NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
PEPSI MAX 400
AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER RACE NOTES & QUOTES
October 10, 2010
Tony Stewart Wins at Auto Club Speedway; Team Chevy Drivers Claim Top-Three and Four of Top-Five Finishing Positions to Claim 34th Manufacturers’ Cup for Chevrolet
FONTANA, CALIF. (OCTOBER 10, 2010) – Tony Stewart powered his way to the front of the field to lead the final 12-laps and claim the victory at Auto Club Speedway behind the wheel of his No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet. The Pepsi Max 400 is the second win of the 2010 season for the two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), his first at Auto Club Speedway, and moved him up five positions in the standings to fifth place with six races remaining in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Stewart led a total of four times for a total of 27 laps on the way to his 39th career NSCS victory in 422 starts.
Stewart’s victory clinched the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Manufacturers’ Cup for Chevrolet. It is the 34th time the Bowtie has claimed the coveted title.
Clint Bowyer, No. 33 The Hartford Chevrolet, finished second and Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet, was third at the checkered. The finish allowed Johnson, the defending, four-time NSCS champion to extend his lead in the Chase standings to 36 points. Bowyer remains 12th in the points order.
Ryan Newman, No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet finished fifth to give Team Chevy four of the top-five finishers and Chevrolet drivers went on the claim seven of the top-10 today.
Mark Martin, No. 5 CARQUEST Auto Parts/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, was sixth at the finish.
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet, was seventh at the line and remains third in the standings, 54 points down to the leader.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont/Pepsi Max Chevrolet, moved up to fourth in the Chase points order with his ninth place finish today.
Jeff Burton, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet fought an ill-handling car and finished 23rd. He sits eighth in the Chase standings.
Kasey Kahne (Ford) completed the top-five finishers in the 200-lap/400-mile race.
Round 31 of the 2010 NSCS and the fifth race of the Chase is schedule for Saturday night, October 16 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
TONY STEWART, DARIAN GRUBB (CREW CHIEF) NO.14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE CHEVROLET – WINNERS POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined in the media center by our race winner Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot Old Spice Chevrolet, also his crew chief Darian Grubb. For Tony, his 39th victory in 422 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, second victory in 2010, first win at Auto Club. Now fifth in the Chase, 107 points out of the lead.
And also with a top three sweep by Chevy today, they claim the manufacturer’s championship this year, their 34th manufacturer’s title in their history in the Sprint Cup Series.
Gentlemen, congratulations to you both. Talk about how things went out there today.
TONY STEWART: Thank you. Awesome day, obviously. I’ll be honest, when I woke up this morning I thought if we had a top 10 day that was going to be good, and if we ran in the top 5 today that was going to be an outstanding day.
You know, it just shows how hard this guy works. Some of the crew guys and I, we were out, we went to a sprint car race last night and went to a fair and rode rides last night, and I can tell where Darian was. He didn’t go very far from his computer and from the engineers. I guarantee they were busy last night.
He told me this morning he found something that he was confident was going to be quite a bit different and better than yesterday, and he for sure didn’t disappoint on that. It was a big key.
DARIAN GRUBB: Basically backing him up. It was a good team effort all the way around. The engineering staff, like he said, with Jonathan Toney and Scott Radel, they brought me a few ideas and last night and we looked at it, and it actually made sense from the feedback we had from Tony at happy hour. And that was the key to the whole thing was we were not really good in happy hour. We made a lot of large changes and it didn’t really seem to affect the car, and we finally hit on a few things right at the very end. No matter how frustrated we were, we kept working on it. The last run was very good, and we had definite things we needed to work on, and the engineers went and found the solutions to that.
And after that it was just the pit crew did an incredible job making the adjustments. Every stop we keep making pretty big swings at it, and then Tony told us we were just kind of keeping up with the changing racetrack, we weren’t really getting ahead of it, so we started swinging a little bit bigger, and that feedback is what makes it easier for us to decide how far we want to go.
And that one stop I think we had all seven guys on the left side of the car pulling tires, pulling the windshield tear off and everything all at one time, and I think we still gained three spots on that one stop. So kudos to those guys and everything that they’ve done. They’ve worked really hard at getting faster and making the car faster all at the same time.
Q. Tony, has the composition or the makeup of this track changed over the years to maybe make it conducive to better racing?
TONY STEWART: I don’t know. When you see guys haven’t run the whole car on the apron through 3 and 4 and it’s probably eight to ten degrees less banking running on the apron, I don’t know that that’s better necessarily track condition wise. But it’s just a difficult track. I mean, we always have a lot of temperature when we come out here, even in the spring it seems to be fairly warm.
But this track is so momentum driven, and when it’s as slick as it is here, it puts it back in the driver’s hands, and normally I think that’s going to be my advantage. But I’ve just been terrible here. We’ve had times when we’ve been good, but I’ve really struggled as a driver here over the course of 12 years.
But it’s just a very difficult place to get a hold of, and if you can get your car balanced, you really can drive away from the majority of the field and get a pretty big gap there. But it’s hard to do. You have to have that balance perfect. Somebody is going to get it right. I mean, somebody gets it perfect every time we come here.
But it’s hard to do that, and there were so many guys today toward the end of the race. I mean, Clint Bowyer obviously had a great car, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie, Kasey Kahne at the end of the race there. These were guys that all had cars that were really good, and it was just a matter of who could get out and get a gap early in the run and be able to take care of their stuff.
I mean, it’s getting harder and harder to do to where you have an advantage over somebody and can be that much better. But I thought the racing was good today. I mean, the restarts early in the race were out of control. We were five wide. We were one of them that put a bunch of guys five wide early in the deal clear on the bottom, and I think we gained four spots in one corner doing it.
But guys know how important these restarts are now and they’re willing to take more chances it seems like on the restarts, and this place is so wide and you can run so many different lines here.
And I guess to go back three minutes ago and answer your original question, yes, it’s good, and it’s racy, but man, it’s difficult. The seams are slick. The racetrack is slick. I mean, it’s just a it’s not an old track, but it sure races like an old, worn out track.
Q. This is for Darian. You worked under Chad and you were Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief for six races back a few years ago, and I know you’re going to take every race as they come, but you have to make up 107 points in the next bunch of races. Do you ever put your mind like what I did back at Hendrick?
DARIAN GRUBB: Not really. You always learn from every aspect you have and every ordeal you deal with in life. I learned a lot of lessons back at Hendrick Motorsports, and I think I understand some of the things we’re doing; we’re running some of the same cars and same engines. But we’re putting our spin on it when it gets in our shop, and everybody at Stewart Haas Racing has done an incredible job of making our cars as fast as we can and making incremental changes to make things better. You always pull from everything you learn in the past but you’ve got to look toward the future all the time, too.
Q. Tony, it was 100 miles short or two less pit stops. Was it becoming a fuel race if we hadn’t had those back to back cautions, and if so, how would you have handled it?
TONY STEWART: I don’t think it was that. I mean, Darian will know a little better than I do. I don’t know exactly how far we were aware from the window but I don’t think it was a situation where anybody could make it on fuel just from listening to Darian’s tone, I think it was a situation that everybody was going to have to pit one more time from what I understand. So I don’t think it was going to be that kind of situation.
It doesn’t matter. You could have a 100 mile race, 200 , 300 , 400 , 500 , 1,000 mile race and it could come down to a fuel mileage race just because of the way cautions fall. It’s that caution that puts some guys outside their window and some guys in their window, so it doesn’t matter really how many miles it is, it can always end up a fuel mileage race, no matter how long or short the distance.
Q. You said back last week in Kansas that really you were in an all or nothing mindset. How satisfying is it for you right now knowing that you did exactly what you needed to do this weekend here, and then the second part to the question is where does this leave you in terms of a championship?
TONY STEWART: How satisfied? This is what they pay me to do. I mean, I’m supposed to do this every week, or at least try. You know, it’s a situation where we were at and as many points as we were out and have been out since day one, we have the flexibility to just look forward and not worry about if we take a gamble and it doesn’t work. We still have to be mindful of it, obviously. But the penalty for us isn’t that great when you’re 10th in points. You can take a chance, and if it doesn’t work out, what are you losing, two spots?
I don’t care between 10th and 12th in points, it doesn’t matter to me. Neither one of them are acceptable. If that’s what we get, that’s what we’ll take, but it’s worth taking the gamble to make ourselves better.
Q. Tell us about who Irish is.
TONY STEWART: Irish Saunders works for Hoosier Racing Tire in Indiana, and his son Eric when we won in Atlanta, that’s who we dedicated the race to was his son Eric who the day before his 18th birthday crashed in a motocross training accident and broke his back and is paralyzed from the chest down right now.
So I was checking in to see how Eric was doing yesterday and talked to Irish, and he told me that and he said it with confidence, too. It wasn’t just one of those pep talk things where he said, hey, you’re going to have a good day tomorrow. He said, “I have a feeling you’re going to win this race tomorrow.” It was just very matter of fact, and I’ve known him for 20 years now, and just the way he said it just kind of caught me off guard last night, and I didn’t think much about it. But once we took the checkered it’s like, man, he knew something I didn’t know.
He’s had to battle a lot of adversity with his family and his son, and I can promise you I’m going to call him tonight and ask him where we’re going to finish next week.
Q. If anybody knows USAC talent, you’ve seen them all. You know, where did you feel like Shane Hmiel is? Where do you feel like he is and what’s your response to his actions?
TONY STEWART: I’ll be honest, when Shane started running sprint cars and midgets and silver crown cars, it was like, oh, man, this could be very interesting because he had never really ran those types of cars, he had never raced on dirt. Be he just never was scared of it, he never backed down from it, he said I’ve got to learn at this, and he has given 110 percent ever since day one. He’s really turned into a great open wheel driver.
So that’s actually part of the reason I had called Irish last night was to check on Shane, and he was going to the hospital to see him. But you know, just it’s something that doesn’t happen a lot in open wheel racing. It was just a freak accident that happened, and the way that he crashed was the way he hit the concrete wall was not too many guys hit like that. But it was a devastating hit, and obviously his injuries reflected that.
But to get an update from those guys at Indianapolis this morning and hear how well he made it through the night and hearing the optimistic thoughts from the doctors, you know, it made us all, I think, breathe a sigh of relief today knowing that he made it through that first night, and that’s a big step. To hear the doctors say they don’t think there’s going to be any paralysis with a broken neck and broken back, we just went through that a month and a half ago with a close friend, and with Shane we didn’t want to see that happen again.
That’s why we mentioned it in victory lane. Definitely our thoughts are with him right now for sure.
Q. Darian, Tony spoke a little bit ago about always looking forward. Would you say that was the philosophy of the team after the New Hampshire race was kind of not focusing on what had transpired but what you could still find ahead for the rest of the chase?
DARIAN GRUBB: Yeah, you’re always going to think about what could have been, but we’ve got to go into every week planning to get maximum points, lead every lap and win the race, and after that we’ll just see what else happens. If we do our job and execute, that’s all we can ask for.
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CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 THE HARTFORD CHEVROLET, FINISHED 2ND
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION CHEVROLET, FINISHED 3RD:
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined in the post race press conference by Clint Bowyer, our second place finisher today, driver of the No. 33 The Hartford Chevrolet, positioned 12 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, six points behind 11th place Matt Kenseth at this point.
Clint, why don’t you tell us about how things went out there today, and to let you know, as well, top three sweep by Chevrolet, another manufacturer’s championship for Chevrolet this year.
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, I’ve always been proud to drive a Chevrolet. It’s the only thing I’ve ever driven basically since I was 16 years old. So that’s just an awesome thing to be a part of.
But The Hartford Chevrolet was good, had a good day all day long. I really was worried that this was going to be a major struggle being without my crew chief, but Scott Miller and everybody filled in well, and I think it speaks volumes about Shane’s preparation back at the shop. It was a good race. We were strong. I passed Jimmie Johnson on the last lap, and it felt really good.
But other than that, I want to go home. I’ve been gone for like two weeks.
THE MODERATOR: We’re also joined in the media center by Jimmie Johnson, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet, our third place finisher, current points leader in the Chase, 36 points over second place Denny Hamlin.
Jimmie, we just told Clint, as well, a top three sweep by Chevy today clinches another manufacturer’s championship for Chevy, as well. Talk about how things went out there for you today.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Happy to hear that news for Chevrolet because I know how much they put into this racing program, the Cup program and really all the programs they’re involved with. Really proud to represent Chevrolet and carry the bowtie on the car and happy to hear that news.
Our race today was kind of up and down, led some, ran fifth and sixth some and just kind of worked on the car and towards the end of the race got things going in the right direction.
I think if it stayed green I was really taking a lot I was taking big chunks off of Tony’s lead right before that caution came out. If it stayed green, I think there would have been a good race for the win. The caution, we got going, got off at turn 2 in second, which was good, and I thought I could really fly around the top of 3 and 4 and try to get to Tony’s outside, and as I was busy focused on the 14, the sorry ass next to me drove up inside me and got by me and did a good job and got his car in there and took second spot.
CLINT BOWYER: It was pretty easy, really. You just left the door open and I drove right under you.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I guess I might be the sorry ass for leaving the door open.
But just a solid performance. If we can leave the racetrack with a top three each week, we’ll be where we want to at Homestead.
Q. Jimmie, you had the Helmet of Hope that you were wearing today, which I know is a program you’ve been working on for several months, getting the charities on that helmet. I just was wondering if you could give a shout out to all the charities that were following you with their hopes and wishes today, and when you’re driving the car does it ever cross your mind that you are representing those charities on your helmet?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I can’t remember all 12 off the top of my head, but I’m very thankful that their names were nominated and that we pulled them out of the raffle system and put them on the helmets.
We have a lot of pride in that program and bring a lot of recognition to small charities around the country. A lot of great stories with it. Very proud of the Helmet of Hope.
When the race is over or maybe if you finish well, like today in third, I’m like, man, I would have we could have been in victory lane with the paint scheme, or if you are in victory lane, you’re like, check this out, you are here with the special paint scheme. When you’re in the car you’re so focused on the job and trying to maintain that that you really don’t think about it.
Q. Jimmie, obviously you would like to go for a win since you’re in position, but early in the race you kind of settled and said, okay, top 5, top 5. Given where Denny and some other competitors finished today, is this mission accomplished for you, or did you feel like you left some points out there?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I feel like I left you just never know. The way the restart went at the end, I did all that I could and ended up third. If it stayed green I think we could have gotten some more points. But there was a big wreck on the front stretch, so not much we can do about it.
We as a team have tried to be smart about things and have the company motto be top 5. The races we show up to I’m like we’ve got to win, we’re operating with 11 tenths or 10 tenths, and honestly we make a lot of mistakes, including myself. The whole thought process of being in the top 5 was just to kind of have everybody stay calm and in control.
Another motto we’ve always had is if you’re in the top 5 you’ve got a shot to win, so that stuff all plays into itself where if we kept it going on the top 5 we knew we’d have a shot.
Q. Clint, I don’t know whether you addressed this or not, but it seems like every week your car gets taken back to Concord. You’re leading the race and they throw a debris caution. Not saying there’s a conspiracy theory, but is there a point being made there in your opinion?
CLINT BOWYER: That’s a good question.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Have fun with that one.
CLINT BOWYER: No comment.
Q. This is for both of you. Do you think that if there had been more finishes like this, more races like this at this track, that maybe there wouldn’t have been the attendance problems that they’ve had?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I’m not smart enough to answer that question. There’s a lot of factors involved, and it’s not just one thing. I think we’ve put on good races here for a lot of years. I don’t know. I really don’t know how to comment on that one.
CLINT BOWYER: I think the racing was great. You know, I mean, you’re only as good as your last race inside the car, and right now this track is only as good as its last race, and that was a hell of a race.
Q. I have a question for Clint. It was the first race under the new crew chief. What was your realistic expectation before the race and did you expect to finish second?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, you always come to win. If you didn’t, you probably wouldn’t get paid to do this very often. But you always have that mentality, that goal when you show up.
But I didn’t know what to expect to be honest with you without our crew chief and everything. I’ve never been without a crew chief and never been in that situation. But Scott filled in well. Shane, his everything as planned going into this week was spot on, and really we unloaded well and never looked back from there.
As soon as you get through practice, qualified halfway decent, I wasn’t worried about today.
Q. For each of you guys, it seems like there were just a lot more cars than had a chance to win this race than any I can really remember here in a while. Was it just the number of cautions? Were there any track conditions? Could you each maybe talk about why that might be?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think it’s relative to the Chase and what we’ve all been saying, that it’s anyone’s championship. Week in and week out the competition is as close as it’s ever been and it’s really anybody’s race every week.
CLINT BOWYER: I mean, I think the cautions certainly helped that situation, and every time they can come out the racing is obviously going to get bunched back up and is going to breed more cautions.
But you know, the tire grip/track combination, whatever it may be, just made for good racing, up high, down low. Mark Martin was a class of the field for a while running around the bottom, and then the top came in and just everybody was running all over. And when you can do that on a track this size, I think it’s going to make for good racing.
Q. Clint, to clarify the debris caution, how many laps did you see that debris before they threw it? What was it and what were your chances of winning if it would have gone green the rest of the way?
CLINT BOWYER: I saw it for a long time. The biggest one, though, was like a whole rear of a car laying down in 1 and 2 the first run. I guess they never saw that one. You know, I mean, hell, it’s part of it. What do you say? You know, I got one from Tony Stewart when he ran out of gas, and I felt like we had that race won until the caution came out, and he got one.
I’m happy for him, I am. And he was happy for me when I beat him, and we’ll go on.
Q. Jimmie, being a California boy, are you disappointed the Chase isn’t coming back here next year?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, it’s been a very good track for me over the years. Ideally you want to take your ten best tracks and put them in the Chase, and if you look at the numbers, this is one of our good numbers. I hate that it’s leaving. I wish I could have ended it on a victory, but at least we’re still coming back here next year and we can get some points here and hopefully bonus points going into the Chase.
Q. This is for Clint: Clint, you mentioned something that with everything that’s happened the last couple weeks that you needed a little redemption. Can you kind of expand on that and talk about how you feel getting through this to kind of right things in the right way?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, I mean, a good run was crucial for our race team after what had happened with our win, and we got that today, but I was frustrated I didn’t get a win. I really, really wanted to win just to set the record straight on what had happened with the last win. We’re capable of winning races, and if we keep doing what we did today, we’re going to win another one.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you. Congratulations.
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