Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Driver Notes & Quotes for Phoenix Subway Fresh Fit 500

Carl Edwards won at Phoenix in the fall of 2010 (Getty)
CARL EDWARDS ON PHOENIX: “I love going to Phoenix. The weather looks like it’s going to be great, and I’m really excited to see how the track has aged over the winter. I thought the surface was very racy last time we were there and I think everyone is excited to see if it gets even better for the race this weekend. This is a huge race for us being the Subway Fresh Fit 500 and we’re racing the Subway Ford so a win would be huge. A year ago we felt like we had the fastest car and got it torn up early in the race, so it would be wonderful to go back there again and be able to win this thing.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 crew will unload RK-801 at Phoenix. This is a brand new car and the first of six races where Subway will be the primary sponsor.

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON HIS APPROACH TO PHOENIX AND THE NEW CONFIGURATION: “We have a rule about putting the previous week’s race behind us by a certain time the next day. It doesn’t do any good to rehash what went wrong all week long. That’s certainly the case for us this week. We have a short turnaround, so that obviously helps. But I’m really focused on getting on track and putting up a better finish in the Kobalt Tools Chevy this weekend. It’s obviously a good place for us, so I’m looking forward to getting on track in a few days.”

“I don’t think much will be different. We’ve obviously already raced once on the surface and all the test sessions, so that always helps get more rubber down on the track surface. We started to get a second groove going during the race weekend in November and I think that will be even better this time around. Phoenix is a great track and I think the new configuration is fun to drive. I think, like with any new track surface, you will see the racing evolve and we will have that again this weekend. It’s going to be a good race.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Johnson will pilot chassis No. 689. This car finished 14th at Phoenix last fall and 18th at New Hampshire in September. Chassis No. 590 will serve as the backup.

DALE EARNHARDT JR ON PHOENIX: “When we were at Phoenix last year, the track was too smooth. Hopefully it has aged some over the winter, but we’ll go to Phoenix with a good attitude. We feel like we can go to Phoenix and run well, so we’ll see how it goes.”

In 19 Sprint Cup starts at Phoenix International Raceway, Earnhardt has earned two wins, four top-five finishes and eight top-10s. He also has led 460 laps at the short track. He earned his two wins there back-to-back, going to Victory Lane in November 2003 and November 2004 when Phoenix hosted one Cup event a season.

EARNHARDT JR CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 crew will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-709. This is a brand new, untested chassis.

CLINT BOWYER ON PHOENIX: “Phoenix has always been kind of unique to itself. I think it always will be. I think the repaving and reconfiguring made it all that much better. Short track racing is always a lot of fun. I wish we had five more tracks just like Phoenix.”

BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 15 5-hour ENERGY team will race chassis No. 712 at Phoenix. The backup is No. 718 – both are new.

MARTIN TRUEX JR. ON RETURNING TO PHOENIX: “This track is one of my favorites. Last race, we raced in the top 10 all day until we got put down a lap when the caution came out when we were in the pits. I am anxious to get back out there with our new chassis. I think we have a car that can win this race. Chad has a good idea of what our NAPA Toyota needs for me to run well. Our focus is on Turns 3 and 4, but we also need a strong throttle off of Turn 2 so I can carry the momentum into the final corners.”

MARK MARTIN CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary- 714, Backup- 715 – Both are new cars. Martin will race the No. 55 in 24 races plus the All Star race in 2012. Michael Waltrip will drive the No. 55 in six races. MWR will fill the remaining races with a driver to be named later.

GREG BIFFLE ON PHOENIX: “I think we showed in Daytona that we have a team capable of competing for wins and I can’t tell you how excited I am about the team we’ve assembled for the 2012 season. I am ready to get on the track in Phoenix and I think the fans are going to love our paint scheme. After Phoenix I get to spend a little time at the sand dunes on my way to Vegas, which is always fun.”

BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-778 - Last ran New Hampshire – finished third; Backup: RK-759 - Last ran Phoenix as the No. 6 – finished 33rd.

MARCOS AMBROSE ON PHOENIX: “I love short track racing and I really enjoy going to Phoenix. I feel like my Stanley team and I made big improvements on our short-track program last year and we are going to be a force to be reckoned with this season. I had an awesome car in Phoenix last fall and I know my crew has worked really hard to give me another fast car this weekend. It’s been a short week at home with the postponement of the Daytona 500, but I’m really looking forward to heading out west and getting my No. 9 Stanley Ford unloaded and on the track.”

AMBROSE CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 805 for this weekend’s race at Phoenix International Raceway. This Stanley Ford is brand new and has never been run before.

Stewart has raced USAC, IRL and NASCAR at Phoenix
TONY STEWART ON HOW LONG HE'S BEEN RACING AT PHOENIX: “I started racing there in ’93 when I ran a USAC Silver Crown car. And since then, I’ve run USAC Midgets, Indy cars, Supermodifieds, Nationwide Series cars and, of course, Sprint Cup. So, I’ve logged a bunch of laps there. To think that it all kind of started at Phoenix, I guess you could say it’s the place where my career came full-circle.”

“When we ran the USAC cars out there, it was pretty cool because I had never gone that fast before. It’s just one of those tracks where, to run a Midget and a Silver Crown car there, it definitely got your attention. It was pretty fast.”

STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: This car made its debut in April 2011 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, where it experienced some teething problems, qualifying 28th and Finishing 34th with a broken rear-end gear. Prior to Martinsville, Chassis No. 14-637 was tested March 14 at the half-mile Little Rock Speedway in Rockingham,

The July race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon marked the car’s second career start, where it qualified second and led twice for 48 laps around the 1.058-mile oval before finishing .773 of a second behind its sister car, piloted by Ryan Newman. It saw track time again during a Goodyear Tire Test at Phoenix International Raceway Aug. 29-30 before returning to New Hampshire in September for its third career start and first of the Chase. The car carried Stewart to his second straight Chase win, leading only the final two laps after previous leader Clint Bowyer ran out of fuel just before taking the white flag in the 300-lap race.

Chassis No. 14-637 returned to action and another flat, 1-mile oval for the 2011 season’s penultimate race at Phoenix. It again performed well by leading five times for a race-high 160 laps to deliver its third straight top three finish. The car returns to Phoenix with fresh sheet metal to make its first start of 2012 and its fifth overall with Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500k.

Ryan Newman won at Phoenix in spring of 2010 (Getty)
RYAN NEWMAN ON WHY HE'S SO GOOD AT PHOENIX: “We go to Phoenix with a good setup, and that shows by our finishes there. And luckily the changes to the track didn’t change that for us last fall. It’s hard to say why we’ve done so well there, but it’s one of my favorite tracks, and that definitely is a factor. I guess I would kind of lump Phoenix into the success that we’ve had on short tracks. The combination of Tony Gibson (crew chief), the No. 39 team and me have really been able to hit on something at the tracks a mile and under – like Martinsville and Bristol. And Phoenix is flat like New Hampshire, which is another track where we’ve had success. In my opinion, the driver has a little more of an impact on the end result at short tracks than some of the bigger racetracks, and I like that. The more the drivers are involved, the more I think you get to race and, from that standpoint, I think it’s more fun. Tony Gibson has some great setups with our short-track program. I enjoy them, he enjoys them, and we just go out there and have some fun."

"We’ve had a good car each time we’ve been to Phoenix. Gibson is a great fan of Phoenix and short-track racing, and he’s got a great understanding of the racecar there and what I like, and that makes a big difference, obviously, for me. We’ve been able to get four top-five finishes in our last four trips to Phoenix. So I’m really looking forward to getting back there this weekend after a really long Speedweeks.”

NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Two starts, two top-10 finishes. That was the story for Chassis No. 39-691 last season as it competed in the fall races at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway and Phoenix International Raceway. At Richmond, Newman started 18th and fought his way into the top-10 near lap 100 and virtually stayed there for the remainder of the 400-lap event. Newman finished eighth.

After a test session on the newly paved Phoenix track in October, Newman and Co., returned there in late November for the penultimate race of the 2011 season. Despite a poor starting position on a tricky, newly paved track surface, Newman's savvy driving skills came into play as he managed to aggressively gain track
position without any incidents on the mile oval. Newman moved into the top-10 shortly after lap 100 and never looked back, finishing a solid fifth. This weekend at Phoenix will be Chassis No. 39-691’s first appearance in 2012.

JOEY LOGANO ON PHOENIX: “Phoenix is a unique track and it will be interesting to go back now a second time since they reconfigured the track and repaved it. The place was always racey before, but like any track when you put new pavement on it, it takes a little time for it to come back around and get back to the way it was. The one thing that stands out about Phoenix though is the fact that you think it’s just a one-mile track, but it is so much different. The way you enter the corners, how it is relatively flat and the kink in the backstretch just make it a unique place. It’s actually a lot of fun to race."

LOGANO CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #336 will ride with Logano and the Home Depot team at Phoenix this weekend. The car was used at Phoenix last season. Chassis #339 will serve at the team’s backup for Phoenix.

DENNY HAMLIN ON PHOENIX: “What I liked the most about it in the winter was the weather. It’s 75 (degrees) there every day. For me, it was just kind of like a vacation spot, but I just stayed out there an extended period of time. They have some great golf courses, great shopping and dining. It’s just really got everything because it’s a relatively new town and city. For me, of all the places I would want to go on vacation, I would pick there. I just spent my off season there because of that.”

Kyle Busch won at Phoenix in driving No. 5 car (Getty)
KYLE BUSCH ON PHOENIX: "You’ve got to have a good car, but you’ve got to have good brakes. You’ve got to have a good-turning car, and you’ve got to have a good car that can accelerate off of turn two and go fast down the backstretch. There’s a lot involved at Phoenix, but being only the second race on the new surface, it could make it interesting.”

KYLE BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: No. 326 will make its fourth-ever start in Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500k at Phoenix International Raceway. This chassis made its debut in the first race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup last September at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. After qualifying a solid ninth and running within the top-10 all race long, Busch ran out of gas with just two laps remaining, forcing him to come to pit road for a splash of gas, which led to a disappointing 22nd-place finish.

Up next, Busch qualified third and finished 11th in the Hollywood Casino 400 last October at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Most recently, the No. 18 team brought No. 326 to Phoenix last November. After qualifying 34th, Busch was forced to start at the rear of the field after the team changed an engine during the first practice session of the weekend. Despite the setback, Busch picked his way to the front and led 23 laps before more engine issues forced him to the sidelines after only completing 188 laps, relegating him to a disappointing 38th-place finish.

BRAD KESELOWSKI ON THE NEW PHOENIX CONFIGURATION: “I like the new Phoenix. They did an outstanding job in making a good racetrack better. It’s obviously going to take a few years before the track is in optimal condition, but with it being in the desert that process can sometimes be accelerated. I’m anxious to see how much it has aged over the winter. We saw last year that guys, myself included, were making passes through the dog leg. I don’t think anyone expected that going into the race. And the run you get off of Turn 4, down the frontstretch, has stayed the same. Those are the best places to pass.”

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-810 during Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR). This is a new chassis to the No. 2 fleet.

KURT BUSCH ON PHOENIX: “It’s a place where I grew up watching Cup races. When I was a kid, they didn’t have Las Vegas Motor Speedway, yet. So we traveled down to Phoenix to watch the big show. The years I went, guys like Terry Labonte, Davey Allison and Dale (Earnhardt) Sr., were down there winning. It was so cool. One year, we got pit passes to walk down pit road on Sunday morning at the start of the race. I was in awe that this was the big time. It’s amazing how it has all turned out. So Phoenix, to me, was the track I grew up watching races on. Then, when I got there as a racer to race in the Southwest tour, that was basically our Daytona 500. So, when you were racing on the West Coast, Phoenix was our Daytona. That’s how big Phoenix was for us.”

“That track fits my driving style with the flat, one-mile track layout and how tight the corners are. It’s a place where you have to slide the car just right to maintain a good pace around there. The track is a little unique with the old asphalt and the new asphalt. The other thing that separates Phoenix is how you have to balance the differences with turns one and two verses the differences in turns three and four. I have just always been able to understand that track and what the car needs to do to be fast.”

KURT BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend’s Subway Fresh Fit 500k will be the second Phoenix race for this chassis which was built in June 2011. Landon Cassill finished 29th at Phoenix in Chassis No. 662 last fall. The car was also used in events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July and September 2011, scoring 26th- and 30th-place finishes, respectively. Kurt Busch tested this chassis in January at Nashville Superspeedway during a two-day test session in preparation for the upcoming season.

JAMIE MCMURRAY ON PHOENIX: “I am obviously disappointed with the start that we had to the season with our result (31st) at Daytona, however this is a new week. I am looking forward to going back to Phoenix to race the new configuration that we ran there in the fall. We had a really good car in November, qualified in the top-10 and raced hard all day, but we got a pit road speeding penalty that we couldn’t overcome to get the finish that we felt we deserved. We will look forward to try and bounce back from Daytona in our Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet.”

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1206. Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No.1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats team will be bringing a brand new chassis, Chassis #1206, to Phoenix International Raceway this weekend.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON PHOENIX: “The last time we raced there I think it was an interesting race with the new configuration. I think it is going to bring much better racing. Last time was good, but I think this time is going to be better. We have more knowledge heading into this race and it’s going to be an exciting race. It’s really the first race you really get to judge where we are as a team and how hard we need to work to catch up, or where we stand.”

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1203. Heroy and the No. 42 Target team will be bringing a brand new chassis, Chassis #1203, to Phoenix International Raceway this weekend.

JEFF BURTON ON PHOENIX: “I think when we go to Phoenix International Raceway, no one really has an idea what to expect. The track changes so much from day-to-day. We were really fast there and ran well, but didn’t qualify that great. I think we were second-fastest in practice and the track slowed down a half-second from what we ran in practice. We ended up qualifying 14th, ran in the front all day and had a legitimate shot to win the race. We adapted pretty quick and were fast at the test sessions out there before the race also.”

Harvick using an old No. 33 car at Phoenix
KEVIN HARVICK ON PHOENIX: “The new surface was definitely racy. They did a great job prepping for the race. With the shorter tracks, the grip is greater but it’s a different environment than what you experience on the mile-and-a-half tracks. It was a great race. They spent a lot time laying the track out, taking their strength and weaknesses and thinking about the fans as to what they can see from their seats. It all played out really well and I hope to have another good race this weekend.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Kevin Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 365 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This former No. 33 racer competed in three races in NASCAR’s senior division last season, placing finishes of 17th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July, 22nd at Richmond International Raceway in September and 10th at Phoenix International Raceway in November.

PAUL MENARD ON PHOENIX: “I’ve described it (racing at the newly repaved Phoenix International Raceway) to people as feeling like a video game because it was like everything was perfect. The way the transitions were and the way it looked. There wasn’t a speck of dust on the place and no skid marks anywhere when we unloaded for the test. It was almost surreal at how neat the track was. Turns one and two still have the same character, as do turns three and four. The biggest difference is the dogleg in the back. It’s a huge elevation change. There’s a lot sharper and little bit longer corner and then another elevation change on exit. The back half of the race track is the biggest difference. We drive turns one, two, there and four the same as before.”

MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 328 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in the Fresh Fit 500. This Chevrolet Impala was utilized by the No. 27 team three times in 2011, most recently at Phoenix International Raceway in November 2011 where Menard started 11th and finished ninth. This chassis was also raced last season at Darlington Raceway in May, where the Eau Claire, Wis., native finished 22nd and Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March where he finished 12th.

BRENDAN GAUGHAN ON THE OPPORTUNITY TO CUP RACE AGAIN AND RACING AT PHOENIX: “The opportunity to run four races for Richard Childress in the Sprint Cup Series is truly amazing. RCR has top-notch equipment and teamed me with a winning crew chief in Gil Martin. Everyone deserves a second chance and I am ecstatic that my second chance in the Sprint Cup Series is in the No. 33 Chevrolet with RCR.”

“After talking with some of my RCR teammates, they told me that the track hasn’t changed all that much, they just made the track a little “racier” off of turn 2. The Chevrolet Impala I’m driving had a win last year so I’m really looking forward to going to Phoenix in equipment the caliber I have never had a chance to drive in my career.”

The Fresh Fit 500 will mark Gaughan’s 38th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start and his first since the 2010 Daytona 500. The Las Vegas native raced full-time in NASCAR’s top series during the 2004 season, posting one top-five and four top -10 finishes. Phoenix marks the first of four Sprint Cup Series starts with RCR for 2012, Gaughan will also race the No. 33 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speeedway and Auto Club Speedway events during the month of March.

Gaughan gets to drive Harvick's winning Coca-Cola car
GAUGHAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Brendan Gaughan will pilot Chassis No. 351 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala is a proven contender in Sprint Cup Series competition, as Gaughan’s RCR teammate Kevin Harvick made a trip to Victory Lane with it in May 2011 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Harvick also drove this former No. 29 racer to a seventh-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway in September, a 10th-place finish at Dover International Speedway in October and a 19th-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway in November.

KASEY KAHNE ON PHOENIX: “Getting that win (at Phoenix International Raceway) was a huge boost for our team last year. I think the track was probably the best I can remember a brand-new race surface being in the first race. It started slippery and got better as the rubber built up. We made the adjustments we needed to put ourselves up front at the end. I’m excited to get back there with the Farmers Insurance guys this week.”

JEFF GORDON ON PHOENIX: “No, I like the old one (PIR track configuration) better. But that’s sometimes what happens with a re-pave or a new design. And the way that they did it, it changes the tire. It changes the track and how you have to drive it. And so we have to adapt to that. And one of the things we worked heavily on during the off-season was preparing for that race to make sure that when we go back there we don’t have the issues that we had the last time we were there. We had break issues. I wasn’t comfortable with how the car was handling. We started to get better as the race went on, so I’m more confident this time than I was the first time we were there (since the repaving). And I feel like we have good data from our teammates. Not only (did) Tony (Stewart) ran well, but Kasey (Kahne) and (crew chief) Kenny Francis did very well there obviously winning the race. So I feel pretty good about going back there.”

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