Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Driver Notes & Quotes for Watkins Glen

Kurt Busch looking to sweep the roads
KURT BUSCH ON WATKINS GLEN: “Like I’ve been telling people since last year, this weekend’s race at Watkins Glen has been locked in on our radar screen. To race with (Juan Pablo) Montoya and (Marcos) Ambrose like we did there last year was definitely a confidence-builder. Those two guys come from a different world when it comes to road course racing. We got by Ambrose at the end and were closing in on Montoya.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI ON WATKINS GLEN AND HOW HIS ANKLE IS FEELING: “At the Glen you need to concentrate on where you can brake heavily and where you can put the power down when you need to so that you carry big runs down the straightaway. To me, Watkins Glen is more of a stock car driver’s road course. You can throw your car around a little more than Sonoma, especially with the new runoff areas, because you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in the sand traps anymore. I’m still learning how to be a better road course racer, but it’s starting to click with me.

“I felt much better on Monday after a good night’s rest. A win is good medicine too. It’s just going to take time to let everything heal properly. Good racecars make it very easy on you when you’re hurt or sick and Paul (Wolfe, crew chief) has been building excellent cars this season. If there is a silver lining to the wreck at Road Atlanta, it’s that we weren’t testing our primary car for Watkins Glen. It’s still in one piece and it’s the same car that we finished inside the top-10 with at Sonoma. It will still be uncomfortable in the car this weekend, but I’ll have to man up one more time because we don’t have time to let injuries get in the way of making the Chase.”

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-741 during Sunday’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen at Watkins Glen International. This is a brand-new chassis to the No. 2 fleet.

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON WATKINS GLEN: “Wins are everything. We want more Ws and I am taking the time to go run the Nationwide Series car for Junior. I have my video game on the side of that race car which is going to be fun and help promote it. Hopefully that leads to a smooth race, a better race for us on the Cup side and we can go to victory. We were just at Road Atlanta testing for two days. So, we’re making that effort to try to be on top. I personally love road course racing and want to be very successful at it. It is just something that is very important to me."

"The Glen, for me, it is the carousel, the long right-hander after the back straightaway. Depending up what driver you speak to, there are a couple of different numbers that they put to it, but, that corner there seems to be the area where I have given up the most speed over the years. I’ve got to get that corner right because it leads on to a pretty important straightaway and sets you up for a passing opportunity once you work your way around to turn one. If you can gain on that big right-hander, the carousel, and then get through (turns) 10 and 11, you are on someone’s bumper for turn one.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Johnson is bringing the same car that raced at Sonoma in June.

Kevin Harvick won at the Glen in 2006 (Getty)
KEVIN HARVICK ON RACING AT THE GLEN “The cars are a little bit different because you make so many high-speed rights at Watkins Glen compared to the really slow speeds in the corners at Sonoma. Aerodynamically, you want your car to be right. At Watkins Glen you run over a lot of curbs and really fast corners. At Sonoma, they are really slow and kind of technical corners with a lot of throttle control coming off. So they are really just two totally different places. Watkins Glen is definitely one of those places where fuel mileage is going to come into play. You want to put yourself in position but you never know where the cautions are going to fall. You want to pit before everybody else and hope that the caution falls right after that so you can have the right pit strategy. So it’s just one of those things where you have to have a little bit of luck; but fuel mileage will definitely be a factor.”

In 10 starts at Watkins Glen, Harvick has earned one win (2006), two top-five and five top-10 finishes. His average starting position at the road course is 11.7 and his average finishing position is 13.6. Harvick has completed 96.9 percent (874 of 902) of the laps run in the last 10 NSCS races at Watkins Glen. He has also led a total of 29 laps at the 11-turn road course.

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 321 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. The No. 29 team utilized this car in last season’s event at The Glen where Harvick scored an 11th-place finish.

JEFF GORDON ON WATKINS GLEN: “It’s definitely nice to have that (50-point) gap to 11th. It gives us the opportunity to take more calculated risks for a race win. It’s important to stay in the top 10, though, because bonus points for wins are only awarded to those inside the top 10. Any points advantage you can get will be worth it. Watkins Glen is a much faster and more aggressive track while [Infineon] is a finesse track. Here, you have to attack the track – without making too many mistakes."

"It’s easy to make mistakes here because you have so many turns and braking zones and obstacles with the down shifts – like wheel hopping in turn one. It’s just really, really difficult to get deep into turn one, not overshoot the corner while also not wheel hopping the rear tires. The DuPont Motorsports website is being re-launched on Thursday, and we have some cool things going on with that at Watkins Glen and in the future. I think the fans will really like some of the exclusive content that will be available there.”

RYAN NEWMAN ON WATKINS GLEN: “As I’ve always said I enjoy the challenges of the road courses. Hustling the cars through the different corners is fun and it’s a nice break from our weekly oval races. The cars are bunched in the corners on a road course and you have to avoid spins and getting knocked around. Staying on the course is vital. Watkins Glen may not be as technical of a circuit as Sonoma, but trouble can still happen any time. We don’t take anything for granted. This is auto racing and things can turn against you pretty quickly. You can easily stumble while another driver or two gets on a hot streak."

"Until someone tells me we have mathematically clinched a Chase berth, I won’t feel secure. It’s been a good season so far, but you can’t be satisfied. We’re always trying new things to get us to another level. One thing about our Army team is that we never give up and have come back many times from not being that good to posting a solid finish. It’s the Army way to never quit, and when you represent the best-of-the-best, you keep on battling and don’t look back.”

TONY STEWART ON WATKINS GLEN: “It’s a race that we always look forward to. We’ve had a lot of success there and it’s just fun. It’s like taking Sonoma and just multiplying the speed times three. It’s just a lot faster track. It still has the same elevation changes, but you’re just running a lot quicker. Both Sonoma and Watkins Glen are two places on the schedule that we really enjoy coming to. When you’ve won five races, it gives you that confidence that you know how to win, and know what you have to do to get to victory lane. I know what feel I need when we get here. It’s just a matter of going out and practicing and putting yourself in that position.”

Watkins Glen is not Earnhardt Jr's best track (Getty)
DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON WATKINS GLEN: “I think I can do better at the Glen because it’s got some straightaways on it. It’s a little easier; it’s not quite as technical of a road course. I’ve got more confidence going in there and I’ll try to put up a better result. It’s going to be fun to see Jimmie (Johnson) driving the car (JR Motorsports Chevrolet in Nationwide Series). I guess one of the more mechanical or important parts of the deal, or underlying issues, is that it will give our over-the-wall guys some practice on pitting the car backwards like they do at the road courses. That was what was more interesting to Chad (Knaus) and Steve (Letarte). It will be three teams for us (JR Motorsports) so it will give us an opportunity to get the HMS (Hendrick Motorsports) guys there and get the Sunday guys some more time in race conditions. So, I’m looking forward to it.”

CLINT BOWYER ON WATKINS GLEN: “I’ve always run well at Sonoma where I’m very comfortable. I get to Watkins Glen and I struggle. I think I’ve gotten a lot better at road courses. I’m looking forward to Watkins Glen. I think we can get another top 10 if not, a top-five finish there. It’s a lot faster than Sonoma. The speeds are much higher at The Glen. Sonoma is a very tight, technical track. You have to get settled in and hit your marks. It’s a challenging race track. However, Watkins Glen is wide open, straight off into the corner and running harder than the next guy. You have to keep that momentum up because it’s a very fast race track. There’s never a good place to pass on a road course. There’s not enough room anywhere. Obviously, the best place to pass is getting into turn one though it’s hard. You have to get yourself off the last corner to set yourself up for that pass.”

BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: This Week’s Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet at Watkins Glen International … Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 300 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala, built in 2010 specifically for road course racing, has seen action three times – the first being a 31st-place finish last season at Infineon Raceway and also last August at Watkins Glen International when Bowyer brought home a 32nd-place effort. Most recently, Bowyer drove this racer to a fourth-place finish earlier this year after starting ninth at Infineon Raceway in June.

PAUL MENARD ON WATKINS GLEN: “Watkins Glen is a totally different race track and atmosphere. It is really tough to pass at Sonoma (Infineon Raceway), and everyone drives in way over their heads. You see a lot of tore-up race cars at Sonoma. You’ll probably see some of that at Watkins Glen, but it’s a lot easier to pass there. It will be more of a straightforward race. I like racing at Watkins Glen better than I do at Sonoma. We’ve had good runs there in the past. But, we’ve had bad runs in the past. I still don’t like either of the road courses, but if I had to pick a favorite of the two, I like Watkins Glen better than Sonoma because it’s more open, and you can pass more. You have more room to race.”

MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 361 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 Watkins Glen International.

MARK MARTIN ON WATLINS GLEN: “We couldn’t race at two more different types of road courses. Infineon is more of a short track style of road course where Watkins Glen is like the superspeedway of road courses. I love it. I’ve run better here over the course of my career, so I’ve always kind of enjoyed it more. This track has more of an open feel to it and carries a lot more speed than Infineon does. We haven’t had the best runs on road courses here lately, but I’m hoping that turns around this weekend and we can get a good solid finish."

"We have to win (in order to make the Chase). And really, with Brad (Keselowski) getting his second win at Pocono last weekend, we need to win twice. Climbing to 10th in points would be ideal, but we have a big deficit to make up and that’s going to be very difficult to do with this point system. Is it possible? Yes. But it’s not going to be easy. We’ve performed better over the last few weeks and have gotten better finishes, but to get inside the top 10 we’re going to need solid top-10 and even top-five finishes every week.”

Juan Montoya will be using the same car he won with last year (Getty)
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON WATKINS GLEN: “Going to Watkins Glen should be exciting. I was pretty happy that we ran much better at Infineon, where we normally struggle. So I think that should be a good place for us. The Target team needs a good finish right now, we’ve been struggling and a win there would definitely go a long way.”

Montoya will be making his fifth career start at Watkins Glen International this weekend. Last season he achieved personal bests in both qualifying and the race when he started third and led 74 of 90 laps en route to his first win at the road course in New York. Including his victory in 2010, Montoya has two top-fives, three top-10s and has completed 342 of 360 laps (95%) at WGI. His average start in the Finger Lakes region is 14.0 and his average finish is 12.5. Montoya has finished on the lead lap in three of his four starts and only has one DNF after being caught up in an incident during the 2007 edition of the race.

MONTOYA CHASSIS SELECTION: The No. 42 Target team will bring Chassis #1014 to Watkins Glen International for the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen. Montoya used this chassis back at Infineon in June where he was running up front until an on-track incident caused him to finish 22nd. The Target team also ran this car in both road course races last season when Montoya went to Victory Lane for the first time at Watkins Glen International in August, and drove it to a 10th–place finish at Infineon.

JEFF BURTON ON WATKINS GLEN: “The tracks at Watkins Glen and Sonoma are comparable in the same way as Pocono and Indy are comparable. The tracks are different but the same. For people like me who don’t have road course experience, I think there are similarities because the driving style is very similar. In some ways, technically, there is not a lot of information we use from one race to the other but from a driving standpoint it’s the same. I feel good about our road course program. We ran a little better than where we finished. We did a nice job of having a fast car and not letting it get taken away from us. That’s been our history on road course; we run well and finish awful."

"Last year, we ran well and finished decent. That was big for us. That was a step in the right direction as to what we needed to do at the road courses. We feel good about running road courses, but if you look at the records, they’re horrendous. But, if you go back and look at our average running position it’s pretty competitive. The last 10 laps of the races on road courses at almost every race, someone spins me out. After Sonoma this year, I decided that there’s a few of them that the next time I get to them I’m sending them around as quick as I get to them. That’s what continually happens to me and it’s with the same people over and over. So, it’s not happening again.”

BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 245 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built new in 2009 as a No. 07 racer, this machine was put through two short track tests and then shelved before being converted to a road course No. 31 racer. It was put through its first competition at Infineon Raceway in June 2010 where the South Boston, Va., native finished 27th before rebounding at Watkins Glen International a couple of months later when No. 31 team took home a ninth-place finish. Earlier this season, Burton piloted this Caterpillar Chevrolet to a 21st-place result at Infineon Raceway in June.

REGAN SMITH ON WATKINS GLEN: “Watkins Glen is my home track,” said Smith, who grew up in Cato, N.Y. near Syracuse. “I have a lot of family and friends coming to the race and you always want to put on a good performance for them. I am really looking forward to spending some time in central New York this week. I haven’t had a lot of experience on road courses but we are getting better. We had a decent finish in Sonoma back in June (16th) and had a good run going last year at The Glen until we experienced breakage with the track bar mount with five laps remaining. We’re having our best year thus far and would like nothing better to have another strong finish this weekend in front of all the central New York fans.”

Jamie McMurray was strong in practice at Sonoma (Getty)
JAMIE MCMURRAY ON WATKINS GLEN: “I always enjoy racing on the road courses and Watkins Glen is especially fun because it allows you several opportunities to pass. With the long fast straightaways being able to out-brake other cars is crucial. We had a solid run there last year and Montoya came home with a victory for our team, so we hope that we can bring home some solid results for EGR again this year. Watkins Glen is one of the places that if you go there with a mindset that you like the track, you always seem to run better. I actually wish we had a couple of more road course races on the schedule, they are fun to drive!”

This weekend marks McMurray’s ninth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) start at Watkins Glen International. In his eight previous starts at the road course, McMurray has one top-five, two top-10s and has completed 95.4% of the laps run since 2003 (689 of 722). His best finish at Watkins Glen came in 2006 when he took the checked flag in third, and his best start came last season when he rolled off the grid in second. McMurray’s average start in the Finger Lakes region is 17.6, while his average finish is 18.4. He has been running at the finish in seven of his eight career starts at The Glen, with his only DNF coming in the 2009 event due to an engine failure.

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet team has elected to bring chassis number #1012 to Watkins Glen International this weekend. This chassis was most recently run at Infineon in June when McMurray drove to a 15th-place finish. This car also ran at both road course races in 2010, coming home 15th at Infineon and sixth at Watkins Glen.

MARTIN TRUEX JR. ON WATKINS GLEN: “I really enjoy road-course racing and I really feel good about our chances at Watkins Glen. We’ve had some great runs at The Glen and my boss Michael Waltrip has completed the most laps there. I’m sure he’s going to text us over the weekend while he’s racing in Montana to give us some suggestions. I’m just excited to get up there and put our NAPA Toyota up front. I hope we’ll end up having a shot at winning the deal. The last two years I’ve run really well at Infineon Raceway and that’s been a tough track for me. Of the two road races we go to, Watkins Glen is my favorite.”

TRUEX ON THE CHASE WILD CARD: “We still have a legitimate chance to get that wild card. Just a race or two ago, Brad Keselowski was where we are sitting and now he’s the frontrunner to make it in. Granted, I’d rather be in his shoes right now, but we’re still working towards getting in. It’s really cool going to the track each weekend knowing we have a chance. I like what NASCAR has done by adding the wild car this year because it keeps my sponsor NAPA pumped up and pulling for us. We continue to work really hard to get there and I see Watkins Glen as our chance to get the ball moving in that direction. Plus, we’ve got some good tracks for us coming up like Michigan and Bristol. Hopefully, it will all come together for us.”

MATT KENSETH ON WATKINS GLEN: “Road course racing hasn’t exactly been my favorite kind of racing, but I’ve gotten more experience with it over the years and I think I’ve gotten a lot better. It’s really fun to race at Watkins Glen and I think I prefer the style of racing at the Glen better because it’s faster-paced and really drives more like a speedway at times. The Glen doesn’t have the big hills and elevation changes like we have at Sonoma, which makes it a little easier for me. Watkins Glen is more about momentum and going fast, and I really like those aspects of the track.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-771 (Brand new chassis)

David Ragan is using a new chassis this week (Getty)
DAVID RAGAN ON RACING AT WATKINS GLEN: The Glen has been a tough track for me the past few years, but this year I am going to run the GRAND-AM race in hopes of honing my skills some more. I look forward to the challenge of being a better road racer this weekend in my UPS Ford.”

RAGAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-762 Brand new chassis; Backup: RK-773 Last ran Sonoma – finished 29th

CARL EDWARDS ON WATKINS GLEN: “Watkins Glen is tough. It’s really fun, though. It’s become one of my favorite race tracks. We were fortunate enough to get the pole there last year. It was a huge moment for me. That’s the biggest success I’ve had in the Cup Series at a road course and hopefully we can take what I’ve learned there in years past and apply it and win the race. I’ve been really close. I was running second to Tony (Stewart) one time and I whaled it down in there into the second-to-last corner and I ran off the track and hit the fence and went through the gravel. I’ve been so close to having that breakthrough Cup win on a road course that I’d really love to get it this weekend.”

Edwards will make his seventh Cup start at Watkins Glen this weekend. In his previous six starts, he has accumulated three top-five and five top-10 finishes. He has an average start of 12.3 and finish of 8.2 there.

EDWARDS CHASSIS SELECTION: The Scotts Ortho team will bring chassis RK-758 to Watkins Glen this weekend. Edwards raced this chassis at Sonoma in June where he finished third.

GREG BIFFLE ON WATKINS GLEN: “I like road course racing. It breaks up the season a little. We’ve had a couple of top-10 finish at Watkins Glen and I think it’s reasonable to shoot for a top-10 finish this weekend. There are a few drivers in this series who have a lot of road course experience and if I can just hold my own with them and get out of there with a top-10 or top-five finish, I think that would be a reasonable expectation.”

Logano is using the same car that sat on the pole at Sonoma
JOEY LOGANO ON RACING AT WATKINS GLEN: “This is going to be a busy weekend for sure, but I’m really looking forward to it. It will be my first triple header. I haven’t driven the GT car yet, but I’ve known Boris (driver Said) for a while now so I have no doubt he will get me up to speed pretty quick. As for The Home Depot car, we tested last week at Road Atlanta and Max Papis helped me out again. He’s been a huge help and is going to be around this weekend too. The team has made our road course cars a lot better this year and I know I have a much better understanding of road course racing. Running well at Sonoma where we hadn’t run well in the past was a huge confidence boost for me and the entire team. With the way we’ve been running the past six weeks and my confidence heading into The Glen, I feel like we have a full head of steam and I’m really looking forward to Sunday.”

It’s the second and final road course race of the season for The Home Depot Team and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Joey Logano will make his third career Sprint Cup Series start at Watkins Glen International on Sunday and is looking for his first top-10 finish at the New York track. Logano tested at Road Atlanta last week with the team along with driver Max Papis in preparation for this weekend, the same thing they did prior to the race at Infineon Raceway in June. Logano captured the pole at Infineon and earned his first top-10 finish at the track.

LOGANO CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Greg Zipadelli and the No. 20 Home Depot Team are taking chassis #306 to Watkins Glen this weekend. Logano drove this chassis for the first time at Infineon Raceway in June. He started from the pole and earned his first top 10 at a road course in his three-year Sprint Cup career. The back-up chassis is #234 that Logano drove at Watkins Glen and Sonoma last season.

DAVID REUTIMANN ON TESTING AT WATKINS GLEN: “We went up to Watkins Glen and ran the driving school cars to work on racing lines and braking areas and things like that. Michael (McDowell) is a great guy with a ton of patience thankfully and he has helped me out tremendously – he has definitely helped out program, but we’ve still got some ground to cover, but it’s been a good fit so far and we are getting better each time we visit a road course. I think we’ve been able to get as many of the big things as we can as far as some of the road course fundamentals, now we are in a place where we aren’t cutting off seconds per lap, but maybe a tenth here or a tenth there. Michael has really been able to help my technique out, because before I met him I didn’t really have any technique at all. Mike really works hard and he’s definitely made it better. He gives a lot of good information and makes you focus and work on a lot of different areas that you need help in. He is a good teacher and it’s been helpful.”

DAVID GILLILAND ON WATKINS GLEN: “We’re definitely hoping to run as well as we did in Sonoma. That was a great day for our team. We’re bringing the same car back and we feel like we learned a lot at Sonoma that really helped our road-course program. Watkins Glen just has some higher-speed corners that are a little different that we’re working on.

“For me personally, Watkins Glen hasn’t been as good as Sonoma, but Peter’s (crew chief Peter Sospenzo) had a lot of success there, so together I think we’re strong as a team. I’m going to lean on his experience a little and just muscle up behind the wheel. I feel like together we should have a better weekend than in the past."

RON FELLOWS ON CUP RACING AT WATKINS GLEN THIS WEEK: “I am excited to pick up where we left off last year. It is always great to be a part of the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen. We had a decent qualifying run last year at the Glen, but then didn’t finish the race after we were running inside the top-15. Although it is a year later, we are just looking to build on that.”

One of my favorite StockcarToons of the season by Mike Smith (SceneDaily)

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