Chevy teams race notes, quotes

Event: Daytona 500

DAYTONA, FLA (February 20, 2011) - The day dawned bright for Team Chevy heading into today's 53rd running of the Daytona 500 with fast cars and fast drivers poised to make a run at the biggest prize in the sport.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, won the pole for the race with teammate Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, securing the second starting position. As a result of a crash during practice, Earnhardt, Jr. had to drop to the back of the field on the final pace lap, but had confidence that his backup car was strong and he would make his way to the front.

Unfortunately, bad luck began to strike the Chevrolet teams early in the race that kicks off the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) season. Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, was in the garage on lap 22 with engine problems after leading twice for five laps. Five-time defending NSCS champion Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet and four-time NSCS champion Gordon were involved in a multi-car accident on the 39th lap of the scheduled 200-lap/500-mile race. Both returned to competition to salvage as many points as possible. Gordon was credited with leading one lap.

The two-car tandem was the order of the day and the drivers quickly picked a dancing partner to sort out their cars and settle in for the long run to the checkered.

Jeff Burton, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Clint Bowyer, No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, Regan Smith, No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, Paul Menard, No. 27 Menards/Peak Chevrolet, Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet, Juan Pablo Montoya, No. Target Chevrolet, Earnhardt, Jr. and Ryan Newman, No. 39 US Army Chevrolet all took turns in a lead draft and captured valuable points for leading laps as the race started to play out.

Burton was sidelined with an engine problem on lap 116 after leading twice for five laps.

With 15 laps remaining, several Team Chevy drivers were well positioned to charge for the victory. Tony Stewart, No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, who had been quiet most of the day was in the thick of things ready to pounce when the time was right.

But late-race crashes that involved Newman, Smith, Earnhardt, Jr. and Bowyer took them out of contention at the last minute.

When the checkered flag flew in a record breaking day for the Daytona 500 - 74 lead changes among 22 different leaders with 16 cautions for a total of 60 laps, despite two spins during the race, Montoya rallied to finish sixth. Smith recovered from his accident to finish seventh. Menard finished ninth and Mark Martin, No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, who was involved in the same accident as Gordon and Johnson came back to finish in 10th position.

The race was won by Trevor Bayne (Ford), second was Carl Edwards (Ford) and third was David Gilliland (Ford). Finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, were Bobby Labonte (Toyota) and Kurt Busch (Dodge).

Race two of the 36-race NSCS season will be Sunday, February 27 at Phoenix International Raceway.

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JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET, FINISHED 6TH:

ON HIS RACE: "It was an eventful race. It was hard the plan was just to be with Jamie (McMurray) all day and at the end of the day, he had a problem with the motor or the car and he couldn't keep up and he got kind of screwed there. We were lucky to get those cautions, I thought we had a shot at it coming down the back straight. It was a great points day. You know. It is points, points, points. We made really good points and I think we have really good cars. If you would have told me with 15 laps to go I was going to finish where I finished, I would have said no.

"It was ok though. A lot of the day was working with Jamie. I was lucky, he spun me and I felt really bad when I spun out there. But it was one of those deals. You just don't have a lot of room to go anywhere. When Jamie had the problem with the car, it was bad, we had no one to work with. There were a couple of guys that were a lap down with damaged cars. We were lucky to get that caution at the end. A couple of good moves and we were there at the end. That is all you can do is give yourself a chance at the end."

THOUGHTS ON THE TWO-CAR DRAFTING AND THE WAITING FOR JAMIE TO FALL BACK AND PICK YOU UP: "That was the deal, we agreed on it before the start of the race if either car had a problem. I was coming with the 83 but it was at the end so we got a better finish than we thought we would."

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REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW CHEVROLET, FINISHED 7TH:

ON WHAT HAPPENED? YOU HAD SUCH A GOOD DAY GOING: "I'm not really sure what happened. I saw Kurt get off me a little bit there and the product of what we're doing is, you have to check up to let your partner get back to you. I think he got pushed, too, and I just got hammered really hard there and turned sideways. I couldn't do anything about it. The Furniture Row Chevrolet was good, and it was frustrating, but...we'll go to Phoenix."

YOU HAD AS GOOD A CHANCE TO WIN THE DAYTONA AS ANYBODY THERE NEAR THE END: "Yeah, I did. When you can see the lead with five to go and then you're in the lead. It's a disappointing day. It's life and we go on to Phoenix and focus on the rest of the season .It's just gonna happen. That was nobody's fault back there. I don't blame anybody. I was trying to get back to my partner, and it just didn't work out."

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DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET -- Finished 24th:

I KNOW IT'S NOT THE FINISH YOU WANTED BUT ARE YOU ENCOURAGED BY HOW WELL YOU RAN? "I figured we would run good. I was very happy with how fast we got up through there at the start of the race. I want to congratulate the Wood Brothers and the whole team there.

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DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET -- Finished 24th:

I KNOW IT'S NOT THE FINISH YOU WANTED BUT ARE YOU ENCOURAGED BY HOW WELL YOU RAN? "I figured we would run good. I was very happy with how fast we got up through there at the start of the race. I want to congratulate the Wood Brothers and the whole team there.

"They did an awesome job and had a good car all weekend and that boy drove his heart out. I'm proud of them. We run good. Had as much fun as we could under the circumstances; it just got crazy at the end. That restart where I wrecked that was some funny stuff on the bottom down there. We just got hit in the quarter panel trying to get by a wreck. We may have caused a few today, I don't know. It was wild. I want to thank all my guys on my team, Hendrick engines, the body men and everybody who worked real hard to get us down here and make us run as good as we did. It was a shame we couldn't get a good finish for them."

YOU STARTED ON THE POLE, HAD TO START AT THE BACK AND DROVE IT TO THE FRONT AND DODGED MOST EVERYTHING ALL DAY EXCEPT FOR THAT LAST ONE, WHAT HAPPENED?

"I was in the back there and we got a flat tire and got ourselves in the back there and I was coming around one and two and all those guys were running into the back of each other on the inside and it was crazy and the 7 got turned down in the apron and they had a wreck......some guys got into the wall on the outside and I was just trying to avoid that and got to the center there and got hooked in the right rear but I don't know, we have had some pretty tough luck down here and didn't get the finish we wanted for AMP and National Guard and our fans.

"The guys on the team and back at the shop worked really hard to get us to this point and we had a fast car and tried to do the best we could today but it came down to all the carnage out there. Too much carnage out there."

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET -- Sidelined with engine failure on lap 22 (Note: last engine failure was 9/24/06 at Dover):

YOU NEVER BLOW MOTORS. WHAT HAPPENED TODAY? "We had just a 10 -- 15 more degree oil temp than what we had been (running). I pulled out from behind the No. 17 (Matt Kenseth) when I felt like I got to the point where I needed to pull out, and the bottom fell out of it. So, I hate it for everybody on this Budweiser Chevrolet and everybody from Jimmy Johns and Budweiser. A tough way to start the year but man, like you said, we never blow motors. Everybody at ECR does a great job."

THERE WAS A LOT OF SMOKE WHEN YOU PULLED IN THE GARAGE, DO YOU SPECIFICALLY KNOW WHAT HAPPENED? "I don't know for sure. I just blew the water out of the bottom of the thing. I hadn't done anything different. We had a little bit more oil temp, but nothing out of the ordinary."

DO YOU THINK THIS IS A RESULT OF PUSHING AND OVERHEATING? "I don't think so. Like I said, overheating would be getting it to the point where it blows off and you see the water start to come out. We had a touch more oil temp, but nothing out of the ordinary. And I had just pulled out. And that early in the race, even if you do get it hot, it's usually not a catastrophic failure like we just had."

DID YOU HAVE ANY WARNING? "No, it just let loose."

ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT THE POINT SITUATION NOW THAT YOU'RE STARTING OFF THE SEASON SO FAR BEHIND? "This is the first race. You don't come very much do you? (laughs).

YOU'RE A FAVORITE AND HAVE A STRONG CAR, HOW FRUSTRATING IS THIS FOR YOU? "Obviously, you come to the first race of the year and have that happen right off the bat is just something you don't really want to have happen and it's just one of those things. It happens. We go years and years without engine failures and they do a great job on that. So, it happens."

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JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, INVOLVED IN MULTI-CAR ACCIDENT ON LAP 29:

ACCESS THE DAMAGE TO YOUR RACE CAR: "It doesn't really matter at this point, our chances to win the Daytona 500 are over. That is the disappointing part. The Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet was really fast. I had just got with Trevor Bayne again, I had some help from Kasey Kahne in the beginning. We were having a lot of fun. You know, I totally get the two-car drafting and I think we are going to see a lot more of it. What I don't understand is why guys are doing it three-wide, three-deep running for 28th. We need to let it thin out a little. As soon as it thins out, then go to it and they can do it pretty safe and pretty harm free. Like right there, I was sitting there just kind of riding along just waiting for it to thin out. I probably should have waited even farther in the back, but you see them and they are pushing and shoving up the middle down the back straightaway. I'm like 'what are they doing', you know. You can understand those guys in the front two or three rows, go ahead...they are going to go out there and do it. But, anyway, it is disappointing. It is going to be a heck of a race to watch. I think the finish is going to be unbelievable. We are going to see a lot more of what we just saw. It is hot and a little slicker today. The cars aren't sticking quite as good as they were the other day. Unfortunately for us, the damages are going to take awhile for us to fix. We will get back out there and get as good of laps as we can."

WHAT HAPPENED? "We got into the NO. 7 (Robby Gordon) when the No. 29 (Kevin Harvick) blew up. He got down in front of me, I just couldn't get slowed down enough and got in the back of him and tore his car up. We had a little damage to the grill opening so we came in and patched that up. That got us in the back and we lost our drafting partner Trevor Bayne and Kasey Kahne. Back there you could actually just use the draft, you didn't need a partner. I was watching these guys in front of me like bumper cars. Bumping off of one another, three deep, four deep and three and four wide. Unfortunately we go caught up in it. I saw the 00 (David Reutimann) get turned and I was doing everything I could to avoid it and we got caught up in it."

HOW DISAPPOINTED ARE YOU? "It is such a bummer. We had such a fast race car, such a great race team. You have to take what you can from this. The most disappointing thing is we don't have a shot at winning the Daytona 500. We prepared so long and hard, these guys worked so hard and built me such a great race car. So that is the bummer. But at the same time, this could be a good lesson for us to repair this car and get back out there and get ourselves prepared to win a championship."

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE RACING OUT THERE? "In the first eight or 10 cars, it is good, it is fun. But everybody is trying to do this two-car draft all the way to 38th and that is where you have to be careful. You can't be three and four wide and five rows deep trying to push and shove one another. You have to use your head a little bit more and you have to be a little more patient. When it thins out, then we can go. A lot of guys aren't waiting for it to thin out, they are just pushing and they are getting themselves in trouble."

DO YOU KNOW HOW THE WRECK HAPPENED? "I don't know, somehow the 00 got turned, I'm not really sure how. I'm pretty sure somebody was pushing him and he had to check up or something happened. You are going to see a lot more of it. It is just not going to work until we thin out the field. Unfortunately we are one of those cars that got thinned out of it. We'll do what we can to get this Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet repaired and get back out there and get as many points as we can."

MICHAEL WALTRIP WAS JUST DISCUSSING HOW INTENSE IT IS OUT THERE WITH THIS TYPE OF DRAFTING..."That's true and I don't think that is very smart. For the first 10 cars, I think, yes, that makes sense. And when the field thins out, yes that makes sense. But on the restarts when they are two and three wide, to be that intense at the start of a Daytona 500, it is a long race. That is the part I don't quite understand. Everybody is getting on the brakes backing up to the guy to get the push when you are running 26th, 28th, 30th. I think we saw yesterday in the Nationwide race that you can kind of ride there in a pack if you don't get connected out there early and you can survive and ride. You don't want to get too far back, but you also don't want to be shoving people and spinning people out early in the race. That is what we are going to see here. It is new for all of us. First time with 43 cars in this type of situation. It is going to be a learning situation for a lot of them. We were learning. We were out there having fun with Trevor again and having some fun with Kasey Kahne. We had a fast race car so it is very disappointing we aren't going to win the Daytona 500."

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JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, SUFFERED ENGINE FAILURE ON LAP 94:

WAS IT THE SAME ISSUE AS YOUR TEAMMATE KEVIN HARVICK? "We are asking a lot out of the engines here for sure. These are tough situations. To run at all, you got to run them 240 (degrees) or so and that may be a little more than we need to be running. We thought we were well within our limits, but maybe not. But listen, I'm proud of everybody. Everybody busted their butt to come own here and put their best foot forward. We ran well all week and I am proud of everybody. Disappointed. Exceptionally disappointed. But I am really proud of everybody.

"It is a little early to know [what happened] yet. It could be [the same issue] but it is a little early to know. They had similar reactions and that is a possibility that is the case."

SO STRONG OUT THERE WITH CLINT BOWYER, DESCRIBE THE RACING CONDITIONS: "It is hard. I know it's not a 30-car pack, it is a lot of twosomes. It is very very difficult to do this. You can run nose to tail all day long but to keep the temps down like you need to and do that, it gets very difficult. I am really proud of everybody on the Cat Chevrolet. Everybody worked hard and came down here trying to put their best foot forward but it didn't work out for us. But I'm not going to hang my head. The effort was too good to be disappointed about."

-source: team chevy

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevy, gm, nascar, sprint cup