Team Chevy drivers talk about their nights at Darlington Raceway.
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 4 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET SS – WINNER
AN EVENTFUL RACE BUT LETS START WITH THOSE LAST TWO RESTARTS STARTING WITH THE ONE WHERE YOU SHOVED DALE EARNHARDT, JR. OUT THERE AND THEN WERE TRYING TO CHASE THOSE GUYS DOWN:
“It was just one of those deals where the strategy was going to be hard to overcome with the track position without those green-white-checkers there at the end. The cautions all lined out and this Budweiser Chevrolet was unbelievable all night. We were able to hang on there at the end and I knew I had that high line I hadn’t showed it to them all night on the restarts and I wanted to save it until the very end. I kind of learned that last night as we were in the Nationwide race. It was a good tool in your tool bag to have there at the end.”
DID YOU HAVE ANY POINTS OF NERVOUSNESS THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT?
“After the last several weeks were nervous every lap. It’s one of those deals where we have had a lot of crazy things happen. These guys have just kept their head down and known that we have had really fast race cars over the last several weeks. Tonight we were able to put a whole race together. Great night for us.”
PRETTY SURE WE CAN SAY AS A TWO TIME WINNER IN 2014 YOU ARE LOCKED INTO THIS YEAR’S CHASE HOW DOES THAT FEEL? “It feels great. It’s allowed us with the way the points system is to go for wins and not have to worry about the bad weeks too much. Really proud for these guys and looking forward to the last 10.”
HOW BIG OF A DEAL IS IT TO WIN AT DARLINGTON?
“This is the one race I told Rodney (Childers, crew chief) I wanted to win. We were able to put it all together, but this is the Southern 500, this is as big as it gets in NASCAR racing.”
THIS WAS A BIG WIN FOR SO MANY REASONS. YOU WON AT PHOENIX AND YOU’VE HAD NOTHING BUT BAD LUCK. TO WIN THE SOUTHERN 500; AND THIS WAS A SHOOTOUT. TALK ABOUT THE WIN:
“Yeah, the first thing I want to do is to thank everybody on this Budweiser Chevrolet. Everybody who is a part of this car. Hendrick engines have been great all year. These guys on the No. 4 team and everybody who puts this car on the race track every weekend. We had to overcome a lot in these past several weeks, but we’ve had really fast cars. So, we just kept our heads down and did what we had to do.”
TALK ABOUT YOUR STRATEGY AND YOUR FRAME OF MIND WITH THOSE LAST COUPLE OF LAPS AND THE SHOOTOUT:
“Well, I needed those green-white-checkers. The last one is probably the one I needed the most, just for the fact that I was able to get really good re-starts and was able to time the restarts really well. Those guys had older tires and were spinning the tires. I knew if I could make it through (Turns) 1 and 2, close to the No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), I knew I had the top line there and they were on the bottom. So it was a good night, man! This is the Southern 500!”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 2ND
THE LAST FEW LAPS TELL US ABOUT THEM:
“Just didn’t have enough tires you know. (Kevin) Harvick had the best car and the best tires at the end. It was real hard to hold him off. I should have probably ran the top down there in (Turns) 3 and 4 and made him go around the bottom, but I think he was going to get us anyway and we were going to try. A great run, good job by my team, this isn’t one of my best tracks so my team gave me a great car. I’ve got to give them a lot of credit.”
YOU TOOK THE BOTTOM, HE HAD FRESHER TIRES. DID YOU STILL THINK THAT MIGHT GIVE YOU THAT SHOT?
“No, he (Kevin Harvick) had the best car and the best tires. I wasn’t looking in the mirror so I couldn’t really tell where anybody was. But they just said he was coming. So, I maybe should have run the top there in (turns) 3 and 4 coming to the white (flag) and made him work the bottom to get around us. We had a great car. This is the best finish I’ve had here. I don’t really run that great here, so the guys had to prepare a really good car for us to run that well. I’ve got to give the National Guard team a lot of credit.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 3RD
WILD FINISH THERE TELL US ABOUT YOUR LAST FEW LAPS AS YOU TRIED TO RACE FOR THE WIN TONIGHT:
“Things were really going our way there when we took two tires and got the restart under control and had a good lead there. Then the caution came out and at that point I knew that us on two tires we were probably in big trouble and the No. 4 had worked his way up through there and did a great job, it seemed like the fastest car all night long. We had to gamble to kind of take a shot at getting a win and Chad (Knaus, crew chief) played it right and we were in the right position, but just got two cautions there at the end that kept us from getting to Victory Lane.”
A LITTLE BIT OF SHOVING ON THE RESTARTS IS THAT JUST DARLINGTON?
“Yeah the guys on two tires just couldn’t accelerate and I think the No. 4 helped the No. 88 quite a bit getting him going. Junior asked on the radio if I would give him a shove and I said ‘yeah man no problem’ so I pushed him as hard as I could down the front and got him by the No. 4, but those four tires got back by.”
INCREDIBLE EFFORT ON WHAT YOU DID. WHEN YOU WERE LEADING, YOU CHOSE THE OUTSIDE RESTART. TELL ME ABOUT THAT DECISION
“First and foremost, I’m just thankful that my guys never quit working and never stopped trying. We didn’t qualify well and really the first quarter of the race, the car was really far off. Chad (crew chief, Knaus) took big swings at this car and got this Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevy flying. It was really competitive. The restart at the end, I was talking to the guys on the radio and they said the outside was kind of the place to be. I hadn’t seen the front all night long and I was talking to Junior as I got out of the car and he said that was a bad move. And then certainly the push that the No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) got from the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) got him by me. But before that, we had two or three (laps) to go and I had a nice lead and I thought it was going to come our way, but it just didn’t work out.”
IF YOU WERE TO DO IT OVER, WOULD YOU HAVE TAKEN THE TWO TIRES, AND HAVE STILL CHOSEN THE OUTSIDE?
“Yeah, if it was two and my outside worked on that first one, and I got away from everybody, if it had stayed green there, I think we were in great shape.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 7TH
YOU ARE STILL LEADING THE POINTS HERE AS YOU COME OFF THIS RACE HERE AT DARLINGTON TELL US ABOUT TONIGHT:
“We had a really strong race car and everything was going really well. Kevin (Harvick) definitely that number one pit stall and he was fast too, but I thought we were a little bit better than him on certain runs. There towards the end I don’t know we just kind of started fading. I got into the wall a little bit and got the right side flattened up a little bit and then from there our night just went downhill. We just made some mistakes and got behind. We were the last car on two tires and then got ate up on those restarts. Actually that last one wasn’t bad to come home seventh. I thought it was going to be a lot worse than that. Good to be leading the points I feel like a missed opportunity, but another great race car and I’m happy about that.”
ON THE RACE:
“There towards the end, we just kind of started fading. I got into the wall a little bit and got the right-side flattened up a little bit and then from there I just went downhill. We just made some mistakes and got behind and were the last car on two tires and then got eaten up on those re-starts. But actually that last one wasn’t bad to come home seventh. I thought it was going to be a lot worse than that. So, it’s good to be leading the points. I feel like I missed an opportunity, but this is another great race car and I’m happy about that.”
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 CERTAINTEED/MENARDS CHEVROLET SS – HIT THE WALL ON LAP 201
“I hit the wall like 10 laps before and I guess the right-front tire just went down. Kind of rode the wall in (Turns) 3 and 4 and I guess I was just in denial, I guess I didn’t realize the right-front tire was down. It felt fine going down the front stretch and let go it killed Turn 1. A lot of damage, the guys are going to try to fix it.”
HOW WAS THE RACE TRACK BEFORE YOU HIT THE WALL?
“When the sun went down I think it freed up. Since it’s been dark it kind of stabilized I don’t think it changed a whole lot since the sun went down.”