With Runner-Up Finish Jimmie Johnson Jumps to Fifth in the Standings; Kevin Harvick Takes Points Lead after Solid 10th Place Run at Dover
DOVER, Del. (October 2, 2011) - With three races of the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint (NSCS) Cup in the books, Jimmie Johnson led the six Team Chevy contenders in the battle for the title with a runner-up finish at Dover International Speedway behind the wheel of his No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet.
The strong run jumped Johnson to fifth in the standings, just 13 points out of the lead and just four points out of third place. The five-time defending NSCS champion led a race-high 157 laps in the AAA 400 at the Monster Mile.
Kevin Harvick once again sits atop the point standings after a solid 10th place finish in the No. 29 Rheem "Chasing the Cure" Chevrolet. Harvick started 22nd in the 43-car field and was credited with leading once for 10 laps.
Clint Bowyer, No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet finished eighth to give Team Chevy three of the top-10 finishers.
Tony Stewart, No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, is now third in the standings, only nine points behind the leader with seven races remaining in the Chase. He battled handling issues throughout the race to be scored 25th at the checkered flag.
Four-time NSCS champion Jeff Gordon powered the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet to 12th in the final finishing order. Gordon is now ninth in the standings, a mere 19 points away from the top spot.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, suffered a setback with a sway bar mechanical failure early in the race; then a loose right front wheel late in the race. He finished 24th and now sits 10th in the standings, 34 points behind the leader.
Ryan Newman, No. 39 U.S. Army ROTC Chevrolet also battled handling issues throughout the 400-lap/400-mile race. He finished 23rd and sits 11th in points, 41 points out of the lead.
Kurt Busch (Dodge) was the race winner. Carl Edwards (Ford), Kasey Kahne (Toyota) and Matt Kenseth (Ford) complete the top five finishers.
The Series moves to Kansas Speedway on October 9 for Round 4 of the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET, FINISHED 2ND:
ON HIS RACE: "Great run. Certainly wish we could have finished one spot better, but just didn't get a good restart the last two restarts. I just didn't get good one. Being on the outside there for me on that second one. I was lucky to get to the bottom or I think I would have had difficulties with Kasey Kahne and the No. 99 (Carl Edwards). But, all-in-all, it was an awesome day. Very very strong performance on pit road; on the race track; race strategy and everything. So, very very proud of the effort today. Wish it could be one better, but this exactly what we needed for this championship Chase."
NOW YOU ARE UP INSIDE THE TOP-FIVE IN POINTS, IT HAS TO BE NICE TO GET CLOSER TO THE FRONT SPOT: “Does that mean you're going to leave me alone? All you media people leave me alone about being down in points? (LAUGHS)
YES, I'LL BE THE LAST ONE TO EVER ASK YOU ABOUT IT, HOW ABOUT THAT? "(LAUGHS) “It's all good! Yes, certainly we are going the right direction. At Chicago we ran so good. Even at Loudon we were going to have a decent day, it didn't turn out. I am happy today we finished up front. We ran up front. There is still a lot of racing left. We came into this Chase wondering what happened to the No. 14 (Tony Stewart). Then the No. 14 is on fire and where did the No. 14 end up today. It just shows how inconsistent this Chase is going to be."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 RHEEM "CHASING THE CURE" CHEVROLET, FINISHED 10TH-POINTS LEADER: ON HIS RACE:
“We are excited. Our Rheem Chevrolet was good today and we will just keep rolling."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – FINISHED 12TH
YOU STARTED 34TH AND ENDED UP 12TH. YOU’RE NOT HAPPY WITH THAT BUT WHAT’S UP WITH THOSE RESTARTS? WAS THAT THE PROBLEM TODAY? “Yeah, that’s been a struggle for us here at this track this year. It’s like there is no air in the front tires for the first eight laps and so we just don’t have any speed to take off and then once we get going there, then we’ve got a great race car. It started off good and we worked our way forward pretty quick from that 34th position, which we were hoping to do; but once we got up there I made some mistakes today and we just didn’t have it on the restarts. Other than that, we had a great fight from this race team. I’m so proud of the effort. We’ve just got to run better than that.”
YOU LOST FOUR POSITIONS IN THE POINTS AND ARE NOW 9TH. GOING TO KANSAS, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL HAVE THERE? “Well, we gained on some and lost on some others. It’s so tight right there; all the way back to 9th or 10th. Kansas is a great track for us. I can’t wait to get there. If we can run the way we ran there earlier in the year, we’ll make up a bunch of those points that we lost today.”
YOU PRACTICED WELL BUT HAD A BAD QUALIFYING EFFORT. DID YOU HAVE A FEEL ON HOW TODAY WAS GOING TO GO? “I knew it was going to be tough. It doesn’t matter how good your race car is; well, unless you’re Carl Edwards. They had an awesome race car. But you’ve got to have position here. It wasn’t so much the 34th. We actually took off there at the beginning and made some good passes but as the race went on, the restarts just killed us. The front tires just would not hook up. And we really struggled getting the car to roll through the center until we got 12 to 15 laps, and then we were just about as good as anybody. And so, it was a struggle. We finished 12th. We salvaged something out of it. It could have been a lot worse and we go on to Kansas.”
HOW WOULD YOU EVALUATE YOUR CHANCES AT THIS POINT? YOU OBVIOUSLY DON’T HAVE THE START YOU WANTED FOR THE CHASE “No, I knew this was going to be a struggle for us. I think Chicago was a big surprise for us. I think had we finished good in Chicago, had the run that we had in New Hampshire, which we thought we could have; and then came here and had a 12th place finish, I’d be feeling pretty good about it. So, you know again, it all depends on the average finish. So that means we have to go and perform better. Every time we have a finish like this it means we’ve got to perform that much better in the next couple of races.”
DID THE TRACK CHANGE DURING THE RACE? “I thought it was pretty standard. I think the pace was a little bit higher than normal and the grip was a little bit better just because of the cool temperatures.”
AND YOU FIGURED JIMMIE JOHNSON WAS GOING TO BE GOOD HERE “Well, I think had they not qualified as good as they had, it might have been a little bit tougher for them. But they qualified so good they were able to maintain that track position. You get Jimmie and that team a good qualifying effort here, they’re going to be tough to beat and they were.”
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET – FINISHED 11TH:
"We didn't do ourselves too many favors in the pits today but the Cat team rallied when we needed to and got a decent finish. We were tight off the corners early on but were actually a little loose at the end of the race."
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET – FINISHED 25TH:
WHAT WERE YOU STRUGGLING WITH THE MOST? “Just the whole package. Even when we got the balance half-way decent it didn’t have speed. So we just missed it.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE POINTS RIGHT NOW? “Well, we’ve got seven weeks to worry about it. So we’ll see.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY ROTC CHEVROLET, FINISHED 23RD.
"We just didn't have it right all weekend," said Newman. "We didn't have any grip, which caused us to have poor track position all day. We tried a number of adjustments and pit strategies but nothing seemed to work in our favor. We have to put this weekend behind us and move on. We're a much better team than where we finished today."
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY CHEVROLET – FINISHED 24TH:
REGARDING THE LOOSE WHEEL “I didn’t think it could make it many more laps so we had to come in and fix that and that got us behind pretty bad and from there on it was a little bit too late to play catch up at that point.”
WHAT WAS THE EMOTION LIKE BECAUSE YOU HAD RALLIED BACK AT THAT POINT “That’s racing. That is all I can say. I have had a lot of stuff happen to me over the years good and bad and you just have to roll with the punches. I don’t think I am B.S.ing myself when I think that we brought a good car to the track. We improved it from practice and I thought we weren’t really that good in practice and I thought we improved on it and we kind of went toward where Jimmie was and it helped my car so we know that was a good direction so we know that for next time we come here because I really have a hard time with this place lately and need to get something figured out here. There was a couple promising things today but we didn’t finish like we wanted to. “
DID YOU THINK THE ORIGINAL INCIDENT WAS MORE SERIOUS AND DID YOU THINK YOUR TEAM WOULD BE ABLE TO GET YOU BACK OUT THERE? “Well, I figured we would be able to fix it but I didn’t know how many laps down we would be and they fixed it really quick. It just sort of all worked out the way it did. I wasn’t too competitive with a broken sway bar arm and we were going to get lapped if the caution hadn’t come out. The caution came out and kind of saved us and we were able to fix it and lose only one lap and then we raced our way into the “Lucky Dog” and got the next caution. It was a bunch of luck right there, pure luck to get that lap back. The guys worked really hard but if the circumstances hadn’t come with the cautions it would have taken us longer to get there and we would have eventually got back.
“The loose wheel cost us a lot and that happens and those guys are doing the best job they can and they had a couple of really good pit stops today and a really good week last week and we’ll just try not to have loose wheels next time. But there is not much you can do and I have a great bunch of guys, happy to go to the race track with them and try to do better. We had a pretty good car and ran well and we didn’t do anything stupid we just kind of got snake-bit there a little bit today so we can’t be too upset at ourselves.”
IS IT MORE DISAPPOINTING TO LOSE A TOP-TEN OPPORTUNITY OR MORE BECAUSE OF THE POINTS? “I think more than anything I would like to run as well as I think we should and like today I wish we would have finished in the top-10 like I think we could have and to show what we are capable of doing first and foremost before I even think about points and other things. We are a good team and we have showcased that several times this year and if you really study today’s race we had a really good car and we weren’t as fast as the guys up front but we were better than we have been here in a long time and I have had some rough runs here lately and haven’t got this place figured out yet or what we need, but we are getting better.”
NOW WHAT FOR YOU GUYS? YOU ARE THIRTY-SOME POINTS BACK TO THE LEADER “Just try and win a race. To win a race and see what happens. See if you can knock it in half, who knows. You can’t quit. You have that opportunity there and we have a hot pass to the garage area and you are going to go in there and check it out. We have an opportunity to race in the Chase and we are still alive and we will keep racing as hard as we can till the last lap at Homestead. One of the things I learned a long time ago was that if you wreck out or something you go back out there and finish the race and run as hard as you can. It’s really hard to look yourself in the mirror when you don’t and when you don’t give it your all even when it doesn’t look great and your opportunity to win a championship doesn’t look great. It’s hard to look yourself in the mirror when you don’t try hard every time and every lap.