Team Chevy drivers talk about expectations heading to Kansas

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Team Chevy Racing

TEAM CHEVY IN THE GARAGE KANSAS SPEEDWAY – PAT SUHY, MANAGER - CHEVROLET RACING, OVAL TRACK GROUP: “Congratulations to Kasey Kahne on his win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last weekend at Rockingham. It was great to see one of NASCAR's premier series racing at ‘The Rock’ again, a day made even better with Kasey's win in his Chevy Silverado.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

“This weekend the NASCAR Camping World Truck and Sprint Cup Series are headed to Kansas Speedway. It is a great venue, with well-seasoned pavement that has matured and treated fans and drivers to some great racing. Like many of the other ‘mature’ tracks, it has widened out; allowing drivers to search for the racing line that suits their car the best at any particular time. That makes it possible to make it through a run without losing too much track position if an adjustment in the pits doesn’t have the desired effect. The older surface wears on tires and forces drivers to deal with the slickness that comes from that as well.

“The goal of the Chevy NASCAR Engineering group is to provide teams with tools that help them optimize their cars’ performance throughout the race. Along with specialized help from our Chevy engineers, our Team Chevy organizations make the best use of their internal engineering resources on things like seven post testing, shock development and chassis simulation. When everything goes well, we get to see a Chevy heading to the winners circle. I'm looking forward to watching the battle unfold; and I hope to be celebrating along with one of our great Team Chevy partners on Sunday.”

TEAM CHEVY FROM THE DRIVER’S SEAT:

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – 3rd IN STANDINGS: “Kansas is great. I look forward to getting another race in on that surface they’ve got before they tear it up. I’ve enjoyed racing there. It’s a fun race track. Both corners are really different. Turn 1 and (Turn) 2 to me are kind of flatter than (Turns) 3 and 4. Three and 4 offer a lot more banking; just way different styles of driving each corner. So the track is a challenge and a fun challenge. The area is growing, especially right there at the race track. The area is really growing at a high rate of speed and making the track itself a success and the idea of building the track there a success.”

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 RHEEM CHEVROLET – 5th IN STANDINGS: “It (Kansas Speedway) has been a fairly good race track for us performance-wise. The track has aged to the point to where the tires fall off. You can move up the race track, you can run in the middle of the race track and you can run the bottom. You still have to carry a lot of speed at the beginning, but there’s a lot less throttle time than some of the other tracks we go to. As far as them repaving the track, in my opinion, any time you repave a race track you’re in trouble because it’s going to take a long time for the racing to get to the point where you can race all over it.

“I think when you look at the facility itself and when you look at the surrounding area, there are not too many places that we go to that have built around the race track like this particular track. From a fan standpoint, there are things to do and places to go, so that’s good. The race track itself is a lot like a lot of the other race tracks we go to as far as the race track shape and size, so that doesn’t really set it apart from a lot of other places. The one thing that does set it apart is the way that the race track has aged, which is a good thing. You look at Charlotte, those types of race tracks, the asphalt has not changed much over the years and this particular race track, the tires wear out, it gets slick and the cars start to slide around which makes the racing groove move up, which it has done here over the past couple of years so that part of it has changed a little bit differently than a lot of the mile-and-a-half tracks.”

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET – 7th IN STANDINGS: “They’re about as close as you can get to being the same. You aren’t going to find any two tracks that are more identical than Kansas and Chicago. The only difference between the two tracks – the backstretch at Chicago is a little bit rounded while Kansas’ is straight. I call them sister tracks because with the exception of the bow in the backstretch at Chicagoland, they’re identical race tracks. Both of them, it seems like the last couple years in particular, have come around. They’ve seasoned, and it’s gotten to where we finally got off the bottom and move around the race track more.

“That’s what you want as a driver. That’s what teams want. You don’t want to be stuck following guys and not being able to move around and pass. It just makes you confident that at least you’ve got options when you go in the corner. You can go and help yourself out as a driver, kind of like what we talk about at Michigan about being able to move around on the track. It makes the place a lot more fun when you’re able to move around. The first couple of times that we went there, we all dreaded it because it was just single-file racing. Now, you have the ability to move around on the race track more.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET – 8th IN STANDINGS: “I like the options that Kansas Speedway provides, we can run anywhere. It has just been a strong track for me through the years. It is a lot like Chicago which is another real strong track for me. There are just certain tracks that just kind of click. Kansas has been one of those for me.

“I understand why (after this race Kansas Speedway will be repaved), and especially when tracks are kind of sliding down and their afraid it can come up during a race and cause a problem. I understand the need is there. I feel we’ve learned a lot with progressive banking, and we can really help race tracks spend some time creating a middle grove and an outside lane. I can also say that we’ve learned that there’s certain asphalt combinations now that are being put down that are going to last a long time, but they don’t work very well. I think the one at Charlotte (Motor Speedway) is finally coming around. I think the one at Phoenix (International Raceway) is going to take a long time before it comes around. I would advise if anybody is listening to not choose that blend. Let’s get to something that wears out. I’m sure it means repaves more often, but it’s going to provide a lot better racing.”

RYAN NEWMAN, NO 39 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET – 9th IN STANDINGS: “If you look back at 2001 I was fortunate because this was one of my first races at Penske Racing, and we finished second. Kansas was one of our first big outlet in the Midwest, and I think that it’s a deserving place to come here two times. Since then, there’s been a lot of growth around here. Everything has grown up so much around that and part of that is because of the fans, part of it is because of the market. There are great race fans that continue to come back, so I think it was a good call for us to at least sample coming here twice. I think last year, it was different because coming here twice meant that folks would have some notes to use when we come back in the fall for a Chase race. But since there’s going to be a repave here after this weekend’s race, that totally changes everything. Everyone will be on an even playing field when we come back here in October.”

PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 MENARDS/ZECOL CHEVROLET – 12th IN STANDINGS: “At Kansas (Speedway) you are usually faced with the wind there. It’s what some people call a ‘cookie cutter’ track, but it has a lot of character. Every time we go back there, the track has more bumps. As the track wears out a little more, it really opens up the groove. It’s really racy; you can run all over it. They’re going to repave it after our next race, so it will be interesting to see what it is like in the fall. Right now, I think it’s a great race track. I know they had some surface problems so they have to repave it. It’s not overly fast, but it’s enough to get a good aero platform, but it’s also mechanically driven to get grip.”

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET – 16th IN STANDINGS: “I actually like the track itself. It’s a cool race track and a lot of fun. I know they are getting ready to repave it and I wish that they weren’t. It’s really slick and typically slick tracks are good for me. Typically, tracks get better as they get older. I think Kansas Speedway is a good example of that. You see a lot of different options and drivers running different grooves. I think that’s a good thing. Kansas Speedway isn’t a fast-feeling type of race track. Texas Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway feel quite a bit faster than Kansas. Kansas is more of a rhythm-hailing race track, whereas the other ones are too, but they have more grip.”

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – 17th IN STANDINGS: "I love Kansas and other worn-out tracks. We'll enjoy this final race on the old surface as much as we can. I think worn-out surfaces are the ones that put on the best show. I don't know anybody that's a real fan of a repave. The tracks don't want to incur the cost, but they know that it's necessary because of the structure of the pavement or the foundation underneath or whatever it may be that puts them into that box.

"For whatever reason, we have run well here since the beginning. We won the first two races and, even though we experienced engine issues in the fall, we ran well in both races here last year. And I think our cars are even better this year.

"We definitely have to work on our qualifying and start more toward the front. We're not qualifying [well] enough in my opinion. But our cars are really good in the race."

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – 18th IN STANDINGS: “We’ve done a lot of work on our mile-and-a-half program so hopefully this year we’ll have some better luck at tracks like Kansas. We’ve been testing a lot and I feel like we are making good progress. We’re bringing the same car we were supposed to run at Las Vegas, until I had a run in with the wall during practice, so it’s really a brand new car. I guess we’ll see what happens when we unload Friday for practice.”

REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW/FARM AMERICAN CHEVROLET – 21st IN STANDINGS: "We all like going to Kansas since we consider it our home track. It's the closest venue to our race shop in Denver. From a travel standpoint it's great. But from a competition standpoint it's been a hard track for me to figure out. Kansas has been a challenge but each time I go there I feel more confident. Hopefully this will be the turning point weekend for our Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet."

JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 MCDONALD’S CHEVROLET – 23rd IN STANDINGS: “I am really looking forward to this weekend. Not only is this the track special because it is closest to my hometown, but I really enjoy the trip to Kansas Speedway. We seem to have made some progress on our mile and a half track program, so it will be good to see if we can continue that direction with our McDonald’s Chevrolet. This will also be a fun weekend for me because I plan to go out early to do some fishing and hunting with Johnny Morris (Founder Bass Pro Shops) and his son John Paul at their property. It is always fun to just enjoy some one-on-one time with them in a relaxing atmosphere.”

KURT BUSCH, NO. 51 PHOENIX CONSTRUCTION SERVICES INC. CHEVROLET – 26th IN STANDINGS: “As far as intermediate tracks go, it’s been one of the tougher tracks for me. When we raced this race last year, we started from the pole and actually led the most laps. We took the same setup back in the fall and ran 25th with it. The conditions were as different as we have ever seen with the warmer temperatures racing there in the summer last year. It was the first hot race of the year and I think it caught a lot of people by surprise. For us, we hit it just right. So, I’ve got those notes that we’ll try to blend with what we have learned so far this year at the intermediate tracks with what we take to Kansas. At the same time, though, we hope to get to do the tire test this summer because it will be a brand new track when we go there in the fall.”

KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET – 27th IN STANDINGS: “We fought through Texas as a team. The guys gave me great pit stops, even though we were making big adjustments each time. Kenny (Francis, crew chief) worked with me to improve the car all night. It wasn’t the fastest we’ve been this year, but I’m really proud of the whole team for putting together a solid finish.

“We got a great finish last fall at Kansas, so I’m excited to go back there. We’re at our best on the mile-and-a-half tracks. I think our team will come in with a lot of momentum from Texas. We’re learning every week, and that’s going to start showing on the racetrack.”

DAVID REUTIMANN, NO. 10 ACCELL CONSTRUCTION CHEVROLET – 31st IN STANDINGS: “For Kansas being a newer facility, the surface has gotten pretty slick. Cars slide around a lot, so you have to fight that. Tommy and the guys will have to be on their toes to make the car drive well. It’s not easy anywhere we go, but Kansas is especially challenging. I look forward to going back next time after the repave.”

DAVE BLANEY, NO. 36 TOMMY BALDWIN RACING CHEVROLET – 32nd IN STANDINGS: “The track has aged really nicely. The groove is very wide, and the track always puts on a good race. The area is a good area for race fans. There is a lot of racing going on in that area, whether it is NASCAR,dirt cars, late models or sprint cars, so it is fun place to go.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags busch, chevrolet, earnhardt, gordon, johnson, menard, steward