Bristol, TN - With two races remaining until the Chase for the Championship, Team Chevy drivers scored solid finishes during Saturday's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in an attempt to lock in their place in the 10-race battle for the Nextel...
Bristol, TN - With two races remaining until the Chase for the Championship, Team Chevy drivers scored solid finishes during Saturday's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in an attempt to lock in their place in the 10-race battle for the Nextel Cup title.
Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Impala SS, crossed the line third as the highest finishing Bowtie driver to secure his second top-five finish of the season. Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Impala SS, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Impala SS, finished fourth and fifth giving the Bowtie brand three of the top five finishers.
"My car worked a little better there on the bottom," said Bowyer. "(We) came up a little short there at the end but it was what we needed. We needed a good points day and that was a good padding today. Got two races to go before this Chase and that's what this series is all about, it's important."
Bowyer, currently sitting in the ninth position in points, is one of nine Chevy drivers ranked within the top-12 in points following tonight's event at the .533-mile speedway. Jeff Gordon (first), Tony Stewart (second) and Denny Hamlin (third) have all locked in their place in the Chase while Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch, Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr. rank sixth through 11th in points. Earnhardt, Jr. is currently battling to work his way back in the top 12 where he currently sits 13th, 158 points out of the elite 12 drivers that will battle for the 2007 Nextel Cup when the Chase begins Sept. 16 at New Hampshire International Speedway.
DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 FEDEX FREIGHT IMPALA SS, retired from race on lap 211 due to a blown motor:
ON WHAT HAPPENED: "We just broke something on the inside of the motor. Mike (Ford, crew chief) told me if I thought it was going to break, to save the race car. Luckily I was able to wave everybody off and kept the car in one piece because it has been a rocket ship all day. The whole FedEx Freight team did a great job on pit road preparing the race car and I am really excited about things to come in the future. I think those other 11 Chase guys are going to deal with us before it is all said and done.
"We had an engine change that put us in the very back at the start, which was a downshift problem early which was why we had to go to a backup motor. I think this one was just a freak deal, we won't know for sure until we get it back to the shop, this is a rare thing for something like this to happen for the No. 11 team. I have never really ever been so excited to be out of a race. "
ON MOVING UP TO THE FRONT OF THE FIELD FROM 43RD AND IF THAT'S A CONSOLATION FOR HIM: "Absolutely. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come from this race team. I'm ecstatic to be here talking about how great our race car was all day long. I'm just so proud of this race team. They hung in there and we can't complain about engine problems with that, I never have 'em, so it's just one of those things we couldn't help. To come up to the top six like that in just one run is unbelievable for us so I couldn't be prouder of this whole FedEx Freight team."
YOU WERE RUNNING SEVENTH ON LAP 158 AND YOU SAID YOU HAD SOMETHING AMISS. AT THAT POINT WHAT DO YOU AS A DRIVER DO TO DIAGNOSE FROM YOUR SIDE WHAT THE PROBLEM COULD BE? "Well when everything looks good with your volts and your oil pressure and water temp and everything like that, then you know it's something internal and I definitely knew that was. It was just a matter of time but still.I hate to get a DNF and break that streak but it's just one of those things. I can't wait for the Chase to start."
DID YOU HAVE ANY WARNING? "Just when it went. We started to drop off the pace there. Went down to six cylinders and I knew we were in big trouble and probably weren't going to make it. But still it was a great run for us and we could still keep up with the guys even though we were on two cylinders less than they were so really it's just one of those bad luck deals and we're going to have to move on. But I couldn't be more excited about how well we were running tonight."
WAS THERE ANYTHING THEY COULD DO TO SAVE THE CAR? DID THEY TELL YOU TO BRING IT IN BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE HAPPENED? "No, we knew were going to have to ride it out one way or another. There were too many laps left for us to really make it there at the end so we knew it was just a matter of time. We just had to take our time and count down the laps til the break."
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF WINS AND IF THIS IS A MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT FOR HIM: "Yeah, we can get over it real fast. I'm excited about this and how well we ran because I really didn't know what we were going to have going into today and for our car to perform the way it did was amazing. I couldn't be happier to drive it. I could just go anywhere I wanted to with the thing and it would go so I tell you, this is going to be tough there at the end."
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT IMPALA SS, Finished fourth moved to second in the NNCS point standings with two races remaining before the start of the Chase:
ON LAST SET OF TIRES HELPING MOVE FORWARD IN THE FIELD TOWARD THE END OF THE RACE: "I don't know what was so much different about them, but they were a lot better and had a lot more grip. We just got going there at the end. Got a good run and got by the No. 88, the No. 2 and the No.12.
ON RACING ON THE NEW BRISTOL SURFACE: "This was an ace job. This place is awesome. It was fun tonight. You could go from the bottom to the top. I don't know what it was like to watch, but hopefully the race fans had as much fun as it was to drive tonight. You could run all over the race track, that was what was so much fun about it. I can tell you, I don't know what it was like from the outside of the car to watch it, but at least from the inside it was fun. You could race. Guys weren't running over each other to pass each other. It fun race from inside the car. It is fun when you just get to race. Tonight was a race where you could do that. You could work the outside, you could work the inside, you could go and race people here tonight instead of the normal just bump people out of the way and go on by. It was fun to race like that.
"It was fun I thought. It is hard to tell what it was like to watch on TV and you guys to watch, but from the inside the car it was awesome. You weren't having to root guys out of the way, you could race. That was what made it fun. It didn't matter if we finished 10th or 15th, I was having fun tonight. The most fun I have had at Bristol in my career. Even the night I won wasn't as much fun as tonight was. You could just race all over the race track. We have to thank everybody here at Bristol Motor Speedway for doing what they did. It worked and it worked well, they didn't something very productive here.
"I can't give it a better grade than A-plus. I mean, I was so fun to drive on tonight. It is just the most fun I have ever had driving on Bristol.
"It was kind of nice not to have to move people out of the way. That was what was fun tonight. We had 120 some-odd laps at the beginning of the race without a caution; we only had two cautions almost to half way. It was a fun race. I wish we could have gotten to the front a little earlier but, whether we finished 15th, 10th or fourth, it was just fun.
ON HOW DIFFERENT CAR WAS PERFORMING AS YOU STARTED MOVING UP THROUGH THE FIELD: "We could run with those guys. We had enough of a gap behind us that gave us the flexibility to move around and try some different lines and found some ways to get the thing to cut through the corner and really square my exit off where I could really dig up off the corner. I could have settled for eighth place real easy and feel really proud that we came back and finished fourth.
"We had the opportunity to move around and didn't have any pressure from behind. I couldn't get by these guys on the bottom, so I just started trying the top and found some grip up there. I think everybody had gotten so committed to the bottom or all the way to the top and I kind of found a sweet spot there in the middle to get around."
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER IMPALA SS - Finished Fifth and sits 13th in points, 158 out of 12th position with two race remaining until the start of Chase:
ON GETTING A TOP FIVE FINISH BEFORE THE CHASE AND GETTING A BOOST IN POINTS: "Yeah, I ain't worried about that. I had a good night tonight. I just run 500 miles at Bristol so I'm pretty stoked about finishing fifth. Sunday off baby! Finally! Every time ESPN does a race it rains Saturday night and we have to race Sunday. Just about the worst week ever having to race on Tuesday. My guys come out here on Friday and all day Saturday and it's 95 degrees out here (and they're) working all day long. I'm proud of them. They gave me a great car. My whole team did good. I'm proud of them. I enjoyed myself tonight. I wanted a top five."
HOW DID THE NEW SURFACE AFFECT THE RACING OUT THERE? "We ran the top some. The Busch race the top was great, what I could see. Ran it some tonight but at the end the bottom was where you needed to be. I don't know why that is. Goodyear brought a hard tire because they wanted to make sure it was a good, safe tire and it was and we managed with it. Maybe they dialed the tire down a little bit and get a little softer. The top may come in. I don't know if that's the answer or not. I'm just speculating. But it's got a groove up there, we just couldn't find it."
ON HIS TOP FIVE: "Yeah, I'm real happy. I want to thank my team. They gave me a great car. I want to thank Budweiser and all my sponsors. We had a fun night tonight. We ran pretty good. I was pretty happy with that. We didn't get the win like I wanted to. It's a nice race track. They did a good job on the track. I enjoyed the new configuration and hopefully next we'll come back here and do a little bit better. I had a good time though."
ON HAVING A GOOD RUN BUT STILL BEING ABOUT 158 POINTS OUT OF 12th: "Well I can do is be WFO and run as good as I can run. Kurt runs good here. It's going to be hard get any here but we were able to finish a spot ahead of him. I'd say you're doing pretty good because he wins a lot here."
ON IT NOT BEING THE TYPICAL BRISTOL: "I just mash the gas man and go. I don't think about what the race's going to be like or anything. I try to pass who I can pass. I didn't know what to expect. What can you expect? Just go out there and see what happens. I don't know what it looked like to y'all. I raced some people and had some fun. It's about like the same old track, run right around the bottom, and threw people out of the way. The top's a little bit better. You can hold people off. It'll come in maybe after a couple trips."
YOU DIDN'T HAVE THE SAME BUMPING AND KNOCKING PEOPLE OUT OF THE WAY TO MAKE A PASS THAT YOU'RE USED TO HERE. DO YOU THINK THE FANS WILL MISS THAT? "The COT, you can beat on each with the COT but you can't knock each other up out of the way with it. The bumpers hit square so it's hard to send somebody up the race track in the COT. I don't know. We don't like running into each other all the time. Is that what y'all want us to do? I want my tires to run straight. I go beating on people I mess my car up. The 12 run into me there one time, almost put me in the fence, so we beat on each other a little bit over that for about 10 laps and we got over it I reckon cause he quit beating on me. But other than that I didn't have to run into anybody."
ON TONY STEWART SAYING IT WAS THE MOST FUN HE HAD AT THIS RACE TRACK EVER: "I don't believe him. I think he's making it up. When's he ever said anything like? I think he had a good line going there at the end. He looked like he was able to run like he wanted to. You're going to have fun doing that. The track was real fun the first half. At the end of the race the bottom groove became the prominent groove. That's all you can do. I ain't going up there to the top to get passed by everybody."
ON POSSIBLY NOT MAKING THE CHASE AND WHAT IS GOING THROUGH HIS MIND: "I want to win. If I can't get into the Chase, let's win a race. Let's do something."
ON NOT MAKING THE CHASE A FEW YEARS AGO AND IT NOT BEING A HAPPY EXPERIENCE AND IF IT'D BE DIFFERENT THIS YEAR: "Y'all make it pretty miserable because that's all y'all talk about. I shouldn't tell you that you dictate my mood. Now you know but anyways, when we don't make it everybody makes a big deal out of it. They talk about it pre-race, they talk about it post-race for a couple weeks and it is a bummer. It's a bummer when you see that and have to watch that and read it and what not. You kind of want to go under the radar when you can't get it done but maybe we can get us a win. I'll be more ticked off if I don't win a race this year because I've run good all year. We've had so many opportunities, you know? And you won't credit for running fifth and blowing up, running up second blowing up. You just won't."
WHAT HAPPENED WITH YOU AND THE 12? "I don't know. We were coming off around (turns) three and four and I might have left him a window or enough for the radiator (to) fit in there and he hit me in the quarter panel. The spotter said he hit me right square in the back end. I almost wrecked and I was like I'm going to get back to you and I'm going to hit you back so I did. I hit him three or four times and he's like 'What you hitting me for?' and hit me a time or two back and it was over."
IS THAT THE RESULT OF YOU BOTH BEING SO CLOSE IN POINTS WITH THE CHASE? "No, had nothing to do with that. He's aggressive, I'm aggressive. Neither one of us don't like to take any crap from anybody. We like standing our ground. That's what happens when you hit two hammers together."
ISN'T THAT TYPICAL OF NOW RYAN NEWMAN DRIVES? "Newman races like that and you know, you take a chance letting him know you don't like it because he might send you in the fence because he's done it here before to people but I think me and him got a good understanding of who each other is. I didn't wreck him. I just hit him back. I think that's all fair."
YOU SEEM AWFUL HAPPY: "I'm ready to go home, get on the lake! It didn't freakin' rain."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, Finished 21st, remains sixth in the standings with two races remaining to the start of the Chase:
ON TONIGHT'S RACE: " "We were tight tight tight all night long but Chad made a brilliant call there at the end when we stayed on the track waiting for the caution and it came. I thought we were in for a top 10 then we got caught up in that wreck and that ruined everything. I'm looking forward to next week hopefully we can lock up a spot in the "Chase" and get us a victory.
"Just seems like we can't quite get a handle on this place quite yet. But it is behind us now and we keep moving forward."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL PLATINUM IMPALA SS, Finished 16th, remains 10th in the standings with two races remaining until the start of the Chase:
ON TONIGHT'S RACE: "We fought tight all night. About half way, we were so far behind, we just had to play catch up. Then there at toward the end, we were ok, the car was a lot better. We got back on the lead lap and salvaged a decent finish for our Pennzoil Platinum Chevrolet. We have to work hard to get in the show the next couple of weeks and go after it."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, Finished 19th, remains the points leader with two races remaining until the start of the Chase:
ON RACING ON THE "NEW" BRISTOL: "I love it, I think the track is fantastic. Great job. I have never seen that much racing all over the race track like it was tonight before. "
ON HOW LUCK HAS FALLEN THE PAST THREE RACES: "You know, I am not a big believer in luck. I think you have to make your luck. You have to be well prepared and make the right calls and decisions. We took off there good at the beginning, drove up there to the front and I was really happy. The car started to change with the track changing. I asked for some adjustments and I kind of wish I hadn't of done that because, I think if we would have left it alone, we would have been a lot better off. We made some pretty big swings trying to be better. This car is not very well suited for this track and this tire was making it that much more challenging."
ON TIRE USED TONIGHT: "Obviously we know they are way too hard. Goodyear knows it and when they come back here, they won't have a tire anywhere close to this. I am excited about when we come back and we are on the right tire. It is going to help this race car too. With this race car, you just don't have any adjustment in the car to be able to make the car turn in the middle of the corner. It is not a lot of fun to drive it, but the track is spectacular."
ON HOW FRUSTRATING IT IS FOR DALE JR. RIGHT NOW TO RACE WELL AND NOT GAIN POINTS TO BE IN THE CHASE: "You have to race well for 26 races. They have had a rough year. They have had some motor issues. Some not good finishes. Now they are having good finishes and the No. 2 and the No. 12 are right there. You don't want to wish bad luck on anybody, but right now, the way the No. 2 and the No. 12 are running, you don't think he is going to be able to get in, even if he is winning races."
-credit: gm racing