Posted on: November 6, 2011 8:12 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2011 8:16 pm
This entry has been removed by the administrator.
This message has been removed by the administrator.
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 4:14 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 4:48 pm
By Pete Pistone
LISTEN TO DANICA PATRICK/TONY STEWART COMMENTS
Danica Patrick will be begin her career as a Sprint Cup Series driver in next February's Daytona 500.
"The Great American Race" is one of eight firm events on Patrick's Cup schedule with Stewart-Haas Racing with a pair of races yet to be determined.
“Our goal with Danica’s schedule is to try and maximize her 10 races with us so that she’s as prepared as she can possibly be for a full-time Sprint Cup schedule in 2013,” said team co-owner Tony Stewart at Friday's announcement at Texas Motor Speedway. “In the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, she’ll handle short tracks, intermediate 1.5-mile ovals, and some unique tracks like Darlington and Phoenix. The point is to expose her to as many challenges as possible so that she’ll know what to expect in 2013.
“Between our schedule and her full Nationwide Series schedule for JR Motorsports, Danica will gain a lot of experience quickly. At the same time, we’ll monitor her progress, and if we feel there’s a particular venue or style of track where more seat time would be beneficial, we have two races where we can call an audible and enter her in those events.”
· May 12: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway
· Aug. 25: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway
· Sept. 2: Atlanta Motor Speedway
· Sept. 16: Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
· Sept. 30: Dover (Del.) International Speedway
· Nov. 4: Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth
· Nov. 11: Phoenix International Raceway
"At a place like Darlington, for example, where I'll run the Cup and Nationwide cars together, one absolutely will help the other. Tony [Eury Jr., Nationwide crew chief] has said sometimes the Cup guys like to do the Nationwide races to get more laps so they get more comfortable on the track. Sometimes guys like to do races at places they're good at, so they can just have fun -- like Junior at Bristol, or something. But for me, it's going to be about laps."
Patrick will drive a car with the No. 10, a choice she made.
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 3:03 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 3:51 pm
By Pete Pistone
By far feedback from the last short track race of the season has been positive with many calling it the best race of the season.
However not everyone shares that view, including the man who went to victory lane Sunday.
Tony Stewart may have crossed the finish line first and stayed ahead of the fray that included eighteen caution flags for 108 laps, but he wasn’t very impressed with the way most of his fellow competitors conducted themselves.
It’s not hard racing or even an aggressive nature that bothers Stewart but the intentional paybacks and retaliation that ran wild at Martinsville.
“NASCAR is going to have to at some point make these drivers be responsible for their actions amongst each other and not baby-sit and not protect these guys,” Stewart said. “Let them get their butt kicked. That's what used to happen in the old days. You didn't have guys dumping each other and taking cheap shots like that.”
Before the word hypocrite gets tossed Stewart’s way, the two-time Sprint Cup Series champion is well aware of his early reputation as a barroom brawler on the race track.
However Stewart says he understood fairly quickly that using your front bumper repeatedly in order to succeed carried a price.
“I used to be as guilty of it and bad as anybody about taking a cheap shot at guys early,” Stewart said. “But you realize that it's not about the two guys driving the cars out there as much as it's there's a bunch of guys that go back to the shop.
“There's a car owner that spends a lot of money. There's a bunch of crew guys that spend a lot of hours and put a lot of heart and soul into what we have as a product each week with these racecars. I think at times we all forget about that.”
This discussion has been magnified in recent years with the introduction of the “Boys Have at It” era in NASCAR racing. But while the sanctioning body intentions may have been to take a more hands off policy in officiating, Stewart is still unclear of exactly what the mandate meant and its ramifications.
“I'm still trying to figure out what 'have at it' meant,” Stewart said. “I don't know that any of us really knows what's different now than before they said that.”
Stewart thinks there has to be a line and one that is enforced by NASCAR or the sport is in danger of turning itself into a glorified demolition derby.
“NASCAR has to stay involved. You can't just make it a free-for-all obviously,” Stewart said after Sunday’s wreck-marred race. “But when you got guys, Jamie McMurray's car was destroyed, he waited for his opportunity to take out a guy he had a problem with. Whether it was justified or not, he took that opportunity. We got to get away from doing that and let guys settle it in the garage area with guys that have the problem.
“Don't take it out on everybody that works on these things. If him trying to take that other guy out would have taken a third party out that had nothing to do with it, it shows how big a problem you got, and that didn't happen. I'm not picking on Jamie. There were a lot of instances today where guys were going back and retaliating against each other. There's 43 guys out here. You catch an innocent guy in somebody else's problem...”
Stewart wasn’t alone in his assessment of Sunday’s behavior. Denny Hamlin, who was gunning for a fifth career Martinsville, win was in the mix until he was shoved out of the way in the last laps dash to the checkered flag.
Hamlin understood the nature of short track racing leads to contact more often than not but in his view there’s a limit to how things should be handled.
“There’s a point and it’s almost like it’s out of control,” Hamlin said. “Eventually, someone’s going to get hurt in this whole thing because we keep sending guys in the corner and in the wall. These are deadly machines. Everyone who gets run into then pound the guy that runs into him. Eventually, there’s nothing good that’s going to happen from everyone to keep retaliating like this.”
Then there’s Jimmie Johnson’s take on the situation, which might be seen as sour grapes by some from the guy who wound up finishing second behind Stewart.
Johnson had a sizeable lead that was wiped out on the day’s last caution that was triggered by a multi-car incident involving Brian Vickers, who was involved in perhaps a half dozen altercations.
The turn of events definitely impacted Johnson’s run to victory lane but the five-time champion provided a wider view of how he believes retaliation is conducted.
"When you're on the race track and someone wrongs you, you have some decisions to make in how you want to handle that,” said Johnson. “Each man's decision how they want to handle it. I don't agree with the way things were handled at the end."
But even with some of the sport’s heaviest hitters like Stewart and Johnson – who carry seven Cup titles between then – sharing their distaste for the style of driving currently on display, it probably won’t change anytime soon.
There’s no arguing NASCAR’s popularity spikes when drama and controversy are in the mix.
The tightest Chase in the format’s history and a competitive season that has seen 18 different winners including six first timers might not be enough to generate the kind of interest NASCAR needs.
Hot tempers, high emotions, scores settled and wrecks – preferably lots of them – is what the majority of fans want. That has come through loud and clear after Sunday’s race in Martinsville.
And it’s come at the expense of respect and sportsmanship - may they rest in peace.
Posted on: October 30, 2011 8:40 pm
Posted by Pete Pistone
KERRY THARP: Questions for Darian.
Q. With all the crashes that were going on, what was your game plan? How can you figure out what sequence you wanted to be on?
DARIAN GRUBB: It really didn't happen until right at the very end. We were playing our sequence to make our car right. It's easier to make those calls when you're in the front because you can decide, the strategy is going to play out, we'll be back at the front when it matters. Mid race we made some major changes, long pit stops, guys did an awesome job of getting everything done. When we got up there and got the lead, he thought he had a left rear tire going flat. Pitted. Took four tires to be safe. We thought that was going to kill us. But the way the strategy played out after that with a few more cautions, we were able to stay out, pit when we needed to. And at the end being able to take those two tires was a big deal for us. We were in the right position to be able to do that. Restarting on the inside with that the first time, that let us march forward. It was tough to start on the outside, and Tony figured out what he needed to do to pass the 48.
Q. Did you have any help from the 39 with the setup today?
DARIAN GRUBB: We started out with the exact same baseline when we came here and unloaded Friday morning. We evolved to quite a different setup between the two teams. We take a lot of each other's notes from each other. It's always a learning experience when you have a teammate with another strategy, setup and driver's input. That helped. They're really good teammates for that.
Q. Multiple times after the race Tony was forthright about challenging Carl Edwards, saying he should be worried, not going to sleep for the next three weeks. What have you seen from Tony today? Seems he was in a good mood all weekend, maybe he has a different outlook on the season.
DARIAN GRUBB: He does. We all have the attitude that we feel we should be leading right now. We made the mistakes that gave up those points there in the third, fourth and fifth race. We're ready to get back in this game and show everybody what we've got left.
Q. You have gone from Tony upset, not really focused on entering the Chase, saying, If we're not going to compete for wins, we shouldn't be in the Chase. Now you have three wins in seven races. Where did things get turned around to get you this confidence?
DARIAN GRUBB: It was way before those comments in Michigan. That just put a little bit more fire in everybody, I guess. We've been working hard all year. We've had good cars ever since the Daytona 500. We just never got the finishes we needed to get every weekend.
We had some bad strategy calls on my part. We had some cars that weren't the greatest. We had some situations on the racetrack that didn't work out.
We had a good team that just keeps fighting. They dig every week. When those comments were made in Michigan, we all fought just a little bit harder to make sure we got 110% out of every person there, to make sure we're all doing the right things and moving forward. We've been trying not to look back ever since.
KERRY THARP: Let's go ahead and hear from Tony. This is your 42nd career Sprint Cup win, your third win here in 2011, all in the Chase. You now have nine Chase wins in your career, second behind Jimmie Johnson. Congratulations to all that.
Talk about that victory here today being textbook, the pass. Talk about everything that fell your way.
TONY STEWART: It was a long day, for sure. The first 200 laps, Darian was making changes. We just couldn't get the car to respond to anything. He made some good changes the whole last half of the race that got us in the ballpark. He had two awesome pit calls with pit strategy that got us track position.
The first time I screwed up and gave it away thinking I had a flat tire. Then at the end of the day, he got us that track position back with another great call. That is what truly gave us the shot to have that opportunity at the end of the day.
For a guy that grew up 22 miles from here, he had than a All-Star day today. He made the right calls that gave us that opportunity, kept making changes. We have not been good here for probably the last two or three races. I think two races ago we were decent and I messed up and changed lanes before the start/finish line and got us moved back. Today was a fight, for sure.
When you win a race today with the obstacles that we overcame, that's what makes winning races like this so special.
KERRY THARP: We'll continue with questions.
Q. You kind of grabbed everybody's attention winning the first two races of the Chase, then dropped out of the picture. People were starting to say on Friday, Don't forget about the 14. You were excited in Victory Lane. Jeff Gordon was, You guys better pay attention to Tony. Talk about how that feels, Darian, to have people looking your way.
DARIAN GRUBB: It's funny to us because we never lose that feeling that we can win the championship. It's just that the media doesn't pay attention to it. We work as hard every week. We're doing 80-hour weeks every week. Doesn't matter whether we finish 34th or 1st. I'm proud of the guys for doing that. Everybody shows up for work every day with their game face on no matter what circumstances they're going through and get the job done. I'm very proud of everyone at Stewart Haas Racing for doing that.
Q. In New Hampshire you said it was too early to address this. How extra special is it to be able to bookend Jimmie Johnson's reign on this sport?
TONY STEWART: Come check with me in three weeks. We're closer than we were at Loudon. But it's awesome we have that opportunity, to get three races in the Chase like this. It's an awesome feeling sitting here tonight. We got three tracks that we feel are really good to us coming up.
I'm excited about it. It's a great feeling obviously. To be honest, it's really not the fact of beating Jimmie as much as it's just hard to win in this series to begin with. You cherish the opportunities. You make sure that when you have the opportunity, you make the most of it.
This is a tough series. It's been a tough Chase. There's the best Chase field that we've ever had. The cool part will be, the stuff I pay attention to, to have three of those trophies that are different in two different formats, three different sponsors, that would be a cool deal.
Q. Tony, at the beginning of the Chase you made the comment that you hadn't listed your guys as one of the true title contenders. What changed? Were you just using us?
TONY STEWART: I would just use you, Dustin. I'll be honest. You're easy to take advantage of. I don't think anybody cares if we take advantage of you, so it's not like you feel a huge amount of guilt in that process. Sorry, but...
You know, at the point when we talked about that, I mean, I felt like there were some things that were missing. I think our Chase run here, obviously Dover was not what we were looking for. But every race since then, we have been a contender. The result hasn't always shown at some of these races. But we've been pretty solid in this Chase here.
I don't know what changes. The guy beside me is the guy to ask that. He's the guy that's orchestrating it, organizing the people to do the job. It doesn't matter what it is that's changed; the good thing is that it has and it changed at the right time when we need it. That's all you can ask for.
Q. Tony, during that long green-flag run, you were ready to be lapped by Denny Hamlin, how important was it for you to fight him hard on the outside, maintain that lead lap status, and back up the determination you talked about in Victory Lane of your crew members not giving up on you?
TONY STEWART: I was reminded by Darian this morning, I was reminded by my spotter this morning, and I was reminded before the race by many crew members to not be so nice today, which I know sounds odd of me.
You know, this is a tough race. I think right at the end, a perfect example is having Jimmie there racing you, Jeff, Jeff Burton, the guys that we were around at the end of the day. You race these guys with respect and they're going to race you back with respect.
Could Jimmie just hauled it off in the corner, blown the corner to try to take us down? Absolutely. He could have done that to anybody. He didn't do that to us. I think he knows we respect him and have that level of respect. I messed up and got underneath the 43 car, probably the big bonehead move of my race today. Luckily I really only feel like I put myself in a bad spot one time that you couldn't get out of. That was with the 43 car. I got underneath him in a spot where he was already coming down. I screwed up, he got sideways. I just checked up and let him have his spot back. I never saw anybody give anybody a spot back in a situation like that today. It wasn't his fault.
I think later after that I got back by the 43 car and instead of dumping me like the other guys were doing to each other, I think he knew I gave him that spot back because I knew I made a mistake. It just shows the respect that some guys did have for each other even though there was a lot of disrespect amongst a lot of guys out there today.
NASCAR is going to have to at some point make these drivers be responsible for their actions amongst each other and not baby-sit and not protect these guys. Let them get their butt kicked. That's what used to happen in the old days. You didn't have guys dumping each other and taking cheap shots like that.
I used to be as guilty of it and bad as anybody about taking a cheap shot at guys early. But you realize that it's not about the two guys driving the cars out there as much as it's there's a bunch of guys that go back to the shop. There's a car owner that spends a lot of money. There's a bunch of crew guys that spend a lot of hours and put a lot of heart and soul into what we have as a product each week with these racecars. I think at times we all forget about that.
You let a guy get his butt kicked once or twice, he'll quit doing stupid stuff like that. I saw a bunch of it today out there. Luckily we weren't one of the guys that were in the middle of it a lot. I think they ought to get a portable boxing ring. As soon as they get done with the victory celebration, set the boxing ring on the frontstretch, give the fans a real show they paid for. If you want to boost the attendance at Martinsville, have a boxing match with each of the guys that had a beef with each other.
Am I the only one that thinks that way in this room? I thought so.
Q. Has your outlook changed as an owner?
TONY STEWART: Not necessarily. I mean, when Dale Sr. was here and Dale Jarrett, when I started, you just didn't do that because that guy would come grab you, pull you out of the car at the end of the practice session, rip your head off talking to you about it, intimidate you into understanding why you didn't do that.
Now there's nothing. You can go yell at a guy. We watched Biffle and Kevin Harvick yell at each other. What did they accomplish? Did it make anybody understand what the other guy was thinking or saying? They yelled at each other, walked away, nothing was different than before it happened. There's nothing different to make these guys do anything other than what's in their head. There's always two sides to a story.
I don't know. I mean, I guess I thought that way before that a little bit. Even as a car owner now, I remember Joe Gibbs sitting me down and saying, There's other guys working on these things, too. You knock the nose off of it after a race because you're mad as somebody, all of a sudden you created a lot more work for these guys. Maybe the crew guys need to get mad at their drivers when we do something stupid. Maybe the crew guys ought to pull the drivers back in the shop and make them fix it when they do it. I would be screwed because I can't do it. I can barely put something that bolts together together.
Q. You told me after practice yesterday that you weren't sure where you were competitively but you weren't where you needed to be. Were you messing with?
TONY STEWART: Are you and Dustin hanging out, holding hands right now?
Q. We're tight, man.
TONY STEWART: You look a lot alike, too.
Q. You're a good-looking man, Dustin.
TONY STEWART: Well-played.
Q. When did you get your car to the point where you knew you could win?
TONY STEWART: We sat down, went through our normal debrief at the end of the day. Darian brought a report by and we were still texting each other at 10:00 last night, still talking about it.
We were looking at the time sheet. We weren't a strong car the first 12 to 15 laps, but it seemed like we were as good as anybody after that. But the race today seemed to change. I wasn't messing with you. We didn't feel as strong by looking at the sheet as what we wanted to be on the front of a run. We felt 15 laps into it we were solid. We needed to keep working on it.
Like I said, Darian was still working on it at 10:00 last night. That's what you got to do. You got to keep digging. Our guys with the sim programs were working, crunching numbers, running through different changes and scenarios to try to find an answer. I'm glad they do that.
Q. Tony, Jeff Gordon came in here and said he was stunned to see you up in the top five. You really seemed to move through the field fast. What happened to get you back in that position?
TONY STEWART: Honestly, when I thought I cut the tire, it wasn't a down tire. We just had made so many changes, it felt like it was down honestly. After the contact with Harvick, I thought I had a flat, but it wasn't.
It was due to Darian. Like I said, he had two really key calls in the race that gave us that opportunity. We kind of just got stuck during the race. Wherever we restarted, we were kind of stuck there. It was hard to make any ground. We weren't able to make the car do what we were looking for to try to pass guys. We just were stuck.
He kept working on it, kept adjusting on it. We got it better. We still never got it 100%. We got it close enough that when we did get there late in the day, when we had cleaner air, we had a shot. You never think clean air is a big deal here. I think more than the clean air, it was like I told Darian, we could be 22nd and be running within a 10th of what the leader was running. The problem was to do that I had to have the open track to run the way I needed to run the car to run those lap times.
To race a guy for position, have to run and brake different and get on the gas at a different spot to try to pass somebody, I couldn't make the car do what I wanted it to do at that point.
Q. We heard what you said to Carl Edwards a couple times in the Victory Lane interviews. It seems like you're obviously relishing it. Six years since you've been in a championship hunt this deep in the season. You're back in the game and it seems like you're enjoying it.
TONY STEWART: Yeah, I don't know anybody that doesn't enjoy being in the middle of it with three weeks to go. It's a great feeling. You work hard all year to try to be in this position. When you start the Chase off with 10 races to go, a lot can happen. There's a lot of variables that you worry about along the way. It doesn't mean we're still not worried about it.
There were guys that may have had their chances taken away today. So to be in a position that we're in right now, sitting here knowing that we're right in the middle of this thing with three weeks to go, it is obviously a great feeling and great position to be in. We just got to go out and keep doing what we're doing here.
It's nice to leave here with the momentum going to three tracks that we like and enjoy.
Q. Two years ago when NASCAR let drivers go out there, so-called 'have at it,' a lot of drivers said they were better able to take care of these things themselves, NASCAR shouldn't police them, it was best left on the track. A lot of drivers said that they were grownups. Are you saying that NASCAR should get back involved or do you think drivers should really take care of themselves?
TONY STEWART: I'm still trying to figure out what 'have at it' meant. I don't know that any of us really knows what's different now than before they said that.
NASCAR has to stay involved. You can't just make it a free-for-all obviously. But when you got guys, Jamie McMurray's car was destroyed, he waited for his opportunity to take out a guy he had a problem with. Whether it was justified or not, he took that opportunity. We got to get away from doing that and let guys settle it in the garage area with guys that have the problem. Don't take it out on everybody that works on these things. If him trying to take that other guy out would have taken a third party out that had nothing to do with it, it shows how big a problem you got, and that didn't happen. I'm not picking on Jamie. There were a lot of instances today where guys were going back and retaliating against each other. There's 43 guys out here. You catch an innocent guy in somebody else's problem...
It's easier for drivers to handle it back here. They'll find a way to sort it out amongst each other if you give them the opportunity. You can't keep your hands over top of each other and protect them. You have to let them handle it their way.
Q. You just mentioned a minute ago that some drivers may have lost their chance today to contend for the championship. The top four are separated by 27, next guy is 36. Are we down to four now?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. You look at how these races have gone. One day one race can change a lot. I don't think it's going to help a guy get back into it, but it sure can eliminate guys from it if you have a bad day. It's hard to say.
There's never been a consistent year in this Chase as far as being able to say at this point this guy with this many points is really out of it. Anything can happen. It's hard to say.
Three weeks ago, the probability of guys up front, to have three or four guys back up to somebody in fifth, it's not very likely that that would happen.
Q. Martinsville fans seem to have a love affair with certain drivers. You're one of those. Couple hundred folks standing at the gate screaming, Climb the fence.
TONY STEWART: Why didn't they climb the fence? If they wanted to climb so much, why didn't they climb the fence?
Q. There were about 20 deputies out there. Talk about how the fans embrace you.
TONY STEWART: There's two places where when you take the lead you absolutely know it. It's Bristol and Martinsville. To pass Jimmie Johnson on the outside with two laps to go and to watch the crowd on the backstretch, then watch them on the frontstretch when we cleared him, you swear people are going to fall onto the racetrack.
You feel that energy. You sense that. That's not that you need extra motivation, but it's cool to know you got that kind of support. It's just that extra drive that gets you the rest of the way that last lap. It's cool.
Q. You mentioned the motivation, adrenaline. You see that in the Victory Lane comments to Carl. Did you really mean it?
TONY STEWART: My adrenaline has worn off and he better not sleep too long the next three weeks. It's no disrespect to him. He's a great competitor, he's a great guy, he's with a great organization that deserves their shot at that championship, too. We've had one of those up-and-down years and we're having a run in this Chase now where we're hungry. We're hungry for this. I feel like our mindset into these next three weeks, we've been nice all year to a lot of guys, given guys a lot of breaks. We're cashing tickets in these next three weeks.
Posted on: October 30, 2011 7:32 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 8:17 pm
By Pete Pistone
UNOFFICIAL TUMS FAST RELIEF 500 RESULTS
TUMS Fast Relief 500
High emotions, hard feelings, tight racing, damaged race cars and a new chapter in the championship saga.
Yep, Sunday’s return trip to Martinsville Speedway had all that and a whole lot more.
After spending the previous weekend looking for partners and following team orders in Talladega, Sprint Cup drivers were left to decide things on their own in the second visit of the year to the shortest track on the schedule.
As is usually the case after the checkered flag waves at Martinsville there were more unhappy campers than those celebrating their day in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Tony Stewart made the happy list with his come back victory number three of the Chase, which put the man who declared himself out of the title picture back in August squarely into the championship contenders category.
And after falling two laps back Carl Edwards also came out of Martinsville with a giant smile, somehow working his way back into the top ten and hanging on to his Chase lead with only three races to go.
But the title race thinned out some when other Chasers were not as fortunate as Stewart or Edwards.
Matt Kenseth went from nearly leaving Virginia with the championship lead to barely hanging on to his view of the top after tumbling from second to fifth in the standings. Kenseth was a victim of at least two examples of the extremely rough driving that went on Sunday getting tangled first with Kyle Busch and then not once but twice with Brian Vickers.
“It’s disappointing,” said Kenseth who trails Edwards by 36 points. “I obviously did a poor job today. We were really bad on used tires if we had a restart like we were in practice and we kept getting the outside every time and that’s such a disadvantage on the outside, unless you have a real fast car, which we really didn’t. It was a struggle all day. Obviously, I didn’t make good decisions and we ended up in a bad spot.”
Kyle Busch’s twenty-seventh place finish and Brad Keselowski’s seventeenth place effort may have also wiped the duo from the championship race.
But the biggest name of all coming up short on Sunday was none other than five time champ Jimmie Johnson, who came within two laps of winning the race and maybe somehow starting a miracle run to the top of the standings yet again.
Johnson looked comfortably ahead until the day’s eighteenth caution, caused by one of many incidents involving Brian Vickers, bunched up the field and gave Stewart his shot to pass on the next restart for the win.
His runner-up effort left Johnson a full race behind Edwards at 43 points and for all intents and purposes ending his title reign, leaving the driver of the No. 48 wondering what might have been without the consequences Vickers’ intervention.
"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," Johnson said. "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.”
There was a lot of that going around on Sunday.
His come back in Kansas to start the month was just a warm-up to the magnificent rebound Edwards pulled off on Sunday. After starting from the pole thanks to qualifying being rained out and his position in the point standings, Edwards dropped like a rock and fell a lap down. But he fought back and stayed in it until the bitter end for a ninth place finish good enough to maintain the Chase lead.
He didn’t win the 200<sup>th</sup> race for Hendrick Motorsports as he so dearly wanted to coming into the weekend but Johnson turned in a nice effort in the wake of last week’s Talladega controversy. It’s now all but certain Johnson’s Sprint Cup title reign is over but I wouldn’t bet against the 48 being in the mix for wins over the final three races of the schedule.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Sunday’s performance may have been the most spirited by Earnhardt in several years. He felt he had a car capable of winning from the drop of the green flag and was not shy about showing some aggression on the race track. Earnhardt apologized a couple of times along the way when the 88 made hard contact with another car or two but he stayed positive to the end on his way to a seventh place run.
Looked like he would inherit the point lead late in the race when Kenseth was running inside the Top 5 and teammate Edwards was struggling. That was until he got into a scrap with Brian Vickers that damaged The No. 17 Ford severely enough to bring him to pit road where Kenseth fell several laps off the pace. And then Vickers added insult to injury by rear-ending Kenseth in a pile drive when he returned to the track.
Was on a torrid pace toward the front of the field and had his sights set on a Top 5 finish until Keselowski was punted in the closing laps and spun out. He sat trying to bring out a caution that never flew and was saddled with a 17<sup>th</sup> place finish that may very well have ended his Cinderella title hopes.
Was also on pace to come out of Martinsville with a stellar finish and climb closer to the top of the point standings before getting caught in a multi-car crash. Busch came to pit road for repairs but lost a wheel when lug nuts were not properly tightened and free fell to a 27<sup>th</sup> place finish.
(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)
"I think if we raced at more short-tracks, I'd be considered a dirty driver. Hell, I can take it as well as I can dish it out." – Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"I want to thank Goodyear for bringing the #$%iest tires in the world for ruining racing...." – Kevin Harvick
"All right, I'm losing patience. Come on.” – Denny Hamlin
"We know we’re not having the best day. We'll get every point here.'' – Carl Edwards
"I felt like he took a cheap shot on me.'' – Jamie McMurray on Brian Vickers
On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 a four. The final short track race of the season lived up to everyone’s expectations and provided a for the most part entertaining afternoon as well as a potent kick to the championship picture. The 18 cautions bogged down things at times and some drivers’ behavior bordered on the weekly short track hobby stock variety rather than the elite level of the sport. But you cannot argue with the flat out hard racing that punctuated most of the afternoon or the thrilling finish that pulled Stewart right back into the title race with only three races to go.
DOWN THE ROAD
The Chase dwindles down to the final trio of races and Sunday’s return trip to Texas Motor Speedway for the AAA Texas 500. Last year’s fall race at TMS was one for the ages with the Hendrick teams swapping pit crews in mid-race, Kyle Busch flipping not one but two birds to a NASCAR official on pit road and Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton getting into a scuffle on the backstretch after their tangle on the track. The championship picture has gotten pretty fuzzy following Martinsville and I’d expect more weirdness next week in the Lone Star State.