Friday, June 28, 2013

Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Kentucky

JUNE 28, 2013

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD YOUTH FOUNDATION CHEVROLET SS, met with the media following a press conference announcing his involvement with the National Guard Youth Foundation, specifically to draw attention to the nation’s alarming high school dropout rate by promoting the National Guard Youth Challenge program. During his time with the media he discussed his season thus far, racing at Kentucky Speedway and other topics.  FULL TRANSCRIPT:

YOU ARE ONE DRIVER THAT IS STILL LOOKING FOR A WIN THIS YEAR AND WON LAST YEAR.  HOW MUCH DOES NOT WINNING WEIGH ON YOUR MIND RIGHT NOW?  HOW URGENT DO YOU FEEL YOU NEED TO GET A WIN BEFORE THE CHASE?“I think we keep working hard the wins will come.  We have had some really fast cars, just had some bad luck.  Thought we had an opportunity to win at Michigan and just with the engine failure we weren’t able to get that done.  If we just keep working and running well we will get our opportunities to get to Victory Lane.”

“I have to disagree with Kyle (Petty).  I think she is a tough competitor, and she works really hard at what she does.  She has run some really good races.  On every occasion she is outrunning several guys out on the circuit.  If she was not able to compete and not able to run minimum speed or finish in last place every week I think you might be able to say Kyle has an argument.  But she’s out there running competitively and running strong on several accounts.  I think that she has got a good opportunity and a rightful position in the sport to keep competing and she just might surprise even Kyle Petty.”

TOP-FIVE HERE LAST YEAR; DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF CONFIDENCE COMING INTO THIS TRACK AND DO YOU FEEL LIKE TURN THREE IS ONE OF THOSE CRITICAL PARTS OF THE TRACK THAT YOU HAVE TO GET DOWN? “Well, it looked critical last night in the Truck race, some guys having some difficulty in turn three. The track is just unique and very bumpy and got a lot of character.  I enjoy racing here.  I think that the track gets better every year.  Just look forward to having a good car.  I’m excited to get out there and get in practice see what kind of speed we have and how competitive the car is.  Hope that we can put together a couple of good days and have a good weekend.  I enjoy coming here and we’ve got a lot of fans in this area that enjoy seeing us race here.”

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Chevy drivers on Kentucky


JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S DOVER WHITE CHEVROLET SS – POINTS LEADER: “I love how much character that race track has.  It’s so rough.  The groove moves around and you really are just trying to dodge the big swells and bumps to find grip for your race car.  It’s a track I’ve haven’t had a lot of success at through Nationwide and even going there to test before my Cup career really started.  We tested there a lot and I crashed all the time.  When the race track was back on the schedule I got pretty nervous about things, but I’ve had a couple of good runs and look forward to going back.”

“It’s the newest, oldest track we go to. Kentucky Speedway is a place where our team felt like we needed to try some things, so we decided to test there a few weeks ago. We feel as though we made our car better from the information that we collected during the two days we spent there. We’ll have to see what the weather is like when we go back, but hopefully we’ll have a good baseline of where we need to be for the race.”

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD YOUTH FOUNDATION CHEVROLET SS – 7th IN STANDINGS: “Kentucky is a little rough, and the groove is not real distinct. So it lends itself to good side-by-side racing. The exit to Turn 4 is really, really wide so you just kind of play around and find a groove that works for you. Every time you change tires you kind of have to be ready to move around a little bit and find out where your car is fast and where that set of tires wants to run on the race track.”


“I wasn’t a huge fan of that track at first because it’s so rough, wide and just kind of different as far as driving around the track. We tested there so much over the years before it was on the schedule, so I kind of grew not to like it, but I actually liked racing there in 2012 (its second year on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule). It’s still rough, but it’s a tough track, tough to get a hold of. There are lots of racing lines there. Some don’t work and look like they should and other ones work so you really have to pay attention to that. But I grew to kind of like it, and I’d like to run great there again this year and be upfront and contend for the win.”

PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 MENARDS/SYLVANIA CHEVROLET SS – 12th IN STANDINGS: “Kentucky (Speedway) is a flat 1.5-mile track, it has high-frequency bumps and is really wide. It’s a track with a lot of character and I enjoy going there. We tested at Kentucky for a couple of days earlier this month and learned a lot. Hopefully the weather will be similar to our test session and we can apply that information to this weekend. It’s always nice to get a little extra track time any chance we can get. I know my guys have worked really hard to give me a fast SYLVANIA/Menards Chevrolet and we’ll see what we’ve got when we turn our first laps of the weekend on Friday.” 

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS – 13th IN STANDINGS:"I think it would be cool to win at Kentucky and knock it off the list.  I'd love to win at every track - that would be a special accomplishment and I need to win here before more tracks are added to the schedule! Prior to last year's race, I might have considered this to be one of my worst tracks, but we had a good car and a good run here last year - one that we want to improve upon. Of course, we have the Generation-6 car here for the first time. We're learning every single week with the new Chevrolet SS, and we're learning every single trip to Kentucky. Hopefully, we can put it all together so we can check this one off the list."

“I guess the biggest thing about it is for those of us who haven’t run Nationwide or Truck races there, we still only have two races at that track. So, we’re still figuring out. It’s got a lot of bumps, so that makes it very challenging. Trying to figure out exactly where to be, where to try to get around some of the bumps, how to get through them better, how to get the car to go through them better – those are challenges that kind of make it fun, because it’s not just flat and easy to get around.”


“Kentucky is a hot track the way the race lays out with so much practice time during the day it’s tough to figure out how to get the car dialed in for the night race. With all those variables plus being a bumpy racetrack it leaves it wide open for who can find the right package to dial a car in. Kentucky is a little different – because it’s a much flatter mile-in-a-half and it’s much bumpier. You have to build a lot of forgiveness into the car and allow it to absorb the bumps. At the same time it creates a lot of body roll and now you’re tossing the car around and waiting longer times for suspension movements to happen. You just have to roll with it. But the other thing is at the end of the Kentucky race when the pace s so fast you want the car to be rigid again to get those lap times. So that’s the hard part for adjusting to Kentucky Speedway. The big thing for our Furniture Row/Sealy Chevrolet is to continue our momentum from Sonoma and build on our point standing.”    

“I look forward to going to Kentucky. I was one of the first drivers to win at Kentucky Speedway back in the ARCA series when they opened the place up in 2000. I think it was actually the track’s third race at that point, or something like that. I started on the pole, led a lot of laps and ended up winning the race, which was a pretty big feather in our cap at that point in time. It was my third start for Penske Racing in the ARCA series and I ended up getting my first pole and my second win. So it was a pretty big deal for me and that team at that point in time. Then, going back to Kentucky for the first time with the Sprint Cup Series in 2011 was pretty cool for me. And for us to have such a good run there made it even better.”

“It’s pretty rough, much rougher than anywhere we go. Atlanta (Motor Speedway) is rough, but it is more of a wavy rough. Kentucky Speedway is just plain and simple rough with these big bumps. The grip level is not great either so you are able to slide around a little bit, especially when the weather is hot. It’s a challenge with the splitters on these cars. Splitters don’t like to be hitting the race track and to get the splitter off of the ground while being able to turn at the same time is very difficult.”

“I am hoping that Kentucky Speedway is the place that we can try to turn the tide on some of the tough luck we have had the last several weeks.  Our team has been really strong and we have had cars capable of top-five and top-10 finishes, we just keep having issues that are eliminating us from those strong finishes.  We finished 15th at Kentucky last year, and I think we are a lot better team right now, so hopefully we can get the Hellmann’s Chevrolet SS up front for a strong showing.”

“Kentucky is one of the newest tracks on the schedule and one that the Target team has been pretty decent at the last couple of times. That was the first place I ever tested a Cup car for Chip (Ganassi) so I have a lot of memories heading back to that track every year. It’s always hot there and during the race, the track conditions will change a lot. You have to keep up with the handling and find the right balance otherwise you’ll go straight to the back. It’s tough to because we practice during the day so the set-up will change for the night race.”

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Toyota drivers at Kentucky

BRIAN VICKERS: Brian Vickers should be a popular man at Kentucky Speedway this weekend. Vickers’ No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota will carry a special paint scheme during Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race honoring the University of Louisville’s men’s national championship basketball team.

At last year’s Kentucky race, MWR founder and co-owner Michael Waltrip drove an Aaron’s/ University of Kentucky themed paint scheme. At the May 5 Talladega race, Aaron’s and Michael Waltrip Racing honored the University of Alabama’s BCS National Championship football team. It marked the fourth consecutive year Aaron’s honored Alabama or Auburn University championship football teams with a special paint scheme.

BRIAN VICKERS: “I'm a basketball fan. I love a lot of sports. I enjoy watching a good basketball game. By no means would I consider myself a basketball player, but I played a little bit when I was young, and I realized very quickly that I was not very good at it, and I moved on to racing. But I do enjoy getting out and shooting some. For me, whether it's basketball or racing, I think watching athletes at their best perform at that level is just a special thing to see. Obviously, to have those guys on the car—a team that competes at the highest level and wins championships is incredible. They’re a great basketball team, and we're so thrilled to have them on the car and so proud, especially Michael. Obviously for Michael it's a special thing going to Kentucky, his home state. I love going there, as well, and I'm very proud to have them on the car and what they represent. Hopefully we can go win the race.”

VICKERS ON KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY: “Part of what makes our sport so amazing is from an aerial shot some people would say  ‘Gosh, Kentucky is just like Charlotte’ but no, are you kidding me? It's not even close. You can't even run a single piece of the setup the same, and the roughness and the characteristics of the track. It all changes. Every track is unique and has its own character, and that's part of why we have so many different winners, guys and crew chiefs and engineers that adapt to certain services better than others and they figure out a package for that weekend that just maybe gets through those bumps a little bit better than the next guy, and I think that's what makes it a great sport.”

CLINT BOWYER: Clint Bowyer drove a Camry off Toyota’s production line at Georgetown, Ky. in February — now he’d like to drive a Camry into victory lane at nearby Kentucky Speedway. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver will pilot the No. 15 30th Camry Anniversary Toyota Camry in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race. The best-selling passenger cars are built in Georgetown, Ky. about 45 miles from the track. Carrying the Toyota banner is important to Bowyer who opened his own dealership in Emporia, Kansas in April.

BOWYER ON DRIVING A CAMRY OFF THE PRODUCTION LINE: “It was really cool to be able to drive a Camry off the line. Somebody does that every 55 seconds and that is mind-boggling. Not only that, those are already bought cars. Those are pre-ordered cars that are already spoken for. That is what’s insane, every 55 seconds somebody is signing their name to a brand new Camry somewhere in the United States and it all happens right there in that plant. Honestly, mind-boggling to see how extravagant the whole process is.”

ON TOYOTA TEAM MEMBERS WORKING ON THE PRODUCTION LINE: “We love them.  That was an eye-opener for all of us. Of course, we’re proud of our brand, but being able to see what all goes into one of those Camrys being built makes us even prouder.”

ON KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY: “I haven’t had the best luck so far in Kentucky, and I’m hoping to see that change this weekend. It’s a challenging track as far as a mile-and-a-half goes because the racing surface is so unique. The track has a rough surface, but still has quite a bit of grip. We see more tire fall off there, so guys really have to work on their cars throughout the race and tire management will be huge. It also tends to be very hot and the track temperatures make a big difference.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: If momentum matters in racing then No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. will be a favorite in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway which happens to fall on his 33rd birthday. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver led 51 of 110 laps at Sonoma Raceway last weekend on his way to winning by 8.133 seconds. It marked the Mayetta, N.J. native’s second career Cup victory and first with MWR. The victory moved him to 10th in the standings and solidified his chances to put the NAPA Toyota in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup for a second consecutive year.

Truex now sets his sights on the 1.5-mile oval in Sparta, Ky. where his Chad Johnston-led team has excelled in 2013. Only Kasey Kahne has scored more points on the 1.5-mile ovals in NASCAR’s new Gen-6 cars this season.

TRUEX ON WINNING: “Man, this has been an incredible week so far. I woke up Monday morning and checked my phone to make sure it really happened. It is so nice to know that when I set foot on the grounds of Kentucky Speedway, no one will be asking me a question that involves the number 219. I can’t even begin to tell you the feeling that I had when I crossed the finish line. I was a mess. Every thing I could think of … all the days that were bad. All the days that we were leading to only have it taken away at the end. It is such a proud moment for me and to get NAPA AUTO PARTS into victory lane is a very gratifying moment in my career. I sure hope we can do it a bunch more times this year.”

TRUEX ON ENTERING KENTUCKY 10TH IN POINTS: “My philosophy remains the same. I am not thinking about points until after the race at Richmond. I stopped focusing on it and landed in victory lane. It’s amazing to think that we are in the position we are in. It’s been a rollercoaster of a season and if we can keep the bad luck from biting us, I think we will be in good shape.”

TRUEX ON KENTUCKY AND UPCOMING TRACKS: “Kentucky should be a good race for us. We had a really good run there last year. We finished eighth. Our 1.5-mile program has been really impressive this year. Daytona is a crap shoot. I love New Hampshire. Honestly, I think we can go anywhere and run well. I think our worst run of the year was a few weeks ago at Pocono. But we still felt like we could have left the place with a top-10 finish. Heck, if we can win at Sonoma, we can win anywhere as far as I am concerned.”

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Jeff Gordon 2nd at Sonoma

JUNE 23, 2013

Five Team Chevy drivers in the top 10

SONOMA, Calif. (June 23, 2013) – Piloting the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, Jeff Gordon led Team Chevy in the Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup race on the tricky 10-turn road course at Sonoma Raceway with a runner-up finish.  Gordon overcame an early and untimely pit road penalty for pitting just as the caution flag waved, which left him mired in traffic for much for of the 110-lap race.  But solid pit strategy and a fast race car propelled him to the front of the field with just a few laps remaining. 

Gordon, who owns five wins at Sonoma, and who also holds the record for the most all-time road course wins (9) in the Series, captured his fifth top-five finish this season.  He gained three positions in the point standings, and is now ranked 13th overall.  

Kurt Busch, behind the wheel of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing/Sealy Chevrolet SS, also overcame pit road misfortune and rebounded to a top-five finish.  Busch received two back-to-back pit road speeding penalties, placing him one lap down to the leaders a third of the way through the race.  The team persevered to earn a fourth-place finish.  This is his sixth top-five finish in 13 starts at Sonoma.

Gaining valuable driver points, Kasey Kahne in his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS, earned a sixth-place finish; which moved him up to 11th in the standings.  Series point leader Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, avoided mayhem to finish ninth, and now has a 25-point lead overall.  Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet SS, continued his streak of Top-10 finishes for the six consecutive week by earning a 10th-place finish.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 12th followed by Paul Menard, No. 27 Menards/MOEN Chevrolet SS in 14th and Ryan Newman driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS finished 15th overall.  

Martin Truex, Jr. (Toyota) was the race winner, Carl Edwards (Ford) was third, and Clint Bowyer (Toyota) was fifth to round out the top-five finishing order.

Next stop on the circuit will be Round 17 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, June 29. Green flag is set for 7:30 pm ET and will air live on TNT, Sirius/XM Channel 90, PRN Radio and


THE MODERATOR:  We'll get started with our post‑race interview following the Save Mart 350 here at Sonoma Raceway.  We welcome our second‑place finisher today, Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS.  What an exciting race out there today.  Talk a little bit about your run today.

JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, it was extremely exciting for us.  You know, we had a pretty decent car there at the beginning.  It didn't take off real good and we lost a couple spots, then we started gaining them back.  We were in the top 10, and the rain was coming in and out, and we were going to try to make a three‑stop race out of it and try to keep fresher tires, which we still ended up, I guess, doing that.  But we were trying to beat that caution and just missed it by a split second.  Right as I committed to come to pit road I saw the red light come up, and I knew that that was going to cost us a lot.

But this team has been faced with a lot worse adversity than that.  Luckily we had a fast race car and stayed with our pit strategy, and things went our way.  You know, there was a bunch of wrecks that happened right in front of me that I was able to avoid, and we just had a really good race car and were able to drive up through.  That part was a lot of fun.

Q.  Jeff, coming up through there you had what at least appeared to be a couple of pretty close calls, you kind of nudged your way through some things.  Did you ever think you were going to be out of control, spin another car, spin yourself?

JEFF GORDON:  There's no guarantees at this place.  Those double‑file restarts are just so crazy at this place.  I've actually seen them worse than what we had today.  Luckily, and this is sort of the strategy that Alan went with, was making sure that we were on the offense instead of the defense on those restarts where we had fresh tires and we could attack and maneuver around some of the slower cars.

You know, it could have gone either way.  There were times when we were racing tight with somebody and we bumped and banged a little bit, but that's normal.  It's going to happen throughout a race here.  And then there were times when other guys had incidences right in front of us that, unlike last week where I felt like I kind of chose the wrong direction, today I was able to choose the right direction.  And then follow that up with a race car that just drove really well to be able to come up there.

I know some of those guys had a little bit older tires on us, so that's what our advantage was, was attack, attack, attack.  We had plenty of fuel and we could just go hard on the tires at the end.

Q.  Last week you had a bad break with Bobby Labonte and crashed out and ended up 39th.  How was today different?

JEFF GORDON:  I finished second.  (Laughter.)

Q.  Besides that, making your own breaks, feeling like even with the penalty issue, the fact that you had time to come back?
JEFF GORDON:  Well, the thing is unless you're eliminated from competition, you never stop trying.  You know, over the years I've had a lot of success, but I've also had my failures as well and you learn from both of them.  Sometimes you learn from your failures more than you do your successes.

While the successes help build confidence and the failures break the confidence down, I think one of the things that me and this team are good at is leaving that behind and going and starting clean at the next race and just focus on that race.  And that's what we did here.

Some of having a break and coming to a road course I think was a nice way for us to come and focus on something a little different than going to another 2‑ or one‑and‑a‑half‑mile oval with a rock‑hard tire that I've been struggling qualifying on.  Instead we get to come here to a place that I have confidence at and the car worked well.

We weren't a rocketship qualifying, but I knew if we were in the top 10 we had a shot to compete with them.

Q.  Do the Gen‑6 cars take a little bit more abuse?  Has that helped you in this race?

JEFF GORDON:  Not necessarily.  These fenders you have to be really careful with.  They actually can get damaged fairly easily.  They have the flares on them, so there's some aerodynamic advantages to that.  You don't want to mess those up at all.

In some ways I feel like you have to take care of this car a little bit more.

There's one thing I'm going to talk to NASCAR about with this car.  We don't have the body in the right position for the road courses to turn right.  When we go to Watkins Glen, as fast as those right-handers are, we're going to have some issues.  There's nothing to lean on.  You have plenty of grip on the lefts because the body still has a little bit of rake on the rights, it has nice sideforce for the right side of the car for those left turns, but on the right turns the cars are just so out of control.  I would like to see if there is something they can think about for that.  But other than that, I love the Gen‑6 car everywhere we go.  It's got good grip and drives well and looks great, and I think other than those fast right handers, I think it was the same here today.

Q.  Did you learn any strategies today that you will use next time here in Sonoma?

JEFF GORDON:  We shouldn't be giving up all of our strategy secrets, but because the teams know what we did, I can't hide too much of it.  But I mean, some guys decided to go on a two‑stop strategy and some went on a three‑stop strategy.  We were going to mix it up a little bit based on where our positioning was and how the speed in the car was, but I think when we took off and we were eighth or ninth and had a decent car but just couldn't pass, I think at that time it was pretty clear that we were going to try to do the three‑stop strategy.

Unfortunately we also tried to push it just one step further and beat that caution when we knew rain was coming, and that just caused us to get behind.  But luckily we stayed with the strategy of three stops.
Once we knew we could make it to the end and get four fresh tires on, that's what we did.  Luckily I think we were the second or third car ‑‑ I guess the 22 was the first, the 48 had two tires that he came out with, I'm not sure rights or lefts, I guess lefts, and we were able to get ahead of those guys and be sort of that car that could go and have fresher tires and put the pressure on guys and able to come up through there pretty good.

Q.  Jeff, you obviously needed this today.  It's a points boost.  What can it mean for you in the big picture?

JEFF GORDON:  Well, you know, I think that one of the things that we've learned but we need to do more of, me personally, is stop looking at the points because it seems like every time we get close to the top 10 and I start going, ooh, we're close to the top 10, we can make it in the top 10, something happens.  I'm going to stop thinking about the points and start focusing on ‑‑ not that we're not focused on putting good finishes out there, but need to stop leaving the racetrack and going where are we, what do we have to do next week.  We're just going to go and push hard and perform and try to put more finishes like this together.

If we live up to our potential and we don't get caught up in some of these silly things that we have been caught up in this year, there's no doubt in my mind we can work our way into the top 10.

Q.  Ninth different race winner here in nine years.  How surprised were you to see Truex pull away at the end?

JEFF GORDON:  Well, after Bowyer won last year it's obvious that Michael Waltrip Racing has a really good road racing program, and I've raced with Martin here before and he gets around here pretty good.  So you put those combinations together, and I'm not surprised.  They had a good strategy ‑‑ what happened to me early, they had the exact opposite. They made the caution.  And that can make or break you.  And he does a nice job on the road courses.  They had a good car.  I don't know whether that made the difference in winning or losing, but it certainly put him in a really good position to go out there and control the race.