Team Chevy Driver Jimmie Johnson Maintains Point Lead with Four Races To Go in Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Kevin Harvick Closes in to Within 62 points of Overall Lead with Solid Martinsville Run Martinsville, Va. (October 24, 2010) -- ...
Team Chevy Driver Jimmie Johnson Maintains Point Lead with Four Races To
Go in Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup
Kevin Harvick Closes in to Within 62 points of Overall Lead with Solid Martinsville Run
Martinsville, Va. (October 24, 2010) -- Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, held on to the overall points lead in the Sprint Cup Series championship standings despite a furious challenge from two other contenders today. With four races remaining Johnson's lead is now just six points over Denny Hamlin, and 62 over Kevin Harvick, driver of the Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet.
Several Chevrolet drivers led 410 laps in the race today taking their overall total laps led in the series to 200,080 since 1949.
Harvick was the surprise of the day after qualifying in 36th position on Friday, he torched the field and stormed to the lead by lap 172 of the 500 slated for Sunday's TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Harvick led a total of 97 laps before finishing third in today's race and slicing a bit into Jimmie's lead.
Johnson never led today, but was hardly ever outside the top-five running order. Their car was a bit off from the start and they never could quite get the grip they needed to make a charge for the lead. But Johnson was strong enough to score his 15th top-five of the 2010 season and keep the competition at bay.
Driver of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Jeff Burton, looked to have one of the strongest cars all day, but fought a loose condition late in the race and faded to ninth after leading a race-high 134 laps. He now sits eighth in the standings, up two positions.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, thrilled the crowd by taking the lead at lap 285 and stayed on the point for a total of 90 laps but lost the handle and became too tight after the final pit stop before finishing seventh.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont/National Guard Families Appreciation Chevrolet, recovered from contact with the wall after being spun by another car at lap 386 to finish in 20th position. Gordon had a strong run in today's race leading 56 laps. He fell one position in the overall points from fourth to fifth.
Tony Stewart, No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet, finished 24th after suffering a flat tire late in the race and falls one spot to seventh in the overall standings while Clint Bowyer, No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet was involved in a single car accident early in the race at lap 193 and returned to the track after lengthy repairs in the garage and finished 38th in today's race. He remains in 12th position in the Chase standings.
Denny Hamlin (Toyota) was the race winner. Kyle Busch (Toyota) completed the top-five finishers.
The series moves next to the biggest track, Talladega Superspeedway on October 31,2010.
MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 E-BAY MOTORS/GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET: Finished 2nd
YOU WERE DRIVING LIKE YOU WERE 21 YEARS OLD TODAY. WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? "Alan Gustafson (crew chief) and all these guys at Hendrick Motorsports, man, gosh, that was so much fun! And it was such a bad day. I was running out of brakes at lap 30 and you know, I thought this was going to be the longest day of my life. And these guys on this race team; I want to thank e-Bay Motors for coming on board. I look forward to a lot of folks going there and maybe checking out a lot of their cars and parts there and of course GoDaddy.com and everybody that supports us; CARQUEST and all those guys. It was a great run for us. We needed that. I ain't mad we didn't win; I'm glad we ran second to be honest with you. We were two laps down and to be honest we were going to be 28th. So, boy; what an incredible race car, man! Another 20 laps and we could have caught him (Danny Hamlin). I've had people pass me before here and I thought hey, how do they do that? I see how now, driving this baby."
WOW, WHAT A CHARGE AT THE END! THAT HAD TO BE FUN "It's incredible. I want to thank all the fans for coming out today. I hope they saw a great race. In another 20 laps it would have been a really great race. I think all you guys. It's a beautiful car; it looked fast and it was fast. That was a fun time.
"We started running out of brake at lap 30 and had to nurse them all along, and that whole last 100 lap run there I just had to know; I had to only run until they'd get so soft and then no harder. And yet the car was fast, you know? Man that was fun. This is what I live for and many I can't give it up."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL/PENNZOIL CHEVROLET: Finished 3rd
"I've just got to thank everybody on this Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet and I've got to give Clint Bowyer a big kiss on the lips. Those guys on pit road were just awesome today and really kept us up and in front and in the race. And that's what we've got to do. We kept the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) behind us and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) in sight and what everybody said was a two-horse race and we were right there in the middle of it. So, it's a lot of fun. Right now we've got four more weeks. I'm looking forward to Talladega and just racing hard."
A GREAT RUN. YOU STARTED WAY BACK IN THE 36TH SPOT AND DROVE IT UP TO THE LEAD AND A TREMENDOUS BATTLE BETWEEN YOU AND DENNY HAMLIN "Yeah, the handling on our car just kind of went away and we just lost front grip there I the middle of the corners; he was just able to roll in the center. But I've just got to thank all these guys and really, everybody from RCR and our whole Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet team. They've done a great job at what we call some of our worst race tracks, and we come here where we felt like we're running we and never had a top five so to come out of here today with a third is what it's all about. We'll just keep racing and keep hanging in there and keep racing hard."
WERE YOU SURPRISED TO SEE MARK MARTIN COME OUT OF NOWHERE THERE AT THE END? "Well, he's really good, always, on old tires and the cars just really fell off as you got way deep in a run and he's pretty good at that. So, we fell off a little bit but we got going really good and raced good with the No. 11 and just came up a little bit short."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET -- Finished 5th
ALTHOUGH NOT A WIN TODAY, BUT WHAT A SOLID RUN "Yeah, it was a good day. We were much stronger on the short run than we were on the long run. And they way this thing unfolded in the end there was a lot of long runs. We kind of lost a few spots. For a while there I thought the No. 29 (Kevin Harvick) and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) and us were all going to ride together all day long and then the No. 11 there at the end got going and took off an won the thing. It was a solid performance; something we can't be disappointed in. I wish we were a little better but there is a lot of racing left."
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. A SOLID TOP FIVE RUN: "Yeah, we certainly wanted to be better today with the Lowe's Impala but the long run there at the end just wasn't what our car needed at that point in time. On the short runs we were a lot better and more competitive. But another top five, we can't be too disappointed in that."
IT LOOKED PRETTY WILD THERE AT THE END, ACTUALLY ALL DAY. HOW DID IT FEEL TO YOU? "There was a lot of tough racing. You've got everyone fighting for a good finish at the end of the year; you've got Chasers trying to get every point they can, and I think the fans saw a great race here at Martinsville."
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, FINISHED 7TH:
ON HIS CAR LATE IN THE RACE: "I was just in the way, it was tight on restarts, but after 20 or 30 laps, we'd start rotating and we could either keep up or be a little bit better than the guys around us."
DOES THIS HELP YOUR CONFIDENCE? "Well, this isn't quite good enough. We have to run way better than this. I've been coming here ever since I quit wreckin' and we get the right cooling on the front end, I can come in here and get a top-10 unless we have a major major issue in the setup. I feel pretty confident. That is how I feel. I'm not saying that is reality."
DOES THIS GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE YOU CAN WIN NEXT WEEK? "I could run here and run in the top-10, I feel like when I go to Talladega, I always have a shot to win. The racing is different these days. Racin' is different and I have to learn how to do, how to get it done."
WHY DO YOU SAY IT IS DIFFERENT? "These care made it different. The COT car races different than the old cars that we won all those races with. Now the way the COT is, everybody basically has the same odds really going into Talladega. We'll go there and I always feel good and confident. Even if that was the only race we showed up for each year, I' think we would feel good going into it."
WHEN YOU WERE UP THERE LEADING, HOW DID THAT FEEL? "We got toward the front on some pit strategy that worked out really good and then we had a good enough car at the time to pass the guys that were around us. They had a little less tire than we had. A lot of things worked in our favor to get us the lead then we came out on the pit stop in first and held it all the way until the next caution, I think about 50 or 60 laps. The No. 31 was coming but I felt like if I held my line just perfectly, I was actually a little bit better than him at that point. Those RCR cars were really fast all weekend but the fell off real bad and I figured he would if I just kept up and was patient out front. I felt good at that point. When we got behind a couple of guys and had a couple more sets of tires later, we got real tight. We were thinking we went down on our air pressure too far cause the car was actually okay after 40 laps but too tight the first 25. We just needed to be a little freer, but it's all right.
"I love short track racing and I love coming here. This place has a lot of history. I have a lot of respect for it. I used to not understand how to get around here and then I have been pretty good here for a long time. I feel pretty good that when I come here I can run good. I like racing here and I like this style of racing. You kind of have to get over a lot of things out there that happen then you have to stand your ground in a lot of cases. It is a lot of fun. It is an active day and a lot of fun. The mile-and-a-halfs, when the car is tight, you go in the corner and turn the wheel and wait for it to turn and mash the gas. This is where it is at, right here."
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, FINISHED 9TH:
YOU GUYS FADED AT THE END A BIT? "Yeah, I don't know. The right rear tire is just killed on it. It just didn't accept the speed on that last run for whatever reason and just killed the right rear tire. We didn't have that problem all day and had it on the last run so I am really disappointed. Obviously we had a fast race car we just weren't as good as we needed to be at the end and we put a great effort out there and it's hard to believe you can finish 9th in a car that was that good."
THERE WERE SOME WORDS OUT THERE WITH YOUR TEAMMATE KEVIN HARVICK. WAS THAT JUST MARTINSVILLE RACING? "I don't know. I have yet to understand what he was upset about. I have no clue what he could be possibly upset about. I cleared him and turned to the bottom just like he cleared me when he passed me on the restart turning to the bottom. It's Martinsville and that is what you do. I am sure its heat of the moment, I am sure he is racing for the championship and he is up on the edge and I am sure it's all that because I didn't do anything wrong."
REGARDING WARNINGS FROM NASCAR ABOUT BRAKE CHECKING EARLY IN THE RACE "Well, it's their job to police the sport and make sure we are following the rules. I wasn't brake checking anybody. I never once touched the brakes leaving turn four. But they felt like I was and it's their job to police the sport so they were just doing their job."
THAT LOOKED LIKE THE HARDEST RACE YOU HAVE EVER DRIVEN JUST WATCHING FROM PIT ROAD. WAS IT LIKE THAT IN THE CAR?"I drive like that every week. I have this reputation of being a passive driver and I drive hard every week. I drove hard this week, but I didn't drive any harder than I normally do."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOUR CAR SEEMED TO FALL OFF AT THE END OF THE RACE? "We just got really loose. We took off and didn't have any rear grip and we just never could hold our own. We never had enough rear grip. And of course that got worse and worse and we were trying to keep the pace and I was trying to keep myself in position and I just ate the right rear tire off of it. And of course with a long run that is the worst thing you can do. We just............wrong handle at the wrong time."
YOUR TEAMMATE HAD SOME HARSH WORDS ON THE RADIO, WAS THAT JUST HARD RACING? "I have no idea. I don't understand what he is mad at. I cleared him on the front straightaway and beat him off turn four and cleared him on the front straightaway and turned to the bottom, the same thing he did to me on the restart is the same thing that happens every restart at Martinsville. It's just Martinsville........I mean I didn't do anything wrong, I think he is just wound up and racing for a championship and just.........I don't know. I can assure you I didn't do anything wrong and I would do it again a thousand times. Because if what I did was wrong, then I will just quit racing."
HE SAID ON THE RADIO HE THOUGHT YOU WERE CHOPPING DOWN ON HIM "There will come a point when he realizes that everybody in the world is not against him. And every time it's a conflict he is involved. And you would think over the amount of years that he has done it, that he would get the hint that he is always in the middle of it and maybe sometimes if he just backed up a little bit and caught his breath, he would be okay. I'm not out to harm him. I am a teammate of his and I am trying to help him and there comes a point where he needs to just catch his breath and realize that it's my racetrack too. And I didn't do anything wrong. If he thinks I did anything wrong, then we can't race and there is nothing that I did that I regret and there is nothing I won't do next week."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD FAMILIES APPRECIATION CHEVROLET, FINISHED 20TH:
CAN YOU START OUT TALKING ABOUT THE INCIDENT WITH KURT BUSCH? "We were racing hard. We got shuffled back on the pit stop before that. We ran him down quite a bit, we were quite a bit faster than him. I dove inside of him in turn three and I definitely over-shot it a little bit. Either he didn't know I was there or whatever and cut down on me and I got into him. Kurt Busch doesn't have a very long fuse so either it was pay-back or he just got angry really quick and decided to wreck us. We just did what we could do to come home with the best finish we could."
WHEN YOU GUYS GOT TOGETHER LATER, HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT? "I don't know. I guess I didn't know he was on the outside of me."
TALK ABOUT WHAT THIS DOES TO YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP HOPES "Well, our championship hopes have taken a big hit the last couple of weeks. So, for us, it's not about that right now, it about going out and getting the best finishes that we can and trying to win races. I felt like, at times, we had a car capable of winning today and that pit stop hurt us and we were back there battling our way back up there slowly but surely. And that incident, I gave him (Kurt Busch) a reason to get upset. So I wish I hadn't of done that. But, we were racing hard. And then what it does for us for the championship is really insignificant in my opinion. At this point we're just racing to try to get the best finishes and we'll continue to do that as we move forward."
YOU SAY YOU GAVE HIM A REASON TO BE UPSET; DO YOU THINK YOU FIND YOURSELF TRYING SO HARD OUT THERE ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU THINK YOU HAVE A CAR CAPABLE OF GETTING BACK UP TO THE FRONT, THAT YOU'RE MAKING MOVES YOU NORMALLY WOULDN'T MAKE? "No, that's a move I make all the time. You see it all day long. I probably made that one a little later than I probably would liked to have. I barely got into him but that's what my point is that I gave him enough of a reason to think that he should wreck me. So, that's just have at it boys, right? That's just racing; that's just part of it."
HE TOOK IT BACK A FEW YEARS. HE SAID IT DIDN'T MATTER IF HE WAS IN THE NO. 2 OR THE NO. 97 OR RUSTY WALLACE WAS IN THE NO. 2, HE SAID YOU'VE ALWAYS LIKE TO WRECK THAT CAR. "Why does that not surprise me that he said that? (laughs). I think if we just let him talk, that's all that really needs to be said (laughter)."
HIS REACTION TO THE OTHER INCIDENT HE BASICALLY SAID THAT YOU DID IT ON PURPOSE AND THOUGHT IT WAS A CHICKEN MOVE. THAT WAS HIS QUOTE, NOT MINE "Like I said, if he just keeps making quotes, I don't need to say anything at all. I think if you look at the video it's pretty self-explanatory. I ran him down and was quite a bit faster than him. I said it here, more than once, that I probably made the move a little late. I was going to get into him. It wasn't much. But I gave him enough of a reason that whatever things he has from past history or whatever thoughts he has in there, it sparked it, you know? At that point, he was determined to wreck us."
JIMMIE JOHNSON NOW HAS A SIX POINT LEAD. "That's the exciting part of the championship right now. I wish it was a lot closer all the way back to fifth or sixth or seventh, or even all the way to 10th. But it just isn't. I thought Denny (Hamlin) did a great job today, but Jimmie did a great job too of coming home 5th. It's going to make Talladega very interesting."
DARIAN GRUBB -- CREW CHIEF, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE CHEVROLET, FINISHED 24TH:
"We got better and better as the day went on but we got a little bit off at the middle of the race but we had a fast car after that. We had a pit road speeding penalty that was our own fault, then pit road miscues that were our own fault and a couple of other things that kept knocking us back and then it went green for a really long time at the end and got really tight and not sure really why, but then we blew a bead out, had to come in under green and finished three laps down. It was the right front."
-source: gm racing