Tony Stewart Wins at Atlanta and Locks Spot in 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup; Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Burton Also Locked with Third and Fourth Place Finishes Hampton, Georgia (September 5, 2010) - Tony Stewart scored a dominating win in the ...
Tony Stewart Wins at Atlanta and Locks Spot in 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup; Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Burton Also Locked with Third and Fourth Place Finishes
Hampton, Georgia (September 5, 2010) - Tony Stewart scored a dominating win in the Emory Healthcare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway AMS) to lock the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet team into the 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
The two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) champion led eight times for a total of 176 laps on the way to his third win at AMS and the 38th victory of his career.
Four-time defending NSCS champion Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's/KOBALT Tools, locked himself into his seventh consecutive Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with a third place finish in tonight's race. Johnson is the only driver to qualify for every Chase since its inauguration in 2004.
Jeff Burton, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, finished fourth tonight and also secured a place in the stellar 12-car field that will compete for the 2010 championship.
With his seventh-place finish in the 25th race of the season, Clint Bowyer, No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet, remains 12th in points with a 117-point lead over 13th place Ryan Newman, No. 39 US Army Reserve Chevrolet who finished eighth in tonight's race.
Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Huggies/Target Chevrolet finished ninth to give Team Chevy six of the top-10 finishers.
Series point leader Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet, had a strong car but a blown left-front tire and subsequent damage to the car relegated him to the 33rd finishing position. Harvick was the first driver to secure a spot in the Chase.
Four-time NSCS champion Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont/Jeff Gordon Foundation Chevrolet, battled handling issues tonight and finished in 13th place. Gordon was also locked into the Chase heading into tonight's AMS race.
Carl Edwards (Ford) and Kyle Busch (Toyota) completed the top-five finishers.
Eight more drivers clinched positions in the Chase tonight bringing the total to 10 drivers secured in the 2010 run for the NSCS title.
The Series now heads into the 26th and final race of the "regular" season next Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE CHEVROLET -- RACE WINNER:
"Are you kidding me? I didn't hit a restart all night until right there at the end. Golly man, what a night? I'm so proud of these guys behind us; I mean, they're the ones who got us there. It was the last pit stop that got us the track position to give me the opportunity. When I got back in traffic I was in really bad shape. This one is for my buddy Eric Saunders back in Indianapolis. He got hurt really bad in a motocross crash and he is up in Indianapolis healing; he's paralyzed right now. He is one of the toughest young guys I know, so Eric buddy, this one is for you pal. Steve Odland [Chairman and CEO of Office Depot], Office Depot, Old Spice, U.S. Army, Sprint, all these fans at Atlanta--this was kind of a heartbreak year for these guys knowing that they are going to lose a race next year--Tornados, Haas Automation, Mac Tools, all these guys that help Stewart-Haas here. God, I've never been so happy to win in all my life."
I got to say hi to my buddy Eric Saunders in Indianapolis. He got hurt in a motocross crash during Moto GP weekend up there in Indy. He is in Methodist Hospital right now and that is probably the one person I thought of when we crossed that line. Glad to get this one for Eric.
"But man, I told Darian (Grubb, crew chief) I have never been so happy to win a race in my life. It's been awhile. This is a place that's not been good to us. Man, we had an awesome car tonight. I know the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) was really good and we had to fight him, but we were pretty good and the No. 99 Carl Edwards was good all night too so we definitely earned this one. Really proud of these guys behind us. They are the ones that got us the opportunity to get in here with that last pit stop. I think we came in fifth and came out second. I couldn't take off on restarts all night. The last two I nailed it finally. I was scared if we ever lost that position, we were never going to get it back."
ARE YOU VERY EMOTIONAL OVER THIS WIN? "I forgot what it was like, it has been so long. It's been, I don't know how many races it's been, but it seems like an eternity since we won a race. Especially with the Chase a week away now, we needed these 10 points and we need this momentum. This team has been doing an awesome job for the last two and a half or three months and we've been kind of quiet this year, we took off slow but thank goodness for Office Depot and Old Spice, these guys with this Chevrolet, they have been doing a great job. The pit stops have been good. The cars have been good. With Darian and these guys at our shop, it has just been really fun the last couple of months."
WHAT DID YOU DO DIFFERENT ON THAT RESTART? "I just couldn't keep from spinning the tires and I just made myself not even watch Carl on the bottom on the last two starts. I do that anyway, but it was trying to match his pace and once we had the lead and got to take off when we wanted to, it was just a matter of really focusing. It wasn't that I wasn't trying earlier; I just couldn't figure it out. I'm not sure how I figured it out at the end. I am just glad I did."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET -- Finished 3rd:
On the night: "it was really a good night. There were times where we lost the handle and were able to adjust the car and get it back--something that we've had struggles with on the mile-and-a-half tracks the last couple months. So all-in-all, it was a solid day. We did a good job in the pits, good job on the track. Glad to get a good run on a track that has been tough on us. This track is hard to get it right. The KOBALT Tools Chevrolet was awesome. I hope everybody has an awesome holiday tomorrow and we'll come back and do it again next weekend."
TONIGHT YOU GOT THE GOOD FINISH: "Yes, we had a great time tonight. I can't thank this Lowe's team enough. I certainly hope everyone has a good holiday tomorrow and has time to go out in the garage and use those Kobalt tools. This was an awesome night. We had a good time on track. At times we were off, but made adjustments to the car and it responded and got better and better. Had an awesome race there with the No. 9 (Kasey Kahne) and the No. 99 (Carl Edwards) before that last caution. Had a little problem on that last restart, no, the one before that. I think the car vapor locked or something and I lost a spot, lost a little track position but, very proud of this Lowe's team."
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, FINISHED 4TH: YOU CLINCHED YOUR SPOT IN THE CHASE TONIGHT, WEEK OFF NEXT WEEK? "No, we go hard next week. When you clinch, you get to go to Richmond and in that shape; it is a lot of fun. We are going to go and run really hard. That's how we are going to run the Chase; we are going to run it really hard in Chase. We are going to kick it off next week and just bring everything we have got. We've been protecting a little bit the last four or five weeks. It is no more protecting now, it is go time and we have to lay it all on the line."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR MILE AND A HALF PROGRAM AFTER TONIGHT'S RACE? "Well, it is hard to know because the mile and a half and two miles we've been running typically aren't strong race tracks for me, so hopefully when we get to the tracks where we typically that I am better on, we can be a little better. We've been a little off here the last seven or either weeks. I think we have been protecting and now we can go."
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY RESERVE CHEVROLET -- Finished 8th:
ON THE INCIDENT WITH KASEY KAHNE AND YOUR CONVERSATION WITH HIM AFTER THE RACE, WHAT DID YOU GUYS TALK ABOUT?
"Oh, just racing stuff that went on out there. Kasey is a good friend of mine and we've always raced hard. I got into the back of him there on the back straightaway on that restart, the same time the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) hit me you can watch the replay, and at least I think it was the No. 18; I got him crossed up and sideways and it ruined his day. It was unintentional, but it happens. It's happened in enough situations this year where I've been told it's unintentional and it's ruined my day. He felt like he needed to retaliate. Fortunately I kept mine straight and we went on. I told him that long story short, I'd rather talk about it before we go out and do that again. I'm good. We're good. Everything is fine."
IN THE BIG PICTURE, WITH ONE RACE REMAINING IN THE RACE TO THE CHASE, YOU STILL HAVE A MATHEMATICAL SHOT AT GETTING INTO THE CHASE BUT IT SEEMS LIKE YOU'VE GOT QUITE A DISTANCE TO GO. HOW DO YOU LOOK AT IT?
"It's just another race. How do you expect to make it up in one race what we didn't do in 25 races? So it was a great run for the U.S. Army Reserve Chevrolet tonight. The last 50 laps were some of the best racing I've ever seen here at Atlanta. If you were watching, there were some of the best restarts I've ever had in my career. But it was fun. I congratulate Tony Stewart (race winner) and Office Depot and Old Spice and all those guys for a great run and we'll go on."
WHAT ABOUT THE CHASE, YOU'RE STILL IN IT RIGHT NOW
"Mathematically, we have a chance and for an engineering guy I guess that means something. But I can only try my hardest and I did that tonight. We can't expect to make it all up in one shot. Congratulations to Tony Stewart and his group for a great run."
YOU SAID YOU GOT HIT INTO KASEY KAHNE?
"Yeah, the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) hit me the same time I hit the No. 9 (Kahne). It was within a millisecond. I was just trying to help him to push him to get ahead of the No. 2 (Kurt Busch) car and it didn't work out. We've seen this several times this year, and it was me trying to help him out. It causes accidents once in a while. It hurt him but in the grand scheme of things he tried to hurt me and it didn't hurt us as bad. So, we'll just go on."
WHAT ABOUT THE INCIDENT WITH GREG BIFFLE?
"He just cut across my nose. I don't know if the spotter told him he was clear or he thought he was and he wasn't, but he just came across my nose and spun himself out. It hurt our day and I should be mad at Biffle as much as Kasey should be mad at me."
DID IT DAMAGE YOUR CAR?
"It knocked the fender in and cost us a bunch of track position. Track position was probably a bigger hit than the fender itself."
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 BB&T CHEVROLET, FINISHED 6TH: WAS THAT WHAT YOU GUYS NEEDED TONIGHT? "That is absolutely what we needed. Man, I tell you, it was a hard fought battle. The guys kept digging and kept digging. It was good in the daytime. As soon as it went to night, it got really, really loose. Just way down on grip. They kept adjusting on it and never gave it. The guys in the pits, they got us back up there where we needed to be. I am real proud of them. Good effort for the BB&T Chevrolet. Not what we wanted, but darn sure what we needed."
NOW ARE YOU READY TO HEAD TO RICHMOND AND GET YOUR PLACE IN THE CHASE? "Absolutely; I don't know where we are at or whatever, or what we are going to have to do, but certainly running out of running out of races, but we are gaining points so that is a good feeling."
GOOD RUN FOR YOU GUYS: "It was a good run and I am really proud of the guys. Kept digging, we were way off early in the race. But they kept digging, kept working on this BB&T Chevrolet. The guys in the pits did a great job."
-source: gm racing