Thursday, September 8, 2011

Driver Notes & Quotes for Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond

Kyle Busch will looking for fourth Richmond win this week (Getty)
KYLE BUSCH ON WHAT HE LIKES RACING ABOUT RICHMOND: “I enjoy going to Richmond. It’s been a fun place and a great place for me with results lately. For myself, the short track appeal to it — I think it relates to a lot of fans and relates to a lot of us drivers. It’s kind of where we come from — the Saturday night under the lights kind of local short track deal. Richmond is a tough little place though. You’ve got to have good brakes and have to get it slowed down, have to be able to roll the center really well and get the power down, especially off turn two as well as turn four. With the way the track kind of is laid out, it lends itself to some good racing. Being able to get a run off the top side when the top is good and keeping the momentum through the inside lane as well and not letting yourself get bogged down too much racing side-by-side with somebody.”

KYLE BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: This chassis will make its third-ever start in Saturday night’s Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. No. 308 made its debut in June at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, where Busch started third and finished 12th. In its most recent start, Busch drove No. 308 to victory lane after starting first in July at the Inaugural Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.

DENNY HAMLIN ON HAVING A BETTER TRACK TO RACE ON THIS WEEK THAN RICHMOND: “No, not really. It seems like here lately with giving so much information to our teammate, he’s (Kyle Busch) been the guy we’ve had to kind of harness lately at that track. Regardless of whether we win or whether we run top-five or whatever, we know we’re going to go there and we’re going to be competitive. We feel like we will be. We always look at the schedule and luckily for us some of our best race tracks are the three to four that lead into the Chase. That part of it has been good. The negative part is that it seems like the first three races of the Chase are typically our worst race tracks. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. We’re never short of momentum when it comes to the Chase. It’s just when we get to those first three races that has been our struggle.”

HAMLIN ON DOING WELL AT RICHMOND GIVING TEAM MOMENTUM HEADING INTO CHASE: “I think so. You look at the years where we won Richmond — the last two years that we’ve won Richmond leading into the Chase — it’s been a huge momentum boost for us. It’s like that win came just in a time for us when we thought that we didn’t know if we were going to be going into the Chase with good momentum or bad and we up and win that race and the next thing we know, we run well in the Chase from that point forward. I think that Richmond is very important in that aspect and I know it’s worked very well for us as far as being a springboard for running well in the Chase.”

Matt Kenseth will be using his New Hampshire car (Getty)
MATT KENSETH ON RACING AT RICHMOND: “Richmond has been a tricky place to hit that balance just right, where you can still get through the middle of the corner with reasonable enough speed, but have enough traction to get off the corner where you can drive up alongside of people to pass. Richmond’s about the right size. It’s three-quarters of a mile, so we still get going pretty fast, but it acts like a short track where you need a lot of brakes. The pavement is getting worn out and slick. Whenever you get a worn out track like Atlanta, Michigan or Phoenix used to be before they paved it, I think it just creates so much better racing. I just think that Richmond’s more fun to drive.”

KENSETH CREW CHIEF JIMMY FENNIG ON RICHMOND AND CHASSIS SELECTION: “We are bringing a car we last raced at New Hampshire to Richmond this weekend and we’re working hard on our fleet of cars to make sure they’re the best they can be as we prepare for the Chase. I feel like our short track program has really improved even though we didn’t get the finish we deserved at Richmond back in the spring due to a late-race wreck we got caught up in. The challenge at Richmond is getting off the corner straight and we always work on providing rear grip without losing the front end in the middle of the turns.”

CARL EDWARDS ON RICHMOND: “Richmond is a fun race track. We ran fifth there in the first race this year so I feel like we’ve got a really good shot at going there and competing for a victory. It’ll be a purely fun race with no real stress because we’ve already made the Chase. It’s an opportunity to go there and have a good time and try to get a victory for Kellogg’s. We’ve clinched a spot in the Chase so we definitely don’t have to go in there with the stress we’ve had in the years past. That was one of our goals for the season and we’ve accomplished it. I’m really proud of my guys.”

EDWARDS CREW CHIEF BOB OSBOURNE ON RICHMOND: "Richmond is a challenge to get the set-up just right when we practice in the day and race at night, but we’ll work on it throughout the race to get it where it needs to be. We won the pole there and led 95 laps last fall so it’s certainly a track where we can run well. We’re taking the same car we ran there in May which should be good, so it will be up to us to keep up with the track as the sun sets and the temperature goes down.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: he No. 99 team will be bringing chassis RK-756 to Richmond this weekend. This was a brand new chassis at Richmond in May and has not raced since. The car will sport a Cheez-It paint scheme.

MARTIN TRUEX JR ON HIS CHASE BID: “This weekend is going to be unbelievable. NASCAR is looking like a real genius right now since they came up with the wild cards. There are 13 of us that have a shot at getting in. This is a cool deal. This NAPA team is so pumped. We’ve been running well and I feel like we are on the verge of breaking out and being a team that’s talked about week in and week out. Last time at Richmond, we had a super-fast NAPA Toyota. It was our race to win, until the mechanical issue. It was a heartbreaker and we’re ready to finish off the deal. We are going to Richmond to win — regardless of how the points end up. I feel we can win and hopefully the rest will fall in place for us.”

JOEY LOGANO ON RACING AT RICHMOND: “Obviously heading into Richmond we wanted to be in a better position for a Chase spot, but hey there’s still a chance. We will go out, work hard and try to put The Home Depot Toyota in victory lane. That’s all we can do. Richmond has been a pretty good track for me and the team has given me great cars in the past. When we were here in April, the race was nuts. We started out tight, got the car handling better and then it turned into a wreck-fest and fuel-mileage race. I know I was a victim in at least two wrecks, but the team worked hard and we managed to finish 11th.

“It will be an honor carrying the Celebration of Service logo over the next two months. I was only 11 years old when 9/11 happened, but it’s something no matter how old or young you are you don’t forget. One of the things that always catches me off guard when I meet military men and women is that most of them are my age. The Home Depot and The Home Depot Foundation found a great way to honor those who have fought for our country that need help and deserve it.”

LOGANO CHASSIS CHOICE: Zipadelli and the No. 20 Home Depot Team are bringing chassis #309 this weekend for the Wonderful Pistachios 400. Logano drove this chassis twice this season to an 11th-place finish at Pocono Raceway in June and to a 14th-place finish at Kentucky. The back-up chassis is #303 which raced in the first Michigan race this season and crossed the stripe in the 18th position.

Johnson got to meet the President, again, on Wednesday
JIMMIE JOHNSON ON RICHMOND: “I think when you get into the Chase, that’s important to do (focus on your own program). It’s also the most difficult thing to do because now it’s time to race for a championship. But I can’t say that in the five championships we’ve won, that we were really searching throughout the Chase to find new speed or to find anything. We knew going into the Chase that what we had was what we had. I think in ’05, chasing (Tony) Stewart, we were looking for speed; we experimented some during the regular season because we had a nice big margin and then we kind of got off track throughout the Chase. And you try not to complicate things once the Chase starts. So, staying the course and what got you there seems to be a successful road map to the championship.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI ON RICHMOND: “(Crew chief) Paul (Wolfe) has shown a tremendous ability to make improvements to his setups from the first visit to a racetrack to the second. Our first trip to Richmond this year didn’t produce great results, but we were able to get in a good qualifying lap. But we’ve made drastic improvements to our cars and a lot of what we’ve learned should transition easily to Richmond. It’s one of my favorite places to race. Coming from the short tracks of Michigan and Ohio really helps me when we go to places like Richmond. The track has characteristics of several places where I cut my racing teeth. But what helped me out the most was the competition that raced up there. You had to learn to get tough or go home. I learned a lot of lessons on the short tracks back home that helped make me into the racecar driver I am today.”

KESELOWSKI ON CHASE: “I can’t say enough about everyone at Penske Racing who has helped us turn our program around this year. It’s not just the guys on the Miller Lite Dodge team. It’s the people in the motor department and the paint shop, the fabricators and the machinists that rarely get the recognition they deserve. All that hard work will now be rewarded with a spot in the Chase and a chance to run for a championship. In Miller Lite, we have one of the most recognized sponsors in the garage. They do a lot for the team, and also for me as a driver, but they also expect results. I’m proud of the fact that we were able to deliver a playoff spot in our first year together, with basically a brand new team. Our confidence is pretty high right now and I feel good about our chances.”

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-754 during Saturday’s Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond International Raceway (RIR). This is a new chassis to the No. 2 fleet.

Jeff Gordon is entering Chase with some steam (Getty)
JEFF GORDON ON RICHMOND: “I cannot wait for this race. I really think our short-track program is strong right now, and we were so competitive here in the spring. I hated how that race ended for us (abruptly, after contact with another car sent him spinning hard into the inside wall). I hit it a ton. And I always seem to find the spots without the SAFER barrier. I think Richmond was one of the first tracks to install them, and they’ve always worked hard to make this track as safe as possible. It’s good to hear they have addressed that area and added the softer walls. I think this weekend offers us another great opportunity to earn the three bonus points for each win going into the Chase. Those points earned in September can be very valuable come November. With the new wildcard rule, it could get crazy on the track – and off the track with some of the pit calls and strategies. On the track, I’m sure I’ll be made aware of drivers that are in a ‘must-win’ situation. With pit calls, we may see some stretch fuel mileage or stay out for track position or only take right-side tires. Some may be in a ‘must-win’ situation, but we’re in a ‘want-to-win-really-really- bad’ situation.”

KEVIN HARVICK ON RACING AT RICHMOND: “When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time racing at Phoenix and really from day one I’ve been successful on the flatter-type race tracks through the years. I think it’s just kind of how I was brought up. Richmond has been a very good race track for us as a team and it’s probably been our best track on paper. We’ve been fortunate to win there and we expect to be competitive and run up front. The track has become pretty worn out, and I think as a lot of us were used to that sealer being put on the race track through the years where every time you came back there it was a little different every time how the track would react. It has enough speed and it has enough room to move around and race. You just get that short track feel along with that intermediate feel with the speed to get all the race tracks in there and everybody just enjoys it.”

HARVICK AT RICHMOND: In 21 starts at Richmond International Raceway, Harvick has amassed one pole award (September 2005), one win (September 2006), five top-five and 13 top-10 finishes. His average starting position at RIR is 17.8 and he holds a 12th-place average finishing position. Harvick has completed 98.6 percent (8,286 of 8,403) of the laps run in NSCS competition at the track since 2001 and he’s led a total of 727 laps.

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 332 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) stable. The No. 29 team has utilized his car four times in 2011, earning a fourth-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway (2/27), a win at Martinsville Speedway (4/3), a 12th-place finish in the season’s first race at Richmond (4/30) and a 21st-place effort at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (7/17).

New Hampshire success should transfer over
RYAN NEWMAN ON RICHMOND: “There’s no question it will be an emotional time for not only my team, but the entire NASCAR family.( In observance of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Ryan Newman’s No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet will carry the 75 names of the U.S. Army personnel killed in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Newman’s Chevrolet will also carry an inscription “We Will Never Forget” and sport a specially-designed logo featuring the World Trade Center twin towers, Pentagon and the American Flag) .We all remember where we were and what we were doing when the news surfaced about the attacks. I know it will be etched in my memory forever. And, it should be that way for everyone. We want to win every race for the Army, but you can imagine how much more we’ll want to win the Richmond event. It would be a very special, touching moment if we could drive into victory lane carrying the names of those great Americans.”

DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON RACING AT RICHMOND THIS WEEK: “I mean we are 26 ahead of Brad (Keselowski) I think. With all the start-and-parks and stuff it makes it a little bit easier on us but we should be able to go in there (Richmond) and make that happen. Seems like we can finish in the top-20 pretty good but that isn’t good enough and I am not happy about that and not satisfied. We have to figure out what it is that we need to do better. This track itself, I will say, is an anomaly. It’s not like the other 1.5 tracks and it’s worn out, rough and you can’t run….I don’t think, the same stuff. You have to run a little bit different stuff to get the car to work more mechanically than you do aero-wise. And we just didn’t do a good job of that I don’t think. I am not sure about the points and I still think we are relatively comfortable and doable. You know Brad has been running great and the 14 (Tony Stewart) is always stout so we will just try to go in there and run better, and do better and I am not really worried about it. I don’t have room to worry about it as bad as we have been running. We need to get our crap together and get to running good. Or it doesn’t matter where we are in the Chase and doesn’t matter if we are in or not.”

Stewart's teams have been excellent on these type of tracks
TONY STEWART ON RICHMOND: “You want to make sure your car is adjustable (in order to succeed at Richmond). We start the race at the end of the day, when it’s usually pretty hot but, as night comes, the track cools down and it changes quite a bit. Old pavement, new pavement – the same theory applies, and that’s not something you see at most of the races we go to. It’s pretty much isolated to just the night races. You’ve got to have adjustability because you know for a fact that the track isn’t going to stay the same all night long.”

STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: This car made its debut in March 2010 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, where it qualified fifth and finished 26th. Prior to Martinsville, Chassis No. 14-587 never turned a wheel on the racetrack. With a new body honed in the wind tunnel, it was tested at The Milwaukee Mile June 1 in preparation for its second career start in June at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. There, Chassis No. 14-587 earned a hard-fought second-place finish, for after starting 25th, it fell to 33rd after a lap 36 pit miscue on the team’s first stop. Two late-race cautions allowed Stewart to regain his lost track position, and with a savvy two-tire pit call, Stewart wheeled Chassis No. 14-587 to pass second-place Kurt Busch on the penultimate lap.

The car returned to New Hampshire for the first event of the 10-race Chase for the Championship, where in its third career start, it qualified third before leading three times for 100 laps. But while leading with less than two laps to go, it ran out of fuel. Stewart coasted around the 1.058-mile oval for the final circuit of the 300-lap race and finished 24th, the last driver on the lead lap. Clint Bowyer, who served as Stewart’s primary competition for much of the race, wound up with the victory. Chassis No. 14-587 revisited Martinsville for round six of the Chase, where it qualified sixth and rallied back from two pit-road miscues during the race, but a flat right-front tire with less than 10 laps remaining relegated it to a 24th-place finish.

With another new body, this car made its first start of 2011 and fifth overall at Phoenix International Raceway in February. It started 18th and led four times for 59 laps before an ill-timed caution period late in the race jettisoned solid pit strategy and left it with a seventh-place finish. Chassis No. 14-587’s second start of 2011 came at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway back in April, where it qualified 31st and rallied its way to a ninth-place finish. The car has sat idle since, but returns to Richmond for it seventh career start.

KURT BUSCH ON RACING AT RICHMOND: “The thing about racing at Richmond is that it seems like the best cars always come out on top. You have to come in there thinking that the yellow flag will prevail like it normally does and we’ll have some restarts at the end of the race. We usually have a period of long green-flag racing in the middle portion of the race, too. With that in mind, we hope to have our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge capable of running solid during that stretch and still be adjustable enough to be able to really get after it in a short sprint to the finish if it comes down to that and it usually does.

“Because we’re locked in, many might look at it as a ‘throwaway race’ because of the buffer we’ve built. We’re looking at it as an additional opportunity to try some things that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise. It’ll be nice to go into Saturday night’s race without having to be really conservative and worried about keeping up with where this driver is running or where that driver is running.”

Clint Bowyer is do-or-die this week at Richmond (Getty)
CLINT BOWYER ON RICHMOND: “I think that the most exciting thing about going to Richmond is that it’s the place that could either get you in the Chase or take you out of it. I’m looking forward to the challenge. That’s a fun situation to be in. It’s fun for fans to follow and that’s good for the sport. It’s just one of those tracks that we run well at and have a good package. It fits my driving style and we have good success there.”

BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 365 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala, built new for 2011, has seen action earlier this season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July when Bowyer brought home a 17th-place finish after starting 12th.

DAVID RAGAN ON RICHMOND: “I like Saturday night racing more than anything else and Richmond is a race we have circled that we can win. It’s my favorite track and we are bringing a proven car, the one we raced there in the spring. I’d love to get a win Saturday night under the lights in our UPS Ford. We’ll try and qualify well and keep good track position throughout the race to be in the right position at the end.”

RAGAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-755 Last ran New Hampshire – finished 14th; Backup: RK-747 Last ran Martinsville – finished 8th

MARK MARTIN ON RICHMOND: “I don’t think there are too many drivers you’ll ask about Richmond that will say they don’t like it. It’s a favorite of everyone’s. Night racing is always fun for us; it takes us all back to our roots. And when you’re out there doing it on a track like Richmond that has a lot of passing and side-by-side racing, it’s even more fun. It’s definitely a track that race fans need to go and see in person. It’s always exciting.”

Menard can get in with a win (Getty)
PAUL MENARD ON RICHMOND: “Richmond is definitely a track that has been a challenge for us. We’re slow there for some reason. We qualify well but don’t race well. I’ve always run really well there in the Nationwide Series cars, but the (NASCAR Sprint) Cup cars are a different animal. We’re tested at (The) Milwaukee (Mile) a few weeks ago to work on some of the areas where we’ve struggled there. It’s a different race track than Richmond, but has similar characteristics. The wheel loads are similar, so played with some bump stops and different set ups. We were looking to take away anything that we could, and I think I’ll help us as we head there this weekend. There’s a lot of room going into turn one. You can run three wide fairly easily. The speeds are high. Richmond drives a lot like a speedway does. There’s a lot of racing room, but it’s a short track, the corners are still pretty tight. You need horsepower to get down the straightaways and, obviously, you need to turn.”

MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 342 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 RIR in April where Menard started 10th and, after sustaining damage in a multi-car accident, was relegated to a 37th-place finish.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON RICHMOND: “We are definitely hoping for a better result this time around at Richmond. We had a good run going there in the spring and we got put into the wall, and that was the end of that. This year has been like that, where every time we run good something seems to happen, but when we run average, nothing happens.”

MONTOYA CHASE HOPES: Montoya (22nd in points) still has a chance to be in the 2011 “Chase” field. In order to clinch a spot, he not only needs to win the Wonderful Pistachios 400 on Saturday night, but also needs help from other drivers. Along with the win, Montoya has to finish seven spots ahead of Paul Menard (20th) and Marcos Ambrose (21st) AND have either Brad Keselowski (11th) or Denny Hamlin (12th) race their way into the top-10. If these things happen, Montoya would be the 12th and final driver in the “Chase for the Sprint Cup”.

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Jim Pohlman and the No. 42 team are bringing chassis #1109 to Richmond International Raceway this weekend. This will be the third race of the 2011 season for this car. This chassis was used at Phoenix International Raceway in February and at Richmond in April, when Montoya started on the pole.

JEFF BURTON ON RICHMOND: “Richmond is certainly one of my favorites. I really hope we get the second groove working in at Richmond again. The last few races we haven’t had it, the groove has just been on the bottom. Richmond is cool because it’s multi-groove but we just haven’t had that the last few races. With the multiple grooves, Richmond is my favorite short-track, period. It’s big enough to have great races and it’s small enough to have great races. Our sport got into this ego thing with building big race tracks, when in fact the three-quarter to one-mile tracks put on the best racing. It’s a little confusing to me why we have all these big tracks when it’s short-track racing that everyone loves to watch. Things are progressing along (with new crew chief, Luke Lambert). Although we’d like to see it turn overnight, we didn’t expect it to. We don’t dig a hole that you can jump right out of and we dug a big enough hole that it’s going to be difficult to jump out of. I think we’ve seen some steady progress and had some good runs, not great runs, but still struggling to finish where we’ve run but that’s gotten better."

"So I think all in all, we’ve made some strides. We’re obviously not where we want to be yet but I feel like we’re going to get there for sure. It’s not a good feeling at all (heading to Richmond knowing he will not be in the Chase this year). We’ve been able to go there a number of years and know we had a spot in the Chase so we were able to just race. I can remember racing with Dale Jr. for the lead with like 50 laps to go and it was just like ‘let’s just go race’, there was no pressure and it was fun. The point thing comes with just so much pressure so it’s hard to have fun. But when you get to race and all you can do is improve your points position by winning the race it really takes the pressure off. Of course this year we have a lot of pressure on us because we’re running badly. People talk about the pressure and the stress of competing for a championship but heck, that’s easy, competing for 24th, is hard and that’s when the pressure gets turned up. It’s a completely different feel and not one that I enjoy but we are where we are in points and its reality. This is a race that we have to look at as an opportunity to turn it around in the right direction because Richmond has always been a good race for me. We have a string of good tracks coming up and need to take advantage of it.”

BURTON CHASSIS SELECTION: Jeff Burton will pilot Chassis No. 323 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s Wonderful Pistachios 400.Built new during the 2010 season, this Caterpillar Chevrolet was run earlier this season at Richmond in April (started 25th, finished 16th) and Phoenix in February (started 25th, finished 26th).

JAMIE MCMURRAY ON RICHMOND: “I love racing at Richmond. This is such an exciting track to run. I always like running under the lights there on a Saturday night! This weekend will be extra special as we will run a special “Honoring our Heroes” paint scheme on our Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet to honor the memory for the 10th anniversary of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Also to support The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. We will also have a chance to meet with some of the military members that have served our country. Hopefully we can have a good run and keep our Bass Pro Shops car up front with our patriotic paint scheme.

Jamie McMurray is using a proven chassis this week (Getty)
McMURRAY RICHMOND HISTORY: McMurray has 17 previous NSCS starts at Richmond International Raceway (RIR). He has three top-10 finishes in his starts and has completed 92.7% of the laps run (6,307 of 6,803) since his first race in 2003. McMurray’s best NSCS finish came in the 2009 Spring event when he finished seventh and his best start was eighth in the 2010 Spring NSCS visit to RIR. In the past 13 races at Richmond, McMurray has 678 green flag passes which ties him for fourth among Sprint Cup drivers and he has been running at the finish in 13 of his 17 career races.

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats team has elected to bring chassis #1007 to Richmond International Raceway this weekend. This chassis was used earlier this season at New Hampshire in July and Martinsville in April, when McMurray scored the pole and finished seventh. This car also ran in both races at Martinsville and Richmond during the 2010 season.

REGAN SMITH ON RACING AT RICHMOND: “The main reason I am looking forward to Richmond is that we have improved our short track program, but have missed out on some good finishes in Bristol and Martinsville. We had chances to score big at those two short tracks this year, but something seemed to happen near the end of the race. One of our goals this season was to get a top-10 finish at a short track. I feel we can accomplish that goal at Richmond in our Furniture Row Chevrolet. I like the Richmond track, always fun to race there. I also like the enthusiasm and atmosphere of the crowd. It’s a special place with a lot of tradition.”

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