Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Driver Notes & Quotes for Las Vegas Kobalt Tools 400

Kyle Busch is 7-to-1 co-favorite to win Sunday (Getty)
KYLE BUSCH ON HAVING MORE PRESSURE RACING AT HOME: “Yeah, Vegas is always a little bit more pressure – more pressure on myself, just because it’s the hometown and you want to win there. Thankfully, I have won there and I’ve knocked that one off the list, but certainly you want to win there every year. It seems like either Carl (Edwards) or Jimmie (Johnson) are better than most, but I love Vegas – the atmosphere and everything going on around that place. It’s been sold out for a lot of years, I think ever since it started. They’ve added more grandstands, which is cool. It’s a big race.”

“It was cool (Winning in 2009). To go out there and to run a smooth race, and to have a shot at winning at the end of the race, that’s what it’s all about. I watched Vegas being built from the ground up, and I remember when it wasn’t anything but a gleam in the eye of Richie Clyne (founder of Las Vegas Motor Speedway) – all those guys who made that place happen. I’m hoping we can do it again this weekend with the M&M’s Ms. Brown scheme along for the ride with us.”

“It’s fine going back there. There’s really not much family out there. It’s just family friends. There are a lot of friends you get to see and catch up with that you text back-and-forth or talk back-and-forth with during the year, but you never get to see them, so that’s always cool to go out there to the race. Besides that, there are the different appearances we do for M&M’s. You get to go to some of the restaurants that you liked there growing up, so that’s always cool. It’s just another weekend, but I particularly know my way around this city better than I do any other place.”

KYLE BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 335 - This brand new chassis will make its debut in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Las Vegas has been very good to Johnson with 4 wins
JIMMIE JOHNSON ON LAS VEGAS: “I always enjoy Las Vegas. It has been a good track for us, at times. There always seems to be a lot going on. Kobalt Tools is sponsoring the race, so we will have a lot of stuff going on and it will be a busy weekend. I’m enjoying a little down time with the family but am looking forward to getting to Las Vegas and continuing on the good momentum we had at Phoenix.”

“Obviously, it was very important (Running well in Phonix). I’m really proud of the way the Lowe’s team came together. My guys worked hard and we focused on what we needed to do. We had a great car – a car that could win – but we had a little hiccup. We were able to come back from that and were able to pull off a top-five finish. It was exactly what we needed. We just need to keep doing that week after week.”

* Johnson has four wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, including three consecutive wins (2005-2007) in 10 starts.
* His most recent win came in 2010.
* He has earned four top-five and five top-10 finishes in 10 starts.
* His average start is 15.2 and average finish is 10.6. He has completed 2,688 of 2,691 laps (99.9 percent) and has led 320 laps.
* He has finished every race in which he has competed at the 1.5-mile oval.
* He has the second-highest driver rating. In 14 statistical categories he is ranked first or second in seven and in the top-five in 12.

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 659 serves as the primary for Johnson at Las Vegas. This car ran six races in 2011 with the best run being a fourth-place finish at Pocono. Chassis No.669 serves as the backup. This car started four races in 2011 with no finish worse than seventh, including two runner-up finishes.

Edwards last win came in Las Vegas last season (Getty)
CARL EDWARDS ON RACING IN LAS VEGAS: “Last year was a huge weekend for us and I’m excited to go back. I love racing at Vegas and it’s a fun place to go for the fans. This will be our first opportunity of the year to run on a 1.5-mile track and to try the things Bob Osborne and everyone at RFR have been working on over the winter. It’s a huge event for us strategically on the schedule to build our intermediate program, which is obviously very important in our quest for the championship.”

EDWARDS CREW CHIEF BOB OSBOURNE ON VEGAS: “Las Vegas has been a strong track for all the Roush Fenway teams over the years. Carl has had success there in both Cup and Nationwide. We’re taking the same car that ran well for us at several races last season, most recently Homestead where we led the most laps and finished second. It would be a great to get back-to-back wins at Vegas for the No. 99 team.”

EDWARDS AT LAS VEGAS: In seven starts at the 1.5-mile Vegas track, Edwards has two wins, two top-five and three top-10 finishes. His average start is 12.4, and his average finish is 11.0. Edwards has completed every lap of Cup competition attempted at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and is the defending winner of this race.

According to NASCAR’s Loop Statistics compiled over the last seven races at Vegas, Edwards has turned 137 of the track’s fastest laps (fourth most), spent 1291 laps in the top 15 and led a total of 160 laps. Edwards’ driver rating is sixth best among active drivers.

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 will have an Aflac paint scheme at Vegas. The No. 99 crew will unload RK-739 which last raced at Homestead where Edwards led the most laps and finished second. (Also ran 2nd at Texas and 3rd at Charlotte)

Harvick started his first career Cup race at Las Vegas (Getty)
KEVIN HARVICK ON THE VEGAS SURFACE AND WHAT IT TAKES TO BE SUCCESSFUL THERE: “It hasn’t seemed to change a lot. It seems like it’s still really fast and every time we go out there during this time of the year it’s always pretty cool so the cars seem to grip well. The way that they paved that particular race track, it started off rough and it’s still rough. I think everybody’s adapted and it adds character to the track. You can move around the race track and you have options. It’s a different race track than most everywhere else we go.”

“When they re-paved the race track, it became a really fast race track. (There are) several bumps in the track and you have to make sure you are pointed in the right direction to go over it straight. It’s a really fast race track and you just have to have a lot of grip in the car to keep the pedal on the floor.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team will utilize chassis No. 391 from the Richard Childress Racing stable for Sunday’s race. This is a brand new race car that will make its first laps on-track at LVMS this weekend.

JEFF BURTON ON LAS VEGAS: “Running on intermediate tracks was our weak point last year. We just weren’t good on them for whatever reason. Las Vegas Motor Speedway is typically a place I run well. I haven’t won on the new configuration in the Sprint Cup Series, but I’ve led a lot of laps and been in a position to win several times. It’s a place I fully expect to run well there.”

BURTON ON BETS BEING MADE ON RACE: “Have at it! I don’t think the participants should be doing it, but if the fans want to bet on it then I think they should. It’s part of pulling for your favorite driver or pulling against another guy. It’s all about the experience of being in Las Vegas. I don’t think the people involved in this sport should be betting on it by any means, but for the fans, it’s a part of being in Las Vegas.”

BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 385 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable this weekend. This is a brand new No. 31 Chevrolet Impala that will turn its first laps during opening practice on Friday.

PAUL MENARD ON LAS VEGAS: “Every time I got to Las Vegas it seems to go the same way our season went last year. We practiced really good and had a really fast car. We didn’t qualify as well as we practiced last year. Then, when it was time to race, we were just up and down all day. We were inconsistent last season and the race at Las Vegas was really inconsistent. We raced our way into the top five, had some problems, fell back and, ultimately, finished 12th. It just seems that every time we go to Las Vegas it is just up and down.”

MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 379 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 on track at Texas Motor Speedway in November, where Menard started fourth and finished 15th. The chassis was also used in competition at Kansas Speedway in October, where the 2011 Brickyard 400 winner started sixth and finished 12th.

BRENDAN GAUGHAN ON PHOENIX AND COMING HOME TO VEGAS: “Thankfully, the No. 33 team had Phoenix as a practice run and, because of that, I have a lot more confidence going into this weekend’s race at Las Vegas, especially with how we were running at the end of the race. It’s important for me to run well at my home track. I do believe we’ll run better than we did at Phoenix and I’m looking forward to doing so in front of my fans.”

“The big learning curve for me was the Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix. I have never raced the new style car before so it took me a while to get used to its handling. I don’t foresee too much of a learning curve and, plus, I’ll be competing in the Nationwide Series the day before so I can take what I learned in that race and apply it to Sunday.”

GAUGHAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Brendan Gaughan will pilot Chassis No. 381 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This RCR racer was revamped into a No. 33 Chevrolet during the off season. Most commonly ran as a No. 29 machine, this Chevrolet Impala earned two top-10 and five top-15 finishes in 2011 with Kevin Harvick behind the wheel at Chicagoland Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway, Michigan International Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. In addition, this entry raced in the 2010 Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway where Harvick started 13th and finished sixth.

Big test for Phoenix Racing team this week
KURT BUSCH ON RACING AT LAS VEGAS: “I’d have to say getting the car to handle in turns three and four is the hardest part. The way the track is situated, the sun really bares down on turns three and four and the tendency is for that to make those particular turns pretty slick. Turns one and two are in the shade for the biggest part of the race. So your car may be handling really well in turns one and two and then you can end up sliding in three and four, so it’s a challenge to find a nice balance between the two ends of the track.”

KURT BUSCH ON BEING FROM VEGAS: “It’s my hometown and all of the people who have helped me through the years in racing are there. So it’s always a nice homecoming, and then you have to put the hometown adrenaline aside and get focused to make the car work for 400 miles of racing.”

“It was a pretty cool time growing up and having the Runnin’ Rebels experience with ‘Tark the Shark’ (former coach Jerry Tarkanian) and the big names we had back in the early ’90s, like Larry Johnson and Greg Anthony. It was such a unique atmosphere to think that our little college could complete on the national level with schools like of North Carolina and Duke. It was an exciting time as a kid. I was 12 years old and you’re really impressionable at that age. So that was a pretty memorable time.”

MARK MARTIN CHASSIS SELECTION: Primary – 720 New – Backup – 708 – Raced in Texas & Homestead as No. 00 in 2011.

DAVID RAGAN ON LAS VEGAS: “Vegas is a fun track – one of my favorite tracks to go to. It was just paved a couple years ago, so it’s starting to come into its own pretty good. And it’s a really fast track, so it’s good to have that Roush-Yates power under the hood of our Ford Fusion.

“The mile-and-a-half tracks are where Front Row Motorsports is really looking to progress this year. The guys have been working hard on our cars so we can bring a better bullet to the fight at these types of tracks. I’m looking forward to hitting the track for practice on Friday to see what we’ve got. Of course, everyone’s worked hard, but I know Vegas is a lot about luck, too. So, I’m hoping the luck is on our side this weekend and keeps us out of trouble on this fast track.”

A.J. ALLMENDINGER ON LAS VEGAS: “I look for the two Penske Dodge teams to work really closely together this weekend and be able to maximize all the practice time we have on the schedule. Vegas (LVMS) has been a struggle for me in the past, but we’re coming in there optimistic that we can improve. I look to get better on the track and our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team can continue to get stronger overall.”

Brad Keselowski is 20-to-1 to win Vegas race (Getty)
BRAD KESELOWSKI ON LAS VEGAS: “Las Vegas in a Cup car is extremely fast, one of the fastest mile-and-a-half tracks that we visit. The key is running the whole race without getting into trouble. It’s such an ‘edge’ track and you have to really stay tuned in mentally. You need to concentrate on hitting your marks, but you also have to charge the corner. As a team I’m excited at how fast our cars have been to start the season. Hopefully, we’ll hit the jackpot this weekend with the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger.”

TWITTER HISTORY: Keselowski made social media history during the Daytona 500 when he became the first driver to tweet pictures from his racecar. A quantifiable success, the attention garnered during the extended red-flag period not only tripled his Twitter following to over 200,000, but it also provided an interesting storyline during the long delay.

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-811 during Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS). This is a new chassis to the No. 2 fleet.

MATT KENSETH ON LAS VEGAS: “I’m looking forward to racing at Las Vegas this weekend because Roush Fenway has a successful history at 1.5-mile tracks. Last year we earned the pole which was just a testament to the fact that Jimmy (Fennig) and the guys have been doing such a great job setting up our cars each and every week. Las Vegas is a bumpier race track so we will spend time making sure that our balance and shock packages are exactly where we need them to be. Handling is a priority at Las Vegas because if we can get our car into the corners faster, we can run down the straightaway faster.”

KENSETH CREW CHIEF JIMMY FENNIG ON LAS VEGAS: "Las Vegas has been a good track for this team and organization, so I’m looking forward to racing there this weekend. It’s a racetrack I enjoy every year because I always look forward to having a fast race car there, and Matt (Kenseth) has had a lot of successful races at Las Vegas as well. We’re bringing a car that was a multiple race-winning car last year for us, so we’re hoping to have similar results out of it starting this weekend for our Zest team.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-741 (Last run at Homestead). Also ran at Texas, Charlotte and Michigan.

MARCOS AMBROSE ON LAS VEGAS: “Las Vegas is one of my favorite race tracks. We’ll have DEWALT on the car for the first time this season and we want to put on a great showing for them. We ran in the top-five for the majority of the race last year and I finished in fourth, my best finish at the intermediate track. I really just love Vegas, I love all the 1.5-mile race tracks, to me that’s what NASCAR is all about, high speed and high banking. Vegas is a great town and the crowd is always full of energy and excitement."

AMBROSE CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 735 for this weekend’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This DEWALT Ford was previously run last season at several 1.5-mile tracks including Las Vegas where it finished fourth.

GREG BIFFLE ON LAS VEGAS: “I always enjoy going to Vegas for several reasons. I usually get to go to the sand dunes like I did this week when we’re on the west coast. That’s one of my favorite things I get to do away from the track. I also enjoy playing craps if I get a chance while I’m in Vegas. Probably my favorite part of Vegas though is the track. It’s fast and it’s a lot of fun to race there as a driver.”

BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-777 - Last ran Texas as the No. 6 – finished 12th; Backup: RK-803 - Brand new chassis

ARIC ALMIORLA CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 43 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 783 for the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This chassis has been torn down and updated and is the one the team raced at Homestead and Charlotte last fall.

JAMIE McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1208. Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No.1 McDonald’s team will be bringing a brand new chassis, Chassis #1208, to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1205. Heroy and the No. 42 Clorox team will be bringing a brand new chassis, Chassis #1205, to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend.

RYAN NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 39-686 made two starts last season at intermediate racetracks during the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. The chassis made its debut in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in October. In that race, Newman started sixth, led six laps and finished a solid 10th. In the second start for the chassis at the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Newman recovered from a loose wheel and two laps down to finish a respectable 16th. The car has been updated for the 2012 season, and this weekend at Las Vegas will be Chassis No. 39-686’s first appearance in 2012.

TONY STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: This car debuted in May 2011 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway where it enjoyed a solid outing, qualifying ninth and leading six laps before finishing seventh. It spent time in the wind tunnel afterward and made its second career start at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in June. There, it qualified 15th and moved its way into the top-five by lap 124, only to be felled two laps later when Stewart reported that he had lost third gear. The balky transmission prevented Stewart from getting up to speed quickly on restarts, which conspired to leave Chassis No. 14-640 in 21st place when the checkered flag dropped.

The car returned to Pocono in August where it rallied from its 28th-place starting spot and a flat left-front tire on lap 92 that at one point had Stewart a lap down to finish on the lead lap in 11th. Chassis No. 14-640 broke through in the first race of the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., when it started 26th and led four times for 35 laps en route to the win. The car received a new body during the offseason and participated in a Goodyear Tire Test Feb. 7-8 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. This weekend’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway marks Chassis No. 14-640’s fifth career start and first of 2012.

DALE EARNHARDT JR CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 team will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-668. Earnhardt most recently raced this car to an 11th–place finish in the 2011 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway last November.

KASY KAHNE CHASSIS CHOICE: For Sunday's race at Las Vegas, crew chief Kenny Francis and the No. 5 Farmers Insurance team will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-685. Built in July 2011, the car has been used three times and Mark Martin recorded its highest finish (17th) at Atlanta Motor Speedway in September.

DAVID REUTIMANN CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 356 is a new chassis for TBR purchased in the off-season from Richard Childress Racing.


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