Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Driver Notes & Quotes for Finger Lakes 355 at Watkins Glen

Marcos Ambrose is 9/2 favorite to win Sunday at Watkins Glen (Getty)
MARCOS AMBROSE ON WATKINS GLEN: “Watkins Glen is one of my favorite race tracks and it’s definitely been good to me in the past. It will always have a special place in my heart because it’s where I got my first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win. It’s a track that suits my driving style, and I have a lot of success there in both the Nationwide and Cup Series. I have a lot of good memories from our win there last year, and I’mhopeful we can go out and win No. 2 this weekend. I’d like nothing more than to be climbing out of my Stanley Ford in Victory Lane at the end of the day on Sunday. My team has worked extremely hard the last few weeks and it would be a good shot of momentum for the second half of the season if we could pull off a win this weekend.”

AMBROSE CHASSIS SELECTION: The No. 9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 772 for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at Watkins Glen. This Stanley Ford was run previously this season at Sonoma.

ARIC ALMIROLA CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 43 team has prepared chassis No. 760 for the Watkins Glen race. This car was last run one year ago at the 2011 Watkins Glen race.

GREG BIFFLE ON WATKINS GLEN: “I like road course racing. It breaks up the season a little. We’ve had a couple of top-10 finishes at Watkins Glen and I think it’s reasonable to shoot for a top-10 finish this weekend. There are a few drivers in this series who have a lot of road course experience and if I can just hold my own with them and get out of there with a top-10 or top-five finish, I think that would be a reasonable expectation.”

BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-764 Last ran Sonoma – finished 7th

MATT KENSETH ON WATKINS GLEN: “I think probably for me the most important part to your lap time at Watkins Glen is getting through the ‘esses’ the fastest. The more throttle you can use going up the hill and through the esses, the less you have to lift. It seems like that really adds a lot, or takes a lot away from your lap time, because that back stretch is long. All the turns are important and unique at Watkins Glen. When it comes to racing, I think the last turn is very important to get off that and into Turn one so that you don’t get passed there. The esses are always important leading up to the ‘bus stop’ because that is another passing zone. The more cushion you can get through the esses and the top of the hill, the less likely you are to get passed.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-771 (Last run at Sonoma)

CARL EDWARDS ON WATKINS GLEN: “I feel pretty good about Watkins Glen. We sat on the pole there a few years ago and had some good runs and almost won the race one year. We were running second and I ran off the second to last corner trying real hard. We have run really well there and I like that race track. To me it is the road course that suits my style more than any other I have been on. It is a really fun race.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The Fastenal Blue Team will bring chassis RK-816 to Watkins Glen this weekend. Edwards raced this chassis at Sonoma in June where he finished 21st.

BRAD KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: “Watkins Glen is an extremely fast road course. It’s not nearly as technical as Sonoma and it doesn’t require as much finesse, but you still have to hit your marks. At the Glen you need to concentrate on where you can brake heavily and where you can put the power down when you need to so that you carry big runs down the straightaway. To me, Watkins Glen is more of a stock car driver’s road course. You can throw your car around a little more than Sonoma, especially with the new runoff areas, because you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in the sand traps anymore. I’m still learning how to be a better road course racer, but it’s starting to click with me. I was really proud of our second-place run at the Glen last year. Hopefully we can be one spot better on Sunday.”

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller LiteDodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-806 during Sunday’s Finger Lakes 335 at the Glen at Watkins Glen International (WGI). Keselowski last raced this chassis to a 12th-place finish at Sonoma in June.

SAM HORNISH JR CHASSIS CHOICE: Hornish and his Todd Gordon-led Penske Racing #22 Team will be racing their "PRS-808" Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger this weekend at Watkins Glen International. This is the same car that AJ Allmendinger raced at Sonoma in June, starting 17th and finishing 9th. This chassis was first raced at Richmond in April by Allmendinger, starting fourth and finishing 16th.. The "PRS-807" chassis will serve as the backup at the Glen this weekend. It was in the transporter serving as the backup at Phoenix, Bristol and Martinsville, but has never seen any track time to date. "We converted the car over to be our road course car and it proved to be a strong piece out in Sonoma," crew chief Gordon offered. "We don't have a large car inventory and some of that is intentional because we will be racing the new cars next season. It was determined shortly after the Sonoma race that it would also be our primary car for Watkins Glen this weekend."

DALE EARNHARDT, JR. ON WATKINS GLEN: “With me and a road course, it’s a lottery. I’ve had some good runs at Watkins Glen and had some fast carsthere. When we went there in 2008 with Tony (Eury) Jr., we rained out qualifying so we started up front and we led quite a good portion. We were really fast. I know I can go around there. It’s just straightaway, turn, straightaway, turn, and that’s really what I’ve been doing all my life. It’s a lot easier than Sonoma, a lot less technical. We showed up at the Road Atlanta test last week with the same problems as Sonoma and the same disappointment with the car. Then we made a lot of changes and a few of the changes in particular revolutionized the way the car drove and the way it felt. The stop watch was way faster so I’m excited. I’ve been real happy to go to all the racetracks this year. I particularly don’t look forward to going to Sonoma and Watkins Glen as much as I do the ovals, but I’m excited about Watkins Glen this trip. Hopefully we can go there and be competitive.”

EARNHARDT JR CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Steve Letarte and the #88 crew will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-747. This is a brand new chassis that has not been raced.

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON WATKINS GLEN: “The thing that gets me at The Glen so much is really fuel mileage. My driving style requires us to stop usually an additional time and I don’t know how to run a fast enough pace and save fuel at the same time there. It really gets me. I think back to a Nationwide race where I was driving Junior’s car and ran out (of fuel) with a few laps to go. It just happens to me there more than really anywhere. So, I’m hopeful that the EFI and the functionality of the EFI will help me there. And we’re working hard. We tested two days ago I guess it was, getting ready for The Glen. So, we’re putting in the whole effort. Hopefully I can be nice on the fuel mileage.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 543 serves as the primary for Johnson at Watkins Glen. This is the same car Johnson has used for the last seven road races, including his 2010 Sonoma win. Chassis No. 590 serves as the backup.

TONY STEWART ON WATKINS GLEN: “It’s a race that we always look forward to. We’ve had a lot of success there and it’s just fun. It’s like taking Sonoma and just multiplying the speed times three. It’s just a lot faster track. It still has the same elevation changes, but you’re just running a lot quicker. Both Sonoma and Watkins Glen are two places on the schedulethat we really enjoy coming to.

“When you’ve won five races, it gives you that confidence that you know how to win, and know what you have to do to get to victory lane. I know what feel I need when we get here. It’s just a matter of going out and practicing and putting yourself in that position.”

STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: This car debuted in impressive fashion in June at the road course in Sonoma, Calif., as Stewart took Chassis No. 14-731 from its 24th-place starting spot and rallied it to a strong second-place finish in the Toyota/Save Mart 350k. Sunday’s Finger Lakes 355k at The Glen will mark Chassis No. 14-731’s second career start.

KEVIN HARVICK ON WATKINS GLEN: ”Watkins Glen (International) is really fast, so the biggest thing there is to get your car good under braking so you can make passes during the race. Usually you can gain the most time is in the braking zones.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Kevin Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 395 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Seriesstable. This No. 29 Chevrolet was built new for competition in 2012 and was put through its first competitive laps at Sonoma when Harvick brought home a 16th-place finish after starting from the 26th position.

KASEY KAHNE ON WATKINS GLEN: “The toughest part of Watkins Glen for me is braking. You get on the brakes a lot harder than at Sonoma. But we’ve done a lot of road course testing this year, and that’s something I’ve worked on. Hopefully that extra practice will help this week.”

KASEY KAHNE CHASSIS CHOICE: crew chief Kenny Francis has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-674 for Sunday's event. Kahne raced this car to a 14th-place finish on the road course at Sonoma in June. Kahne still is looking for a win at Watkins Glen, but he has found Victory Lane at the Cup circuit's other road course in Sonoma, Calif. He also has claimed two top-five finishes and two pole positions at the northern California track.

JEFF GORDON ON WATKINS GLEN: “(The Pocono win) only puts more pressure on us over these next several weeks, but we’re ready for the challenge. With all we’ve been through this year and this team staying together while not pointing fingers, we knew if we could get to Victory Lane it would make us stronger. We’ve put together a string of good runs and finishes, but we have to keep fighting for wins. I don’t know if one win will be good enough to secure a wildcard spot.

“We’ve not run very well at Watkins Glen in recent years and it’s been very disappointing to me and the team, but I’m optimistic because I felt we made big improvements at Sonoma. We tested at Road Atlanta before that race, and I think it’s a better track for Watkins Glen than it is for Sonoma. But we won’t really know until we get on the track. I always love the road courses and Watkins Glen is always one of my favorites. It’s a fast road course and you’ve got to have grip and comfort in that car through the esses and the high speed corners. You’ve got to attack the race track in the braking zones, and the car has got to be there for you and stick. Recently, though, I just feel like we’ve been missing a little something here.”

RYAN NEWMAN ON WATKINS GLEN: “I like road courses. They are difficult to pass on. It seems like there are only a couple of passing zones. I’ve always said the more corners there are without passing zones, the more opportunities there are to fall behind the guy who’s in front of the guy who’s in front of you. Road courses are unique in their own right. I wish we had a third one because I think they’re fun. To me, Watkins Glen provides better racing than Sonoma and I personally enjoy it a bit more. I really enjoy the challenge, the hustle of the racecar, the heavy braking. It’s not the easiest place to pass. Everybody kind of knows that. It’s a track-position race and fuel mileage has become a big part of the racing there. It’s usually a two-stop fuel race. You don’t get a lot of chances to work on your racecar, similar to places like Loudon and Richmond. To me, it’s just fun to hustle those cars around the racetrack. In road-course racing, the driver, in my mind, can make up more than he can at an oval just being able to hustle a car. You have the added mannerism; I guess you could say, of braking. When you brake at short tracks, it’s not the same as when you brake and downshift. So, you have to be a smooth downshifter, you have to be a good braker. Obviously, you have to turn right. There are extra characteristics, I guess, that you have to include at road courses that you don’t have to include at ovals. That separates the men from the boys, typically. We look forward to going there and doing well.”

NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 39-661 has been the No. 39 team’s road-course car for the past three races, having amassed two starts at the road course in Sonoma, Calif., and one in last year’s race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. Last year, Newman started sixth at Sonoma and was in the top-five for the race’s first 25 laps. But on lap 38, while entering the final turn on the course, Newman was caught up in a multi-car accident that ended his chance of victory and relegated him to a 25th-place finish. After starting fifth in last season’s race at Watkins Glen, Newman was bitten by strategy and finished 16th. After undergoing a facelift for the 2012 season, the car made its second start at Sonoma earlier this season.
Newman started 10th and battled ill handling the entire event, finishing 18th. This weekend will mark Chassis No. 39-661’s second start this season and fourth overall.

PAUL MENARD ON WATKINS GLEN: “The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is the most competitive series in the world and we race the same guys every weekend. We’ve had some of the best (road course drivers) in the world like Boris Said and Ron Fellows struggle at Watkins Glen (International). Last year we were actually in position to gain a lot of points for the Wild Card position in the Chase (for the NASCAR Sprint Cup) and we blew a left-front tire with a couple laps to go. Little things like that ruin your finish.”

MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 361 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet was last seen on track at Watkins Glen in August 2011, where Menard finished in the 32nd position.

JAMIE MCMURRAY ON WATKINS GLEN: “I enjoy running the road course, at Watkins Glen. It’s fun to do something a little bit different than the usual, all left-hand turns. This track is really fast and allows you a few more opportunities to pass versus Sonoma. One of my favorite parts is If you can manage to get up the hill through the esses real well it gives you a good opportunity down the backstretch to set up passing into the inner loop. Hopefully we can put our McDonald’s Chevrolet in position for a run at the front of the field this weekend.”

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No. 1 McDonald’s team will bring Chassis #1012 to Watkins Glen. Chassis #1012 will make its sixth appearance and third race at Watkins Glen. It has finished 17th at Watkins Glen twice, and in three races at Sonoma finished 15th twice and earlier this season finished 19th.

JEFF BURTON ON WATKINS GLEN: “I like Watkins Glen (International) a lot. Overall, I like road-course racing. The only thing I don’t like about road racing is getting knocked out. That seems to happen often. We were able to avoid it Sonoma. Unfortunately, we had an issue where Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) and I got together, but it was one of those things where neither one of us really did anything wrong. It was just a product of having 43 cars go into a corner that is a 90-degree turn. Some of it can’t be avoided and that’s what is difficult. Some of it is people just not caring who they run into, but some of it is people trying to avoid it. I think when these road-course racers join the field for these races; they are surprised how good we are it. What we lack in road-course racing experience, we make up for it by knowing how to handle these race cars. There is no car in the world like these Sprint Cup Series cars. These cars are animals. I’m not saying we are the best drivers in the world. It takes a different skill set to drive these cars. They aren’t point-and-shoot race cars.”

BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 357 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable this weekend at Watkins Glen International. This No. 31 Chevrolet, built specifically for road-course racing, was driven by Burton earlier this season, finishing in the 11th position at Sonoma. RCR teammate Kevin Harvick piloted this machine last year at Sonoma where he started 26th and finished ninth.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON WATKINS GLEN: “I think Watkins Glen is a driver’s track, you’ve really got to hustle the car, and you can make a bit of a difference by doing so. We’ve always had a pretty good car there. I think the worse we’ve ever run is fourth or fifth so hopefully we’ll have a good day. There are a lot of places you can pass there, like into one, into the bus stop. You’ve got three of four good places where you can overtake. That’s one of those places that it’s a shame that we don’t use the full course because what they call ‘the boot’ is a lot of fun.”

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Chris “Shine” Heroy and the No. 42 Target team will race with Chassis #1014 this weekend at Watkins Glen. This chassis was used for Montoya’s 2010 win at Watkins Glen and finished seventh there in 2011. In three starts at Sonoma, Chassis #1014 has finished 10th, 15th and 34th. Chassis #1014 has led 80 laps.

REGAN SMITH ON WATKINS GLEN: “The way we’ve raced the past two weekends at Indy and Pocono is the way we should be racing — inside or close to the top-10. There’s plenty of enthusiasm in the Furniture Row camp due to our recent performances. Todd (Berrier, crew chief) came on board before Indy and has done an excellent job in a short time. You can sense that our Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet is only going to get better. This weekend at Watkins Glen is special for me. I consider it my home track since I grew up near Syracuse (Cato, N.Y.). I really enjoy road racing and with all the friends and family who will be at Watkins Glen I want nothing more than to bring home a strong finish.”

KURT BUSCH ON WATKINS GLEN: “Well, Sonoma is a track where the corners are a lot slower and you’re struggling to put the power down. It’s pretty much the opposite of that situation when racing at Watkins Glen. It’s still a road course but the differences are pretty big. Watkins Glen has wide, sweeping, fast corners where it’s not as tough to put the power down like it is at Sonoma. It’s also just more of a momentum race track and so there’s a lot of speed at Watkins Glen, versus the finesse that you have to have at Sonoma to be successful.”

BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend’s Finger Lakes 355k at The Glen will be the second race of the 2012 season for this chassis. This is the same car with which Phoenix Racing competed in June at the road course in Sonoma, Calif. Busch qualified eighth and finished third in that race after a close battle for the lead in the closing laps. This chassis was built and raced by Hendrick Motorsports prior to becoming part of the No. 51 Phoenix Racing team’s stable. This particular chassis was used during the 2010 Save Mart 350k at Sonoma, when driver Jan Magnussen scored a 12th-place finish after starting 32nd. Prior to this season, the 2010 event at Sonoma was the last race for which this chassis was used.

BRIAN VICKERS ON WATKINS GLEN: “After our fourth-place finish at Sonoma I am really happy to get back in the car at a road course. With Watkins Glen’s high speeds, big breaking zones and good places to pass- I’m fairly confident it will be a good showing for us. You just have to stay out of trouble- or stay far enough ahead of the guy behind you that he won’t try to rough you up for the spot. The road racing has become a lot more physical in NASCAR over the past few years. As with any race, you have to be there at the end. I know Rodney will call a great race, the guys will give me a great Toyota and it will be my job to take care of it, have a good qualifying lap for track position, keep the brakes on it, and be there when it counts.”

VICKERS CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary Chassis No. 676 started 21st and finished fourth at Sonoma in June. Backup Chassis No. 661 served backup duties at Sonoma.

CLINT BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary Chassis No. 632 is the same chassis that Bowyer won with at Sonoma in June. He started sixth and led 71 laps in the victory. It previously raced as the #47 at Sonoma. Chassis No. 690 is the backup and previously raced as the #56 in California and Michigan in 2011. Bowyer will make his seventh Sprint Cup Series start at Watkins Glen International on Sunday. In his six previous starts, Bowyer has one top-10 (ninth in 2009). On average he starts 21st and finishes 18th. He finished 11th in 2011 and led his first and only career lap at Watkins Glen. Clint Bowyer has scored a road couse win, this past June at Sonoma.


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