Stewart and fellow Chevy drivers talk about Las Vegas race

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Team Chevy Racing press release

Tony Stewart Puts Chevrolet in Victory Lane for the First Time in 2012 and Earns First Career Win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Team Chevy Drivers Score Three Top-Five Finishes and Six of the Top-10

Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

LAS VEGAS (March 11, 2012) – Three-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) champion Tony Stewart checked another track off his bucket list with an exciting win today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS). The driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet led a race-high 127 laps on the way to his 45th career win after starting in seventh position. Stewart’s win was the first for Chevrolet in 2012.

With a dominating performance, Stewart collected a personal milestone of winning at LVMS for the first time in his NSCS career, and has earned at least one victory in 14 consecutive seasons. He now sits seventh in the standings with three races in the books for 2012. It was also Stewart's first win with new crew chief, Steve Addington.

It was a strong day for Team Chevy at LVMS with Chevrolet drivers claiming three of the top-five finishing positions and six of the top-10 in the final order.

Second-place finisher Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet team overcame immense adversity after having to go to a back-up car after yesterday’s final practice session. The strong run catapults Johnson up to the 23rd position in the championship standings.

Other Chevrolet drives with top-10 finishing positions include Ryan Newman, No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet, came home fourth and jumps to 13th in the standings. Paul Menard, No. 27 Menard/Schrock Chevrolet, finished seventh and sits 11th in the standings. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet, took the checkered flag in eighth position and now sits 25th in points. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who led twice early in the event for 70 laps in the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, finished in 10th-place and is fourth in points.

Other Team Chevy finishers were: Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet finished 11th and sits second in the standings; Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont 20 Years Chevrolet– 12th; Jeff Burton, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet – 14th; Regan Smith, No. 78 Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet – 15th; Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet – 19th; Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Clorox Chevrolet – 25th; Dave Blaney, No. 36 Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Chevrolet – 29th, David Reutimann, No. 10 Accell Construction Chevrolet – 31st; Brendan Gaughan, No. 33 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet – 34th and Kurt Busch, No. 51 Tag Heuer Eyewear Chevrolet – 35th.

Greg Biffle (Ford) and Carl Edwards (Ford) complete the top-five in today’s KOBALT Tools 400 at LVMS.

The Series moves to Bristol Motor Speedway on March 18, 2012.

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 MOBIL 1/OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET, RACE WINNER: ON HIS VICTORY TODAY AT LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY: "Man, I'm just finally glad to win one here. We were so close last year and had a dominate car. I'm not sure we had the dominate car, but we had an awful fast Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevy. Just glad to finally, finally get one at Vegas. We have to win ourselves a Southern 500 (at Darlington Raceway) and we'll have won at all the tracks we're racing at right now."

TALK ABOUT THOSE RESTARTS WHEN YOU HAD ALL THAT HEAT COMING BEHIND YOU: "Every time the caution came out, I'm like 'Not again'. You wonder how many times you are going to give them a chance at it on a restart there, and when are they going to be able to capitalize on us. But, that was our strong suit today. We were really strong on the restarts. Just proud of the Hendrick engine department; making great steam with it. That was the key to our restarts was the power that we had. We could go without spinning the tires and we could get a really good lead into turn one, and just haul butt down the backstreatch with this Hendrick horsepower."

YOU FIRST WIN WITH YOUR NEW CREW CHIEF, STEVE ADDINGTON: "He's (Steve Addington, crew chief) been pretty nervous to start with here, but he's doing an awesome job. I didn't even think about it, the way he said it, we win the championship, and it is hard to come into a team after they've won a championship like that. I don't know that there are too many guys other than a guy like Steve Addington that could step into a role and succeed Darin Grubb and do the job he is doing. Really proud of Steve. Really proud of our guys. I mean it is the same guys that we had last year, just throwing in a little bit different leadership. We had a great leader with Darian, and I miss him, but I'm proud of our new leader, Steve."

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FINALLY WIN AT LAS VEGAS? “Oh man, especially the way we lost it last year, we had a dominate car last year. I don’t know that we had the dominate car today we just were so strong on restarts. I just have to thank Mobil 1, Office Depot, Chevrolet, Sprint, all of our fans, Quicken Loans, U.S. Army, just everybody, GoDaddy, just everybody that is a part of Stewart-Haas Racing. Especially the Hendrick engine department and chassis department that was the whole key to the restarts today.”

TELL US ABOUT THAT MOVE GOING INTO TURN ONE ON THE RESTART: “I had to go man (laughs). I knew that Matt (Kenseth) had four tires and Greg (Biffle) and those guys had better tires than we did. I knew as long as we could get to clean air we could at least hold them off for a little bit. I just didn’t know we were going to be able to hold them off for the whole run.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET, FINISHED 2ND: ON TODAY'S RACE: "We had a great race car all day long. I wish we could have had this KOBALT Tools Chevrolet over in Victory Lane for the KOBALT race. But, we'll just have to try it again next time. Great race car. To be out here in a back-up (car) and to drive from dead-last to the lead, and then finish second is pretty awesome. Hate coming up short. Glad to be on the West Coast and see all my fans. Look forward to doing it again soon."

HOW DID YOU GUYS DO THAT TODAY? "Man, we have great stuff. That is bottom line. This team works really hard. We're satisfied-no, we aren't satisfied-we're happy with this second, but we want to be in Victory Lane real soon."

THE LOOK ON YOUR FACE SAID IT ALL ‘SECOND AIN’T NO GOOD’: “No, but with everything we went through this weekend, we will take it. Man, I want to win. We were close. I think we had maybe a little bit more speed, but Tony (Stewart) could really get away on those restarts through the gears a lot better than I could. I will have to look into that and see if I was doing something wrong or something else is going on there. Solid performance, I have to stop and make mention of what Lowe’s is doing with the disaster relief fund and the fact we finished so well means they are going to put up a bunch of money for all the tornado victims, myself and Hendrick Motorsports are going to match that as well. Great day in a lot of ways, wish we could have this Kobalt Chevrolet in victory lane, but just didn’t happen.”

RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 QUICKEN LOANS CHEVROLET, FINISHED 4TH: ON TODAY'S RACE: "It was a great run for the Quicken Loans Chevrolet. We know we kind of got lucky there on that last restart, but you have to be in the right place at the right time, and we were. Proud of the guys. That last pit stop slowed us up a little bit. The car was good. If we could have had clean air most of the day, we would have been better, and not having had to fight so hard.

“We peaked at the right time because we finished fourth and that was the highest we ran all day. It was a great run for the Quicken Loans Chevrolet. We’re really proud to be able to get them a top-five in their first race. It was an awesome day for Stewart-Haas. Tony and the guys did a great job. We were in the right place at the right time on that last restart. We restarted eighth and the 17 (Matt Kenseth) had his little issue there and I just kept the pedal to the medal there and drove it up to fourth.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET, FINISHED 10TH: A SOLID TOP-10 FINISH AFTER YOU LED LAPS EARLY IN THE RACE: "Well, we didn't keep up with the race track. The car was really fast at the start of the race. I didn't give that information to Steve (Letarte, crew chief). I don't think I gave him a good enough understanding of where our race car was, even though it was really fast. The track got really tight on us at the end of the race. Something that I should have had a handle on, and should have known better, and should have not let happen. We just didn't have our adjustments going throughout the day to keep up with the track as it tightened up on us." The National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet was really good all weekend. We had good speed. Hopefully we can keep bringing cars like that to the race track and we will get some opportunities to win. We had good speed, led some laps. This is a tough series. When you get back in traffic, it gets very competitive. Congratulations to Tony (Stewart race winner) and his team. We'll be at it in Bristol, trying to get another one."

YOU LED A LOT OF LAPS OUT FRONT, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR AFTERNOON? “Well, when we were fast leading the race the car was really tight. I knew by the end of the race, especially with all of those cautions we had at the end that it was going to be a really tight race track and we needed to free the car up. I didn’t get Steve (Letarte, crew chief) enough information throughout the day to really give him the idea of how tight the car was. The track sort of went past us as far as our handling goes. I didn’t keep up with the track enough and it costs us a handful of spots there at the end of the race. The car was just really tight, we should have worked on it during the day and I should have given Steve (Letarte, crew chief) a little more heads up on what was happening. But, we had a good weekend. The National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevy was fast all weekend. If we keep doing that every week you know we are going to be right there. We will just keep trying.”

SOUNDED LIKE YOU WERE FRUSTRATED WITH THE FINISH TODAY “Yeah, I think we should have run better than that and the team felt like we should have been better than that and we are just a little bit disappointed. Our car was tight at the start of the race, we were fast and I knew before the end of the race we were going to have to free my car up and I never let Steve (Letarte) do it. I just never told him enough and never gave him enough freedom today that he felt like he needed to free the car up. When we got in traffic the car was just really tight and it’s a lesson that you learn a long, long time ago and we just didn’t do a good job of working on the car during the race. It was more my fault than anything really. I didn’t give him enough information I guess.”

IT DIDN’T LOOK LIKE YOU WERE BAD BECAUSE YOU LEAD A LOT OF THE RACE “We weren’t bad, we weren’t terrible and the car was great at the start of the race but it was tight then, even when I was driving away from guys. And I was like, ‘man we are going to have to free it up’, because the track was going to get way tighter. All those late cautions the last 60 laps…………..and its tight the last 60 laps of every race. You just know that. You know that from years and years of driving and I should have known how it drove that first run in being pretty tight and even though it was fast we should have worked on it and I should have told Steve more about it. I should have let him understand what was going on more.”

IS IT KIND OF A CATCH 22 WHEN YOU LEAD SO MUCH EARLY ON THAT YOU DON’T KNOW HOW YOUR CAR IS GOING TO DO IN TRAFFIC? “Not really. I knew it was tight leading and I knew that I needed to be freer and I didn’t communicate that enough to Steve.”

WHAT’S UP WITH MARK MARTIN? YOU GUYS HAVE HAD SOME ISSUES INCLUDING AN INCIDENT LAST YEAR “Personally, yeah, I don’t have a problem with Mark and have so much respect for him. But to me, personally, there is an unwritten etiquette that when the guy is running the top even if you are clearing him or passing him…………….if you barely clear him off the corner………….I’m coming ten miles an hour faster off the top of the race track, you stay low. Don’t knock a half second off my lap time being a jerk about it. Stay low. You are going to get it in the next corner and the position is going to be yours. Don’t pull up in front of somebody when they are going to come off the corner ten miles an hour faster.

“I didn’t really mean to put him in the wall but from the cosmetic standpoint it didn’t look like it hurt his car. Probably looked like it knocked some of the right front suspension off of it, and I am sorry about that. But, you know I felt like I was pretty frustrated at the moment before that happened, and that just kind of really sent me over the edge there. We just want to win really bad and felt like we should have finished better than we did today and I was just frustrated at that point and that is just not the way that I understand it to be done and I am sure he feels a different way about it but I think we definitely disagreed right there at that moment.”

PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 MENARDS/SCHROCK CHEVROLET – FINISHED 7TH ON HIS DAY: “It was definitely and up-and-down week and weekend and race. We started off pretty good and made some good time and then about three-quarters of the way through the race we kind of hit a wall. We tried a little strategy with two tires and it just didn’t work out for us. We fell back a little bit and had to make another gamble and were able to drive back up there the last couple of restarts.”

ON THE TRACK CONDITIONS “It wasn’t as slippery as I thought it would be. Happy Hour yesterday threw us for a loop. But the start of the race wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The sun kind of went in and out with the clouds a little bit; you could definitely tell the balance change with that. When the sun was out it got really pushy and pushy-loose in (Turns) 3 and 4 and when the clouds came back, it was okay.”

ALAN GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 24 DUPONT 20 YEARS CHEVROLET – FINISHED 12TH: ON THE RACE “Well, we weren’t very good. We struggled but we ended up with an okay finish. Sometimes you have to do that and we did it. You’re never happy with 12th, but there’s a point in time during the day that I would have been happy to finish 20th. So it was okay.”

REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW/FARM AMERICAN CHEVROLET – FINISHED 15TH "Track position was a problem all day for our Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet. But we managed to salvage a decent day with a late-race charge to finish 15th. We started way at the back because of a transmission change and never really got hooked up to get to the front. We just stayed patient, picked away at it and brought home a respectable result. The good news for our team is that our finishes have improved each week -- we were 24th in Daytona, 20th in Phoenix and 15th today. We still haven't hit our stride but we're gaining and we'll get there. We're off to a much better start than last year and that's a good feeling."

KEVIN ‘BONO’ MANION, CREW CHIEF, NO. 1 MCDONALD’S CHEVROLET – FINISHED 8TH:

“Going into this race yesterday in Happy Hour, we felt really strong about our McDonald’s Chevrolet. I think we had the third or fourth best average overall. We were one of the cars to run the most laps in Happy Hour. We were really excited about today’s race. We made some headway on the first stop and then we had a motor miss; so that was an early setback. We had to come from the back again and just one call there later in the race to take two (tires) when a lot of guys took four (tires.) I think there were four or five of us that took two and that just goes into that top five. We had top-five lap times; just getting there was the next problem.

“We’re not overly excited about an eighth place finish. I believe we had a top-5 car; and with all that happening at the end. All in all, it was a good day. The team needed a (good) finish. Last week was a disappointment and we just haven’t had a finish. So today, after the third time this year, we finally got a finish to show for it. That will help us in the points and we’ll just move on to Bristol.”

ON TAKING TWO TIRES, WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT MORE TEAMS DIDN’T GO FOR TWO? “I was kind of surprised. Four wasn’t the wrong call there, either. Two for us was the right call. So, it all depends. We felt we had a good air pressure adjustment in our lefts and we knew we felt we could go the rest of the day with them, so that’s why we left them on.”

WAS JAMIE NOT FEELING WELL TODAY? “No, he showed up this morning and he was sick. I don’t think he slept last night. He hasn’t eaten. So, for Jamie to come through like he did for us today was really big like he didn’t want to talk on the radio and you know when you’re not feeling good, you don’t want nothing. And so, he could barely talk after the race. He just had to go, you know?

“So all in all, it was a good day. The sun is out right now, but for half the race I was looking for my jacket and I think that would have helped our set up for a hot and greasy track. We did fight tight most of the day and kept up on it for the most part. It was just there at the end we were a little too tight.”

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET – FINISHED 11TH: “The Budweiser Chevrolet started off strong today. We ran up front, led a few laps and stayed in the top five for the first half of the race. Then we lost track position and it killed us. Track position is so important at these tracks and once we lost it, we were done and struggled with the handling from there until the end.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, earnhardt, johnson, menard, newman, stewart