Wednesday, August 31, 2011

$3 Million Reasons Why Kyle Busch Wants to Win at Atlanta

Kyle Busch's only Atlanta win came in spring of 2008 (Getty)
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 30, 2011) – If there’s a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver who doesn’t need any more motivation for winning, it’s probably Kyle Busch.

But the driver of the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) may have a few more reasons – 3 million of them, to be exact – to bring home a victory in Sunday night’s Advocare 500 Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

That’s because the talented 26-year-old, with his win two races ago at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, qualified for the Sprint Summer Showdown, which culminates with this weekend’s race at Atlanta. Race winners during a five-race stretch, starting with last month’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and ending with last weekend’s race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, became eligible for a big payout if they can find victory lane at Atlanta this weekend.

Joining Busch among race-winners over the last five events are Brad Keselowski – who won twice in that stretch –Marcos Ambrose and Paul Menard, and they will be vying for $3 million dollars overall on Sunday night. If one of those four drivers were to win at Atlanta, $1 million would go to the driver’s charity of choice, $1 million to a selected fan, and $1 million to the winning driver, himself. With all that at stake, it’s a good bet the aforementioned drivers will do whatever it takes to bring home the big money.

But beyond Sunday’s night’s race at Atlanta, Busch and his No. 18 Pedigree team have their eyes on a really big trophy and another shot at really big money that goes to the 2011 Sprint Cup champion. In order to do so, the team will hope to add one or two more wins to its resume of four wins thus far this season in hopes of building as many bonus points – three for each win – heading into the final 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, for which Busch is already locked in.

Will Busch be able to win his fifth Sprint Cup race of the season Sunday night in Atlanta? There are at least 3 million of reasons for him to want to do just that. But, then again, the Las Vegas native has never lacked motivation.


Are you excited to be involved in the Sprint Summer Showdown? “When Sprint announced the bonus plan for the Sprint Summer Showdown, all of us got excited and we’re pretty pumped up about it. It’s a neat opportunity for us to have something to really shoot for and to go out there and try to win the race for it. Ultimately, we still have to be smart and play it out as we would any other week. For us, it’s great to be in position. That’s why we’ve been trying to win so badly the last couple of weeks, to give us the opportunity to go for it. With our win at Michigan, we have the opportunity. Certainly, we want to put all of our eggs in that basket to try to win Sunday night with our Pedigree Camry.”

Busch will use his runner-up Pocono chassis this week
Do you think you are in a good place heading into the Chase? “We’re certainly in a really good spot, right now, going into the Chase. We just have to be in a really good spot throughout the Chase. We’ve got the most wins, right now, and we’re leading the points. All that changes when we get to Chicago. We’ll see what happens in the next couple of weeks. We’d like to get a couple more wins if we can. There are a couple of really good tracks coming up for us, including Richmond. Atlanta has been decent for us, so we’ll see.”

Is your preparation different for a night race? “For me, yeah you prepare a little bit differently. It’s a night race so it’s not so hot. You don’t have to do as much as you might for a day race with cooling and everything inside the car, but it still will be a warm one, for sure. For me, it’s just about the whole week ahead of time. You’ve got to stay hydrated and make sure you keep yourself from cramping up or something like that. With hot weekends as we get out here, that could certainly be a challenging aspect. I’ve done it before and I’ll probably still do it again.”

What does it take to be successful at Atlanta? “It takes a lot of things. You have to have a lot of grip, you have to have a lot of down-force, you have to have tire management, a great engine, and fuel mileage, too. There are a lot of circumstances it can come down to at the end and what it will boil down to.”

What are your memories of racing in Atlanta? “I’ve won a few truck races there, which has been fun. I have not won a Nationwide race there. I finished second three or four times, so it’s been an Achilles heel for me, I guess. The Cup races there, I’ve either been really good or mediocre or really bad. There have been times where I’ve been really good throughout the event. Last year, I think Denny (Hamlin) and I were first and second for a long time and then I kind of faded off and he ran really well until he blew up. And we finished fifth, I think. I’ve finished 12th there like seven times, I guess. I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t seem to keep the grip in my car for the long haul, as long you need throughout a run. I’m really fast for the first five, eight laps. But then, after that, I seem to slip more than anyone else.”

You gave Toyota its first Sprint Cup Series win by scoring a victory at Atlanta in March 2008. What do you remember about that? “Running in Atlanta and being able to put Toyota in victory lane for the first time, that was special for me and for Joe Gibbs Racing and everybody. Certainly, that was neat. We’ve put Toyota in victory lane a lot more times since then, so it’s been really good for all of us and, hopefully, we can do it again.”

You’re competing in all three NASCAR races this week at Atlanta – Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck. Talk about that. “For me, running the Friday race and Saturday race, it’s just the extra track time you get. The extra chances you get behind the wheel. How the track will change throughout a run. The tires at Atlanta wear out so fast that you can feel the slip of the car more and just trying to feel how much you can slip it and how hard you can run the tire before you actually really lose total grip. So, a lot of that stuff plays into being able to run all three there.”

What challenges does the day-to-night format present at Atlanta in the Sprint Cup race? “Certainly, we practice all during the day, so the daytime practice is easy for the beginning of the race, but how the racetrack picks up speed and certainly gets faster throughout the night and, of course, the balance can change a little bit. With the speed getting faster, certainly the loads change a little bit for you, so you have to be conscious of that. The crew chiefs are good at what they do and that’s why they get paid the big bucks is to try to figure out what best suits the cars for nighttime, because that’s when the race is going to end. Certainly, you want to be good at night.”

What did you think of the speed at Atlanta the first time you raced there? “My first time there was 2003 in a Nationwide Series car and it was definitely fast. It’s all relative. You run the same speed around everybody and it really doesn’t feel that fast, so it feels like you do anywhere else, whether you’re at Las Vegas or Chicago or Kansas or any of those places.”

KYLE'S CHASSIS CHOICE: This chassis will make its second-ever start in Sunday night’s Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. No. 318 made its debut in August at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, where Busch started 11th, led 27 laps, and brought home a solid second-place finish in the Good Sam RV Insurance 500.

- True Speed Communication for Joe Gibbs Racing, Press Release

Driver Notes & Quotes for Atlanta Advocare 500

Kyle Busch looking better than ever, while Denny Hamlin struggles (Getty)
KYLE BUSCH ON ATLANTA AND DIFFERENCES IN DAY-NIGHT RACING THERE: “It takes a lot of things. You have to have a lot of grip, you have to have a lot of down force, you have to have tire management, a great engine and fuel mileage too.”

“We practice all during the day, so the daytime practice is easy for the beginning of the race, but how the race track picks up speed and certainly gets faster throughout the night and of course the balance can change a little bit. With the speed getting faster, certainly the loads change a little bit for you so you have to be conscious of that. The crew chiefs are good at what they do and that’s why they get paid the big bucks is to try to figure out what best suits the cars for night time because that’s when the race is going to end. Certainly, you want to be good at night.”

KYLE BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: This chassis will make its second-ever start in Sunday night’s Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. No. 318 made its debut in August at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, where Busch started 11th, led 27 laps, and brought home a solid second-place finish in the Good Sam RV Insurance 500.

JOEY LOGANO ON MAKING HIS 100TH START THIS WEEK: “It doesn’t really feel like it’s been that long. It’s gone by pretty quick. 100 races — I guess that’s a lot, but at the same time it really isn’t. Winning one out of 100 is not where we wanted to be so we need to win some more. It’s a steep learning curve, but it’s like that for everyone. I’ve worked really hard and I’m proud of what we’ve done so far. We’re not stopping — we’ve got a long way to go. We’re still working at it. We’ve come a long ways and that means a lot.”

LOGANO CHASSIS CHOICE: Zipadelli and the No. 20 Home Depot Team are bringing chassis #319 this weekend for Logano’s 100th Sprint Cup start. This chassis has been raced just once this season in Pocono where Logano captured the pole position. He ran in the top 10 most of the day but a cut tire with 12 laps to go which dropped him to 26th place by the time the checkered flag waved. The back-up chassis is #303 that Logano tested on the Thursday of Kentucky and most recently ran at Michigan International Speedway in June.

DENNY HAMLIN ON PRESSURE TO MAKE CHASE: “I think every week that leads into the first Chase race, there’s going to be more and more pressure. Especially if you’re going backwards and not forwards. The pressure will continue to build and that’s going to be a given. I feel better about it. I feel like we had some good meetings last week. I feel like we have a good game plan going forward on how we can improve our program, but it’s not something that’s going to change overnight.”

BRIAN VICKERS ON SCUBA DIVING AT THE GEORGIA AQUARIUM COMPARED TO ALL HIS OTHER ACTION SPORTS: “It was definitely near the top of the list. And one thing that made it really special, I don’t know about maybe in a dare devil- type way, but the thought of doing this with sharks and all these incredible fish in this beautiful, almost ocean-like experience in downtown Atlanta kind of makes it a cool experience. You can scuba dive over and swim to the glass and wave to the people and it’s actually one of the best diving experiences I’ve ever had.”

As Chase nears, is it 'Jimmie-time' for the sixth straight year?
JIMMIE JOHNSON ON ATLANTA: “I think regardless of what any driver or team has accomplished in the past, you’re always focused on where you are today. The success we’ve had over the last five years doesn’t guarantee anything for this year’s Chase so we’re living in the moment, we’re living in the now, worried about what we need to do today to win races. When I look at this weekend’s race and the success and speed we’ve had here over the last two or three years. I’m excited to come back and excited to be here. I feel that we will qualify well and have a shot at winning the race. I’m excited, I would love to have another win for the bonus points and also what it does for the team moral, the confidence it gives the race team moving forward. Any momentum you can build now is very helpful in the Chase. I say that in the back of my mind. I think of years where we’ve entered the Chase pretty far off, much further off than what some critics say where we are now and we still won the championship. So it’s not that you have to win but there’s nothing bad that comes from it and we’re here to win the race this weekend.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Johnson will pilot chassis No. 650 in Sunday’s event. He last drove that car to a fourth-place finish at Pocono Raceway in June. BACKUP: Johnson finished 16th in backup chassis No. 623 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.

KEVIN HARVICK ON ATLANTA: “You always want to run good, and any momentum is good momentum as long as it is headed in the right direction. Atlanta in itself doesn’t do anything for us performance wise just because it is so slick and so worn out. It is kind of its own beast. Running good anywhere is a good thing, especially as we get closer to the Chase. I feel good about the things that we have got going on leading into Chicago. I do not know exactly how much of that will bleed over into the next few weeks, but I feel confident. It is definitely not going to be from a lack of effort from all the guys internally and the things that we have going on right now. Atlanta is fast, very fast. You can race all over the race track, from the white line to the wall, and still be competitive. You have to have the complete package to contend for the win there and horsepower is always important. I just like the fact that the car slides around a lot and you have to move around the race track and really search for somewhere to find more grip in order to make the car drive well, and you have to still be able to make fast lap times hunting for places to find grip.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 353 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. The No. 29 team utilized this car to earn Harvick’s third win of the season in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.

Jeff Gordon is 'having fun' being competitive weekly (Getty)
JEFF GORDON ON ATLANTA: “It’s a great program by Sprint (the Sprint Summer Showdown), and I’m sure there will be additional excitement during the race – especially at the end if one or more of those (eligible) drivers are battling for the win. But since we’re not racing for that bonus this weekend, our focus is on the bigger Sprint prize – the championship. Another victory would go a long way when the points are reset after Richmond. I’m having so much fun right now. We’ve been real competitive recently and I look forward to going to the track every weekend. I think this No. 24 team can do some damage during the Chase and make a run at this championship. This has been a great track for me (Atlanta Motor Speedway), all the way back to my first race here. It’s real tough to get a ‘hold’ of the track, but the thing I love is you can run up high against the wall or down low on the line. You can search for the line that works best for you.”

RYAN NEWMAN ON ATLANTA: “Don’t get me wrong, we’re still in a battle to make the Chase. We remind ourselves every day that this is auto racing and you can take a quick dive in the standings. But what I like about our current position is that we control our own destiny for making the Chase. There’s no question that our finishes this year at the mile-and-a-half and two-mile tracks have made a big difference. We run the majority of races at these venues and if you’re going to be successful, these are the places you need to do perform at. This is an area we weren’t that good at last year and the work we have done since the off-season has paid some pretty good dividends so far. Atlanta is another mile-and-a-half test for us and I feel that our U.S. Army Reserve Chevrolet will meet the challenge.”

DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON ATLANTA: “Atlanta is a driver’s track because it is so wide and races so wide that there’s groove after groove after groove. I always look forward to going down to Atlanta. It’s incredibly fast, and we’ve run well there. I’m looking forward to working with Steve (Letarte, crew chief) and the guys to see what we can do this weekend.”

Stewart could use a repeat of the last Atlanta race (Getty)
TONY STEWART ON ATLANTA: “Just the balance change, really (are the challenges of going from daylight to night racing). If you notice the track cools down at Atlanta and it gains a lot of grip. It’s a very temperature-sensitive race track. So, the biggest thing is just keeping your balance and keeping up with it as it cools off. Normally, I can’t say that it changes a bunch balance-wise; it just changes a lot grip-wise. So, just having the car adjustable enough from the start of the race to the end of the race. Just understanding what you’re going to have at the beginning isn’t what you’re going to have at the end of the day; you have to be patient until it gets dark and until that temperature cools down. And once it starts settling into the nighttime hours, you can kind of get a better idea on what you’re going to have for the rest of the day.”

CLINT BOWYER ON ATLANTA: “It’s a fun race track (Atlanta Motor Speedway). I think it’s an important race track for us. I can’t wait to get there and race. It’s very competitive and I always race well there. It puts on a good show for the fans and that’s item number one right now. It’s fast and very slick. It’s multi-lined. Most of the tracks that are that fast, are one-lined race tracks. Atlanta is an exception to that rule. You can race up high, down low, in the middle and all over the place. Even from the first laps on the track, the grip level isn’t there that you would feel at other race tracks, but somehow the speed is. It kind of plays tricks on your mind because it feels like you’re sliding and you’re a little out of control, but halfway through the lap the car is accepting the speed and you hammer down. The first couple laps on the track, you have to adjust yourself."

"I think this will be a big show for them (the fans). Sometimes pulling back a date isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes you have to make it one big show instead of two mediocre shows. I think it’s more important to have something go off as a huge success than it is to be greedy and try to thin it out. I think the excitement level will be at a premium and things will get back to what we’re accustomed to seeing there.”

BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 368 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala, built new for 2011, has seen action twice this season. The first time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when Bowyer brought home a 13th-place finish after starting 26th and most recently at Michigan International Speedway when Bowyer came through the field to finish eighth after qualifying 35th.

MARK MARTIN ON ATLANTA: “With only having one race at Atlanta this year, it makes me more excited to get there this weekend. The racing is just so intense at Atlanta. It’s one of my favorite tracks for that reason. There are multiple grooves, and it’s usually clean, side-by-side racing. Lots of passing. It actually races a lot like a short track, but on a much bigger level, of course. Qualifying is wide-open, hold-your-breath-for-one-lap crazy. It’s a good time, and if you’ve got a fast race car it’s really fun.”

Menard is using winning Brickyard chassis this week (Getty)
PAUL MENARD ON ATLANTA: “My first Cup start on an oval was at Atlanta and I think we finished seventh. It’s an easy track to overdrive; tires fall off a lot and the pace slows down. It’s an easy track to overdrive and you just have to manage your equipment and it works for me, I guess. It changes a lot; the car attitude and the loads on the springs changes a lot from qualifying to even at the beginning of a race run to the end. It’s a couple seconds slower, so you have to plan accordingly.”

MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 364 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet Impala was a brand new addition to the RCR fleet for the 2011 season and was last seen in competition on track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where Menard, after staring 15th, drove it to Victory Lane to claim his first career NSCS win.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON ATLANTA: “Atlanta is a fun place. It’s a cool place that has no grip. It is probably the oldest asphalt we go to, or it feels like the oldest. To tell you the truth, it feels like a way faster Darlington, like the old Darlington. I think it has a lot of character to it and I’ve had some success there. People always ask what my favorite track is and this has to be one of them. It’s where I learned to drive in the high groove.”

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Jim Pohlman and the No. 42 team are bringing chassis #1105 to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, marking the fifth race of the season for this chassis. Montoya previously ran this chassis at the inaugural race at Kentucky Speedway and at Kansas in June, Darlington in May. Texas in April, and Las Vegas in March.

JEFF BURTON ON ATLANTA: “In my rookie year (1994) there (Atlanta) in a Cup car, we were leading and I had a late race caution and had a bad pit stop and got beat and finished fourth. And that one still stings because that was my fifth race and we would have won it. And that one still stings. So there are a couple of things about Atlanta that stick out, and I want to redeem myself. I think moving the date (to Labor Day weekend) is a win for everybody. The early date hurt Atlanta, I think, you know, with the weather. I think this date is a really nice date. It’s a holiday weekend and there’s a lot of things about this that make a lot of sense.”

BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 367 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Caterpillar Chevrolet is a recent addition to the fleet and ran for the first time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where Burton started 13th and finished 35th after facing electrical issues in the closing laps.

REGAN SMITH ON ATLANTA: “We have to bring the entire package to Atlanta from Furniture Row Racing’s main shop in Denver, Colorado. Atlanta is a very fast track so you need horsepower, aero and a really good handling car. That’s the ultimate hat trick for a solid tune-up and I am confident we will have all three in Atlanta. The Atlanta track has been pretty good for us — last year we had finishes of 14th in the spring and 17th in the fall. We’re ok with top-15s, but top-10s are the goal for our team. I still feel we haven’t hit our stride this season– we’re close — but not quite there yet.”

JAMIE MCMURRAY ON ATLANTA: “I’m excited to go to Atlanta this weekend. I think we have really made some strides with our team over the last few weeks, so I’m excited to see how that will translate over to Atlanta. Our guys have a lot of confidence after the fifth-place finish last weekend at Bristol. Atlanta is one of the tracks that I really enjoy going to, and have enjoyed success with winning a couple of times in the Nationwide cars. It would be nice to bring one home in our McDonald’s Chevrolet this weekend in the Sprint Cup Series.

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No. 1 team are bringing chassis #1106 to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend. This marks the second race of the season for this chassis, it was previously run at Kansas.

Kurt Busch has won two of the last four Atlanta races (Getty)
KURT BUSCH ON ATLANTA: “While we know we can lock up a spot in the Chase there in Atlanta on Sunday night with a good finish, we still have to be in the mode of doing what it takes to win and bank us some more bonus points to help with our seeding when the Chase kicks in. There are several guys out there with more than one win like we have and we need to get ourselves up there with them during these next two races.”

“We’re in a pretty good situation as far as making the Chase in Atlanta and that’s a big feather in our cap. It’ll be a big deal for all the team sponsors and everyone involved with our ‘Double Deuce’ Dodge Team to make the Chase again this season. It has come to be a measuring stick for the level of success a team has during a particular season. Making the Chase is like placing the stamp on the year as officially being successful.

“That said, it’s like accomplishing the first goal of the weekend at Atlanta in making the Chase again. The bottom line is that we also have to look at the Atlanta and Richmond races as opportunities to get additional wins and accumulate the bonus points for when the clock goes back to zero and the points are reset. Heading into Chicago and the opening race of the 10 races that make up the Chase, it would be huge to have more wins and get seeded higher when the Chase begins.”

Kurt Busch can clinch his sixth appearance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Atlanta if he leaves 49 points ahead of 11th. He is currently 60 points ahead of 11th and can guarantee a top-10 spot with at least a finish of seventh; or eighth and at least one lap led; or ninth and the most laps led.

Keslowski's last 4 races: 2 wins, a runner-up and third (Getty)
BRAD KESELOWSKI ON ATLANTA: “I like the fact that Atlanta is a very slick racetrack. You come in to put tires on and you are almost three seconds a lap faster. That’s huge! A guy that will come in and pit one lap earlier than you do will gain almost half a straightaway on you. That puts pit strategy into focus. It’s just a fun place to race. I had a lot of success running the high line in the spring race last year. I don’t really think of myself as a driver that prefers the top, but I’ll definitely search around to see where my car is the fastest. That’s why we love racing at Atlanta.”

Brad Keselowski can clinch a Wild Card spot in the Chase if he is 48 points ahead of the driver 21st in the point standings after Atlanta. Keselowski is looking to move into the top 10 in the standings to collect bonus points (three) for each win. The two Wild Card winners do not get the bonus points and are seeded 11th and 12th.

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-755 during Saturday’s Advocare 500 at Atlanta Speedway (AMS). Brad Keselowski last drove this chassis to a 25th-place finish at Michigan International Speedway in June.

MATT KENSETH ON ATLANTA'S FIRST RACE BEING THIS LATE IN THE YEAR: “It will be a little different. The thing about Atlanta is you used to race real early in the year and then real late in the year. It almost seemed like it was a whole year between races anyway. Racing there once a year will be different. I think it is going to be slick this time of year because it is pretty warm and the track has aged another year and nobody has been on it for awhile. It is going to be a great weekend of racing. Atlanta has been known for some of the best finishes in NASCAR and it will be competitive and fun and I am looking forward to it.”

KENSETH ON CHASE STRATEGY: “I take it one week at a time. With Jimmy at the shop and things like that we plan out what cars we want to take or if we want to test somewhere or maybe some different stuff we want to try at a track, but other than that we take it one week at a time. I think the guy with the best average finish will win the championship and you want to aim to win each and every week but if you can’t win you want to get the very best finish you can and get as many points as you can each week and hopefully when it is all said and done you stack up toward the top.”

KENSETH ON ATLANTA: “I always have a lot of fun racing at Atlanta, so I’m looking forward to this weekend there. We were able to clinch a spot in the Chase last weekend and the team has just been doing a great job this year so that feels great, but we’re still going to be working hard to sharpen up everything as we head to the Chase. Atlanta is a track that’s high-banked and fast, and as the track gets slicker throughout the race, you’re always looking for another groove that lets you get more grip. A good-handling car is really important at Atlanta so that you can get into the corners and not be loose as the track rubbers up.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-787 (Brand new chassis)

Edwards is using fifth-place Kansas chassis this week (Getty)
CARL EDWARDS ON ATLANTA: “I love going to Atlanta, it’s a great place. My first win there was huge. We always run well there and it’s a chance to win another race before the Chase starts which would be great for bonus points. To have success at Atlanta you have to have everything; a good engine, pit crew, strategy and drive really well. Since we’re locked in the Chase winning is all that matters right now. We’ve also got a really cool ‘Friends of a Feather’ paint scheme this weekend to kick off National Childhood Cancer Awareness month.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 will carry the Aflac Friends of a Feather paint scheme at Atlanta this weekend. The crew will unload RK-768 which last ran at Indy where Edwards finished 14th, and also ran Kansas where he finished fifth.

GREG BIFFLE ON ATLANTA: “I really enjoy racing at Atlanta and I think most of the other drivers would say the same. It’s obviously really fast for a mile-and-a-half track which makes the racing fun and exciting. We’re taking the car that we finished seventh with at Indy I think but the cars are so similar now that it doesn’t make a lot of difference. We’ll just go out there and do the best we can to get a win and we have a little added bonus this week with the Small Business of NASCAR finalist on the tv panel. If I win, they get a million dollars so it would be cool to be able to do that for someone.”

DAVID RAGAN ON ATLANTA: “Atlanta is a multiple groove race track, and the tires wear out fast, so tire management is important and just adds extra factors which make it fun to race there. It’s a fast track and a place that I grew up watching NASCAR races from the grandstands and pits. It’s always special to go back there and a win would be great, plus my sponsor UPS is right down the road so we’ll have lots of fans and employees there cheering for us.”

RAGAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-750 Last ran Kentucky– finished 8th; Backup: RK-711 Last ran Darlington – finished 21st

It's Jimmie Johnson 'Go-Time' as Chase Approaches

Johnson has a 10.4 average finish at Atlanta (Getty)
Atlanta Motor Speedway
• Johnson has made 19 Sprint Cup Series starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where he has three wins, 10 top-five and 12 top-10 finishes.
• Johnson has completed 99.3% (6080 of 6123) of competition laps at the 1.54-mile track and has led 411.
• He has an average start and finish of 8.2 and 10.4.

• Johnson will pilot chassis No. 650 in Sunday’s event. He last drove that car to a fourth-place finish at Pocono Raceway in June. He also finished runner-up with it at Fontana, finished eighth at Texas and ninth at Dover.
• Johnson finished 16th in backup chassis No. 623 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.


“I think regardless of what any driver or team has accomplished in the past, you’re always focused on where you are today. The success we’ve had over the last five years doesn’t guarantee anything for this year’s Chase so we’re living in the moment, we’re living in the now, worried about what we need to do today to win races. When I look at this weekend’s race and the success and speed we’ve had here over the last two or three years. I’m excited to come back and excited to be here. I feel that we will qualify well and have a shot at winning the race. I’m excited, I would love to have another win for the bonus points and also what it does for the team moral, the confidence it gives the race team moving forward. Any momentum you can build now is very helpful in the Chase. I say that in the back of my mind. I think of years where we’ve entered the Chase pretty far off, much further off than what some critics say where we are now and we still won the championship. So it’s not that you have to win but there’s nothing bad that comes from it and we’re here to win the race this weekend.”


Career Wins
• Johnson has 54 wins in his Sprint Cup Series career, his most recent coming at Talladega Superspeedway on April 17, 2011.
• The El Cajon, Calif.-native is currently tied with Lee Petty for ninth on NASCAR’s all-time wins list, one victory behind Rusty Wallace.
• He is second in total wins among active drivers, behind Jeff Gordon (84).
• Johnson needed only 296 starts to hit the 50 mark. Only three drivers have reached 50 victories quicker – Gordon (232), Darrell Waltrip (278) and David Pearson (293).
• Johnson has won at least three Cup races a season since he posted his first victory in 2002. He is the only driver in the modern era to win at least three races in each of his first eight full-time seasons.
• Johnson has won Sprint Cup Series races at all but five (Michigan, Chicago, Watkins Glen, Homestead, Kentucky) of the 23 tracks on which the series competes.
• Johnson’s 10 wins in 2007 was the highest number recorded in a single season since Jeff Gordon posted 13 victories in 1998.
• The four-consecutive wins scored by the No. 48 team in the 2007 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup ties a modern-era NASCAR record.

Career Poles
• Johnson has collected 25 poles in his Sprint Cup career.
• The championship driver has earned at least one pole a year since his first full-time season in 2002.
• He had a career-high six poles in 2008.
• Johnson’s most recent pole position was at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 24, 2010.

Career Starts
• Johnson has finished in the top five in the Sprint Cup Series point standings each year since his first full season in 2002.
• Johnson is the only driver to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup every year since the format was adopted in 2004.
• In 351 Sprint Cup Series starts, Johnson has posted 144 top-five and 219 top-10 finishes.
• He has a top-five finish at every track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit.
• Johnson has led a total of 11,585 laps (of 100,952) in his Sprint Cup career, covering over 135,629 miles.
• He has finished on the lead lap 274 times.

Career Recognition
• Johnson was named by Forbes as the Most Influential Athlete in 2011.
• In 2009, Johnson became the first race car driver to be named Male Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in its 78-year history.
• Voted Driver of the Year four times in his career (2006, 2007, 2008, 2010), Johnson joins Jeff Gordon as four-time winners of the prestigious award.
• Johnson has won an ESPY for Best Driver four times, in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

- GMR Live Marketing for Team Lowe’s Racing, Press Release

Atlanta Motor Speedway Odds & Ends

 At Atlanta Motor Speedway:
·         Originally called Atlanta International Raceway, the track was then a 1.5-mile paved speedway.
·         The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta was on July 31, 1960, won by Fireball Roberts from the pole.
·         The track was re-measured to 1.522 miles in the spring of 1970.
·         It was renamed Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1990.
·         The track layout was reversed and the track was re-configured to 1.54 miles between the two races in 1997.
·         There have been 103 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta Speedway, two races per year except 1961, which had three. This year marks the first season with only one.
·         Fireball Roberts won the pole and race for the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race in 1960.
·         45 drivers have won a pole, led by Buddy Baker and Ryan Newman, each with seven.
  • Six of Newman’s seven poles came in consecutive races between March 2003 and October 2005.
  • 42 drivers have won a race; 22 have won more than once.
  • Dale Earnhardt scored nine victories, more than any other driver. Cale Yarborough is second, with seven.
  • Bobby Labonte heads the list of active drivers with six victories. Labonte is tied with Richard Petty for third on the all-time win list at Atlanta.
  • The Wood Brothers have 12 victories, more than any organization. They last won there in 1993, with Morgan Shepherd.
  • 14 races have been won from the pole. The last to do so was Kasey Kahne in 2006. Both races last season were won from the second starting position.
  • 59 races at Atlanta have been won from the first five starting positions.
  • Bobby Labonte won the 2001 fall race from the 39th starting position, the deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Atlanta.
  • There have been seven season sweeps, most recently by Jimmie Johnson in 2007.
NASCAR in Georgia
·         There have been 162 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Georgia.
·         169 NASCAR national series drivers all-time have their home state recorded as Georgia.
·         There have been 14 race winners from Georgia in NASCAR’s three national series:

Bill Elliott
Tim Flock
Jack Smith
Fonty Flock
Bob Flock
Frank Mundy
Gober Sosebee
Harold Kite
Sam McQuagg
Jody Ridley
David Ragan
Reed Sorenson
Buckshot Jones
Ronald Cooper

 Atlanta Motor Speedway Data
Race # 25 of 36 (9-4-11)
Track Size: 1.54 miles
Race Length: 325 laps/500.5 miles
·     Banking/Corners: 24 degrees
·     Banking/Straights: 5 degrees
·     Frontstretch: 2,332 feet
·     Backstretch: 1,800 feet
Driver Rating at Atlanta
Jimmie Johnson 110.1
Tony Stewart 102.3
Carl Edwards 101.2
Jeff Gordon 100.2
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 96.9
Kurt Busch 95.6
Denny Hamlin 94.7
Matt Kenseth 94.5
Greg Biffle 93.7
Kasey Kahne 93.1
Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2010 races (12 total) at Atlanta.
Qualifying/Race Data
2010 pole winner: Denny Hamlin (187.38 mph, 29.587 seconds)
2010 race winner: Tony Stewart (129.041 mph, 9-5-10)
Track qualifying record: Geoffrey Bodine (197.478 mph, 28.074 seconds,
Race record: Dale Earnhardt (163.633 mph, 11-16-97)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Las Vegas Hilton Super Book Odds to Win Atlanta Advocare 500

Carl Edwards is the 6-to-1 favorite to win in Atlanta this week (Getty)


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Keselowski Wins at Bristol; Looks Like A Major Player in Upcoming Chase

Sporting News Wire Service

Keselowski ran off with third win of 2011
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Brad Keselowski's phoenix-like rise from the ashes continued Saturday, with an improbable victory in the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway -- his third win of the season and his second since breaking his left ankle Aug. 3 in a crash during testing at Road Atlanta.

Keselowski grabbed the lead on a restart with 80 laps left in the 500-lap Sprint Cup race and held on to win for the fourth time in his career. The victory all but assured Keselowski of at least a wild-card position in the upcoming Chase.

Martin Truex Jr. ran second, followed by Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray. Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, pole-sitter Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards and Marcos Ambrose completed the top 10.

"Wow -- the night race at Bristol!" Keselowski exclaimed after exiting his car in Victory Lane, his broken ankle forgotten. "I used to watch Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt win this race. This is a race of champions. I can't believe it. There's races that pay more. There's races that might have a little more prestige, but this is the coolest damn one of them all."

During the post-race celebration, Keselowski climbed onto the roof of his car, raised his fists into the air and then jumped from the roof to the tiled surface in Victory Lane. That's when he remembered the ankle, but the sudden stab of pain didn't diminish the satisfaction of a victory that belonged to a gritty driver and a team that produced in the pits when the race was on the line.

"A team that just starts to click and believe in each other," Keselowski said in explaining his recent success. "I believed in [crew chief] Paul [Wolfe] since we started this year, and we've just made good adjustments to our cars over the last few months. We made good adjustments to our car during the race [Saturday] and found ourselves in Victory Lane. I can't believe it -- I just can't."

Read more here.....

Bristol Results

• Brad Keselowski scored his fourth career Cup victory in his 77th race; his previous best Bristol finish was 13th.
• Brad Keselowski climbed from 12th to 11th in points; he has posted top-three finishes in the past four races, including two wins (climbed from 21st to 11th in those four races, gaining 74 points on 10th).
• Brad Keselowski led seven times for 89 laps, including the final 80.
• Penske Racing scored its 70th Cup victory , ninth at Bristol and fourth in 2011 (three by Brad Keselowski, one by Kurt Busch).
• Dodge posted its seventh victory at Bristol and fourth in 2011.
• Martin Truex Jr (second) posted his first top-five finish in his 12th race at Bristol; his previous best was 12th.
• Jeff Gordon (third) scored his first top-five at Bristol since spring 2009 (four races) and best finish since March 2007, the last race on the old surface.
• Jimmie Johnson (fourth) posted his fourth top-five in the past six races at Bristol and 10th top-five in 2011; he has finished in the top five in five of the past seven races.
• Jimmie Johnson has led at least one lap in the past six Bristol races, the longest current streak.
• Jamie McMurray (fifth) posted his third top-five finish at Bristol and third top-10 in the past four races there; it's his second top-five finish in 2011.
• Matt Kenseth (sixth) has posted top-10 finishes in his past five Bristol races.
• Ryan Newman (eighth) scored his sixth top-10 in the past seven Bristol races.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. (16th) has been running at the finish in his past 23 Bristol races, the longest current streak.
• With his lead at Bristol, Kyle Busch has led in 18 of the 24 races this season, most by any driver.
• Kevin Harvick (fifth in points) and Jeff Gordon (sixth) need just four points at Atlanta or Richmond, which is 40th-place points, to clinch a spot in the Chase.
• If Ryan Newman finishes 20th or better at Atlanta he will clinch a Chase spot.
• If Kurt Busch finishes seventh or better at Atlanta he will clinch a Chase spot.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart can clinch Chase spots if they have a 49-point lead over 11th after Atlanta.
• Any driver 97 points behind 10th after Bristol cannot get into the top 10 in points; he needs a win in order to have a chance to make the 2011 Chase.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Final Driver Ratings For IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol

Micah Roberts Top 10 Driver Ratings
IRWIN Tools Night Race
Bristol Motor Speedway
Saturday, August 27, 2011 - 4:46 pm (PDT)

Rating    Driver     Odds     Practice 1   Practice 2   Qualified   Bristol 1*

 1. Carl Edwards 8/1               1st              1st              2nd           2nd    
Two-time winner with 12.5 average finish in 14 starts; using fifth-place Michigan car.      
 2. Kyle Busch 5/2                  20th            10th            23rd          1st
Five-time winner, including last four of five; using winning chassis from March race.
 3. Matt Kenseth 15/1             3rd              31st            3rd            4th
Two-time winner with 10.8 average in last 20 starts; using eighth-place Pocono chassis.
 4. Jimmie Johnson 5/1          26th             9th             13th           3rd
2010 winner with four top-10 finishes in last five starts; using same Bristol car from March.
 5. Mark Martin 30/1                2nd             19th            5th           12th  
Two-time winner with 13.1 average finish in 45 career starts; using runner-up Dover car.
 6. Jeff Gordon 12/1               10th             23rd            4th           14th
Five-time  winner, the last coming in 2002; leads active drivers with 2,440 laps led at Bristol.
 7. Ryan Newman 30/1            7th             39th            1st            10th
Only one top-five finish, but 10th or better in five of last six starts; using fifth-place Darlington car.
 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr 30/1       6th              29th           22nd          11th
2004 winner with 11.5 average finish in 22 starts; using runner-up Kansas chassis.
 9. Brad Keselowski 25/1         4th              5th              8th           18th
Had the fastest 10-consecutive average lap times in Practice 1; using Pocono chassis.
10. Kurt Busch 10/1                13th            12th            10th           7th
Five-time winner, the last coming in 2006; using runner-up Pocono chassis this week.

Note: Since Bristol was repaved in 2007, it gave the track multiple grooves making the half-mile track run similar to the one-mile Dover layout.

* Results from the first Bristol race of season held March 20, 2011.
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 or follow MicahRoberts7 on Twitter.

Bristol Starting Lineup

Edwards Fastest in Both IRWIN Tools Nigh Race at Bristol Practices

Edwards was fastest in both of Friday's Bristol practices
Carl Edwards had the fastest lap at Bristol for the second consecutive practice session Friday with a lap speed of 120.354 mph.

David Stremme, surprisingly was second fastest with a lap speed of 120.331 mph followed by Juan Pablo Montoya (119.977) , Clint Bowyer (119.925) and Jeff Burton (119.895).

Rounding out the top-ten fastest during final practice were Brad Keselowski (119.895), David Gilliland (119.835), Paul Menard (119.820), Jimmie Johnson (119.805) and Kyle Busch (119.440).

The top 10-consecutive lap average in final practice went to Mark Martin followed by Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth.  


Carl Edwards, with a lap speed of 121.528 mph, was the fastest during the first IRWIN Tools Night Race practice session at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Second fastest and with a lap speed of 121.412 mph, was Mark Martin, followed by Matt Kenseth (120.885), Brad Keselowski (120.535) and Kasey Kahne (120.384).

Rounding out the top-ten fastest during practice were Dale Earnhardt Jr. (120.308), Ryan Newman (120.241), Regan Smith (120.188), Joey Logano (120.150) and Jeff Gordon (120.143).

Bristol Practice Speeds

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Driver Chassis Selections for IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol

Kyle Busch is using his winning Bristol car from March
1. Kyle Busch: Leads all drivers in laps led (1,336) and wins (5) in the nine races with the COT; Coming off second consecutive win; 4.6 average finish in seven starts with Joe Gibbs Racing. (Using winning car from first Bristol race this season).

2. Jimmie Johnson: Coming off fourth top 10 in the last five races; Won the 2010 spring race; Has combined to lead 618 laps in last five starts; 15.3 average finish in the nine races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 592) that he led 164 laps en route to a third-place finish in the spring at Bristol.

3. Kevin Harvick: Seventh-best average finish (13.9) in the nine races with the COT; Coming off 12th top 10 (sixth) in 21 starts; Winner of the 2005 spring race; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 346) that he finished 19th with in the All-Star Race in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

4. Carl Edwards: Second-best average finish (9.0) in the nine races with the COT; Won this event in 2007 and 2008; Finished second from the pole in the spring for sixth top 10 in 12 starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 739) that he finished fifth with at Michigan International Speedway in June.

Kenseth is a two-time winner of Bristol night races (Getty)
5. Matt Kenseth: Coming off 15th top 10, and fourth consecutive, in 23 starts; Winner of this event in 2005 and 2006; 10th-best average finish (14.6) in the nine races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 751) that he finish eighth with at Pocono Raceway in June.

6. Jeff Gordon: Has finished outside the top 10 in last four starts; Last of five wins came in this event in 2002; Sixth-best average finish (11.6) in the nine races with the COT; Leads all drivers with 2,440 laps led, but has only combined to lead five in last eight starts.

7. Ryan Newman: 9.0 average finish in five starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; Coming off 11th top 10 in 19 starts; Only top five finish (second) came in the 2004 summer race with Penske Racing. (Using Darlington Car)

8. Kurt Busch: Coming off 13th top 10 in 21 starts; Seventh-place finish in the spring was fourth consecutive top 10; Six top 10s, including a win, in 11 starts with Penske Racing; Four other wins came with Roush Racing; Fifth-best average finish (11.0) in the nine races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 738) that he last finished second with from the pole at Pocono Raceway in June.

9. Dale Earnhardt Jr: Best track on the circuit based on 11.5 average finish; Third-best average finish (9.9) in the nine races with the COT; 11.0 average finish in seven starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Scored one win and nine top 10s with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. in previous 16 starts. (Using runner-up Kansas car)

Stewart and Newman should be in store for good runs
10. Tony Stewart: 19.6 average finish in five starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; Only top 10 with SHR came in the 2010 spring race in second; Scored seven top 10s in 20 starts with Joe Gibbs Racing; Winner of the 2001 summer race; Third in laps led with the COT (526), but has only combined to lead two laps in last six starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 583) that he last finished eight with at Kansas Speedway.

11. Clint Bowyer: Finished fourth in this event last year for fifth top 10 in 11 starts; Engine failures in the the last two spring events have raised his finishing average to 14.9 in the nine races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 340) that he last finished sixth with at Richmond International Raceway in May.

12. Brad Keselowski: 16.7 average finish in three starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 736) that he finished 23rd with at Pocono Raceway in June.

13. Greg Biffle: Coming off fourth consecutive top 10; Eighth-place finish was 11th top 10 in 17 starts; Led 76 laps in this event in 2009; Fourth-best average finish (10.3) in the nine races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 727) that he last finished 20th with at Phoenix International Raceway.

14. Denny Hamlin: 33.5 average finish in last two starts; Last of five top 10s (fifth) came in the 2009 summer race after starting at the back of the field and going a lap down; 17.7 average finish in the nine races with the COT.

15. AJ Allmendinger: Has yet to finish inside the top 15 in eight starts; 30.1 average finish; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 710) that he finished 31st with at Bristol in the spring.

Mark Martin has two Bristol wins, the last came in 1998
16. Mark Martin: Won both poles and posted an average finish of 4.0 in first two starts with Hendrick Motorsports in 2009; Finished 35th, 23rd and 12th, respectively, in last three starts; Previous 21 top 10s came with Roush Racing; Last of two victories came in 1998. Crew chief Lance McGrew has chosen Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-625 for Saturday's race at Bristol. This is the same chassis that Martin drove to a 12th-place finish at Bristol in March and to a runner-up finish at Dover in May.

17. Kasey Kahne: Finished ninth in first track start with Team Red Bull in the spring; Finish was sixth top 10, and second consecutive, in 15 starts; Led 305 laps en route to a runner-up finish in 2007 summer race; 16.6 average finish in the nine races with the COT.

18. Paul Menard: Coming off first top-15 finish in eight starts; Fifth-place finish came in first track starts with Richard Childress Racing; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 356) that he last finished 24th with at Kentucky Speedway.

19. Joey Logano: Has yet to finish inside the top 15 in five starts; Won the pole for the 2010 spring race; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 297) that he last finished 27th at Dover International Speedway in May.

20. David Ragan: Only top 10 in eight starts came in this event in 2008; 24.0 average finish; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 744) that he finished 20th with at Michigan International Speedway in June.

- compiled by Jeff Wackerlin,

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Driver Notes & Quotes for the IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol

Johnson gained his only Bristol win last season (Getty)
JIMMIE JOHNSON ON THE MULTIPLE GROOVES AT BRISTOL AND HOW FAST THINGS HAPPEN THERE: “I feel a lot more in control going to Bristol these days. From a guy sitting behind the wheel, you want options and opportunities to race. The track has that now. In a certain respect, we almost have three lanes that you can run on around the race track especially as the race wears on and the groove gets pushed out. Behind the wheel, that is what we want. That is what we ask for. That is what they gave us. It is unfortunate that some people don’t see it that way. They prefer the old track and the craziness that would take place. As a driver, you want to have a chance to race. We have a chance to race there now.”

“Not only is it fast, we make a lap in 15ish seconds depending on the run and the tire, but, the hard thing is also visibility and that helps enhance the sensation of speed. When you go into a corner at Bristol, the radius of the turn is so sharp, that you would literally need a sun roof to see the exit of the corner because you go in the corner and the exit is over here. So not only are you going really fast in a small area, you can’t see much. You only see, as you are going into the corner, you can maybe only see five car lengths in front of you, six car lengths. When something happened, you see it late and then you are going fast and you can’t stop and there’s so room and it just compounds from there and puts on exciting races; exciting stuff. It puts us in a position where we just have to build a lot of trust in spotters and assuming things are ok in front of you and just hope for the best.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Johnson will pilot chassis No. 592 in Saturday night’s event. He last drove that car to a third-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway in March. Johnson finished 16th in backup chassis No. 623 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.

BRAD KESELOWSKI ON BRISTOL: “Bristol is one of those tracks where you always have to be mindful of your pace, where you are on the track and who you are around. But you also have to be looking forward so that you can avoid that wreck that happens half of a straightaway in front of you. Short track racing and restrictor-plate racing are very similar in that you can get caught up in a wreck that you had nothing to do with. Bristol is a very aggressively-paced race. You have to stay tuned in to what’s going on the entire time if you want stay out of trouble. Penske Racing was able to win the 50th Daytona 500 and it would be great to pick up a win in the 50th anniversary year of Bristol.”

“It’s been a good couple weeks for us. We’ve got a lot of good things going, obviously leading the wild card standings, but we certainly don’t want take that for granted. As quickly as we’ve risen, all that could go away if we don’t keep performing. Last week was a big week for us, getting up to 12th in the points, so we can make sure to take advantage of the two wins. I feel good about where we are, but we’ve still got a lot of racing left until the Chase starts. I really would just like to go out and win another race. I think that’s where our focus is.”

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-736 during Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Speedway (BMS). Keselowski last drove this chassis to a 23rd-place finish at Pocono Raceway in June.

Hamlin has finished 33rd or worse in last two Bristol starts
DENNY HAMLIN ON WHAT IT TAKES TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT BRISTOL: “Look at Kyle Busch’s notes. He’s just a great driver at that race track. We go to Martinsville and he’s asking me. But, Bristol is the one track that I’ve run well at — don’t get me wrong — we’ve led a lot of laps and been in position to win a lot of races, but he’s over the last couple years had a dominance on that track. We’ll just kind of use their notes. I’ll talk to him about what he does as far as braking and things like that. He makes it look so easy in the sense he’s never really strong in practice but in the race he fires up and takes off. I have to find some information before I can tell you what’s good there.”

HAMLIN ON THE CHASE: “These are three good race tracks for us. There’s Richmond, there’s Atlanta and obviously Bristol this week that we’ve all run well at all of them. We have to get this ship up and pointing back in the right direction and it’s going to take a lot of hard work to do it. A lot of communication and obviously we have some stuff we have to work on but we’ll get through it and we’ll try to get in there these last three races.”

JOEY LOGANO ON RACING AT BRISTOL: “We’ve certainly been able to figure out how to be fast at Bristol. We seem to always qualify well. Unfortunately I haven’t had an uneventful race there yet. Who knows, if I was able to finish well at both road course tracks which have been terrible tracks for me as well, maybe we will finally get the results we deserve this weekend.

“Last weekend was frustrating. That’s two recent races where we were running really good at the end of the race and something happens. We’ve been running really good lately and that’s been encouraging for the entire team and keeps the momentum going for sure.

“I’m also really pumped about racing Sunday at Kingsport Speedway. I’m running Coleman Pressley’s car. He’s going to be my crew chief and spotter, that’s going to be a blast I can’t wait.”

LOGANO CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 20 Home Depot Team is taking chassis #297 to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. Logano drove this chassis at Dover International Speedway where an early-race spin and a late-race wheel issue left him in the 27th position when the checkered flag waved. He also piloted this car at Texas Motor Speedway in April and at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March. The back-up chassis is #290 that Logano drove at Kansas earlier this season.

Harvick is using chassis from the All-Star race (Getty)
KEVIN HARVICK ON RACING AT BRISTOL: “We haven’t really figured that out (what it takes to be successful at Bristol) yet since the new banking and the new track design was put into place. We haven’t run great. We’ve run ok, but we haven’t got the notebook that says you need to do this. So we’re still searching a little bit there. The new one (Bristol Motor Speedway) is pretty easy. There is a lot of room to race. Two totally different animals (from old track to new track). It is a lot different than it used to be. Obviously that race for years has been the hardest ticket in our sport to get. It seems like the Saturday night race there always brings out something exciting.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 346 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. The No. 29 team started 14th and finished 19th in this car at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race in May.

JEFF GORDON ON BRISTOL: “We have one more chance to earn a spot in the Showdown, and I really want to be the driver that wins a fan one million dollars in Atlanta. I think this is such a cool program by Sprint that is a great chance for a fan — and a charity — to win a million dollars. The Bristol night race is just a completely different atmosphere. The intensity level may be even higher with the final Showdown spot on the line. Even though we have a little bit of a cushion, the focus hasn’t changed. The goal is to win each and every week. With the cushion, how we go about it has changed. With that cushion, we can take more risks with fuel or pit strategy the next few races to try to get another win. There was a groove – a rhythm – that I found on the old layout. I just haven’t found it yet in the new layout.”

Newman is using a chassis that's had lots of success (Getty)
RYAN NEWMAN ON BRISTOL: “There isn’t not a track on the schedule that I don’t look forward to going to. There are some tracks I look forward to going to more. You get to place like Bristol, it is a little more difficult now to be a product of somebody else’s frustrations because of the way the bumpers align and therefore, it’s a little bit more secure when you are there that you used to be. Because before, if you had one bad run at Bristol, all it took was somebody lifting your back tires off the ground and you were in the fence. There’s a lot to look forward to throughout the rest of the season. We’ve done a good job, like I said, up to this point. But by no means are we locked in. By no means do we feel like we’re a…I shouldn’t say a championship caliber team, but I think we have some room that we need to grow to be more successful and have ourselves a better opportunity at winning the championship.

NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 39 team will use chassis 39-506 for the second time this season but for the first time at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The No. 39 team had used chassis 39-516 for the previous five Bristol races dating back to the team’s first outing at the .533-mile bullring in March 2009, but that car has now mileaged out, thus the move to chassis 39-506.

This chassis has been a solid performer for Newman & Company as it has earned four top-10 finishes in just five starts since the team joined forces in 2009. The No. 39 team ran this chassis at both races at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in 2009, scoring two top-15 finishes. In the June race, Newman started fifth and finished fifth. He started seventh and finished 14th in the car at Pocono in August. During the 2010 season, the car saw action at both Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. In its first outing at Darlington, Newman started sixth and finished ninth. Newman followed that up with another top-10 finish at Atlanta. Newman started on the outside pole and led nine laps en route to an eighth-place finish.

During the offseason, the chassis was updated for 2011. After being tested at Darlington as part of a Goodyear tire test in March, the car saw its first action at the track in May with Newman qualifying second and leading 28 laps before settling for a top-five finish. This car was also tested at Kentucky in July.

Junior is using runner-up Kansas chassis this week (Getty)
DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON BRISTOL: “Bristol is a real rough-and-tumble short track and just trying to stay clean and stay out of trouble and stay out of other people’s messes and wrecks and mistakes and have good pit stops and try to have a good pit stall. Need to be able to get in and out of your stall because it’s tight on pit road. There’s a lot of ways to go around the corners so you can kind of find somewhere where your car has speed and speed kind of comes and goes all night long as your car changes with the flow of the race a ton trying to move around and find speed in the corner. The balance of the car is important, but not quite as much as on short tracks. I think the race track is awesome and I think if you put the old car out there, you would see some bad ass races."

"The first time we went there and raced (on new surface), it was actually a really, really good race. Me and Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne were running three wide for the lead midway through the race for 50 laps. The track is perfect and fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s as good or better than it ever was. It all comes down to choosing the correct tire that allows us to race around the race track because the tire, as Goodyear will probably tell you is one of the most important components to being able to produce and provide good racing and the cars. The COT — is it for that race track which car provides the better race — the COT or the old car. Everybody is going to have their opinion about that. We have the COT now and it’s tough with the splitters to drive these things around the short tracks; especially a banked place like Bristol. They don’t really want to turn too well when they get on the splitters. The first time we had that configuration, we had an awesome event I thought. I think what they did to the track made it better.”

EARNHARDT JR CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 team will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-657. Earnhardt most recently raced this chassis at Kentucky Speedway in July. He also has raced this chassis to a runner-up finish at Kansas Speedway in June and a 14th-place finish at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in May.

TONY STEWART ON RACING AT BRISTOL: “I just love the night race there. To me it’s one of the coolest races of the year but you can’t have anything go wrong. You have to have a perfect race car if something goes wrong to be able to have a shot to get back. If you don’t have a perfect race car it’s a lot of times impossible to get caught back up. So you’ve got to have a problem-free day but you’re going to have to have a good race car."

"There’s a bunch of guys that are really good there now and you can’t be a little bit off and have a good day, you’ve got to be on your game. The track for sure from day one has been better. You didn’t have to just run behind guys and wreck guys to pass them. You could use the whole race track now. As a driver, especially on a track that size, that’s what you look for. That’s all you can ask for is to have a place that you can move around. I don’t know that the COT has really changed it any different. He’s (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) probably got a valid point. I guess I just don’t think about it. The big thing is just making sure you’ve got a car that you can move around the race track and if you can do that you’re probably setting yourself up for a good opportunity to have a good day because you’ve got to be able to move and switch lanes and run different grooves instead of just running around the bottom all day. When the cars hit the ground you can see the sparks there. Bristol has always had that cool atmosphere because of how short it is and the way the grandstands there are and then you do it at night on top of that, it’s just got a cool feel to it.”

Bowyer finished 35th in the first Bristol race this year (Getty)
CLINT BOWYER ON BRISTOL: “Bristol is a half-mile short track bullring. You’re going to have your good runs and you’re going to have your bad runs. Everything happens so fast. The key to success at a track like Bristol is you have to be able to get in the car, settle down and slow everything down, including the pace. You have to think and if you can do all that, you prevail there. Some teams do it better than others. That’s a very difficult situation. If your car is really loose, you don’t have time to breathe and settle down. It’s a difficult situation to be in. You have to slow everything down. I think that’s the key to having success there. I think that the quality of racing at Bristol is much better now than it has been in the years past. The fans want to see some wrecks and some emotions when they go to a short track, and they get that at Bristol. If you’re a true fan and like the quality of racing, you also get that at Bristol.”

BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 340 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 33 Chevrolet Impala, built new in 2011, has made three appearances at the race track this season. The first was at Phoenix International Raceway in February, where Bowyer finished 27th after being collected in a multi-car accident on lap 68. Bowyer also drove this chassis at Martinsville Speedway in April, leading 91 laps en route to a ninth-place finish and Richmond International Raceway in May where Bowyer finished sixth after a third-place qualifying effort.

MARK MARTIN ON BRISTOL: “Bristol is one of those races that you can’t really go into it feeling like you have a whole of control. It’s been better since the repave with fewer accidents and it seems like the handling of the car means a whole lot more. With so many drivers fighting for that wildcard spot and for those bonus points going into the Chase, I think there will be riskier moves trying to get to the front and into the lead. It could be a little crazier this time around. We have to win. No other way to do it, really. With Denny’s (Hamlin) bad day at Michigan, that put the Chase in much closer reach, but not enough to do it with just good finishes like we had on Sunday. We have to win. We have three shots left and we’re going to do everything we can to make it happen. But, there are a lot of other teams out there in the same position we are. It’s going to be tough.”

PAUL MENARD ON BRISTOL: “The racing is great. I know some fans don’t like it. If you are a fan of crashing, you probably don’t like it. If you are a fan of racing, you probably do like it. Us as drivers enjoy it. There is a lot of room to race and run side-by-side. Uneventful days at Bristol and that (March race) was definitely an uneventful day. We had a pretty good car. I think we had a spark plug that broke toward the end of the race so I would say the last 100 laps or so we were on 7 and a half cylinders basically, which made the car turn really good. We just lacked a little down the straightaway. The car drove good all day so an uneventful day at Bristol is a good day. You can’t see anything. Bristol and Dover are probably the two places where you get the best sensation for speed, but you can’t see anything the way the banking is. You have to look kind of high through the windshield when you go through the corner so things come up on you in a hurry because you can’t really see, but, definitely one of the tracks that we go to where you get a sensation of speed.”

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 was a brand new addition to the RCR fleet for the 2011 season and was last seen in competition on track at Kentucky Speedway in July where Menard qualified 10th. An untimely caution during green-flag pit stops and front-end damage during a late restart resulted in a 24th-place finish. This car was also raced this year at Charlotte Motor Speedway where the Eau Claire, Wis., native started 16th and finished 29th in the Coca-Cola 600.

Montoya's career best finish at Bristol came last fall, 7th.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON BRISTOL: “Bristol is a place where the Target team always runs really good. The problem with Bristol is that you either run really good or you get involved in someone else’s wreck. We were running top-five or top-10 the time we were there and we had a loose tire, and we had to come in under green, and lost two laps. Once you lose two laps, you are done. It’s all about maintaining track position and staying out of trouble.”

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 42 team has selected chassis #1003 for the IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol. This will be the third race of 2011 for this chassis, after it was used in the spring races at both Bristol and Dover. This car also ran five times last year (Charlotte-May, Chicago-July, Atlanta-September, Fontana-October and Texas-November).

MARTIN TRUEX JR. ON BRISTOL: “The thing is you never get the chance to rest there. You are constantly up on the wheel driving hard. You do not get a chance to relax on the straightaways because there really isn’t much of one. You come out of one corner and the next thing you know, you are going into another. Things happen fast. There is no time for error. It’s a cool little place especially since they made the changes to the concrete and banking. It’s hard to believe that you can run two to three wide, but you can. Plus, it’s not hard to deal with all the bumping and banging at Bristol when you have a fast car. Obviously, it’s not a lot of fun when you have a car that’s fighting with you or a bunch of cars running into you, but it’s so much fun when you are fast. It gives you some options so when you have a good car, it is an absolute blast.”

JEFF BURTON ON BRISTOL: “Bristol has always been a place that when you got underneath somebody, the spot was yours. Now, you can get underneath somebody and the fight has just started. So, in some ways it is exciting and in other ways it is frustrating. Kind of the way New Hampshire changed a little bit. New Hampshire has always been, you get the spot its yours. Now, you get the spot and the fight’s just started. So it is exciting in some ways and frustrating in others."

"There is more energy at night. The driver’s introductions there are extremely exciting. The fans have had all day to get pumped up about it. It is just a different feel. Much more of a gladiator feel; like you are going out there and there is a lion trying to kill you and you are trying to keep from being killed. I don’t know how else to describe it but there is definitely different than the day."

"I’m really comfortable there. I like the race track. It seems like we run really well there every time we go. But, it is also Bristol and it is easy to have bad finishes there. We’ve had some good runs there and haven’t been able to finish them off. I’ve always liked going to Bristol, it is a hell of a challenge. It’s a lot of fun. Not too worried about what the last few races have been. This is a completely different environment around here right now and I am really excited about going. Imagine being on the interstate and everybody slamming on the brakes at once then taking back off. Then slamming on the brakes and taking back off. Something’s eventually is going to happen. That is the best way to try and describe it. It’s really fast. It’s better now because there are places to hide. If a wreck happens, there’s places to go and in the past there really wasn’t. It’s better now but it is still pretty chaotic.”

BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Jeff Burton will pilot chassis No. 329 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s IRWIN Tools Night Race. Built new for the 2010 season, Burton drove this Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala to a 36th-place finish after starting 16th at Texas Motor Speedway in November.

REGAN SMITH ON BRISTOL: “We’ve had a couple of opportunities this year to have a solid finish on a short track — a top-10 or better — but something beyond our control seemed to happen late in the race. It’s like anything else, we need to forget about past occurrences and focus on the present which is Bristol this weekend. We’ve been able as a team to post some career firsts this year, and a first top-10 on a short track would be a nice addition to the 2011 resume. We definitely have the goods and the personnel to be successful at Bristol. This is a race we all enjoy except when you get banged around and the hits start to have an effect on your car’s performance. We’re coming off a decent finish in Michigan (13th) and would like to keep the momentum going in our Furniture Row Chevrolet.”

Edwards has two wins at Bristol (Getty)
CARL EDWARDS ON BRISTOL: “The Bristol night race is always a lot of fun. We’ve had some really good luck there. We had a bad points day at Michigan with a rare parts failure, so we’ll just go to Bristol and pull out all the stops and do everything we can to get another victory before the Chase starts.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 will have Aflac Dental as the primary sponsor. The crew will unload RK-739 for the weekend. This car first raced at Dover in May, and then went on to finish fifth at MIS in June.

GREG BIFFLE ON BRISTOL: “Bristol is just so intense. You can’t relax at all. It’s like walking a tightrope for 500 miles and holding your breath the whole time. No other track is like that. It obviously takes a good racecar to win at Bristol but it helps to qualify well. Sometimes it can be hard to pass and if the field gets backed up, it doesn’t take long for the leader to start lapping cars. If you have a bad qualifying run or have to start in the back for some other reason, it can be difficult even with a good car to get back through the field. The night race has a whole different level of excitement and it should be a great race for the fans.”

DAVID RAGAN ON BRISTOL: “Bristol is one of my favorite tracks and I always look forward to going back there. We had a strong qualifying and race effort there in the spring, and we need to be on our game this weekend to have a chance at making the Chase. I’m excited to get there and see what we can do with our UPS Ford under the lights Saturday night.”

RAGAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-744 Last ran Michigan – finished 20th; Backup: RK-711 Last ran Darlington – finished 21st

MATT KENSETH ON BRISTOL: “The August race at Bristol is always fun because racing there under the lights is pretty cool. It’s the middle of summer, it’s hot out, and they usually have a great crowd on hand for the race. The fans at Bristol are always excited and they know that there’s going to be a lot of action during the races that weekend. That is one of the weekends that not only the fans look forward to, but I think the drivers and teams look forward to it as well. These cars are a lot more stable and harder to get spun out than our old style of cars and that changed the dynamic a little bit at Bristol. The new track is more forgiving and drives like a ¾ or mile track instead of a half-mile because it is so wide. I think this new combination of car and track produces better racing as far as side-by-side racing and racing alongside people more than the old format.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary - RK-751 (last raced at Pocono in June)

JAMIE MCMURRAY ON RACING AT BRISTOL: “It is always fun to go to Bristol, especially the night race; it is always an electric atmosphere. We had a good weekend at Michigan last week although we didn’t end up where we should have with the final results. I think our team found a couple of things that helped us out and hopefully we can bring that with us to Bristol. Although they are two different types of tracks, it is always good to have positive momentum.”

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion has elected to bring chassis #1004 to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. This will be the second race of 2011 for this car, after running the inaugural race at Kentucky. The chassis also ran at Texas Motor Speedway, Michigan International Speedway and Pocono Raceway in 2010.

KURT BUSCH ON BRISTOL: “That win in the spring race of 2002 was memorable because we were racing our big nemesis (Jimmy Spencer) so close back then. It came down to me and him. He led with about 50 laps to go. We got a little physical, but that’s to be expected at Bristol. We got the lead and went on to win the race, with Jimmy finishing second. There’s been a lot of volleying back and forth during the years since our battles back then, but I’ve publicly said that our issues have made me a stronger person and a better driver. I really do consider him a friend these days.”

Busch is the current King of Bristol
KYLE BUSCH ON BRISTOL: “Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the best race tracks on the circuit. All the fans love it because of the excitement, the run- ins, and the close-quarter action with all the cars being packed on top of one another at a half-mile race track with us 43 lunatics running around in a tight circle. With the fans, the atmosphere there always makes for a good time. We have the SAFER barrier on the outside wall taking up a little bit more racing room up off the corners since they’ve run the wall further down the straightaway. But, it’s taking up some racing room and it makes the racing even tighter and we are probably going to see some more action.”

KYLE BUSCH ON WHETHER HIS TEAM IS ONE TO WATCH IN THE CHASE: “No. There’s way too much that can happen, way too many laps to run, way too many miles to run. Certainly, we’ve built ourselves into championship contenders this year and that’s where our strong suit has been up to this point, it’s just being able to be consistent or at least try to be consistent. Bristol obviously being one of the best tracks for me, then going to Atlanta — not so great for me. I have won there. See if we can’t get a good run and win the Sprint Summer Showdown, win money for a fan and my foundation. Going to Richmond — one of my favorites as well. We’d love nothing more than to carry on our strong runs through the final 10 weeks. It’s just a matter of being consistent.”

KYLE BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: This chassis will make its sixth-ever start in Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. No. 277 made its debut at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in August 2010, when Busch started 21st and finished 23rd in the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500. Its next start came in the Air Guard 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in September 2010, when Busch qualified a distant 32nd but rallied to bring home a second-place finish behind teammate Denny Hamlin. In its next start, in the TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last October, Busch started 26th but brought home a solid fourth-place finish. In March at Bristol, Busch started 12th and scored his first win on the season in the Jeff Byrd 500. In No. 277’s most recent start, Busch started 14th, led 78 laps and finished 11th after late-race contact with another car at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in May.