Fontana II: GM Racing preview

TEAM CHEVY IMPALA SS INSIDE THE GARAGE AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY: ALBA COLON, GM RACING PROGRAM MANAGER NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES: "Although we have had a test and a race this season at Auto Club Speedway, there are several factors that will present a...

TEAM CHEVY IMPALA SS INSIDE THE GARAGE AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY: ALBA COLON, GM RACING PROGRAM MANAGER NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES: "Although we have had a test and a race this season at Auto Club Speedway, there are several factors that will present a new set of challenges for our Chevy teams as they dial in their Impala SS race cars for Sunday night's race.

"The weather will be significantly different than when we raced in February. It will be much hotter and the air much dryer. Although we are running the same tire as we did earlier this season, the increased track temperatures dictate changes in how the cars are setup.

"Practice takes place in the heat of the day, but the race is a night. It is almost an art form for the crew chiefs to anticipate how the track is going to change from day to night and arrive at the appropriate handling package that will manage tire wear.

"California is one of the hardest tracks on engines due to the fact that it is fast (200+ mph entering turn one) and the engines are held "wide-open throttle" for very long periods of time between the minimum (7500rpm) and maximum (9500rpm) speeds. Plus, the race is 500 miles long. Most of the teams use California Speedway as their durability schedule on their programmable dynamometers. If your engine can survive California, it is OK everywhere else.

"Driving 500 miles in the heat is grueling for the drivers. They have to be in excellent physical condition to handle it.

"Our Chevy teams have been working hard to prepare for this race. It is pivotal in our drivers putting themselves solidly in the Chase. We are looking forward to this weekend and a very competitive race."

FROM THE DRIVER'S SEAT:

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/PEPSI IMPALA SS: "We feel really good about this weekend's event. We were strong here in February, and I think our program is better now. Track position on these big tracks plays an important role during the event. We started second in February because qualifying was canceled, and that starting position certainly helped. Our first goal of the weekend is a strong qualifying effort on Friday." The level of intensity has certainly risen the past few weeks, and there's definitely more pressure. We have to be sure we're on top of our game. We can't make mistakes and we have to be sure we're doing everything right. We're racing the guys in 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th. If they take a big risk, it may push us into a corner to take a risk. But that's not our focus. Our focus is -- number one -- to make our car go fast. Secondly, we must run our race and not worry about the other competitors. "We shouldn't have to base our decisions on what other teams are doing."

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION IMPALA SS: "Heading to California, I still think that we are maybe behind, and especially where we want to be, we want a nice cushion and we want to be well ahead of the competition and without a doubt, we are not there. We are on par if maybe just not a little bit behind right now. We have been testing already this week and been working as hard as we possibly can to find more speed and to better understand this car. Every time we are on track, we learn something and we can apply it. I'm excited for this weekend's race and we were a little smarter yesterday in the test session that we had and hopefully bring that out to California this weekend. Very happy to hear if I finish 40th or better in California, I clinch for the Chase; that's the best news I've heard all day long."

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS: "California is a fairly slick race track. It's not a track with a tremendous amount of grip. What will end up happening is you'll slide around a little bit during the day and when it gets darker and the track cools down, there will be more grip. That will make your car a little bit tighter or it will make it drive a little better, depending on your situation. If you're good during the day, it might hurt it and get too tight at night. But, if your setup isn't so good during the day, it might transfer up and be really good at night. We are obviously in a position of need. We need to get ourselves in the Chase. That is goal number one. To do that, we need to have good finishes, we need to run well, we need to compete at a high level and we need to get the best finish that we can. We certainly don't want to put ourselves in a situation that we didn't have to be in because I did something silly or we had a mechanical problem. But at the same time, you have to compete at a high level. The competition is too tough. So, we are going to go out and try to win the race. If we can't win the race, then we are going to try to finish second. If we can't finish second, then we are going to try to finish third. That is what we try to do every week."

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL IMPALA SS: "Turns one and two at California are a lot different than Michigan. It's low on grip and then you wind up with the front tires pushing and it's just a unique corner. In turns three and four, you can take some of the things you learned in Michigan and apply them here. I think the engine package and half the race track is similar. However, the asphalt is different and not quite as worn out as it is as Michigan so you don't get the same type of feel that you do from inside the car. California and Michigan are probably the two toughest places on engines. The race is 500 miles, so it creates a challenge for the engine builders. You have to get your car handling good, but the power of the car is very important, and you have to weigh in the reliability factor. When we run our engines on the reliability dyno, Michigan is where we run it which is very similar to California."

CLINT BOWYER, NO. 07 JACK DANIEL'S IMPALA SS: "I think we've learned a lot since we were there in February. We're still struggling on that type of race track. We're looking to some things that will hopefully pay dividends when we get out there. That's going to be such an important race track for us. Hopefully, we'll be able to come out of California inside this Chase and, more importantly, stay there. I don't think there's anything you can do to prepare yourself when it's that hot. If you can sit in an oven for a couple days you can prepare yourself but I don't think you'll make it to the race (laughs). It was hot and miserable for everyone ... not just for us in the car but for everyone on pit road too. At least the drivers had the luxury of getting out of the car and going back to the motor home and sit in the air conditioning but the guys working on the cars didn't have any escape. It's still the same for everybody and you have to make up your mind that you're going to pull through and make it happen."

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS: "Last time at California wasn't so good. In our second race with Hendrick Motorsports, we got caught up in that early wreck with Casey (Mears) because the track wasn't dry yet, and we were racing on it. It rained out anyway, and then we had to come back Monday to run around the track in 40th all day. I felt like we had a good car. We were good in practice, but getting wrecked so early, we didn't have a chance to run the race. I felt bad for my guys and saw how hard they worked to get that car back out on the track."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup