By Team Chevy
TEAM CHEVY IN THE GARAGE AT INFINEON RACEWAY – PAT SUHY, GM RACING NASCAR GROUP MANAGER: “The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads west, to Infineon Raceway, for the first of two road course events on the Cup schedule this season. It's always fun to watch the drivers muscle these big cars around the challenging 10-turn, 1.99-mile track.
“The turns are combinations of varying radii with significant elevation changes, which makes find an optimum chassis setup a study in tradeoff management for drivers and crew chiefs. Track position is everything here, since comfortable passing locations are few and far between. So there is normally a significant emphasis put on qualifying. A good qualifying run takes the immediate pressure off a crew chief to come up with a pit strategy to gain positions that way, and allows them to focus on staying in or near the lead while fine tuning the car to suit the driver and the track conditions.
“Road racing also means a lot of rowing through the gears and dependence on great brake systems that will go the distance. As we saw in Pocono, shifting even a time or two a lap can lead to failures, so it's a safe bet that the transmission suppliers and transmission specialists will be losing sleep until this race is over. Brake packages are well-developed and will be similar to the packages seen at short tracks like Martinsville. With 10 turns in a 110-lap race at Infineon, the number of brake applications will be similar to what's seen in a 500-lap race at Martinsville.
“Team Chevy drivers have collected 10 wins in 22 Sprint Cup races at Infineon Raceway, more than any other manufacturer. If things go as planned this weekend, there's no reason to believe that we won't be celebrating victory number 11 on Sunday afternoon.”
TEAM CHEVY FROM THE DRIVER’S SEAT AT INFINEON RACEWAY:
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET – 2ND IN STANDINGS: “Oh, we definitely have a lot of friends and people that come to support us at the (Infineon) race track so it’s fun to see that. Road racing to me is a lot of fun. I think I ran my first race at Sonoma in the SouthWest Tour car in 1995. So it’s always fun to go back to a race track where you’ve had those experiences so early in your career. It’s a fun place to race and I really enjoy going out there. There’s really no where good to pass. That’s the problem. That’s why it becomes so rough, because (the track’s) so narrow and the small amount of areas where there are decent passing zones lead into really, really slow corners and that’s why you see as much contact as you do. It is way more like a short-track race than anywhere else and probably as rough a race as you’ll see anywhere on the circuit. The whole key is just getting the right track position at the end of the race. You have to fight all day to put yourself in position to be in those top couple of spots as the race comes down to the end. Sometimes it comes down to fuel mileage and sometimes it comes down to having the best handling car, but in the end track position will be key.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – 3RD IN STANDINGS: “We ran really good there last year and finished 11th. I like Sonoma but it's tough. Steve (Letarte) and Jeff (Gordon), there is a lot of talent there on road courses to lean on. I’m pretty confident with the setup we’ve got for this weekend. I’ve got some of the best road course racers as teammates, so we should be pretty good.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION CHEVROLET – 5TH IN STANDINGS: “I’m in the window that I want to be in (regarding his road racing skills). In my eyes, I am kind of on the bottom side of the window in the middle portion of it. We had a great race in Sonoma – at the Glen we had a flat tire early and I was able to carve my way through traffic and I think something else crazy happened. Running well I got turned around by 18 (Kyle Busch) or I can’t remember off of turn 11. Long story short, I’m very confident now on road courses and move forward and am a threat. I still think I can be better though. Still choose to run Grand Am races when it works and anything I can for that matter on a road course to get more experience. I didn’t work with anyone directly. The closest thing to working with someone would have been at the Grand Am races I have competed in and looking at the data from the other drivers who have been Mark Goossens when I drove for Riley – Butch Leitzinger if you go all the way back when I first drove a DP car. Elliott Forbes-Robinson and then most currently with John Fogarty and Alex Guerny. In that environment you can and with the other stuff it’s really just been laps and seat time. I’ve been to the Bondurant School to learn – we’ve tested like crazy and I’ve run some Nationwide races just all trying to get reps and trying to let me search around and see what I need to do.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET – 8TH IN STANDINGS: “I’ve always said it’s much more physical going to the road courses inside the race car and I guess at times much more risk of having that driver control and not getting out of control and getting off the race track. Here, you get off the race track and you’re in the fence. There, you get off the race track and you’re in sand r you’re in the sticks, I guess you could say and that can totally change your day. Something as simple as getting a tire off course in qualifying can change your entire weekend. I look forward to going out there (Sonoma) – I love the challenge, I love the road course. To me, there’s two good passing zones and 11 corners so you’re falling behind on the guy in front of the guy in front of you in nine of the 11 if you don’t get around the guy in front of you. Keep up with me here. I like it, its fun to hustle the race cars. That’s what really as drivers we like.”
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 CHEERIOS/HAMBURGER HELPER CHEVROLET – 10TH IN STANDINGS: “Yeah, I won’t let them put a camera on my feet (while road racing) because it looks like I am break-dancing down there. I am out of control. You know it’s a lot of fun to do that and its very technical race track. A lot of fun, it really is with a lot of hills and blind corners and the dive bombs getting into the last corner over there and there are just so many things that go into getting a good finish there. Running good there is one thing, but getting a good finish there is a whole different ballgame.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET – 11TH IN STANDINGS: “I always like it (racing at Infineon). There is just something about Sonoma there that is awesome. It is a NASCAR weekend, but it gets us out of our box and it is almost half a vacation and half a race weekend for us. All the teams and the crew guys, the drivers, the girlfriends and wives, everybody has a good time out there. I enjoy it and I am proud of it (seven road course wins). It is nice. I have always taken a lot of pride in hopefully trying to be good at a lot of different things. A road course is definitely something different for sure. Even if is in a stock car so having seven wins on a road course is something I am pretty proud of.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET – 12TH IN STANDINGS: “No matter what is happening for us on road courses, I love going out there (Sonoma) and this is certainly no exception. We’re going to go out a little bit early. We’re going to spend some time as a family with other family and friends that are out there. We’re going to be celebrating my daughter’s birthday, which we didn’t get a chance to do last year because Eva (wife) was pregnant and she didn’t travel to that race and neither did Ella (daughter). We’re looking forward to doing that again, which is always fun and exciting and motivating for me to go win the race just because of the party that my wife puts together. It still blows me away that I’m trying to figure out how we’re going to get her to 16. It’s a lot of fun regardless and it’s just a spectacular weekend. The wine country is beautiful; the race track is such a fun and challenging race track. You know, I'll say this and I really mean it, I mean we have struggled on the road courses in recent years and it's not something that we've been accustomed to and it's not something we like, so we've been working really hard at making improvements there and we actually tested at a road course back East, Mid-Ohio, and I'm hoping that that test will definitely get us closer to where we need to be to be more competitive out in Sonoma. Just haven't been able to get the balance right there and find the speed that we need, so hopefully we have that this time. It's a very challenging race track. It's one that you really struggle between being aggressive and being patient. On a road course, you typically really want to attack the breaking zones. But Sonoma, with the elevation changes and the off cambered turns, it's one of those tracks where you have to be very careful at over attacking and you can drive it too hard. And plus setting up the car, there's some fast sections as well as some very technical sections, so getting the car right for that track is extremely challenging as well as driving it.”
MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE/GODADDDY. COM CHEVROLET – 14TH IN STANDINGS: “Road course races are taken more and more seriously every year. I mean, look at the race teams who have tested on a road course the past month or so? You can’t just say ‘It’s only two races, so we won’t concentrate on these.’ With how competitive this sport is, there are no races you can pay less attention to than any others. I remember when I started, no one took road course races seriously. There were only a handful of cars back then that were competitive on a road course. It’s just not that way today. Every team out there can win. It’s a tough, tough weekend. Infineon is a very demanding course and a demanding race. I think it’s difficult for all oval racers. I know, when I took a few years off from road course races, it was really hard for me to get back into it when I came back in 2009. It’s tough mentally, and it’s a tough adjustment to get used to these tracks again. Hendrick Motorsports has put a lot of emphasis on its road course program. I know I haven’t performed the way I wanted to the past couple of years in Sonoma and Watkins Glen, but I’m hoping that changes this week.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 COTTONELLE CHEVROLET – 15TH IN STANDINGS: “It’s weird because we run really good at Watkins Glen and have struggled at Sonoma lately. To tell you the truth, I had my first win at Sonoma, so that’s always pretty encouraging. Just never had a really good car there. We can finish top-10, top-five pretty easy there, but I think last year at Watkins we learned a lot and made the car a lot better, so going into Sonoma it is going to be exciting. We know where to go with the Cottonelle Chevrolet and we are in a really good position right now, so a good finish is important.”
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 DURACELL/MENARDS CHEVROLET – 16TH IN STANDINGS: “I feel pretty comfortable on a road course, but all these guys are so damn good; they’re all good on road courses. It’s no different than an oval race really. We’ll just put our best foot forward. And if things go good on Friday, that makes Saturday and Sunday a lot easier. Sonoma is a whole different animal. But we’ve got another top 10, another top five; and going to a road course next week is totally different. But I’m confident that we’ll have a good car out there and it’ll be a little bit of fuel mileage this week too.”
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET – 25TH IN STANDINGS: “I’m a driver who tries not to run into people. I do, from time to time, but I try not to. And I’ll bet you the last five or six races at Infineon I’ve gotten wrecked late in the race running top 10 and got wrecked by people who just didn’t care. It makes you want to just say you know what? I’m going to take care of myself and whoever gets wrecked gets wrecked. I don’t like to race like that and I’m certainly not saying I’m going to race like that, but it’s certainly tempting. I think it’s been ridiculous. I think that some of these wrecks have been just unbelievably ridiculous. So many cars are running the same speed that in order to pass somebody, you’re forced to get really aggressive and there’s only two places to pass. So in those two places you have to be aggressive. And then you get down close to the race and you start trying to protect your position and the guy behind you is trying to take the position and it just gets ugly. There’s been a lot of contact the last few years; a lot.
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 MCDONALD’S CHEVROLET – 28TH IN STANDINGS: “I really like going to Sonoma. Infineon Raceway is one of my favorite places to race. I have had some really good cars there, I sat on the pole once and finished second there once in addition to leading some laps. I just feel really comfortable at that track, so that always makes it easier to go there with a good mind-set. I hope that we can build some momentum from our top-20 finish last weekend at Michigan and get solid finishes to our credit.”
REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW CHEVROLET – 29TH IN STANDINGS: "I like the road course races, but I am not sure if the road circuits like me. The Sonoma race will be my fifth career start on a road course and I haven't had that much success so far. But I know that will change, it's a matter of getting more experience. We tested the Furniture Row Chevrolet at Virginia International Raceway road course last week and we were really pleased with the results. Now we have to transfer what we learned to this weekend's race at Infineon Raceway. When you race on ovals nearly every week, this is a nice change of pace to make both left-and-right-hand turns. I really want to improve on the road circuits. Our next road race at Watkins Glen is the closest track to where I grew up in Cato, New York. You always want to do well for your hometown fans and family. Our expectations might not be high this weekend, but I am also hoping for a road-course breakthrough."