just have to manage your equipment and it works for me, I guess. It changes a lot; the car attitude and the loads on the springs changes a lot from qualifying to even at the beginning of a race run to the end. It’s a couple seconds slower, so you have to plan accordingly.”

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 was a brand new addition to the RCR fleet for the 2011 season and was last seen in competition on track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where Menard, after staring 15th, drove it to Victory Lane to claim his first career NSCS win.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON ATLANTA: “Atlanta is a fun place. It’s a cool place that has no grip. It is probably the oldest asphalt we go to, or it feels like the oldest. To tell you the truth, it feels like a way faster Darlington, like the old Darlington. I think it has a lot of character to it and I’ve had some success there. People always ask what my favorite track is and this has to be one of them. It’s where I learned to drive in the high groove.”

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Jim Pohlman and the No. 42 team are bringing chassis #1105 to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, marking the fifth race of the season for this chassis. Montoya previously ran this chassis at the inaugural race at Kentucky Speedway and at Kansas in June, Darlington in May. Texas in April, and Las Vegas in March.

JEFF BURTON ON ATLANTA: “In my rookie year (1994) there (Atlanta) in a Cup car, we were leading and I had a late race caution and had a bad pit stop and got beat and finished fourth. And that one still stings because that was my fifth race and we would have won it. And that one still stings. So there are a couple of things about Atlanta that stick out, and I want to redeem myself. I think moving the date (to Labor Day weekend) is a win for everybody. The early date hurt Atlanta, I think, you know, with the weather. I think this date is a really nice date. It’s a holiday weekend and there’s a lot of things about this that make a lot of sense.”

BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 367 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Caterpillar Chevrolet is a recent addition to the fleet and ran for the first time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where Burton started 13th and finished 35th after facing electrical issues in the closing laps.

REGAN SMITH ON ATLANTA: “We have to bring the entire package to Atlanta from Furniture Row Racing’s main shop in Denver, Colorado. Atlanta is a very fast track so you need horsepower, aero and a really good handling car. That’s the ultimate hat trick for a solid tune-up and I am confident we will have all three in Atlanta. The Atlanta track has been pretty good for us — last year we had finishes of 14th in the spring and 17th in the fall. We’re ok with top-15s, but top-10s are the goal for our team. I still feel we haven’t hit our stride this season– we’re close — but not quite there yet.”

JAMIE MCMURRAY ON ATLANTA: “I’m excited to go to Atlanta this weekend. I think we have really made some strides with our team over the last few weeks, so I’m excited to see how that will translate over to Atlanta. Our guys have a lot of confidence after the fifth-place finish last weekend at Bristol. Atlanta is one of the tracks that I really enjoy going to, and have enjoyed success with winning a couple of times in the Nationwide cars. It would be nice to bring one home in our McDonald’s Chevrolet this weekend in the Sprint Cup Series.

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No. 1 team are bringing chassis #1106 to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend. This marks the second race of the season for this chassis, it was previously run at Kansas.

Kurt Busch has won two of the last four Atlanta races (Getty)
KURT BUSCH ON ATLANTA: “While we know we can lock up a spot in the Chase there in Atlanta on Sunday night with a good finish, we still have to be in the mode of doing what it takes to win and bank us some more bonus points to help with our seeding when the Chase kicks in. There are several guys out there with more than one win like we have and we need to get ourselves up there with them during these next two races.”

“We’re in a pretty good situation as far as making the Chase in Atlanta and that’s a big feather in our cap. It’ll be a big deal for all the team sponsors and everyone involved with our ‘Double Deuce’ Dodge Team to make the Chase again this season. It has come to be a measuring stick for the level of success a team has during a particular season. Making the Chase is like placing the stamp on the year as officially being successful.

“That said, it’s like accomplishing the first goal of the weekend at Atlanta in making the Chase again. The bottom line is that we also have to look at the Atlanta and Richmond races as opportunities to get additional wins and accumulate the bonus points for when the clock goes back to zero and the points are reset. Heading into Chicago and the opening race of the 10 races that make up the Chase, it would be huge to have more wins and get seeded higher when the Chase begins.”

Kurt Busch can clinch his sixth appearance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Atlanta if he leaves 49 points ahead of 11th. He is currently 60 points ahead of 11th and can guarantee a top-10 spot with at least a finish of seventh; or eighth and at least one lap led; or ninth and the most laps led.

Keslowski's last 4 races: 2 wins, a runner-up and third (Getty)
BRAD KESELOWSKI ON ATLANTA: “I like the fact that Atlanta is a very slick racetrack. You come in to put tires on and you are almost three seconds a lap faster. That’s huge! A guy that will come in and pit one lap earlier than you do will gain almost half a straightaway on you. That puts pit strategy into focus. It’s just a fun place to race. I had a lot of success running the high line in the spring race last year. I don’t really think of myself as a driver that prefers the top, but I’ll definitely search around to see where my car is the fastest. That’s why we love racing at Atlanta.”

Brad Keselowski can clinch a Wild Card spot in the Chase if he is 48 points ahead of the driver 21st in the point standings after Atlanta. Keselowski is looking to move into the top 10 in the standings to collect bonus points (three) for each win. The two Wild Card winners do not get the bonus points and are seeded 11th and 12th.

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-755 during Saturday’s Advocare 500 at Atlanta Speedway (AMS). Brad Keselowski last drove this chassis to a 25th-place finish at Michigan International Speedway in June.

MATT KENSETH ON ATLANTA'S FIRST RACE BEING THIS LATE IN THE YEAR: “It will be a little different. The thing about Atlanta is you used to race real early in the year and then real late in the year. It almost seemed like it was a whole year between races anyway. Racing there once a year will be different. I think it is going to be slick this time of year because it is pretty warm and the track has aged another year and nobody has been on it for awhile. It is going to be a great weekend of racing. Atlanta has been known for some of the best finishes in NASCAR and it will be competitive and fun and I am looking forward to it.”

KENSETH ON CHASE STRATEGY: “I take it one week at a time. With Jimmy at the shop and things like that we plan out what cars we want to take or if we want to test somewhere or maybe some different stuff we want to try at a track, but other than that we take it one week at a time. I think the guy with the best average finish will win the championship and you want to aim to win each and every week but if you can’t win you want to get the very best finish you can and get as many points as you can each week and hopefully when it is all said and done you stack up toward the top.”

KENSETH ON ATLANTA: “I always have a lot of fun racing at Atlanta, so I’m looking forward to this weekend there. We were able to clinch a spot in the Chase last weekend and the team has just been doing a great job this year so that feels great, but we’re still going to be working hard to sharpen up everything as we head to the Chase. Atlanta is a track that’s high-banked and fast, and as the track gets slicker throughout the race, you’re always looking for another groove that lets you get more grip. A good-handling car is really important at Atlanta so that you can get into the corners and not be loose as the track rubbers up.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-787 (Brand new chassis)

Edwards is using fifth-place Kansas chassis this week (Getty)
CARL EDWARDS ON ATLANTA: “I love going to Atlanta, it’s a great place. My first win there was huge. We always run well there and it’s a chance to win another race before the Chase starts which would be great for bonus points. To have success at Atlanta you have to have everything; a good engine, pit crew, strategy and drive really well. Since we’re locked in the Chase winning is all that matters right now. We’ve also got a really cool ‘Friends of a Feather’ paint scheme this weekend to kick off National Childhood Cancer Awareness month.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 will carry the Aflac Friends of a Feather paint scheme at Atlanta this weekend. The crew will unload RK-768 which last ran at Indy where Edwards finished 14th, and also ran Kansas where he finished fifth.

GREG BIFFLE ON ATLANTA: “I really enjoy racing at Atlanta and I think most of the other drivers would say the same. It’s obviously really fast for a mile-and-a-half track which makes the racing fun and exciting. We’re taking the car that we finished seventh with at Indy I think but the cars are so similar now that it doesn’t make a lot of difference. We’ll just go out there and do the best we can to get a win and we have a little added bonus this week with the Small Business of NASCAR finalist on the tv panel. If I win, they get a million dollars so it would be cool to be able to do that for someone.”

DAVID RAGAN ON ATLANTA: “Atlanta is a multiple groove race track, and the tires wear out fast, so tire management is important and just adds extra factors which make it fun to race there. It’s a fast track and a place that I grew up watching NASCAR races from the grandstands and pits. It’s always special to go back there and a win would be great, plus my sponsor UPS is right down the road so we’ll have lots of fans and employees there cheering for us.”

RAGAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-750 Last ran Kentucky– finished 8th; Backup: RK-711 Last ran Darlington – finished 21st

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