Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Jeff Gordon Looking for Third Kansas Win in 11th Start

Gordon has an 8.5 average finish at Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (May 31, 2011) – In his 11th start at Kansas Speedway, Jeff Gordon can win an “inaugural” event at the 1.5-mile track.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series first visited the Midwest track in 2001, and Gordon led the final 22 laps to secure the victory. He won again in 2002 and, along with those two victories, the driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet has collected seven top-fives and eight top-10 finishes in 10 annual visits to Kansas.

But 2011 marks the first time Kansas will host two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events during a season. With temperatures expected near 90 degrees, track conditions could be very different compared to past fall race dates.

“Weather conditions always play a role, but I think tires play a bigger role,” said Gordon, who is 16th in the point standings. “I think the tire Goodyear brings is probably going to mean more than the time of year.

“This is a flatter race track, so grip is a premium. The tires wear quite a bit here, so tire management seems to be pretty important. And that falls back on the car, the team and your communication with them to get the car to work the way you want it to as the tires begin to wear.”

Gordon tops several statistical categories at Kansas Speedway. He has earned the most top-fives and top-10’s in the track’s 10-year history and is tied for most victories. But while he has the best starting average (9.2) among drivers who have participated in all 10 events, the track remains one of three where he has never won a pole (Las Vegas and Miami being the other two).

“Qualifying well each week doesn’t mean you will run well during the race, but it sure does help,” said Gordon. “Last week at Charlotte for instance, our car wasn’t bad – it was just tough when you were racing back in heavy traffic. Once we got out front in clean air, it was a totally different story.”

While a late pit stop for fuel with six laps to go and a caution one lap later at Charlotte resulted in a 20th-place finish, Gordon is hoping for a different result to this week’s story.

“For whatever reason, this track suits my driving style,” said Gordon. “Even in June, it’s still a mile-and-a-half and it’s still an important race track.

“And it’s still a track we want to win at.”

For the first time, again.

Kansas Speedway Odds and Ends: STP 400

At Kansas Speedway:
·      Groundbreaking was held on May 25, 1999.
·      The official opening of Kansas Speedway was in 2001, with the first events being an ARCA race and a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race on the same day – June 2.
·      The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was Sept. 30, 2001.
·      This is the first season Kansas Speedway will hold two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events.

·         There have been 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Kansas
      since the track opened in 2001.
·         All of the races have been scheduled for 267 laps.
·         11 drivers have competed in all 10 races at Kansas.
·         Jeff Gordon won the first two NASCAR Sprint Cup races.
·         Jason Leffler won the first pole in September 2001.
·         Seven different drivers have won poles, led by Jimmie Johnson, with three.
·         Seven different drivers have posted victories, led by Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart (each with two).
·         There have been seven different winners.
·         Seven of the 10 races have been won from a top-10 starting position.
·         Two drivers have won from the pole: Joe Nemechek in 2004 and Jimmie Johnson in 2008.
·         The furthest back in the field that race winner started was 21st, by Tony Stewart in 2006. Seven of the 12 races this season have been won from a starting position of 20th or lower.
·         Denny Hamlin made his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup start at Kansas – a 32nd-place finish in 2005.
·         Three active drivers with more than one start have averaged a top-10 finish: Greg Biffle (8.1), Jeff Gordon (8.5) and Jimmie Johnson (9.3).
·         Jeff Gordon leads all drivers in top fives (seven) and top 10s (eight). Gordon’s only two non-top 10s were a 39th in 2006 and a 13th in 2004.
·         Seven of the nine races that ended under green had a margin of victory under one second. The 2007 race ended under caution.

NASCAR in Kansas
·         There have been 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Kansas, all at Kansas Speedway. The only other Kansas track to hold a NASCAR national series race was Heartland Park in Topeka, which hosted five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races from 1995-99.
·         16 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Kansas, including Jim Roper who won the very first NASCAR Sprint Cup race – Charlotte in 1949.
·         There have been two race winners from Kansas in NASCAR’s three national series:
Clint Bowyer
Jim Roper

Kansas Speedway Data
Race #: 12 of 36 (06-05-11)
Track Size: 1.5 miles
·     Banking/Corners: 15 degrees
·     Banking/Frontstretch: 10.4 degrees
·     Banking/Backstretch: 5 degrees
·     Frontstretch: 2,685 feet
·     Backstretch: 2,207 feet
Driver Rating at Kansas
Greg Biffle                    122.6
Jimmie Johnson            118.7
Jeff Gordon                   106.5
Tony Stewart                103.3
Matt Kenseth                97.7
Mark Martin                  97.3
Carl Edwards                94.8
Clint Bowyer                 88.1
Kevin Harvick                87.1
Kurt Busch                   84.6
Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2010 races (6 total) at Kansas.

Qualifying/Race Data
2010 pole winner: Kasey Kahne (174.844 mph, 30.920 seconds)
2010 race winner: Greg Biffle, 138.077 mph, 10-03-10)
Qualifying record: Matt Kenseth (180.856 mph, 29.858 seconds,
Race record: Greg Biffle (138.077 mph, 10-03-10)

Las Vegas Hilton Odds to Win STP 400 

Las Vegas Hilton Super Book NASCAR Odds to Win: 2011 STP 400 at Kansas Speedway

Edwards will have some local appeal (Getty)
STP 400
SUNDAY, JUNE 5, 2011























Monday, May 30, 2011

Kansas Storylines

First of two 2011 Kansas races this season is Sunday (Getty)
Message to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams: Get your notebooks out.

Sunday’s race – the inaugural spring event for Kansas Speedway – carries major weight. This season is Kansas’ first with two events, with this weekend’s race – the STP 400 – joining the usual Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup event in October. Putting it another way, this is a big-time preview for the championship run.

Last weekend’s race provided a juicy lead-in for Kansas. A strategy lover’s dream, Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 featured 19 leaders, all of whom seemingly had a shot at victory. Dale Earnhardt Jr., with a single turn separating him and victory, ran out of gas (he wasn’t alone in that regard). Kevin Harvick nabbed his first Coca-Cola 600 win, and now has a season-high three victories.

This weekend opens up with a major milestone event for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The series will run its 400th race, on Saturday in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series runs on Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway, in the STP 300. Two big returns – that of Trevor Bayne and Danica Patrick – highlight the event.

Storylines follow…


Silver Lining: Earnhardt Continues Resurgence With Near-Win
Not a single car in front of him, Dale Earnhardt Jr. could see the checkered flag on Sunday. But his car sputtered coming into the final turn, and with an empty fuel tank, Earnhardt watched sure victory disappear.

But the near-win, and subsequent seventh-place finish, should give Earnhardt and Junior Nation reason for optimism. The finish was his sixth top 10 this season (Earnhardt had eight all last season). He still sits fourth in points, his best points position after 12 races since 2008 – his first season with Hendrick Motorsports, and the last season he made the Chase.

At Kansas, Earnhardt has four top 10s in 10 starts.

Harvick The Closer Does It Again
Harvick has been amazing this season in the crunch (Getty)
Kevin Harvick closed again at Charlotte, reeling in another come-from-behind victory in 2011. Each of his series-high three wins have been of the “Closer” variety.

At Auto Club Speedway, his first win, Harvick passed Jimmie Johnson on the final lap. At Martinsville, he stalked Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the closing laps, nabbing the lead with just four laps remaining. And again last weekend at Charlotte, Harvick led just two laps, passing a fuel-less Earnhardt on the final turn for the victory.

In his three wins this season, Harvick has led a combined nine laps.

Harvick’s first career points win at Charlotte also completed a rare career sweep of some of NASCAR’s biggest races. He has now won a Daytona 500, a Coca-Cola 600 and a Brickyard 400, joining Dale Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson as the only drivers to accomplish feat.

On The Double: Twice The Excitement for Kansas
It’s clear why fans favor races at Kansas Speedway: lots of leaders, lots of lead changes.

The record for lead changes at Kansas is 26, set just two years ago. Last year, there were 20 lead changes. Figure on another near-record figure this Sunday.

Same for leaders. The record for most leaders is 14, also set in 2009. Last year, there were 12 (and there has never been fewer than 10 in any of the 10 Kansas races).

The favorites: Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. They each have two wins apiece, and rank in the top five in Driver Rating at Kansas. Biffle leads with 122.6, Gordon is third at 106.5 and Stewart is fourth at 103.3. Jimmie Johnson is second with 118.7.

Threesome Hopes For Home Track Advantage
Watch for ratcheted up intensity from three drivers in particular, all of whom consider any race at Kansas Speedway a must-win situation.

Carl Edwards: From Columbia, Mo., Edwards has five top 10s in seven Kansas starts. His best finish is a runner-up in 2008.

Clint Bowyer: From Emporia, Kan., Bowyer has two top 10s in five races, including a runner-up in 2007.

Jamie McMurray: From Joplin, Mo., McMurray has two top 10s in eight races. His best was a seventh in 2004.

Out Of Nowhere: It’s Not How You Start
Speaking to the “anybody’s race to win” feel of the 2011 season, an interesting phenomenon has developed.

Seven of the 12 races this season have been won from a starting position of 20th or worse, including Harvick’s win on Sunday from the 28th starting position. That’s the most wins from 20th or worse through 12 races in series history.

Harvick Swoops up Coca-Cola 600 Win on Last lap

Harvick picks up first career Charlotte win (Getty)
Kevin Harvick won the Coca Cola 600 Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway for his 3rd win of 2011 and 17th win of his career. David Ragan [best career finish] finished second followed by Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, A,J. Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Dale Earnhardt Jr. [who led, ran out of fuel in 4th turn], Regan Smith, David Reutimann and Denny Hamlin.

Jimmie Johnson lost an engine with a few laps to go, setting up a green-white-checker finish. Kasey Kahne led on the final restart and immediately ran out of fuel. The points leader, Carl Edwards, finished 16th and increased his points lead to 36 points over Harvick who moves into second. There were 38 lead changes among 19 drivers; 14 cautions for 64 yellow flag laps. The attendance is listed as 145,000 up from 140,000 last year. (Jayski.com)

Coca-Cola 600 Results

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Final Coca-Cola 600 Driver Ratings Following All Practice Session

Micah Roberts Top 10 Driver Ratings
Coca-Cola 600
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Sunday, May 29, 2011 - 3:15 pm (PDT)

Rating    Driver     Odds     Practice 1  Qualified  Practice 2  Practice 3  

 1. Carl Edwards 7/2               2nd            3rd           21st             13th                 
Using a brand new car; 13.1 average finish in 12 starts, won at Vegas, third at Texas.   
 2. Matt Kenseth 15/1             15th          19th          30th             16th                                      
2000 winner with four straight top-10’s at Charlotte; using winning Texas chassis.      
 3. Tony Stewart 15/1             23rd          22nd          9th               17th                               
2003 fall winner; using dominant runner-up Vegas chassis that led 163 laps.            
 4. Clint Bowyer 20/1               8th           10th          28th              21st                      
Best finish was runner-up in 2007; using runner-up Texas chassis that led 44 laps.                  
 5. Kasey Kahne 30/1              7th           17th           5th               14th                                
Three-time Charlotte winner, the last coming in 2008; strong in last weeks All-Star race.         
 6. Kyle Busch 7/1                  21st          21st          13th                4th                                      
No Cup Charlotte wins, but finished eighth or better in last seven starts; using Texas car. 
 7. Kurt Bush 30/1                   9th           26th           2nd                9th                                      
Won this race last season following his All-Star win. Had best practice of the season Saturday.
 8. Greg Biffle 15/1                 17th          15th          12th               7th                                                
Finished fifth in fall race last season; using fourth-place Texas chassis this week.
 9. Jimmie Johnson 7/1          3rd             6th           17th               26th                             
Six-time winner, the last coming in 2009; using 15th-place Darlington chassis this week.     
10. Jeff Burton 20/1                1st             5th           25th               5th                    
Three-time winner, the last coming in 2007; using a brand new chassis this week.

Note: The results from the 2011 races held at Las Vegas and Texas are great indicators to how the drivers might perform Sunday due to the similar size and banking of the tracks.
Odds courtesy of the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book.

Micah Roberts, a former race and sports Director, has been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1995. For more Roberts insights and post-practice analysis on the race, go to VegasInsider.com.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Driver Chassis Selections For Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

Note: Not all teams list their chassis choice in PR release

Johnson is going with his Darlington car this week (Getty)
1. Carl Edwards: 18.8 average finish and two laps led in the six races with the COT; Best finish came in this event in 2009 in fourth; One win and a 2.0 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011; Will be looking to become the eighth driver to sweep the All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 765) in the Coca-Cola 600.

2. Jimmie Johnson: Six-time winner in 19 starts; Finished 37th in this event last year after crashing into the inside retaining wall on the backstretch; Finish raised his overall average finish to 9.8; 16.5 average finish and 251 laps led in the six races with the COT; Best driver rating in the past 12 races; 12.0 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 659) that he finished 15th with at Darlington Raceway earlier this month.

3. Kyle Busch: Leads all drivers with a 4.3 average finish in the six races with the COT; Second-best driver rating in the past 12 races; 27.0 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011. Using Texas car.

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr: 28.3 average finish in six races with Hendrick Motorsports; Recorded eight top-10s in previous 17 starts with Dale Earnhardt, Inc; Led 76 laps and finished fifth in 2008 Coca-Cola 600; 8.5 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 617) that he finished ninth with at Texas Motor Speedway in April.

5. Kevin Harvick: Coming off fourth top 10 in 20 starts; Finished 11th in this event last year; 17.5 average finish in the six races with the COT; 18.5 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 353) in the Coca-Cola 600.

Texas chassis makes an appearance this week for Kenseth
6. Matt Kenseth: Coming off 12th (fourth consecutive) top 10 in 23 starts; 12.7 average finish and 55 laps led in the six races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 741) that he won with at Texas Motor Speedway in April.

7. Ryan Newman: 16.7 average finish in the six races with the COT; Two poles and a 14.5 average finish in four starts with Stewart-Haas; 9.5 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011.

8. Clint Bowyer: 17.2 average finish in the six races with the COT; Finished seventh in this event last year for third top 10 in 10 starts; 8.5 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 350) that he led 44 laps with en route to a second-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in April.

9. Kurt Busch: Defending race winner; Win was fifth top 10 in 21 starts; 15.7 average finish and 318 laps led in the six races with the COT; 9.5 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 750) in the Coca-Cola 600.

Stewart's Vegas car was dominant; it goes this week.
10. Tony Stewart: 17.0 average finish in four starts with Stewart-Haas; Won the 2003 fall race with Joe Gibbs Racing; Win was one of 11 top-10s with JGR; 7.0 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 591) that he led 163 laps en route to a second-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.

11. Mark Martin: 12.7 average finish in the six races with the COT; Finished fourth in this event last year for 23rd top 10 in 52 starts; 13.0 average finish in four starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Four-time winner with Roush Racing; 27.0 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 646) that he finished 19th with in last weekend's All-Star Race.

12. Greg Biffle: Coming off sixth top 10 (fifth-place finish) in 16 starts; 32nd-place finish in this event last year raised finishing average to 13.7 in the six races with the COT; 16.0 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 749) that he finished fourth with at Texas Motor Speedway in April.

13. Denny Hamlin: Coming off fourth top 10 (fourth-place finish) in 11 starts; 19.2 average finish and 59 laps led in the six races with the COT; 11.0 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011.

14. Jeff Gordon: Last of five wins came in the 2007 fall race; 9.8 average finish in the six races with the COT; Finished sixth in this event last year for 20th top 10 in 36 starts; 29.5 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011. Using All-Star chassis from last week.

Brand new car for Montoya this week (Getty)
15. Juan Montoya: 26.0 average finish in the six races with the COT; Only top 10 (eighth-place finish) in eight starts came in this event in 2009; 8.0 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 1108) in the Coca-Cola 600.

16. AJ Allmendinger: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in eight starts; Best finish came in this event last year in 14th; 19.0 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 752) that he finished 19th with at Texas Motor Speedway in April.

17. Paul Menard: Only top 10 in eight starts came in this event last year; 23.9 average finish; 8.5 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 356) in the Coca-Cola 600.

18. Kasey Kahne: Three-time winner; 10.5 average finish and 133 laps led in the six races with the COT; Seven top-10s in 14 starts; 17.5 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011.

19. Martin Truex Jr: 19.0 average finish in two starts with Michael Waltrip Racing; Scored two top-10s in nine previous starts; 20.5 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011.

20. Marcos Ambrose: 25.0 average finish in four starts; 5.0 average finish in the two races on 1.5-mile speedways in 2011; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 735) that he finished sixth with at Texas Motor Speedway in April.

- compiled by Jeff Wackerlin, MotorRacingNetwork.com

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Keselowski Captures Coca-Cola 600 Pole; Driver Quotes Following Qualifying

Sporting News Wire Service

Keselowski captures second pole of his career Thursday at Charlotte
A strong practice session translated into an excellent qualifying run for Brad Keselowski, as the driver of the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge won the pole for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Keselowski sped around the 1.5-mile track in 28.112 seconds (192.089 mph) Thursday to win the second Coors Light Pole Award of his career, the first coming this past September at New Hampshire. Keselowski edged A.J. Allmendinger (191.693 mph), who will start his second consecutive Sprint Cup points race from the outside of the front row.

Series points leader Carl Edwards, winner of last Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte, will start third after at lap at 191.686 mph. Edwards' lap was one-thousandth of a second slower than Allmendinger's (28.170 seconds versus 28.171). Denny Hamlin (191.367 mph) will line up next to Edwards on the outside of the second row.

Jeff Burton (191.245 mph) qualified fifth. Jimmie Johnson, David Reutimann, David Ragan, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Clint Bowyer will start from positions six through 10, respectively. Stenhouse, driving the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford in place of Trevor Bayne, is the first driver to make his Cup debut in the Coke 600 since Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 1999.

Andy Lally, T.J. Bell, Scott Wimmer, Tony Raines and Scott Riggs failed to qualify for the 43-car field.

Coca-Cola 600 Qualifying Notes:
• Brad Keselowski earns his second career pole in his 65th start.
• Brad Keselowski's first pole came at Loudon (2010).
• Brad Keselowski becomes the ninth different pole winner in 11 qualifying sessions this season; Dover was rained out.
• A.J. Allmendinger (second) scored his best start in nine Charlotte races.
• Carl Edwards (third) posted his seventh top-10 start in 12 races this season.
• Denny Hamlin (fourth) posted his best start in 12 races at Charlotte.
• Jeff Burton (fifth) posted his best start since starting fourth in the Daytona 500.
• Jimmie Johnson (sixth) posted top-10 starts in last eight Charlotte races, longest current streak
• Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified ninth in his career-first start; he is the 26th driver to make his Cup debut in the 600 and the first since Dale Jr. in 1999.

Driver Quotes Following Qualifying

Ragan won the Sprint Showdown just ahead of Keselowski
DAVID RAGAN ON QUALIFYING EFFORT: “We’re prepared. We know what’s in front of us. Qualifying here tonight is just the beginning. It’s obviously a good tone-setter for the rest of the week and allows us to pick a good pit stall. Hopefully, we can wind up here in the top 10, but 600 miles is a long race. You’ve really got three stages, you’ve got the first 150 or so laps – the middle part while the track is changing – and then when it gets really cool in the evening. We feel like we’ve got a good game plan and we’re ready to go try and win this thing.”

GREG BIFFLE ON HIS QUALIFYING LAP: “The car was pretty good, but it just slid the nose a little bit in three and four. I just chattered the front tires, but I thought it was gonna be way faster than that actually. It’s a long race and we know that it’s cooling down fast, so we’ll get bumped down but that’s the way it goes.”

AJ ALLMENDINGER ON QUALIFYING: “The U.S. Air Force Ford is really quick. I’m proud of Mike Shiplett and all the guys and I think we’ve got a good race car. The mile and a half program hasn’t been our best. We’ve been struggling with it a little bit and haven’t been as good as our teammate, Marcos, and a lot of the Fords, so I thought last week in the All-Star Race we got better. We still weren’t as good as we wanted to be, but we learned some things. We came back here with a different plan to work on setup and, so far, at least in qualifying trim, it was pretty good. That will at least get us in the top five or top six, which, for 600 miles it doesn’t really matter at that point. You just want to start up front and now we’ve got to work on Saturday to make the car better and then stay there on Sunday.”

CARL EDWARDS ON HIS CAR THIS WEEK: “We’re fast and that’s a car that we didn’t plan on bringing to this race. I don’t know if you saw it, but I tore up the other car. This one is fast, so we’ve got a fast Scotts EZ Seed Fusion and it looks like we’ll probably be third. That will be a great starting spot. We’ll get a great pit stall and it’s a great way to start off our 600 weekend.”

“The car is very good. Bob and I were a little frustrated with our lap and then we realized that’s OK to qualify third considering where we were a year ago. I think AJ said it well. We’ve been working hard at all of this stuff and the cars are fast. I think at least one of those Fords is gonna be a threat to win on Sunday, so I hope it’s our Ford. It looks like we’ve got a great start.”
Edwards thinks this weeks car may be better than last week
EDWARDS ON WHICH CAR IS BETTER, COKE CAR OR ALL-STAR: “I think this car might be better actually. I didn’t know that the car I tore up had been torn up at Phoenix and it raced at Martinsville and got beat and banged up there. I didn’t feel so bad after that, but this one that we’ve got now is a brand new car and it’s neat.”

EDWARDS ON WHAT’S GOING ON IN MISSOURI? “I’m really proud to be from Missouri, and I’m extra proud after what I’ve seen here the last week. The whole state of Missouri and Oklahoma and Kansas for that matter, everyone has really joined up and volunteered. There are firemen and first responders and hospitals. A couple buddies of mine took their tractors down there to Joplin and they made a base at a church and they went out and helped people get trees off their houses and gather up their belongings. It’s a tragedy. We’re praying and thinking of them and as we learn more, we’ll know who we can help more.”

MARCOS AMBROSE ON QUALIFYING: “We’re just gonna pay the price. We’re not gonna qualify well. We just didn’t get it right this afternoon when the track was hot and it is what it is. It’s a long race, but every spot counts.”

RICKY STENHOUSE, JR. ON HIS EMOTION AFTER QUALIFYING: “I’m relieved to get this thing in. I knew the car had the speed. Our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion was fast in practice. Whether I could put it all together was a different story and we were able to, which was good. I didn’t imagine we would have a lap that good, but we’ll definitely take it. I left a little bit out there because we just had to get in. These Wood Brothers guys did an awesome job and I just can’t wait to get in the race on Sunday and just try to make all the laps we can. It’s a long race. I’ve got a lot to learn. That was just qualifying, so, hopefully, on Saturday we’ll have a good practice and a good Nationwide race. Our Fastenal Mustang was fast in Nationwide practice and, hopefully, have a good race and get into Sunday and just really learn a lot.”

Burton looked sharp in in practice and qualifying
JEFF BURTON ON HIS QUALIFYING LAP (5TH): “Obviously you always hate to be first in practice and not first in qualifying, but that’s good nonetheless. Obviously we’ve had a tough year and feel like this has always been a good race track for us. Hopefully we can get a good night. It’s good for us to start there and that’s our best effort of the year and that will help us with our pit stall and I’m real happy with that. I’m a little disappointed because we gave up a little bit from where we were in practice but nonetheless I’m still happy with that.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON HIS QUALIFYING LAP (6TH): "It wasn’t bad. We had a good practice session and a good qualifying session. I would have liked to have been up there in the top three for the optimal pick on pit road but we’ll take that.”

JOHNSON ON WHAT THE KEY IN THE 600 MARATHON? “Well, it’s a long race and a lot of things take place. So it’s tough to pinpoint just one thing. In a compromise I would say that probably the best phrase to use is that it starts in the day and ends at night. And then what we saw with tire strategy playing out through the All-Star weekend, pit road strategy and what you do there might be a big part of this. Fuel mileage could be an issue. So you’ve got to be on your toes.”

RYAN NEWMAN ON HIS QUALIFYING LAP (12TH): “We didn’t back-up the position we ran in practice. It was a good effort. I’m not happy with it. But we did what we thought was right and just came up short today.”

KEVIN HARVICK ON HIS QUALIFYING (28TH): “It is still not going to be great but everyone on our Budweiser Chevrolet team did a great job just getting it competitive. I feel like we are going to be fine in race trim. We just have been off since we unloaded in qualifying trim. We’ll keep at it. That is better than where we were in practice, so that is an improvement.

HARVICK ON HIS SPECIAL PAINT SCHEME: “Budweiser is a big supporter of our troups so we are running a special scheme this week. Kind of our jet-fighter flat black scheme paying tribute to all of those who serve.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR ON HIS QUALIFYING EFFORT (25TH): “I don’t if it is one of the best cars we’ve had in qualifying. We’ve got this feeling we are looking for. We got closer to it. We’ve been terrible all year long in qualifying and today not much better with the grip and the way the car felt in the direction we need to go. We had a real big wiggle in the middle of one and two and jumped up the track and lost some time there. We are gaining on it. Our car was great today when we unloaded in race trim. We were faster than everyone that was around us. I look forward to the race.”

TONY STEWART ON HIS QUALIFYING EFFORT (22ND): “It was pretty good in one and two. We’ve heard a lot of guys talking about not getting their cars turning down in three and four so I probably turned a little bit early but I made sure I got down and probably gave up a little time there. We made a pretty good gain there. We just didn’t gain as much as we would have liked but there are some guys that were faster than us in practice that we have beat already. Probably going to end up 18th-20th in that range but you have 600 miles. If you don’t get there, it doesn’t matter whether you start first or 43rd, if you have a car that is going to win the race; you are going to win the race no matter where you start. We just have to do our thing.”

Gordon feels pretty confident coming into Coca-Cola 600
JEFF GORDON ON QUALIFYING 11th: “It was a good lap for the Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet team but it wasn’t a great lap. Coming to the green, it definitely didn’t stick the way I was hoping it would. It kind of made me a little nervous. It made me a little bit hesitant to attack three and four like I needed to to be on the pole. The car definitely has got it in it. These guys showed it last week and been showing it today. It is a decent lap. We can do it from there.”

GORDON ON HOW HE FEELS ABOUT THE RACE? “We were feeling good from the All-Star Race, this is the same car that we had there. Obviously in the Drive To End Hunger colors on it this weekend. The car felt good. That wasn’t my best lap. I knew that we weren’t going to be on the pole and you always wish you could do it over again.

“The car is definitely driving really good and we just missed it just a slight bit there. The All-Star Race was great for us. The car was good and we feel like we learned some things from that. I think that we can definitely show that in the 600 this weekend.”

MARK MARTIN ON HIS QUALIFYING EFFORT (13TH): “Our car has got speed but it is playing hide and seek with us. Showed itself a time or two and we’ve been seeking the rest of the time. That is fairly decent. But, you know, there was more there, we just didn’t get every bit of it. Every ounce of it. Last week we qualified a little too loose, tonight we qualified a little too tight. It will be ok. We are up ahead of a lot of good cars and we are going to have a lot of good cars ahead of us.”

CLINT BOWYER ON HIS QUALIFYING (10TH): “I screwed up a little bit getting into three. Got through one and two so good, I just tried to get it all in three and got in there a little bit too hard and it kind of come around on me a little bit and had to wait on it to settle back down so I could get to the gas. Hurt my guys a little bit. But that will be a good starting spot for the big, long race.”

Hamlin and No. 11 team still searching for first win of 2011
DENNY HAMLIN ON HOW IMPORTANT QUALIFYING IS: “We’re by no means a qualifying race team, so that’s a good sign for us and this weekend. I’m looking forward to it. I felt like last weekend there were some minor adjustments a little bit more time on the longer runs — we had a pretty good car last weekend. So hopefully now this weekend we’ll get all these bugs worked out and spun around for our FedEx Toyota team. We’re excited about this weekend and looking forward to getting back to victory lane.”

DAVID REUTIMANN ON RUNNING HIS ALL-STAR CHASSIS: “The guys at Michael Waltrip Racing did a great job getting this car back and turning it around. It’s wasn’t the original plan, but we’ve got a good Aaron’s Dream Machine. Really proud of my guys and happy to have the Armed Forces Foundation paint scheme on the car this weekend so we’re hoping to give it a good run.”

BRIAN VICKERS ON HOW GOOD HIS CAR IS FOR THIS WEEKEND: “I think the car is good. We haven’t run in race trim yet, but we really changed a lot of stuff from last week in our base package coming into this week. So far I’ve been really happy with it. I felt really good about one and two. I missed three and four a little — I just rushed the throttle. I felt so good about down there that I tried to get too much down here. That was my fault, but I think the car is good.”

VICKERS ON WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO HAVE PEOPLE'S PICTURES ALL OVER HIS CAR: “It’s pretty awesome. Just the reception from everyone — from the industry to the fans — I’m on there and I’m excited about it. I’m in the car every week and I’m excited about being on the race car. I literally spent five minutes telling the guys here on the team about my photo on here. If I’m that excited, I have to imagine that everyone else is pretty stoked.”

Kyle Busch wasn't too happy about qualifying effort
KYLE BUSCH ON MEANING OF WINNING COCA-COLA 600: “We would love to win this thing. It’s a long race and that’s where we hope our car will really come into play is 500 or 600 mile mark. Just haven’t quite got the speed out of it today that we’ve been looking for. We unloaded last week off the truck and we were really fast. For some reason, this week we seem to be not being able to find it right now. We’ll go to work tonight, think about it and come back Saturday and make some good changes to it. Hopefully, we’ll have a good happy hour and then go get them on Sunday.”

“When you come to Charlotte, it’s typically the part in the season where you look at where you are. You factor in a little give and take — you could probably be three spots better or five spots worse when it comes Chase time. If you just run steady and do your own deal and concentrate on what you’re doing then you’ll be a Chase contender. That’s where we are right now so we feel good about things.”

JOEY LOGANO ON HIS CAR DURING QUALIFYING (23RD): “We just didn’t pick up what we needed to pick up. At times, we were just a little bit too free through the lap — kind of a four-wheel skate going — sort of the same thing we were fighting all day. We’re going to go back and look at it a little bit and see what we can find.”


Burton Fastest in First Charlotte Practice Session

Burton had something working well in Q-trim Thursday
Jeff Burton, with a lap speed of 188.580 mph, was the fastest during the first Coca-Cola 600 practice session at Charlotte. Burton looks to capture his fourth win at Charlotte and third Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday. His last win on the track came in the fall of 2008.

Carl Edwards was second fastest with a lap speed of 188.029 mph, and was followed by Jimmie Johnson (188.009) who was third fastest, Denny Hamlin (187.970) fourth and Ryan Newman (187.728) was the fifth.

Rounding out the top-ten fastest in practice were Brad Keselowski (187.676) who was sixth fastest, Kasey Kahne (187.624) seventh, Clint Bowyer (187.474) eighth, Kurt Busch (187.461) ninth and A.J. Allmendinger (187.363) was tenth fastest.

The teams will return to the track later this evening for their 7:10 PM (EDT) scheduled qualifying session, before returning to the track on Saturday (as there is no track activity on Friday) for their final two practice sessions (11:30 AM – 12:15PM & Final Practice: 12:50 PM 1:50 PM – EDT).

Top 5 Speeds from Thursday's 90 minute practice session:
#31-Burton 188.580
#99-Edwards 188.029
#48-Johnson 188.009
#11-Hamlin 187.970
#39-Newman 187.728
#21-Stenhouse Jr. was 12th fastest
slowest: #81-Riggs 180.234 & #37-Raines 181.026

Complete List of First Practice Speeds

Driver Quotes Following First Practice Session

TONY STEWART ON HOW HIS CAR IS FOR SUNDAY: “I think it’s pretty good. I’m pretty happy with the balance so far in race trim. It’s just staying focused on what we’re doing. There have been so many distractions in the last week and a half, and everybody wants to talk about Kansas or something else that doesn’t pertain to anything that we’re doing right now, that it’s hard to focus on it.”

STEWART ON THE 600 BEING A LONG RACE IF THE CAR ISN'T RIGHT: “500 miles is a long time when you’re car’s not right. I’m not sure that we’re practicing in the heat of the day here for qualifying tonight; so that’s why we’ve got Saturday to work on the race stuff.”

RYAN NEWMAN ON THE TEMPO OF THE RACE AND LEADERS BREAKING AWAY: “I think a big part of that depends on the caution flags when you get bunched back up, because you can have a bad run on your second fuel run and be one of the slowest cars on the track if you pulled the lead out and still stay out front. So a good part of it is the restarts because the restarts are so chaotic it seems. But yeah, a team can dominate with or without the temperature change and the track change and everything else. The guy who leads the most laps might only lead 50 of them, you just never know.”

NEWMAN ON KYLE BUSCH SPEEDING TICKET: “My point about the license part of it is if you don’t have to have a driver’s license to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, then, no matter what, it’s DMV (Department of Motor Vehicle) related in my opinion. If he would have clobbered a mail box at 128, then that is a Federal situation. There are different ways of looking at it is my point. If something was to happen to it…it is just a private car incident that has no affect on his eligibility to drive a Sprint Cup car or a Nationwide car. But, to me, it is a very gray area in reference to the police officer and what he did as to how he got away as clean as he did. I think that is probably your judgment question. If it was you running 128 in a 45, would he have treated you the same way? Every officer has to answer that question a different way depending on who he is dealing with.”

Joplin Native Jamie McMurray Looking For Third Charlotte Win

By Micah Roberts

McMurray won at Charlotte last fall
I always love the sentimental approach to handicapping games where sometimes teams get up a little more when having a heavy heart. I use it quite often in football and basketball to some degree of success. Jamie McMurray is a Joplin, Missouri native who will definitely have a lot on his mind. Will he be able to focus in a normal capacity or will he be pre-occupied like many of us might be in the same situation?

“My heart goes out to all the people that have been affected by the devastating Missouri tornado on May 22nd, especially in my hometown of Joplin," said McMurray in a prepared statement.

"It is difficult to put into words, the emotions I have when I see the devastation and destruction that was caused by this storm. My thoughts and prayers are extended to all the people who are dealing with so much loss. I would also like to thank all those that have reached out to me to express their concerns for my family. Although I don’t personally have any family in Joplin any longer, there are still many people there that need our support and prayers.”

The combination of what happened at Joplin and how well McMurray has done over his career could be a positive situation on the track. Two of his six careers wins, his first and last win, have come at Charlotte. Last season he was runner-up in this race and then won the fall event.

“I am looking forward to Charlotte this weekend," McMurray said earlier in the week. "Our team had a lot of success at this track last year and this is one of my favorite places to race. However, after last weekend in the Sprint All Star race we learned that we have some work to do if we are going to repeat that 2010 success. We will be working on some changes to our cars for this weekend and as always our guys are giving it 100% commitment to make us more competitive.

The real problem with McMurray having a real shot this week rests with his car. The team hasn't performed close to the level they did in 2010. They're bringing the same chassis from last week that had trouble throughout practice and the race itself.

I will be rooting for McMurray to do well in hopes of maybe bringing some joy to his hometown, but it’s more likely that he’ll perform closer to the level of what he's done this season which would be about 20th-place.

The Las Vegas Hilton Super Book has McMurray listed at 30-to-1 to win the race, which about the same he's been at most other tracks. The odds are a pure indication of this years efforts as opposed to the great success he had at Charlotte last season. In driver vs. driver matchups, where the best finish between the two drivers in the race wins, McMurray is listed as a pick em' against teammate Juan Pablo Montoya.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Indy 500 & Coca-Cola 600 Preview

By Micah Roberts

Sam Schmidt drivers should challenge for win
This Sunday has to be the best motor sports day of the year, a day where fans all over the world are sure to tune in to one of the three outstanding races on television. In you’re an insane speed freak -- the good kind -- like me, you’ll be watching all three beginning at the early hours of the morning with Formula One’s Monaco Grand Prix.

A few hours later, we get to watch the 100th anniversary race of the Indianapolis 500. And then, after some lunch, it’s NASCAR time with the longest race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.

All three of the races are considered one of the series most prestigious races. For the Indy 500, it may be the most prestigious race in the world. Even as the Indy car series has declined in races per year with most of the television coverage hidden away on the hunting channel, the Indy 500 is an American institution that has appeal for every auto racing fan across the world.

The race crosses over into mainstream America just because it has so much tradition. It's been the back drop to so many family BBQ's on Memorial day weekend that it has sort of become part of the family.

Here in Las Vegas we get the added excitement of betting on each of the races. Just about every sports book in town has odds up for the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600, but only the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book offers odds weekly on F-1 races.

When handicapping the Indy 500 the last 11 years, it’s been rather simple because all you have to do is look at the drivers from the top teams, about seven of the 33 drivers, and then throw out the rest. The main beneficiaries over the years have been the Ganassi and Penske teams with Andretti and Rahal drivers snatching three wins themselves.

This season we have a new major player in the game joining the Penske and Ganassi super-teams as contenders. Las Vegas resident Sam Schmidt has a team that should challenge for the win this season led by pole sitter Alex Tagliani, another Las Vegas resident. The other strong challenger will be Townsend Bell who starts fourth.

Both of the Schmidt drivers weren’t expected to do well and had future odds placed very high on them prior to some of the practices and Saturday’s qualifying. The Hilton had juicy numbers of 60-to-1 on Tagliani with 75-to-1 on Bell. The current odds have them 7-to-1 and 30-to-1 respectively.

The favorites to win the race still remain Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon at 7-to-2 with Will Power (6/1), Helio CastroNeves (10/1) and Ryan Briscoe (12/1) close behind, but their edge over the rest of the field no longer makes them as attractive. Bettors now have a legitimate opportunity to cash in at some pretty good odds.

Top 5 Indy 500 Finish Prediction:
1) #3 Helio CastroNeves (10/1)
2) #77 Alex Tagliani (7/1)
3) #12 Will Power (6/1)
4) #99 Townsend Bell (30/1)
5) #9 Scott Dixon (7/2)

Last week's All-Star race gave us all a lot to think about for Sunday (Getty)
We gained a lot of knowledge in last weeks All-Star race at Charlotte that should help gain an edge in betting this weeks race on the same track. Most of us knew the Roush drivers would do well in the race, but no one saw a complete sweep of every event and segment. Carl Edwards won the race, Greg Biffle led a segment and David Ragan won the qualifying race. The only Roush driver to not win anything was Matt Kenseth, who had the best car on the track after 10 laps.

Even though most of the NASCAR teams won’t bring the same exact car they raced with last week, it’s pretty clear who the drivers to key on this week are. Kenseth becomes an even bigger player this week because of his success on the long runs in that race. Just as Kenseth started to get going better than everyone else, the segment would end. On Sunday night, it’s almost like things never end as they go 600 miles.

The combination of Kenseth being able to save tires for long runs, his team balancing his car perfect for the race and his past success on the 1.5-mile tracks this season make him the driver to beat this week. There is also the added attraction of Kenseth using his winning Texas chassis, a car that dominating leading nine times for a race high 169 laps.

Jimmie Johnson is a six-time winner at Charlotte and once won this race three times in a row. He should perform well, but winning the race seems a bit unlikely at this point based on the way he’s run on similar tracks this season. He was very ordinary at both Las Vegas and Texas. The car he's bringing this week has only one race to it's credit and it was a very ordinary 15th-place finish at Darlington. As odd as it sounds, he may be a driver to go against getting plus-money in a few matchups.

Kyle Busch should be the one to be the biggest thorns in the side of the Roush drivers. Not only did he have a career best runner-up finish in the All-Star race, but he’s finished eighth of better in his last seven Charlotte starts which include two third-place finishes in the 600. The only negative, besides him getting caught speeding at 128 mph in a 45 mph zone Monday in North Carolina, is the car he is bringing. In four career starts, this car hasn't had a top-five finish. Despite the car, I still feel all the notes from last week should make him run well Sunday.

Edwards has a little bit of history on his side by winning the All-Star race because we’ve seen a few drivers do the double recently winning back-to-back weeks in Charlotte. Kurt Busch did it last season, Kasey Kahne in 2008 and Jimmie Johnson as well in 2003. He'll be bringing a brand new car this week as he looks for his first career points win at Charlotte. In 12 career starts, Edwards has four top-five finishes with a 13.3 average finish.

Gordon won his first Cup race in the 1994 Coca-Cola 600
Jeff Gordon is one of the few drivers who will be bringing his All-Star car to the Coca-Cola this week and could be a wild card at 16-to-1 odds. His team feels pretty confident about what they learned from that race with all the varied temperature changes. The Coca-Cola 600 starts in daylight, runs through dusk and finishes in the cool night. Whoever adjusts the quickest to all three varied climates will have an edge. Gordon is a five time winner at Charlotte with the last coming in 2007. The track is also the site of his first Cup win back in 1994.

Clint Bowyer is a great slection at 20-to-1 just because of the car he's bringing, the same one that was runner-up to Kenseth at Texas. Bowyer's best Charlotte finish was runner-up in the fall 2007 race.

Texas is a prominent track to refer to for this race because it was the last 1.5-mile high banked track run on other than last weeks All-Star event. Texas runs the closest to Charlotte and also has similarities with Atlanta and Las Vegas.

Because we can use Las Vegas as a reference as well, Tony Stewart becomes someone to pay attention to. Stewart led a race high 163 laps at Las Vegas and virtually gave the race away to Edwards late. Stewart's lone win at Charlotte came in 2003. That race was also his last top-five finish on the track.

Top 5 Coca-Cola Finish Prediction:
1) #17 Matt Kenseth (12/1)
2) #18 Kyle Busch (6/1)
3) #99 Carl Edwards (6/1)
4) #33 Clint Bowyer (20/1)
5) #14 Tony Stewart (12/1)

As for the race in Monaco, I’ll go out on a limb and take Sebastian Vettel laying the minus-120 to win. He’s already won four of the five races this season.

Driver Notes & Quotes for 2011 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

Harvick rolls out a brand new chassis this week (Getty)
KEVIN HARVICK ON THE ADJUSTMENTS MADE THROUGHOUT THE DIFFERING CLIMATES: “You can definitely do it either way. You can make it better or you can dial yourself way out. I’ve been a part of that race several times where you start the race really good and by the time its dark you are in big trouble. So, you definitely have to have some past history as far as what the race track does and that’s one reason why the All-Star Race was so important. Just for the fact that everything you do in that race is at night and the (Coca-Cola) 600 is going to end at night; you have to take what happens in the All-Star Race and then what you do in the day time practices and mix those two together. You also have to rely on a lot of past notes and things to try to have a setup that’s adjustable. A lot of adjustments made during the race are out of past theories and past experiences. If your car is not doing something and it’s getting dark rapidly, you are going to have to make a change on the fly without your car doing something. You are just going to have to trust it’s the right change and just make it if the time is right as far as the sun going down and when the darkness is coming.”

HARVICK ON THE DIFFERENCE 66 LAPS MAKES IN THE IS RACE: “I think, as a driver, you are mentally prepared and kind of just know how long a 500-mile or 400-mile race is, but I think the people who worry about it the most are the engine guys just because everything they do is set off of 500 miles, so they probably worry about it a lot more than we do.”

HARVICK CHASSIS SELECTION: He'll race chassis No. 353 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This is a brand new No. 29 chassis that will make its on-track debut this weekend.

Bowyer is using runner-up Texas car this week (Getty)
CLINT BOWYER ON THE COCA-COLA BEING A BRAGGING RIGHTS TRACK: “It is, but it’s always been a tough difficult track for me to get a good finish at. I’ve had some hard hits there along with some bad runs and bad luck. Things always seem to happen to us at Charlotte. It’s just not one of my good tracks. However, our cars are running well right now. Everything changes when your stuff is running well and you’re going down a path where everyone’s on board and comfortable. It doesn’t matter what your history is at that track, if your cars are running well and you’re on a roll, you can keep it going, no matter where you’re at.”

BOWYER ON THE HARDEST PART ABOUT 600 MILES AT CHARLOTTE: “Oh man, you just need to keep getting track position and keep everything in good shape. Everything has to be good the entire night. Everyone has to hit their marks. Pit stops have to go well. Transitioning the setup into the night has to be smooth. Everything has to be good for such a long period of time.”

BOWYER CHASSIS SELECTION: Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 350 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala, built new for the 2011 season, last saw action in April at Texas Motor Speedway when Bowyer led 44 laps en route to a runner-up finish.

JEFF BURTON ON THE HARDEST PART OF THE COCA-COLA 600: “A lot is talked about going from day to night, but I, personally, think that’s overblown. I’ve won that race. Never before have I run horrible during the day and, all of a sudden, taken off and run well at night. I think you have to run well both during the day and at night. Most of the drivers who win run well during the day and the night. It’s hard comparing day practices to a night race – there’s no question about that. But, that’s the same for everyone.”

BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Jeff Burton will pilot chassis No. 359 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. This Caterpillar Impala will be put through its first paces of competition this weekend.

REGAN SMITH ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “We’ve seen the highs and the lows in the past three weeks, and the highs are what we need to get back to. After the big win in Darlington (May 7), we had a mechanical issue in Dover and last week at the Sprint All-Star Race a fuel problem kept us from making a charge at the end. The good news is that our Furniture Row Chevrolets the past two races have been solid and that’s what I am looking for again for the Coca-Cola 600 — a strong race car, capable of running up front. I love this track, and deep down, I know we can do well here. We just need to avoid the gremlins and not make mistakes.”

GREG BIFFLE ON THE COKE 600: “It takes a lot of patience. It’s such a long race and it requires a totally different mind set. It’s kind of like two races. The first half is survival and the second half is making sure the car will handle well into the night and then making you’re way to the front if you’re not already there. We learned a lot in the All-Star race last weekend and I think we found a few things that will help us out a lot this weekend. I’m pretty excited about it. We should have a good run in the 600 and I think this team will continue to progress more and more over the next few weeks.”

DAVID REUTIMANN ON TAKING THE ALL-STAR CAR BACK FOR THE 600: “Normally there is a time period between races where we take the Aaron’s Dream Machine back to the shop, take it apart, go over it and send it back out for a race maybe a couple weeks later – which is how we normally do it. We felt this Aaron’s Dream Machine was so good – we feel like all our cars are very good, but we felt a good connection and something going good with this car and we didn’t want to take a chance at jeopardizing that so we went ahead and decided to use the same car. That just means that the guys here in the shop are going to have to hustle. We have a great group of guys, whether it be down in the fab shop or out on the shop floor that will be able to get it turned around. I appreciate the opportunity and the effort to do that because certainly that wasn’t something that we had in the plans. Any time you change plans it means a lot more work for a lot of people, so those guys are down there busting their tails getting it turned back around. I really appreciate the work that they’re doing.”

Ragan hopes to recapture magic from Showdown (Getty)
DAVID RAGAN ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “All-Star weekend was a good outing for us and hopefully we can build on that. The Coca-Cola 600 is a totally different mindset, but Drew and I have a good plan for the race. I’m pretty excited about qualifying Thursday evening after last week; it’s all about track position so it’s important to start up front. We are taking the same car that sat on the pole in Texas and finished in the top 10. Texas is a similar race in that we started in the day and ended at night, so we should have some good notes to go off of.”

RAGAN CHASSIS SELECTION: Ragan will be driving the same car that sat on the pole in Texas and finished seventh.

MARK MARTIN ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “I’ve said many times, in my opinion; this is the coolest venue in the world. I’ve always loved this race track. I think it’s a great facility. The track is great to race on. It represents our sport well. And I love the fans here and their enthusiasm. So it’s great that we race here. It would be harder for me to hit a golf ball than it would be to drive a race car. There’s a physical aspect to what we do that is not really common knowledge, just like the aspect to golf or drag racing or anything else that I don’t necessarily acknowledge because I have no great interest in that so I don’t look at it and analyze it that close. But I think that anything you do on a professional level that the Indy 500 is or the Coca-Cola 600, anything you do on a level like that is extremely intense, physically and mentally, in different ways.”

PAUL MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 356 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet Impala is a brand new addition to the RCR fleet, and will see its first laps on the track at CMS.

BOBBY LABONTE ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “The Coca-Cola 600 was my very first win and my brother (Terry) finished second – - it was a great time for both of us. I had been second a few times before and we had won some poles and came close to winning. A first win is something you cannot go back and repeat. You’ll never forget that. It was a very special time in my life.”

DALE EARNHARDT JR ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “I like running here and I’m glad the track is fun, it is a fun race track. The two corners couldn’t be any more different from each other. (Turns) one and two seems like it’s a half mile longer than (turns) three and four. Three and four is real tight and tough to get through, the suns sort of bakes on that corner real bad. One and two is kind of long and fun and pretty drawn out for you. And there’s great racing here and the walls are yellow oddly enough. There are just all kinds of cool things about this place and neat things about it.”

New chassis this week for the 99
CARL EDWARDS ON RACING AT CHARLOTTE: “I’m coming off the best and biggest race and win of the year. Winning the Sprint All-Star race ranks right up there with winning the Daytona 500. I’ve been testing at Road Atlanta with my team and they are still pumped about the win too. We are all excited to go back to Charlotte this weekend and run a much longer race. This is the race that I train and work out for all year. This race is made for me; it’s a long, grueling marathon of a race.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The Aflac team will be bringing chassis RK-765 to CMS. This is a brand new chassis with the final Scotts EZ Seed paint scheme of the season.

MARTIN TRUEX JR ON RACING AT CHARLOTTE: “I’m glad we got to run the Sprint Showdown because the 40 laps we raced, it told us a few things about our NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota. We’re keeping with our original game plan and bringing a brand new NAPA Toyota. I’m looking forward to keeping our momentum going. I think and I hope the tide has turned on our season. We have the potential to turn a good season into a great one.”

JAMIE McMURRAY ON CHARLOTTE: “I am looking forward to Charlotte this weekend. Our team had a lot of success at this track last year and this is one of my favorite places to race. However after last weekend in the Sprint All Star race we learned that we have some work to do if we are going to repeat that 2010 success. We will be working on some changes to our cars for this weekend and as always our guys are giving it 100% commitment to make us more competitive. One of my favorite things about this race weekend at Charlotte is that we get to watch our teammates from the IndyCar side race at Indianapolis early in the day on Sunday and then the track always has some cool pageantry with all the military that gets you pumped up and ready to go! Racing on Memorial Day weekend is a reminder to give thanks to all the men and women that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, which allows us the opportunity to do the things that we love.

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet (NSCS): Chassis #1104. Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion has decided to bring Chassis #1104 to Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. This chassis was raced last weekend in the Sprint All-Star race where McMurray started ninth and finished 17th.

New car for Montoya this week (Getty)
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “It’s the longest race of the season so there’s always a chance for things to go wrong. It’s a race where we start out with daylight and then end at night. That means you’re constantly making adjustments to get the handling right under different track conditions. We’ve learned a lot over the course of the last few weeks and the guys have been making a lot of changes to our Target Chevrolet’s so I’m feeling pretty good about the direction we’re heading in. The focus is to get us back up in the point standings and start competing for wins again.”

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: No. 42 Target Chevrolet (NSCS): Chassis #1108. Crew Chief Brian Pattie elected to bring a brand new chassis #1108 to Charlotte Motor Speedway.

JEFF GORDON ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “I think the strategy (for the 600) is to get to halfway and be on the lead lap. I think that is the key. When you are on the lead lap at the halfway point, then that is when the race begins. You know 300 miles is a long way, and as long as you are on the lead lap I feel that you have a real shot at winning the race and tuning on the car and getting it where you need to be and be fast at the end. To me what is so difficult about the 600 is you are pretty much are practicing during the day to try and get ready for a night race. You start the race in the late afternoon, early evening. The track temperature is still pretty warm and it cools down quite a bit as you go into the night so the track conditions change dramatically. Your setup has got to be flexible and then it is a very, very long race so hydration and just trying to stay up with the changing conditions of the track to me are the most challenging part of the race. In order to be good at the end, we’ve struggled at the beginning at times and that just makes that first 100 miles go by so slow. It seems to me when the sun goes down the track conditions get better it seems like the laps start clicking off and then the whole race goes better.”

TONY STEWART ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “What you learn during the All-Star will help to get ready for the 600. The entire field is going to do that so it gives everybody the same opportunity. I don’t know that there is anything difficult about the 600. You still approach it the same as you do a 500-mile race. You just have to get your car balanced. The hard part is you start with it hot in late afternoon and then you are going to have quite a bit of time for the track to change a bunch from the beginning of the race to the end of the race. That is probably the biggest challenge but it is always a challenge when you run night races when you are going to start late afternoon.”

RYAN NEWMAN ON RACING AT CHARLOTTE THIS WEEK: “We’ve got top-five finishes and have been knocking on the door at each one but this is a big weekend and the Coke 600, being a Coke driver now adds a little extra to it, but Memorial Day weekend is really special for us with the Army and the all the great festivities and functions the track puts on for Memorial Day. That to me is as much special as the Coke 600. It all depends on how the car is handling and how hot it is outside. That additional 100 miles when you’re leading the race and the car is pretty good it probably lasts forever but it’s just another 100 miles, it’s just logging some time. If the car is really misbalanced and you’re fighting loose entry and struggling and up by the fence it can be miserable because there’s times when you’re a 15th-place car and you’re running 15th and you know you are at the best of what you can get 500 miles in and you’ve still got 100 miles to go and your shoulders are tired, your elbows are wore out and you’re looking out the right side of the car, so it all depends on how your car is handling really.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “Regardless of surface, that track (Charlotte Motor Speedway) is still challenging. It shows up in different ways. The temperature of the track and the rubber going down changes so much from the start to the finish; and really, from when we make decisions based on our set-ups in Happy Hour. That track goes through a bunch of changes. You have a Nationwide race and then all of our stuff day to night. So it is a handful. And you find that the winning car is usually un-drivable at the start of the race and you just have to nurse it along and not make mistakes. And I’ve made a few mistakes here of late. I’ve spun out a lot off of Turn 2 and I really hope to not do that again (laughs). But it’s a challenging track and a challenging event when you have such a fickle surface to race on. It really is. When they put that new surface down we lost the advantage we had. We still seem to run well there. We’ve been in contention and have been in the top five and been running well. So, we’re there. I enjoy that track. The old track, and how rough it was and abrasive it was, really fit my style. We had a great set-up for it and I knew how to drive the track. The rougher the track, the better in my opinion; I seem to do better at those tracks. So, in time, the track will get there.”

Busch brothers fare well at Charlotte (Getty)
KURT BUSCH ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “Dominant wins like we had in the 600 last year are pretty few and far between. The cars are so equal these days that strategy has pegged the meter in importance. Just look at the last few races and how Regan Smith won at Darlington and Matt (Kenseth) won at Dover. A win is a win and we need one no matter how it comes. The biggest and most important thing is leading the final lap – the checkered flag lap – and winning the race.”

KYLE BUSCH ON GETTING A TRAFFIC TICKET GOING 128 MPH IN A 45 MPH ZONE: “Today I received a traffic citation in Iredell County. I was test driving a new sports car and I got carried away. I went beyond the speed I should have been going on a public road. I apologize to the public, my fans, sponsors, and race teams for my lack of judgment. I take responsibility for my actions and I can assure you that something like this will never happen again. I thank the Iredell County Sheriff’s Department and all law enforcement for the hard work they do every day to protect the public and to enforce the laws in a fair and equitable manner.”

KYLE BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 283 - This chassis will make it fifth-ever start in Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. In its first start last September at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, Busch started ninth and finished ninth. The No. 18 team brought No. 283 back for the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth last November, where Busch started 29th and finished a disappointing 32nd. Busch competed with this chassis in the Ford 400 Sprint Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he started 33rd but finished 32nd after being spun and making hard contact with the frontstretch inside retaining wall while running in the top-five late in the race.

In its most recent start at Texas in April, Busch started 11th and ran within the top-five before a loose wheel caused an unscheduled green-flag pit stop and relegated him to a 16th-place finish.

JOEY LOGANO CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 20 Home Depot Team is taking chassis #287 for Logano this weekend. The team raced this chassis at Auto Club Speedway earlier this year to a 25th-place finish after an engine change and a pass through penalty. Logano also drove this chassis to a seventh-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October and to a fourth-place finish at Texas in November.