Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Driver Notes & Quotes for the Pure Michigan 400

Johnson's last top-5 at Michigan was in 2007 (Getty)
JIMMIE JOHNSON ON MICHIGAN BEING ONE OF FIVE TRACKS HE HASN'T WON AT: “I don’t know what it is about that track. We have been close several times. I think we ran out of gas leading a few times and fuel mileage has gotten us a few times too. It’s not for lack of trying though. It’s just one of those tracks where we haven’t capitalized. It’s certainly an important track for us to win at with it being Chevy’s back yard. It also would be great to get a win and give us a little more cushion going into the Chase with just a few races left.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Johnson will pilot chassis No. 669 in Sunday’s event. He last drove that car to a third-place finish at Kansas Speedway in July. Johnson finished 16th in backup chassis No. 623 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.

KEVIN HARVICK ON RACING AT MICHIGAN: “Michigan has been a great race track for us in the past. From the driver’s standpoint it’s a lot of fun to race on because the car slides around and you have the option to move all over the race track. I believe this will be the last race on that particular pavement, and while that’s never exciting to hear, we’re excited about that race and have got a lot of things that we are working on going into that particular race as a team. It should be a good weekend.”

“There are a lot of things just because the tires fall off a lot. You still have to carry a lot of speed, so you’ve got to have a good handling package along with a good engine package. It’s just kind of like everywhere else, you’ve got to have the whole package but Michigan gives you a lot of options as a driver because it is so wide and you can move around and make your car work in different spots.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 373 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This is a brand new race car that will see its first on-track action at Michigan this weekend.

Gordon has two Michigan wins, the last coming in 2001.
JEFF GORDON ON IMPORTANCE OF QUALIFYING: “Qualifying better is something this team – including me – has to do better. It’s possible to not qualify well and still win like we did in Phoenix, but it’s much easier to have a strong finish after starting at or near the front. There are so many advantages gained by doing so like a better pit stall pick, less traffic to work through and ‘cleaner’ air. I think the likelihood of getting collected in someone else’s wreck drops, as well. Improving our qualifying is definitely something we are focused on right now.”

ON RACING AT MICHIGAN: “I love racing here because of the wide corners where you can run from the bottom to the top,” said Gordon, who is seventh in the point standings with two wins in 2011. This is a really fast track with a high average speed, and you are in the corners for a really long time each lap. Ideally, you want to be right on the edge of tight and loose in the corners. But even with all that room to run side-by-side down the straightaways and through the corners, qualifying well on Friday can make the race easier to manage on Sunday. This race is 400 miles, but it seems to go by quick.”

RYAN NEWMAN ON WHAT IT TAKES TO HAVE A GOOD RUN AT MICHIGAN? “To have a good run at Michigan, there are definitely a couple of key things that you have to have. The first thing is speed. You have to have horsepower to get around this ultra-fast racetrack. I’m confident in that area because we have such strong horsepower from Hendrick under the hood of our No. 39 Chevrolet. The second key is handling. The handling of the racecar is crucial, especially in turns two and three. The car can’t get too tight off two or be too loose off three.”

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT MICHIGAN? “It’s a fun racetrack to drive and a fun racetrack to race because it’s a relatively easy track to get around. For a driver, it’s just a great racetrack. In fact, I normally tell people that anyone can drive Michigan. It is so wide that cars can race three- and four-wide there every lap. The track has long sweeping corners, which helps to promote some really good racing. From a driver’s standpoint, you get to draft and bump-draft on the straightaways. I just think it’s a track that is conducive to good racing. You know, you get to a place like Michigan, it’s so wide open that it’s like racing the racetrack is only 10% of it, racing the competition is 60% of it, and managing your tires is another 30% of it.”

NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 39-677 - This chassis was brand new for the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway just three races ago. Newman qualified a disappointing 23rd in that race and fought being mired in traffic and dirty air for much of the afternoon. Track position proved to be incredibly vital. And while Newman’s car was fast and handling well, he found it difficult to pass other cars. A strategy call with less than 30 laps to go helped Newman score a top-15 finish. Newman opted to pit for three seconds of fuel while many teams opted to gamble. While those cars either ran out or were forced to drastically slow down to conserve fuel, Newman was able to run at full power, which led to the 12th-place finish. The Pure Michigan 400 will mark the second start this season for Chassis 39-677.

Junior's last win came at Michigan in 2008 (Getty)
DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON HIS STRATEGY FOR NEXT FOUR RACES: “I feel like I run good at the next four tracks we go to. I think I can go to those tracks and get the job done. You’ve got to race hard and race smart like you always do. I try to get to the end of the race with my race car intact, no matter what the situation is. I let Steve (Letarte, crew chief) handle the strategy.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR. ON MICHIGAN: “I am expecting another strong run at Michigan after how well we ran there in the spring. We ran quite a different setup last time compared to last year and really improved. Since then, we’ve learned a lot about our car and have made improvements to our 1.5- to two-mile program to apply this time. I don’t see why we cannot run better. We just need to run a clean race and get the result to show for it. What I like about Michigan is we can run anywhere from the apron to the fence. I love having several options like that. I look forward to seeing what all we can get accomplished this weekend.”

TONY STEWART ON WHERE MICHIGAN RANKS IN TERMS OF ALL THE 1.5- TO 2-MILE, D-SHAPED OVALS THAT ARE ON THE SPRINT CUP CIRCUIT? “It’s so wide and there are so many lines that you can run – that’s what makes Michigan fun for drivers. The drivers can really help themselves out if they don’t have a car that’s working right. You can literally race from the white line on the apron all the way to the wall. That’s the groove. You can move around on the racetrack and find a spot that helps your car do what you need it to do. You have to figure out how to gauge your momentum and know where you want to be on that racetrack when you enter those corners. Depending on how your car is driving, you can move around on the racetrack and help yourself. Michigan’s layout gives the drivers the flexibility to really make a difference in their car’s handling, and that’s what makes Michigan such a fun racetrack.”

Hamlin has won two of the last three races at Michigan (Getty)
DENNY HAMLIN ON TEAM OUTLOOK WITH FOUR RACES UNTIL THE CHASE: “We’ve got four races to get back to trying to be competitive and consistent during a full course of a race. Obviously, we have shown a lot of speed over the last few weeks, but just not the ability to finish as well as what we have run so we’ve got to continue to work on that to first of all be a part of the Chase, and then if we are, to be competitive in there.”

CLINT BOWYER ON HOW BIG OF A DEAL IS IT FROM A MANUFACTURER’S STANDPOINT TO WIN AT MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY? “It’s a huge deal. Anytime you can win close to any sponsor’s headquarters, it’s big. Its huge bragging rights for them and you know it means a great deal to everyone involved. It should mean a great deal to us as a race team too.”

“Well, fuel mileage is a big part of it, but first and foremost, you have to get there and get a handling on your race car. Once you do that, you can make long runs and figure out your fuel mileage. There are plenty of opportunities for green-flag pit stops so you know where you’re at fuel mileage-wise. Michigan is such a big race track. You go very fast there, but the corners are also so wide. The outside lines have opened up a little bit more. That’s just from the track wearing out and being able to carry that all momentum around the corner. There’s so much room that it doesn’t give you that sensation of speed that a Texas Motor Speedway would. It’s very easy to get into the corners. You just don’t realize how fast you’re going until you hit something. We’ve really struggled on the bigger race tracks since the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. We have to get better, but I’m learning. I feel like we’re going to have a lot better package when we go back to these tracks a second time.”

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, saw action last month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when Bowyer brought home a 13th-place finish after starting 26th.

Menard finished fourth in June at Michigan (Getty)
PAUL MENARD ON LEARNING SOME THINGS IN JUNE THAT WILL CARRY OVER TO THIS TIME? “I feel great about going back to Michigan. We had a good run there in June. I really think we can try and better that this time. Like any time we return to a track for a second race in a season, the track is inevitably going to be different. The weather is going to be different, too. We’ll have a good baseline, but we won’t know what we really have until we unload. We’ll have to figure out then what we have to adjust in order to accommodate the track and weather conditions.”

“We’re definitely looking forward to going back to Michigan. The (NASCAR Sprint Cup) series is so competitive that you can unload on Friday and think that you’re going to be really fast and not be. It’s very humbling.”

MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 326 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 Michigan International Speedway in June where Menard brought home a fourth-place result after starting from ninth. This car was also raced this year at Bristol Motor Speedway where the Eau Claire, Wis., native started fourth and finished fifth and during the non-points Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway where he started third and finished 11th.

CARL EDWARDS ON MICHIGAN: “MIS drives like a big dirt track. It’s a big, slick, wide race track. You slide the car all the way around the corners. I really like Michigan. It is fun, and our cars have been very good there. I feel like every time we go there we’ve got a chance to win. The last race I think we were leading when the caution came out at the end and we ended up fifth, but I felt like we could have won that one. I’m ready to go back. Our cars are better now than they were and that’ll be really cool.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 Aflac crew will be unloading chassis 765. Edwards last raced this car at Kentucky last month where he finished fifth. He also ran it at the Coke 600 in May at CMS.

MARK MARTIN ON MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY: “I really, really like running at Michigan, not just because it’s so fast, but it’s so wide. We can race all over the track. I’ve been lucky at Michigan, and I’ve been just plain good. I’ve gotten a lot of wins there. Last time we raced there, we were pretty good. We fought a loose-handling car, but Lance (McGrew, crew chief) and the guys made a lot of good adjustments, and we got up there in the top 10. I thought that was a big day for us and our intermediate program. We’ve got to build on what we learned in that race and try to do even better this time around.”

Montoya has averaged a 23rd-place finish in nine starts.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON RACING AT MICHIGAN: “I am looking forward to going back to Michigan, I can tell you that. At that place we either run really good or we can’t get out of our own way. It is one way or the other. I think last time we really struggled. Actually, we were pretty decent in practice. I think we had 10th to 12th-place car and we didn’t feel we were good enough."

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Jim Pohlman will bring chassis #1108 to Michigan this weekend. This is the second time that this chassis will be raced this year after running in the first race at Michigan in June when Montoya finished 30th after being caught up in an on-track incident.

JEFF BURTON ON MICHIGAN “I think we’ve had these conversations about Michigan for a long time. I can remember a lot of drivers that have dominated races there. It’s one of those tracks that’s relatively low on grip. Low grip and high speeds combined together allows for separations between cars in the field. I think it’s more that than anything. Although, I will say that Goodyear came with different tires last year and the racing was better. We go to other race tracks that feel much, much faster than Michigan and we’re not going as fast. It’s such a wide race track that you build the speed over a long period of time. It’s one of those places that you don’t feel like you’re going as fast as you really are.”

“I think Chevrolet is a worldwide company. I know they’re headquarters are in Detroit, but we have Chevy representation everywhere we go and they have dealers and customers at every race track that we go to. I don’t view that as a manufacturer’s backyard. I know that it is, but I don’t look at it that way.”

BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 348 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built brand new for the 2011 season, the lone event this No. 31 racer competed at was Auto Club Speedway in March where the veteran driver recorded a 15th-place result.

REGAN SMITH ON RACING AT MICHIGAN: “Looking forward to Michigan, it’s another Farm American tribute race for our Furniture Row Racing team. We’re teaming with a St. Johns, Michigan agriculture company — Agro Culture Liquid Fertilizers to promote the importance of having a stable and robust agriculture industry along with bridging the communication gap between urban and renewal America. Michigan should be a good race for our Furniture Row Chevrolet. We qualified fifth in the MIS June race and were running in the top 12 at the end. But on the last lap we got clipped, resulting in a very disappointing finish (34th). This is the kind of track that we should be good at — it’s a matter of having a clean race.”

JAMIE MCMURRAY ON RACING AT MICHIGAN: “I’m looking forward to getting back to Michigan, we were able to bring home a top-20 finish back in June so of course we hope to improve on that. This will probably come down to being a fuel-mileage race so we will have to be smart with our strategy and try and take advantage of some lucky breaks if we can catch them. “

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 1 Bass Pro Shops ®/ Tracker Boats team will bring chassis #1102 to Michigan this weekend. This will be the sixth time that Chassis #1102 has been used this year, following Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Dover International Speedway and both races at Pocono Raceway.

Keselowski excited about racing on home track this week.
KESELOWSKI ON RACING AT HIS HOME TRACK: “I always have a lot of fun when it’s time to head to Michigan. It’s one of those tracks that mean so much to me and my family. I remember going there watching my dad race back when I was a little kid and can remember coming through that tunnel amazed at how big this place was to me. It’s cool to go back home to race in front of family and friends. It’s in Dodge’s backyard and we certainly know how important of a race it is for them. I really want to win a Cup race at Michigan and I think we can do it this weekend.”

KESELWOSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-753 during Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway (MIS). Keselowski last drove this chassis to a 19th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May after winning the pole position for the event.

Kyle Busch is using his Indy chassis this week (Getty)
KYLE BUSCH ON HIS TEAM'S PERFORMANCE THIS YEAR COMPARED TO 2008: “Certainly 2008 was a special year. I feel like we’re a lot better than we’ve ever been. Dave Rogers (crew chief) and Chris Gayle (team engineer) and Ron Denton (team engineer) and all of the guys on my team have done a tremendous job at being able to put together great cars on and off the race track. From back at the shop, stemming from the guys that work on it, to the guys that do everything here at the race track — the ‘A Team’ we call them. We feel like we’ve been better prepared this year and certainly we don’t have the tally of eight wins, but we’re a lot more consistent I feel like. From race to race, we’re a lot more consistent where before we’d have a bad race and not be able to rebound from it.”

“I’m looking forward to the Chase. I feel like we’re in a good position. Certainly we’d like to have a few more wins, but if we don’t get them before the Chase starts, hopefully we can get them throughout the Chase and get ourselves some of those extra three bonus points that come with winning throughout the final 10.”

KYLE BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 315 - This chassis will make its second-ever start in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. In its first outing last month in the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Busch started a distant 29th but still managed to bring home a respectable 10th-place finish.

DAVID RAGAN ON MICHIGAN: “I’m excited to be back at Jack’s home track since Michigan is a track that has been good to us in the past. I’m looking forward to a good run in our UPS Ford to get our season back on track. We are taking our Indy car, which sat on the pole and was strong all day, so hopefully we can repeat some of that success.”

RAGAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-777 Last ran Indianapolis – finished 23rd; Backup: RK-711 Last ran Darlington – finished 21st.

DAVID REUTIMANN ON HIS GOALS FOR MICHIGAN: “We had a fast car in June and almost (qualified second) put the Aaron’s Dream Machine on the pole. We have a really good qualifying package at Michigan and our big track program here at MWR is really strong. Plus, we have made huge strides since we were there in June so I’m confident we’ll have a shot at the pole again. Our goal every weekend is to win and that never changes, but a place like Michigan favors us a little bit more than normal.”

Kenseth is a two-time Michigan winner (Getty)
MATT KENSETH ON MICHIGAN: “Michigan is one of my favorite tracks throughout the season and I always look forward to going to Michigan since it’s the Midwest and close to my home state of Wisconsin. We had a really great race here in June starting third and finishing second, and our whole organization usually has a lot of success at Michigan. It’s really important to have a good-handling car at Michigan since it’s a big sweeping track with plenty of room to pass. If you can get your car to handle the right way, you can have a lot of fun racing there. Racing at Michigan is also significant because the area is the headquarters for Roush Industries and Ford Motor Company, so it’s always a big weekend for us at a place we consider one of our home tracks.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-741 (last raced at Indy).

GREG BIFFLE ON MICHIGAN: “I love Michigan. It is my favorite track on the circuit and I’m really looking forward to going there. I like Michigan because I’ve had success there with wins in the Sprint Cup Series and the Truck Series. I also like that you can race three and four wide at a down force track. As a driver, you have so many options. You can run the bottom, middle or top. It is a strategy race and fuel mileage often comes into play – sometimes in your favor and sometimes not. I just like the way the track is laid out and I think you see good racing there.”

BIFFLE'S LAST RACE AT MICHIGAN: Greg Biffle took the lead on lap 13 and was on track for a solid top-five finish throughout most of the race. He was running third when a round of green-flag pit stops began on lap 152. Crew chief Greg Erwin called him to the pits on lap 154 for four tires and fuel. An untimely caution came out four laps later before the cycle was complete and Biffle was the first car one lap down in the 18th position. Because he was the Lucky Dog, he got back on the lead lap but was only able to pick up three positions in the closing laps.

KURT BUSCH ON RACING AT MICHIGAN: “We’ll be doing everything we possibly can to put our Dodge Charger into the winner’s circle this weekend at M.I.S. and party down with all our great friends at Dodge. All the manufacturers are located fairly close to the speedway and they all really want to win the races there. We have such a great relationship with all the folks at Dodge and they are super supporters of Penske Racing. We’ve been so proud to take Dodge to Victory Lane in the Sonoma (Infineon Raceway) points race and in the big Bud Shootout and qualifying race wins we had down in Daytona. A win at Michigan on Sunday would be great for Dodge and super for Shell, Pennzoil and all our sponsors.”

“Michigan is one track where you always come in there planning on it to have fuel mileage involved in the equation. It’s always been a track where there aren’t many cautions and that works to push the fuel mileage aspect to the top of the list as far as strategy goes.”

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