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.

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