Chevy drivers talk about what it takes to win the Daytona 500

Team Chevy Racing press release

Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Jamie McMurray, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Jamie McMurray, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

TEAM CHEVY IN THE GARAGE DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY – PAT SUHY, NASCAR GROUP MANAGER, GM RACING: “With the arrival of the 54th running of the Daytona 500, we look forward to another strong Team Chevy on-track showing in 2012. In the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Chevrolet captured its 35th Manufacturers’ Championship and 28th Drivers title. The 18 wins our teams earned brought the total all-time win count to 687, more than any other manufacturer.

“While it’s nice to look back and reflect on those accomplishments, we know that achieving that level of success took hard work and innovation, plus a commitment to continuously find ways to improve. During the off-season, we evaluated last year’s results and obtained feedback from our teams regarding our GM engineering support. We then established new objectives and will continue to refine our methods and seek out new technologies to meet those goals for both on and off-track performance this year. Our Chevy teams did the same; and they have shown year after year that they can stay at least one step ahead of the competition.

“The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season features a major rule change with the transition from carburetors to electronic fuel injection (EFI) on the race cars. This system is much like the one that’s on many Chevy passenger cars and trucks. Our GM engineers and team engineers spent a great deal of time working with the new system last year and it should be a smooth transition.

“Specific to Daytona, NASCAR has mandated a set of rules that make it more difficult for the tandem draft to allow cars to break away from the conventional drafting pack. This will apply in each of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck Series.

“The changes move the radiator air inlets and limit the size of those inlets. They also add a pressure relief valve to the cooling system. Set at 25 psi, it allows the water in the engine to boil at a lower temperature than it does at pressures that the teams normally run. The Sprint Cup cars get an additional cooling system change that dictates a much lower capacity radiator. These changes make it more difficult to maintain a safe operating temperature for the engine when pushing the car ahead; thus reducing the amount of time that a driver is able to do that without overheating. There were aerodynamic changes to the Sprint Cup cars too. They're running a much smaller rear spoiler and a two inch lower back bumper extension. Those changes take away a lot of rear downforce and make the cars less stable; making them harder to drive when pushing or being pushed. We saw the impact of these changes in Saturday's Budweiser Shootout, with more pack drafting and less pushing. We are likely to see the same result during Gatorade Duels and the Daytona 500.

“I hope everyone is as excited to see the 2012 NASCAR season get underway as I am. I think it will be another good one for Team Chevy.”


Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/ MOBIL 1 STEWART-HAAS RACING CHEVROLET: “I wouldn’t trade three championships to win Daytona. It’s not a good feeling to not have that tally in the win column. Realistically, we have two tracks we haven't won at; and the Daytona 500 we haven't won. Everything else we have pretty much accomplished in this sport that we want to accomplish. It’s the biggest race of the year; everyone wants to win that race. I won’t say that it is not a complete career if you don’t win it, but there is a lot of priority on winning it. Darrell Waltrip and Dale (Earnhardt) Sr. both had to go a long time before they got it.”

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING CHEVROLET – Has one (1) Daytona 500 win – ’07: “When you are standing there in victory lane and you look at that Harley J. Earl trophy, and you see the names on that trophy, you start to see the recognition and the list of people you put yourself on there with. It is something that is pretty special. This is our sport's biggest race and everybody puts their biggest effort into this race because you have the most time. It has the most hype and it pays the most money. It has the most prestigious trophy and there is nothing about this race that is not the biggest or the best."

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET – Has one (1) Daytona 500 win – ’06: “It’s such a special race and I feel very fortunate to have won that race. At that point, I didn’t have a championship, and it’s one of two races that you get a title with when you win this race – this one and the Brickyard. It can make a career and it was a huge thing for me when I won it in 2006.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., DIET MOUNTAIN DEW / NATIONAL GUARD HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET – Has one (1) Daytona 500 win - ’04: "The National Guard Chevrolet was really quick in the Shootout. I felt like we had great speed. I expect to see the same thing out of the Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet when we get to the qualifying race and throughout the rest of the weekend. I feel like we will be competitive and should be able to be on the offense more than on the defense. That is what you want as a race car driver out there making passes."

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET – Has three (3) Daytona 500 wins – ’97, ’99, ’05: “It’s very difficult. The Daytona 500 has always been a tough race to win but I can tell you that in the 20 years I’ve been in the sport, the thing is that you used to be able to be a little more predictable. You used to be able to do some one-car passes and get in the top five or six and hold your position using your mirror. The last 10 years, the reason why you’ve had multiple winners is because the rules have changed, the aerodynamics have changed and it’s so much more difficult to do what we did 15 years ago and it still will be. It’s going to be very unpredictable again. Anybody can win this race.”

RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY/QUICKEN LOANS STEWART-HAAS RACING CHEVROLET – Has one (1) Daytona 500 win – ’08: “There’s a lot of emphasis on Speedweeks. Everybody brings their A-game. Everybody wants to get off to a good start but, ultimately, you control only a part of it and racing luck controls the other part of it. Daytona is a tough place. It always has been. Honestly, I think our last three years have been bad luck in the way our season has started. Last year, we finished third in the Budweiser Shootout and then we had the strongest car I have ever had at Daytona. We led the most laps and we were definitely one of the front-runners to win with just a few laps left. But we got shuffled back and ended up in a wreck. It was the same thing in 2010 – we got involved in a wreck. The year before, we got involved in multiple wrecks before the 500 ever started and we were on our third race car by the time we took the green flag for the (Daytona) 500. So, all three years, we’ve started further back in points than we wanted and we have had to dig ourselves out of that hole. We’ve been able to make the Chase two of the three years. So, I guess you never know what’s going to happen. That’s why we all enjoy NASCAR Sprint Cup racing and, hopefully, it’s a good start to the season for us this year.”

KURT BUSCH, NO. 51 HENDRICKCARS.COM PHOENIX RACING CHEVROLET: “Anybody can win this race (the Daytona 500). Last year with the repave job, it took all the handling away from Daytona. It just went to raw speed. Trevor Bayne showed that. He put himself in position to win and he got the deal done. Danica Patrick, it can happen to her. It can happen to anybody. We just have to get to the end of the race. We have to protect our car and be in position for what I would anticipate being a green-white-checkered (finish). So that’s whether we get the car separated as far as the draft or, if they’re together, we’re going to have that green-white-checkered and it’s going to be ‘push like crazy’ with the guy in front of you no matter what.”

KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET: “I think winning the Daytona 500 would change my life because the race is such a big race. NASCAR does so much with it, and there is so much media involved in winning the Daytona 500, that it would definitely be a huge boost in someone’s career, even mine at this point. It would be something great to have, a race that you won that is as big as it gets for us. I would love to do it. I don’t know when, or if, it ever will happen, but I would certainly love to win the Daytona 500.”

PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 MENARDS/PEAK RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING CHEVROLET: "When you roll into Daytona everyone has high expectations. I firmly believe that we can be competitive this first handful of races (with) just the preparations my guys have put in during the off-season. I’m most excited to unload on Friday for Daytona practice and showcase their hard work. They have been busting their tail and I think we have a really fast race car.”

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING CHEVROLET: “I would not trade a single win I have had for a Daytona 500 win. However, if you got to pick, I would pick the Daytona 500. If that makes any sense; I wouldn’t. If you said to me today, after I had already won a race somewhere that you could trade them, I wouldn’t do it. Every win is special for its own reason. Winning in the Daytona 500 puts you in a category. When you are introduced later in life, you are a Daytona 500 champion. They do not introduce you as, ‘a something 300 champion’; they introduce you as a Daytona 500 champion. They introduce you as a Southern 500 champion; they introduce you as a Sprint Cup champion, so you want to win those marquee races.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET EARNHARDT GANASSI RACING CHEVROLET: "We are really focused on what we are doing. The car has changed drastically; set-ups have changed drastically. I would not say it is like a Hendrick thing or a Red Bull thing, it is just overall the win. And I think we need to go this direction and this needs to go that direction and there are a lot of really smart people there right now and they really seem to be making really good decisions. Chris (Heroy, Crew Chief) has been really good; he wants it bad. It is fun because he is very open-minded; you can tell him everything how it is. We seem to get along really well. The guys, everything, I am pretty happy. There are going to be struggles, I am sure there are going to be struggles, but who doesn’t have that? If you do not have that, you are not trying.”

REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING CHEVROLET: “I think our chances are good. We had a strong car here last year up until five to go. I legitimately thought we were going to be one of those cars that came to the stripe and battled for it and we had the incident with five to go. Still we were able to go from 20th to seventh in two laps, which is just how strong my race car was. We had good partners to work with too in the process of that. I think this year we’ve got better cars. I feel better about where our speedway program is right now than I did last year at this point. We tested last year and we weren’t that quick. When we unloaded I didn’t know how good we were going to be and then it turned out our car was really good pushing other cars and it kind of changed the whole event for us. I was fortunate that Kurt (Busch) took the time to teach me the type of drafting we were doing last year and it obviously worked out good for us. But this year I feel even more confident about where our car is. There’s going to be some new stuff to learn. The race is going to have a different feel than last year. It’s going to have a different feel than two years ago, but with that being said I think we have a great shot.”

JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS EARNHARDT GANASSI RACING CHEVROLET – Has one (1) Daytona 500 win – ’10: “I think that my chances of winning the Daytona 500 are better than one in forty-three. I think anybody can win. I don’t know until we see if it is a large pack, I think I have a better chance of winning if it is a large pack, than the tandem drafting. I don’t know why, but it just seems like for Juan (Montoya) and I, we run really well at the tandem races but something happens to one of us and it eliminates the other guy. It just seems like every race one of us gets caught up in a wreck, or a part will fail. We had an engine failure last year that eliminated us from the race. I think if it is a big pack, for me I feel like that increases my chances.”


“Well, with Daytona, it’s a big track. It’s an easy track to drive. If you have a fast car, you’re going to probably go to the front. I think my inexperience is less of an issue because the car is easy to drive. For me, at a place like Daytona, it reminds me of racing in IndyCar. It reminds me of our mile-and-a-half racing, where we’d always be in a pack. There was no bump drafting in IndyCar, like there is in NASCAR. That took some getting used to a little bit.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Tony Stewart , Jamie McMurray , Trevor Bayne , Eric Gilbert , Danica Patrick
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , Hendrick Motorsports
Tags chevrolet, jeff gordon, johnson, newman, patrick, tony stewart