Tony Stewart Wins at Martinsville; Moves to Second in the Standings with Three Races Remaining in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup; Team Chevy Drivers Claim Four of the Top-Five and Seven of the Top-10 Finishing Positions
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (October 30, 2011) - Tony Stewart made a statement today at Martinsville Speedway by capturing the win behind the wheel of his No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, Stewart took the lead on the final restart and remained on the point for the final three laps of the 500-lap/263-mile race.
It is the two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) champion's third win in the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and catapulted him to second in the standings, just eight points out of the lead with three races remaining in the season.
Today's win in the TUMS Fast Relief 500 is Stewart's third at the tough .526-mile track in southern Virginia. He led three times for a total of 14 laps on the way to his 42nd NSCS career win.
Five-time defending NSCS champion Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Mylowes Chevrolet, finished second just .170 seconds behind Stewart. Johnson led twice for a total of 61 laps and sits sixth in the standings, 43 points behind the top-spot.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, finished third. The four-time NSCS champion led twice for a total 113 laps and remains 10th in the standings.
Kevin Harvick brought the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet to the checkered flag in fourth place. Leading twice for 35 laps, Harvick is now 3rd in the standings, 21 points out of the top-spot.
Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet is always good at Martinsville and today was no different. The South Boston, Virginia, native scored a solid 6th place finish in today’s TUMS 500 and had a shot at the win late in the race.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the No. 88 Diet Mt. Dew Paint the 88/National Guard Chevrolet showed why Martinsville Speedway is one of his favorite tracks as he powered around the .586 mile short track inside the top-ten for most of the day and after some beating and banging and hard racing, came home in 7th place and maintained his 9th place in the overall standings.
Ryan Newman overcame a late-race spin and brought his No. 39 HAAS Automation Chevrolet home in 10th place in today’s race at Martinsville. The top-ten run was not enough to help him move up the standings and he still resides in 12th place overall.
Denny Hamlin (Toyota) was the final driver in the top-five.
The Series’ moves to Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, November 6, 2011.
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET – RACE WINNER:
YOU HAD A WHALE OF A RUN TODAY: “I tell you, we got to second there and hit the curb off of Turn 4 and let Jeff get underneath us and we had to run the top in (Turns) 1 and 2 and then we pulled him two car lengths off of (Turn) 2. I had a little confidence; at least the track had grip, I just didn’t know if I did a good enough job of keeping the tires cleaned off. It wasn’t 150 laps from the end we were fighting just to stay on the lead lap.”
TALK ABOUT HAVING TO COME DOWN PIT ROAD WHEN YOU WERE LEADING; WHAT WAS THE DEAL THERE? “I swore I had a left rear flat. We had changed so much stuff during the race that I didn’t think it was flat but I thought it was going down. You know, we had contact with (Kevin) Harvick and I felt a ‘clunk’ and I didn’t know if it broke something or if we had a flat, but at that part of the race you couldn’t take a chance. But (crew chief) Darian Grubb saved us and got us the great pit strategy there at the end that got us the track position back.”
YOUR CAR WAS TIGHT IN THE CENTER. WHAT DID YOU GUYS FINALLY DO TO GET IT HOOKED UP? “Yeah, like I’m going to tell anybody that. I’ll take that to my grave (laughs).”
YOUR ARE 8 POINTS BACK IN SECOND POSITION WITH THREE RACES LEFT. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? “Carl Edwards had better be real worried. That’s all I’ve got to say. He’s not going to sleep for the next three weeks.”
TALK ABOUT THAT LAST LAP PASS ON JIMMIE JOHNSON, HOW DID YOU PULL THAT OFF? “I don’t know because I don’t think anybody has ever passed Jimmie Johnson on the outside so, just determination, I don’t think we had the best racecar today by any means, but we had the most determined pit crew to get it as good as they can get it, I was pretty mad all day, but I was the only guy who didn’t get in a wreck with somebody, so I was kind of proud of that. Just this Office Depot/ Mobil 1 Chevy, Hendrick engines and chassis and Darin Grubb and all these guys at Stewart-Haas racing, just an awesome group of people.”
WHAT IS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND ON THAT FINAL RE-START? “Yea, to be honest I was not excited starting second, I would have rather re-started third, but Jeff (Gordon) got to us and I hit the curb off of four before the restart, Jeff got underneath us going into one, I ran that second lane and pulled two car lengths on ya, and said wow this lane has a little bit more grip than I thought it had up there. The key was just getting into one beside him, and not letting him run up the race track like he did Jeff Burton and holding him tight and letting myself have the opportunity to at least get through there.”
I KNOW YOU WANT TO CELEBRATE BUT I WANT TO TELL YOU, YOU ARE EIGHT POINTS BACK OF CARL EDWARDS WITH THREE TO GO WE HAVE A CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE IN THE MAKING: “He better be worried, that is all I got to say. He is not going to have an easy three weeks.”
DARIAN GRUBB, CREW CHIEF NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET
ON THEIR WIN: “It is an awesome team that just won’t give up. We have a great bunch of guys that did an awesome job.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 MYLOWE’S CHEVROLET – FINISHED 2ND:
YOU BARELY MISSED SCORING THE WIN; TELL US ABOUT THOSE LAST FEW LAPS OF THE RACE: “We had a great race car all day long. Chad (Knaus, crew chief) made a great call. I thought it was going to bite us, staying out like we did; and with all the cautions that gave us an opportunity to win the race. And Tony (Stewart, race winner) hung-on tough on the outside there and I just couldn’t bring myself to leaning on him and moving him out of the way with where he is in the points. I just kind of raced him clean and then he got around on the outside and got in front of us.”
DID YOU HAVE A SENSE OF HOW WILD THINGS WERE TODAY AT MARTINSVILLE? “Oh, yeah; from lap one or two I could just tell it was going to be one of those days and I could see the crashes on the big screen there at the end. I just wish we didn’t have that last caution. The last three or four (cautions) seemed to be the same cars over and over and I just wish that wasn’t the case. We would have been just fine.”
TAKE ME THROUGH THAT FINAL RESTART: “Yea, I just could not get away from him on the restart. He hung on strong on the outside, and I was more worried about clipping a curb when he was running me tight and not take him out of a championship situation, minding my P’s and Q’s. I just wanted to do the right thing and unfortunately got beat in the process. Thought about going in there and leaning on him, move him up but that is just not the right thing to do. I just wished that prior to that the No. 83 was a part of every caution. I wish he could have just driven around the race track and we could have won this thing, but whatever, we will move on.”
A KEY MOMENT WAS THE LAST PIT STOP AND YOU DID NOT COME DOWN PIT ROAD, HOW CRITICAL WAS THAT? “It certainly gave us the track position we needed and the No. 24 got to third I guess, so really ended up being the right call. Chad ( Knaus, crew chief) was really nervous the way things unfolded, felt like it might cost us a shot at the win, but it put us right in the cat bird seat to win the race and that last restart Tony ( Stewart) did a great job and I didn’t get it done.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – FINISHED 3RD:
WHAT A COMEBACK FOR YOU TODAY SINCE EARLY ON, YOU WERE MIRED DEEP IN THE FIELD “Yeah, I got caught up in that incident early on. It looked like Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. got into the curb a little bit getting into (Turn) 1 and we just had nowhere to go. I probably should have went low, but I chose to get out of the way of the guys behind me and I center-punched him. We’re pretty lucky. That right-front brake duct was tore up pretty good and at this place, cooling those brakes is pretty important. And I beat it up. I ran it as hard as I possibly could to get our Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet back to the front. It was pretty fun coming up through there and getting up to the front and leading. It just seemed like the last couple of runs just didn’t quite go our way. So we came home third. It was a nice top five for us.”
HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS TODAY AND THE RACING? “It was crazy, absolutely crazy, I hate we got caught up in that incident early with my teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked like he got the curb, and I choose to go high and I should have gone low, but great effort by this Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet team, they fixed the nose, I was more worried about our break-duct, over heating the right front and I beat it up, I ran it hard to get back up there and it held up so I am pretty happy with that. You know the last two runs, I don’t know if it was just the adjustments we made or what, we just kind of lost the edge that we had at one time especially on the short runs, I really did not have much for those guys there at the end and we needed more green flag runs than we did, so hey third great, gosh we came so close to getting win 200 for Rick Hendrick, I thought Jimmie ( Johnson) had it there for a second, but great effort by Tony Stewart, when things get tough you have to watch out for that guy, and he really put one on them. I didn’t think he could pass Jimmie (Johnson) on the outside.”
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET, FINISHED 4TH:
ON HIS RACE TODAY: “It was definitely a battle. Everybody was driving hard. That is what you are supposed to do here at Martinsville. I know the guys did a good job making the cars better and we got good track position. The No. 31 (Jeff Burton) helped us on that last restart there to get down, I really appreciate that. Just the top was tough for me to get going on the restarts. The No. 14 (Tony Stewart, race winner) was really the only one that could make any ground on the restarts and that is what won him the race. All-in-all, everybody on our Budweiser Chevy did a good job.”
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, FINISHED 6TH:
ON TODAY’S RACE: ” I can't be too unhappy with finishing sixth because the Cat team worked their tails off to get us in position at the end to win this thing. Pit stops were good all especially when there was some damage to fix and Luke made good calls to help get us up front. That last caution probably didn't help us but it was another solid finish.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW PAIN THE 88/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, FINISHED 7TH:
THAT LOOKED LIKE ONE OF THE WILDEST RACES I HAVE SEEN YOU RUN OUT THERE TODAY: “Really? Well, its time man. That right there was basically, hey, the season is running down and we are not going to be racing much longer and I am going to miss it so I came to the buffet and got everything I could eat.”
DID YOU PLAN TO DO THAT FROM THE START TODAY OR DID IT JUST HAPPEN? “I was doing okay and I was just kind of hanging out and then I drank a couple of AMPs before the race started and probably was a little bit too excited. That was the first 100 laps and I calmed down after a while but that first 100 laps it was just……………it was fun. I was having fun.”
DID YOU WORRY ABOUT MAKING ANYONE MAD FOR THE WAY YOU WERE DRIVING OR ANYTHING? “I mean, come on man. I mean everybody that I think I ran over even got me back accidentally in one shape or form today. I don’t know if they think we are all even but I ain’t really worried about it. If they want to come at me, come at me. But I had fun today and this is short track racing and we don’t do as much short track racing anymore so when you see this kind of thing, you are like ‘whoa, what’s going on’, because we run on these mile-and-a-halfs and you don’t see that kind of crap. And if we ran on these things more often this would kind of be more acceptable I guess in the minds.”
DO YOU THINK THIS WAS THE WILDEST MARTINSVILLE RACE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN IN? “No. It was about like all the rest I just…………it was a little wild and we started off a little wilder than we normally do. Those first 100 laps are usually kind of calm but everyone was kicking it into high gear once they dropped the rag. I had a really, really good time and I know I got into Joey (Logano) accidentally, my fault, hopping the rear brakes in three and I hated that. Me and the 6 got to beating on each other real hard and he gave it as good as he took it. And I think we ended on even terms anyway. Anyone else? I don’t know……it was fun and I had a good time.”
ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10 HOW DOES THIS RACE RATE WITH THE REST OF THE SEASON, ONE OF THE BEST? “This was one of the good ones and I really like coming here. I love everything about the weekend, practicing is fun, qualifying is even kind of fun. Which I am not really fond of qualifying in most places. You just know what you are going to get when you show up here. You know what is going to happen and there is no real surprises and for a long, long time I have been coming here and able to drive really good cars. I haven’t come here and run like crap all weekend and struggled in the race……I have been really lucky to drive some really good cars the last ten years and that makes it a lot of fun too.”
THE POINTS ARE VERY CLOSE AND WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT DOES FOR THE SPORT AND THE FANBASE? “I think this was a great day for NASCAR and I think this kind of racing is exciting and people really yearn to see that style of racing, not all the time obviously, but a little more often that what we have. Please, build some more short tracks, we need some more short tracks. All these 1.5 mile tracks……..I know you can get more seats or whatever but they just don’t really turn everybody on, you know? So I think this was a good day for NASCAR. Exciting race. Good race, good win, and good battle at the end for the win……..and yes, a tight points battle. The new system is working really well I think, so, all signs are pointing up.”
TONY GIBSON, CREW CHIEF NO. 39 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET, FINISHED 10TH:
ON TODAY’S RACE: “We got spun there. We had fresh tires and got spun out there and had to go to the back and drove back up to the top-10. I don’t know what else you can do, you know. We led laps. Disappointing, that’s all.
IT LOOKED LIKE A CRAZY RACE OUT THERE: “It is. You don’t know when the caution is going to fall. When it’s not. If you are going to get spun out, or you’re not. It’s just crazy. It is just frustrating. I am proud we came back and finished 10th but it isn’t what we wanted. We’ll just take it and go on.”
JAMIE MCMURRAY NO. 1 MCDONALD’S CHEVROLET, INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT ON LAP 87:
WHAT HAPPENED WITH YOU AND THE NO. 83 CAR? “When you don’t feel like you have the corner good, you block. I pulled down and blocked and I saw he (Brian Vickers) was going to get in there, so I moved back up the track and I just feel like he let off the brake and went ahead and sent me for a ride. I don’t know, it is frustrating, because we had a really good car yesterday, and it did not start off very good today and I thought we got our car quite a bit better there and I am just really upset. I felt like I blocked him, then I let him in, it was all going to be good and I just felt like he kind of took a cheap shot on me. I just didn’t appreciate it.
“Just racing really hard. I saw the No. 83 got inside of me and I tried to block and I couldn’t get down far enough. When we got down in there, it seemed like he let off the brake a little early and sent for a ride. It is just one of those really frustrating tracks and it brings out the bad in people. I think he had been in four or five incidents earlier, his car looked pretty beat up so maybe he was a little more frustrated. Not with me, but maybe I got the bad end of it.
“That was the first time (between those two cars). It seems like it has been a little bit of a wild day. Normally the first part of the race goes pretty smoothly and the end bad. But, it’s been pretty wild.”