Six Team Chevy Drivers Qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with Mark Martin Seeded No. One; With 10 Races Remaining in the Season, Chevrolet Leads Manufacturers' Cup Standings Richmond, VA - Mark Martin, No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST...
Six Team Chevy Drivers Qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with Mark Martin Seeded No. One; With 10 Races Remaining in the Season, Chevrolet Leads Manufacturers' Cup Standings
Richmond, VA - Mark Martin, No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Impala SS, finished fourth in the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 to secure the top-seed heading in to the final 10-races of the 2009 season.
With four wins this season, Martin leads a six-car Team Chevy contingency in 12-car battle as the 2009 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field was set tonight at Richmond International Raceway.
Tony Stewart, No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Impala SS and Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, sit second and third in the standings after 26-races. Johnson, the defending and three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) champion, finished 11th tonight while two-time champion Stewart took the checkered flag tonight in 17th place.
Four-time NSCS champion Jeff Gordon brought the No. 24 DuPont/National Guard Wounded Warrior Impala SS, to the finish line third tonight and secured sixth place in the Chase standings.
Ryan Newman, No. 39 US Army/NCO Impala SS, secured 10th place in the Chase order with a 10th place finish in the Rock and Roll 400.
Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Target Impala SS, secured 11th in the standings to make the Chase for the first time in his NSCS career. Montoya posted a 19th place finish in tonight's race.
Clint Bowyer, No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Impala SS, finished sixth in the 400-lap/300-mile race. Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Impala SS, scored ninth tonight to give Team Chevy five of the top-10 finishers tonight.
Denny Hamlin (Toyota) won the race. Kurt Busch (Dodge) and Kyle Busch (Toyota) completed the top-five finishers.
In addition to the six Team Chevy drivers, completing the 12 driver roster in the Chase battle are: Hamlin, Kasey Kahne (Dodge), Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers (Toyota), Carl Edwards (Ford) and Greg Biffle (Ford).
The Chase kicks off September 20 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE IMPALA SS -- Finished 17th, Seeded 2nd)
IS IT IMPORTANT TO START BIG IN LOUDON? "I like starting at Loudon. It's a track that we run really well at. It's been good to us in the past. It's nice to have one of our stronger tracks right off the bat. Hopefully if we have a good run there it will set the tone for the last nine weeks."
IS THERE A TRACK THAT YOU WORRY ABOUT IN THE FINAL 10 RACES? "Well, I shouldn't say worry. Everybody kind of crosses their fingers when we go to Talladega because it only takes one mistake or not even a mistake, just two guys going two different directions, can make it a big deal. So, it can shuffle everything up in one wreck."
YOU WON A CHAMPIONSHIP WITHOUT WINNING ANY CHASE RACES. CAN YOU STILL DO THAT THIS YEAR? "Well, you never know whether you can or you can't. Mathematically, yes you can do it. But you never know who is going to do what these last 10 weeks and you've just got to go out and do the best you can and gather as many points as you can each week."
"I am extremely proud. I am proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. I am proud of Gene Haas and Joe Custer that gave us the opportunity to be partners with them and help build this organization. Most of all Rick Hendrick and everybody at Hendrick Engines and Chassis. We just have a great package. We have a great group of people. We have a great support system with Rick and his guys. Just everybody at Stewart-Haas. I am so proud of those guys. They have done an awesome job of working over the winter. Darian Grubb, Tony Gibson, Ryan Newman, US Army, Office Depot, Old Spice, all these people that believed in us and wanted come and be a part of this program and helped us be where we are today."
WHAT DOES THIS MOMENT FEEL LIKE, FOR THE FIRST TIME YOU'RE AN OWNER GOING INTO THE CHASE WITH TWO CARS? "It's an awesome feeling but I can't take the credit for it. I've got to give the credit to Gene Haas and Joe Custer who gave us the opportunity and Rick Hendrick for his support and everybody at Hendrick engine shop and chassis shop and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. These guys have really, really busted their tails all winter to get us in this position this year. I couldn't be more proud of a group of people than everybody at Stewart-Haas."
YOU COULD HAVE PUT ANY DRIVER YOU WANTED IN THIS CAR, HOW ABOUT RYAN NEWMAN, IT'S BEEN A WHILE SINCE HE'S BEEN IN THIS SITUATION. "I'm proud to have him as a teammate. I'm proud we're both in this together. It's going to be fun to have 1/6 of the equation going into the Chase. It's something we're proud of. He has worked as hard as anybody. He's worked hard at the shop, he's worked his tail off at the race track. He's had to work harder and overcome more adversity than I have this year to get in this position. I'm proud of him as a friend first, I'm proud of him as a teammate second."
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY/NCO IMPALA SS -- Finished 10th, Seeded 10th:
"I am just so happy for everyone at the U.S. Army, Haas Automation, Chevrolet and everybody at Spring that helps us out. Its just really awesome to be in the Chase."
WHAT DID YOUR BOSS SAY TO YOU? "Just said congratulations and I thanked him for giving me the opportunity. He trusted a lot in me and I am glad that I have delivered up to this point."
WHAT'S NEXT. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO NOW THAT YOU HEAD INTO THE REAL PORTION OF THE CHASE? "Well, we have got to pick up our performance a little bit. I mean if you look at the last few races we've gotten better, but if you want to win this championship statistically it takes a lot better finish than what we did today."
"At the start of the race, we struggled a little bit. We finally got the car rolling and where it would turn a little better in the center and tightened up off. Tony Gibson and the guys did a great job with the US Army Chevrolet. I just have to thank everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing for this opportunity. US Army, Haas Automation, everybody who has supported us this year. Chevrolet, Rick Hendrick, the list goes on and on. This is great opportunity Sprint gives us to be able to do what we do. Happy to be in this situation. We are not taking a go for broke attitude but we are going to have fun in these next 10 races."
MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S/CARQUEST IMPALA SS -- Finished 4th, Seeded 1st:
YOU ARE ALONE AT THE TOP WITH FOUR WINS, YOU ARE THE NUMBER ONE SEED. "How about that man. I've just got to thank Alan Gustafson and all our supporters. The fans and our supporters - CARQUEST, Kellogg's, Chevrolet, GoDaddy and Stanley and all the guys that support us at Hendrick Motorsports. Great teammates, best team and best year in my career."
AS WELL AS YOU WERE RUNNING NEAR THE END OF THE RACE WHEN DID YOU START TO BELIEVE? "The checkered flag. I've had a lot of things go wrong in my career. It was really good to be in the top-five all night. I don't think we ever got further back than fifth. Great pit stop and just everything was good. We had the best pit stall, a great race car, not quite good enough to win with but we could see the leaders all night. The guys just did what we needed to do. We needed to finish how we ran and the last two weeks we've done that. So now we go racing. Pressure is off though. Pressure is off, it won't build back up until late - maybe four to go or something. Right now the pressure is off. Oh man, great car. Great team. This is the icing. Now we can go race for the cake, see if we can get that. It has been really really incredible but gut-wrenching because we had so many problems. We were 35th in the points after four races. It looked like we were going to have a magical season and miss the Chase. It was nice to have a great run here tonight and have that off our back."
SEEMS LIKE THE MOMENTUM THOUGH IS ON AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME. "Well you know anybody that's in the Chase can win this thing. All they have to do is get on a 10-race roll. I'm telling you anybody in this Chase can win. Watch out for Juan Montoya. I'm telling you the guy is running good and they've been points racing. They may go after it now. I know the last few weeks we've raced to win but we've been real careful too. Now we can go do our thing.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD WOUNDED WARRIOR IMPALA SS -- Finished 3rd, Seeded 6th:
ANOTHER STRONG RUN TOWARD THE FRONT THERE, YOU GUYS WERE PRETTY GOOD TONIGHT. "We were fighting hard for those 10 bonus points because we knew once we were seeded we were going to be behind. What a strong effort by this DuPont/National Guard Chevrolet. It was a great effort. Steve (Letarte) and the guys just brought a great race car tonight. The best one I've had here in a long time so I'm excited. The momentum going into New Hampshire is there. The team was solid and I think we have a great shot at it. I know we've got some points to make up but I think this team is really capable and ready to do that. "
DO YOU LOOK AT THIS AS PRETTY MUCH AN EVEN PLAYING FIELD? "I do. I don't like giving up any points to anybody especially guys as tough as Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. You just don't want to allow anybody to have any kind of an edge but we haven't always been the strongest seed going into the chase but we've taken the points lead before because of our strong team and consistency and we know we're going to have to get out there and do battle and win some races. If we can do it I hope we do it in these final 10."
"Track position was so important it takes the whole race to put yourself in position to possibly win the race. Denny Hamlin was so strong tonight and I don't think anybody had anything for him but we were certainly going to give it our best shot. A great great race. I really want to thank Wounded Warriors and all those soldiers out there that do so much for our country. I am thankful for the National Guard and what they do for their soldiers. So we are happy with the performance of the DuPont Chevrolet tonight. What a race car we had. Steve Letarte, all the boys, they did a great job in the pits, man the pit stops were awesome. That was the best car we've had here in a long time. This gives us some momentum going in to the Chase. I am fired up, really fired up. I hate that we got knocked around a little at that one restart that put us back and we just fought from there and got back up there."
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 CHEERIOS/HAMBURGER HELPER IMPALA SS -- Finished 6th:
"We struggled for the first part of the race, but once we got the air pressure dialed in, the Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet was pretty good. I got into the 24 towards the ends and I hated that happened, but the damage from that had us off at the end. All in all it was a good night for us."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS -- Finished 11th, Seeded 3rd:
GOING FOR CHAMPIONSHIP #4 IN A ROW YOU GUYS SEEM TO BE HITTING A LITTLE BIT OF A STRIDE COMING INTO THIS CHASE. HOW DO YOU ASSESS YOUR CHANCES FOR A 4TH STRAIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP? "I think we have got a good chance. You know, a lot can happen in a ten race stretch and we will just have to see what we can do. I mean we have led a lot of laps recently and we do not have the finishes to show for it but we can't go back to Michigan or Bristol......there have been a lot of good tracks for us where we didn't have the finishes we need, so I think we have the speed and its just a matter of getting to work and see what we have."
AS GOOD AS YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE CHASE FORMAT, DO YOU COME INTO THIS WITH A LITTLE EXTRA CONFIDENCE? "No, I mean you come in with whatever momentum that you have had the last couple of tracks...........so, I feel that we have been decent and I am optimistic for the Chase but again you don't know. Those ten races sound short but they are so long and you just never know what is going to happen with mechanical failures and all those kind of things. So we just need to give 100% every week and see where we wind up."
WHAT ABOUT YOUR EFFORT TONIGHT? "Disappointed with tonight for sure. I felt like we had a better shot tonight than where we finished. Started out decent and then just started getting really, really loose on the longer runs. We still salvaged a decent finish out of it. Had a decent night so all in all its good. I really wanted to get 10 more points and give all the Lowe's employee/owners something to cheer for but we'll have to save that for the Chase and get to work. I'm real happy for my teammates, the No. 39 car (Ryan Newman) getting in the Chase. Also the No. 5 car (Mark Martin). Those guys have been working real hard to get their stuff right and happy to have so many teammates in the Chase with us."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET IMPALA SS -- Finished 19th, Seeded 11th:
YOU CAME IN HERE AND DID WHAT YOU HAD TO DO TONIGHT, HOW GOOD DOES IT FEEL TO ACCOMPLISH THE GOAL YOU SET OF MAKING THE CHASE? "I want to thank first everybody at Target, Chevrolet, ECR Motors and everybody at Earnhardt-Ganassi they did an amazing job for me all year. Everybody back in the shop built great cars. You know when you get good race cars it makes your life a lot easier. Brian (Pattie) and all the boys did an amazing job all year long. Tonight feels kind of weird, we made the Chase but we ran so conservative today its kind of awkward but its good we're in."
WILL YOU FEEL GOOD NOW TO BE ABLE TO GET IN THE CHASE AND KIND OF LET IT ALL HANG OUT FINALLY? "We have to wait and see what happens and how good we are and how we run. We'll have good weeks and bad weeks. We need to make sure when they're bad we can't go worse than 10th or 12th."
AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON NOT MANY GAVE YOUR TEAM A SHOT AT MAKING THE CHASE, HOW GOOD DOES IT FEEL TO BE ONE OF THE 12 THAT HAS A CHANCE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "I think just proving everybody wrong felt really good to tell you the truth. It's great. It was a three year plan to come here and start performing after three years and we made the Chase. This is bigger than winning a race or anything so it's pretty cool.
"It was really weird tonight because we ran really conservative all day and we had a good car at the end and when it went really bad I don't know what happened but we missed the boat right there on the last 100 laps or something. But in all, we knew what we had to do and the initial point was to be 18th or 19th and if somebody got close to me I just let them by and we raced smart all day and that is what we had to do."
HOW DOES IT CHANGE NOW THAT YOU HAVE TO GO NOW FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP AND YOU CAN'T JUST PLAY IT SAFE? "We just have to get what we can and see how good it is. I think it's a good testament for the whole Target team and everybody at Earnhardt-Ganassi to show everybody that we made it into the Chase and everybody this year thought we were going to be horrible for us and to get a car in the Chase is huge. I think it is nice to have Target in the Chase and I will tell you I think there are a lot of good races there for us, and we will see."
BESIDES THE SLAP YOU GOT FROM YOUR BOSS, WHAT ELSE DID CHIP SAY? "You don't want to know (laughs).
CHIP GANASSI, OWNER, GANASSI-EARNHARDT RACING:
CHIP, I ASKED YOU WHAT YOU SAID AND YOU SAID YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW, WHAT WAS IT? Chip Ganassi: "I said congratulations."
WHAT DOES THIS DO FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION?"Well you know there have been a lot of questions over the years about our organization and I think a lot of it has been unfounded, so I think this kind of validates the way we operate."
YOU SAID ALL ALONG THAT YOU WERE RACING FOR POINTS AND THAT WINS WOULD COME IF YOU JUST GOT INTO THE CHASE. WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO JUAN NOW THAT HE HAS TO BE A BIT MORE AGGRESSIVE? "Obviously the way we are going to race is going to change a bit. This is what we have been waiting for though. The first race was to get in. Now the racing begins."
RICK HENDRICK, OWNER, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS
FIVE CARS; THINK THAT'S WHERE I LOST COUNT. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU COULD HAVE IMAGINED, PARTICULARLY WITH ONE OF YOUR ENGINES GOING WITH ANOTHER TEAM GETTING IN? "I'm really proud of those guys. Gene Haas has been a good friend for a lot of years and supported our organization with the best machine tools in the country, in the world, and Tony (Stewart) and Ryan (Newman) do a start up deal and (crew chief) Darian (Grubb) and all the guys have just done a super job. They've given us good information coming our way and we've shared with them and it's just good to see those guys come out of the box and run that good. I'm real proud of them. And then Mark Martin, I feel like I've already won the championship (laughs)."
ON TONY STEWART'S EARLY SUCCESS "Well you can put a lot of good people together but Darian Grubb is one of the smartest guys that's ever worked at our place. Bobby Hutchens I've known and he's got a lot of talent. Tony Gibson was a car chief on the No. 24. I knew him. And these are guys Tony picked. But Tony knows how to run a team. He's run his Sprint Car teams and you get guys the caliber of Tony and you get Tony and Ryan and you get good people around them and they're going to run good. There is no way they're not going to run good. Now I bet everybody at Daytona in the media thought I was stupid and crazy. I said he will win a race and he'll be in the Chase. He won a race and he led the points and got in the Chase. So, you can't take anything away from how hard Tony Stewart has worked and how he's rolled up his sleeves and been in the shop and talking to people and people believe enough in him to go over there and they deserve everything they get this year."
HOW ABOUT TWO MEMBERS OF THE HENDRICK ALUMNI (KYLE BUSCH AND BRIAN VICKERS) "Oh, I'll tell you that was pretty wild. It's a heart-breaker for Kyle Busch, I'm sure, to win four races and miss it but that's the way it works. Brian has done a hell of a job. He's really run well and he's always been phenomenal at 1.5-mile tracks and he's good on a flat track. So, it's good to see. I do feel like some or all of these guys are my kids, you know? (laughter)
BUT THERE WAS GENUINE AFFECTION WHEN YOU GAVE BRIAN VICKERS A HUG THERE ON PIT ROAD "Brian and Ricky (Hendrick) were awfully close. Brian lived in my house and you like to see those guys do well."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/ NATIONAL GUARD WOUNDED WARRIOR IMPALA SS, FINISHED 3RD, SEEDED 6TH IN THE CHASE:
"The DuPont National Guard Chevrolet was strong. I was really excited. I thought we had something pretty good yesterday in practice. But you never know when you practice during the day for a night race.
"They dropped the green and we drove to the front and I thought wow, this is a good car, but we have had a good car at the beginning of a race before here. But it just stayed so strong. There weren't many guys that passed Denny Hamlin tonight and we were one of them and one of them that drove away from him. But he made a couple of adjustments and they just checked out from that point. A great great night for us in the pits and nice top-three finish. We are really excited about.
"It seemed like the track just changed from the green flag about 30-laps in to the run, it laid rubber down. It was missing a little bit rubber and the track temperature was a little bit warmer. The track did what is typically does here, it just gradually gets faster, a little bit tighter in the center.
"I am excited about these next 10 races, I can't wait. I know we didn't win as many races as we wanted to during the first 26 but I think our team showed just how strong we are and I think we are going to give these guys a lot to think about over these next 10 races."
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE IMPALA SS, FINISHED 17TH, SEEDED 2ND IN THE CHASE:
"I am pretty excited about it. Awesome for our organization and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing to get Ryan Newman and myself in the Chase. Man, who would have ever predicted that this would happen. It is definitely going to be the highlight of the year for us even if we win the championship, getting both cars in the Chase is something that I am really proud of.
"Proud for Bobby Hutches, Darian Grubb, Tony Gibson, Ryan Newman, Hendrick Engines and Chassis. Most of all Gene Haas and Joe Custer who gave us the chance and Rick Hendrick who gave us his blessing from day one. Just proud of the whole group. To do what we have done is something that people said we couldn't do and that is probably what I am most proud of.
"I worried the whole night about where Ryan was. We were in our own battles all night and every time the caution would come out, I would count the leader all the way back to where he was. He was right where he needed to be or within a couple spots of it the whole night. We couldn't do anything about it. It was something he had to run on his own. That is the way it should be. It would be a shame if the teammates got involved and mixed it up and messed it up. He did his job, he did an awesome job. I got ahead of him at one point and I lost the handle on lost about four spots and couldn't get them back. I'm disappointed in my run, but I am proud of Ryan and his guys and what they were able to do.
"It was a hard night coming in to tonight knowing you are under the gun like that and wanting to win the race and the same time trying to gather points to get in the Chase."
-credit: gm racing