BROOKLYN, Mich. - After two days of rain delays, the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series was finally able to hold its 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway, where Team Chevy drivers took three out of the top-five finishing spots. Martin...
BROOKLYN, Mich. - After two days of rain delays, the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series was finally able to hold its 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway, where Team Chevy drivers took three out of the top-five finishing spots. Martin Truex, Jr., No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats finished a commendable second place after starting from the back but wasn't able to catch Kurt Busch, the race winner. Last year's champion Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS finished third, while Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Kinko's Monte Carlo SS took fifth.
"We struggled for the first part of the race but we changed engines after qualifying and had to go to the rear," said Truex. "We were just back there in that dirty air. It's really, really tough. We actually got the car really good at one point and we came in and pitted and had no punch and lost 10 or 12 laps. After that stop the car was really good, we couldn't fit anymore. the punch was out of it but it worked out for us."
Pole winner and series points leader Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo SS, spun and got stuck in wet grass after battling Matt Kenseth for a top-five position in the closing laps of the race and came home 27th. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., fighting to gain a position in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, finished 12th after a pit stop went awry and Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Monte Carlo SS scored another top-10, finishing 10th.
Chevrolet also extended its lead in the Manufacturers' Cup title run with a 66-point lead over second-place Ford while Jeff Gordon holds his points lead in the driver standings.
With three races remaining until the Chase for the Nextel Cup Championship beginning September 16 at New Hampshire International Speedway, Team Chevy drivers Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin are the only two drivers already locked into the Chase.
Martin Truex, Jr., No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Monte Carlo SS - Finished Second
"Great day. I just got to thank all the guys on the Bass Pro Chevrolet. They did a good job today. We had a little trouble. We got up to about eighth there and our last green flag stop the clutch went out and couldn't get off pit road and lost a bunch of spots and that was the best we'd been all day as far the car went so I was happy with the car and it was an easy decision to stay out there at the end. You know I had no clutch, I was going to get killed on pit road so we got some clean air, man, and that thing just went to diggin' so not a lot of fun at the end but I could smell the victory but congratulations to Kurt. He deserved it. It was a great win but great run for us, real proud of all the guys.
HOW WAS YOUR RACE CAR? "The car was good. We struggled for the first part of the race but we changed engines after qualifying and had to go to the rear. We were just back there in that dirty air. It's really, really tough. We actually got the car really good at one point and we came in and pitted and had no punch and lost 10 or 12 laps. After that stop the car was really good, we couldn't fit anymore. the punch was out of it but it worked out for us. All I needed was a little air on the nose of this Bass Pro Shop Chevrolet and she'd hunt so I was real proud of my team; we kept our heads up all day and worked real hard. The car was good, we just needed to get the track position."
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS - Finished Third
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE TODAY? "That wasn't bad. We were competitive, we led some of the race and then there at the end I thought we really had the right strategy with two tires and first car on tires but those restarts at the end.these tires really recovered well that Goodyear brought and the 2 and the 1 in front of me that didn't have tires, it would take them three or four or five laps before I could start catching them with my new rubber and just didn't have enough time but still a great performance and the big goal is to really get ourselves locked into this Chase and we're doing the right things for that."
HOW COMFORTING WAS IT TO HAVE CHAD KNAUS BACK? "We've been here so long it's felt like it's been two race weekends. I could say when the weekend started six days ago it was nice to hear him back on the radio. With Chad or without we have a great race team. We're able to put up the great finishes and it was great having him up on the box today."
Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Kinko's Monte Carlo SS - Finished Fifth
HOW WAS YOUR DRIVE TODAY? "Our car was really good for most of the day. Fought a loose condition there at the end; got a little bit too tight but still a great run for us. Ran top five for most of the day and that's what we need. Those are the kinds of runs we need when it comes to the Chase and hopefully we can carry that momentum in for the next 14 weeks or so."
HOW WAS THE TRACK AFTER A 44-HOUR DELAY? "It wasn't bad at all. I felt like the top groove really didn't come in as much as it would if the sun would have been out and had we been racing on it all weekend. Still it was a real competitive race track. This kind of race track us drivers love to come to and hopefully I can't wait to come back next year.
"The whole FedEx Kinko's team did a great job, on pit road, especially. Mike (Ford) did a great job with a call at the end and our car was pretty good. So I'm pretty excited."
YOU'RE MORE OR LESS LOCKED INTO THE CHASE - HOW MUCH FREEDOM DOES THAT GIVE YOU NOW FOR THE NEXT FEW RACES? "It definitely gives us the freedom to do just about anything we want. We might take a race car to a race track that we wouldn't normally or I might push it a little bit harder than what I might not. Who knows what happens. if we have an opportunity at the end of a race to maybe steal one then we're definitely going to try it."
Tony Stewart, No. 20 The Home Depot Monte Carlo SS - Finished 10th
"The car was just evil on restarts. It seemed like we were either on one side of the coin or the other. It would be loose where I was just hanging onto it or it was too tight. It's a top-10, but I think we all thought we would be better than that."
Greg Zipadelli, crew chief of the No. 20 The Home Depot Monte Carlo SS
"I'm a little disappointed with 10th. I think at one point in time in the race we were probably a fourth- to sixth-place car, and we just couldn't get there. We made adjustments and it just seemed like we couldn't get that last little bit out of it. We kind of struggled all weekend for some reason. We didn't take off very good on the front side. It seemed like we were okay if we had long runs, then we started getting all those cautions and that kind of hurt us."
DID THE TWO DAYS BETWEEN FINAL PRACTICE AND TODAY'S RACE HURT, OR WAS IT NOT A BIG DEAL BECAUSE IT WAS THE SAME FOR EVERYONE? "It was the same for everybody. Obviously, the track conditions changed because there was no rubber on the track and the sun tried to come out and the track temp went up a bunch and then it came back down. The conditions changed a lot throughout the day."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS - Finished 12th
WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED ON THE LAST PIT STOP? "A big miscue on my part. Just was watching a car in his stall getting his tire changed and didn't realize that my pit was prior to his instead of after so I missed my stall. My fault totally. My guys have been great all day long. That motor, I can't believe it. It's just like. I don't know where it came from because I've been critical of our motor department in the past but that thing had to have been 20 (hp) better than anybody here, even my own teammates.
"We tried a right-front spring when that ran before. Me and Tony (Eury,) Jr. wanted to take the gamble and try it and see if it worked and I think that in hindsight, we'd probably been better off on our old setup that ran better here last time. We did get in the top five and ran there but I just felt like we could have had a better car in the corner. Otherwise pit stops, pit road was great. I made the miscue today and it cost us maybe a top-10 finish but otherwise pretty happy. The car drove good again."
ARE YOU READY TO GO HOME? "I can't wait. I want to get home and see my family. I miss them."
HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS YOUR DAY? "It was pretty long. Racing on Tuesday's isn't a whole lot of fun but the car was pretty good. We ran up in the top five there a little bit. The car didn't handle as good as it could have. Great motor down the straightaway, great pit stops. I made a big mistake on pit road and it cost us a lot. Cost us about five spots overall where we could have finished but I'm pretty happy."
IS IT FRUSTRATING THAT YOU ARE BATTLING KURT BUSCH TO GET IN THE CHASE AND HE KEEPS DOING VERY WELL? "No, it's not frustrating. When they beat you fair you can't get frustrated about that. So they did what they had to do; they got a great deal going on right now and they're really quick. When you get beat fair like that you can't be frustrated. You've got to take it like a man. We'll just go on and do it next week."
CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THE PIT STOP THAT SET YOU BACK? "I was watching the No. 66 who was in his stall. I thought I pitted past him but I was two stalls before him. Because when you come out pit road and guys are anywhere near your stall you look and see whether they're jacked up on the left because if they get dropped and pull out you can have a crash. You don't want to do that. I was just looking at that and I drove right by my pit. My fault totally."
Kyle Busch, No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Monte Carlo SS - Finished 13th "I had a top five car, came in the pits, my choice and I screwed it up and finished outside the top 10 so not a good points day."
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo SS - Finished 27th
ON LOOKING AT THE SHARK FIN ON HIS RACE CAR AND WHAT HAPPENED THERE: "You know, just between vibration and the amount on force from the air that's there and these high speed tracks like that, I don't know, there are a number of cars that had the problem so obviously we got to fix that. I don't know if that contributed to us getting loose or not. We were really good. We started off way tight and we loosened the car up man that it seemed like the track loosened up and man we drove it to the front. I was having a lot of fun with the DuPont Chevrolet and then there at the end we just stayed out and I thought the car would tighten up and man I was just so loose. It's my fault what happened with Matt (Kenseth). He went to the outside and I was loose. I was sliding up the track and I saw in my mirror he was there. I was trying to get out of his way and he just had too momentum so that may have just saved us. I don't know, we might have had a tire going down, I'm not sure what was going on."
BETTER TO FINISH WHERE YOU DID THAN BE IN THE WALL? "Well this is a great race car and I think we can only make it better for some races coming up so yeah, if we can't get up there and win and get those bonus points then we don't really care where we finish other than that."
ON TRYING TO GET OUT OF MATT KENSETH'S WAY AND IF HE COULDN'T CUT THE CAR BACK DOWN BECAUSE OF HOW LOOSE HIS CAR WAS: "I had it turned all the way to left. I mean Matt was probably a little impatient with me right there because he got underneath me and I was just trying to see if my car would tighten up. I was hoping that it would so he got underneath me and I ran hard with him on the outside in the closing laps and then I drove into that turn that time and he went to the outside and I was just loose and so I knew I was giving up the spot but the way it turned out it looked a lot worse than it was."
ON HIS POINTS LEAD AND HOW THAT AFFECTS HIM ON THE TRACK: "Right now it's about evaluating our race cars, our team and trying to get out there and get those bonus points. Honestly at this point I don't even care if we fall back to fifth in the points. I want the bonus points. Nobody was going to beat that 2 car today. Good thing we don't run any more two mile race tracks or two and a half mile unrestricted tracks the rest of the season because they've got something figured out big time there. I thought we were racing for second and we just took off there and we stayed out and the car was coming to me prior to that and then it took off and was just real loose and I was just trying to get out of the way."
ON WHAT HAPPENED WITH MATT KENSETH: "It was my fault. I was racing him hoping that the car would tighten up and come back to me and I went in low, got a little loose. I was drifting up the track and he got to my outside and I saw him coming and I was actually trying.I knew couldn't get out of the gas so I had to just try to turn left and he got into me. It wasn't his fault."
HOW FRUSTRATING WAS IT WHEN YOU WERE STUCK IN THE GRASS? "That was the thing, what's frustrating is not being able to stay on the lead lap by being stuck out there. I knew immediately, I said 'Oh yeah, this grass is really wet and (there's) lots of mud out here' so I knew I had to wait for a push."
ON LEADING LAPS AND HAVING GOOD CARS THE LAST TWO WEEKS AND HAVING NOTHING TO SHOW FOR IT: "Hey, I want my bad luck to come right now because I want all the good luck we can get (for the Chase). Every time we're out there we're learning something. We had a fast race car today. I'm happy about that and (we had) good pit stops. It was a solid day for us and we weren't going to get the 10 bonus points we were looking for anyway because the 2 car was too strong and so right there at the end I was just trying to stay out of the way. It was my fault, I drift up in front of Matt and couldn't get out of his way."
WAS IT GOOD TO HAVE STEVE LETARTE BACK UP ON THE PIT BOX? "Oh yeah, Steve did a great job. You know, we may have made a little mistake on the two tire call at the beginning but it was worth trying and I really thought we were going to be in good shape by staying out there at the end but that didn't work out for us."
HOW STRANGE WAS IT TO RUN ON A TUESDAY? "Once you get out in the car you don't know whether it's Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. It's just the last couple days waiting around, nothing to do and just getting anxious to get it started. I'm glad we finally got it in."
Mark Martin, No. 01 U.S. Army Monte Carlo SS - Finished 42nd
WHAT JUST TOOK YOU OUT OF THE RACE (ON LAP 88)? "Well I don't know yet. You know this has been just such an incredible roll this U.S. Army team's been on and they've given me such great race cars. This is our first weekend with Dale Earnhardt Incorporated horsepower. A great engine, great power but we got an oil leak of some sort that we haven't figured out yet."
ON WHAT HAPPENED AFTER RETURNING TO THE GARAGE FOR THE SECOND TIME TODAY (WHICH FORCED HIM TO RETIRE FROM THE RACE EARLY): "We had an oil leak and the guys tried to repair it and I'm not sure what happened after that but it was all related. I hate it for this team. They've given me great stuff all year and this is the first troubled race we've had the whole season so with that in mind I'm very proud of this team and what they've done and the way they've been able to stay focused through a very emotional time for everyone here with going through this merger and I'm very impressed with this whole bunch of guys and I look forward to working with Dale Earnhardt Incorporated going forward and making it stronger and better."
-credit: gm racing