Team Chevy Drivers Capture Three of the Top-Five Finishing Positions at Bristol; Five Time and Reigning Champion Jimmie Johnson Locks Himself Into the Chase With Top-Five Run
BRISTOL, TENN (August 27, 2011) Bristol Motor Speedway’s late summer NASCAR Sprint Cup Series night race is typically known for the sparks that fly and tempers that flare, but this Saturday night’s race was relatively calm and featured several dominant performances from a variety of drivers. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, was one of those drivers who had a dominant stint at the front. In fact, he led five different time for a race-high 206 laps before finishing third after a heated battle for second across the final 90 laps. Gordon remains sixth in the point standings. It was also Gordon’s 21st top-ten finish in 38 races at Bristol.
Jimmie Johnson, No.48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet, had a solid night and ran consistently in the top-five of the Irwin Tools Night Race, even reeling off a 76 lap run at the front of the field early in the race. Johnson came home with yet another top-five at Bristol and is the first Team Chevy driver to clinch a spot in the “Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup”.
Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Realtree Chevrolet, looked like the surprise of the night when he fought his way to the front and looked like a late contender for the win, but lost track position on the final stop and was not able to recover. McMurray brought his Chevy home with a respectable fifth-place finish.
Ryan Newman, No. 39 Bass Pro Shops/Realtree Chevrolet, earned the pole for tonight’s race but struggled with handling before a late rally to score an eighth-place finish. It was a good points night for Newman who maintains seventh-place in the overall point standings with two races before the Chase.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy/Bristol 50th Anniversary/National Guard Chevrolet, struggled with balance and grip but brought his Chevy home in 16th and maintains his 9th place standing overall in points.
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Realtree/Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, had a rough night at the half-mile track where he has had much success – even winning in Wednesday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, but came home in 22nd position and dropped from third to fifth in the standings.
Tony Stewart, No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Office Depot Chevrolet, had one of his toughest weekends at Bristol this week. After qualifying in 42nd position, he fell behind three laps and was only able to rally to a 28th finish but clings to 10th overall in the point standings with two races to go before the Chase cut-off.
Clint Bowyer also struggled with the handle of his No. 33 Hamburger Helper Chevrolet. He finished 26th and sits 12th in points.
Chevrolet continues to lead the standings for the 2011 Manufacturers’ Cup with 24 races in the books.
Brad Keselowski (Dodge) was the race winner. Martin Truex, Jr. (Toyota) was second to complete the top-five finishers.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – FINISHED 3RD:
WHAT A BATTLE WITH MARTIN TRUEX JR. TALK ABOUT THOSE LAST 50 OR SO LAPS “Oh, it was an incredible battle. I know that there wasn’t much of a race up there for first when Brad (Keselowski) got out there with those four tires and got clear of us, but me and Martin and Matt Kenseth and Jimmie (Johnson); we were having a heck of a battle back there. But I’m really, really proud of this race team tonight. What an awesome race car this Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet was. I think we made some huge improvements from the last time we were here. It felt like we had the car to beat; but you know what, we just didn’t get the position that we needed to on that last pit stop. Our pit crew was awesome. Pit road is an interesting place here. We fought hard. That was just a great battle; a lot of fun racing, but just didn’t quite have it there at the end.”
TALK ABOUT ALL THE LEADING THEN HAVING TO GIVE UP THE LEAD ON PIT ROAD THEN NOT BEING ABLE TO GET IT BACK. "Matt (Kenseth) was strong and the No. 2 was really strong there in the run right there before that last one. I wasn't too worried about the guys on two tires so I was a little bit surprised we weren't able to get by Martin (Truex), he was really strong on the top. Man, me and Matt and Jimmie (Johnson) fought so hard there for what was that third or fourth position and we used up a lot of our stuff and Brad was just able to go out there and cruise but we had an awesome Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet and I'm so proud of these guys. I tell you the pit road thing is interesting here. I think they've got to look at that because qualifying becomes such a premium and we qualified pretty good and we had a pretty good stall but if you look at how the No. 2 and No. 17 were able to shoot out there I think it kind of defeats the purpose of a pit road speed. That's not what cost us, we just didn't get it done on the race track. We had a great battle, heck of a race car and led a lot of laps. Brad (Keselowski) did a great job and Martin did a great job of holding me off there. We raced hard and slid around bunch so it was a lot of fun. Great night for us, I'm proud of my guys, Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and everybody. What an awesome race car. Can't wait to go to Atlanta."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET – FINISHED 4TH:
UNOFFICIALLY, YOU ARE TIED FOR THE POINTS LEAD WITH KYLE BUSCH “Right-on, that’s good. We had a great night, tonight. I’m very proud of this Lowe’s team. This Chevrolet was pretty good all night long. I wish we had a little bit more pace, but we were knocking on the door all night long and right there fighting for it. Great stops on pit road. I had a lot of fun here at Bristol. This is an awesome race track and I hope the fans enjoyed it.”
YOU HAD A GOOD NIGHT, PIT ROAD THE GUYS WERE SOLID, TAKE US THROUGH YOUR NIGHT. "Yeah, we had a very solid night all night long. Just very proud of the effort and the way that we've been building all season long and getting ourselves ready for the Chase and I think we're real close and we're there. Sprint, I've got to thank them and all they do for our sport and I'm very honored to have been in every Chase. Hopefully I can get in there and do my job with this Lowe's Chevrolet once again and I know my team is going to be ready. We're going for that sixth championship. Very excited to lock in tonight and in there with Kyle (Busch) in the points. We'll go to these next two and see if we can't get a W."
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/REALTREE CHEVROLET, FINISHED 5TH:
ON HIS RACE: “Once we got moving forward, I had what I thought was one of the best cars on the track but when we got up to the top-four we were kind of equal to everybody. And then at the end, we were one of those cars that if we could have got out front, we probably could have won tonight but we lost some track position there and it was so hard to recover.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 BASS PRO SHOPS/REALTREE CHEVROLET, FINISHED 8TH:
ON HIS RACE: “It was a good call there at the end to put two tires on. We just weren’t as good as we should have been car wise all night. We had about a sixth to 10th place car depending on what run it was and we finished 8th. Proud of the guys. I have to thank Bass Pro Shops and Realtree for jumping on board with our Chevrolet. It was a good points day for us looking at the big picture. It is going to take a better performance than that in those last 10 races to be a champion, but I feel like we have something to work with for sure.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/BRISTOL 50TH ANNIVERSARY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, FINISHED 16TH:
ON HIS RACE: “Well, we struggled all night, really, trying to get a good car. Trying to get a good car; trying to get the car to drive. We just couldn’t really get a good balance all night. The balance was decent on the car, but we were just slow, we didn’t have enough grip. Just sliding around a whole lot. Thankful to finish where we finished.”
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 SYLVANIA/MENARDS CHEVROLET, FINISHED 30TH:
ON HIS RACE: “Man, we’re giving it away right now for sure. I sped on pit road; my fault. Lost all of our track position, which, here is so important. Just fought loose off all night. When you get back in traffic, you burn your tires off a little bit too much and it is hard to get in a rhythm when you are fighting guys. Just a bad night. Frustrating. If there is something that could have gone wrong, it did.”
MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE/GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET, FINISHED 38TH: INVOLVED IN A MULTI-CAR ACCIDENT ON LAP 361 AND SPENT 137 LAPS BEHIND THE WALL FOR REPAIRS:
ON HIS RACE: “I just want to thank all my crew guys, they gave me a really good race car tonight. Our Farmers Insurance Chevrolet was better than we looked out there. We got stuck in the field without track position and tried to make our way back through. Unfortunately when we were making our come back, we got tagged from behind. Once you make contact with that inside wall, it is hard to recover from. Good job by all the guys tonight and we’ll just go on from here.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 BASS PRO SHOPS/OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET, FINISHED 28TH:
ON HIS RACE: “It was better than it was shaping up to be yesterday. Thanks to our teammates for the help that we got from them that definitely made us better for sure. Just a rough night. Struggled through.”
ON MAKING THE CHASE: “It is no different than it was last week. The feeling is the same way, you still want to make it. We’re working hard at it.”