Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Driver Notes & Quotes for Martinsville Goody's Fast Relief 500

Harvick first time winner at Martinsville in '11
KEVIN HARVICK ON WINNING AT MARTINSVILLE LAST YEAR: “For us it was good to get the win out of our way and getting those solid finishes over the last couple of years has been good for us. We felt like we have always run fairly well there, we just never could put together a complete day.Really, the spring race last year, when we won, we had a tough go at it in the first half of the race, and actually wrecked and got a car tore up and were able to fix it and keep ourselves on the lead lap and make our car a lot better as we went through into the second half of the race. You know, it all worked out in the end.So it’s a race track we feel confident at. All of our cars have run well there in the past. It’s really keeping yourself out of trouble and getting to the end and hopefully by the end of the day you’re in position to do something in the top-five.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Kevin Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 320 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500. This former No. 33 racer was transformed to a No. 29 entry during the off-season and will turn its first competitive laps as a Budweiser is Back Chevrolet during Friday’s opening practice session.

PAUL MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 349 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet was last seen on track at Martinsville in October 2011 where Menard finished 24th after starting in the 21st position.

JEFF BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 329 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable this weekend. This No. 31 Chevrolet, originally built in 2010, has seen significant track time over the last two seasons including Texas Motor Speedway in Nov. 2010 (started-16th, finished-36th), Bristol Motor Speedway in Aug. 2011 (started-21st, finished-15th) and New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Sept. 2011 (started-18th, finished-13th). Burton also tallied a top-five finish at Phoenix International Raceway last November, finishing fourth after starting 14th.

JEFF GORDON ON MARTINSVILLE: "The one place on the schedule that has changed the least is Martinsville. I believe the track, the setups and the tires have changed the least here compared to other tracks over the course of 20 seasons. And that’s where experience can really pay off. At other tracks, sometimes you have to reinvent yourself – along with how we reinvent the setups and the aero package that we’re racing – and that’s tough to do. The longer you’re in the sport, the tougher that is to do. Somebody like me – who has a lot of experience and who has also had success at a place like Martinsville – can continue to have that success because it’s not all about aerodynamics. It’s not about a spring and shock and sway bar combination that all of the sudden makes your car fly. I feel like Martinsville is that one place that I can go to every time and give good information back to the team to keep us fast throughout the race.”

JAMIE McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1210. Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No.1 Belkin team will bring Chassis #1210 to Martinsville Speedway this weekend. This is a brand new chassis.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1207. Crew Chief Chris Heroy and the No.42 Target team will bring Chassis #1207 to Martinsville Speedway this weekend. This is a brand new chassis.

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON MARTINSVILLE: “I do have a lot of success at Martinsville, but it took me a few tries to get it right. And since then, it’s been a very good track for me. I certainly want to get back to my winning ways there. But at a minimum, we always end up with a real strong finish. When I think of how close we were to victory last fall; it didn’t happen, but we led a lot of laps and was a factor in the end. I’m looking forward to going back and trying to win there again. Martinsville is really rhythm-based. That’s me as a driver, and really takes place at any track, but that is one of the tracks where the rhythm is so important and so specific. And I have a very good rhythm for the race in the long run and have always struggled a little bit with qualifying in the short-run rhythm there. I feel like I get better each year. I did get a pole there at one point and I hope to find that magic once again when we go back because qualifying is so important. But it really is a rhythm race track.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Will return in the same car (chassis No. 653) that he finished 11th and second with in both Martinsville races last season.

KASEY KAHNE CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Kenny Francis has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-651. Built in 2011, Mark Martin drove this car in both Martinsville races last year, collecting a top-10 finish in April.

RYAN NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: This will be the fifth start for Chassis No. 39-645, its first this season and its third start at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The chassis made its first start last April at Martinsville, where Newman started second and finished 20th, two laps down. Newman led three laps and was in the top-10 for much of the first 300 laps of the 500-lap race, but a broken header pipe and a flat left-rear tire caused him to lose two laps. The next start for Chassis 39-645 was in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, where Newman started on the pole and led 119 of 301 laps en route to his 15th career Sprint Cup Series victory. The chassis returned to Loudon in September, when Newman again started on the pole and then led the first 62 laps before finishing a disappointing 25th. A cut tire with less than five laps remaining dropped Newman from 11th to 25th.

The last on-track action for this chassis came at Martinsville last fall. Newman led 41 laps and recovered from a late-race spin and made up 10 spots in the race’s final 25 laps to finish in the top-10. The car has been updated for the 2012 season and returns to action for the first time this weekend at Martinsville.

2 SHR winning cars: Newman NHMS, Stewart Martinsville
TONY STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: No. 14-587 - This car made its debut in March 2010 at Martinsville, 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 pitroad 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 sat idle until returning to Richmond in early September for it seventh career start, where it logged its third straight top-10 finish.

In its final start of 2011, Chassis No. 14-587 went out on top. The site was Martinsville in late October, where it started fourth, nearly fell off the lead lap midway through the 500-lap race, and overcame an unscheduled pit stop on lap 415 to replace a perceived flat tire. Stewart used Chassis No. 14-587 to rally his way from 20th to take the lead from five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson on a restart with three laps to go. When the checkered flag dropped, Stewart had his third Sprint Cup win at Martinsville and was on his way to his third career Sprint Cup championship.

This weekend, Chassis No. 14-587 makes its ninth career start, its fourth at Martinsville and first of 2012 in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500.

KURT BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 will be the first race of the 2012 season for this chassis. The No. 51 Phoenix Racing team competed with this chassis at a number of short-track races during the 2011 season. Prior to the 2011 season, this chassis was used by the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team and driver Jeff Gordon.

DALE EARNHARDT JR ON MARTINSVILLE: “I look forward going to Martinsville. I always have a lot of fun there. I think everybody really enjoys running there. It's a pretty fun track. We've had some good success there. I'm hoping to have a good race like we did last year and maybe have an opportunity to try to be in the battle for the win.”

EARNHARDT JR CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Steve Letarte will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-654 for this weekend's race at Martinsville Speedway. This will be the third time that Earnhardt has raced this car, which he drove last season to a second-place finish at Martinsville in April and a seventh-place finish in October at Martinsville.

CARL EDWARDS ON MARTINSVILLE: “The Roush Fenway Fords were fast at Bristol and fast at California, and we’re going to Martinsville to put a Ford in victory lane. It will be a huge accomplishment for me as a race car driver to get my first victory at Martinsville. We got a top-10 finish the last time we were there and as an organization we’ve put a lot of focus on our short-track program. We’ve got the best cars we’ve ever had.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: RK-791 - This car debuted at Martinsville last fall where it finished ninth.

MATT KENSETH ON MARTINSVILLE: “Martinsville is a challenging track because it’s easy to get caught up in things that are beyond your control and you need to make sure that you try and remain patient. I never like getting run into or running into others during the race but most times, things like that happen at short tracks like Martinsville, I think that’s the most challenging aspect of racing there. There’s not a lot of room to maneuver for position since we don’t really have an outside groove as an option. We have a special paint scheme this weekend honoring USMC Corporal Josh ‘JB’ Kerns and I really hope that we can earn a finish that would make him proud.”

KENSETH CREW CHIEF JIMMY FENNIG ON MARTINSVILLE: “Martinsville is a challenging short track for drivers because it’s a place where there is such limited room to pass since there aren’t long straightaways so qualifying and handling are two aspects that we’ll spend a lot of time on this weekend. The last time we raced here we got beat off the corners a bit so we will also work on making sure our No. 17 Ford has good drive off the corners. My plan is to work on race trim and then switch over to qualifying trim so that we can get a good session working with that set-up as well.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-790 (Last ran at Martinsville, Oct. 2011 FINISHED 31ST)

GREG BIFFLE ON MARTINSVILLE: “Believe it or not, I’m actually looking forward to Martinsville. We have a brand new, super light, great car for this weekend. We’ve been working on brake packages and we feel like we have a great brake package. We’ve actually qualified well, for the most part, in the past at Martinsville. I’m really excited about Martinsville, but even more excited for the week off after.”

BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-807 Brand new chassis; Backup: RK-759 Last ran Phoenix as the No. 6 – finished 33rd.

MARCOS AMBROSE CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 754 for the 500-lap race at Martinsville Speedway. This DEWALT Ford Fusion ran in both Martinsville races last season.

ARIC ALMIROLA CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 43 Smithfield Ford will be chassis number 736. The chassis was last used at Phoenix last November and the team finished sixth.

KYLE BUSCH ON MARTINSVILLE: “I didn’t used to like Martinsville but, ever since I started working with Dave (Rogers, crew chief), we feel like we get better every time we go there and we’re getting close to finally winning one. I’ve had some decent runs there, where I’ve felt like we’ve had a car to win and had a shot to win. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the track position toward the end of the race. Jeff (Gordon) is so good there, and Jimmie (Johnson) and Denny (Hamlin) are also good there. They’re probably the three most difficult guys to pass there because they know the place. They know how to get off the corner and how to roll the middle of the corner there. Everything is timing, and their stuff just works, whatever it is.” (NOTE: FOR SOME REASON, BUSCH'S PR PEOPLE HAVEN'T LISTED HIS CHASSIS THE LAST 2 WEEKS)

DENNY HAMLIN ON MARTINSVILLE: “I think we have a great chance to get back to victory lane at Martinsville. We have always been strong there and hopefully will be again this weekend. Darian (Grubb) and the FedEx guys have been giving me fast race cars each week and I think we’re close to another victory. I always enjoy going to Martinsville and being from Virginia, it’s good to get in front of the fans and run well.”

CLINT BOWYER ON MARTINSVILLE: “Martinsville is a great racetrack! I love that place as a driver and as a fan. It’s short track racing the way it should be. Track position is king at Martinsville. You talk about a place where qualifying is a big deal – Martinsville is it. You want to make sure you turn in a good lap on Saturday, because it’s hard to gain ground on race day!

BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 15 5-hour ENERGY team will race chassis No. 701 at Martinsville. Chassis No. 693 will serve as the backup. Both chassis are new in 2012.

BRIAN VICKERS CHASSIS CHOICE: Vickers will drive chassis 703 and chassis 694 will serve as a backup car. Neither has raced in 2012.

A.J. ALLMENDINGER CHASSIS CHOICE: and his Todd Gordon-led Penske Racing No. 22 Team will be racing their new "PRS-819" Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger this weekend at Martinsville. The "PRS-807" is the backup Dodge Charger for the "Double-Deuce" team. It was in the transporter serving as the backup at Phoenix and at Bristol, but has never seen any track time.

- From team PR releases

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