Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Driver Notes & Quotes for Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway

Harvick will be racing a new car this week at Chicago (Getty)
KEVIN HARVICK ON CHICAGOLAND: “We struggled a little bit there (Chicagoland) last year, but we feel like we’ve done some things to hopefully head in the right direction. It’s a very fast race track. It’s really round, so you carry a lot of momentum through the corners. Hopefully we’ve got a good plan and can get (the Chase) started off on the right foot. I’m excited. I love change (kicking off the Chase at a new venue). I think we should change it up every year. Chicago is a great city. There’s a lot going on Chicago this weekend as we go there to start the Chase and I’m looking forward to it."

"It definitely helps (the win at Richmond with the team’s momentum going into the Chase). We had a little bit of a rough summer and we got a little bit off of our game. I think a lot of that came from winning so many races early. We were able to try so many things and a lot of them, well most all of them, didn’t work. We went back to what we know over the last couple of weeks and we’ve had top-five cars and to get the win at Richmond gives us a lot of momentum going into the next 10 weeks.”

HARVICK AT CHICAGOLAND: In 10 starts at Chicagoland Speedway, Harvick has earned two wins (2001 and 2002), five top-five and six top-10 finishes. He has an average starting position of 16.1 and his average finish at the 1.5-mile track is 11.2. Harvick has led a total of 282 laps at Chicagoland and has completed 99.4 percent (2,656 of 2,673) of the laps run in NSCS competition at the track.

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 378 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) stable. This is a brand new race car that will see its first on-track action at Chicagoland.

JEFF GORDON ON CHICAGOLAND: “I haven’t felt like this in a long time and I love the position we are in as a team. We led the most laps at Bristol, and we led the most laps and won at Atlanta. We definitely have momentum on our side. I don’t feel that anybody has shown more strength than we have in the past 10 races. We have some confidence right now, but we also know it’s going to be tough during the Chase. We have to step up our game and we know there are a few tracks we have to improve at. If we can do that, we have a great shot this year. I’m excited about starting the Chase in Chicago this year."

"This week, the Chase drivers are spread out all around the country going to different places to promote the Chase before we end up in Chicago for additional media opportunities. It’s a great track. It reminds me a lot of Kansas, and we ran really well there earlier this year. I’m excited about our chances at Chicago. The plan is to start off the Chase on a positive note. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and, with the support of DuPont, the gold ribbon – a worldwide symbol for childhood cancer – will be featured on the car. That ribbon serves as a symbol for those children battling cancer, and a sign of support for parents and caregivers. And a memorial for lives lost.”

Chicago is one of five tracks Johnson hasn't won on (Getty)
JIMMIE JOHNSON ON CHICAGOLAND: “Really excited for it (starting the Chase at Chicagoland Speedway). I think the Chicago area and the race track is going to be a great host for the start of the Chase. I’ve been close to victory there a few times. We’ve always run well and led laps there. Really want to win there for the fact that it is in the Chase and also for Chad (Knaus, crew chief). We’ve been able to win a lot at my home track. I owe him a couple there and I need to get him one before long. Momentum doesn’t hurt going into the Chase; but, we’ve been without momentum; we’ve had momentum. Another way to look at it is we’ve had momentum working against us and momentum working for us and we’ve been able to win either way. I’ve said all along, these final 10 races, it’s its own world. When everything re-racks and the point spread is so small between first and 12th, it changes things and it’s a whole new season. It’s a clean sheet of paper and off you go.”

JOHNSON AT CHICAGOLAND: Johnson has made nine Sprint Cup Series starts at Chicagoland Speedway, where he has five top-five and seven top-10 finishes. Johnson has completed 98.1% (2360 of 2406) of competition laps at the 1.5-mile track and has led 326. Chicago is one of five tracks on which the Sprint Cup Series competes that Johnson hasn’t won. The others are Watkins Glen, Michigan, Homestead and Kentucky. He has an average start and finish of 7.8 and 10.

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Johnson will pilot chassis No. 681 in Sunday’s event. He last drove that car to a 19th-place finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July.
BACKUP CAR: Johnson finished second in backup chassis No. 650 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in September.

RYAN NEWMAN ON CHICAGOLAND: “It exciting to be in the Chase, we worked hard all year to accomplish this goal. We were disappointed last year about not making the Chase (finished 13th in pre-Chase points) and during the offseason we evaluated where we went wrong and one area was the 1.5 to two-mile tracks. We’ve made a pretty good improvement at those tracks this year and five of the 10 Chase races will be at the mile-and-a-half tracks. What has me pumped is that we have an opportunity for our Soldiers to win a championship that they deserve. Consistency is needed to win the championship. My best guess is that it’s going to take a finishing average of at least seven or better in the final 10 races. We’ve been consistent as of late, but we need to step it up a few notches during the Chase. Avoiding mechanical issues and accidents to our Army Chevrolet are vital if we want to win the championship. Based on how we have performed lately I feel we have a legitimate shot at winning the championship. However, there are 11 other drivers and teams saying the same thing. In the end, it’s going to come down to the team making the fewest mistakes, along with being on the receiving end of a few good breaks. We all won a battle, but only one will win the war.”

TONY STEWART ON CHICAGOLAND: “I think I’ve always been good there (at Chicagoland). You look at the past and we’ve had some weird events. On Fridays I’ve had two events where I’ve crashed in practice. The first time Hermie Sadler blew a motor and before the caution came out I crashed in his oil and went to the hospital and I missed the rest of the day (2004). And then the very next year I blew a tire in practice and J.J. Yeley had to qualify for me (2005). It’s one of those places where as long as I get through Friday, I feel like we’ve got a shot at it. But I don’t watch the stats very much. You just take it week to week. Technology in this sport changes so fast. What was good the last time you were there doesn’t mean it’s going to be good the second time around. You constantly have to work. You’ve got to keep pushing the envelope. It’s a place I like. This place is really getting racy as far as finally being able to move around and change lines and run anywhere from the bottom to the top. It’s a fun track because of that.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. limps into 2011 Chase (Getty)
DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON CHICAGOLAND: “I’m proud to be in the Chase. I feel like I’m a good enough driver to be in the Chase, my team is good enough to be there. As a group, I think we’re good enough to be in the top 10, and I can look back over the season and just easily think of several instances where we cost ourselves 10 or 15 points and made this situation difficult this weekend. Had we been more conscious and smarter at certain times we wouldn’t have had to even worry about it this weekend. But we’re a good team, and I’m proud to carry my sponsors and Hendrick Motorsports in the Chase and represent them in the Chase, and hopefully we’re going to work real hard, hopefully we do a good job.”

CLINT BOWYER ON CHICAGO: “Sometimes moving track dates around (to put Chicagoland on the schedule as a Chase race) is a good thing. Change isn’t always a bad thing. We can’t be afraid of change. I think it could be good. New Hampshire (Motor Speedway) has been kind of my go-to track to get things turned around. We’re still going there though next week and just because it’s not the first race, it doesn’t mean it’s not an important one."

"I can’t believe I would ever say this, but I might move one of the road courses to the Chase. It’s been, for whatever reason, some of the most exciting racing that we’ve had all season. The tough thing about that is, it’s a make or break you kind of track. There are a lot of things that could happen and a lot of craziness and wrecks that could happen. You either make up or lose a lot of ground. I don’t know. With so much that rides on the line with the Chase, it would certainly shake things up. I hope that we continue with a top-five run (at Chicagoland) or, better yet, a win. That would be big.”

BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 371 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. This is a brand new No. 33 Chevrolet Impala that will turn its first laps during opening practice on Friday.

Mark Martin won at Chicagaland in 2009 (Getty)
MARK MARTIN ON RACING AT CHICAGOLAND: “That was such an incredible night (2009 win at Chicagoland). A nearly perfect night. The restarts there at the end, with Jeff (Gordon) were intense. I had to take his groove away from him and pick the outside lane, even though I didn’t want to. It worked out for us, though. We were so good all weekend. It was Rick’s (Hendrick) birthday the following day too, so it was kind of an early birthday present for him. The momentum the (No.) 5 team had at that point was just incredible. One of the most fun nights I’ve had for sure. We’ve known for the past couple of races that it (making the Chase) was going to be a long shot, so it wasn’t a big surprise after Richmond (Va.) that we weren’t in. We’re concentrating solely on wins. That’s all that racing used to be about — the win. And I like that. I like thinking one race at a time and not searching for point scenarios. Hopefully we can all take a deep breath and get us a win or two before the season ends.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON RACING AT CHICAGOLAND: “Chicago is actually one of those places when you drive in you are like…“Where are we?” It’s very similar to Kansas. We should be pretty good there. We struggled in Chicago last year, we felt like we didn’t have the pace we needed. It’s going to be interesting. We have been working on the cars really hard and we are making a lot of changes. You can tell how our cars are a lot more competitive over the last few weeks. I’m excited about the way things have been turning around for us and I think our Target Chevrolet will be good.”

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Jim Pohlman and the No. 42 team are bringing chassis #1105 to Chicagoland this weekend, marking the seventh race of the season for this chassis. Montoya previously ran this car at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Texas Motor Speedway, and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

PAUL MENARD ON CHICAGO: “I think it’s good for Chicago. There are a lot of race fans in the area. We’ve run decent there. The intermediate tracks, the 1.5-mile tracks have been our strong suit, and that’s one of them. Chicagoland is a little bit quicker I think (than Kansas track). It has a little bit more banking. The backstretch is turned, or has a curve for some reason, but they are very similar. In looking at all the tracks, I think Kansas and Chicago are two of the most similar.”

MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 326 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 at Michigan International Speedway (August) where Menard started 11th and finished 26th. This racer also saw time at Bristol Motor Speedway (March) where he started fourth and finished fifth, The Sprint Showdown (May) where he started third and was running second when he was hit on the restart, relegating him to an 11th-place finish and at Michigan International Speedway in June, where Menard started ninth and finished fourth.

Burton has some great views on where Chase races should be
JEFF BURTON ON CHICAGOLAND: “It’s funny. Chicago is one of those tracks where I almost have to go back and watch video to remember it because Chicago and Kansas, until I get there, I get them confused (laughs) and they are a little bit different. They came on board about the same time and they weren’t the tracks that I started racing on so I’ve got to go back and watch video to refresh myself. But it’s been a good race track and I really do like it. I think it’s a fun track."

"I think that we ought to have the most prestigious race tracks hosting the (Chase) races. So in my view, that’s Daytona, Darlington, Indianapolis, Charlotte; and then we can start getting into the debates. The Southern 500, I know that it being in that time of year would break tradition a little bit, but so what? It’s Darlington. So I think those things would be really cool. For that race track (Chicagoland), it’s certainly a positive (to be the first race in the Chase). There’s no question. That’s a big market. Think of how many companies do a lot of business in Chicago and how many companies are located in Chicago. I think it’s a good race track for us to be in, for the Chase. And we typically have really good crowds there and there seems to be a lot of excitement; so I’m excited about it.”

BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 355 primary from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built new for the 2011 season, this No. 31 racer was first put through its first competitive paces at Darlington Raceway in May. Burton was on his way to posting a top-10 finish until the engine on the Caterpillar Chevrolet expired with just fewer than 20 laps remaining and resulted in a disappointing 33rd-place finish. In addition, this yellow and black machine was run at Kansas in June where it finished 25th.

JAMIE MCMURRAY ON CHICAGOLAND: I’m really looking forward to going to Chicago. In addition to the racing, we have a lot of fun stuff going on in town. We will start the weekend by making a visit to McDonald’s World Headquarters on Thursday to meet with employees and fans. Then we are going to have a lot of fun racing in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races at Chicagoland. We have had a lot of positive changes within our team over the last several weeks and I feel that things are headed in the right direction. We had a rough start to our season and have worked hard to catch up. Now that we are down to the last 10 races of the season maybe we can play the spoiler in one of the Chase races coming up and bring home a victory for our team. There would be no better place to do that than in McDonald’s hometown.”

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion has elected to bring chassis #1112 to Chicagoland Speedway this weekend. This is the second race of 2011 for this chassis after it ran at Indianapolis in July, coming home with a fourth-place finish.

REGAN SMITH ON CHICAGOLAND: ‘The excitement and hoopla will be on the Chase drivers and that’s the way it should be. But that’s not going to make any difference about how we will approach the final 10 races. Our Furniture Row Racing team has made some great gains this year, but now is the time to step it up again and get primed and excited for the 2012 season. We all feel that we’re close to making another performance gain and the final 10 races, beginning with Chicagoland, are critical from our standpoint. Chase or no Chase, we’ll be fighting and working as hard as those 12 drivers competing for the Sprint Cup championship.”

Edwards should fare well at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland track
CARL EDWARDS ON RACING AT CHICAGOLAND: “There couldn’t be a better track to go to for the first race of the Chase than Chicago. Since it’s a day race this time hopefully it will be hot and slick, it will be a lot of fun and a tough race. It will be a lot like Atlanta was since it’s got some age to it. We’ve run really well on the 1.5-mile tracks so we should be really good.”

EDWARDS CREW CHIEF BOB OSBORNE ON CHICAGOLAND: “I’m looking forward to getting back to the 1.5-mile tracks like Chicago. Carl runs really well at those types of tracks so we are certainly hoping to have a strong finish for the Aflac team. Tracks like Chicago and Kansas seem like cookie cutter-type tracks but actually they all have their own unique characteristics, and running at Chicago always makes for some great racing. This should be a good track for us to kick of the 2011 Chase.”

CARL EDWARDS enters Chicago fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase point standings, nine points behind the leader. In 26 starts, Edwards has accumulated one win, 12 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes.

FOR THE RECORD…Edwards will make his seventh Cup start at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend. In his previous starts, Edwards has two top-five and two top-10 finishes. His average start is 17.8 and his average finish is 18.3.

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 Aflac team will be bringing chassis RK-788 to Chicago. This is a brand new car.

Kenseth will be using his Michigan chassis this week (Getty)
MATT KENSETH ON CHICAGO: “I always look forward to racing at Chicagoland since it’s the closest track to my home state of Wisconsin. I’m feeling pretty good heading into Chicago this weekend. I feel like our performance so far this season has been good enough for us to be a contender in the Chase. With how fast our cars have been, combined with great pit stops, I feel like those factors combine to show that our performance is strong on the No. 17 team. I feel like we have everything we need to make a run at the Championship, but we’ve got to get the finishes and we’ve got to do the right things every week.Chicago’s been a pretty good track for us in the past and hopefully we can start off on the right foot.

KENSETH CREW CHIEF JIMMY FENNIG ON CHICAGO: “Matt has a great performance record at 1.5-mile race tracks, so we’re hoping to have a great run at Chicago this weekend to start off the Chase. The car we’re bringing this weekend is the car we won Texas with and it’s really become one of our top cars we’ve relied on so far this season. We’re happy that we’ve made the Chase, but we need to continue our focus on doing the best we can each and every week in order to finish out the season strong and to be able to contend for the title. This weekend, we’re looking to start off the Chase with a strong run for our Crown Royal team in order to keep us up front in the point standings.”

FAST FACTS: Kenseth has an average starting position of 20.1 and an average finishing position of 11.4 at Chicagoland. Kenseth has finished second twice at Chicagoland (2005 and 2007). Kenseth has completed all but two of the 2,673 Cup laps he’s run at Chicagoland Speedway. Kenseth has led in six of his ten starts at Chicagoland for a total of 300 laps. Kenseth has two top-five and four top-10 finishes in ten races at Chicagoland, but is still searching for his first win at the 1.5-mile track

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-741 (Last run at Michigan).

DAVID RAGAN ON CHICAGO: “Chicago is a lot like Kansas and Texas, which are two tracks we ran great at this year. We are also coming off a good run at Richmond and will carry some of that momentum to Chicago this weekend. We feel like we can take some extra risks that the Chase teams can’t in these final 10 races. We should have a fast UPS Ford this weekend and we aren’t going to hold anything back going for the win.”

RAGAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-777 Last ran Michigan – finished 12th; Backup: RK-711 Last ran Darlington – finished 21st

Reutimann won at Chicago in 2010
DAVID RUETIMANN ON CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY: “We’ve kind of had the race at Chicagoland Speedway circled on our calendar since we left and it’s definitely one of our better racetracks, so we’re pretty ready to get there, get after it and see what happens. This race is going to be a little different now that it’s being run during the day instead of at night. With track temperatures being a little warmer, I’m expecting things to be a little more slick then we’ve seen during the night races. So I’m expecting that we’ll be sliding around a lot and we’ll have to work harder to make the car better – I think that’s the biggest thing.”

REUTIMANN ON HOW WILL DRIVERS RACE EACH OTHER NOW THAT THE CHASE HAS STARTED: “It’s hard to say. We all have the capability of misbehaving no matter what the circumstances are. It was definitely an eventful race that we had last weekend in Richmond and hopefully we don’t have as much of that at Chicago.”

KYLE BUSCH ON WHAT IT MEANS TO GET A GOOD START AT CHICAGO: “We’ve got to turn a corner here a little bit. Mile-and-a-half stuff, Chicago in particular, wasn’t great to us the past couple of years. I’m looking forward to Chicago with our Doublemint Camry this weekend. I like going there. Just running the Truck race and sitting out the Nationwide race and then we’ll be ready with the Cup race. I think we’ve got a great team and we’ve got a great leader with Dave Rogers (crew chief) and these guys are excited about it. They don’t get too high and they don’t get too low, so we just make sure we keep doing our job and working as hard as we can just digging in and paying attention to details and I think we’ll be alright.”

BUSCH ON WHETHER OR NOT HE'S THE DRIVER TO BEAT IN THE CHASE: “No. There are a lot of guys who have the car to beat. There are guys who are really tough. The 2 (Brad Keselowski) has been really consistent here the past little while. The 99 (Carl Edwards) has been consistent all year. The 48 (Johnson), the 24 (Jeff Gordon) seemed to have turned it up here the last few weeks and running strong at Bristol and last week at Atlanta. Certainly, I don’t think it’s anybody’s right now. It’s everybody’s game.”

BUSCH ON WHETHER HE'S EXCITED TO OPEN THE CHASE IN CHICAGO: “At Chicago, we ran really well there in ’08 and, unfortunately, ’09 and ’10 were kind of a struggle. But we are racing in the day there this year, which is different than the last several years. I like going to Chicago. It’s been a really good track for us in the Trucks and Nationwide Series and we’ve got to get our Cup stuff a little bit better there. We had a decent car at Kansas this year and Vegas and Charlotte – some of those places that are kind of the same as Chicago. With the Chase starting, we know that’s where it all begins. We know that building a good foundation certainly helps your chances in being able to go through the final 10 races. To me, it’s kind of like the beginning of the year. We always try to set out and start out really good and build that foundation to where we know we can run through the middle of the year and not have to worry about catching back up.”

BUSCH AT CHICAGOLAND: Busch has one win, two top-fives, two top-10s, and has led a total of 167 laps in six career Sprint Cup starts at Chicagoland. His average Chicagoland finish is 13.5.

BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: This is a brand new chassis that is slated to see action for the first time in Sunday’s Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

BRAD KESELOWSKI ON HIS CHASE CHANCES: “Well, I feel like a one-year old that got his first box of crayons, you know, just amazed and happy to have ‘em. It’s great. Everything is fresh, new and a lot of positive momentum. No matter what happens in the Chase, it’s still an honor to be in it.”

Kurt Busch happy about both Penske Dodges making Chase
KURT BUSCH ON HIS CHASE CHANCES: “We always get to answer questions that maybe we’re behind the eight-ball by only having two (Penske) Dodges out there but we put both of ‘em in the Chase. Both guys now have a shot at the championship so it’s been a great, solid season for us.”

BUSCH CREW CHIEF STEVE ADDINGTON ON THE CHASE: “It’s a pride thing. To get both Penske Dodges into this Chase is really huge for the organization, huge for Dodge. It’s huge for the guys that work back in that fab shop, work in that paint shop, and work in every little department we have. They take pride in working on these cars during the week. We get to come out here and work on ‘em. Everybody sees us, but they don’t see those guys putting in that effort back at the shop.”

· Qualified for the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup – seeded seventh.
· Competing in the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the sixth time: 2004 – Champion, 2005 – 10th, 2007 – seventh, 2009 – fourth and 2010 – 10th
· Has competed in 68 Chase races since 2004, 50 of those have been in a Dodge.
· Career Chase stats: Two wins, three poles, 16 top-five and 34 top-10 finishes.
· Busch has recorded eight career wins at the 10 tracks hosting Chase races (Loudon – 3, Martinsville – 1, Homestead – 1. Texas – 1 and Charlotte – 1).


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