Sunday, September 30, 2012

Jeff Gordon is second at Dover

TEAM CHEVY DRIVERS JEFF GORDON AND
 JIMMIE JOHNSON POST TOP-5 RUNS AT DOVER

DOVER, DE – September 30, 2012 – Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, posted a solid second place finish at the “Monster Mile” today and gained ground in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) point standings moving up two positions with seven races to go.   The finish was Jeff’s 22nd top-ten finish in 40 races at Dover International Speedway. 

Gordon’s Hendrick teammate, Jimmie Johnson No. 48 Lowe’s /Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, also notched a top-five finish (4th) after leading 43 laps today.  Johnson, who won at Dover in the Spring and has seven total wins at the one-mile speedway, is second in the overall point standings – just five markers back.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, got a lap down early and never got an opportunity to get back on the lead lap and came home 11th.  Earnhardt remains seventh in the overall standings after three Chase races.   Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, battled a loose-handling car most of the day but was able to score a 13th-place finish.

Kasey Kahne looked to have a shot at the win late in the race, but a vibration in the car forced them to pit and they had to settle for a 15th-place finish.  Kahne is sixth in the point standings after today’s finish.   

Defending series champion Tony Stewart, No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, also lost valuable track position when an untimely caution fell right after the team had stopped under green early in the race.  They were not able to make up the deficit and finished 20th.  Stewart falls one spot in the standings to fifth.

Brad Keselowski (Dodge) was the race winner, Mark Martin (Toyota) finished third, and Carl Edwards (Ford) finished fifth to round out the top-five.

Next stop on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tour is Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2012.

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – FINISHED SECOND  
KERRY THARP:  Let's roll into our post-race for today's race here at Dover International Speedway.  Our race runner‑up was Jeff Gordon.

Jeff, certainly a good showing out there for you this afternoon.  Another strong showing as you are working your way trying to claw back into this thing.

JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, thank you.  I thought it was a solid effort.  Our car was pretty good right from the start.  We struggled a little bit on the shorter runs.  But we got it going.  The car was a good top three or four car.

Then we started really struggling on restarts.  Front tires, really no grip the first 10 laps.  So we started losing positions on restarts.  That probably played to our favor because we lost track position and then we ended up coming in and topping off there at the end.

We had a good racecar.  Once we got going, then we were good.  Gave us the opportunity to not have to save fuel, keep the pressure on those other guys so couldn't conserve as much.

The No. 2 made it.  Got a little bit tight at the end.  I thought it was going to be a race between me and Mark.  I saw him back there.  We had a little bit of a gap.  My car was working pretty good right there.  Started getting tight.  Boy, here he come.  We knew it could turn out to come down to a fuel mileage race.

 Still a great finish.  Come home second.  This is nice to follow up with what we had last week.  We're running good.  We were running good at Chicago when we had the issue.  I'm proud of this team.  Just taking a few steps in the points each week.  We got seven more weeks to get it done.
            
KERRY THARP:  We'll take questions now for Jeff.
Q.  Jeff, it seems like no matter how well you do, your increase in points is incremental.  How frustrating is that?

 JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, you guys focus too much on the top guy and not enough on fifth place.  We have to look very realistically at this point.  It's only been two weeks since we had our incident in Chicago.  We've gained a tremendous amount of points on fifth place, sixth place.  We did that again today.

We're not going to continue this championship against those guys up front if they keep running the way they're running.  The only way we're going to get a chance at them is if they have a problem like we had.

I think our focus is top fives, try to win.  If we keep running like this, we'll get the wins.  We can't control what the other guys do, we can only control what we do.

To me, the only thing that's frustrating is what happened to us at Chicago.  Other than that, looking at the points, it doesn't even faze us.

Jeff Gordon, others talk Dover


NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
AAA 400
DOVER INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY QUALIFYING NOTES AND QUOTES
SEPTEMBER 29, 2012

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED SEVENTH
YOU AND CREW CHIEF ALAN GUSTAFSON USED A LOT OF BODY LANGUAGE TO DESCRIBE YOUR LAP. WHAT WAS IT LIKE?
"Well this is Dover. It's tough. It's never just a clear-cut, simple lap; especially here for qualifying. I feel like we made good adjustments. The track definitely has grip in some areas, but is lacking in others. It kind of caught me by surprise down in the middle of (Turns) 1 and 2, but kind of regrouped and made a decent lap out of it."

ON HIS LAP:
“It’s good that we went early.  The track has good grip.  I think if we make good adjustments, I got a decent lap I didn’t get the best lap.  When the track is like this you just think ‘wow this is Dover, so fast, high banked, it’s cool’ and you just go and just jump in the gas and you just can’t.  It has good grip in some areas and just snaps around on you in others.  I was fighting it the whole lap.  We are on top right now we will see where we end up.  Hopefully, that is good enough for a top 10.”

RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED EIGHTH
HOW WAS YOUR LAP?
“It was good; I mean we changed the car a good bit for qualifying there.  I didn’t really have any idea what to expect other than we have been there before but not this weekend.  It was a good lap for the U.S. Army Chevrolet.  Not a perfect first lap, my second lap actually felt better with the tires loosening up and I got what I got.  We’ll see how it runs tomorrow.”

KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED NINTH
PRETTY FAST LAP DID IT SURPRISE YOU OR IS WHAT YOU EXPECTED?

“The weather surprised me a little bit.  I thought the track would be a little slippery today in qualifying but it had a lot of grip out there even with the cooler temperatures.  It felt really good our Farmers Insurance team did a really nice job.  My lap was great; the other guys were really good too so we were just right there.  It was close.” 

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 11TH
EVERYBODY FINDS THIS TRACK SORT OF TRICKY HOW DID YOU FIND THE LAP? “It was definitely tricky these cooler temperatures change things.  It’s tough to really count on that first lap and know that the grip is going to be there, but you have to commit to it.  I had a close eye on the No. 2 car and the fact that he kind of rolled in that first lap and thought that might help him out.  He just ended up second there so I stuck to my plan and tried to run one hard one.  (Turns) three and four were a bit exciting and I knew I left some time on the table so I had to run a second.  I got a respectful lap out of it.”

ON HIS LAP:
"I was happy to get that second lap in. I knew it wasn't going to be as good as the first (lap). The first lap I was on the rev limiter down the back straightaway, so I know I busted (Turns) 1 and 2 well. But it takes a complete lap to get it done around here. It was still a respectable time. But we'll go racing from hopefully somewhere in the top five, maybe the top 10, which would be great, and have a great day for this KOBALT Tools Chevrolet tomorrow."

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 13TH
ON HIS LAP: 
“It wasn’t too bad I was just a little bit too free on the exit of (turn) two.  I got to the throttle really good and just had to come back out of it.  Even if we wind up 15th or so that is still going to be a good spot for us compared to where we have been qualifying.  Our car is really fast in race trim so that will be good.”

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 24TH
ON HIS LAP:
“That’s probably where we thought we’d end up. We were loose. Right about the middle of the turn I couldn’t get in the gas or stay in it.”

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 25TH
ON HIS LAP:

“We were not very good in practice.  I don’t know what to expect.  We struggled all weekend really.  We just haven’t had real good speed.” 

LOOSE ALL THE TIME?“No, not really.  It’s a lot of different problems.”

AT THIS POINT DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE IN THE MODE WHERE A TOP 15 OR TOP-10 IS GOING TO BE WHAT YOU NEED TO GET?  DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS IS ONE OF THOSE WEEKENDS WHERE YOU HAVE TO SALVAGE SOMETHING?“Yeah, I mean, I think we didn’t have a good car in practice and we didn’t find any good speed or find any good balance.  So yeah, it’s going to be a tough day I think.  It’s going to be a tough race for us I believe. We are just going to have to work hard and see what happens.”

DANICA PATRICK, NO. 10 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET – Qualified 38th
ON WHAT SHE EXPECTS DURING SUNDAY’S RACE:
“I really think that at a place like Dover where it’s not the easiest thing in the world to pass I believe that helps me when it comes to racing because the leaders don’t come quite as quick as the big 1.5-mile tracks where you have four or five lanes of room to pass people.  I feel like that helps me.  This is a short-track sure, but it’s definitely pretty banked and it’s got a lot of grip.  I think those are also things that feel better to me in these cars.  I thought it felt decent in qualifying.  It was a little tight and I definitely over drove it on the second lap I think.  I think that is a good problem for me to have to some degree is when I over drive it because I feel better about that then when I under drive it.”


More blog entries from this writer:
(a book of great stories)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Kurt Busch talks Dover

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
AAA 400
DOVER INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
SEPTEMBER 28, 2012

KURT BUSCH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING CHEVROLET and General Manager Joe Garone met with members of the media at Dover International Speedway and discussed the addition of Kurt to the Furniture Row Racing team beginning at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 13, 2012 and for the full 2013 season.

TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THIS ANNOUNCEMENT HOW IT CAME ABOUT AND YOUR EXCITEMENT AND THOUGHTS ABOUT HAVING KURT BUSCH DRIVE THE NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW CHEVROLET IN 2013:
JOE GARONE: “Just in the progress of growing the Furniture Row team over the years we have met some milestones trying to get where we are at and taking advantage of opportunities as they have come up.  This is certainly an opportunity.  We are viewing it as that.  We are really excited to have Kurt (Busch) on board moving forward.  From the sense of the race team and relationship wise we are going to go ahead and have Kurt in the car starting at Charlotte.  Again, we are really excited about that.  It will give us the opportunity to have those relationships with the crew chief and driver start coming together.  We are excited.”

TALK ABOUT MOVING OVER TO FURNITURE ROW RACING:

KURT BUSCH: “This is a partnership that puts two programs together such as myself and Furniture Row on the same page to move the needle.  We all want to go out here to try to win races.  We want to try to compete at top levels and you need teams, you need drivers, you need engineering support, you need all different elements of a program to be competitive.  You just can’t have one superior thing over others and expect it to override other areas of the team.  What I mean by that is when you get into the Chase you have teams that have the highest level driver.  They have the highest level pit crew.  The highest level engineering support, engines and everything else and that is what I think Furniture Row has.  It is a diamond in the rough.  This program is undiscovered and they have not reached their full potential.  I see this from Joe Garone, I see this from Barney Visser and I see this from Todd Barrier, a crew chief that has been in the sport nearly 20 years.  Everybody is coming together and the central nucleus is Barney Visser.  Barney is a fantastic gentleman that believes in me.  I can’t wait to get in the car and deliver.  We are going to start this process this year. That is great to get a jump on 2013.  That way we don’t go to Daytona with a deer in the headlight’s feel.  We are going to get all the bugs worked out of the way of the newness of the operating procedures, the trips back and forth to Denver all of this will be smoothed out.  It’s just an opportunity to get in a quality car this year.  I can’t wait.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK YOU CAN ACHIEVE WITH THIS PROGRAM?  THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JAMES FINCH’S OPERATION AND THIS AND YOU LONG TERM PLAN?
KURT BUSCH: “Well to me from the outside looking in you see all the pieces in place.  The short term here will be to get settled in and go through these six races to just work out the bugs.  To settle in, get comfortable in that seat that is to get to know Joe (Garone) more, to get to know Barney (Visser) the whole program as well as Todd Barrier.  I believe in him and I think you need an experienced crew chief in this garage area to find the success that this team and I think that I’m capable of.  We just see how it goes from there. We want to be that gang that shows up at Daytona as one of the teams with an asterisk next to it and that means we have a shot to win.  That is what we want to have all season long.”

HOW MUCH OF A JUMP FROM JAMES FINCH’S ORGANIZATION TO THIS IS IT?

KURT BUSCH: “Well there are different ways to compare things.  I got to read a lot this week.  That was part of my strategy to come in on a Monday, let a lot of it snowball this week and see how things turn out.  It’s disappointing to hear that a lot of people view it as a lateral move.  That is a slap in the face to Barney Visser.  It really is.  He has put together a program that is tiers above…just different levels of competition above where James Finch is.  James will admit to that.  Barney Visser, this program, they are committed their alliance with Richard Childress it is there and it is solid.  It’s just why when you say a lateral move, I don’t like that so much.  It’s a slap in the face to Barney Visser.  Everybody in this garage area knows if you have a hard card you know the differences in the team.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE STOOD BY YOU THROUGH THE TRANSITION?  JOE (GARONE) SAY’S HE WANT’S TO MAKE THIS RIDE ATTRACTIVE ENOUGH TO YOU THAT THIS ONE YEAR DEAL GETS AN EXTENSION AT THE END OF THE PROCESS:
KURT BUSCH: “It’s been a fun year to get back to the roots of racing where it all starts.   That is working hard; getting the grease under your fingernails, working with Finch and the guys it was a great step for me to see what I had in the beginning when I was a young rookie coming into this sport.  With the way that all of this has turned out, my girlfriend Patricia, my family, the fans have been incredible the support from Joe Garone and the whole gang in Colorado this gives you that feeling of family.  We are in this together and we are going to do it right.  It’s been a great journey to work hard and not necessarily work smart sometimes, but get back to the roots of it this year and just look forward with the No. 78 car.  Who knows how long the marriage could match up?  In this day and age everybody dates before they get married so we will see how this turns out.”

YOU TALKED ABOUT HOW YOU WANT THIS TEAM TO BE A CHASE CONTENDER IT HAS ALL THE PARTS TO GET THERE.  NEITHER ONE OF THE BUSCH BROTHERS IS IN THE CHASE THIS YEAR, DO YOU THINK IT IS GOOD FOR THE SPORT TO HAVE YOU AND KYLE IN THE CHASE?
KURT BUSCH: “Yes, of course it is.”

WHY?
KURT BUSCH: “Because we are polarizing figures right? (laughs) No we are competitive guys that want to go to the front just like everybody that is in this NASCAR Sprint Cup garage.  Of the six years that I have been in the Chase out of nine five of those years I thought I had a legitimate championship car.  There are teams that say yeah we want to get in the Chase that is one thing, but being competitive and to make a run at the championship is another.  That is what we have to do.  There are different ways to get in this Chase.  There is consistency, guys like Martin Truex Jr. this year, Kevin Harvick, they didn’t win but they got in the Chase.  Then there are guys like Kasey Kahne that started out with a new team, they won a few times and they locked themselves in the Chase.  Getting in the Chase is one thing, being competitive and making a run through the 10 weeks is another.  I’ve done it once before and Kyle is definitely putting himself in position to try to make the Chase more often than I have, but we have to get him further through the Chase and get him through some of the rougher spots that he has found in the Chase to make it to Homestead with a shot to win it.”

WHEN YOU SAY THAT CALLING IT A LATERAL MOVE WOULD BE A SLAP IN THE FACE TO BARNEY VISSER WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE FURNITURE ROW PROGRAM THAT YOU FEEL MAKES IT STRONGER THAN WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN?
KURT BUSCH: “I think that it is everybody’s job in this garage area to know who is a player and who is not.  The level of commitment that Barney has, the alliance with Richard Childress Racing, the experience level that this team has it’s a no brainer.  It’s very easy to see and anybody with a hard card knows that this No. 78 car has much more potential in it.  The No. 51 we are running equipment that is four years old, that is all 2008 stuff.  When Finch switched over with the car of tomorrow and we did the best we could with what we had.  It’s very obvious to me on why this is not a lateral move.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS NEXT YEAR COULD BE A GOOD STEPPING STONE FOR YOU TO GET SOMETHING REALLY BIG IF STUFF OPENS UP AT THE END OF NEXT SEASON?

KURT BUSCH: “Right now I’m focused with Furniture Row and the six races this year and what we can do next year as a team together.  It’s important to be comfortable in a situation and to be on the same page.  To have this family atmosphere with Joe Garone, Barney Visser, we will be on the same page all the way through the season.  Who knows?  I might not need to test the waters of the free agent market.  It’s just a matter of finding the comfort zone.  I’ve been with big teams; I’ve had different things happen with each of the programs taking this step back this year it has allowed me to see how more of the integral part of this sport works.  It’s been refreshing for me to see all the different avenues now and I feel much better prepared.  Settling in with these guys; that is what the zone is right now these next six weeks.”

YOU ARE GOING TO A TEAM THAT IS BASED OUTSIDE THE CHARLOTTE AREA AS A SINGLE CAR TEAM AND AS AN ALLIANCE WITH A NASCAR ESTABLISHMENT.  IN SOME WAYS IT’S ALMOST A DIRECT PARALLEL TO THE TEAM THAT YOU ARE LEAVING.  CAN YOU UNDERSTAND HOW PEOPLE MIGHT LOOK AT IT AS MAYBE LATERAL BECAUSE AT LEAST ON THE SURFACE IT LOOKS THE SAME?  BASED OFF WHAT YOU ARE SAYING ABOUT THEM BEING A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH DO YOU THINK YOU WILL WIN RACES NEXT YEAR?  ARE YOU READY TO GUARANTEE MAKING THE CHASE WITH THIS TEAM?
KURT BUSCH: “I think you can honestly know that the No. 78 car is a quality effort.  The millions of dollars behind it to get to the race track every week proves that.  Having the alliance with Richard Childress Racing, having a chassis, there are chassis lists built every week and you see that posted on Jayski.  Pull up the chassis numbers on where we are with James Finch and see where they rank amongst the Hendrick numbers, see where Barney Visser’s and Joe Garone’s Furniture Row car ranks amongst where the RCR cars are.  You will see that it is up to date equipment and that these guys are prepared with the pit crew, with the engineering support and the alliance much more in depth.  There are so many different ways to define it you guys just don’t see it when you sit in here.”

HOW MANY MEMBERS COME TO THE TRACK WITH YOUR NO. 51 CAR ON A WEEKLY BASIS?
KURT BUSCH: “There are the eight guys that come and work, the ‘road crew’.  They are the shop crew as well.  There are only two guys that stay back at the shop when we are here at the race track.”

HOW MANY ENGINEERS DO YOU HAVE BACK AT THE SHOP AT PHOENIX RACING?
KURT BUSCH: “One.”

TELL US THE DEPTH OF THE ORGANIZATION AS FAR AS NUMBERS OF WHAT YOU HAVE AT YOUR PLACE AND YOUR ENGINEERS AND TALK ABOUT WHAT YOUR EXPECTATIONS ARE FOR 2013:
JOE GARONE: “To start with we are 64 people.  When we come to the race track we still have approximately 40 at the shop working on R&D, working with our engineering group preparing for up-coming tests so we are pretty strong.  That goes back to kind of the comparisons to what James (Finch) has going on.  It’s a much different organization it really is. Our expectations, you know racing is really hard to predict the future, but with Kurt behind the wheel seriously we are going to win some races.  Our equipment really is comparative to the No. 29.  So we expect to win races and compete competitively every week those are our expectations.”

YOU SAID LAST YEAR WHEN YOU WENT INTO IT YOU WERE GOING TO HAVE FUN.  IS THIS A LOT MORE PRESSURE FOR YOU COMING OUT OF HAVING FUN?  DID YOU HAVE FUN AT IT?  
KURT BUSCH: “Yeah the way that you have fun is you take a step back.  You see everything that is around you with the No. 51 guys.  We worked hard, we had fun and we went to the race track hoping that every week the stars would align like they almost did at Sonoma.  I mean this could be a whole different discussion with the way that things went this year if we had won at Sonoma.  We won a Nationwide race in Daytona and then we had a string in August of part failures, brake calipers, axles broke, the wheel feel off at Watkins Glen.  But all through that I kept digging knowing that I’m going to give 100 percent because these guys are giving 100 percent.  The whole process for me was in the beginning to try to stay strong, stay out front to be there and then I wrecked the car a few times pushing too hard.  Also, James Finch said in the Shootout, ‘win with that car or bring it on home in a basket’ so when you are given the green light by an owner to go and win or wreck that is what fun is.  The big race we did at Talladega to almost bring that in. 

“I had the wrong approach I think in the beginning of the season.  I was following my Zen master Charlie Sheen and that wasn’t going very well (laughs). I had to look around and then I followed a fellow most top 10 hated athlete guy LeBron James.  He brought his talents down to Miami and won the championship down there.  I’m going to use that motivation, I’m going to take my talents to Denver and bring the championship out there.  Then I decided that I didn’t need Charlie Sheen so I’m going to look at a new Zen master, I found him, it’s Bryce Harper.  19-year-old phenom out of Las Vegas, he is the Nationals guy that has helped their team get into the playoffs.  He is so wise he told the media ‘no more clown questions.  I’m not going to answer any clown questions.’ I’m really looking up to a 19-year-old Bryce Harper to help me through all this.”  

WHAT KIND OF DISCUSSIONS HAVE YOU HAD WITH RICHARD CHILDRESS?

KURT BUSCH: “The thought with Richard was what can we do together.  When we couldn’t make that materialize he was like we are going to make this happen.  We are going to create a stronger alliance with the No. 78.  You are going to see a No. 29 car, a No. 31, a No. 27 and you’re going to see a No. 78 work together as one.”