Tony Stewart Starts Daytona Speedweeks Strong with Runner-Up Finish in Budweiser Shootout
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 28, 2012) – In a wild dash to the checkered flag for the win in Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway, defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) champion Tony Stewart led Team Chevy across the stripe in second position.
With 12 of the 25-car field sidelined in four multi-car crashes that forced a green-white-checkered finish which extended the race seven laps beyond the scheduled 75, Stewart pushed his No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet to its limits in a drag race that delivered the closest finish in the 34-year history of the Shootout. The three-time NSCS champion had to settle for the runner-up spot by a mere 0.013 seconds to the race winner, Kyle Busch.
Stewart’s teammate, Ryan Newman, finished seventh in the No. 39 WIX Filters Chevrolet, with Juan Pablo Montoya crossing the line in 10th position behind the wheel of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet.
For the first time in his 20th year career of NSCS competition, four-time champion Jeff Gordon took a wild ride in his No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. Caught up in a multi-car accident on lap 74, Gordon’s car rolled three times before coming to rest on its roof. Gordon was easily extracted from the badly damaged race car and after examination in the infield care center, emerged uninjured from the accident. He was scored 15th in the final finishing order.
Other Team Chevy finishers were: Jeff Burton, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, finished 11th and Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, finished 13th. Along with Gordon, the following Team Chevy drivers were sidelined in multi-car accidents: Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet - 14th; Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet - 15th; Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet – 20th; Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet – 22nd and Paul Menard, No. 27 Menards/Peak Chevrolet – 23rd.
Rounding out the top-five finishers were Marcos Ambrose (Ford), Brad Keselowski (Dodge) and Denny Hamlin (Toyota).
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 MOBILE 1/OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET, finished 2nd:
TONY, TELL US ABOUT THE FINISH OF THAT RACE: “I knew he (Kyle Busch) was going to pull out but he at least got us up there where we needed to be. It reminded me of when we were in the opposite positions coming down here. I wasn’t going to put myself in a position to wreck myself, but I thought I left enough room to break the seal and get a little air between us. He did a good job. He did exactly what he needed to do.”
WHAT TYPES OF THINGS DID YOU LEARN HERE TONIGHT? WHAT TYPES OF THINGS ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO AS WE CONTINUE ON INTO SPEEDWEEKS? “That is a lot more fun racing like this than the two-car stuff. You are still going to see it at the end of the race I think. The good thing is it is a lot more fun running in the traditional pack than what we have had here in the past so I am looking forward to it. It is going to be a fun week.” / ***
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET, involved in a multi-car accident on lap 55 of the Budweiser Shootout:
WHAT HAPPENED OUT ON THE RACE TRACK? “It looked to me like the No. 9 got into the left-rear of the No. 20. It just takes a little bit of patient and a little bit of thinking on the parts of everybody on the race track. All the wrecks tonight have been caused by people hitting in the left-rear. I just hate it for everybody on our Budweiser team. The car was fast, in position to do the things we needed to do. Man, you just can’t hit guys in the left-rear.”
IS THAT ONE OF THE BIG LESSONS? WHAT OTHER THINGS DID YOU BRING OUT OF TONIGHT’S RACE? “I think the biggest problem is the tandem racing has been so easy for these guys to stay attached that some of them haven’t raced in pack racing. You get those big runs and things are going to happen a lot faster than they used to. They are just going to have to be a little more patient.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET, involved in a multi-car accident on lap 55 of the Budweiser Shootout:
WHAT DID YOU SEE OUT THERE? “I did see anything. I was behind (Martin) Truex. We checked up into the corner and I lifted a little bit. Then there was a wreck. I got into the back of Truex and I had somebody, I think somebody was pushing me, I don’t know. We all just kind of went up in the fence. I couldn’t get slowed down fast enough going that quick. We were all just running single file. It is a silly way to wreck. It was just something that happened that should not have happened.”
DALE WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE RACING OUT THERE TONIGHT? DO YOU LIKE IT? DO YOU LIKE THE CHANGES? “I like it better. The closing rate is a little fast. Guys will go flying backwards and forwards. I think we made a lot of great improvements don’t get me wrong. I think we have really made a lot of great improvements and I have more of my destiny in my hands in this type of racing.”
YOU LOOKED REALLY COMFORTABLE: “I was feeling really good and really happy with the way things were going. I felt like I was doing a good job. I felt like I had control of my race and had potential to win the race if I made all the right moves. That is all I can ask for.”
DOES THIS REMIND YOU OF PACK RACING TWO, THREE, FIVE YEARS AGO? “ This is real similar to when we first put the blades on the roofs. These cars that we have now have a really big greenhouse. There is just a massive closing rate. When you get bogged down guys can just fly around you. You just really have to be on your toes because somebody can get into you pretty quick. There is really no place for blocking anymore. Juan (Pablo Montoya) just about wrecked the whole field there on the front straight-a-way. When guys got runs on me, I just pointed them to a lane, so they knew where they could go safely and we would race it out. I would get them back if I could. I really wasn’t sure I would put anybody, when the closing rate is that fast, to see some part of the race track to the guys coming onto you. You can’t just be blocking like hell.”
HOW MUCH BETTER DO YOU FEEL NOW ABOUT YOUR CHANCES IN THE DAYTONA 500 THAN YOU DID THE OTHER DAY? “I like this kind of racing better. At least I know what to expect. I feel like I have a better chance with this style than I did last year for damn sure.”
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT IN THE DAYTONA 500? IS IT GOING TO BE CHAOTIC? “A lot of the same. Maybe being 500 miles guys might use a little better judgment, but I wouldn’t count on it. It is a heavy duty race. It is a pretty big deal to win and its going to be a lot of guys pretty excited about their prospects of winning it. Still pretty much any car can win. The lotteries still there for the whole field. We will just see how it works out. I think you will see some things happen throughout the rest of the week. I don’t know if this is exactly how we are going to go in. We are all running pretty warm. Guys were pushing water even when they weren’t tandem out there. We might have to look at where we are temperature wise in pack drafts and see if we’ve got enough give room to not be pushing all the water out. It is 15-20 degrees warmer during the day racing in the 500 and the 125’s and stuff. We will see how that goes, the 150’s or whatever they are.”
EVEN THOUGH YOU DIDN’T GET WHAT YOU WANT DALE OUT OF THE WAY THIS ONE ENDED. YOU LED A BUNCH YOU HAD SOME GREAT MOVE: “I’m real happy with all the work NASCAR put into this off-season to try to improve. They did a great job. It can get better and I hope that they strive to improve more and more. It can get even better than this. They are going to be excited about what they saw tonight. NASCAR should be pretty proud of what they have done and hope that they get a good response, which I’m sure they will. We still need to keep trying to make it even better. This is not the end this is just the beginning of trying to put a great package out here. It is a great improvement, really good. I’m pretty pleased with what I saw.”
QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “The chance to overheat was really easy even when you weren’t pushing people. I was just lined up behind people in a tight draft not pushing and saw guys in front of me pushing water out. I was getting hot. I got hot behind Kurt (Busch) and had to move around him because I had to get closer to the front to get the cleaner air. This is 15-20 degrees cooler than it will be for the qualifying races and for the start of the (Daytona) 500 probably.”
DALE, PAUL MENARD SAID THAT YOU HAVE TO MOVE AROUND AND COOL YOUR CAR DOWN. MOVING AROUND IN BIG PACKS CREATES WRECKS. IS THAT A GOOD ASSESSMENT OF IT? “You don’t have to move around. You just hold your damn car where it needs to be and not drive around like an idiot. If you want to drive your car in a straight line and be sensible it is possible. There is no chaos out there. Yes, there are guys moving around, but it’s not necessary. They are not doing it because they are hot or there are problems with their engine running hot or anything like that. They are just having a good time. Everybody is enjoying it. “
KURT BUSCH, NO 51 TAG HEUER AVANT-GARDE CHEVROLET, involved in multi-car accident on lap 74 of the Budweiser Shootout:
WHAT HAPPENED OUT THERE? “All the hard work from the crew guys, this was our fourth string type car. They are all calling it the 1985 Buick because of how old it is. We could feel all the hard work we put into it. With 10 to go, running into the top-five, you get emotional because you know how much hard work went into it. It is tough to wreck. It was awesome. For us to be running up with the big dogs and hanging out up front with a fourth stringer. This was a back-up to a back-up. We were in position coming to take the white and a couple of guys got sideways in front of us. This smaller spoiler gets the car looser through the banking. All of us are going to push like heck just to test the limits. It was a great race for our TAG Heuer Chevrolet. It was great for them to step on board and hopefully they got the exposure level they wanted to see tonight. It was a lot of fun. You could just feel the emotion with ten to go that we were in the position to do great things even though we are a small team.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET, involved in a multi-car accident on lap 74 of the Budweiser Shootout:
CHAMP, WHAT DID YOU SEE OUT THERE? “That was a wild race. I am really bummed I thought we had a chance to win this thing with the Lowe’s Chevrolet tonight. Everybody at HMS (Hendrick Motorsports) gave me an amazing race car. We were rolling we were going well. Fun night, I’m glad Jeff (Gordon) is ok, there at the end when we hit the wall I stared at the bottom of his car for a long time until it sat down. Luckily, it didn’t start tumbling there at the end. Just pack racing, its back.
IS THAT WHAT YOU LEARNED TONIGHT? THAT IT IS PACK RACING? IS IT ANY DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE USED TO HAVE OR IS IT JUST GETTING ACCLIMATED TO THAT TYPE OF RACING? “The rules package makes the care a lot looser than what we have seen in the past. On top of the fact that you have to be very smart with keeping your car cool. We are dealing with a ton of issues. It was fun. I think temperatures are going to be a big issue come Sunday. I’m not sure if NASCAR will consider looking at it, but we could overheat some cars Sunday afternoon.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET, finished 10th:
ON TONIGHT’S RACE: “That was some crazy racing out there tonight. Our team went through a lot with damage early on but we pulled it together and fought to the end. It’s a shame we got shuffled back there at the end but the No. 42 Target Chevrolet came back somewhat in one piece and we learned a lot.”
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET, involved in a multi-car accident on lap 74 of the Budweiser Shootout:
ON TONIGHT’S RACE: “We had a great car tonight and thought we really had a shot to win this thing. The Bass Pro Shops Chevy was in the wrong place at the wrong time at the end and we got collected up in the mess. Hopefully we’ll have some better luck next weekend and give Johnny (Morris) another Daytona 500 win.”
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, finished 11th:
JUST TALK ABOUT THE RACING OUT THERE: ‘I don’t know what to say. Plate racing is a huge challenge and one of the great things about the tandem racing is it separated the pack; one of the bad things about the tandem racing is I guess people thought it was boring. I don’t know what to say. It is a very difficult thing to try to figure out. At the end of the day, it is the driver’s responsibility not to cause wrecks, but it is just really hard. It is really hard.
“You saw an intensity level tonight you won’t see for the 500 until… What happens in the 500 every year, it always happens, everybody is pretty calm. Then it gets about half-way and it starts to get a little more intense. Then those last 100 miles, there is just caution after caution after caution and you get a mad dash for the end. That is what happens.”
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET, finished 13th:
ON TONIGHT’S RACE: “I wasn’t a part of it. I crashed so early I didn’t even really get to see. I tried to watch what they were doing and how things were working, but I didn’t get to race much. I was just by myself. I am going to video and watch it on You Tube and see if I can learn something.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 WIX FILTERS CHEVROLET, finished 7th:
ON TONIGHT’S RACE: “I don’t know. The cars were really on edge. I’m just happy to get the WIX Filters Chevrolet back in one piece. After watching that, I think we are going to go through some cars on Thursday so it will be nice to have a good backup. I think that is what everybody wanted to see, so we’ll go on.”
IS IT A COMBINATION OF PACK RACING AND TANDEM RACING? “It is, but we have a little work to do. We aren’t quite as fast as we need to be. I laid back in the back there just because I didn’t have the confidence to stay up front.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, involved in a multi-car accident on lap 74 of the Budweiser Shootout:
WHAT HAPPENED OUT THERE? “It was a wild night. Our Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet was really strong and we kept working our way up to the front so I was really happy about that. We had ourselves in a good position with Jimmie (Johnson) behind us. And then the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) got a run and got in front of us and I was on his bumper. Every time I got to him and was pushing him he started getting out of control and we got into (Turn) 3 and he started to lose it. I went to go around him and two guys were on the outside of me and I collected them and turned me into the wall and then I was just along for the ride.”
WHAT WAS THE RIDE LIKE GOING UPSIDE DOWN AND ROLLING AND FINISHING ON YOUR ROOFTOP? “Yeah, this was not how I wanted to start the 2012 season; I’ve never been upside down in one of these cars. The hit to the wall was much harder than the rest of it. The roll was pretty soft and pretty easy. The protection we have inside of these cars is amazing because I didn’t even hardly feel any of it. The toughest part is when you’re laying upside down and you can’t get out of the car. The roof was caved-in a little bit and that was no fun.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE MIXTURE OF THE TANDEM RACING AND PACK RACING OUT THERE TONIGHT? “It’s pretty wild and crazy but I mean I like this better than what we had last year, definitely. We all knew that we were going to be hooking-up and doing the tandem drafting toward the end of the race and there’s no real stopping that. It’s now just about not overheating. At the beginning of the race, I was really concerned because we were over-heating and I wasn’t even pushing anybody. So as we got a little bit closer to the front and started being a little smarter with it, it was working out fine. I was having a great time. My car was awesome. We were where we needed to be to win this race. So, this was unfortunate what happened.”
CAN YOU BELIEVE KYLE BUSCH AND THE DRIVING HE WAS DOING? DID YOU SEE THOSE TWO SLIDE-JOBS HE HAD? “I was joking with somebody. I said he was the one wrecking and I was trying to avoid and I was the one who ended-up wrecking and he wins the race (laughs).”
THE CAR ROLLED THREE TIMES. ARE YOU OKAY? WHAT HAPPENED? “I am fine. The safety of these cars is unbelievable. That is the first time I have been upside down in 19 or 20 years. I am glad it ended the way that it did with a nice soft rollover. It was great racing out there tonight. A wild finish and we were in a position to have a shot at winning this thing. That is what I feel bad about. Our Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet was really strong. I had Jimmie Johnson pushing me; we were looking good then those guys came up there and Kyle (Busch) got in front of me. I was staying with him, but he was wagging all over the place. I thought he was going to wreck so I went wide and collected a couple of guys on the outside of me. I’m sorry to those guys and it turned me into the wall, then Kyle (Busch) ends up winning the race. It was a pretty exciting way to start off 2012, but not the way we wanted to start it off.”
TELL US AGAIN WHAT HAPPENED “We were just getting down to the end of the race and it was time to go. Me and Jimmie (Johnson) were looking good there. We knew those guys were coming and once Kyle (Busch) got in front of me, I was just trying to keep Jimmie on me and try to stay with Kyle. Every time I got to Kyle’s bumper, he just started getting so sideways like he was a lot tonight. I thought he was going to wreck. I saw him start to spin, so I went to go wide, not knowing that somebody had gotten to my outside. That turned me into those guys and into the wall. And along for a ride, we went. And then Kyle ends up winning the race. So it was a pretty wild and crazy way to get it all started. It was certainly an exciting finish to the race and so I’m excited about that. But it was not the way our Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet wants to get the 2012 season started.”
THERE WERE SO MANY CRASHES TONIGHT; EVEN MORE THAN WOULD BE EXPECTED FOR THE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT. WHAT IS GOING ON? “Well, the difference now is that we’re still bump-drafting. We just can’t do it for long periods of time. So now we’re doing it in packs. And so you get on the straightaway. You push a little bit. And once the tires get a little bit of heat in them and we have less downforce, so the cars are moving around a lot. So you’ve got to be real careful with how you push and when you push and it’s definitely going to take some patience. But I was having a blast out there. Our car was awesome. We had a car that could win this race and so that’s got me excited about tomorrow for next week.”
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 PEAK/MENARDS CHEVROLET, involved in a multi-car accident on lap nine of the Budweiser Shootout:
WHAT HAPPENED OUT THERE? “Just tandem draft in a pack and it was a big mess really. I had a run on Kevin (Harvick). I was getting to his bumper and David (Ragan) was pushing me from behind. I got hooked from the left side and just went around. It was a lot of fun while it lasted. Kevin and I started in the back and he led a little bit. We came up through there together. It was a lot of fun, just hate to tear up a really good race car. We weren’t planning this next week, but it is still a damn good race car.
“It is a little bit of pack racing; a little bit of tandem drafting. I was trying to get to Kevin’s bumper and I had the No. 34 (Ragan). I think he was getting pushed. Then he was pushing me and I got to Kevin’s bumper and the No. 34 kept pushing me until I went around.
“I think there was a lot of cars in it. I haven’t seen a replay yet, but it was a hell of a wreck. You just hate to tear up race cars like that. The two-car draft and the tandem drafting seem to be a lot easier to pass; a lot less chaotic. This is pretty damn chaotic, but we’ll fix it.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE 500? ARE WE GOING TO SEE CHAOS? “Oh yes. It is going to be chaotic. It is going to be exciting for sure. We have to figure out if we want to just ride around or not because it is a big big chance you are going to wreck. We don’t like to wreck; they don’t pay many points back in 43rd.”
DID IT FEEL MORE CONTROLLABLE? “Compared to last year it was way more out of control. More cars together. The old style pack racing seemed to be less chaotic than this is because you can still get to the bumper and push, but just not for very long. So there is a lot of that going in the middle of a pack. So, it is chaotic for sure.
“You just can’t stay there (on the back of another car) but it is there so you can still get to the bumper.”