Atlanta II: GM teams race quotes, notes

Hampton, GA - Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Monte Carlo SS, scored his eighth victory of the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) in the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The victory for the defending NNCS champion was...

Hampton, GA - Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Monte Carlo SS, scored his eighth victory of the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) in the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The victory for the defending NNCS champion was the 24th win for Chevrolet thus far in 2007, exceeding the 23 victory mark set by the Bowtie Brand in 2006.

"We are very pleased that Jimmie's victory today at Atlanta helped Chevrolet reach 24 victories for the season, one more than our total scored in 2006," said Alba Colon, NNCS Program Manager for GM Racing. "The success that Team Chevy has enjoyed this season is the result of a tremendous amount of work by a large group of people within General Motors and all of our teams.

"We are looking forward to the remaining three races of the season and watching the battle for the driver's champion as it evolves.

"Congratulations to all of our teams and drivers who have contributed to Chevrolet's 24 wins and counting this season."

Johnson, who started sixth in the race that went 329 laps, four more than scheduled due to three caution periods in the final five laps, led once for a total of eight laps on the way to his 31st career win.

The victory pulled Johnson to within nine points of his Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) teammate and current Chase point standings leader, Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont/Nicorette Monte Carlo SS, with three races remaining on the schedule. Gordon crossed the finish line in seventh to maintain the lead in pursuit of his fifth NNCS championship.

A total of four Monte Carlo SS drivers scored top-10 finishes at Atlanta. Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Monte Carlo SS, finished sixth in the race to remain solidly in third place in points battle, 111 points down from the leader.

Jeff Burton, No. 31 AT&T Monte Carlo SS finished fifth and moved to eighth in the Chase standings, 400 points behind Gordon.

Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Monte Carlo SS, was 15th in the finishing order to remain seventh in the standings, 392 points out of the lead.

Kyle Busch, No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Monte Carlo SS, was shown in the 20th finishing position after leading three times for 77 laps. Busch is sixth in the standings, 328 points behind his HMS teammate.

Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Express Monte Carlo SS, finished 24th in the Pep Boys Auto 500. He dropped two positions in the standings to 10th, 424 points down to Gordon.

Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Monte Carlo SS, finished 30th and dropped to fifth in the standings, 322 points out of the lead.

Martin Truex, Jr., No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Monte Carlo SS, was scored in the 31st finishing position. He dropped to 12th in the Chase standings, 513 points behind.

The eighth race in the Chase and the 34th race of the 36-race season will be November 4, 2007 at Texas Motor Speedway.

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JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S / KOBALT TOOLS MONTE CARLO SS, RACE WINNER:

ON HOW SURPRISING IS THIS WIN: "We had like a 15th place car all day. Chad (Knaus, crew chief) made great adjustments on the car and got us at least in contention so we could run in the top-five and maybe a third place finish. With the pit strategy at the end, Chad made the call, the cautions worked in our favor and we were able to capitalize on the great pit call.

ON THIRD TIME SWEEPING AT TRACKS THIS SEASON: "We have had some tough races this season. We had the mistake at Lowe's Motor Speedway that cost us and we have been trying to make that up. I can't thank everyone at Hendrick and the No. 24/No. 48 shop, the engine shop, the chassis shop. We come out here week after week with the kind of cars like we have had says a lot for everyone at Hendrick. We will keep putting the pressure on, we are in striking distance."

ON DONATING RACE WINNINGS TO VICTIMS OF FIRES IN CALIFORNIA: "I am very proud of everyone who has jumped on board with us to donate winnings to the victims of the California fires. We talked about it earlier this week and it is really growing. Mr. Hendrick is in on it. Lowe's is going to match our race winnings, Bruton Smith is too, along with a few other major corporations. We will be able to donate well over a million dollars to the California wildfire victims."

***

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NICORETTE MONTE CARLO SS, POINT STANDINGS LEADER; "It wasn't a real great performance for us today. We struggled in the middle part of the race a lot. This track can change a lot and it did. It is all about sticking with it and we did. Steve Letarte (crew chief) and all the guys on this DuPont/Nicorette Chevrolet did a great job. We got it turned around too late. We were too far behind at that point. But there at the end, my car was pretty awesome. On a long run I was too tight, but on the short run we were great. We needed about a five lap run right there and we would have given them a run for their money, that is for sure."

***

CLINT BOWYER, NO. 07 JACK DANIEL'S MONTE CARLO SS, THIRD IN THE STANDINGS:

ON THE LAST RESTART: "That was pretty wild. It was a lot of different things. Everybody was jockeying for position. I am not sure what happened that very last one, if his wheel came off or what, collected a couple of cars. We were just off a little today. We definitely didn't deserve the finish that we got, nonetheless, the guys worked hard to get us in contention. That is what you have to do. You have to at least be there to take advantage of if somebody does have trouble. Unfortunately we weren't as good as we like, but it was a decent finish."

ON GETTING A BREAK TODAY WITH THE WAY THE RACE FINISHED: "I would say we got a lot of a break today. I feel bad for Truex and Kyle Busch and those guys, clearly they had the cars to beat today and ended up way back and Truex didn't finish. Fortunate things are going our way, when it is your day, it is your day, when it is not, it is not."

ON WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM WITH THE CAR: "We were just way, way too loose. It was just our balance was off. It would swing lose and tight way too easy. Didn't have enough grip. Usually when that happens, there isn't a real cure for that while you are out there on the track and on pit road. It is usually something more major than that."

ON FEELING OF STATUS IN CHASE: "What we have to do is keep digging. We can't give up, we didn't give up today and we won't give up. We stayed on the lead lap and probably shouldn't have, worked on it as much as we could and came out of here with a decent day."

ON CONSIDERING TO STAY OUT WHEN LEADERS PITTED FOR FUEL THE FINAL TIME: "I saw the No. 11 do it and I thought about it, maybe I should, maybe I shouldn't. If I would have I might have run right in the back of him and been a wreck. So nonetheless, it was a decent day."

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T MOBILITY MONTE CARLO SS: "We were terrible in the beginning of the race - I think we were as running in the 30's early on. We started off sideways loose and I was holding on so I wouldn't spin the car out. The track started to tighten up some and Scott made some great calls in the pits and we were able to advance positions. The guys also had great pit stops, which helped. Scott made a great call there at the end calling for a two-tire stop. We got in the back of the 26 on one of the restarts and I thought it caused enough damage to where we couldn't run well. But what a crazy finish - we'll take it and go to Texas from here."

***

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS:

"Man, that was a HIT! It was hard and loud! BAM into that wall. I knew when I was sliding up there it was gonna be big and it was. Loud and hard. We lost a left rear wheel. We must have had an issue with the hubs or something because we had loose lugs and a loose rear wheel several times through the day. When that wasn't a problem - we were fast as hell. We passed a lot of cars today but you can only do that if everything is tight and screwed on correctly. I knew we had a loose wheel at the end of the race, but when we pitted the last time (on lap 319), we changed two right-side tires, but the left rear was loose. It must have gotten worse during the yellow flags. I dunno. All I know is I have a headache and I'm going to my bus to rest up..."

***

DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 FEDEX GROUND MONTE CARLO SS -

"We felt like we were pretty good on fuel there. We were even good to real close on a green-white-checkered. All day we'd been getting water in our fuel. The water displaces fuel and so we weren't getting the full potential of fuel. We just took it apart again and pulled some gas out of the fuel cell and once again, we got water. So it's just a shame. It's one of those times when you think you're luck is going to turn around and the good Lord is going to shine on you and it's going to be your day. And once again, it wasn't out day. It's just a shame that someone else had to get torn up in it, but we felt like we were good. We wouldn't risk it. Our goal here at the end of the year is to end up in the top five in points. Now we're just going to be lucky to be hanging on to the top 10."

HOW FRUSTRATED ARE YOU RIGHT NOW? "I'm not that frustrated because I'm used to it. The last eight weeks have been like this for us. So, it's just one of those deals. I'm happy about the way we ran. That's the one thing we can take out of here. This is the best car we've had here. This is the best that we've been. So as negative as I probably should be about today, it was a good day for us."

THEY TESTED THE FUEL AT THE PUMPS AND APPARENTLY THERE WAS NO WATER IN THE FUEL. WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE WHEN YOU HAVE WATER IN THE FUEL? "Well, I don't know the certain situation of how it got there, but we just pulled what we had out of the carburetor out and it was a very, very good amount of water in there. Even the bolts are oxidized, so that tells you right there that there was water in the carburetor. So, you can check the pumps, but the car is what's burning this fuel. We had some issues earlier in the race with the car stopping down the straightaway. I felt it hesitating. So they said we got water that run. Evidently we got it in the second to the last run too, and it displaced the fuel that we needed to go to the end."

WHAT DID IT FEEL LIKE ON THAT RESTART? WAS THERE A HESITATION? "Actually off of Turn 4, when I actually hit the gas, it took off and then it stopped. It took off and stopped. Usually when that happens, it will go ahead and take off. But when it actually cut off, I pulled down to the middle. These guys had already started making their way underneath of me and I was just waiting on a hit from behind. And I saw Martin (Truex Jr.) coming. It's just tough for those guys. I'd fix their car if I had to."

HOW WOULD THE SPOTTERS ALERT SOMEBODY? "I think they knew, but we're so blind in these race cars that we really can't see much. It's just a situation where the guy in front of you ducks out of the way and right there, there is a car. There is nothing he could have done. It's not his fault that we were sitting there in the middle of the track."

HOW MANY LAPS DO YOU THINK YOU HAD LEFT? "We could have been good, we felt like, to a green-white-checkered. We would have probably ran out on the checkered flag of a green-white-checkered. We should have been plenty good. There is no way we would have risked it and been that far off. It's just a situation where we were trying to burn water instead of fuel. I think they knew there was a problem, but there was really no way to fix it today."

ON GUYS WHO TOOK TWO TIRES "I don't know who; I don't know where tires were behind me. I know a lot of guys took splashes, which that would have been good because we were one of the fastest cars on the track before that caution came out. And so it's tough to say. If the No. 48 had tires, he probably would have got around us anyway. But if he didn't, we probably could have held him off."

WHEN DID YOU FEEL IT GOING AWAY FROM YOU? "Right there at the start/finish line is when it died. A hated it. I couldn't even make a lap without something happening. I hate it for everyone else more so than myself."

WHAT KIND OF FEELINGS WERE GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND THEN? "It's frustrating. It's just a situation where, I don't think we expect these bad luck kind of things to happen, but it's happened the last eight or nine weeks. We've kind of gotten accustomed to it. We've just got to realize that this is the best we've ran here and take that and go on strong next year."

***

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL MONTE CARLO SS:

"This is the best we have been at Atlanta in four years so it was a step in the right direction for us. We are going to take this car to Texas because it ran so well here for us."

***

ALAN GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S/CARQUEST MONTE CARLO SS:

"Atlanta is a track that we have traditionally struggled at so we put a lot of emphasis on and we built a new Monte Carlo SS for here. It ran really good and I am really proud of that effort, real proud of all my guys, the Hendrick Motorsports engineering staff. This is a little different body than we normally run here, so I am real proud of how all that worked out and the chassis shop that hung the body on this car. So, having said that, we ran real well. We just didn't close the deal there at the end. We had trouble on the pit stop, we didn't get the right side jacked upenough and had a bad pit stop. I don't know, I think Matt (Kenseth) came out seventh and we should have been right there with him. If we had come out sixth, the way it went on, we wouldn't have won the race because there wasn't enough time. I hate it for my guys, they really deserve it, Kyle drove a great race. This is a very humbling sport."

***

MAX SIEGEL, PRESIDENT, GLOBAL OPERATIONS FOR DALE EARNHARDT INC., on behalf of Martin Truex, Jr., No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Monte Carlo SS:

"Martin's involvement in the wreck was just an occurrence for us. Martin had a great car. He and Bono (crew chief Kevin Manion) were doing everything they needed to do and what we needed to do. Martin drove a great race. It was just an unfortunate incident. We will just come back strong next week at Texas."

***

KEVIN (BONO) MANION, CREW CHIEF, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS MONTE CARLO SS:

"I guess the No. 11 had some water in their gas, is what they are saying, and didn't get started, plus guys who took two tires, four tires and good hard racing at the end. Just a bad result, no where for us to go. Nobody's fault. Spotter said 'Checking up'. People were going left, right, and the next thing you know bam, cars are stopping in front of us.

ON DIFFERENT STRATEGIES PEOPLE WERE USING ON THE LAST STOP: "It is a free country, you can do what you want. I knew there was going to be a couple who took two tires, I didn't realize there would be that many. Still think four tires for us was the right call with the car we had. I would have hate to got beat on too. With that many short laps, I figured a couple of people would take two, I didn't think that many would. I think if

ON FOCUS FOR REMAINING THREE RACES: "We are absolutely focused on winning races and getting good finishes. Really want a pole almost more than a win, either one would do right now, but the wins for sure. That is what we came in to do today, like we do every week, like every other competitor. You could have been a risky with our call and taken two tires, but like I said, one thing I have learned, right decision, wrong decision, just make a decision. the restart had gotten off ok, I still think we had a great shot at a win or a top-three finish."

***

MARK MARTIN, NO. 01 U.S. ARMY MONTE CARLO SS -- Sidelined because of wreck with David Gilliland):

THAT WAS A VICIOUS HIT. HOW MUCH OF THAT DID YOUR BODY ABSORB? "I don't know. What kind of question is that? (laughs)"

HOW ARE YOU? "I'm okay. I'm fine. David (Gilliland) is fine. That's the main thing. It's a disappointment but that's what happens sometimes. I should have missed it. I told David I should have missed him. You're going so fast and I couldn't see him in the smoke and I really didn't feel comfortable driving into the smoke not knowing where he was. So I tried to get under him and he came out of the smoke coming to the inside. Usually if you go high here, a lot of times it works out. But I only had a split second. But it didn't really work out for me. I just didn't feel like going into that smoke at that speed was going to be safe. But we're both okay and that's what matters. I really don't know what happened, I just saw smoke. It was a pretty hard hit, I have had harder. You know, thank God I am not racing for points. "

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Martin Truex Jr. , Clint Bowyer , David Gilliland , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch
Teams Hendrick Motorsports