BROOKLYN, Mich. – June 16, 2012 – Kevin Harvick led the way for Team Chevy at Michigan International Speedway qualifying second for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race, the Quicken Loans 400. He powered his No. 29 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet around the 2.0-mile track with a speed of 202.037 mph in 35.637 seconds. Harvick was one of 19 drivers to break the 200 mph barrier. The run marks his fifth top-five start of 2012, and ties his best career start, at Michigan.
Team Chevy claimed five of the top-10 starting positions for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400. Second-fast for the bowtie brigade was Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Famers Insurance Chevrolet who will start fourth. Ryan Newman in the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet will start fifth after a solid qualifying effort. Newman’s teammate and defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Tony Stewart posted the eighth quickest speed in the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy. Jimmie Johnson drove his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy to the 10th quickest time
Other Chevrolet qualifiers for Sunday’s race are Regan Smith, who starts 12th in his No. 78 Furniture Row Chevy, Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 17th in the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/The Dark Knight Rises/National Guard Chevrolet, Paul Menard in the No. 27 Menards/Duracell Chevrolet will start 18th and Jamie McMurray in the No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet will start 20th. Juan Pablo Montoya placed his No. 42 Target Chevrolet in the 21st starting position while rookie Austin Dillon recorded a lap which placed him 22nd on the starting grid. Kurt Busch will begin Sunday’s race in his No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Inc. Chevrolet from the 26th position, Jeff Gordon will pilot his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet from the 28th and Jeff Burton in the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet starts 33rd.
Marcos Ambrose (Ford) won the pole.
Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 takes the green flag at 1:00 p.m. ET and will air live on TNT.
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER FOLDS OF HONOR CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 2ND :
ON HIS LAP “I didn’t think that was going to be a very good lap coming to the green, so we stopped and turned around and tried to get a better run at it. It worked out okay and obviously you wish now you could have been one better, but they’ve done a good job with qualifying this year. That was one of our goals going in, and everything has gone pretty well.”
DID YOU NOTICE MUCH OF AN ISSUE WITH THE TIRES AT ALL? GOODYEAR HAS MADE A CHANGE. WAS THAT AN ISSUE FOR YOU? “We did have some issues in the first practice; the very first run. We kind of aborted and just kind of turned the scoreboard off and decided to worry about keeping the tires on the car and keeping them cool as we thought it was going to be a race of attrition at that particular point. But I don’t think there’s any doubt that was what they needed to do. With that option sitting in their bag, it was definitely probably a good choice. I think everybody was hoping as the weekend went on the race track would slow down a little bit and get some more rubber on it and get some more races on it. But after everything that happened at Indy, I’m proud that Goodyear and NASCAR have had back-up plans. This is the second time that we’ve had to use it. And there’s just almost an impossible task to repave a race track like this; come in and expect to be able to test early in the year and come back for the race and be able to be close. You can be close, but the speeds are going to be way higher when you get back and you just can’t predict how high they’re going to be.”
WE WERE TOLD EARLIER IN THE WEEKEND THAT THE SPEEDS WERE GOING TO GO DOWN AND THEY DIDN’T. AFTER YOU QUALIFIED, YOU SAID IT WAS GOING TO NOWHERE CLOSE TO THE POLE AND HERE YOU END UP BEING ONE-SHORT. IS THIS GOING TO BE A WEEKEND OF MORE UNKNOWNS? “Yes, absolutely. It’s been one unknown after another. And that comes with repaves. You come to race tracks and just like last week when they dropped the green flag, everybody expected there to be a little bit more grip than what there was going into Turn 1. So you don’t really know what you’ve got in a pack, and you don’t really know where the race track is going to be. We’ll have a better idea of where we’re going to be at with the tires. Obviously we’ve got an hour to figure it out and make some of the guesses we need to make to get our car right. We’re tight on the amount of laps that we can practice in this practice from the engine department, which I think everybody is kind of in the same boat, but you do the best with what you can and see what we need to do tonight and hopefully make the right decisions.”
THIS TIRE IS THE ONE THEY USED AT CHARLOTTE IN ’06-’07. A LOT OF DRIVERS DIDN’T LIKE THAT TIRE AND SAID IT MADE THE CARS TOUGH TO HANDLE. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT EXPERIENCE? SECONDLY, EVERYBODY GOT ENAMORED WITH THE HIGH SPEEDS EARLIER IN THE WEEK. WITH THAT GOING AWAY, DOES THAT TEMPER SOME OF THE EXCITEMENT ABOUT SUNDAY’S RACE? “It’s not going to go away much. I think you’re looking at probably three-quarters of a second is probably time-wise, where it’s going to go away. So it’s still going to be really fast. It doesn’t matter what we like at this particular point. It’s really all about putting on a good show and keeping the tires on the car and making sure that the race is good. We’ll adapt as drivers and teams and do the best that we can and go as fast as we can on that particular tire. It doesn’t matter what we like at this point, it’s just a matter of keeping the tires on the car.
“This isn’t Charlotte. There are a lot of options. The groove is already from the bottom to the second lane of asphalt, so you’ve already got options. When we went to Charlotte the first time, you were pinned on the bottom and you’ve got a lot more load at Charlotte on the tires than you do here, too.”
WOULD IT SURPRISE YOU AFTER ALL THAT HAS BEEN SAID, THAT COMING OUT OF THE TURNS IF YOU GUYS DID 206 -208 MPH? “I think out max speed, I don’t even know what it was. It was probably 210 or 212 in qualifying at the end of the straights. But I’d say it’s still going to be max 205-206 mph with the new tire. It won’t be average. It will be in the 190’s mph averages.”
TELL US WHAT HAPPENED OUT THERE “I was really loose coming to the green and I got up out of the groove. So I knew that if I didn’t stop, I was going to have a bad lap and it’s kind of a catch-22 with the temperatures there and obviously that didn’t help us coming to the checkered. But all in all, it’s better than it was going to be if I’d have come to the green that way. So, it was a decent lap. Obviously it won’t be a pole lap by any means, but it’s better than it was looking to start with.”
TALK ABOUT THE TIRE CHANGE AND THE EXTRA PRACTICE THIS EVENING, DO YOU WANT THAT TO HAPPEN? “That needs to happen. We don’t have any clue really as to where we need to be. So, we have a guess, but with the tires being that old, having an hour to figure it out will be interesting.”
DID YOU FIND A PACE WITH THE LEFT-SIDE TIRES THAT SEEMED TO WORK YESTERDAY? “Once we blistered the first set we went into conservative mode and finding a pace that would work for the tires to complete a whole run. We felt pretty good about it but obviously there were a lot of problems.”
WAS MAKING THE CHANGE THE RIGHT MORE? “Oh, yeah, I think that’s the right move. We don’t need another Indy, so I’m glad that they had a back-up plan.”
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED FOURTH HOW WAS YOUR QUALIFYING LAP? “It felt really good. The Farmers Insurance Chevy was nice to drive. That is the hardest I’ve driven so I probably could have went harder. I don’t know it’s just kind of a different deal I probably didn’t get as aggressive as I needed to as a driver but I think my car was really balanced well.”
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT IN TONIGHT’S PRACTICE SESSION? “I think it is definitely going to be different. We’ve got two full days of practice with the tires we are on. I feel like we were actually really fast at that point. We had a good balance this is going to switch it up. It will switch it up for everyone so hopefully we still have a small advantage from where we were up to this point.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED FIFTH HOW WAS YOUR LAP? “It was better than I expected for the U.S. Army Chevrolet. We weren’t super competitive yesterday in qualifying trim. A lot of guys did qualifying runs the second practice. We didn’t know where we were going to stack up. Being fourth now after 30 couple of cars is better and more competitive than I thought we were going to be. We will learn from what we did and keep going.”
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT IN TONIGHT’S PRACTICE SESSION? “The track is going to change. The tire is going to change because of the track. The grip is going to change so we will have to rebalance the car for sure. We will just have to see.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED EIGHTH TELL US ABOUT YOUR LAP: “The car was a little free, but we’ve still got a good starting spot. I’m proud of Steve Addington (crew chief) and all the guys on this Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet. They had two extra days of practice last week in Pocono; we tested earlier this week in Bristol and then came to Michigan a day early for an extra day of practice. Now we’ve got an extra 75 minutes of practice tonight. They’ve worked their guts out and I’m really proud of their effort.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 10th “We’re going so early it’s really tough to know where it’s going to stack up. But I repeated the time that I ran yesterday, so I feel good about that. We just, unfortunately, have to sit and wait a long time to see where it’s going to stack up. But it was a solid lap. From yesterday, the track continued to pick up speed the more and more cars ran, so I’d hoped to be a little bit faster because I think some guys will go faster than that.”
ON THE ADDITIONAL PRACTICE WITH NEW TIRE “Yeah, we can’t start a race on a tire we haven’t practiced on. So, I’m happy to hear that we have a practice session to try to understand what’s going on there. Hopefully this tire is the fix. My concern is what if the tire isn’t the fix? What do we do at that point? So, we’ll learn a lot at six o’clock tonight.”
‘In years past when we’ve been through this, it might sound wrong or awkward, but you just don’t have your tires blister as bad as anyone else. And you just don’t want to be the first guy with blisters is what it boils down to. So, if you can prolong that and just not be the first guy, you won’t be the caution. And if this tire has a problem, we’ll have to go into that mindset and it’s a lot like Indy however many years ago, where you just didn’t want to be the caution. You hoped a caution would come before you had your issue.”
WERE YOU HAPPY THEY MADE THE TIRE CHANGE? “At the end of the day, yes; I’m happy to see that there’s a change and especially that there’s a practice session. But I don’t know why we missed it. I don’t know why we’re in this situation.”
REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 12th HOW WAS YOUR LAP? “You know, it was good. It was better than yesterday. We only did one mock run yesterday, so we didn’t get a lot of opportunity to check stuff out. It’s tough to tell. The track’s going to be faster or slower than yesterday. I don’t think they’ll go as quick as they did with a ‘teen or a 20 or whatever it was yesterday just because there was other cars involved with that lap. But we’ll see. Hopefully it stays in the top 15, which would be good for us. I was happy with my car in race trim yesterday at the end. Unfortunately it’s going to change for everybody now but the guys have been working hard on the Furniture Row Chevy and we’ll keep digging with the rules changes tonight and see where that puts us.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY EXPECTATIONS FOR TONIGHT’S PRACTICE? “I expect it to be a lot slower. Outside of that, I don’t think any of us really, truly know. It’s going to be slower and we’ll just have to wait and see from there.”
AUSTIN DILLON, NO. 33 AMERICAN ETHANOL CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 22ND HOW WAS YOUR LAP? “It was good. I think I gave up a little bit here and there but you know the consistent thing was I just wanted to get in the show. The good thing is we have happy hour tonight because I can go out there and really practice and see what we’ve got for the race. Qualifying I mean it was good we did our job.”