Posted on: February 17, 2008 8:38 pm

Toyota post-race quotes

TONY STEWART, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finished:  3rd
Can you explain your feelings after such a strong run in the race? “It’s pretty tough to come in here and say that I’m happy to go from first to third on the last lap of the Daytona 500.  I just made the wrong decision on the backstretch and tried to get down in front of Kyle (Busch).  I thought we could get a push down there, but the No. 2 (Kurt Busch) got glued to the No. 12 (Ryan Newman).  I don’t know if I could have stopped them anyway and if I would have changed lanes I think I would have ended up like a bunch of other guys -- wrecked.  In all reality and in hindsight I’m probably going to be a lot happier about it.  I thought we were going to have a fun hair-cutting party in here tonight with you guys (media).  It’s hard to explain -- it’s probably one of the most disappointing moments of my racing career tonight.”

Were you surprised with the performance of the Toyotas in the race? “I didn’t know what to expect in all honesty because you don’t know when you go to a new program what you’re going to have until you get it.  I can say I’m pleasantly surprised for sure.  Everybody has worked had and I’ve mentioned it all week and every time we’ve come here -- we couldn’t have even come here without Mark Cronquist (JGR engine builder) and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing engine department.  It was a monumental feat to get us in the position that they got us in today.  We had the fastest cars, both Kyle (Busch) and I and they flew.  That’s all horsepower right there.”  

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&Ms Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finished:  4th
After leading the most laps, can you talk about your feelings at the finish? “It was a good day.  We had the dominant car all day long.  I could hold it wide open every single lap of the race.  It’s frustrating to come home fourth, but that’s a part of the Daytona 500 when you run as good as we had all day long.   Those guys couldn’t keep up with us, but there were all of those cautions at the end that propelled them forward enough in order to get them ahead.  The guys at the engine shop gave us some great horsepower.  We’ll take it on and go to California and have a good one there.”

Was there anything you could have done to hold off the Penske cars on the last lap? “You couldn’t really.  Those guys had such a head of steam.  They got ahead of me on that restart.  They lagged back and then got a big push.  In the NASCAR rulebook that’s not right, but they let it go.”

Are you disappointed with how the race ended for you? “I've had plenty of disappointments here over the years, and this is no different.  We just had the dominant car and could hold the car wide-open every lap.  This car was strong.  The JGR guys built an awesome car.  It was fun, but just frustrating that guys lag back on the restart when you're not supposed to and then get a run and blow by you.  I know I'm supposed to probably get busted for passing below the (yellow) line, but I was forced down.  Luckily, I got away with that.”

Did it seem like you had no friends in the draft, despite having the best car? “Kasey (Kahne) stuck with me at the end.  He's the one that got me a fourth-place finish.  (Tony) Stewart could've went up and blocked the momentum of the 12 (Ryan Newman) and the 2 (Kurt Busch), but he decided to stick down low and stay with me to see what we could come up with.  I wasn't getting a big enough push from behind to get up to his back bumper.  Once I did get to the back bumper, I just held the gas down.  I didn't care how hard I hit him -- it was coming to the checkered flag.”

BRIAN VICKERS, No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finished:  12th
Can you talk about overcoming the blown tire to finish in the top-12? “We were one blown tire away from having a shot at this win.  I know that 100 percent -- that we could run with the leaders and we could race with them and pass them.  Unfortunately, the tire blew too late and by the time we got our lap back, we raced as hard as we could to get to the front as fast as we could.  These cars aren’t very good three-wide and without running three-wide it’s hard to make much ground up.” How important is this good finish for the team heading to California? “This is very important.  It gives us great momentum.  I’m really proud of everyone at Red Bull and Toyota.  Toyota came down here with a great package and Red Bull built a good car to go around it.”

DALE JARRETT, No. 44 UPS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finished: 16th
Has it sunk in that this is your last Daytona 500? “Probably not.  That will happen later on as soon as I get home and think about.  By that time, it will be time to go to California.  It is never ending, but this has been a good place for me.  We stayed out of trouble and had a car good enough to make some passes at times and had some fun and that is all you can ask for.” Did you think about it on the final lap at all, that this is your last lap in the Daytona 500? “Yeah.  After I got past the start-finish line under the white flag and nobody wrecked, I thought about that. I was thinking that that was my last time I would make a lap here.  I had time to cool down there and think about it.  This has been a very special place for me.”  

Can you talk about David Reutimann, who will replace you in the No. 44 Camry? “David Reutimann is a good race car driver and his team will continue just to get better.  Time is the only thing that we are lacking right now.  We put forth great effort and we have a lot of good people and continue to get that.  We will continue to get better with every race.”

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finished:  17th
What happened that put you back in the field? “It wasn't the way we wanted this night or this race to end for the FedEx team.  We were really good from the start but after that contact with the No. 43 (Bobby Labonte) on pit road we were just never the same.  These cars (COT) are so aero-sensitive.  The damage took a toll on our handling and we just couldn't get it back.   Then late in the race we caught some really bad breaks and suffered even more damage.  I guess to get out of here with a 17th-place finish and to lead a bunch of laps says a lot about our team and this new engine package.  I am really happy with the Toyota engine and I hope this is just the start of a really good season for this team and for the whole Joe Gibbs Racing organization.”

Can you talk about the contact with the other car on pit road? “I was coming off pit road and it was a case where he pulled out and cut it a little close.  He caught our left rear and did just enough damage to really affect the handling when we the race went green.  We lost side force and with the ways these cars drive it was hard to keep from wrecking”

What are your thoughts on the JGR teams performance tonight? “I think we would be happier if one of the teams was in Victory Lane right now but we can feel pretty good about this race for our team.  All three of us led laps and proved we were really strong.  I think we have a good season ahead of us.”

DAVE BLANEY, No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota Camry, Bill Davis Racing Finished:  38th
Do you know what happened that took you out of the race? “We had a fast enough car to run right at the front, we just got in a big pile.  I’m not sure which car took me out.  I still think the No. 42 (Montoya) just slammed me side-to-side and flattened my right front.  I’m not sure why.  You see a lot of cars spit out of the draft right there, and unfortunately, we were one of them.”

Does your team have confidence heading to California despite the finish? “We do have more confidence this season as a team, but we still finished in the 30s here and put ourselves in a hole again.  That’s disappointing when you had a car that could run up front all week.”

Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Daytona 500
Posted on: February 17, 2008 8:23 pm

Ford post-race quotes

DAVID RAGAN – No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion (finished 42nd)
“I just bottomed out and shot up the track.  I’m very disappointed in myself and not being aware that we were just out on new tires and I should have been more conscience of where I was on the race track.  And I feel bad that I had to take out my teammate, Matt Kenseth, he was surely in contention for the win.  I’m very disappointed to be sitting in the garage this late in the race and I just want to apologize to Matt Kenseth, DeWalt and his entire team.”

YOU WERE RUNNING IN THE TOP 10 FOR A WHILE, WAS YOU CAR BEHAVING PRETTY WELL? “Yeah, we had an excellent car.  It was just a little bit tight to run the bottom the whole run.  I had to move up a little bit.  It had good speed.  Everyone on the AAA pit crew was doing an awesome job on pit road and we were just kind of waiting until the end.  It’s a shame that it ended like that.” 

ARE YOU ALL RIGHT AND WHAT HAPPENED?  “Yes, definitely a disappointing day to what would have been a great one.  I’m sorry that I took out my teammate Matt Kenseth.  I just bottomed out and shot straight up the track and it took us both out.  I’m disappointed in myself. I should have known what we were doing out there.  I just want to apologize to Matt Kenseth and all the DeWalt fans out there.  We’ll have the back-up going to California.”

MORE ON THE INCIDENT. “We had a great car.  We were just biding our time and it’s just a shame to end up like this.  I got tight on the bottom or bottomed out and shot straight up the track.  By the time I lifted, I drove straight up the to track into him [Matt Kenseth] and pushed him into the wall.  Jimmy Fenning and all the AAA guys put together a lot better car to where we were going to finish today.  I hate that I was the culprit of our misfortune. I’m very disappointed to shoot up the track like that and take out my teammate, Matt Kenseth.  He had a contention for the win and I kind of ruined it for him and myself.  It’s a disappointing day, so we’ll pick-up and go to California.”

GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion (finished 10th)
“We had a really good run out there today.  We were a little bit shy on speed.  They got such a run on us and I couldn’t block them.  They’re just going to spin us out.  We’re thinking about the championship, not a Daytona 500 win.  We needed it to go green for us to have a chance.  With cautions like that you get ganged up and you don’t have a chance.  They had a huge run and went right by us.  I had a really, really good Fusion.  My 3M guys did a great job to get it to drive the way it did.  I’m really excited to get this season off in the top 10 in points.” 

IF YOU HAD MORE TIME, COULD YOU HAVE MADE IT TO THE FRONT?  “Yeah, because my car would stay with a lot of speed.  Other cars were just slipping and sliding.  My car was fast, fast, fast the whole time.” 

YOUR FUSION LOOKS PRETTY CLEAN.  IT LOOKS LIKE YOU STAYED OUT OF THE TROUBLES OUT THERE. “I don’t know how I stayed out of trouble.  I got hit on every corner and was sandwiched in the draft.  They had my rear tires off the ground and the nose against the guys in front of me.  It was just a handful.  I don’t know how I survived it.”

JAMIE McMURRAY – No. 26 Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Ford Fusion (finished 26th)
“We didn’t have a good car. You can’t expect much when it’s your third car. We wrecked our Shootout car, it was our backup, crashed our primary car, and this one was just the third car in line. It wasn’t very fast when we brought it, but it’s all we had and we just kind of rode around and missed what little wrecks that they had, and finished. That’s all we did, is finish.

DAVID GILLILAND – No. 38 Ford Fusion (finished 28th)
“It was a difficult day. We got behind early. It felt like we had a loose wheel or a tire coming apart, so we didn’t want to take a chance after the trouble that we’ve had all weekend. We just didn’t want to take a chance and we got behind. It just took us forever to get that lucky dog and get our lap back. I’m real proud of all the guys, though. They never gave up. We had a decent car, not good enough, but now it’s one piece and we can go home and dissect and come back with something more next time.”

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion (finished 19th)
“We were really pretty good and just got shuffled back at the end. And we had a deal where we got caught up with the 77 car and slowed us way down. We had a competitive car, and it could’ve been a top-10 pretty easy. We just did the best we could.”

Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Daytona 500
Posted on: February 17, 2008 2:59 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2008 3:01 pm

Prerace entertainment

Driver introductions have been completed, leaving us about an hour away from the drop of the green flag.

For prerace entertainment, NASCAR is giving us none other than Chubby Checker, Michael McDonald, Kool and the Gang and Brooks &  Dunn.

I don't know about the rest of the NASCAR audience, but personally, I'd have been happy with just Kool and the Gang.

I almost forgot to add, Trisha Yearwood will bring us the national anthem.

Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Daytona 500
Posted on: February 17, 2008 12:31 pm

Around the track

If you've never been to Daytona International Speedway or Talladega Superspeedway, you can't really appreciate the enormity of the facilities. It takes forever and a day to get from one end to another, forever and two days when you're trying fight through crowds numbering 150,000+.

I took the long trek out to the merchandise trailers to see what was going on. It was packed as you might expect, and the line at the multiple Dale Earnhardt Jr. trailers were longer than a queue at Disneyland.

Among those signing autographs at the trailers on the morning of the biggest race of their careers were Kurt Busch, Robby Gordon, Brian Vickers and Reed Sorenson.

The access granted fans is one of the great things about NASCAR. In the garage, where crews were making their final preparations on their cars, fans are just feet away snapping pictures or just taking in the scene. It's would be akin to fans mingling with players on the sidelines during a Super Bowl practice.

Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Daytona 500
Posted on: February 17, 2008 12:18 pm

Golden wheels

In kind of a cool homage to this being the 50th running of the Daytona 500, the Michael Waltrip Racing cars of Waltrip, Dale Jarrett and David Reutimann will be sporting golden wheels for the start of the race.

The cars will sport their traditional chrome wheels after the first round of pit stops.

Following the 200-lap event, the wheels will be autographed and sold to raise money for charities supported by the France family.

Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Daytona 500
Posted on: February 17, 2008 9:50 am
Edited on: February 17, 2008 9:51 am

Good Morning from Daytona

So I made it to the speedway shortly before 9 a.m. Smooth sailing. I'm not one who likes to sit in traffic that's going nowhere and try to fight my way in to every nook and cranny because nobody want to give an inch. So my journey to the track was uneventful, but it was definitely starting to pick up.

The weather is beautiful. Temp should be in the mid-80s and no rain is expected. I'll be checking in throughout the day.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 16, 2008 5:32 pm

Tony Stewart unplugged

Tony Stewart is always entertaining during his press conferences and interviews and his post-race Busch Series winner's press conference was no exception.

For one, Stewart promised that media that if he wins the Daytona 500 on Sunday he will let members of the media chop of his now long-flowing hair.

"I'll tell you what, I'll let you guys each take a shot at the scissors tomorrow if we can win thing thing. Each of you can cut a lock for yourself. That's my gift."

Stewart was also toying with the idea of putting a Kevin Harvick bobblehead in his car before being shot down by crew chief Greg Zippadelli.

"I know we put a lot of work into trying to get Kevin's mounted today and Zippy was the one that put the squash on it. The guys were all ready. Had all the hardware to bolt it in.

"Zippy is so knotted up about tomorrow right now, it was hard to convince him that putting a toy in the car was actually going to make us more productive today. Didn't have much luck there.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 16, 2008 3:21 pm

Daytona 500 Happy Hour

So the final practice session ended a few hours ago and it was relatively uneventful.

Clint Bowyer, who skipped Friday's practice, probably wishes he'd have skipped Saturday's as well as he spanked the wall the wall during the session.

Carl Edwards topped the time sheet with a speed of 191.034 mph, but didn't put much stock in it.

“The speeds don’t really mean too much because it’s just about luck and where you end up in the pack, but the way the car is handling is really good," Edwards said. "We could actually get out there and lead a little bit.  It’s gonna be a fun race.  I’m really excited.”  

"We’re gonna be great if it’s nice and slick.  If the tires are an issue, I think that’s gonna play into our hands.  I think Bob and the guys have really done a good job of getting the car to handle really well. The biggest concern is just being caught up in something, whether it’s tire related or making a mistake out there.  That’s the biggest concern is getting to the end of the race.  If we’re there at the end on the last lap, and we’re running in the top 10, we’re gonna have a really good shot at it.”

A couple of the Hendrick favorites didn't spend a whole lot of time on the track. Dale Earnhardt Jr. did 13 laps and Jeff Gordon 12. Jimmie Johhnson put in 21 laps of work, while Casey Mears spent 36 laps fine-tuning.

Joe Gibbs Racing, on the other hand, put a lot of effort into Saturday's session. Denny Hamlin did 41 laps, Tony Stewart 40 laps and Kyle Busch 28 laps.

The workhorses of the session were Reed Sorenson and Kasey Kahne. Sorennson did 50 laps, 1/4 of a Daytona 500, while was next with 46 laps. Could they perhaps have put a little too much wear and tear on their engines heading into Sunday's race.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or