Chevrolet Charlotte 600 race report

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Team Chevy Racing

KASEY KAHNE WINS NASCAR’S LONGEST RACE OF SEASON 300TH NASCAR SPRINT CUP CAREER START FOR KAHNE
Second Straight 2012 Win for Hendrick Motorsports

Kasey Kahne, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet
Kasey Kahne, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

CONCORD, N.C. (May 27, 2012) – Piloting the No. 5 Quaker State Chevrolet, Kasey Kahne came on strong in the late stages of the Coca-Cola 600 to claim his first victory of 2012. This marks his fourth career win at Charlotte Motor Speedway and his third win in this race. Kahne led 96 laps of the total 400-lap marathon race, NASCAR’s longest event of the season. He was able to hold off strong advances from Denny Hamlin (Toyota) and Kyle Busch (Toyota) who finished second and third respectively. Kahne now has 13 total career wins and currently sits 15th in the point standings, 36 markers out of the top-12.

Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) not only ended the day in victory lane, but all four of the HMS cars finished in the top-11 positions. Kahne’s teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 National Guard – An American Salute Chevrolet was the second highest finishing Chevrolet coming home in the sixth position.

After the trials and tribulations of the past few weeks Jeff Gordon driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, made a valiant run from the 23rd starting position to score his third top-10 finish of the season. The 21-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran battled his way through traffic twice to earn a hard fought seventh-place finish. Last year’s Coca-Cola 600 winner, Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet had a solid night finishing eighth.

A late-race pit road miscue costs Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet a shot at victory. The No. 48 team was given a stop-and-go penalty during the last pit stop, for removing equipment from the pit stall after the gas can became lodged in the car as Johnson exited his stall. The infraction placed the No. 48 Chevrolet one lap down and they were never able to get back on the lead lap with so few circuits left. However, he salvaged a strong finish ending the night in the 11th postion.

Other Team Chevy finishers in the top-20 were: Ryan Newman, No. 39 US Army Chevrolet was 14th; Paul Menard, No. 27 Menards/Serta Chevrolet was 15th; Regan Smith, No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet was 17th; Jeff Burton, No. 31 Wheaties Chevrolet was 19th and Juan Pablo Montoya was 20th.

The Series moves to Dover International Speedway next weekend on June 3rd, 2012.

KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 QUAKER STATE CHEVROLET – WINNER SOME DRIVERS HOPE TO WIN THE COCA-COLA 600 ONCE IN THEIR CAREER; YOU HAVE NOW WON THIS RACE THREE TIMES. I HAVE TO IMAGINE THIS ONE FEELS A LITTLE DIFFERENT? “It feels really good. It’s so special and awesome to drive for Rick and Linda Hendrick. For them to make me part of their company this is an unbelievable to drive for Hendrick Motorsports and be part of everything they do there. Our Hendrick engine was awesome tonight, brand new car that so many people put a lot of effort into. Thanks to Quaker State and the durability of the oil we did 600 miles no problem with tons of power. Farmers Insurance, Hendrickcars.com, Chevrolet they have all been a huge part of our season and it feels good to get a win tonight.”

THE SEASON STARTED ON SUCH A DOWN NOTE FOR YOU. YOU SAID YOU NEVER REALLY GOT WORKED UP ABOUT IT BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T FEEL LIKE YOU HAD COME TO YOUR CAPABILITY YET. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE NOW AND HAVE THE TIDES TURNED? “Well we are gaining. I think that is like seven, top-10 finishes in a row counting the All-Star race. So we are making big strides. I have the greatest teammates to work with. Which is something that I have really looked forward to coming to Hendrick Motorsports and being able to learn from Jimmie (Johnson), Jeff (Gordon) and Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) and see how they do things as well as Chad Knaus and all their crew chiefs (Alan) Gustafson and (Steve) Letarte they are all awesome guys and to learn from those guys, work with those guys is all I really wanted to do.”

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVER TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – FINISHED SEVENTH YOU HAD A GREAT RUN AFTER QUALIFYING 23RD TO MAKE YOUR WAY UP TO A TOP-10 FINISH WHAT WAS YOUR NIGHT LIKE? “We had an awesome race car and we showed it right from the drop of the green. We drove up through there. Obviously, it got tougher as you got further to the front. We still had a few things that needed to go a little bit better for us. We stayed out that one time and showed how good our car was. When we could be up front with those guys and we were on older tires hung out there in fourth.

“But, we came in under green and the caution came out. Went to the back again or I guess mid-pack and came back up through there. There at the end we took two tires and it would have been a good call unfortunately everybody else behind us took four that hurt us a little bit so we had to play catch up and came back up to seventh. That is a great effort by this team. I’m so proud of them.”

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER FOLDS OF HONOR CHEVROLET – FINISHED EIGHTH ON HIS RACE: “We had a solid night. We snuck up there in the top-five, got our bonus points for leading a lap and the pit crew was awesome. We were able to adjust our car. This isn’t our strongest race track the last two weeks but I feel like we have a solid package to build on.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S PATRIOTIC CHEVROLET – FINISHED 11TH YOU HAVE HAD A FEW PENALTIES ON PIT ROAD THAT HAS BEEN HARMFUL TO YOUR CHANCES TO WIN. YOUR CREW DOESN’T USUALLY MAKE MISTAKES WHAT’S HAPPENING? “No, we just made a couple of little mistakes on pit road tonight. The one late it took us out of a chance for a top three there but it happens. Last week things couldn’t have gone any better, Darlington they went amazing and then this week we had a few little issues. These guys will work their tails off this week and make sure we get those things corrected. We had a decent car not the car that we had last week. This track changes a lot from week to week, but I still think we would have a very fair shot with the Lowe’s Chevrolet but 11th is what it is.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S PATRIOTIC CHEVROLET – FINISHED 11th “We had a decent car. It’s not the car that we had last week. This track changes a lot from week to week, but I still think we would have had a very fair showing with the Lowe’s Chevrolet. But it is what it is.

WIN AS A TEAM, LOSE AS A TEAM “Absolutely.”

DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED? “Couldn’t tell you. I don’t know. We just had a couple of mistakes and the last one cost us but the last week and the week before, it couldn’t go any better. So, some weeks it goes your way and other weeks it doesn’t.

WHEN YOU’RE IN THE TOP FIVE AND HAVE THAT PENALTY HAPPEN LATE IN THE RACE CAN YOU OVERCOME THAT? “Yeah, late in the race you just can’t recover. So that’s lethal for your chances at a good finish. We had some little things happen earlier and I was able to rebound and work my way back up through there. But the last pit stop has got to be mistake-free.”

DO YOU THINK IF YOU WOULD HAVE GONE FOR A TWO-TIRE STOP THAT YOU COULD HAVE WON THE RACE? “I don’t know. I didn’t see the leaders or know their pace or know where things were at. I felt like the run before we were much more competitive and pacing the leader, but once we had the pit stop penalty, I just kind of cruised and brought it on home after that.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAD BEEN GAINING ON WHAT YOU WANTED UNTIL YOU GOT TO THAT POINT? “Yeah, things are different tonight than they were last week. Last week we had things perfect (laughs) and with all of the traffic and laps and the track loses some grip, but I still think we were going to be a top three car tonight.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON KASEY KAHNE MAKING IT TO VICTORY LANE? HE DIDN’T HAVE ANY WINS FOR THE HENDRICK 200TH WIN PARTY, BUT NOW HE HAS ONE “Yeah, I’m just so happy for him and that team. They’ve brought a lot to Hendrick Motorsports over the winter. Kasey and I have been good friends for a long, long time and I’m going to head on over there now and throw some Gatorade on him!”

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AN AMERICAN SALUTE CHEVROLET – FINISHED 6TH: WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY IF YOU HAD MORE OPPORTUNITIES TO WORK ON THE CAR? “We had plenty of opportunities. We made some good adjustments and got the car to fun pretty competitive at the end. We had a little trouble on a pit stop that cost us a spot to the No. 2 (Keselowski) car under that last green flag run. We had a lug or something come off on the left front. But we had real good speed when it counted in the end. Not as much as that five (No.5 Kasey Kahne, winner) obviously, but we showed it when we stayed out there with them boys and run in the top three there. We had good speed. The car was running about like it did last week. So, we could have done a couple of things different I think; but you don’t know if that will work or not.”

THIS WAS YOUR SEVENTH TOP-10 IN EIGHT RACES. DOES THAT MEAN ANYTHING FOR THE CONSISTENCY OF THIS TEAM? “It just says we are consistent and we want to win a race (laughs); that’s all I can tell you. We want to win so bad we can’t stand it. And we’re getting kind of close. It feels good to be competitive. I don’t want to take our consistency for granted but we would like to improve just a little bit more and we’ll get some wins.”

DANICA PATRICK, NO. 11 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET – FINISHED 30TH: ON THE RACE “We had a lot of green-flag running and for me as a driver in general in NASCAR, but especially as a new driver in the Cup Series, that hurts me. Those long runs hurt me. I’m just not great at making the best out of a car that’s not perfect and those long runs really show that. But that’s what you get in Cup. You get a lot of green flag running and I’ve got to learn how to deal with that. But that’s just the nature of where I’m at on the learning curve at this point in time. We brought the GoDaddy car home and one of the goals was to finish. I would have liked to have been a little faster overall, but I think there were some times in there when it was decent. It was kind of like Darlington (where) there was a certain run or two that felt really good and everything else, you just kind of like let’s work on this and let’s work on that.”

YOU’VE DONE 500; NOW YOU’VE DONE 600. IS THERE A BIG DIFFERENCE? “No, you don’t really notice that extra 100 miles. You just notice that you’re going five or six hundred miles (laughs). Actually I feel better getting out of the car right now than did even in the Nationwide race yesterday. The sun goes down and it cools off and it feels really good. And I feel good.”

DID YOU HIT THE WALL AT ONE POINT? “I just missed it (laughs). I just missed the wall. One time I got hit in (Turns) 3 and 4 and got pretty close to the wall but missed it. Another time I was just working with the high line because I just took it as time that I’m not running great so like let’s just take this time where I’m not running hard for position, to explore and work on the high line and it just seemed like I worked on the high line at probably the wrong time for the car because that was pretty loose on that run. When I went back down to the bottom after getting loose in (Turns) 1 and 2, I realized how loose I really was. It was probably not the right time. But it was still good experience for me and that’s what this is all about. When Tony (Stewart) picked the schedule, it was to pick the most difficult races of the year and this one definitely has a lot of attrition and the track changes a lot and you’ve got to keep up with that.”

TONY STEWART DIDN’T HAVE A WHOLE LOT OF SUCCESS IN THE RACE TODAY. IS THERE ANY CONSOLATION IN THAT? “For me, I just have so much to learn that it’s hard for me to really compare to anything else. For me I just told Zippy that I’d love to know what sort of leaders, mid-pack and cars were doing for times at the beginning and the middle and the end of their runs just to get a feel for how I stack up. But Tony is a fantastic driver and if he had a tough day, that’s just the way the season goes. Sometimes you do. And then other times, he goes out there and wins the darn race. So, this is NASCAR and sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t.”

REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW/FARM AMERICAN CHEVROLET – FINISHED 17TH "We hung in there and fought for everything we got tonight," said Smith. "We had some handling issues, which is expected in this endurance race that starts in daylight and ends under the lights. There were a few pit stops I wish we could have back, especially the one when I over-shot my pit box. Overall, it was a decent points race for us and it was also nice to pick up a few spots in the point standings."

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, earhardt, gordon, harvick, johnson, kahne, patrick, smith, stewart