KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET SS – RACE WINNER:
THIS IS YOUR THIRD WIN IN YOUR LAST FIVE RACES HERE AT THE SPRINT UNLIMITED. YOU KNEW THE MOVE WAS GOING TO COME. YOU JUST DIDN’T KNOW WHEN AND WHERE. TELL US ABOUT THE LAST LAP COMING OFF TURN 2 “I could see those guys, the No. 16 (Greg Biffle) in the middle-half there, and then the No. 14 (Tony Stewart), they were kind of timing it as to how far they needed to get back to get that dive to the bottom, but with the top there, you could guard the bottom if they didn’t get all the way by you with the side draft and that’s really what you were looking for. So I just chose to stay on the top and I knew that the No. 14 was going to try to time it for getting down into (Turn) 1 and then the outside got a huge run and then we were able to block that run on the outside there. It was a great day for our Budweiser Chevy and I’m glad we got Speedweeks started off the right way.”
YOU ALSO SAID YOU WERE KIND OF GLAD THAT MATT KENSETH GOT SHUFFLED BACK. WAS HE THE OTHER STRONG CAR OUT THERE? “Yeah, I felt like he had the strongest car and he could make a lot happen on the bottom by himself. So, I was glad to see him get shuffled back there.”
THERE WAS SO MUCH UNKNOWN GOING INTO THE RACE TONIGHT. YOU KNEW TONY STEWART WAS GOING TO MAKE A MOVE. WAS THE MOVE THAT YOU EXPECTED HIM TO TRY? WHAT WAS IT LIKE JUST SITTING THERE WAITING? “I was really kind of nervous about the No. 20 (Matt Kenseth) and the No. 14 (Tony Stewart). I thought their cars were a little bit better than what we had. But I want to thank Sprint and the race fans. This one was for everybody sitting in the stands and at home, Budweiser, Rheem, Jimmy John’s, Chevrolet and Bad Boy Buggies and Realtree, everybody that puts this team on the race track. It’s a good way to start off Speedweeks.”
WHAT KIND OF STATEMENT DOES THIS SEND TO PEOPLE UTTERING THE ‘LAME DUCK’ PHRASE FOR THIS YEAR? “I think it’s just one of those deals where for us, it’s really not winning races; the politics and everything are one thing, but when we get to the race track it’s about sitting in this race car and making it as fast as it’ll go. Those guys, they don’t care about anything but winning and wanting to do good. So, we owe it to them and everybody at Budweiser and I guess we just had to take their name off the race to win it. So, it was an awesome say for us.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 MOBIL 1/BASS PRO SHOPS CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED FOURTH.
TELL US ABOUT THE LAST LAP HOW IT PLAYED OUT IN YOUR MIND AND WHAT MOVES YOU COULD HAVE MADE/SHOULD HAVE MADE? “That is why I haven’t won a Daytona 500 yet. I’m not quite sure exactly which move to make. I saw the No. 22 coming on the bottom. I thought they were going fast enough that I needed to move down, but I should have stayed where I was at. We’ve got a good car anybody that questions whether Mobil 1 is the best lubricant brand in the world all they had to do was watch the first 20 laps of that race. We proved it by going to the back, going to the front, going to the back, going to the front. We’ve got really good race cars. I’m really proud of the Hendrick engine department and everybody at Stewart-Haas. To go through the winter these guys have gone through and trying to build cars at the last minute because of the shortage of parts and to bring two cars down here that are this fast. I’m really proud of our organization right now.”
WHAT HAPPENED EARLY IN THE RACE WHEN THE BIG WRECK BROKE LOOSE? “I got a big run on the No. 20 and I went to the bottom. I thought I was clear. The spotter did not clear me so I went on my own. I thought I had enough of a run to be clear of the third-place guy. I’m pretty sure I clipped whoever was in third. I made a move for the lead and probably was a little anxious too early. I was kind of stagnant where I was at and I was having fun moving forward and felt racy.”
WHAT DID YOU LEARN TONIGHT ABOUT THIS NEW GEN-6 RACE CAR: “We learned a lot. The good thing is we’ve got 500 miles to get it done this weekend. We learned a lot that will help us going into Sunday. Really proud of our team and organization that we were able to bring two really good cars like this down here. This thing was fast today.”
LAP 15 YOU GOT TO USE SOME DIRT TRACK EXPERIENCE WHAT HAPPENED: “I self-cleared myself I guess, I went down before the spotter cleared me. I thought I had a big enough run that I cleared second, but I obviously hadn’t and I just barely nicked him. I just need about two more inches.”
WHAT ARE YOUR FIRST THOUGHTS ON THE WAY THE NEW CAR RACED TONIGHT: “It is like nobody has missed a beat. It’s almost like it’s not even a new car as far as how comfortable everybody got. I think everybody was pretty solid right off the bat. I think if it gets warm it could make this interesting and put it back in our hands again. It’s still a chess match. You’ve still got to play chess.”
YOU HAD A PRETTY EVENTFUL EVENING IF YOU COULD JUST TALK ABOUT THAT: “Self-cleared myself in (turn) one and wasn’t. I don’t think I was clear obviously. I clipped whoever was in third. When Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. came down to the middle where he was at made me really tight. I got up into him and then I got into him and couldn’t get off of him, bounced off of him about three times. I made sure our spotter told him what happened, but I definitely was in enough interesting spots tonight for sure and most of them I put myself in.”
YET STILL ABLE TO RALLY FOR A GOOD FINISH SO THAT HAS GOT TO BE ENCOURAGING: “Tonight is the reason why I haven’t won the Daytona 500 yet. I’m not sure where I’ve got to be on the last lap there and what to do. We heard the Fords were ganging up and trying something. Then saw the No. 22 car on the bottom all of a sudden, so I went where I thought was the right place to be and we lost two spots with it. I would rather try something and it not work than stay and lose a bunch of spots and I would probably be more frustrated because I didn’t try something.”
WITH THE SIGNIFICANT CONTACT THAT YOU DID HAVE TONIGHT WERE YOU HAPPY WITH HOW THE CAR HANDLED AFTER THE FACT: “Yeah, it really didn’t change it. I honestly don’t know I haven’t even been to that side of the car to see what it did. It really didn’t change my balance, so I don’t think it really changed anybody’s balance that made contact. They are pretty solid race cars I’m pretty impressed.”
PRETTY GOOD DAY FOR YOUR TEAM YOU HAVE TO BE REALLY HAPPY: “I’m really proud of our organization to come in a clutch like this and have to build race cars at the last minute. Because everybody was waiting on parts and to be able to bring three cars that today in practice were in the top eight and to have a car that we had tonight. I couldn’t be more proud of the effort and the results that showed tonight because of it.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS, FINISHED 9TH:
HOW DID THE CARS HANDLE OUT THERE TONIGHT? "It was pretty good when we had more cars. I thought the racing was real good even with 12 cars in the second segment. At the end of the race, it was just few enough cars that when about eight or 10 of them started controlling the top line, the basically controlled the fate of everybody else. You really had to get more cars moving around, and going for the lead to get a little more racing, and a little more action. But, I thought what I saw the first segment and the second segment with just a few cars out there, it was pretty dicey."
DID YOUR HANDLING GO AWAY QUICKLY? OTHER DRIVERS SAID THEIR'S DID: "Really? My car drove real good. I never had any problems with the handling. I never had any problems with the handling."
DID THE ADJUSTMENTS, OR WHATEVER THEY DID TO FIX THE CAR AFTER THE SECOND SEGMENT MAKE IT FINE? "I didn't really have any problems with my car. I don't think we changed anything. This is the car we tested and it didn't really run that great when we tested it. I could get run and charge up into the top-five, but it didn't like the clean air up there. It got real draggy, just real slow up front. The No. 20 (Matt Kenseth) had a great car, and the No. 14 (Tony Stewart) was real fast, but he's real sharp at plate racing too. The No. 29 (Kevin Harvick) had a good car. I just didn't make enough of the right moves or have enough car to get it going there."
YOU SAID IT SOUNDED SICK: "Well, I thought I had an issue with the engine, but it was just the draft was easy to lose. With this little spoiler on the back, it's really easy to lose the draft because the air gets to your nose pretty quick, and the distance of the draft isn't as far back as it used to be off the car in front of you. So, you can lose it pretty easily. You have to be real careful. Me and the No. 99 (Carl Edwards) both lost it right there at the end of the second segment."
SO DRAFTING IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT WITH THIS CAR? "It's different than it was last year for sure from what I saw in that race. You could still push guys, which we always...we pushed guys for years and years and years and years. Even before the COT, we were pushing each other down the straightaways and stuff. I think you can still do that. Everybody's just got to kind of learn how we have to do it differently now. Everybody's just got to go through trial and error on how to it. What works and what doesn't."
THERE WAS A WRECK EARLY IN TESTING. THERE WAS A WRECK EARLY IN PRACTICE YESTERDAY. THERE WAS A WRECK EARLY IN THIS RACE. HAVE YOU GUYS HAD ENOUGH CHANCE TO LEARN WITH A LOT OF CARS OUT THERE? "No, not really. A lot of the guys that weren't in this race haven't been in real race conditions with this car yet. So, half the field still has a lot to learn; a crash course you know. I think. So I think you are going to see a little bit of the same in the (Daytona) 500. Maybe even in one or two of the qualifiers. The qualifiers have always kind of been that way anyway. You always had one that had a big crash in it, and then one that was caution free. The bumpers aren't perfect. They are imperfect when they line up, and that is going to cause some action and some drama out there. That is the way it used to be, and I think everybody is okay with that. The drafting and the way you work the draft, I think everybody is still kind of learning that. I learned a lot tonight, but I still think there is tons to learn."
WHAT DO YOU KNOW NOW THAT YOU DIDN'T KNOW BEFORE THIS RACE? "Just a lot of little nuances about the draft. I had a good run on the No. 16 (Greg Biffle) going into third in the second segment. My run was really strong, and I thought it would be enough to clear him, and it wasn't. The car died out pretty quick when I got down to the bottom in the clean air. Technically I thought that would be an easy pass. Hopefully the 500 car has that kind of muscle, and maybe just this car didn't. Passing is a bit of a challenge. You have to know what you are doing, and work the momentum and see what is happening around you. It is a good challenge. I think it is really challenging. Not just pushing the car as far as you can push it, and as hard as you can push it. You have got to really think about what you are doing up there and what decisions you make, and what lines you get in. We haven't had to worry about what line you get in for year, so that is kind of neat wondering whether the top or the bottom is going to move. Lot of different things happening out there, and everybody is just going to have to learn what works and what doesn't."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS – Sidelined in multi-car crash on lap 15:
WHAT DID YOU SEE FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE: “I didn’t see much. I was just kind of cruising along and I saw sparks in front of me. I knew that wasn’t good. Then before I knew it just the cars inside of me and around me everybody just slid up the race track and into me and around we went. I still haven’t seen the video replay of exactly what triggered it, but it started in front of me and got a bunch of us.”
HOW DID THE CARS FEEL OUT THERE: “Felt pretty good it seems to me that we are back to where we were with the old car ’06 era somewhere in there with how the cars drafted. So it was fun, it was nice to see Tony (Stewart) and I working the outside lane like we did. Some guys tried it and really didn’t get very far. Tony and I started working together like the old days and really made up some ground. I was encouraged by the speed of my car and by the way the cars raced on the track. I’m looking forward to the (Daytona) 500. Hopefully I go further. My stats on restrictor plate tracks really aren’t looking very good right now. I’ve got to pick that up.”
WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT HAPPENED SO SOON IN THE RACE: “It’s hard to say. Plate racing we are all running so close and again I don’t know what triggered it. I am disappointed that it was that early in the race, but I’m not sure why it happened.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS – Sidelined in multi-car crash on lap 15:
“Half the battle and goal of this race is to learn something for next week’s Duel and the 500. The car was definitely, as far back as I was, they become a handful a couple laps before that. But handling wasn’t an issue. We had good handling. We need a little more speed, so we’ll work on that. But I can’t tell if guys are just getting out of control or if they’re getting hit or what’s going on. But several guys started shuffling back to the back and right there I saw somebody loose on the inside and the outside lane somehow was affected by it and it was a domino by the time it got back to me and we were in it.
CAN YOU TELL US YOUR VERSION OF THAT AND WHAT WERE YOU FEELING OUT THERE: “I couldn’t see much. We were in that bottom lane that just got shuffled back early and so we were just slowly working our way back up there. I saw handling started to become an issue for quite a few guys, a little bit for myself, but not too bad. I just saw somebody get sideways going down into (turn) one and then our lane checked up and they started getting turned and we started wrecking.”
TALK ABOUT THE HANDLING IS THAT A GOOD THING FOR NASCAR RACING: “Yeah, but you as a driver have more responsibility now about how you are going to drive out there because the cars are going to move around a little bit more. They are going to get turned around a lot easier, so you can’t be running into one another. You can’t be turning across guys; you have to utilize that handling to your advantage after a longer run. I like that part of it.”
ANY SURPRISE IN YOUR MIND THAT IT HAPPENED THIS EARLY: “Yes and no, I thought at the start of the race everybody was doing a pretty good job of watching. Even when we were three-wide it wasn’t too bad. Then I started seeing some guys start to lose the handling on their car and start to get a little out of control. I started paying a little bit more attention and was looking for cars to slide around. They were, but no incidences until then.”
DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE 150’S ARE GOING TO BE LIKE NOW: “Well, if it warms up during the daytime handling is going to be a big, big issue. That is going to be important and so we will look at the weather. We weren’t there long, but we learned a little bit and now we will watch what these guys are doing and try to learn some more for the duels.”
IT SEEMED LIKE THE INSIDE LANE WAS A BETTER LANE: “It wasn’t for me at the beginning. At the beginning the inside lane was no good at all. Usually it’s not the lane it’s just how it’s formed. If you get guys stacked up that lane will start moving, the outside seemed to move early, but then it looked like the outside also started having some handling issues as we started to get more heat in the tires.”
HANDLING DIDN’T CAUSE THAT WRECK RIGHT: “I haven’t seen it, but from what I heard no. I think handling at the end of this race when people started getting more aggressive it will probably contribute to some. The handling is what can lose some speed. It shouldn’t necessarily cause a wreck unless you are trying to be aggressive towards the end of a run and the handling is just not going to be as good.”
Team Chevy Racing