Montoya leads Team Chevy drivers by taking Pocono pole

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EIGHT CHEVROLETS WILL START IN THE TOP-11 FOR THE PENNSYLVANIA 400

Juan Pablo Montoya, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Juan Pablo Montoya, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

LONG POND, PA – August 4, 2012 – Juan Pablo Montoya will lead the field down to the green-flag for tomorrow’s Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway. The pilot of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet earned his eighth career pole laying down a lap of 176.043 mph edging the second place qualifier by hundredth of a second.

Paul Menard, No. 27 Menards/Serta Chevrolet, looks for his second career trip to victory lane, when he starts from the third spot. New Hampshire Motor Speedway race winner Kasey Kahne driving the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet will start fourth. Kurt Busch, No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Inc. Chevrolet posted his best qualifying effort of 2012 on his birthday. The 34-year old NASCAR Sprint Cup veteran and two-time Pocono winner, will start the Pennsylvania 400 from the sixth position.

Current NASCAR Sprint Cup point’s leader Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet was happy with his qualifying effort. He will roll off the starting grid from the eighth position. 2003 Pocono winner Ryan Newman piloting the No. 39 Haas Automation/Quicken Loans Chevrolet will start ninth. Last week’s Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet will start 10th while Regan Smith, No. 78 Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet will take the green-flag in the 11th position.

Denny Hamlin (Toyota) will start second, Marcos Ambrose (Ford) qualified fifth and Matt Kenseth (Ford) was seventh to round out the top 10 starting spots.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – POLE WINNER:

THIS IS YOUR EIGHTH POLE IN NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES COMPETITION. YOU ARE LOCKED INTO THE 2013 SHOOTOUT AT DAYTONA. YOU’RE THE 15TH DIFFERENT POLE WINNER THIS SEASON. CONGRATULATIONS. YOU HAVE THE FIRST PIT STALL SELECTION AND YOU’RE ON THE POLE AT POCONO “To be honest with you, I’m not sure if I’m more shocked that we’re on the pole right now, how the last few races have been for us and how hard our season has been, or that I’m on the pole in Pocono. This is a place where I struggle in qualifying. It’s big. This is a big boost for everybody on the Target team. We’ve been working so hard and we really need a little bit of light. We know we’re working in the right direction. We feel the cars are getting a little better. But to actually get out there and get a pole is big. I just went to the hauler and to ‘Shine’ (crew chief, Chris Heroy) and all the engineers and they’re all happy and laughing. I’ve seen a lot of long faces and a lot of stressful faces and we really needed something like this as a company and this is big for us.”

HOW MUCH DID THE POSITION IN THE DRAW HELP YOU? “Well, you look at the No. 20 car (Joey Logano) and he did the same thing last time here. And we talked about it. We knew. I went to the team this week and we looked at the weather and we said it looks like it’s going to rain. So if it’s going to rain, we’re going to do qualifying runs in the morning. If as we get closer to the weekend and it looks like it’s going to be dry, we’re going to try to take an early draw. And we did. It’s the right call. Did we have the fastest car out there? No. But qualifying is the same as racing. You’ve just got to make the right calls and do whatever it takes to get it done, and that’s what we did.”

DID THE CAR FEEL ANY FASTER THAN IT DID YESTERDAY? “I ran a 51.18 yesterday and I ran a 51.12 today. I actually felt pretty tight through (Turn) 1 and I got a little worried, so I really focused on getting (Turns) 2 and 3 pretty good; and 2 was okay and 3 was really good. I started getting on the gas and the nose didn’t wash so I just got on the gas wide-open. And I was like oh, this might be good.”

CHIP GANASSI WAS ASKED LAST WEEK AT INDY ABOUT THE STATE OF THE TEAM, AND HE SAID EVEN IF IT DIDN’T LOOK LIKE IT ON THE SURFACE, THAT THE TEAM WAS GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. “I know tomorrow is going to be a reality check that we’ve still got to work on it a lot. But, the race hasn’t even started and we haven’t seen how the car works in clean air. We know there’s a lot of really strong cars but you make the right strategy and if you get track position, we’ve shown we’ve got the speed. So, we’ll see. I’m really open-minded about tomorrow. I told people it’s today and let’s enjoy today. I think we’ve done our homework yesterday in race trim and we know where we need to go with the car, so we’ll see.”

DO YOU KNOW HOW CLOSE EARNHARDT-GANASSI IS? ARE YOU A FEW RACES AWAY, A FEW WEEKS AWAY, A MONTH AWAY? “I think we’re quite a ways away from where we want to get to. We want to be able to come every weekend knowing that you can go out there and be the Hendrick or you can be like Gibbs. That’s our goal. As a driver and having the commitment and knowing that you’re going to a race track and knowing that you’re going to be great. Right now, for us, we’re going to a race track into the unknown. It’s hard; do you know what I mean? It’s like if you would have told me this morning I was going to be sitting on the pole, I would have said phew. I finished the lap and I thought it was going to be okay; we were going to be 12th to 15th. And we’re sitting on the pole. And 12th to 15th, the way we’ve been qualifying lately, is actually pretty good. (laughs)

YOU WERE SITTING IN THE ESPN BOOTH AND TALKING ABOUT HOW STRESSFUL IT WAS TO WATCH THE REST OF THE QUALIFYING. WAS THAT MORE STRESSFUL THAN THE LAP ITSELF? “Yeah. The lap, it’s okay. The lap, you just drive it and you drive the wheels off the car and you just hope for the best. Before you do a lap, I’ll tell you how it works. You’ve done the qualifying runs and it’s like I know I’m braking into (Turn) 1 and I turn down as soon as the front grips, I need to start getting on the gas and if it doesn’t step out, you go hard on the gas. Everything is there. I know like in Turn 2 where I need to brake, how hard I need to brake when I turn the wheel so I make sure the car turns. I need to know as soon as the front grips I know I can get hard on the gas. You know that that’s second nature. So you just do whatever the car will let you do. And the other part is out of your hands. You’ve done your lap and they say good job and you think, I don’t think so. It was an okay lap; it wasn’t a great lap. I did not have to get out of the gas anywhere, but it wasn’t a great lap.

“It was like half a tenth going into Turn 1 and it was kind of closed and nothing crazy. When the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) went out and it was dead even with me and then he got on the gas and he had like two-tenths, and I’m like it started at like half a tenth out of Turn 1. And I’m like oh, I might have a chance. Then a tenth, a tenth and a half; then two tenths before we got into Turn 2 and I’m dead, do you know what I mean? I thought oh, can you believe this? The last car is going to beat me? And I think he went into Turn 2 too hard and kind of missed the corner a little bit and I’m like oh, yes! The smile started coming back and that was big.”

PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 MENARDS/SERTA CHEVROLET - QUALIFIED THIRD

TALK ABOUT A STRONG QUALIFYING EFFORT WHICH PUTS YOU IN A GOOD POSITION FOR TOMORROWS RACE: “I wasn’t expecting to qualify in the top three in a back-up car. Obviously that shows the hard work and preparation of the No. 27 guys and everybody at RCR (Richard Childress Racing). We had a good primary car yesterday and had what we think was a radiator hose blew out of it and went up into the wall. We had to pull out the back-up car luckily had two hours to get it ready between practices. Fired off with the back-up car in the second practice and it was pretty good right off the truck. It’s the same car that we tested for two days here so we have some good data on it. We’ve raced it a few times. We did one mock run at the end of practice and things felt good. I felt like I could have got a little bit more out of the car and just made a couple of minor adjustments for today. I think one of the biggest things that helped us was going out early. Standing on pit road during qualifying it was cloudy then. Two cars before us the sun came out. I think it just kind of kept heading up after that. A little bit of luck and a lot of hard work.”

YOU HAVE HAD SOME SUCCESS QUALIFYING HERE THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS ANY KEY THAT YOU HAVE FOUND TO SUCCESSFUL QUALIFYING HERE? “No, obviously good cars and good horsepower helps, nothing really stands out. It’s a track that I’ve kind of taken to for qualifying. We’ve got a few top 10’s here and obviously want to improve on that, get up in the top five and challenge for wins. It’s been a stable track one that has three distinctly different corners. You almost have to approach it like a road course. That has been my background growing up was road racing so I don’t know if that helps or hurts. It’s just something I’ve kind of taken to.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – POLE WINNER GREAT LAP, TELL US ABOUT IT: “It’s okay. Our Target Chevy has been pretty good this week. We have done a lot of work on the cars lately. I don’t think it’s going to hold up for anywhere. I don’t know we are a work in progress.”

THIS HAS BEEN YOUR BEST OVAL TRACK, YOU HAD A SECOND-PLACE FINISH A FEW YEARS AGO HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT THIS IS THE WEEKEND THAT YOU GUYS TURN IT AROUND? “I don’t think this is one of my better tracks to be honest with you. I actually talked to Chip (Ganassi, team owner) yesterday and I said ‘you know part of the problem is me here.’ I’m not very good here (laughs).”

WE’VE SEEN A LOT OF LOOSE RACE CARS OUT THERE “We actually tightened the car up from yesterday. We ran a 51.18 yesterday so it’s not too bad. To tell you the truth, I don’t think it’s going to hold for a pole. But it really shows that the team is going in the right direction. We’ve been working really hard the last few weeks.”

YOU AND YOUR RACE TEAM JUST NEED A LITTLE BIT OF MOMENTUM, DON’T YOU? “Yeah, it’s not so much momentum, but its work. We’ve really got to keep working; keep working on the cars and keep understanding what we need to do. You’ve got to remember that my crew chief (Chris Heroy) is new at this. He’s a really smart guy and he’s got a lot of really smart people there, but it’s how do you put everything together; and we’ve been doing a really good job at it. So, we’ll see.”

PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 MENARDS/SERTA CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED THIRD ON HIS LAP: “It was a little bit looser than yesterday. It didn’t feel like the track had, it just didn’t feel grippy. I’m sure the track was cooler and had more grip. The car felt a little more out of the track than yesterday. I don’t know it will be decent for everything that the guys went through they busted their butts and got the back-up car ready. I think we will be okay.”

KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED FOURTH ON HIS LAP: “It was pretty good. The Farmers Insurance Chevy was balanced really well. I was bouncing a little bit through the tunnel turn I got a little tight because of that. I had good grip around the whole track and it was a fairly easy lap. The car had a lot of grip hopefully it will be the same tomorrow.”

IT SEEMS LIKE YOU’RE DEFINITELY GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION AS WE GET CLOSE TO THE CHASE “Yeah, it’s good. That’s when we need to pick-up the performance and the team has done an awesome job of that. The cars are really fast; the engines are running great and the pit crew is doing an awesome job. So it’s just a matter of keep gaining and keep getting better as we go here. We have six races to really put it all together and if we can do that, we’ll make the Chase. And from there, it’s anybody’s race.”

KURT BUSCH, NO. 51 PHOENIX CONSTRUCTION INC. CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED SIXTH ON HIS LAP: “Pocono is the kind of place where drivers either love it or hate it. You have to compromise a lot here. You just can’t be dialed-in for one corner; you’ve got to keep all three in mind. It’s kind of like a Phoenix or a Darlington.”

TALK ABOUT HEADING TO IOWA LATER TODAY FOR THE NATIONWIDE RACE “I was hoping to post the best lap that I could with our Phoenix Racing Chevy. I think it was a solid lap, but just missed one out of the three corners. And from year, I’m waiting on a couple of other racers. They’re going to do their qualifying laps and then we’re headed to Iowa. We have plenty of time today. We’re going to drive to the airport and then fly into Newton and we’re going to qualify the car and give it a great race tonight. And today, it doesn’t matter how good or how bad we do. Today’s my birthday, so it’s going to be just fine.”

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED EIGHTH ON HIS LAP: “It was good. Our car was a little bit snug, but pretty happy with the effort. I don’t know really how going out this late helped us or hurt us, but it just depends. I don’t know, it was good, I was pretty happy.”

RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 HAAS AUTOMATION /QUICKEN LOANS CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED NINTH ON HIS LAP: “I had a good lap. They said I gave up a little bit in turn three, but the car felt pretty good. It’s going to be off just a little bit in speed, but we will see if we can’t have a little bit better race here than the first race. We got a bad restart the first race and lost a bunch of spots and didn’t get to get them back. We will see.”

HOW MUCH OF AN IMPACT IS THE SUN HAVING WITH HOW FAST EVERYONE IS GOING? “I think the track cooled off from the first car to when we went out. I don’t know what it is going to do now. It seems like the breeze picked up a little bit too which can be tricky here because the track is pretty flat.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED TENTH ON HIS LAP: “The car was awesome. I made a huge mistake so I’m pretty disappointed in myself for being so aggressive and I cost us a shot at the pole. Still with one huge mistake and then a second mistake trying to make up for what I lost, I still ended up tenth. We have a very fast race car and I’m just disappointed in myself for driving too hard.”

REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING/FARM AMERICAN CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 11TH ON HIS LAP: “It was good until turn three. I just got too loose in turn three and didn’t have the grip that I anticipated out of the rear in the car. We have a fast race car and that is the important thing. I think the Furniture Row Chevy is going to be good tomorrow.”

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT BACK TO SCHOOL CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 28TH ON HIS LAP: “Obviously, that was not the lap that we were looking for today with our Office Depot/Mobil 1 ‘Back-to-School’ Chevy,” said Stewart, who won at Pocono in June 2003 and 2009. “We’ve been loose all weekend and we were loose again in qualifying. We’ve got some homework to do tonight because we’ve got to find some grip so that we can do that tomorrow.”

Source: Team Chevy Racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Qualifying report
Tags chevrolet, earnhardt, johnson, menard, montoya, newman, smith, stewart