Posted on: November 6, 2011 8:12 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2011 8:16 pm
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Posted on: November 5, 2011 11:53 am
By Pete Pistone
AAA TEXAS 500 SECOND PRACTICE
Chase for the Sprint Cup point leader Carl Edwards paced Saturday's second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Texas Motor Speedway.
Edwards posted a fast lap of 188.897 mph in the opening of two practices planned on Saturday in preparation for Sunday's AAA Texas 500.
Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and David Ragan rounded out the fast five.
Michael McDowell, subbing for the suspended Kyle Busch in the Joe Gibbs Racing M&M's Toyota, had the 33rd fastest time of the session.
Happy Hour practice is set later Saturday morning.
Posted on: November 4, 2011 12:12 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 12:44 pm
By Pete Pistone
AAA Texas 500 Preview
The tale of the tape has Carl Edwards vs. Tony Stewart as the main event coming into Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. The pair are separated by a mere eight points in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings with only three races to go and many consider it a two-man fight for the title.
However don’t count Edwards among that group.
The man on top of the standings respects Stewart as a formidable challenger for the championship but not the only one left in the picture.
For us to fall into the trap of focusing on one other guy, I don't think that's the right thing to do," Edwards said. "That'd be bad for both of us because the guys right behind us have proven they can be up there in the points, too. With three races left, there's so much that can happen. You have to keep your head down.”
Edwards looks down the standings and see the likes of Kevin Harvick 21 behind, Brad Keselowski 27 out and even fifth place Matt Kenseth with a deficit of 36 points all as forces that will have to be dealt with before the title is finally decided.
Which is why the Roush Fenway Racing driver refuses to get involved in the trash talking and taunting game that started last week after Stewart’s win in Martinsville.
"It'd be foolish for either one of us to goof around too much and start going back and forth and let one of these other guys snatch this from us," said Edwards.
Stewart hasn’t backed down the bravado much since he won his third Chase race last Sunday and climbed to within eight of the Chase lead. Vying to be the first owner-driver to win the Sprint Cup championship since Alan Kulwicki in 1992, Stewart does bring a great deal of confidence into Sunday’s second trip of the year to TMS.
But the two-time champion is not focused simply on trying to run down and beat Edwards. He’s well aware of the others still in the mix over the final trio of races.
“There is still Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski and other guys we have to worry about in the points,” Stewart said. “We’re not just racing the ‘99’ car (Edwards). We’re racing the entire Chase field right now. We’re not focusing on one team. We’re just going to go out and do what we’ve done every week. It’s what got us in this position.
Track Size: 1.5-miles
Race Length: 501 miles
Banking/Corners: 24 degrees
Banking/Straightaways: 5 degrees
2010 pole winner: Elliott Sadler (195.397 mph)
2010 race winner: Denny Hamlin (140.456 mph, 11-7-10)
Track qualifying record: Brian Vickers (196.235 mph, 11-03-2006)
Race record: Carl Edwards (151.055 mph, 11-06-05)
There have been 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway, one per season from 1997 through 2004 and two races per year since 2005.
Four drivers have competed in all 21 Texas races: Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin.
Jeremy Mayfield was the first pole winner, in 1998. Qualifying for the inaugural race in 1997 was canceled.
Jeff Burton won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
15 drivers have scored poles, led by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bobby Labonte, Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon with two.
16 drivers have won races, led by Carl Edwards, with three. Denny Hamlin and Jeff Burton each have two wins.
15 of 21 races have been won from a top-10 starting position. Only one has been won from the pole (Kasey Kahne in 2006).
Matt Kenseth started 31st en route to his victory at Texas in 2002, the deepest in the field that a race winner has started. Kenseth started fourth and won earlier this season at Texas.
Both Jeff Burton (1997) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2000) scored their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Texas, and 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne made his first series start at Texas (11/07/10). Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup competitor Brad Keselowski also made his first career start at Texas (11/2/08).
Martin Truex Jr. (11/04/07)and David Ragan (04/09/11) scored their first series poles at Texas.
Matt Kenseth (9.0), Denny Hamlin (9.3) and Jimmie Johnson (9.9) are the only three active drivers to average a top-10 finish.
Roush Fenway Racing leads all owners in victories, with eight. Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have three wins each.
There has been two season sweeps, by Carl Edwards in 2008 and Denny Hamlin in 2010.
Who’s Hot at Texas
Matt Kenseth – His championship hopes took a big hit with the late race altercation at Martinsville last week but Kenseth has a shot to climb back in to striking distance at Texas based on his past record at the track. The April race winner, Kenseth carries an impressive 6.9 average finish into the weekend and is a two-time victor.
Denny Hamlin – He’s running for pride and to get a jump start on 2012, but Hamlin has a chance to keep his late season momentum alive at Texas. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has finished first or second at TMS in his last four starts and compiled a 9.3 average during his career.
Jimmie Johnson – He insists that the championship fight isn’t over despite his 43 point deficit to Carl Edwards. Johnson has three straight top ten finishes to his credit and is a former winner back in 2007 with an average finish just inside tenth.
Joey Logano – The bright spot in Logano’s Texas career is a fourth place finish last November. But other than that the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has struggled tremendously in the Sprint Cup Series with nothing else better than a nineteenth place finish.
David Reutimann – The challenge for Reutimann doesn’t get any easier this weekend on the heels of his release from Michael Waltrip Racing at season’s end. He has one top ten finish in ten career starts and hasn’t come home higher than sixteenth in his last four starts.
Brad Keselowski – Still clinging on to his outside title hopes with a 27 point deficit coming to Texas where he hasn’t been particularly strong with an average finish of 23.7 in six career starts.
Construction began in 1995.
The first NASCAR race was a NASCAR Nationwide Series event on April 5, 1997.
The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was on April 6, 1997.
There have been 30 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Texas.
74 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Texas.
There have been eight race winners from Texas in NASCAR’s three national series
Posted on: November 3, 2011 10:48 am
Following a big win at Martinsville Speedway, Tony Stewart talks with Inside NASCAR and the driver he's aiming to knock out of the top spot, Carl Edwards.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 9:50 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 10:22 pm
By Pete Pistone
But the NASCAR world never slows down and while we still await the outcome of this year’s championship, plans for next year are finally coming into focus.
Unfortunately it’s not a very pretty picture.
Economic woes and the lack of sponsorship dollars are shrinking the Sprint Cup Series garage area at an alarming rate. The financial crunch is so strong it’s not just impacting mid-level and small teams but the superpowers of the sport as well.
Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing will see their stables contract while an entire organization like Team Red Bull’s very existence remains in doubt.
“We’ve gone through a transition with our sponsors, going from a time when they wanted to compete for the top car to now where the sponsors want just enough of a car to be able to do their promotions," said Jack Roush, who faces shutting down his No. 6 Cup team unless last minute sponsorship for 2012 is found to replace UPS.
"It’s a really strange time. I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m not sure what we’ll have coming out of it. It will be different than it’s been in the past."
Seeking one sponsor to foot the estimated $20 million bill to keep a top flight Cup team on track is virtually impossible in today’s climate. But even splitting that cost over the course of 36 races between multiple corporate backers is also a tough task.
The merry-go-round of sponsors that now adorn Sprint Cup cars throughout the season makes for a variety of different color schemes and logos to associate with drivers and some argue that has taken away a great deal of NASCAR’s identity.
In the not too distant past colors and logos were indelibly attached to drivers who were immediately recognized on track by fans who made the instant connection between man and machine.
Jeff Gordon’s colorful DuPont paint scheme. Rusty Wallace and the iconic Miller Lite “Blue Deuce.” Mark Martin and the Valvoline logo. And the most famous of all Dale Earnhardt in the silver and black Goodwrench Chevrolet.
Today you can’t tell the drivers or their cars and colors without a scorecard on a weekly basis.
Current Chase point leader Carl Edwards rarely carries the same look two weeks in a row rotating the No. 99 through a maze of sponsors including Aflac, Scott’s, Subway and Kellogg’s.
Next year he’ll see Fastenal and UPS join the line-up all of which is just a necessary element of today’s NASCAR sponsorship game.
"You have to put the pieces together," RCR’s David Hart told PennLive.com. "It’s 20 races here, 10 races there and then getting someone for the last six races. You have to combo sponsorships together to run your race team.
"This wasn’t all of a sudden and the hammer came down. You started to see it in the mid-2000s and, when the economy went down in 2008, it continued on that path. You have to look at the possibilities if you don’t have your number. You have to cobble sponsors as you can. You are looking to get as few as possible, but you want to get that number by bringing people to the table."
Some teams like the Childress organization approach the sponsorship quest by bundling all its resources together and selling partners on a total experience rather than individual race cars.
“We at RCR do it a little different,” Childress said. “We try to sell our whole company and corporation. The driver is a huge part of it because he plays a large role in the marketing of the product but we also try to sell RCR and make sure that we get the return on the investment for all the companies that we’re associated with.
“At the end of the day I work for every one of these companies and I want to make sure I do a good job to get the return on their investment.”
The money squeeze is having a significant effect on next year’s landscape and forcing several well known names to the unemployment line.
Among those Sprint Cup drivers who appear to be on the outside looking in include David Ragan, Brian Vickers and the most recent addition David Reutimann, who won’t return to Michael Waltrip Racing next year in favor of the team running a limited schedule in the No. 00 car with veteran Mark Martin.
The story gets worse over at NASCAR’s number two and three divisions in the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. Several teams in both circuits are struggling to find the necessary funding to compete in 2012, meaning sleepless nights for the likes of Reed Sorenson, Jason Leffler, Todd Bodine and even four time truck series champion Ron Hornaday.
With current team owner Kevin Harvick deciding to sell his equipment to RCR, Hornaday has two races left with KHI before he finds himself out of work.
The news came as a bit of a shock to the veteran who says the environment in today’s NASCAR world makes it extremely difficult for even a driver of his talents to find a competitive ride.
“You sit there and you talk to people and they all want you to bring money,” Hornaday said of many team owners. “I’ve never done that. I got a phone call from Dale (Earnhardt, Sr.) in ’94 and I started driving for him. I got the same phone call from the Dr. Pepper team with Dave Carroll, and I got the same phone call from Richard Childress then Kevin Harvick called me.
“They know I don’t have three million bucks or two-and-a-half million dollars so I don’t hear my phone ringing but I keep winning races. There are some kids out there that are bringing some money and coming in here. I hate to say it, but that’s where this sport is going. You see Cup cars out there with no name on them and everything else.”
There could be more of that on display next season with some of the sport’s biggest names piloting cars carrying only numbers.
Because right now for many NASCAR organizations at all levels of the sport the most important numbers aren't adding up.
Posted on: October 30, 2011 8:27 pm
Posted by Pete Pistone
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, that's just a gift to finish ninth and to have the day we had. Did Tony have to come in and pit? On the replay, he cut a tire, had to pit, came back through the field. All right, he took two the next time.
That was our strategy, we did the same thing we did last week, cruise around the back, wait for everything to work out.
JEFF GORDON: That strategy worked out okay for you.
CARL EDWARDS: We did not deserve to finish ninth. Proud of my guys for sticking with it. Bob did a good job of keeping me calm. Now we go to Texas. I'm excited about Texas.
KERRY THARP: Our third-place finisher in today's race is Jeff Gordon. Jeff, you got caught up in something early on, then your car as the race went on, you led laps, persevered throughout the afternoon. Talk about that.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, you know, got caught up in that incident early on there. Junior hit the curb and spun. I chose to get out of the way of the guys behind me, so they didn't get into me. Unfortunately I got into Junior.
I wasn't too worried about the damage to the car speed-wise, it was just the right front brake duct was tore up pretty good. Obviously cooling the brakes is pretty important here. We went to the back. We didn't necessarily drive up to the front. We just got out of sync with guys and then we found ourselves going from 40th up to 20th, then we drove up there.
We had a really strong racecar. Denny I thought was a little bit better than us on the long runs. Then those last couple runs, I don't know, we made some adjustments and it just didn't work out for us. We got real lose off so we didn't have much for him at the end. So third is not bad.
KERRY THARP: Also joining us our race runner-up, Jimmie Johnson. You shaved some points off that deficit coming out of this race here today with certainly a second-place finish. Talk about your run out there this afternoon.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, great performance for the racecar all day long. We tried to take care of our tires, our brakes, and just be smart. It seemed like there were really four cars that had the pace throughout the whole race. Between the 24, the 11, the 18 and us, we kind of rotated around positions.
Then Chad, to make fun of my cheerleading comment before, Chad made a call that was going to give us the win for the race. He second guessed himself. I'm sure a lot of you heard him cussing himself on the radio. But it ended up being a good thing. Three or four laps later he stopped cussing himself and said we had a chance to win this thing, and we did.
At the end, all the cautions were not what we needed. Saw Tony in Victory Lane. He said he found something on the outside lane. Drooling at the opportunity to start out there and certainly made it work.
At the end it was frustrating to see the same few cars over and over with the caution. That was something we certainly didn't want to see.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Jimmie, Carl or Jeff.
Q. Carl, is this a bigger miracle than Kansas City?
CARL EDWARDS: It's unreal. We were so bad probably 200 laps to go, I was thinking, Okay, the Cardinals didn't give up the other night. That's a little motivation. Missouri Tigers didn't give up the other night. That's motivation. I became all right with the fact we were going to finish 20th or 25th. I was already thinking about Texas, everything we were going to do.
My guys stuck with it and we got very, very fortunate. Just glad we could move on.
Q. Jimmie, it seems like the 83 was involved in half the cautions out there. I know you were a little disappointed the way that happened at the end. How do you feel when a guy who is not in the Chase is playing such a key role in the way things shook down today?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I mean, I certainly understand that if you're unfairly wrecked, regardless of who that person is, there's a chance retaliation is going to happen.
After a fourth, fifth time with the same car in the crash, you start thinking about maybe you're the problem. Something is going on. You're having a bad day. You need to stop crashing for whatever reason.
When you're on the racetrack and someone wrongs you, you have some decisions to make in how you want to handle that. Each man's decision how they want to handle it.
I don't agree with the way things were handled at the end. Tony Stewart is sitting in Victory Lane smiling and he's real happy it turned out that way.
Q. Jeff and Jimmie, in regards to Tony having to hold off Denny Hamlin while you were bunched up, looking back at it, how key is that for him to run that hard at that juncture of the race to stay on the lead lap and be able to have the benefit of working his way back to the front and winning it?
JEFF GORDON: It was pretty early, wasn't it? It wasn't right there at the end. So, I mean, you saw how many guys got their lap back today. I don't think that was that big of a deal. I thought a guy in that position up in the points, he's going to have to fight really hard to stay on the lead lap.
No offense, but as bad as his stuff was today, he still fought pretty hard to stay up. I think that's what Tony did. He did what he had to do. But, I mean, if he had gone down a lap, he would have gotten it back pretty easily.
It was more impressive to me about what the 14 did, when they had the problem with the 29, I'm still trying to figure out where he came from. I was up there battling with Jimmie. We came in, didn't have a great pit stop, and he came out in front of us. They say he took four tires. I'm questioning whether they took four. Maybe took two.
But he was fast. Doesn't matter. He was ahead of us and he was fast. Especially on the outside, I mean, Jimmie unfortunately got to see it, but I saw it earlier, too, when he drove by the 29 on the outside with two tires. So he definitely had a good car that could really rotate the middle even on the outside.
CARL EDWARDS: I think credit needs to be given to his crew chief. I raced around Tony for the first 100, 150 laps. I thought his car was as slow as mine was. They did a good job of turning the balance of that car around overall. It looked like he was struggling a lot.
Q. Carl, can you explain in essence what went wrong and what went right for you today. Also, in Victory Lane after the race, Tony said about you, being close to the points, He better be worried, that's all I've got to say, he's not going to have an easy three weeks.
CARL EDWARDS: He's wound up. He won the race. We'll see what happens at Texas. I mean, I feel like we're going to go there and we're going to have as good a shot to win as anyone.
This track has been really, really tough for me. I think this is one of those days where everything went wrong and everything went right as well. Unfortunately the timing of those things worked out so we finished ninth.
I think Tony and those guys, they've won three Chase races. When I sat in here on Friday, I told you guys I thought he was one of the guys that could win this race and be a guy that you'd have to beat for the championship. I think he's proven that. He's proving it right now.
But, yeah, we'll have fun. We'll go race hard. They're going to have to race us, too. I'm excited about the next three races.
Q. Carl, what was going through your mind when the black flag came out, then it was rescinded?
CARL EDWARDS: I'd forgotten about that. My spotter Jason, NASCAR was telling him for me to pass the 31. Jason was yelling at me, We've got to pass the 31. I drove around the outside of Burton right as the green was coming out. I have to give credit to Burton. He probably had no clue what was going on. He thought about turning me around in turn one. I'm grateful he didn't do that.
Whether or not there was a communication error, what was going on, I appreciate NASCAR looking at it and realizing they told me to do what they were black flagging me for. Not very often they rescind the black flag like that.
Q. Jeff and Jimmie, at the end of the race with two laps to go, there's a restart, what are you thinking being on the same team, points race? Are you both gunning for the win or trying not to ruin the other one's chances, but you're still going to try for the win? Are you communicating?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think at the end of these races, you're not going to blatantly drive over the top of a teammate, but you're going to go race and race as you always do.
When I saw the 24 lined up behind me, I knew he had taken tires earlier. Knew how fast his car was in the short run. When I restarted, I was actually a little more concerned with the 24 than I was the 14. I was hopeful to clear the 14 off of two, Jeff and Tony would be racing side-by-side, I could get distance on those two.
Certainly didn't work out that way.
When I was inside of Tony, I went down in the corner and thought that eight tires would be a lot better than four. I changed my mind. With where he is in the points, what's going on, the fact we raced throughout the day today, he never touched me, I had a hard time doing that.
JEFF GORDON: I think it would have been great (laughter).
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Jeff probably would have won the race if I would have done it.
I couldn't bring myself to that. He got by. I tried to be smart. That's typically how I race guys. I don't run over people to get positions.
Q. Jimmie, you've had these championship runs before and had things happen like with Carl today. Do you feel like what happened today may be something that will contend for a championship now?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, at the start of the year I said I thought the 99 would be the guy to focus on. I think there's a lot of things through the history of Bob and Carl together that show their strength. They were separated at one point and came back. We didn't hear things about these two trying to kill each other in the process, even though the toughest time, when they were trying to turn Roush around a couple years back.
I definitely know what he's capable of, feel that he's a threat.
Tony is going to be tough from here on out. Highly motivated. Going to be on some good tracks, he's been fast on those mile-and-a-half's. I think it's going to be a great run all the way to the end.
Q. It seemed like all year long we've heard guys talk about people with lack of respect amongst the drivers. Seemed like today you heard that a lot from a lot of drivers. Why do you think that is? Just the end of the year, short-track racing?
JEFF GORDON: It's just Martinsville, isn't it? I think it's a combination of late in the year and Martinsville, and sometimes just the way the race goes. If you get early cautions here at Martinsville, that usually contributes itself to more cautions. Those are more guys, somebody's upset, tempers are flaring, incidents happen. It escalates from there.
Seems to me that's what happened. We couldn't get into a rhythm with the race, couldn't get it going. Seemed like guys were ticked off at one another, driving over their heads, whatever it may be. We saw that for a big majority of the race.
Obviously the 83 had that throughout the whole race. But I think it was just one of those crazy days. I don't know. You can't always explain it. Usually Martinsville does contribute towards that.
Q. Carl, lug nut issue on a pit stop. Get the lucky dog at least twice, maybe more. You're sitting here with a ninth-place finish at what's probably the toughest track for you in this quest. Is this basically like victory?
CARL EDWARDS: Yes, it is. If we could come just out of here in the top 10, that's like a win. Very happy with the result. Not happy with the performance. We struggled. We struggled in a bunch of different ways today. We've got to work on this. We've got to figure out exactly what causes us to struggle here. Looks like a couple of our teammates figured it out. We have some homework to do before we come back next time
Q. Jeff just made the comment, This is Martinsville. We only have three tracks on the schedule that are less than a mile in length. Would you like to go to more short tracks or is a day like today enough to make you think we have enough of them on the schedule?
JEFF GORDON: Who would like to answer that?
I mean, I'll admit that when we went through this big building process of all these mile-and-a-half's, nobody considered building something more like a Bristol or a Richmond or something like that. I think that we need one or two more tracks like that on the circuit.
So, yeah, Martinsville is a little extreme. This place is tough on brakes, tempers flare. It's a narrow place to race on. It can be tough. But it's very entertaining. So you got to like that.
I mean, if I had my choice, we have two races here. It would be nice to have something a little unique and different but still in that short-track fashion.
Posted on: October 23, 2011 7:49 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2011 7:58 pm
Posted by Pete Pistone
JEFF BURTON: Well, I don't know whether to be excited or upset. After the year we've had, it's good to be in position to win a race. Obviously Clint and I worked really well together the whole race. Had some good luck along the way. Whenever you leave here not wrecked, you ought to be happy. At the same time I'm heartbroke we didn't win the race. It would have been a big deal for us to get a win, would have been a great deal to Caterpillar, all our supporters.
Having said all that, I don't know what I would have done different. Clint and I finished first and second in one of the Duel races in Daytona. I won that one. It was really close. Then honestly I thought he made his move a little too early. I kind of gave him the bottom because you tend to be able to pull them back better. He made his move really early.
I thought I'd be able to pull back to him. He had a lot of momentum when he made the move. His car was a little quicker throughout the day, that's why we ended up with him pushing me. When I was pushing him, we weren't as good together.
Nonetheless, it was a good finish for us. Again, I'd be interested in watching the replay, see what I could have done different. These races, it's really hard to hold that guy off when he's coming. We've seen that every time. I thought I did what I needed to give myself a shot to win and at the end of the day it didn't work out.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Jeff Burton.
Q. Jeff, you and Clint seemed to take the strategy of, Let's go ahead and run up front as much as we can today, while so many other tandems laid way back. Did you expect to see them sooner or later? Were you surprised not to see some of the Chasers who had been laying back?
JEFF BURTON: I thought they waited too long. That next to last caution came out I thought that saved them. I thought that gave them a chance.
Having said that, that's all in retrospect. I wasn't thinking during the race, They're waiting too long. When that caution came out, Clint and I were where we wanted to be to win the race. I didn't think any of those guys were going to be a factor. You're always looking at what's coming behind you.
At the end of the day, that strategy didn't work today. I've seen it work. It worked here in the spring. I've seen it work. I'm much happier when it doesn't work because I prefer to run in the front. I'm not being critical of anybody. I don't blame them, especially when it works. We've seen races won here by people pulling that strategy. It just didn't work out today. But I've seen it work both ways.
Q. On the last lap, did you pretty much figure when y'all broke away for the last lap that he was going to make a move?
JEFF BURTON: I was going down the back straightaway, talking on the radio: I bet you're thinking about what you're going to do right now. I was going to ask him to give an old man a break, but I knew better than that.
But, yeah, I knew he was going to make a move. He was supposed to make a move. He ain't supposed to push me to the win. He's supposed to go and try to win. That's what you get here. If there's those two cars leading everybody, you're going to get that move. Like we saw in the Truck race yesterday, a guy with nowhere to go, he's going to push somebody to win because that gives him the best chance to get a good finish. The way this worked out we have broken off from everybody.
Q. When you appeared to get into him a little bit there, was that a matter of trying to hold position or purely accidental?
JEFF BURTON: I was trying to get my left front fender to his right rear quarter panel to slow him up. We all do that. I got a little closer than I wanted to and knocked him around a little bit.
That wouldn't have been good if he would have wrecked, would it? I was trying to get as close to him as I could get his momentum slowed down. I got him slowed down, but a little too late.
KERRY THARP: Let's also hear from the other drivers here on the podium. Our third-place finisher Dave Blaney. Dave, you showed you were very strong out there this afternoon.
DAVE BLANEY: It was a great run. Obviously we have to thank Brad Keselowski, stayed with us all day long every lap. When you get somebody committed to you no matter what, it makes it a lot easier. Then it's just timing at the end. Worked out pretty good. We were in the right place at the right time, squeezed through a couple holes, there you are.
But still a solid day. We had a really solid day going here in the spring, too. Didn't quite make it to the end. Really fun day for Tommy Baldwin Racing, Golden Corral.
KERRY THARP: Our points leader is Carl Edwards. Carl now has a 14-point lead over his teammate Matt Kenseth. Carl, talk about getting that points lead back up there and also the race here this afternoon at Talladega.
CARL EDWARDS: I don't know that I've ever been excited about 11th place. This race was one that is nerve-wracking for everyone. We came in here with a small points lead and we're leaving with a bigger one. That's a huge day for us.
I cannot believe how much Greg helped us today. I owe him a lot. Greg stuck with me all day. The last lap, he was driving my car from back there. We got separated. He was screaming, Go, go, go. Then somehow he found me again, pushed us back up through there a little bit
Just a very, very good day. Just really appreciate Subway being onboard. Good to get them a good finish. Even though it's not a win, it's a big battle in the war, a huge day for us.
KERRY THARP: We'll continue with questions.
Q. You said you did everything that you could coming off of turn four. Would you have done anything different if that hadn't been your teammate? Would you maybe not have been as nice?
JEFF BURTON: Hell, I didn't think I was nice.
No. I mean, obviously I'd do something different now if I knew it wasn't going to work. But I did everything I thought I needed to do. It just didn't work out.
I try really hard to race everybody the same. I don't know what else I could have done, whether it was a teammate or not. I actually ended up getting into him. So I don't think there was anything different I could have done.
Q. Carl, given the dynamics of Talladega, is the best you can hope for here to work with a teammate as best you can, like Greg, and basically pray that nothing happens?
CARL EDWARDS: Yes, it's a very spiritual event (smiling).
You just have to hope that the guy sticks with you. Yeah, I don't know how to describe it to you guys. You were asking Jeff if he would have done anything different. Everybody leaves this race and thinks of a hundred thousand things they could have done different. It's a tough, tough race. If you finish it with your car intact...
JEFF BURTON: You feel damn lucky (laughter).
CARL EDWARDS: ...you feel like you got away with something.
Q. To pile on about things that could have been done differently, Carl, do you think in retrospect, did you and Greg wait too late to start to come to the front? Is it fine as it turned out?
CARL EDWARDS: Hell, no, Ed. We did it perfectly. It worked out great. If you look at the things that could have happened or should have happened, we probably should have had a couple green-white-checkereds the way people were bouncing off each other. If I had it to do to do over again, I would do it exactly the same. It could be better or worse. At the end of the day we had a shot at it. Our car was intact. We could drive up there. That was our mission.
But, yeah, if I would have known it went exactly like it went... I'm not even going to say that. It went well for us. It was good.
Q. Carl, is your heart still pumping? Is the adrenaline still flowing? Are you happy to be out of that car and getting back to normal? Jeff, will you reflect on RC's hundredth win?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I've never been so excited to go to Martinsville in my life. I'm ready to rock.
JEFF BURTON: Driving for Richard has been a pleasure. I have a lot of respect for Richard. I've only had three car owners in my Cup career. All three of them I have a lot of respect for. To be able to be at Richard's has meant a lot to me.
When I came in, it was a struggle. They were struggling. It's been built back up to be able to contend for championships. We haven't won any, but we've been contending for them.
He's a good man. I like him. I'm comfortable with him. You can say anything about him as far as a competitor. He is a supreme competitor. The main thing is he's a good person. He's got a good heart. He's honest. He represents our sport. He doesn't always do the right thing. None of us always do the right thing. But he generally has a care and a passion for the sport. It's an honor to drive for him.
Q. Carl, your drafting day, was it kind of a building process? Seemed for the first half of the race you two had a difficult time staying together. There was a point at which it looked like you switched positions and you pushed. There was one time when you lost Greg and it looked like Trevor Bayne picked you up.
CARL EDWARDS: There were times when we kind of did our own separate things. But our plan was always to be within sight and come back and work together at the end. We knew we could only do that if our cars were together.
It is easy to look at the outcome of the race. I kind find joked around with Ed when he asked. Say, Wow, you finished 11th. If you went sooner, you would have finished better. I still believe the plan we had worked out well. I'm happy with the outcome. If you can't look at it from my perspective, 2008 we came in here, I think Ed brought that one up earlier, came in here and I was ultimately frustrated with myself for taking myself out at this race. That was my first goal, not to take myself out. I was prepared to lose the points lead, but I wasn't going to accept making a mistake and losing control of my car.
Q. Carl, there was much made before the race about the Ford edict, Roush Fenway, to all stay together, the manufacturer loyalty. Jeff Gordon was displeased at the end with Trevor Bayne for leaving him. What do you make of how that transpired? Do you feel the Fords had the plan, stuck together?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, first thing, I don't know what happened with Trevor and Jeff. Trevor is a stand-up guy. I'm sure he did whatever he thought was best.
It's not like we got together and planned to do anything, at least I wasn't part of a plan to make things hard on anyone else. That was not the idea. The plan was that we should stick together as Roush Fenway and as a Ford group and try to help one another the best we can.
I thought we did a good job with that. I saw other teams doing the same thing. But you never know what's going to happen. We didn't think that plan was going to go through to the end. We thought a number of us would be crashed or have trouble or something like that, in which case people would mix up partners and stuff.
Q. Carl, was there a specific reason you asked in the driver meeting about lifting on the last lap?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah. Thanks for asking. I feel like the biggest risk we have here is what I talked about on Friday, that we have a wreck, then people would come to this conclusion in their mind through whatever, that they're going to stand on the throttle, drive through the wreck, that's the cool or the right thing to do. I feel that's the biggest risk we have, is an accident where a guy is upside down, stopped, something like that, and us as competitors don't really know what point we're racing to.
If we see something like that, I think a lot of folks are reluctant right now in the sport to lift. They think it's cool to stay on the throttle. You can't ask competitors to just quit driving and not try to get everything they can. I hope that NASCAR will kind of clarify that stuff a little more in the future so we don't have a problem because of it.
Q. It may be a case of a lesser of two evils, but what in y'all's minds is the ideal package? The one you have now, the one in the past? What would make the racing better?
JEFF BURTON: I don't think anybody wants to answer that.
I personally think that there is an advantage to the tandem thing. There's some disadvantages to it. The one thing it does do is it does separate the field a little bit. That's not all bad. I've come here for a long time. Every time I come here, I'm pretty sure I'm going to get in a wreck. That's a little odd way to race.
To me the tandem thing creates wrecks. But overall I think there's less cars wrecked because of the tandem thing versus not having it. So I think overall it's better. It does spread the pack out a little bit. But it doesn't do it in a way that's boring. The other way to spread the pack out is to make the cars drive bad and the fans aren't going to like that.
To me this accomplishes a little bit of spreading the pack out without making the racing boring. Because of that I think they ought to keep it the way it is and not hamper our ability to tandem draft because it doesn't hurt the quality of racing.
I was fortunate to run in the front all day. There was a lot going on in the front. I don't know why, if you watched that race, how any part of that race was boring. That's just my opinion.
Q. Jeff, been a tough year, really tough year.
JEFF BURTON: For you or me (laughter)?
Q. When you're leading coming to the checkered like that, you got a guy behind you that's your teammate, are you happy to be sitting in here with a good finish, not stuffed in a wall? Are you livid that you lost? Is it any worse because of who beat you and how?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I'm pissed off and I'm happy all at the same time if there is such a thing. Anytime you come here and you can get a top 10, have a car that's not torn up, you have to at least be somewhat happy with that.
However, to come that close and to lose it is disheartening. It's always worse to lose 'em close. But it's a lot better being in a position. To be perfectly frank about it, since the first race at Phoenix, we haven't been in position to win a race. We haven't sniffed it. That is awful. It's terrible to come to the racetrack week in, week out. You come optimistic, you leave dejected.
At least today the dejection is about having a good finish and not finishing it off. Of course, I'm going to go home and watch the video a thousand times and wonder what I could have done different. But I'm heartbroken, but at the same time I'm happy if there is such a thing.
Q. Carl, with you and Matt out front 1-2, it's not a very big points lead, but do you look at this thing and say, At least Roush Fenway Racing can almost kind of take a breath here and say that we're in pretty good shape?
CARL EDWARDS: No, no. That would be nice. I'd love that. We'd have to have a hundred-point lead to take a breath. Anything can happen.
I'm proud of our team, where we've come from, how far we've come in the last 18 months. It's unbelievable. It's a testament to how hard everyone's willing to work, how much responsibility everyone's willing to take for the things we needed to fix.
We're doing well. It's fun. I'm a little nervous about Matt, honestly, 'cause I know how good he is and how good his team is. Having him in second doesn't make me breathe easier competitive-wise.
Q. You said in January you felt better going into this year than you did at the end of '08. Has it panned out that way or would you have needed more wins? Is it coming true?
CARL EDWARDS: I still feel we're performing better because we're a better team now. I feel like now we are a better team than we were in 2008. I feel we're fast for reasons that are more fundamental reasons. We have better engines, our engineering is better, our cars are better. We don't just have a trick, a skewed rear-end housing, a new car we figured out quick or something like that. I feel like we are competitive week in and week out.
Even when we have a bad day, it always seems that one of our teammates runs really well and we have someone we can lean on. I still feel better about this year than 2008. Just glad to be in the position I'm in. It's amazing to drive these Fords right now for Jack. It's a lot of fun.
Q. Dave, could you talk a little bit about what that means for Tommy Baldwin Racing, what it means for you going forward with this finish?
DAVE BLANEY: Well, it's huge for a race team. It's a tiny little team. This racecar we've got, it was a Bill Davis car 2007, 2008. It's not a killer. It's a big, big accomplishment for us to come out.
This is a track you can do this. You can't hang in all day. With Brad Keselowski's help we could hang in all day and took advantage of getting a big push at the right time. That's what it comes down to here, having a car that will roll the last couple laps to do that. It all just worked out.
Q. Dave, with this tandem racing, it does get strung out a little bit. Were you surprised that Clint and Jeff were able to scoot away as big as they did in that one lap? How did that happen? You were the closest one that could have possibly seen them.
DAVE BLANEY: I don't really know how it happened. I believe I started 14th and Brad was 15th on that green-white-checkered. I didn't see how the top five, what happened to them in the first corner. I have no idea. But that was odd to see them get that far away that quick. That is obviously what made it a different kind of race. Like Jeff said, exciting racing, whether it's tandem or packs, stressful on the drivers, exciting for the fans.
Q. Dave, do you feel any better after the April race here? You also were in a position for a nice day and didn't get it in the end through no fault of your own.
DAVE BLANEY: I was happy how we ran that day. Didn't work out, didn't get the finish. Performed well. Hung in there all day. Same thing today. Yeah, you feel great when you get the finish out of it.
But, again, just really happy for Golden Corral. I think the spring race here might have been the first or second race, they just started up with us. Stayed with us all year. Lets us race more than we could without them. Just legitimizes Tommy Baldwin's team more and more, see where we can go.
Posted on: October 16, 2011 12:49 am
Posted by Pete Pistone
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, it's huge for us. We had this one circled on the schedule as one that our whole Aflac team was nervous about.
We qualified well. We were not that fast at the beginning of the race and Bob did a really good job dialing it in, the car and the track kind of came to us, so just overall a really good nice for Roush Fenway, it's great to see Matt get a win. Those guys, I guess it's great as a teammate, but now he's only seven points behind us in the Chase. A great race and a lot better finish I than I thought we were going to have so I'm happy with it.
KERRY THARP: We are joined by our second place finisher, Kyle Busch who drives the No. 18 M&M's Toyota. Kyle moves up to fourth in the points, 18 out of the lead. Kyle, talk about your race out here this evening.
KYLE BUSCH: It was a good race for us. Certainly we started pretty deep in the field and made our way up through there slowly and steadily, and just real tough to pass and make up ground. You could be 2-10ths faster than the guy in front of you and run him down and catch him and slow down and just get stuck.
So you had to be creative and work your way up and work your way past guys, but I don't think we made a change to the car all night. We just kept running with it and just kept letting the race play out, and let it do what it was supposed to do, and lo and behold, we thought we were going to win and you get down to all of these late restarts and give it away. So finished second.
Q. Carl, we saw you talking to Kyle after the race and we heard your comments on TV and then Kyle shed a little bit more insight into it, and I asked this question with all due respect, shouldn't the guys racing for second and third be rating each other hard, because Kyle's explanation seemed to be that you were unhappy with the way he raced you.
CARL EDWARDS: We should definitely be racing each other hard. It's just that there's a difference between racing hard and then cutting across the guy ease nose.
What I told Kyle is I just wonder why coming off of turn two when I got underneath him that he drove down instead of going up to the wall like we would normally do. And I just let him know that next time that happens, I'll just stay where I'm at and he can drive across my hood and wreck himself.
It just surprised me. Now he told me that he didn't mean to do it, and so I got to believe that, but I don't know what else there is to say about it. Just it's racing, and we didn't wreck, and we are going to race hard like that; that's just how I saw it.
Q. For Carl, what was your reaction when you saw Jimmie or heard Jimmie had wrecked and what does that mean for all of you in the Chase now
CARL EDWARDS: Well, it can happen to any of us, so you know, obviously the more points we can get on the guys in the Chase, the better. But it's obvious that that could happen to anyone. So he could go on a tear and be leading the points in three or four weeks; and that could happen, too, so I don't have count him out.
Q. Kyle, could you speak of the balance between the frustration of not winning against actually getting a good finish and being in the best position you've been at this point in the Chase, each time you've been in it?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, we've kind of set out that we need to start finishing where we run during the race, and we have not done that maybe but Loudon. For tonight, we certainly ran really, really well. We ran strong. We drove up through the field and we got in position to win the race and was leading much of the majority of the end there.
Just got out-drove there by Kenseth there on the restart there. He just flat-out drove right past me like I was standing still. The frustration is, again, we did not finish where we wanted to, which could have been a real win, a real highlight.
The next frustration is we have yet to win a Chase race, and I'm sure I'll be hearing about that for the next four years if I continue that. But, you know, we'll keep working on it, and going into next week at Talladega and see if we can't get one there.
Q. Could you describe the engine issue that led to the change? TV seemed to say that it was not a failure but some sort of maintenance issue that caused the problem.
KYLE BUSCH: I can't elaborate. I don't know what it was. I heard something in the valve train, rock or arm stud, that's all.
Q. Can you comment on Matt, everybody talks about you guys possibly winning the title, but looked like he came out of nowhere tonight. Is he a real threat to this thing?
CARL EDWARDS: He's the only one of the three of us that's got a championship. He's doing really well, and tonight, that car was really fast and he drove it really well. I spent a lot of time behind him. He was wheeling it. So I don't think you can count him out at all.
KYLE BUSCH: You can never count out. It seems like those Wisconsin guys are awfully quiet most of the time. You know, maybe that's just a part of it. They will squeak it out there at the end, and leave you in the dust.
CARL EDWARDS: It's all the cheese they eat.
Q. I know that the Chase has not started the way that you would like to, but in a sense do you feel like you've gotten the worst of your tracks behind you and you guys have a good stretch coming ahead to look toward to?
KYLE BUSCH: You know, it's not necessarily the way we look at it. I feel like certainly we have -- we were running Top-5 at Chicago, ran out of fuel. Loudon was certainly not our best track, and then Dover was a pretty good track for us. We were running third and way too loose at the end and finished sixth, not bad. Kansas we ran fourth, fifth, all day. Just got caught up in the wrong lane on some restarts at the end and faded.
We had some decent runs going. Just were not able to capitalize on those runs and finish where we wanted to. So with the weeks remaining, we just can only take it one by one, and go into next week and put our best foot forward, put our best car on the racetrack and try to win Talladega and from there go to Martinsville where we get better every time we show up.
There's certainly some positive tracks that are coming up that we look forward to.
Q. Was there any key adjustment you made to the car to achieve the finish that you did tonight at a racetrack that's not been your best; and how was your car compared to last week?
CARL EDWARDS: It was a lot better than last week but we were off a little bit. We were not as fast as Kyle or Matt. We have to go back and look at it. Greg was fast and Trevor was screaming fast at one point in the race. He was really good. I don't know what happened to him but I thought he was going to be the guy to beat. We'll just go back and look at it and figure out what we are missing. It might be something I'm doing driving that's not correct here and there might be some set up stuff but we are slowly working on it. I feel better after this run. The All-Star Race, Coke 600 and this race were all decent for us, so that's three in a row. That's the best we have ever been here.
Q. Probably should not be a surprise that you're going to lead the points two weeks in a row during the Chase considering the way you ran during the off-season, but the people way Jimmie Johnson, not won as many opportunities as you've had, maybe it is a little surprising. How do you look at it with five races to go? Is it where you expected to be? Does it matter that they have as many wins --
CARL EDWARDS: The wins, they matter, obviously. It's great to win. But our goal is to win the championship. We have won nine races in a season and not won the championship, and I definitely trade that for a zero-win or one-win season with a championship.
Our goal is to win this championship. We are leading the points now which does not really amount to much with five races left but it is the -- we are on track. We are doing well. So there are some tough races coming up for us. I mean, Talladega is not my best track. Martinsville is not my best track. But after those, I feel pretty good.
Q. Carl, this is the latest in the season you've ever been the points leader. At what point do you have to start thinking about that, racing with that in mind? Does it change your style? Are you aggressive? Do you race conservatively to hold it -- do you know what I mean?
CARL EDWARDS: I was probably -- well, I don't know. I think right now, you have to still get everything you can. I mean, I raced really hard tonight. Not quite as hard as you (turning to Kyle).
KYLE BUSCH: I'm in the catbird's seat.
CARL EDWARDS: I'm racing as hard as I can, trying to get every point I can. That's how we have raced all season. It has not worked out for some wins but that's mostly been strategy and stuff like that.
I feel like I've kind of -- I found kind of a balance where I've wrecked enough, made enough stupid decisions early on that I'm trying to be better at not giving them away. So just keep doing what we've been doing and if it works out, it works out.
But part of your question, I don't think -- I don't think -- this season's not like others. I think that it's going to come down literally to the last few laps at Homestead. If you watched what happened tonight, anything can happen. It can turn, you know, turn quickly.
Q. Kyle, I know obviously would you like to start up front and race up front all night, but did you at least have a little bit of fun starting at the back and getting to pass that many cars that early on?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, there was a point in which the leader was going into one and I was coming off of two. So you know, that kind of leaves you a little bit worrisome.
But you just have to let it play out. Certainly there's going to be some cautions in there that will allow the field to bunch back up and everything like that. You know, it was -- it's all funny guess when you can start back there and run well. You know, there's obviously the big chance in getting caught up in something early. There was a couple of cars that came off turn four within the first ten laps of the race pulling sideways and I don't know how they didn't wreck. I was checking up to see what was going to happen, whether they were going to go shooting through the grass or keep it straight. That always keeps you on toes, keeps you a little nervous. The more you get up toward the front sometimes, there was a few moments that got a little close out there. But overall, that's just a product of racing.
Q. Seemed like almost all night long drivers were complaining about how hard it was to pass. Kyle, you were able to go and pass a lot of cars tonight, but when the leader is struggling to pass slower cars, the lap cars, what is it, just too much aero push? Is it time to relax the rules a little bit and let the crew chiefs and engineers work on these cars and figure out a way for them to pass a little bit better?
KYLE BUSCH: (Shaking head).
CARL EDWARDS: Be fine with me if they took the spoilers off and splitters off and we didn't have any downforce. The cars are so close that the difference between them is smaller than the difference when you're following somebody.
So NASCAR has done a really, really good job of making sure that the rules are close and we're all about the same speed. But then when you're going that fast and relying on downforce, it makes it really tough.
This track is probably one of the toughest ones to pass on. But you know, it just overall tough almost everywhere we go.
Q. Do you agree with Carl's assessment of what happened on turn two, or what was your version of it?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, certainly it's a tight race and Carl got a good run through the turn and got up to my left rear quarterpanel, and typically that gets you a little loose. And my car got loose, and it started moving out a little bit and I just held the wheel straight and it was essentially staying -- steering almost downhill.
It did not get sideways like really loose, loose, that I about wrecked. It just started steering and kind of free-wheeling, so I just let it go. I ran him a little tight. Essentially it made me run him a little tight out there on two and I just hugged on his door down the stretch to kind of side draft him to keep him alongside of me to give me another chance at redeeming myself through three and four and getting back by him and it worked out.
There was no malicious intent involved to cause anything or to hurt his chances at finishing second or anything. So it was just a product of what we had at the end going for everything we could, and trying to come home second.