Loudon, N.H. (September 17,2010) – Four Team Chevy drivers scored top-five starting positions at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the first race of the 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Clint Bowyer, No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet and the 12th seed in the Chase field, will start on the outside of the front row. Tony Stewart, the sixth seed in the Chase, qualified his No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet in the third starting position.
Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing teammates Jamie McMurray, No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet, and Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Energizer Chevrolet, qualified fourth and fifth respectively to give Team Chevy four of the top-five starters in the Sylvania 300 43-car field.
Other Team Chevy driver seeded in the Chase qualified as follows: Jeff Burton, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet (10th seed) – 13th; Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont/National Guard Facebook Chevrolet (eighth seed) – 17th; Jimmie Johnson, No. 24 Lowe’s/John Manville Chevrolet (second seed) – 25th; and Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet (third seed) – 27th.
Brad Keselowski (Dodge) was the pole winner for the 300-laps/317.4-mile race scheduled to start Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EDT. Live broadcast coverage will be provided by ESPN TV, PRN Radio and Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 128.
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 CHEERIOS/HAMBURGER HELPER QUALIFIED 2nd:
ON HIS LAP: “The sun looks like it might come out here in a little bit. Maybe we will hold onto it. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that was a good effort. That’s what it takes to be at this level. We weren’t very good in practice and we made a couple of really good adjustments there and gut us where we needed to be. That’s what this team needs to get better at and that’s exactly what we just did.”
YOU WERE 20TH IN PRACTICE, SO YOU MADE A BIG JUMP AHEAD: “Yeah, that’s a pretty big jump. I think our fastest lap in practice was an .84 and we just ran a .53 so that’s big on a short track.”
TALK ABOUT HOW BIG TRACK POSITION WILL BE HERE: “It’s always big on any race track, but these short tracks, it’s hard to pass here, so that’ll put us somewhere up front.”
A NEW TRACK RECORD, WAS THAT A WHITE-KNUCKLE RIDE FOR YOU?: “The guys really made an awesome adjustment there between practice. We were off a little bit and just down on grip; tightened up a little bit and made an air pressure adjustment and it really made good. But actually I see some blue sky and hopefully some sun coming up pretty quick, so hopefully that’ll bust out and we’ll hold onto it.
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 3rd:
YOU SEEMED PRETTY OPTIMISTIC AFTER PRACTICE, WHAT HAPPENED THERE IN QUALIFYING? “I just missed it a little bit (laughs). I tried a little too hard, I think. We’ve got a really good race car. I’m pretty proud of the guys. It drives awesome. We’ve got a great engine from Hendrick this week like I’ve been getting all year. This Old Spice Chevy with Office Depot on it is pretty fast. It may not have gotten the pole here but we’re going to be something to deal with, I think, on Sunday.”
ARE THE TRACK CONDITIONS STAYING ABOUT THE SAME? “I think so. It looks like it’s probably going to stay pretty consistent through the session. I think guys’ times are going to be pretty honest times.”
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 MCDONALDS CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 4th: ON HIS LAP:”We really struggled here at the first race and obviously Jean (Montoya) ran well. So we came back with a similar set-up to what they had. I was really sick the first race. I don’t really know what we would have had because I was sick all weekend. But that was good. I’m pretty happy with that. It’s better than we practiced and that’s all I think you can ask for is to just try to better your car from practice. I didn’t really think we had a shot at the pole.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR CHANCES IN THE LAST 10 RACES?
We’ve done a really good job. I feel like we were really inconsistent at the beginning of the year and we’ve taken our 25th place runs or 20th place runs and made those 15th’s now. So the last two weeks have been really tough. We haven’t raced very well but we’ve finished okay. So, that’s good.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 ENERGIZER CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 5TH: ON HIS QUALIFYING EFFORT: “We had a very difficult practice. I think we unloaded too far off. We unloaded very close to what we normally run here and it was for some reason really bad so we did a lot of changes but we couldn’t really get close when we did two runs in race trim. Then went to qualifying trim and did one run, it was ok, it was really really loose. Went to do another run and it started raining. So, it was just one of those days when everything went wrong. When you don’t build momentum to qualify, it is very hard especially when you go out to qualify and you have no idea what the car is going to do.”
HOW TEMPERATURE SENSITIVE IS THIS TRACK? “It is one of those deals that is going to be hard because I think the weekend is going to get hotter so it is a little bit of a guessing game. I don’t think it is as much as it is when we practice in the daytime and race at night. So it will be ok.”
POST QUALIFYING TRANSCRIPT:
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 CHEERIOS/HAMBURGER HELPER CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 2ND
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 3RD:
TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING EFFORT; YOU GET A GOOD PIT SELECTION AND HOW WILL THAT COME INTO PLAY ON SUNDAY?
BOWYER: “The importance of qualifying is so big. It’s very hard to pass here. I’m just very proud of the guys. That was a team effort. We were off in practice there and made a couple of adjustments and the car really came to life and got us a good lap. That’s the stuff you’ve got to do to compete with the elite crowd that we’re in in this Chase. You’ve got to be able to pick it up when you’re down and it was a good step in the right direction, there.”
“I was happy with it. We didn’t really make any changes after practice. It felt pretty balanced. We ended on top of the board there and not necessarily sitting on our hands thinking that what we had was good enough, but I just didn’t really know what to ask him for to go faster than what we ran. I felt like my balance was good, it was just a matter of what the track was going to do. I think there was a little driver error (laughs); I tried too hard but I didn’t lose too much time and had a good run.”
THERE ARE ONLY FOUR CHASE DRIVERS IN THE TOP 10 (STARTING LINE-UP). DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE A LEG-UP ON EVERYBODY? IN TERMS OF THIS RACE TRACK, WHAT’S THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HOW THESE CARS WILL RACE VERSUS HOW THEY QUALIFY?
BOWYER: “We’ve got a leg up on them for Friday (laughs). After that, they’ll run you down and it will be a race. The same old guys there always is. That’s why they’re in the Chase. But I tell you, it keeps getting closer and closer. I think the level of competition just keeps getting tighter and tighter with each and every race. I think that’s why you’re starting to see guys that don’t normally sit on poles, sit on poles and everything else. This is a track where it’s time to go. A lot of people are making big strides at their set-ups and their chassis and it’s showing.
“I agree. It’s never an indication of how the race is necessarily; it never has been so I don’t know why anybody would think that now. You’ve been to enough races. You know this isn’t the way it is.”
DO YOU FEEL WITH THAT SEPARATION IN THE FIELD THAT IT COULD CREATE SOME HAVOC FOR THEM TRYING TO MAKE THEIR WAY UP? THE TOP TWO SEEDS ARE LOOKING LIKE THEY WILL HAVE TO START PRETTY DEEP IN THIS FIELDS
STEWART: “We’re not reinventing the wheel, guys. It’s the same thing we do every week here. This is no different than everything that everybody has done to get in the Chase. So, you’re seeing the same thing that we’ve always seen here. There are always guys that race a lot better than they qualify and just miss it in qualifying. Its two laps to hit or miss, but you’ve got 300 laps to make it right for the race. Don’t over think this. It’s not that complicated.”
BOWYER: “To answer your question, you hope so but probably not. (laughter)”
STEWART: “Right; exactly. It’s always easy to start up front. It’s easier the first 26 races if you start up front. That theory hasn’t changed for 60-plus years in NASCAR. It’s always better to start up front in any form of racing.”
HOW DOES COOL, DRY WEATHER AFFECT YOUR DECISION-MAKING DURING A RACE?
STEWART: “It’s much easier than cool, wet conditions (laughter). It makes me a lot happier. I don’t like it when my shoes get wet.
BOWYER: “You tend to get hot when it’s hot outside and it’s not much fun. But they gave the track a lot of grip. That was a track record I think so it just shows you how much you pick up the race track. Once you get into racing conditions, all that goes by the wayside. You’ve got to be able to handle on lap 25 and not necessarily on the first lap. So it’s going to change, big time, throughout the weekend.”
YOU’RE NOT TRYING TO REINVENT THE WHEEL. IS THERE ANY TEMPTATION IF YOU’RE NOT RUNNING AS WELL AS YOU’D LIKE TO MAKE BIGGER CHANGES OR TAKE BIGGER SWINGS?
STEWART: “I think if you’re not in the Chase, then yeah, you have the flexibility to do that. I don’t think there’s a huge sense in pride in being 13th in points. I might be wrong but I think guy, at this point in the season, that aren’t in the Chase, are already looking toward next year. Obviously there is a reason those guy didn’t make the Chase. So those guys are trying to find a chunk and trying to experiment and figure out things in these last 10 weeks that they can do to help their program for next year and hopefully give them an opportunity to be in the Chase. I don’t think at this point anybody that’s in the top 12 is going to do anything really radical outside the box than what they’ve been doing that got them here.”
TONY YOU ARE ONE OF THE FEW GUYS IN THE CHASE WHO DIDN’T BRING A NEW CAR THIS WEEKEND, IS THIS THE SAME CAR YOU FINISHED SECOND WITH JUST A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO, OR HAS IT EVOLVED SOME? “I’m sure it probably has. I didn’t know about that until somebody else asked that question. Again, to me, it is whatever car is in the garage when I get here, that is the one I am driving so that is the one I am going to concentrate on. I’m not going to worry about something that is sitting at the shop or something that we are bringing here for the first time. You know, there are pros and cons to bringing new cars out. The pro to it is obviously if it is a new car, it’s something that you think is better. The negative to it is that you haven’t ran it so you don’t know if it’s not a guarantee that just because it seems better or you think it is better that it is going to be better when it gets on the race track. Some cars historically, I mean they all come out of the same jig and they are welded all the same, but sometimes you get cars that you just like better than others. That is the negative to bringing a new car to a race in the Chase like this. It doesn’t affect me either way. If Darian (Grubb, crew chief) said hey, we are going to bring a new car, I trust his judgment that there is a reason we are doing it. The car that we brought only has one race on it so it is relatively new, it just has one race. We at least know what the history of this car is over that one night and how it reacted to change.”
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