Charlotte Motor Speedway
TEAM CHEVY AT CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY – ALBA COLON, NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES PROGRAM MANAGER, GM RACING: “We always look forward to Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where we face the longest race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, the Coca-Cola 600. This race is really exciting for the fans because the 600-miler starts in the afternoon and ends under the lights at night.
“Running 600 miles is more than just an endurance race. In addition to being both mentally and physically tough for the drivers and crews, there are many other challenges to such a long race. Going from day to night, the track surface will change more dramatically than at any other track on the tour. Our Chevy teams will have to make considerably more adjustments to their cars to adapt to those changing conditions. The cars that are the most ‘neutral’ are the ones that will be ahead of the game and the competition. And, as it has been proven race after race, track position will again be a key element to success.
Regardless of surface, that track (Charlotte Motor Speedway) is still challenging.
“Last week’s All-Star race was very important for our Chevy teams and our General Motors engineers to try different race set-ups, engine combinations, and other elements that we can use not only for the Coca-Cola 600, but for other 1.5-mile tracks going forward. It was a valuable opportunity to evaluate the performance of the race cars, make notes, and see what will likely work this weekend.
“When the teams reach the last 100 to 150 miles of the race, that’s when they will really begin working on their strategies to figure out what needs to be done to be able to win. This is also an important race for the teams because naturally they want to win in their own backyard! Chevrolet has a winning history at Charlotte, and I am really looking forward to celebrating with one of our Chevy teams on Sunday evening.”
TEAM CHEVY FROM THE DRIVER’S SEAT AT CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY:
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S SUMMER SALUTE CHEVROLET – 2ND IN STANDINGS: “Regardless of surface, that track (Charlotte Motor Speedway) is still challenging. It shows up in different ways. The temperature of the track and the rubber going down changes so much from the start to the finish; and really, from when we make decisions based on our set-ups in Happy Hour. That track goes through a bunch of changes. You have a Nationwide race and then all of our stuff day to night. So it is a handful. And you find that the winning car is usually un-drivable at the start of the race and you just have to nurse it along and not make mistakes. And I’ve made a few mistakes here of late. I’ve spun out a lot off of Turn 2 and I really hope to not do that again (laughs). But it’s a challenging track and a challenging event when you have such a fickle surface to race on. It really is. When they put that new surface down we lost the advantage we had. We still seem to run well there. We’ve been in contention and have been in the top five and been running well. So, we’re there. I enjoy that track. The old track, and how rough it was and abrasive it was, really fit my style. We had a great set-up for it and I knew how to drive the track. The rougher the track, the better in my opinion; I seem to do better at those tracks. So, in time, the track will get there.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY CHEVROLET – 4TH IN STANDINGS: “I like running here and I’m glad the track is fun, it is a fun race track. The two corners couldn’t be any more different from each other. (Turns) one and two seems like it’s a half mile longer than (turns) three and four. Three and four is real tight and tough to get through, the suns sort of bakes on that corner real bad. One and two is kind of long and fun and pretty drawn out for you. And there’s great racing here and the walls are yellow oddly enough. There are just all kinds of cool things about this place and neat things about it.”
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER/ARMED FORCES CHEVROLET – 5TH IN STANDINGS: “I think as a driver you are mentally prepared and kind of just know how long a 500-mile or 400-mile race is, but I think the people who worry about it the most are the engine guys just because everything they do is set off of 500 miles, so they probably worry about it a lot more than we do. You can definitely do it (adjust the car) either way. You can make it better or you can dial yourself way out. I’ve been a part of that race several times where you start the race really good and by the times its dark you are in big trouble. So you definitely have to have some past history as far as what the race track does and that’s one reason why the All-Star race is so important. Just for the fact that everything you do in that race is at night and the 600 is going to end at night so you kind of have to take what happens at the All-Star race and then what you do in the day time practices and mix those two together and rely on a lot of past notes and things to try to have a set up that’s adjustable. And you have to make a lot of adjustments during the race just out of past theories and past experiences. If your car is not doing something and its getting dark rapidly you are going to have to make a change on the fly without your car doing something. You are just going to have to trust it’s the right change and just make it if the time is right as far as the sun going down and when the darkness is coming.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY CHEVROLET – 7TH IN STANDINGS: “We’ve got top-five finishes and have been knocking on the door at each one but this is a big weekend and the Coke 600, being a Coke driver now adds a little extra to it, but Memorial Day weekend is really special for us with the Army and the all the great festivities and functions the track puts on for Memorial Day. That to me is as much special as the Coke 600. It all depends on how the car is handling and how hot it is outside. That additional 100 miles when you’re leading the race and the car is pretty good it probably lasts forever but it’s just another 100 miles, it’s just logging some time. If the car is really misbalanced and you’re fighting loose entry and struggling and up by the fence it can be miserable because there’s times when you’re a 15th-place car and you’re running 15th and you know you are at the best of what you can get 500 miles in and you’ve still got 100 miles to go and your shoulders are tired, your elbows are wore out and you’re looking out the right side of the car, so it all depends on how your car is handling really.”
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 CHEERIOS/HAMBURGER HELPER CHEVROLET – 8TH IN STANDINGS: “If your car is good and you’re handling good and you’ve got a good balance on it, the 600 doesn’t seem any longer than any other race. They all seem long. But man, I’m telling you, if you’re having a long day and things aren’t going good, oh you think it’s never going to end. I’ve been on both sides of that fence and I’m pretty excited about which side of the fence I think I’m going to be on. We’ve got a good car. It’s the same car we ran second with in Texas. Things are good. This is not our typical spring race in Charlotte. Usually we’re here and then we’re struggling for speed and miserable already talking to you guys (media) and the All-Star practice. And after one practice our car is good and it’s got good speed and I’m looking forward to the 600. I think the biggest strategy is just trying to keep it up front in clean air all day long and managing that track position and the balance on your race car. That’s the biggest thing; just making sure that you keep a good balance and keep that car underneath of you and up front in clean air all day long and out of trouble. If you do that, you’re going to be all right.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET – 10TH IN STANDINGS: “What you learn during the All-Star will help to get ready for the 600. The entire field is going to do that so it gives everybody the same opportunity. I don’t know that there is anything difficult about the 600. You still approach it the same as you do a 500-mile race. You just have to get your car balanced. The hard part is you start with it hot in late afternoon and then you are going to have quite a bit of time for the track to change a bunch from the beginning of the race to the end of the race. That is probably the biggest challenge but it is always a challenge when you run night races when you are going to start late afternoon.”
MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 CARQUEST/GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET – 11TH IN STANDINGS: “I’ve said many times, in my opinion; this is the coolest venue in the world. I’ve always loved this race track. I think it’s a great facility. The track is great to race on. It represents our sport well. And I love the fans here and their enthusiasm. So it’s great that we race here. It would be harder for me to hit a golf ball than it would be to drive a race car. There’s a physical aspect to what we do that is not really common knowledge, just like the aspect to golf or drag racing or anything else that I don’t necessarily acknowledge because I have no great interest in that so I don’t look at it and analyze it that close. But I think that anything you do on a professional level that the Indy 500 is or the Coca-Cola 600, anything you do on a level like that is extremely intense, physically and mentally, in different ways.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – 14TH IN STANDINGS: “I think the strategy (for the 600) is to get to halfway and be on the lead lap. I think that is the key. When you are on the lead lap at the halfway point, then that is when the race begins. You know 300 miles is a long way, and as long as you are on the lead lap I feel that you have a real shot at winning the race and tuning on the car and getting it where you need to be and be fast at the end. To me what is so difficult about the 600 is you are pretty much are practicing during the day to try and get ready for a night race. You start the race in the late afternoon, early evening. The track temperature is still pretty warm and it cools down quite a bit as you go into the night so the track conditions change dramatically. Your setup has got to be flexible and then it is a very, very long race so hydration and just trying to stay up with the changing conditions of the track to me are the most challenging part of the race. In order to be good at the end, we’ve struggled at the beginning at times and that just makes that first 100 miles go by so slow. It seems to me when the sun goes down the track conditions get better it seems like the laps start clicking off and then the whole race goes better.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – 15TH IN STANDINGS: “It's the longest race of the season so there’s always a chance for things to go wrong. It’s a race where we start out with daylight and then end at night. That means you’re constantly making adjustments to get the handling right under different track conditions. We’ve learned a lot over the course of the last few weeks and the guys have been making a lot of changes to our Target Chevrolet’s so I’m feeling pretty good about the direction we’re heading in. The focus is to get us back up in the point standings and start competing for wins again.”
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 MOEN/MENARDS CHEVROLET – 17TH IN STANDINGS: “If I remember right, last year’s race (Coca-Cola 600, finished 8th) was a pretty uneventful night for us. We, basically, ran in the back half of the top 10 all night. We just kind of stayed there and stayed out of trouble, but that usually turns out to be good races. I don’t really feel much of a difference at all (in the extra 66 laps). I’m sure the fans in the stands feel it a lot more having to sit there a little bit longer, but for us drivers, it goes by really quick. The hardest part with running the extra laps is that you’re faced with more restarts and additional mileage on the engines. The key part is just trying to stay out of trouble for an extra 100 miles.”
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET – 22ND IN STANDINGS: “I am looking forward to Charlotte this weekend. Our team had a lot of success at this track last year and this is one of my favorite places to race. However after last weekend in the Sprint All Star race we learned that we have some work to do if we are going to repeat that 2010 success. We will be working on some changes to our cars for this weekend and as always our guys are giving it 100% commitment to make us more competitive. One of my favorite things about this race weekend at Charlotte is that we get to watch our teammates from the IndyCar side race at Indianapolis early in the day on Sunday and then the track always has some cool pageantry with all the military that gets you pumped up and ready to go! Racing on Memorial Day weekend is a reminder to give thanks to all the men and women that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, which allows us the opportunity to do the things that we love.
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET – 23RD IN STANDINGS: “It’s one of the most fun races (Coca-Cola 600) we do all year. It’s a long race. It’s a tough race, but that’s why it’s fun. A lot is talked about going from day to night, but I, personally, think that’s overblown. I’ve won that race. Never before have I run horrible during the day and, all of a sudden, taken off and run well at night. I think you have to run well both during the day and at night. Most of the drivers who win run well during the day and the night. It’s hard comparing day practices to a night race – there’s no question about that. But, that’s the same for everyone. A lot can happen in those (extra) 66 laps. You’re looking at an extra pit stop. A plethora of things can happen – engine fatigue, part fatigue and driver fatigue.”
REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING CHEVROLET – 29TH IN STANDINGS: "We've seen the highs and the lows in the past three weeks, and the highs are what we need to get back to. After the big win in Darlington (May 7), we had a mechanical issue in Dover and last week at the Sprint All-Star Race a fuel problem kept us from making a charge at the end. The good news is that our Furniture Row Chevrolets the past two races have been solid and that's what I am looking for again for the Coca-Cola 600 -- a strong race car, capable of running up front. I love this track, and deep down, I know we can do well here. We just need to avoid the gremlins and not make mistakes."
-source: team chevy