Earnhardt Jr. and Chevy drivers talk about Richmond race

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Team Chevy Racing

THREE TEAM CHEVY DRIVERS SCORE TOP-FIVE FINISHES AT RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

RICHMOND, VA - (April 28, 2012) – Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, continued his strong start to the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) season with another solid run on Saturday night in the Capital City 400 Presented By Virginia is For Lovers at Richmond International Raceway. Earnhardt Jr. came home with a second-place finish, which was his 7th top-10 finish in the first nine races this year. Junior also moves up to second in the overall driver point standings and closed to within five points of the overall lead with his run tonight.

Tony Stewart, No. 14 MOBIL 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, led 118 laps in tonight’s race; but a slow pit stop after a late caution for debris, cost him the lead on the final restart. Stewart, who had dominated the later part of the race, finished in the third position and remains in eighth place in the point standings.

Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, posted another good run with a fifth-place finish in tonight’s race. Kahne moves up three spots to 23rd in the overall point standings after nine events.

Kahne’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson had to overcome a pit road penalty to bring his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet home in sixth place. Johnson looked as if he would contend for the win prior to the penalty which placed the No. 48 Chevrolet at the tail end of the lead lap cars for the final restart. The run moves Johnson up one position to sixth in the point standings.

Other Team Chevy finishers were: Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Target Chevrolet - 12th; Paul Menard, No. 27 Menards/NIBCO Chevrolet – 13th; Jamie McMurray, No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet – 14th; Ryan Newman, No. 39 Army Reserve Chevrolet – 15th; Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet - 19th; Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet – 23rd; Regan Smith, No. 78 Furniture Row Racing/Farm American Chevrolet – 27th; Kurt Busch, No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Inc. Chevrolet – 28th; Dave Blaney, No. 36 SealWrap.com Chevrolet – 29th; Jeff Burton, No. 31 BB&T Chevrolet – 31st; David Reutimann, No. 10 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet – 33rd; Steven Leicht, No. 35 LittleJoesAutos.com/Link Belt Chevrolet – 35th; Cole Whitt, No. 40 Turn One Racing Chevrolet – 40th.

Kyle Busch (Toyota) was the race winner. Denny Hamlin (Toyota), was fourth.

The Series moves to Talladega Superspeedway on May 6, 2012.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR. NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET – FINISHED 2ND:
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 MOBIL 1/OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET – FINISHED 3RD:

KERRY THARP: Talk about how you thought things unfolded for the 88 team.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Our car was pretty good yesterday and started the race nice. We made some good adjustments to help it roll to center points in the race. I got them talked into going to a different master cylinder for a little softer pedal at Martinsville and then we brought it here and you are on the brake pedal so far down in the corner that it just cooked the fronts and I'd get a real soft pedal pretty quick.

I couldn't get enough front brake in it at the end to run as hard as I wanted to, and we just had hurt the balance a little bit on entry. But really happy to come home with second. We were running about fifth all night, and just got lucky on that restart to be on the inside and get a couple spots. We just kind of got lucky there at the end on a couple things to gain a couple extra spots. But we ran good. We were terrible last year at this track and I really like running here, and I just was curious as to why we weren't performing as well. So it feels good to run all right here.

KERRY THARP: Tony, led some laps up there, certainly had a strong car, and really came on there. Weaved your way through the field. Talk about your run out there this evening.

TONY STEWART: Yeah, I'm proud of our guys. That's the best car I've had here at Richmond in a long, long time, something I felt really comfortable with today. It was good right off the bat, and proud of Steve Addington, just kept making it better and better and better. We were where we needed to be at the end of the day. We stayed up with that trio of guys up front the last, I don't know, 150 laps or so. You know, that's what you've got to do. I mean, it feels this is my favorite track, so it feels good to be running good here at Richmond again.

Q. On the restart with Carl where he was black flagged, you were certain you were the leader? Had that been communicated to you, and did you think that he just clearly jumped the restart?

TONY STEWART: Well, we were the first one to line up and we were the leader on the board. So I don't know how much clearer it could be that we were the leader. If that was the case then they should have put the caution out and given him the opportunity to choose the lane that he wanted. It's a miscommunication between upstairs and the drivers.

Q. Tony, did you have a problem earlier in the pits, kind of the same issue?

TONY STEWART: Not really.

Q. Tony, on television you seemed upset on pit road about the pit crew. You come in here and seem a little bit softer. How do you address this, in a competition meeting, back at the shop Monday and Tuesday? How do you see it going forward?

TONY STEWART: No different than anybody else that has a scenario that happens tonight. You go back and try to work on it and try to remedy the problem and try and make sure it doesn't happen again.

Q. Tony, I think you got a water bottle out there. Was it a water bottle that brought out the debris?

TONY STEWART: That's what it looked like to me. I mean, it was out of the groove. It had been sitting there for eight laps.

Q. And the fact that this is the third straight race there has been no wreck, does that amaze you? Have you ever seen anything like that?

TONY STEWART: Only you would think about stuff like that. I don't know what you think of during the race but I try to figure out how to win the race and make my car go fast. I don't sit there and think of that petty crap you think of. Glad to see you're back to form.

Q. Going into Talladega next week, you now have a second finish, you've got momentum. Is this going to help you possibly get towards that win and getting that 200th win for Hendrick next week?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, I don't think momentum is a real thing. The team is confident, we're feeling good. We feel like we're competing well. Really close to winning a race. We ain't really raced for a win yet and lost one, so I wouldn't count tonight. But we're getting better at running the top 5 and top 10s. We'll just try to keep doing that. There's too many variables going into races at Talladega whether you feel confident winning or not. There's just too much going on there.

Q. Dale, I heard you talk earlier in the race about having potential brake issues. When it gets to the end, you've gotten yourself to second, are you thinking I'm screwed, I can't do this, or does the fact that you possibly can do it overcome the troubles you've had?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, if the car was good I could have dealt with the brake problems, if the car was faster than the 18 we would have got there to him and maybe we'd raced for it, but the brake problems weren't that bad. I just chose a different master cylinder at Martinsville and I shouldn't have brought it here. I just shouldn't have done that because I know better, and these cars are going too fast in the corner running that kind of master cylinder. I learned a lesson, and we'll have an idea what to use when we come back.

Post race quotes:

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET - FINISHED 2nd WAS THERE ANYTHING YOU COULD HAVE DONE WITH THE NO. 18 OF KYLE BUSCH AT THE END? “No, we had some brake problems all race long. I had a great re-start and I ran really great for one lap and the pedal went back to the floor. I just had to pump it up all the way down the straightaway and I didn’t have any front brakes getting into the corner so I couldn’t get in real hard. It would just get loose locking the rears up. So even with the brakes working, I think the No. 18 was just a little bit better than us all night. But I want to thank National Guard and Diet Mountain Dew and my team; they had great stops and we gained a lot of spots on pit road. And we had a great race car. All the people at Hendricks; they do a great job, man. It’s just been fun this year.”

ON HIS RACE: "We out-ran a couple of guys there that were faster than us all night. Just got lucky on that restart being on the inside. We had some brake problems all night long. Kind of tried to overcome them best we could. We were a top, maybe a fifth place car. I'm really happy to gain a couple of spots there at the end with that caution and get some more points."

ON HOW WILD THE RESTARTS ARE: "You want to try and win the race, but you got to take care of everybody around you. You just try to do the best you can to win the race and be smart doing it. Make it look good. I have to thank Diet Mountain Dew and National Guard and all of our supporters; Hendrick and all those people - they built a great race car. Our team did a good job on pit road. We're just trying to click away some good runs. We want to win a race or two here and there. If we keep running up front, that will happen."

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 MOBIL 1/OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET – FINISHED 3RD WHEN YOU GO TO BED TONIGHT, DO YOU DREAM OF THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY? “Well, when the caution is for a plastic (water) bottle on the backstretch, it’s hard to feel good about losing that one, I mean. And we gave it away on pit road. So we did everything we could to throw it away; it got taken away from us. That’s the best car I’ve had a Richmond in a long time. So I’m really proud of that and (crew chief) Steve Addington and I’m proud of our guys. But we’ve got some work to do on pit stops right now. I don’t know what their malfunction was but I’m pretty ticked off about it tonight.”

CAN YOU PUT INTO WORDS WHAT HAPPENED ON THAT FINAL RESTART? "We got...we lost it on a plastic bottle on the backstretch. For a caution for a plastic bottle, so you tell me how you'd feel."

KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET – FINISHED 5TH HOW WAS YOUR RACE? "We were just trying to get forward drive throughout the race and keep it turning in the center that was the hard part. It is always the tough at Richmond. We had a pretty good Farmers Insurance Chevrolet. It was just all about getting off pit road third there with Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.). He barely beat me off and he ran second, so they had a good night. I think all the Hendrick cars were pretty good tonight."

ON HAVING A FINISH THAT REFLECTS HOW WELL HE IS RUNNING: "We're definitely trying to run top-10, top-five; do the best we can. Once we get things figured out hopefully we can get a couple of wins. Right now the guys are doing a good job. We had good pit stops tonight. It was a pretty solid race for us. We made gains throughout so it was good."

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET – FINISHED 6TH WHAT HAPPENED ON THE PIT STOP PENALTY? “I think a wheel got away or something on the pit stops. Equipment leaving the pit box required us to go to the tail end of the lead lap. We had a couple of little mistakes like that today unfortunately. We had a really fast race car. I wish they would give us ‘fastest’ points because I would have got a bunch tonight. I think we were pretty equal with the leaders, the No. 18 and No. 14. We could have run third, we could have won the race. A great solid performance, we have been junk here the last two or three times. To come here and have a great night is very important for us.”

HOW MUCH OF A SET BACK WAS THAT PENALTY? HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT TO GET BACK UP INTO THE TOP-10? “It’s frustrating but if you race in this sport long enough you get challenged. Even when a race is going well, I’ve learned to not expect for it to continue to go well. Things happen and that is what the driver and the team need to be ready for. To capitalize on those moments and make the most of those moments, we did a decent job tonight got back to sixth.”

WITH ALL THESE GREEN FLAG LAPS RUN IS THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE OF? “It doesn’t bother me. Inside the race car you really have to manage your equipment and take care of your stuff. From the driver’s stand point I think it’s a lot of fun. There was a lot of hard racing. I know there weren’t the cautions; but a lot of really tough racing, a lot of smart racing. You see guys go a little harder at the beginning, use their stuff up, fall back. You just had to manage your tires and be really smart with things and your brakes.”

WELL YOU BROUGHT IT HOME IN 6TH PLACE, BUT A MISTAKE ON PIT ROAD MAY HAVE COST YOU A WIN TONIGHT “Yeah, maybe. We had a couple of little instances there. But stuff happens. It’s racing. Unfortunately we had a tire get away from us and had to serve that penalty and go to the back. But the good news is we had a very fast race car. I guess last fall we were decent here; but this track has been real hit or miss. To have a car that strong and to pass that many cars all night long, I’m proud of the effort. I’m very thankful this Lowe’s car was that strong. I certainly wish we didn’t have that mistake, but when you’re in this deal long enough mistakes happen; and I just hate it when it lands on your shoulders. I don’t want to beat anybody up.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – FINISHED 12TH TELL US ABOUT YOUR RUN TONIGHT: "I'm really happy with how we raced tonight. The Target Chevy was fast and 'Shine' made some great calls on pit road to get the car handling right. I'm very proud of the team. We're definitely heading in the right direction with this program."

PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 MENARDS/NIBCO CHEVROLET – FINISHED 13TH HOW PLEASED WITH YOU ARE YOUR PERFORMANCE IN TONIGHT’S RACE AFTER HAVING TO START IN A BACK-UP CAR AFTER THE PROBLEMS YOU HAD IN PRACTICE? “Like Sluggar (Labbe, crew chief) said it’s a character builder. Everything that could go wrong went wrong yesterday. We had a really fast car and wrecked it. We didn’t have much time with the back-up car and qualified really terrible. Grant (Hutchins, team engineer), Sluggar (Labbe, crew chief) all the guys got together last night and came up with some changes to do to the car overnight and this morning and it worked. This is the second best car I’ve ever had here. The first we wrecked on Friday. Thirteenth isn’t something to write home about, but after the weekend that we had, it is a good finish.”

JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 MCDONALD’S CHEVROLET – FINISHED 14TH AFTER STARTING DEEP IN THE FIELD, YOU COME AWAY WITH A SOLID FINISH, HOW WAS YOUR RACE? “We had to overcome a bad qualifying effort to make up some ground today, but our McDonald’s team worked hard to make solid adjustments on our car. We are glad to have another top-15 finish.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, earnhardt, gordon, johonson, kahne, mcmurray, menard, montoya, stewart