Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Driver Notes & Quotes: 2012 Richmond Federated Auto Parts 400

Denny Hamlin comes in with a lot of confidence this week (Getty)
DENNY HAMLIN ON HIS TEAM JELLING RIGHT NOW: “This has been something in the works for a very long time, and obviously I have a lot wins in my career because of two very important guys — one is Darian (Grubb, crew chief) and the other is Mike Ford (former crew chief). Mike put together 80 percent of a championship-winning team, and Darian has just filled that gap and put the rest of the pieces of the puzzle together. The foundation has been laid. He’s (Darian Grubb) just putting the cap on it, and Darian is getti ng the most out of our guys. I’ve never seen our crew just so happy to be at the race track every single week. Even in 2010 I didn’t see that from our guys. That’s when you get the most out of them, and for me I’m just happy to be at the race track every single week knowing I can win a race. It doesn’t matter the race track anymore, it’s just I know we can win. Darian has just taken this program to that next level, and obviously anyone can go on a 10-race run. He did it last year, and hopefully he’s got some of the magic saved up for us here in the next few weeks.”

KYLE BUSCH ON OUTLOOK FOR RICHMOND: “Richmond is definitely a place where we would like to go win — obviously, that would really set things easy for what’s going to happen in the Chase. If we’re not capable of winning then we need to know what else our game plan is going to be. We were in this situation in 2009 and we had to go to Richmond and we had to finish five spots ahead of Brian Vickers and we finished fifth, which was great, but Brian Vickers finished eighth, so we missed the Chase that night. Not necessarily one that you bankon going there and getting a win or anything like that. You just do what you need to do to run as well as you can. There’s definitely never any guarantees you’re going to show up to the race track and win. You’ve just got to work hard, communicate with your crew chief the best you can and not get too frustrated when things aren’t exactly correct, but yet be determined enough that you can get them fixed and get out there and make the most of your opportunities.”

KYLE BUSCH ON CONFIDENCE OF MAKING THE CHASE:Chase? “I feel normal. I’m not saying that I’m for sure going to be in because anything can happen. Jeff (Gordon) is no slouch at Richmond either — he will be fine. I feel like that’s the guy we’re racing — the 24 car. We’ll just have to see how it all plays out. Jeff could give us a run for ourmoney.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR ON RICHMOND: “Richmond obviously has the ability to be one crazy, wild, exciting race. It’s been that way in the past and depending on who is in and out of the wild card spots, things are definitely going to get exciting, so we’ll just have to wait and see. I think Richmond is definitely a good place to settle things — some good ‘ole short track racing — and it will definitely get more exciting there than it would be anywhere else.”

MARK MARTIN ON MWR RACING: “It’s an amazing survival story. I know it was tough, tough, tough. We are all real proud of the organization. The thing I like about MWR is the people here. They really want to be working here. They don’t want to be somewhere else. They want to be here. There are a lot of happy people here and that makes it a pleasure to be part of.”

MARTIN CHASSIS CHOICE: 714 – won pole at Phoenix and Richmond with Martin behind the wheel. Backup – 708 – has not raced in 2012.

CLINT BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary chassis No. 718 started fifth, finished third and led a lap at New Hampshire. Prior to New Hampshire, No. 718 served backup duty at Phoenix, Bristol-1, Richmond and Dover. Backup chassis No. 712 raced earlier this season in Phoenix and Richmond.

JAMIE McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Allstate team will use Chassis #1108 for Richmond. Chassis #1008 has been used as a back-up at several raves this year but will make its 2012 season debut this weekend at Richmond.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Chris “Shine” Heroy and the No. 42 Target team will travel to Richmond with Chassis #1203. This chassis was used this season at Phoenix, finishing 11th, Richmond, finishing 12th, and Loudon finishing 25th.

RYAN NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend, Newman will pilot Chassis No. 39-691, which has three starts and two top-10 finishes to its credit. It’s most recent start at Phoenix International Raceway in March looked to be a lock for the chassis’ third consecutive top-10 finish, but 56 laps shy of the checkered flag, Newman was sent spinning into the turn four wall after contact with another car while racing side-by-side for fifth place. The incident relegated Newman to a 21st-place finish. Last season, the chassis competed at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in September and Phoenix in November. 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 finishing eighth. Newman finished fifth at Phoenix in November.

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON RICHMOND BEING ONE OF HIS WORST RATED TRACKS: “It took me a long time to sort out Richmond, just like at Bristol. Talladega, when you go plate racing, you’ve got to rule in other factors. We’ve all seen this year, with my plate results, that they just haven’t been all that good to me (laughs).”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 689 serves as the primary for Johnson at Richmond. It last ran at Phoenix in March, starting 4th and finishing 4th. Chassis No. 590 serves as the backup.

DALE EARNHARDT ON RICHMOND: “I like short tracks. Richmond has been a good one for us for a couple of races. I have always enjoyed running there, and it’s a fun track. It’s not your typical short track with the way the front straightaway is. It definitely makes each corner unique from the other and the way you drive the track can change throughout the race. It’s a lot of fun for a driver.”

EARNHARDT JR CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Steve Letarte and the #88 crew will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-709. Earnhardt raced this chassis to a 14th-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway in March and most recently to a second-place finish at Richmond in April. In 26 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Richmond, Earnhardt has recorded three wins, nine top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. He has led a total of 427 laps and completed 99.1 percent of all laps he's attempted at the short track (10,308 laps of 10,403 total).

KEVIN HARVICK ON RICHMOND: “Richmond (International Raceway) is a good track for me in general. Since I started racing, it seems I’ve been successful on the flatter-type race tracks; they really seem to fit my driving style. On paper, this is one of our best tracks. Over the past two weeks our team has really been stepping up our game and avoiding big mistakes. As long as we stay focused, avoid mistakes and make the right calls, we should have a shot to get the Budweiser Chevrolet back to Victory Lane.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: will pilot Chassis No. 320 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend's Federated Auto Parts 400. This former #33 racer was transformed into a No. 29 entry during the off-season and has been was utilized at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in June (started 12th, finished eighth) and Martinsville Speedway in April (started second, finished 19th).

TONY STEWART ON RICHMOND: “It is my favorite track. It’s not one of them; it’s the favorite track of mine on the circuit. I’ve just always thought it’s the perfect-sized track for a Cup race. The other short tracks we run – Bristol and Martinsville – they’re cool in their own right, but there’s a lot of congestion at those two tracks. But at Richmond, it just seems like that extra quarter-mile, and that three-quarter-mile shape, and how wide the groove gets there, allows for good racing. It seems like we have to race ourselves and race the racetrack versus racing each other a lot of times. You do have to race each other, obviously, but there are a lot of times during the race when you have the flexibility to move around on the racetrack and try to find a spot your car likes better than somewhere else. A lot of times on a short track you don’t have the flexibility. You’re more narrowed down with what groove you’re going to be in.”

STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: Stewart and crew chief Steve Addington are bringing Chassis No. 14-710, this car debuted at Richmond in April, where it qualified 22nd and led four times for 118 laps before a late-race caution canceled Stewart's two-and-a-half second lead and forced him to settle for a third-place finish. It was then tested June 6-7 at Pocono and again during a Goodyear Tire Test June 12-13 at Bristol. New Hampshire marked Chassis No. 14-710's second career start. There, a new tire compound from Goodyear confounded Stewart and crew chief Steve Addington, and they labored to a 12th-place finish. The car returns to Richmond for its third career start via Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400.

KASEY KAHNE ON RICHMOND: “We had a solid finish at Richmond in the spring, and we need another one this weekend. Our cars have been really fast on the short tracks all year. We need to put together a full race and get ourselves into the Chase on Saturday night.”

KAHNE CHASSIS CHOICE: For Saturday's race, crew chief Kenny Francis will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-663. Kahne has raced this car three times in 2012, most notably winning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July.

JEFF GORDON ON RICHMOND: “We’re going with guns loaded ready to do battle. This race is always intense and I expect it to be a pretty crazy night. It’s a little bit different because it’s a short track (compared to last week’s race on the 1.54-mile Atlanta track). I think everybody expects there to be a little more pushing and shoving on the short track. I’ve been saying all along that I think it’s going to come down to the last lap at Richmond – and we’re going to fight all the way down to that last lap.

“Our focus won’t be on what ‘this team’ is doing or what ‘this driver’ is doing. We’re just going to focus on our own program like we always do. We’ll focus on tuning the car, communicating and working the setup the best we possibly can to try to have the fastest race car. I’m not going into the race thinking that we’ve got to finish 12 positions ahead of Kyle (Busch). I’m thinking we have to win.”

MARCOS AMBROSE CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 805 for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at Richmond International Raceway. This Mac Tools Ford was run previously this season at Phoenix, Richmond, Pocono and Indy.

CARL EDWARDS ON RICHMOND: “We’re going to Richmond to win. We need some luck and we need it to be good luck. We’ve passed more cars in the last month than we’ve passed all year. I wouldn’t go to Richmond with any other team, in any other car. I feel like the No.99 Cheez-It Ford is the favorite there because of how we ran in the spring and we’re settling for nothing less than victory lane.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 Cheez-It team will be bringing chassis RK-801 to Richmond this weekend. This is the same car that led 206 laps in the spring and nearly won the race if not for a late-race penalty on a restart.

GREG BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Biffle and the Matt Puccia led #16 3M / Owens & Minor Ford Fusion team will bring Primary Chassis RK-822, which is a brand new chassis to Richmond. Backup chassis is RK-778 which last ran New Hampshire finished 9th.

MATT KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Will run primary chassis RK-806 at Richmond. This chassis last ran at Darlington in May finishing 6th. Best Buy will be the sponsor for Kensth at RIR. In 25 Cup starts at Richmond, Kenseth has completed 9,758 of 10,003 laps (97.6 percent) and led for 223 laps


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