TEAM CHEVY DRIVER JIMMIE JOHNSON SCORES FIRST POLE SINCE SEPTEMBER 2010 KEVIN HARVICK AND RYAN NEWMAN ALSO SCORE TOP TEN STARTING POSITIONS
SPARTA, KY – June 29, 2012 – Jimmie Johnson earned his first pole position in almost two years in posting the fastest time in qualifying today at Kentucky Speedway for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400. Johnson ran a lap of 181.818 mph in 29.700 seconds in his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. This will mark his sixth top five start of 2012 in 17 races.
Richard Childress Racing driver Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet, turned the fourth fastest time in today’s qualifying session and Ryan Newman, No. 39 Stewart Haas Racing Tornados Chevrolet, will roll off fifth in Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.
Kyle Busch (Toyota) qualified second and Denny Hamlin (FedEx Express Toyota) qualified third to round out the top five starting spots.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevy qualified 7th, Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevy qualified 9th, giving Team Chevy five of the top 10 starting positions.
Quaker State 400 is tomorrow Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 6:30 PM EST on TNT.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S DOVER WHITE CHEVROLET – POLE WINNER
ON HIS QUALIFYING EFFORT: “I felt like if I got through one well, I could charge the rest of the track and I got through there pretty good and it wasn’t perfect but I got through there well and then knowing that I had the wind head on the car planting the race car going into three I just bombed it in there and jumped on the gas real hard and the car rotated around and pointed off of four really nice. So happy to get the pole, we have been second quite a bit and we have been off quite a bit the past few times over the last year-and-a-half so it’s nice to win the pole and get that great starting spot and pit road pick and we had a cool paint scheme on the car so that is fun. We will give that thing a good run tomorrow night.”
WHAT WAS YOUR TAKE WHEN THE WIND OF THE STORM CAME? “I was in my motorhome watching qualifying on television and the bus started shaking real bad and I thought about it and thought it should be doing that. TV was a little behind and they weren’t talking about winds so I thought there for a minute that somebody backed into our motorhome and hit it so I opened the door to look out and when I opened the door, the wind almost took the door off the hinges and I was like, okay, I don’t know what is going on and there was a lot of stuff blowing around at that point.”
DO YOU SEE STARTING UP FRONT AT THIS TRACK MORE OF AN ADVANTAGE OVER OTHER PLACES AND IF SO, WHY? “Yes, it really is the name of the game wherever we go. Typically the higher the speeds, the more important track position is. Like the old Michigan, you could work traffic a little bit because there was so much room on the race track but there is a relatively narrow groove here on the race track, like 2 or 3 cars wide, and the speeds are really high. So when that happens, it’s tough to pass so starting position and track position in general is very important.”
DID THAT KIND OF REMIND YOU OF A TROPHY TRUCK OUT IN THE DESERT? “I haven’t been off the ground in quite some time and there is a huge jump below the race track on the apron (laughs) just past the start/finish line. It was a very comfortable lap; a very good lap. Qualifying has not been our strong suit over the last two years. So, I’m very happy to get this pole today. It’s a very cool race car and I’m very proud of our relationships with Lowe’s and all the great things they do. And my Chevy is bad-fast! I’m looking forward to a good race.”
YOUR LAST POLE WAS IN 2010. SO DOES IT FEEL PRETTY GOOD TO BE ON THE POLE? “Yeah, it does. I’ve had a lot of seconds and there is nothing more frustrating than a close second in qualifying. But today went really well and I think we’ve got a good race car in race trim as well.”
WE HAVE FIVE TRACKS IN THIS ENTIRE SERIES THAT YOU HAVEN’T WON ON. THIS IS ONE OF THEM. HOW GOOD WOULD IT BE TO CHECK THAT OFF THE LIST? “It would be great. I’ve had a lot of crashes here over the years. We used to test here a lot back in the day and Turns 3 and 4 have taken quite a few No. 48 Lowe’s race cars from us (laughs). So to run well last year was really good for me. And I came back with a lot of confidence. The conditions earlier today were so slick that it took a while to get the feeling I was looking for. But I think we’re on the right track now.”
FIRST POLE SINCE SEPTEMBER 2010, THAT’S BEEN A WHILE HUH? “We have been in a dry spell in qualifying. We have had a lot of seconds and a lot of very fast race cars, but there was a stretch in 2007 or 2008 there when I won some poles. But my entire career it’s not been a strong suit for me. I have always been much better at racing and I have always like to have a rabbit or somebody out there to chase and today you know, things went well in race trim and in qualifying trim and I got a great lap there in qualifying.”
HOW MUCH DID THE WEATHER CHANGE HELP YOU AS FAR AS PLANNING FOR A NIGHT RACE TOMORROW? DID IT GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF WHAT THE CONDITIONS MIGHT BE? “I haven’t thought about it in that respect. But the track is much more friendly in cooler temperatures. It’s amazing with the 30-40 degree drop that we had and how much more grip there was in the track. So there is definitely a sign there but when it comes to qualifying you just have to lay it on the line and hope it works and we had a big tailwind into one which had me concerned getting in there and then through three and four the crosswind was pretty aggressive and I wasn’t sure it was that good of a lap. I knew it was respectable but it turned out to be a good lap for the Lowe’s Chevrolet.”
KEVIN HARVICK, BUDWEISER FOLDS OF HONOR CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED FOURTH
ON HIS LAP “It wasn’t bad. I didn’t get to the green very good and that probably cost us some time. But all in all, it’s been a long, hot day and so to have a good qualifying lap is a good thing.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 TORNADOS CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED FIFTH
HOW WAS YOUR LAP? “Well, I just didn’t know what to expect of the grip and that fine line of speed and grip and balance and not slip a tire or at least had to correct and get up out of the groove. So, it was a good lap for our Tornados Chevrolet. It was good improvement by the guys and we’ll see what we can do for making our adjustments for tomorrow night.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED SEVENTH
HOW WAS YOUR LAP? “It wasn’t too bad. It was pretty good. We just were a little bit free on entry. We’ve been fighting that all day long and got into (Turn) 1 and I don’t know if I got through there very good, but it felt pretty loose all the way into the center.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED NINTH
ON HIS LAP: “I think we’re going to qualify better than 18th, and that’s where we are in the points. If it rains, that’s where we’ll start. So, the Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet has been really good today. We missed it a little bit in the first practice while we had to go out early; I think cars are going to get a little bit faster here. The track has cooled down tremendously and this wind is just crazy. You can’t predict what’s going to happen when the conditions change so much. It’s really easy to overdrive (Turn) 1 and you’re not sure how much to get into (Turn) 3, so I felt like that was a pretty solid lap for us and we’ll see where it ends up.
WERE YOU PRETTY HAPPY WITH THE CAR IN RACE TRIM TODAY? “I was very happy in race trim. That’s where I thought our car really shined. We just kept making improvements on it each time we went out. It just worked for us to get a pretty good starting position; we’ll see where this ends up. Hopefully it does that for us and we can show what we’ve got for the race.”
YOU APPEAR TO BE FAST NOW AND YOU WILL BE RUNNING IN THE NIGHT TIME TOMORROW SO THIS MAYBE GIVE YOU A LITTLE BETTER FEEL: “Well we have too many good race cars still left to go here. Conditions certainly have changed track has picked up a lot of speed. I feel like we really made some gains throughout the day today. The way we started the day we weren’t as good. The car wasn’t as comfortable it was really hot tricky conditions. I felt like for that second practice we really got a lot better. It showed up in our times in practice and it showed up right there (on our qualifying run). Hopefully, we will get a decent starting spot out of this Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. I thought we were really good with our race set-up.”
KURT BUSCH, NO. 51 PHOENIX CONSTRUCTION SERVICES INC. CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 14TH
“It just felt like we were on the tight side of things,” said Busch, who finished ninth in the track’s inaugural race last year. “All through practice we were fighting tight in qualifying trim and we’re a little loose in race trim. So we were trying to find a happy medium for both so now it’s getting ready for the race.”
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 QUAKER STATE CHEVROLET- QUALIFIED 19TH
HOW WAS YOUR LAP AFTER THAT CRAZY WEATHER BURST WE JUST HAD? “It was actually pretty decent we were just on the tight side. We didn’t carry a ton of speed but it was a much better lap than what I ran this morning. At least we will be inside the top 20 rather than outside the top 20 when it starts tomorrow.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 22ND
YOU WERE THE FIRST CAR OUT AFTER THE WEATHER WE HAD; IS THAT A LITTLE BIT UNNERVING? “No, NASCAR was out there and they looked at it. We know when they hold us like that there is a reason. They knew what was coming. We just waited until they said it was good and when they said it was okay we knew it was going to be alright.”
THE TEMPERATURES DROPPED A GOOD 15-20 DEGREES DO YOU THINK THE TRACK HAD MORE GRIP IN IT THAN EARLIER TODAY? “Yeah, but the wind is tricky now. At one end you have the wind helping you and at the other end it was working really against us. It’s definitely more of a handful than it was in practice.”
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 29TH
HOW WAS YOUR LAP? “It was not good at all. We have just struggled all day. We unloaded bad and we just continue to be bad. We’ve just got a lot of work to do before tomorrow night.”
Source: Team Chevy Racing