TEAM CHEVY IN THE GARAGE AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY – ALBA COLON, PROGRAM MANAGER, NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES, GM RACING: “After an eventful weekend in Bristol, Team Chevy is looking forward to this weekend's race at Auto Club Speedway. This has been a good track to us especially coming away with wins in the last four NASCAR Sprint Cup races celebrated here.
“Auto Club Speedway is a rugged two-mile track that provides many challenges. This will be the second year in a row that we race 400 miles at this track instead of the traditional 500 miles. Still the track is very demanding in terms of engine durability. Our engine builders are the best in the business and they know what it takes to find the right balance between durability and power. To those challenges, just throw one more wrinkle with electronic fuel injection (EFI).
“This is a track that many of our drivers enjoy. It is big and fast with multiple racing grooves. It should be an interesting race. All of our Chevy teams have really stepped-up this year, and we are looking forward to an exciting race this weekend, and another trip to victory lane.”
TEAM CHEVY FROM THE DRIVER’S SEAT:
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 JIMMY JOHNS CHEVROLET – 2nd IN STANDINGS: “The last two years, the race has pretty much come down to us and the 48 (Jimmie Johnson). The year before I ran into the wall and last year we won. That was good to come back and rebound from the mistake from 2010 and being able to race with Jimmie was a lot of fun. Especially at the California race track. That’s been a great race track for us over the last several years and looking forward to going back next week. Glad I’m not the truck driver, he has a long ways to go.
“It’s one of those race tracks that the tires just wear out a lot. You can move around the race track and you have to kind of search for grip so that comes with a lot of throttle control and momentum to go along with that. It’s a race track that fits our cars and our engine package and our driving styles. Really, as a company we run well there. It’s a good race track for RCR (Richard Childress Racing).”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – 6th IN STANDINGS: “I’m excited to get to California and see what we can do as a team. California is a track I need to run better at. It’s a flat track, and it doesn’t have a ton of grip. We’ve been running really strong as a team this year, and I expect more of the same.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL1 CHEVROLET – 7th IN STANDINGS: “Fontana is so momentum driven, and when it’s as slick as it was back in October, it puts it back in the driver’s hands, and I think that’s always going to be to my advantage. We’ve had times when we’ve been good, but I had really struggled as a driver there over the course of 12 years.
“It’s just a very difficult place to get a hold of, and if you can get your car balanced, you really can drive away from the majority of the field and get a pretty big gap there. But, it’s hard to do. You have to have that balance perfect. Somebody is going to get it right. I mean, somebody gets it perfect every time we go there.
“It’s getting harder and harder to get to where you have an advantage over somebody and can be that much better. But I thought the racing the last couple of years has been really good. The year I won, the restarts early in the race were out of control. We were five-wide sometimes, and I know because I was one of them that put a bunch of guys five-wide early in the deal clear on the bottom, and I think we gained four spots in one corner doing it. But guys know how important these restarts are now, and they’re willing to take more chances. And at Fontana, the track is so wide; you can run so many different lines.
“The track is good and it’s racy, but man, it’s difficult. The seams are slick. The race track is slick. It’s not an old track, but it sure races like an old, worn-out track.”
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 MENARDS/CERTAINTEED CHEVROLET – 10th IN STANDINGS: "I know that California (Auto Club Speedway) gets knocked as a race track since it is wide open and generally caution free. Drivers tend to enjoy that, though. You have long runs and can really analyze your car and work on it during pit stops. The track is really wide. You can run top to bottom and everywhere in between. It's relatively smooth, too, and makes for fun racing for us drivers. If a race fan wants to see crashes and cautions; that's probably not going to happen there."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION CHEVROLET – 11th IN STANDINGS: “I’ve been really successful at Auto Club Speedway. It is my home track. We got our first Sprint Cup career win there in ’02, so it’s a special track to me. I definitely always see some friends and family while we are out there. I remember last year, we were very close to Victory Lane, about three-quarters of a mile away from the trophy, but Kevin Harvick found a way around the outside. So, I know we’ll go there and be very competitive.”
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET – 12th IN STANDINGS: “One-and-a-half and two-mile tracks weren’t RCR’s strong point last season. We’ve worked really hard to be better on those tracks. You have to be competitive on these tracks. You can’t expect to go and win the championship if you can’t go to those tracks and run strong. There are just so many of them on the schedule. The interesting thing about Auto Club Speedway is that it’s big, but it races like a short track. There is very low grip. It’s amazing how sideways these cars are in the turns going this fast. Restarts are really important because if you gain a few spots on the restart, it is hard for those guys to come up and pass you under a long green-flag run. You’re going to be three and four-wide on these restarts. You must have good take off speed and good durability with the car. People don’t realize how slick Auto Club Speedway is. It looks like a big track and the cars don’t move around that much, but they are out of control.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO 39 U.S. ARMY ROTC CHEVROLET – 13th IN STANDINGS: “Unfortunately, it’s not one of my favorite places to go. I’ve not had the best record at California. The race track can be a lot of fun because it’s a very smooth track and super-fast, but I just haven’t done all that well there throughout my career. I’ve said this every year the past few years, and I think it’s held true, but I do think we’ll see some better racing at California because I think the racing has gotten better each time we’ve gone there. At this track, in general, the more it’s aged, the better it’s gotten, as with most race tracks. I think the double-file restarts have helped the racing a lot, too. They are more advantageous at bigger race tracks, especially the wider ones. When you have a wide racing groove like at California, the cars can get three-wide in the corners and anything can happen.
“California is not my favorite race track. I’ll tell you that first-hand. But for us, we’ve had really good runs there the past couple of years for the No. 39 Chevy. I think we have had two top-five finishes in our past two outings at the track, and that is really something we want to build on and even improve. That’s something we’re really proud of because it shows how much our program has made gains and improvements. To be honest, we had a fourth-place finish and a good day at Las Vegas, so that really makes me look forward to getting back on track at California this weekend.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – 18th IN STANDINGS: “Auto Club Speedway is tricky. It’s a hard place. The seams are tricky, it’s bumpy, it’s slick. But it’s fun, it’s a really wide race track, it brings good racing. After our top-10 run last weekend, I’m hoping for another strong finish but with all the changes to the Target team, I don’t know what to expect.”
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET – 19th IN STANDINGS: “I am really looking forward to heading out to California this week. We have had two top-10 finishes leading into this race and I hope that we can continue this momentum. All of the hard work that everyone in our shop has put forth over the past several months is really starting to show. Auto Club Speedway is nice and wide so you can work several different grooves to try and get your car right there. Earnhardt Ganassi Racing has won the last three poles there, and I feel like I have run pretty well at the track, so hopefully we can put together another solid run in our Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet.”
REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW/FARM AMERICAN CHEVROLET – 20th IN STANDINGS: “I had races I liked at California and also had races there that I just hated. But overall I like the big California track. You can move around and pass cars – it’s just a good place to race at. Last year we qualified well, but were extremely loose on race day and that is something we’re going to have to fix. Another reason I like going to the big tracks is that we’re building better race cars and have the ECR horsepower (Earnhardt-Childress Racing engines). We’re not off to the start we had hoped for, but it’s much better than last year. Our good performances have been short changed due to a couple of accidents (Daytona and Bristol) and running out of fuel in Phoenix.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – 23rd IN STANDINGS: "We may only race here (Auto Club Speedway) once a year, but it doesn't take long to get back in the rhythm and I love that you can race high, low and everywhere in between here. That gives us the ability to search for a line that works. I think the fans love the fact you'll see three, four and sometimes five-wide racing here."
DAVE BLANEY, NO. 36 TOMMY BALDWIN RACING CHEVROLET – 25th IN STANDINGS: "This weekend is the fifth and hopefully final race we have to qualify in on speed. We look solid after that. We have to make sure we qualify and have a solid race to gain some points. I liked the whole package at Vegas and that will translate to California. I like Auto Club Speedway and have run well a few times there."
KURT BUSCH, NO. 51 PHOENIX CONSTRUCTION SERVICES CHEVROLET – 27th IN STANDINGS: “It’s a tough track with trying to find the right balance. You carry so much speed going down the straightaways fast with being at a two-mile track but then when you get into the turns you basically get the feeling of being at a short track with just how tight the centers of the corners are and the lack of banking. It’s a challenge in getting your car to turn so that you are able to get back to the gas as quickly as you need for those long straightaways. So you have the balance of down force verses drag but anytime you have to lift out of the gas and you can’t hold it wide open you need the down force. We are going with the best car we have. We were hoping to take our Vegas car to California but it didn’t make it through the race. So are we behind the eight ball? Maybe. But again we are going with the mentality of you work as hard as you can with what you have and we’ll shoot for a top-15 finish.”
DAVID REUTIMANN, NO. 10 ACCELL CONSTRUCTION CHEVROLET – 30th IN STANDINGS: "California is a tough track with a slick surface. It looks spread out and smooth, but it is a lot harder than most people give it credit for. It has been pretty good to me, but at the same time, you have to be on your game to succeed. Hopefully, we can unload well like we did at Bristol and carry some momentum throughout the weekend."
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 QUAKER STATE CHEVROLET – 32ND IN STANDINGS: “I’m excited to get back to an intermediate track. Our Chevy was so good in Las Vegas, and I think we’ll be fast again this weekend. Kenny (Francis, crew chief) and the guys are unloading great cars every week. If we get some luck to fall our way, we can bounce back from these first few races.
“We usually qualify pretty well on the mile-and-a-half and two-mile tracks. It gave the team a big boost to get the pole in Vegas. I think we can get another good starting spot for the Quaker State Chevy this week.”