Thursday, August 16, 2012

2012 Pure Michigan Driver Odds & Ends

Junior goes for third Michigan win( Getty)
DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON MICHIGAN: "The track has always been fun for me. It's really wide and up until they repaved it, you really used the whole racetrack in the corner. That's perfect -- you can't ask for any better situation than when cars go through the corner and everybody is sort of using a different line. That's what you want. I think over time the surface will age, and we'll get back to widening up the surface quite a bit. It has the characteristics as far as the way the corners are banked and the way the corners are laid out to widen back out again and be the great racetrack it's always been. So I really enjoy it. Even had I not won any races there, it's just a really fun track."

EARNHARDT JR. CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 crew will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-716. Earnhardt most recently raced this chassis to Victory Lane at Michigan in June.

JIMMIE JOHNSON MICHIGAN: “We had a really strong car there (at the June race) and I’m excited to go back. Late in the race, I was running down the leaders and I blistered a right-rear tire. But, I understand that a great tire test took place at the track recently and they didn’t see any issues. So I feel like things are fixed and I’m looking forward to going back because I know we’re going to be strong. The way we’ve been running on the ovals, and also with our performance at Michigan in June, even though we blistered a tire, I really feel like I can win there and make that list one shorter for the tracks we haven’t won on. I really feel this is our best chance ever.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 720 serves as the primary for Johnson at Michigan. This is the same chassis Johnson drove to a fifth-place finish at Michigan in June and won the All-Star race with in May. Chassis No. 669 serves as the backup.

TONY STEWART ON MICHIGAN: “Once it cleaned off, it seemed like the track got to be pretty good. It was still a relatively one-groove track, but it got better as the weekend went on. Hopefully, the racetrack will continue on that path and continue to widen out. It was a lot racier than I thought it would be, right off the bat, so I’m anticipating it’s going to be even better when we get back on it this weekend.”

STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: This car debuted in spectacular fashion in March at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., as Stewart took Chassis No. 14-706 from its ninth-place starting spot to lead twice for 42 laps en route to the win in the rain-shortened race. Prior to Fontana, the car spent numerous hours in the wind tunnel. It is a clone to Chassis No. 14-640, which won round three at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Chassis No. 14-706’s second start, in April at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., was a bit quieter than its debut race. It started 23rd and gained 10 spots to finish 13th. Its third start came in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ longest race – the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. There, Stewart qualified 21st and finished 25th as Chassis No. 14-706 proved to be a handful throughout the 400-lap contest. The car redeemed itself in its fourth and most recent start in June at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, where Stewart qualified eighth, led 18 laps and finished second. Chassis No. 14-706 has sat idle since, and it will return to Michigan for its fifth career start via Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400.

KEVIN HARVICK ON MICHIGAN: “We didn’t have the best race. We practiced really well during the weekend and were able to figure things out on the first tire, but when they changed the (left-side) tires and we weren’t quite as good. We had a few problems at the beginning of the race and had to make up ground all day. Our car was fast enough to make up ground and do the things we needed to do to get back into the top 10, but we still need to be better.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 381 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend's Pure Michigan 400. Harvick drove this Chevrolet to an 11th-place finish at Kentucky Speedway in July and a 13th-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in April of 2011. It was also driven earlier this season by Brendan Gaughan at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March as a No. 33 RCR Sprint Cup Series entry.

KASEY KAHNE ON MICHIGAN: “I’ve always liked Michigan because you could race anywhere on the track. The repaving made the groove a lot narrower. When it gets wider again, it will be a great race with a lot of speed and a lot of room to drive.”

KAHNE CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Kenny Francis will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-729 for Sunday's race at Pocono. Kahne raced this car into the top 10 at Pocono Raceway in June before a cut tire sent him to the garage.

RYAN NEWMAN ON MICHIGAN: “I still don’t think that you have a 100 percent answer. They thought they had a 100 percent answer in the first test. The conditions can be so different in Michigan. It can be hot. That was the problem with the tire that we had – even when it got hotter, it got faster. The rubber liked to be on rubber. As the rubber laid down, the track got wider and everything was great except for the fact that the tire didn’t have the durability to go along with it. So hopefully we’ll be in a much better position with the reduced grip with the left-side tire. Basically they just went back with the same tire with a more modern construction, something that didn’t come out of the warehouse and give us the opportunity to know that the tires are new and not old tires and the consistency is going to be 100 percent as we hoped that they would be.”

NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 39-733: It's been two starts and two top-10 finishes for Chassis No. 39-733 since making its debut at IndianapolisMotor Speedway in July. At Indianapolis, Newman and his team overcame an ill-handling racecar and used quick pit work to help engineer a run into the top-10. The crew turned the car around in just a couple of days and took Chassis No. 39-733 to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway the following weekend. There, Newman ran in the top-10 for most of the rain-shortened race and finished sixth. Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn will mark the third start in four weeks for Chassis No. 39-733.

JEFF GORDON ON MICHIGAN: My wife (Ingrid Vandebosch) has given me things and my daughter (Ella) has given me things to put in the car for luck. Even fans have sent in things to the team. But I think when I won at Pocono it was the first time in quite a while that I did not have some sort of good luck charm in the car. So far, my theory holds true. It’s not about luck and good luck charms; it’s about going out there and performing and doing what you have to do as a team.”

“We were pretty solid here (Michigan International Speedway) in June and (Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt) Junior won, so we can certainly carry a lot over from that race. We also did the tire test here at the end of July. That test didn’t go spectacularly well for us, but we knew it was just more of a test to try and learn things.”

“We have to qualify better. Track position can play a huge role during the race, so it’s better to have early than to fight for it all race long. Right now, qualifying is a priority for us.”

PAUL MENARD ON MICHIGAN: “We ran out of fuel on the last lap and that cost us seven positions. We ran between 10th and 15th all day. We felt really good about the car after testing and practice and then Goodyear changed the left-side tires. We had a hard time figuring out the balance of the car with the new tires, so that put us behind for the race. We did not have a good practice on those left-side tires. When the race started we made some good adjustments and the car was competitive. I felt like at the worst we were going to finish 14th, but I think we could have gotten a top-10 finish.”

MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Menard will pilot Chassis No. 397 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built new for 2012 competition, this No. 27 Chevrolet was utilized for the first time at MIS in June, where Menard started from the 18th position and finished 22nd.

JEFF BURTON ON MICHIGAN: “It was a lot of fun. The speed was really cool. It felt like a brand new track with the new pavement. After going to certain race tracks for so long, it is cool when they change them because it brings something new. The speed was fast, but until you looked at the speed charts, you didn’t know you were going that fast because the pavement allows you to run that speed.

“I think we’ve started to move in the right direction. We went to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and didn’t get the finish we deserved because we had a mechanical failure. We ran much better at Pocono Raceway earlier this month also, but still didn’t get the finish we deserved. We made a lot of changes in the way we are doing stuff and things certainly seem to be picking up.”

BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Burton will race chassis No. 367 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable this weekend. This No. 31 Chevrolet, built new for the 2012 season, has been utilized twice this year at Kansas Speedway in April (started-12th, finished-22nd) and Pocono Raceway in June (started-20th, finished-15th).

JAMIE MCMURRAY ON MICHIGAN: “I am looking forward to going back to Michigan. It was incredible how smooth and fast the track was for the first race on the new surface in June. We had a decent car there and had a top-15 finish, but we know that we can be better. We tested in Nashville this week to try a few things take back to Michigan. The guys on this Bass Pro Shops team have been working hard and putting in lots of extra hours to make this team better and we are looking forward to seeing all of that effort pay-off.”

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Kevin "Bono" Manion and the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Mercury team will race Chassis #1208 at Michigan. Chassis #1208 has raced at Las Vegas, finishing eighth; Kansas, finishing 14th; the Coca-Cola 600, finishing 21st and this season at Michigan, finishing 14th.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON MICHIGAN: "We were good at the Michigan race this last time around. Plus the Target team has gone there twice for a tire test and we felt like we were very good there. There’s a harder tire now so you’ve got to work on the car a little bit. But we feel like we’ve had decent speed there. Michigan was typically one of those tracks we never ran good at and now, with the new track surface, I feel like we have a legitimate shot at running up front and staying up there.”

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Chris "Shine" Heroy and the No. 42 Target team will return to Michigan with Chassis #1209 after finishing eighth with this chassis earlier this season. Chassis #1209 also raced at Fontana, Calif. finishing 17th.

REGAN SMITH ON MICHIGAN: “We’ve had a good run the past three races, especially scoring a top-10 on the Watkins Glen road course. We’re a different team and credit goes to our crew chief Todd Berrier. We’ve been unloading the car with more speed and not playing catch-up all weekend. While I am excited about how we performed the past three weeks, I am really looking forward to Michigan this weekend. We had a great test there a few weeks ago. In fact, we packed up early at the test because we were dialed in. I would be awfully disappointed if we didn’t come away with another top-10 or better finish at Michigan in our Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet.”

KURT BUSCH ON MICHIGAN: “Well we learned it was fast. I’m sure it will be more of the same this time around but the unknown for us a little bit is the tire. We weren’t able to do the tire test there after Indianapolis just for the simple reason of not having enough manpower. We felt like we were in good shape going into the race there in June but we made some changes that just sent us to the back. So we did learn some things about what not to do and hopefully that will be enough to help us. We are taking a great car with us this weekend. It’s the same car we ran in the top-five with at Kansas in the spring so hopefully between that and what we learned in June we’ll be in a competitive position this weekend.”

BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend’s Pure Michigan 400 will be the fourth race of the 2012 season for this chassis. This is the same car the No. 51 Phoenix Racing team competed with at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City in late April. Busch qualified 14th and competed in the top-five for the majority of the race before an engine problem in the closing laps relegated the team to a 17th-place finish. The chassis was also used at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March, when Busch earned a season-best starting position of 12th and competed in the top-10 during the early portion of the race. Pit-road issues and an eventual accident resulted in a 35th-place finish. The car was built in 2011 and was used only once last season – the June race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, where driver Landon Cassill scored a 12th-place finish after starting 12th.

MATT KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: “With the repave this year at Michigan, there still is a lot that we’re learning in regards to our set-ups. We were able to go up for aGoodyear tire test at the end of July and got a few more laps under our belt on the new surface which always helps. Michigan is one of my favorite tracks during the season and I always look forward to going there since it’s in the Midwest. Racing at Michigan is always a big weekend for us since it’s the headquarters for Roush Industries and Ford Motor Company, so we’ll look to have another strong run in our Fifth Third Ford.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-787 (last run in the All-Star race)

GREG BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-817: Last ran Indianapolis - finished third; Backup: RK-786: Last ran Homestead - finished 35th

CARL EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: RK-739 Last ran Las Vegas, finished fifth

ARIC ALMIROLA CHASSIS CHOICE: The team has prepared chassis No. 783 for the Michigan race. This Eckrich Ford was last on track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July.

MARCOS AMBROSE CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 784 for this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at Michigan International Speedway. This is the same Stanley Ford that Ambrose drove to the pole in the June visit to Michigan.

CLINT BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary chassis No. 727 has raced three times in 2012. It started 11th and finished 13 at Fontana, started 26th and finished 11th at Darlington and started 13th and finished seventh with a lap lead at first Michigan. Backup chassis No. 721 has served backup duty at multiple races, but has not raced. It served as the backup at Las Vegas, Fontana, Texas, Kansas, Darlington, All-Star, Charlotte, both races at Pocono and Michigan. Chassis No. 721 tested Pocono on June 6 and Michigan on June 14.

SAM HORNISH CHASSIS CHOICE: Hornish and his Todd Gordon-led Penske Racing No. 22 Team will be utilizing their "PRS-825" Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger this weekend at Michigan. This is the same car that AJ Allmendinger raced in the May 27 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The car was credited with an 11th-place start and 33rd-place finish after a broken hub spoiled a potentially strong run. The "PRS-819" chassis will serve as the backup Shell-Pennzoil Dodge for this weekend. This was the car that AJ Allmendinger drove to a second-place finish in the April Martinsville race.

BRAD KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-826 during Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway (MIS). Brad Keselowski last raced this chassis to a fifth-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. It has been updated to the current Penske Racing specification.


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