TONY STEWART WINS AT CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY; KEVIN HARVICK AND DALE EARNHARDT JR. FINISH 2ND AND THIRD TO GIVE TEAM CHEVY ONE-TWO-THREE FINISH IN GEICO 400; HARVICK TAKES POINT LEAD IN CHASE FOR THE NASCAR SPRINT CUP FOLLOWING RACE ONE OF 10-RACE BATTLE
JOLIET, ILL (September 19, 2011) – In round one of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Tony Stewart put his fuel mileage management skills to work in the closing laps of the GEICO 400 to put his No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet in victory lane. Kevin Harvick in the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet and Dale Earnhardt Jr., in the No. 88 AMP Energy Chevrolet finished second and third to give Team Chevy a one-two-three finish at Chicagoland Speedway.
The two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) champion started 26th in the 43-car field and led four times for a total of 35 laps. This is his 40th career race win and his third at Chicagoland Speedway. Stewart has won at least one race in each of his 13 years in NSCS competition and now sits second in the standings. Postponed due to rain, the 267-lap NASCAR Sprint Cup feature was 2 hr. and 47 minutes in length and slowed by only six caution flags.
As the end of the race approached and the closing laps wound down, it became a game of strategy as to who had conserved the appropriate amount of fuel and Stewart, who took the lead the final time on lap 253, proved to be the best.
Harvick, who also had to battle from deep in the starting field in 30th position, rallied back to score a strong runner-up finish and take the lead in the standings with nine races remaining in the season.
Earnhardt, Jr., steadily worked his way up through the field from the 19th starting position to finish third and jump from 10th to fifth in the standings.
Four other Team Chevy entries rounded-out final top-10 order to give Chevrolet seven of the top-10 finishers. Clint Bowyer was 7th in the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet and Mark Martin brought his No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet home in ninth position.
Falling victim to the fuel mileage race, but still in the top-10 were Ryan Newman who finished 8th in the No. 39 U.S. Army Medicine Chevrolet, five-time defending NSCS champion Jimmie Johnson, who crossed the stripe in his No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT TOOLS Chevrolet in 10th as well as Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet who was credited with 24th in the final order.
With the first of 10 Chase races complete, the Team Chevy drivers rank in the standings as follows: Ryan Newman is 7th; Johnson is currently 8th with Gordon now sitting in the 11th position.
Carl Edwards (Ford) and Brad Keselowski (Dodge) completed the top-five finishers.
Round two of the 2011 Chase is scheduled for Sunday, September 25 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET, RACE WINNER: MOVES TO SECOND IN POINTS
ON HIS RACE: “It is huge; I had a migraine all day yesterday so I am kinda glad we didn’t race. Man, this Office Depot/ Mobil One Chevy was awesome. All of our partners with Burger King, Coca Cola, and US Army, Tornados, El MOnteray, Hass Automation, all these guys, we have had a rough year so this is a good way to start off the Chase.
TONY, YOUR FIRST WIN OF THE SEASON, CONGRATULATIONS: “Thanks, it’s nice to finally get one of these this year and I guess if you have to wait to get the first one, it’s alright to pick it here.”
TALK ABOUT SAVING FUEL AND LEADING AND THE ADVANTAGES YOU HAVE AND HOW THAT WORKED FOR YOU: “You just get to maintain the pace you are on and you listen to the intervals. I know what I do to save fuel, I don’t know what the other drivers do to save fuel but I was just doing what I do and had to pay attention to the intervals. The hard part was when the 56 got to second and I was like, ‘are you sure he has to come in?’, and I picked the pace up there for a couple laps and then they reassured me that he was going to have to pit so we got back into that mode. But it’s hard to give the lead away like that.”
TALK ABOUT GOING INTO NEW HAMPSHIRE NEXT WEEK, WHERE YOU AND RYAN (NEWMAN) HAVE DOMINATED, WITH A FULL HEAD OF STEAM: “Well, the way we ran there in the spring, I am real excited about going to New Hampshire. So I am just excited and proud of everyone on our Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy team and they did an awesome job all weekend and Darien and these guys made some awesome calls and great pit stops by the crew. We just had a good day today.”
DARIAN GRUBB, CREW CHIEF, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET, RACE WINNER:
ON THE WIN: “Boy does champagne feel good right now. It’s pretty sweet. It’s the way to start the Chase off, especially with the year we’ve had. We’ve had some really god cars, really fast cars and some bad luck and circumstances that kept us from winning races. To get our first win leading into the Chase feels really good.”
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET, FINISHED 2ND: POINTS’ LEADER AFTER ROUND ONE OF THE CHASE BY SEVEN POINTS:
AS FUEL A PROBLEM FOR YOU GUYS? “We had a problem with fuel and had to save a lot there at the beginning and I just didn’t know how much we had in our tank there at the end but I was hoping we had enough. Everybody on the Budweiser Chevrolet did a good job and this is a good way to start the Chase.”
ON MAKING IT TO THE FINISH ON FUEL: “I wasn’t ever comfortable but I knew I had saved a little bit under caution and a little bit at the beginning of that run and they felt comfortable with the lap times. Everybody on our Budweiser Chevrolet did a great job and knowing exactly how far we could go, we ran out coming on to pit road there, so good first race for us.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, FINISHED 3RD:
KIND OF QUIET MOST OF THE DAY FOR YOU DALE BUT A GREAT START TO THE CHASE: “It was. We worked real hard all weekend trying to be smart. The car was a bit of a struggle in the middle part of the race but in that last run we were one of the best cars on the track. My guys had great pit stops and worked really hard trying to get better so I really have to thank those guys for what they got us today and we had a good car and we were just real smart all weekend and did a good job and I am real happy with the team.”
ON HIS RACE:“I gotta thank the team, first off we had really really good pit stops all day long, those guys have worked hard to try to improve and they really did today. The car was a bit of a struggle at some parts of the race, but we made some changes at the end that made the car one of the fastest cars on the track. We drove up in the top ten there , we started trying to save a little gas and we made it further than most. I am pleased with the engine, the guys in the engine shop, the guys that put the cars together in the fab shop, all the guys in the 88/48 shop. This whole team, we worked hard all weekend , trying to be smart and it was a good weekend for us.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 US ARMY MEDICINE CHEVROLET, FINISHED 8TH:
ON HIS RACE: “Our race was really good. I was really proud of the guys. Our fuel mileage wasn’t what it needed to be but, in the end, we got a top-10 out of it. Ran out (of fuel) coming off of turn two. Got past Jimmie (Johnson) I think he ran out coming to the white. It was kind of a crazy deal, but, we were still able to capitalize. It was the worst we ran all day was ninth place, So I’m proud of the guys. Had to be running out of fuel to get back that far.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET, FINISHED 10TH:
ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED IN THAT FINISH AFTER RUNNING SO WELL TODAY? “I can’t complain too much because the car in Victory Lane (Tony Stewart) has same power, same everything. From my driving style I’ve never been all that good with fuel mileage. You’ve certainly seen my run out at other times. Not what we wanted. We certainly had a great race car and it’s just too bad. We ran out (of fuel) coming to the white flag.”
ARE YOU HEARTENED BY HOW WELL YOU RAN AND LED LAPS? “Yes, within reason. We’ve felt like we’ve been real strong. Looking at Atlanta, looking at a few other tracks. We felt in our hearts that we had the right stuff on pit road; on the race track an all of that. It was fun today, running up front and leading some laps. We had great speed, just one lap short on fuel.”
HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO BE OUT FRONT TODAY? “Track position really is everything. Once you get to the lead, It is so much easier to save fuel. I ran pretty hard trying to get by the No. 56 (Martin Truex, Jr.) and just racing stuff. There wasn’t anything wrong. Just racing hard. I knew I wasn’t really catching those guys so I actually started saving like three laps before the No. 17 (Matt Kenseth) kind of gave up and decided to save and I still came up short. Like I said earlier, car over there in victory lane had the same power under the hood so I just didn’t do a good enough job.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, FINISHED 24TH:
ON TODAY’S RACE: “We were just off. We didn’t qualify good. That got us behind right there. It was just one of those days. You know. We had a right front tear apart. We actually got the car halfway decent there at the end. Then it came down to saving fuel and we obviously didn’t save enough fuel.”
ANY CONCERNS MOVING FORWARD ABOUT THE BULK OF THE CHASE BEING MILE-AND-A-HALF TRACKS THAT THE SETUP WAS OFF TODAY? “I don’t think the setup was as far off as just the track position. When we had the problem with the right front, we weren’t very good right then. Between the handling as well as track position as well as the problem with the right front, it didn’t do us any favors. We got back on the lead lap and drove back up there and I thought we were decent right then. We have to get a little bit better. We have to qualify better; we can’t have days like we had today. That’s for sure.”