Phoenix II: GM teams race notes, quotes

AVONDALE, Ariz - (November 14, 2010) - Four time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) champion Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet and Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet, are headed to the final race of the 2010...

AVONDALE, Ariz - (November 14, 2010) - Four time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) champion Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet and Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet, are headed to the final race of the 2010 Chase a mere 15 points and 46 points, respectively, behind the leader after finishing fifth and sixth at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR).

Hollywood could not have written the script for today's Kobalt Tools 500. With only five cautions for 25 laps, long green flag runs turned the 312-lap/312-mile/500K race into a battle of crew chiefs as they were forced to play the fuel mileage strategy game during the final 73-lap run of the race.

Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus radioed him to start conserving fuel to ensure they could make it to the end without being forced to pit. Gil Martin, Harvick's crew chief, delivered a similar message to his driver who had to battle his way back to the top-five after losing a lugnut on pit road during a earlier pit stop.

Point leader Denny Hamlin (Toyota) was forced to pit for fuel and could only muster a 12th place finish at the checkered flag; as the Team Chevy drivers crossed the finish line with fuel to spare.

Ryan Newman, No. 39 US Army Veterans Day Chevrolet, finished second to back up his victory at PIR in the spring race.

Mark Martin, No. 5 Chevrolet, finished eighth and Jamie McMurray, No. 1 McDonald's Chevrolet, finished 10th to give Team Chevy five of the top-10 finishers.

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, remains sixth in the standings after his 11th place finish in today's race.

Tony Stewart, No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet, finished 17th today and sits ninth in the points order.

With a 21st place finish, Clint Bowyer, No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, is 11th in the standings and Jeff Burton, No. 31 Cat Financial Chevrolet, finished 19th to remain in 12th position in the points.

Carl Edwards (Ford) was the race winner. Joey Logano (Toyota) and Greg Biffle (Ford) completed the top-five finishers.

The season concludes Sunday, November 21st at Homestead-Miami Speedway.



HOW WAS YOUR RACE TODAY?: "We did have a good car -- the US Army Chevrolet was pretty good all day long. I have to apologize to Jeff Burton -- I got into him there a little bit on one of those restarts. Veteran's Day paint scheme -- have to thank all the veterans out there, especially US Army. Proud to represent them and thinking about my buddy (Michael) Schumacher over there in Pomona and we'll go try to get them one more time in Homestead. A great run and great effort for the team today."



WHAT ALL DID YOU DO TO CONSERVE FUEL?: "I did anything I could to stay out of the throttle. Gave up a couple positions at the end, but driving to pit road I thought maybe I should have fought a little harder for those two spots because right now every point counts. Just a solid performance. We ran well all day long -- our pit stops were phenomenal and kept us out of trouble a lot because of the great stops on pit road. We had to work whatever magic we could there at the end and saved fuel and got it done. We have one heck of a points race going to Miami. I'm pumped. I'm so happy to put pressure on that 11 (Denny Hamlin) team -- we're ready to race for this thing."

WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET FOR HOMESTEAD?: "I know what my mindset is and I hope the pressure of us being on his (Denny Hamlin) heels really works on his mind throughout the course of the week -- he and his crew. Those guys better be on their toes. Not only do they have the 48 to worry about, but they have the 29 (Kevin Harvick) and one race winner take all -- it's going to be one hell of a show."

WAS IT DIFFICULT TO CONSERVE FUEL TODAY?: "At the end, that was tough to do, but it actually worked out for us. We had a good car today -- we ran in the top-four, top-six throughout most of the day, but unfortunately didn't have the pace that we needed to get up there and race for the win and lead a lap. I think today showed what this team is made of and we're fighting, kicking to try to get every point we can and we're ready for this final race."

ARE YOU GOOD AT SAVING FUEL?: "It's tough to do and at this track it seems like I can do a decent job of it. I tried it at Pocono a time and it always seems to work out to be a fuel mileage race at Pocono and I always seem to not save enough fuel. It has worked here and at this point in the year, it's important to get to the finish line."

WHAT WAS IT LIKE DRIVING 89 LAPS ON ONE TANK OF FUEL? YOU HAD TO TURN OFF THE FANS, YOU HAD TO CONSERVE, YOU COULDN'T USE BRAKES, WHAT ELSE? "I did anything I could to stay out of the throttle. We gave up a couple of positions at the end and when driving to pit road I thought man, I should have fought a little harder for those two spots because right now every point counts. But it was just a solid performance. We ran well all day long. Our pit stops were phenomenal and kept us out of trouble and kept us out of trouble a lot because of the great stops on pit road. And then we had to work whatever magic we could there at the end and save fuel and got it done and we have one heck of a points race going into Miami. I'm pumped. I'm so happy to put pressure on that No. 11 team (Denny Hamlin). We're ready to race."

YOU'RE STILL THE HUNTER WITH 15 POINTS BACK GOING INTO THE ONLY CHASE TRACK YOU'VE NEVER WON AT. WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET? "I know what my mindset is and I hope that the pressure of us being on his heels really works on his mind throughout the course of the week, he and his crew. These guys better be on their toes. Not only to they have the No. 48 to worry about, but they have the No. 29 (Kevin Harvick) and it's going to be a hell of a show."

WHAT A DAY. HOW WAS IT MENTALLY, UNDERNEATH THE HELMET, KNOWING THAT YOU HAD TO SAVE FUEL AND TRY TO GET POINTS BACK? "Yeah, at the end that was tough to do. Fortunately it worked out for us. We had a good car today. We ran in the top four and top six throughout most of the day. Fortunately we didn't have the pace we needed to get up there and race for the win and then lead a lap. But I think today shows what this team is made of. We'll fight and kick and scratch and get every point we can; and we're ready for this final race."

WHEN YOU ARE TOLD TO SAVE FUEL, WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO? "It's tough to do. At this track it seems like I can do a decent job of it. I try it at Pocono all the time and it seems to work out to be a fuel mileage race at Pocono and I never save enough fuel. So I'm glad that it worked here. Certainly this time of the year it's important to get to the finish line.

DID YOU HAVE ANY DOUBTS AS TO WHETHER OR NOT YOU COULD MAKE IT? "We started early enough thinking about fuel, to where I felt comfortable that we had a chance. There are times when a crew chief will tell you with 10 to go, save fuel, save fuel, we've got to save fuel, and you're like right, there's not a chance. Both Michigan races last year come to mind when I think of that. But today we got a head start on it. I started conserving fuel early. And you can do it over a long period of time, it's just impossible to do it over a short period of time."

TALK ABOUT HOW YOU RAN TODAY "We didn't run like we wanted to today. We ran well and have nothing to be disappointed in but a good day right now isn't going to get it done. You have to have a great day. So the fact that the fuel mileage was there today and got us in position to go to Homestead and really race for this and to put a lot of pressure on that No. 11 (Hamlin) is the biggest thing working for us right now. And the fact that we reduced that point lead? I hope he has a hell of a time sleeping all week and I hope he hears every rattle in that car (laughs) and everything that you can imagine at Homestead."

HOW MUCH OF A CONCERN IS IT THAT DENNY HAMLIN WAS SHOWING PERFORMANCE TODAY LIKE YOU USUALLY DO AT PHOENIX AND ALSO THE PAST COUPLE OF WEEKS? "It's a reality we're facing. They seem to have a little bit more pace than we do right now. But I think today showed that we're not over; it's not over until the last lap and we're not going to quit trying and we made it work. We made chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what and had a good finish."

HOW DID THE PIT SWAP WORK FOR YOU TODAY? "The pit stops were great today. The guys really stepped up in a very tough situation and did their job and truthfully, their good pit stops kept us up front all day long because we struggled a little bit on track. We could run fourth to sixth but that was kind of it. And their stops really kept us towards the front."

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO QUESTION YOUR PERFORMANCE AT HOMESTEAD? "I'm not sure why that's even relevant. If you look at points accumulated over the course of the Chase, I think that will speak volumes as to what type of Chase took place. I know we've been competitive, but not as dominant as we wanted to all year long. We've got to go down there and race for it; there's no doubt about it. I continue to hear that the No. 48 hasn't had to race for it before and we've raced for it all Chase long.

"Maybe at Homestead we've been able to protect, but we certainly know that's not the case this year and I love where we are. I love putting pressure on these guys and in fact I'm glad we cut their lead in half."



HOW DID YOU PULL OFF 89 LAPS ON ONE TANK OF GAS FOR THE FINISH?: "The guys did a really good job. With the fuel numbers that we had, we were going to be pretty close when we stopped with 88 to go. As soon as we took off, I told Jimmie (Johnson) to go ahead and save fuel and start saving at that point. Obviously you can't predict what's going to happen, when the caution came out just a couple laps into it, that definitely helped us a lot and Jimmie saved a lot of fuel at that point.

"With about 25 to go, we were listening to the Gibbs cars and we knew that they were going to be light so with 25 to go, I told him to go ahead and start backing off some more; and then once the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and 18 (Kyle Busch) pitted, then I knew that we could start laying back and making sure we made it. It turned out great, it was a great race. The KOBALT race here was awesome and it's cool to have them as a sponsor and the fans saw one hell of a race."

YOU ROLLED THE DICE THERE AND PUT IT ALL ON THE LINE, KIND OF DO OR DIE? "Well, it was; but based on the numbers that we had, we figured it out right after we stopped, I told Jimmie to start saving fuel at that point. He obviously did a good job in saving fuel. We were only a half a lap short based on the fuel numbers that we had and so we were pretty good at that point. When that caution came out, I felt pretty confident we were going to make it. As soon as the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) pitted, we really backed him down just to make sure and it turned out great.

WERE YOU NERVOUS? "I was nervous until five (laps) to go and at that point the bet was made. So there were no nerves after that."

THE CHAMPIONSHIP WAS ON THE LINE "It's on the line every day."



"I kind of got over it (feeling emotionally down) after about 15 laps and just started driving the car again. And it all worked out in the end. The guys thought we were really close on fuel and they thought we could make it, no problem. But they were still a little bit nervous about it and our mistake (missing lugnut) wound up being one of the things that kept us going."

YOU CAME BACK AND ALMOST WON THE RACE "Yeah, I'm not going to lie to you. I was down. And they just kept harping at me and then I finally just kept at it and when I heard them say we were good on fuel I knew we at least had a chance just for the fact that the race tended to have a lot of green flag runs today."

TALK ABOUT THE EMOTIONS, DO YOU FEEL A SENSE OF RELIEF RIGHT NOW? "Well, our mistake wound up being something that gained us more points than if we would have not made the mistake. We just kept after it and wound up getting an okay day.

"I didn't ever know that it would come down to the last race and I guess it's 46 points, I don't know how far it is from first to second (15 points), but that's what we race for. An hour ago I would have told you we were done. But now we stand here talking about gaining 11 or 13 (points) or whatever we gained today and we'll go down there (Homestead-Miami Speedway) and still have a shot."

ON THE PIT STOP "I wasn't really mad. I was just disappointed because I thought that it all had come out from underneath us. But in the end our mistake is the thing that gained us ground today."

HOW RELIEVED ARE YOU TO BE IN THIS POSITION AFTER THE DAY YOU HAD?: "We're just lucky to be honest with you. These guys on pit road, they do a great job and just made a mistake. I was pretty down and thought, there it went. Richard (Childress, team owner) and Gil (Martin, crew chief) were just like, 'keep at it, you never know what's going to happen.' Then they told me that I could make it on gas and the car just didn't handle very well in traffic. Once we got up towards the front, it was handling pretty good and the further towards the front that it got, the better the car got. We dodged one for sure and still have a chance next week so that's all you can ask for."

HOW DOES THE SHOWDOWN FOR HOMESTEAD FEEL?: "I don't know how many points it is, but I will take these guys up against anybody. I believe those guys on pit road can do the best job and I never said a word about anything on the pit stop because they've done such a good job over the last four weeks and we just have to keep doing that. Our car will be fast next week, it was fast this week -- not quite as good as the 99 (Carl Edwards) or the 11 (Denny Hamlin), but we never really got to restart up there with them. Just have to thank Richard and Gil for keeping me pumped up after I got a little down and we hung with them."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR RACE TODAY?: "To be honest with you, I was pretty down when we had the pit stop problem. Gil (Martin, crew chief) and Richard (Childress, team owner) just kept harping at me to stay after it, stay after it and I got over it about 15 laps into the run there and we started picking them off. They told me it was going to be close on gas and just to be easy on the throttle. The race had those tendencies to go green today so we gained points and that's all you can ask for, not matter how you did it."

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO IN HOMESTEAD?: "We just have to be aggressive. That's been a great race track, statistically, which is something you guys like to use. It's our best race track on the circuit, so we're looking forward to it."



DID LOSING THE MISSING LUGNUT ACTUALLY PLAY IN YOUR FAVOR? "I know there is no stress test a Dr. could give you to prepare you for right there. The guys on pit road did a great job all day long and at Texas last week. There won't be any crew changes on our deal; those guys are doing a fabulous job. I mean it was an emotional roller coaster right there. At the end we would have had to have gotten gas or slowed up like the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) did. When we were running 13th, it wouldn't have done us any good if we would have just started falling back. It worked out about as best as it could work out. Coming out of here with a sixth place and gaining 13 points, going to Homestead just 46 points out...hey man, we're in this thing. I think we still have it."

THAT IS WHY YOU RUN THE LAPS, RIGHT? "That's why you run the race."

DID YOU EXPECT IT TO BE THIS CLOSE GOING TO HOMESTEAD? "Yes, because all three of these teams are that good. It is going to take a mistake. It is going to take a flat tire or something like that to make something happen. I think next week it is going to be every man for himself. It will probably be wild next week. I'm looking forward to it."

WERE YOU PROUD OF HOW THE TEAM RECOVERED FROM IT? "Shoot yes. That pit crew did a great job. It didn't faze them; it won't faze them next week. All it will make them do is be better next week."

SO THE LUGNUT SITUATION ULTIMATELY SAVED YOU GUYS? "Well, it didn't hurt. As it turned out, because it went green, it didn't kill us. We were able to keep running and it didn't kill us because we had gas to make it to the end. We had to check-up and save there for just a little while just to make certain if there was a green-white-checkered that we had fuel because we would have been dead in the water if a caution had come out with about six to go because one, we wouldn't have had tires like Denny and a couple one of them probably had to stop and get. And two, we probably wouldn't have had the fuel to run the green-white-checkered. So, it probably cost us four points for not passing the No. 48 there, but the 60 points we would have lost if we would have run out of gas, we wouldn't be in contention next week. You will still be able to talk about us next week, we're not out yet."

DID YOU RUN OUT? "We didn't run out, no. We just wanted to make sure we didn't. We wanted to make sure we have enough for a green-white-checkered. Man, what can you say, we lived to fight another day."

WAS THE LUGNUT MISSING? "Yes, one was missing. Knocked one off the left rear but he does a great job back there on the back, that guy is one of the best in this garage area. He'll come back stronger than ever next week. He'll be fine."

HOW DO YOU THINK YOU GUYS STACK UP TO THE OTHER TWO AT HOMESTEAD? "I think we're better than both of them."

DOES IT BOTHER YOU THAT THE NO. 11 (DENNY HAMLIN) HAS SHOWN STRENGTH THE LAST TWO WEEKS? "Well, I would have liked to see how we would have run up there with them when we were third. Clean air is king. It is good for a tenth or a tenth and a half, we all know that, everywhere we go. We fought our way through traffic twice right there so we obviously had to have a pretty good car right there and Kevin did a good job. Homestead is a great track for Kevin. We ran excellent there last year. We have a brand new car we are taking there. We are looking forward to it."

HOW DID YOU KEEP KEVIN CALM? "Well, I was just trying to let him know that the one advantage that we did have is that if it went green, we could make it. We knew the No. 11 and them couldn't make it because one, they probably didn't get as good a gas mileage as we did and two, they were running too hard, they were going to burn their fuel down. Everybody was calling for debris and we kept making sure we were on the radio saying there was no debris out there. Calling every corner (and) just trying to ensure him that we could make it if it went green. If it didn't, we were sitting there with 12 lap better left tires, so a two tire change would have been good for us so we would have had an opportunity to get track position there. We were kind of in good shape for a very small window with around 12 to go to 15 to go because if Denny had gotten a caution right then, we would have been in big trouble. That didn't happen. I can't believe we went that long here at the end at Phoenix, but we did."

-source: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Denny Hamlin , Chad Knaus , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin