Team Chevy Drivers Score Eight of Top-10 Starting Positions at Talladega; Casey Mears and Aric Almirola Sit Second and Third in the 43-Car Field Talladega, AL - Casey Mears, No. 5 Pop-Tarts/CARQUEST Impala SS, and Aric Almirola, No. 8 U.S. Army...
Team Chevy Drivers Score Eight of Top-10 Starting Positions at Talladega; Casey Mears and Aric Almirola Sit Second and Third in the 43-Car Field
Talladega, AL - Casey Mears, No. 5 Pop-Tarts/CARQUEST Impala SS, and Aric Almirola, No. 8 U.S. Army Impala SS, will start second and third in Sunday's AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Team Chevy drivers scored eight of the top-10 starting positions for the 188-lap race.
In total, 16 Impala SS drivers will take the green flag for the final superspeedway race of the 2008 season.
Regan Smith, No. 01 DEI/Principal Financial Group Impala SS, and Paul Menard, No. 15 Menards/Johns Manville Impala SS, complete the top-five.
Mike Wallace, No. 33 Realtree Impala SS, Joe Nemechek, No. 78 Furniture Row Impala SS, Tony Raines, No. 70 iQ Drive Impala SS, and Martin Truex, Jr., No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Impala SS complete the Team Chevy drivers in the top-10 starters.
Team Chevy Chase drivers qualified as follows: Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS - 20th; Jeff Burton, No. 31 AT&T Impala SS - 17th; Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Impala SS - 39th; Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS - 26th; Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Impala SS - 35th and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Impala SS - 15th.
Travis Kvapil won the pole for the fourth race of the Chase to the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
The AMP Energy 500 will start on Sunday 2:00 p.m. EDT with live coverage on ABC TV, MRN Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS -- Qualified 26th
"With the impound and with the way things work out at Talladega, we just don't have the speed for qualifying cars really good for the race. And I think everybody will say that no matter where they qualify, that you can win this race from anywhere in the field. We're certainly happy about that, but we would have also liked to run a little better than that. If you start further toward the front, it's going to make life a little bit easier, at least at the beginning."
DO YOU GO IN THINKING YOU HAVE TO WIN TOMORROW FOR THE POINTS? "I feel like this is a track we certainly can and should and need to come out with a really good finish. I don't think we ever have to win, we are trying to win, that is all we are really focused on. We don't have to win, it just depends on happens to the other guys, but I feel like that is our goal is to go out there and try to get bonus points by leading laps. We need and want the victory. "
DO YOU HAVE A STRATEGY TO YOU PLAN? "We are probably going to start further to the back than I anticipated. I had talked to Steve Letarte and talked to our teammates, I don't want to ride in the back, I want to go to the front. If we start in the back it might not be worth it to try to work our way up through there. Just play it ear and just watch. If everybody is out of control crazy, we are going to stay away from that. If guys are just kind of swapping positions back and forth and playing it pretty cool, then maybe we will try and work our way to the front. I don't think we have a set game plan just yet."
DO YOU TAKE ANY CHANCES IN THE MIDDLE PART OF THE RACE? "None. This car on this track, everybody's car is good. If somebody says, 'Ah, I didn't have the power', they just didn't have the push. That is all it takes. I could give you so many instances where I have heard guys say the same thing over and over and over again about 'I don't know, my car gets stalled out really easy, but then I get a push and it just flies'. Every single car out there does the same thing. Yes, it is nice to have a little bit of extra power, but aerodynamically I don't think anybody has a big advantage, if any. I think it is really about how you position your car and what line you get in and when you get the momentum and how you use that momentum."
WHO IS GOING TO BE DIFFICULT TO BEAT SUNDAY? "There are 42 guys that are going to be difficult to beat. I saw guys that can get hooked up and push one another and get that big lead. But I have never seen that materialize when it counted in the race. If two guys happen to get that worked out and the guy in the back doesn't blowup, then it will be tough to beat those guys.
"I guess the only one that I see that is really good at that is Kurt Busch. I think that he is one of the best at knowing what to do out front, how to ride the brakes to get that car locked on behind. But nobody has figured out how to get the car locked on behind and keep them there for more than maybe 3/4s of a lap before they are going to blow up."
HOW MUCH DOES YOUR PAST HISTORY AND SUCCESS HERE HAMPER PEOPLE HELPING YOU? "It definitely does. I know how I was with Earnhardt, Sr. It would come down to the closing laps of a race and you have got to make a decision to go with in the closing laps of the race, you have to make a decision to go with somebody. I wanted to go with somebody else, I'd seen him win enough, he won a lot more than I have. I guess if you look at active drivers out there, we have definitely gone to victory lane quite a few times. I learned that the last time I was here. I made a move, we kind of had a deal on the caution with a guy that was going to go with me, he had to pick me or his teammate, of course he had to go with his teammate and that hesitation cost me from getting that lead. You have got to have somebody go with you, I can't do it on my own. I think what I will change what I did the last time is I won't make that move so early thinking that they will go with me. If you make it late enough, they don't have a choice. The races I have won, especially this race last year was just purely because I got the momentum at the right time and when I moved up to make the move, that car behind me didn't have a choice. They had to push me, there was no other option. When they pushed me, it pushed me to the front and I won the race. That is the position that I try to get myself in to in the closing laps especially the last lap of these races is in the position where guys...you want to be the first one out there for those guys to have to push. Because they know if they go three wide, they are going to only loose positions. If they go with you, they might better their position."
ARIC ALMIROLA, NO. 8 U.S. ARMY IMPALA SS -- Qualified 3rd
EXACTLY WHAT DOES THE DRIVER DO OUT THERE OTHER THAN HOLD THIS THING AS STRAIGHT AS POSSIBLE? "Well, that's really it. All this is a true testament to how hard all the guys work at DEI, especially all these guys on the No. 8 team, Tony Gibson and all the guys on this team. We've got a lot of hours in it, so hopefully we can keep it that way and keep it an all DEI front row. That would be pretty cool."
HOW COOL WOULD IT BE TO SIT ON THE POLE AT TALLADEGA? "Oh, that would be awesome. Like I said, it says a lot about our race team and says a lot about what we've got going at DEI. I'm real proud of all the guys and hopefully that'll stick, but if not, it drives really, really good in the draft and it sucks up really good, so I'm looking forward to the race."
ON THE EFFORT BEING PUT FORTH BY DEI HERE: "I think anybody in the garage who would tell you they go out on the race track to do a sub-par job is comical. Everybody goes out there to do the best they can every single weekend. This doesn't make it any different really. We go out there an the guys work just as hard. They don't put any extra effort in because they are working as hard as they can. If they had any extra to put in and weren't putting it in before, shame on them. It is no different. It is business as usual and we are working hard. We ran really good at Daytona. I think we were an all DEI front row at Daytona in July. It shows how good our race team is and they are working really really hard. My hat is off to them."
ON TONY GIBSON CALLING YOU AN OLD MAN: "He calls everybody the old man. If you listen to our radio, it is really confusing. He calls my old man, he calls Mark (Martin) old man and everybody calls him old man so you have to know everybody's voice to know who is talking to who."
TALK ABOUT YOUR LAP: "It was a really good lap. Everybody at DEI has been working really hard especially my guys here on the No. 8 car, the U.S. Army Chevrolet. They have been doing a really good job. It was an all DEI front row at Daytona so hopefully we can keep that going. It was a good run, really proud of all my guys. Looking forward to Sunday."
PAUL MENARD, NO. 15 MENARDS IMPALA SS -- Qualified 5th
HOW GOOD IS IT GOING TO BE TOMORROW? "It's going to be really good. We drafted two sessions yesterday. We did one qualifying run in the second session and got a little bit of help, so we actually picked up from that. I'm really happy with the way the guys prepared the car and it's going to be fast in the draft. This is the same car we ran in Daytona and sat on the pole with and we're going to get a good starting spot here for the race tomorrow.
"Everyone at DEI has been working so hard. The have worked really hard on the bodies to help the air flow. The Earnhardt-Childress Racing engine guys have given us a lot more power since Daytona in the spring. We have picked up quite a bit of horsepower. That always helps in a place this.
"I think you either want to be in the top-five or top-10 cars all day long or the back five or ten cars all day long. You kind of want to stay away from the middle part. We will see how it all shakes out if we get shuffled to the back then we will just hang out back there, if we can hand in line up front, then we will try to stay up there but I really don't want to be between 20th and 30th, I think that is a bad spot to be in."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS -- Qualified 20th ON THE RADIO, YOU SAID THE CAR DIDN'T SEEM RIGHT WITH THE MOTOR. WHAT'S GOING ON?
"I don't think there is anything wrong with the engine. We expected to pick up some more speed and the gearing and stuff we have in the car is for the draft. And it just sounded flat to me and felt flat, but I really don't think there is an issue. I just thought it would roll a little freer and pick up a little more rpms. My reference was to it feeling flat. And it sounded like it going by, they said. But the oil pressure was fine and the temps were good. There was no vibration so I think we're good.
"The pitch in the engine sounded a little off to me. I said it sounded flat. And when you run the gear that we do in order to race well, that's common reference. I just mentioned that it was flat and my guys made sure that the gauges all looked good. I had great oil pressure and water temp and no vibrations. I don't think there is anything wrong."
SO YOU HAVE TO SACRIFICE ON SATURDAY IN ORDER TO RUN WELL ON SUNDAY? "Absolutely. It's easy for us to think that and then Casey (Mears) goes out and runs second fastest, so we've got to look at what we did differently and why we didn't pick up as much. But I didn't see any indications to show that we have a problem with the engine."
WHAT IS YOUR STRATEGY ON RACING UP FRONT OR HANGING BACK A WHILE? "Go wherever the big crowd isn't. If everybody is hanging back, go to the front. If everybody is up front, ride in the back. I just need to be away from the masses and stay out of harm's way."
DOES THE CLOUD COVER CHANGE THINGS FOR QUALIFYING? "I don't think so. There's not much of a difference. At most tracks we have grip and handling involved. It will certainly make a difference with the grip level of the tire, but on this big track, and they did such a good job of paving it, I don't think it makes a difference."
HOW GOOD IS THE RACE CAR FOR TOMORROW? "We feel pretty good. We hoped to run a little faster than what we did, but all in all it was a decent lap. We had a great practice yesterday so we'll just have to see what happens."
"They've done such a good job with repaving this track. I made a long run and the wear indicators hadn't even been touched on the right side tires after a seven or eight-lap run, so everybody's stuff is going to work good and we've just got to be smart tomorrow and make sure we're running on that last lap."
DOES THIS PLACE SCARE YOU AT ALL AS THE POINT LEADER? "Damn right, it does. It worries me and it worries everybody that has something to lose this weekend. On the other side, if you're in here and you're not necessarily worried about the points, it can be one of the best races of the year and the most fun that you can have inside the car and racing the other guys. So there is a mixed bag of emotions drivers have for this weekend's race."
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 07 JACK DANIELS IMPALA SS -- Qualified 35th "Yeah, we switched a motor like Junior did. They spun and it was just too big of a gamble. We just got rear-ended and tore the back of the car up. It's just too bad to get fixed. So I'm looking forward to it. It's still Talladega and a long race ahead of us, but it will be fun."
"The car was repaired and the car is better. It was slow, but you know, it doesn't matter where you start here. We'll be able to work on it and make some adjustments hopefully. The only thing that you're worried about is that you didn't get a chance to see how it would suck up and work on things that you work on to see how it does in the draft. That's where we're going to be behind, but we'll play it by ear here in the race and see how it goes."
ALL THE CHILDRESS CARS WERE PRETTY GOOD IN PRACTICE. IS THAT INDICATIVE OF YOUR YEAR? "We did have a good car. It was really fast. It was sucking up all by itself, which is something we haven't been able to do in a long time. The engine boys have been working their tails off and it's really starting to show. I'm happy for them guys. They've been beat up on here in year's past but they've done their homework and brought some good pieces."
IS THIS A HUGE WILDCARD? "Absolutely. This is a wildcard. You never know what's going to happen. You never know the outcome of this place until right there at the end. But you've just got to play it by ear. Hopefully we've gotten our bad luck out of the way early in practice and we can race good and stay out of the big one and just be smooth. A top 10 run here is a good run. People are going to have problems here and you've just got to try to minimize yours and hopefully you have less than anybody else."
Continued in part 2