Race Weekend Central

Running Their Mouth: 2011 Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville

Welcome to Running Their Mouth! Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR and all of our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Sprint Cup race, capturing the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find: the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members and car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what they all were thinking following the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 in Martinsville, Va.

Best Quote

“Thanks to NASCAR and everybody that builds the SAFER barriers and these racecars and everything – they’re unbelievable. Ten years ago I wouldn’t be standing here. Thankful for that and thankful for everybody working on my NAPA Toyota. It’s a rough day right there. We started off pretty bad and we were working on it and getting better. We were just trying to survive. We sure didn’t need that, but it is what it is. We’ll go into next week and fight hard.” – Martin Truex Jr., finished 40th, on how he feels about the safety measures NASCAR has taken over the years

Let all the criticism of the CoT in terms of safety and looks go in one ear and out the other because, as today’s horrifying crash with Truex showed, the CoT likely saved him from very serious injury along with the SAFER barrier. A little over 10 years ago, NASCAR lost Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin Jr. when their throttles hung at New Hampshire.

Factor in the deaths of Tony Roper, Blaise Alexander and Dale Earnhardt Sr., ultimately NASCAR came to their senses and made things safer for the drivers by creating the CoT to absorb more crash impact and protect drivers better than the old car and the advent of SAFER barriers have also likely saved more than a few lives in NASCAR.

But the sanctioning body still has work to do. While the top-three levels of racing have safety advancements, some of the lesser touring series remain behind the curve, and in some cases, tragedy has taken place. So NASCAR’s work is far from over, but today proved that the CoT, in terms of safety, was the right move to make.

Worst Quote

“We need to work on who we’re going to have change tires for us I guess, I don’t know. Things like that, it’s pretty tough. Especially midseason. You’ve got chemistry and stuff that you’ve got to deal with, but at this point you either work with what you’ve got or try to find someone that maybe can do a better job.

“You just don’t know right now and we don’t know what to do. As far as fuel mileage and that results and is the key to our bad finish so again, just go to TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and figure out why we’re getting such bad mileage. We had to stop a little bit before those guys and ultimately put us in a bad spot when the caution came out.” – Denny Hamlin, finished 12th, on whether any pit crew changes needed to be made

Note to Hamlin: Throwing one’s crew under the bus, even in a round-about way, is not the ideal way to build team morale. It seems like ever since the Phoenix race in November, the harmony that had existed between Mike Ford and Hamlin has just been shattered by pit-road miscues or bad strategy calls by Ford. It would not be a surprise to see a serious shake-up within the organization coming in a few weeks because it looks like the combo of Mike Ford and Hamlin is likely headed for Splitsville.

Funniest Quote

“As long as we have it, we can put it anywhere. I am not going to get in an argument.” – Kevin Harvick, winner, on whether Delana will let him put this clock in the living room

After an early-season hiccup at Daytona, Harvick has managed to battle back and now finds himself in the thick of the championship chase. He and wife Delana are probably NASCAR’s version of a power couple with their hilarious banter and their tweets on the social networking site Twitter drawing a few chuckles. It’s great to see this couple all smiles and having witty zingers at each other. Like NASCAR and manufactured debris cautions, this marriage is here to stay.

Hard-Luck Quote

“I don’t know. I’m just happy to be running well. Happy to be in the mix. I’m thankful for the opportunity I’ve got. Thankful for the help that I’ve got from my team. I want to thank AMP and National Guard and all of our supporters, but the race team works hard. When I don’t have the speed they find the speed. It’s working real good together. I’m frustrated that I got close and I was out there leading and I’m thinking I’m going to try to take me home a clock. I hate it that I didn’t win.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr., second, on his day

One has to wish the race was four laps shorter if they are a Dale Jr. fan. To get so tantalizingly close to a victory yet having it snatched away was like a kid getting a new bike for his birthday then having it stolen. But Junior fans should be encouraged by today’s performance about his combination with Steve Letarte. Many were skeptical about Junior being paired with a crew chief coming off of a largely disappointing tenure with Jeff Gordon, but so far, Rick Hendrick’s crew chief swap is looking like a stroke of genius.

Most Controversial Quote

“I wasn’t speeding. They didn’t like how it looked. The way I managed my timing lines. Had this happened one other time where I do a good job with my timing lines to know exactly where I needed to accelerate and where I needed to stop. There is just know way. People will say whatever. But with the math and the way we know our timing lines, there is just no way. You accelerate real hard through your timing zone. A lot of guys get dinged for that. I’ve been dinged a couple of different times. Usually you get dinged when you pass someone or break the plane of the car in front of you.

“With no one there, I accelerated like I always so from my mark. There is just no way. There is just no way. It won’t do me any good to have a conversation; it isn’t going to matter. I guess I just can’t attack pit road like I know I can and like I did every single time before this.” – Jimmie Johnson, 11th, on the pit-road speeding penalty

Has Johnson ever heard the expression “Karma’s a bitch?” Last week, he was very clearly speeding through portions of pit road and this week as well, and when he finally gets busted for it, he blames everyone but himself. Granted, it can be argued that Johnson maintained a legal “average” speed in prior situations, but in this encounter, it bit him squarely in his golden-horseshoed ass. No doubt, it was bad timing to get a penalty like that, but maybe this will stop some of Johnson’s pit-road shenanigans.

Crew Chief Quote of the Week

“Somebody brought it to my attention this week that this was my 100th start with Kevin [Harvick] and I think what happens is he gets the opportunity to vent because the car was terrible and he needed to vent. I think in the beginning when he would do that, we would somewhat take it to heart and take it personal, and now, we just continue to let him vent. We go about our business and decide what we are going to do on the next change, and we feel good about it and so does he. So it works out good in the end.” – Gil Martin, crew chief for the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick on Harvick’s venting

Martin has proven to be the perfect crew chief to put up with the talented, yet temperamental Harvick. At times, Harvick can be absolutely brutal to crew members, as he’s been known to fire his crew on the radio in the Nationwide and Truck series, but Martin’s smart enough to be levelheaded and let him vent before calming him down and the end result? A more poised and tenacious Harvick than in years past, who has been acquiring a reputation as NASCAR’s best “closer” as a result. And after his last two races at California and Martinsville, it’s hard to argue with the results.

Best of the Rest

“Yeah, I was holding him up. I sucked so it was good for him. He took the lead and no harm, no foul.” – Kyle Busch, finished third, on whether Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s late-race pass was fair

“My guys did a great job all day with the car. The good thing is we were so loose to start the race on that first run. I thought we were in trouble and they fixed it to where we were a top-five or top-seven car all day. At times, I thought we could win, but this sport just kind of kicks you in the gut every now and then. I don’t know. If we would have stayed out one more lap and then the yellow comes out, we probably finish fifth or sixth. I’m disappointed with the finish. I hate saying it and having to look at how we ran and take good knowledge that we were there, but it was an OK day.” – AJ Allmendinger, finished 14th, on his day

“We had a really good car today until somebody got into me and shoved me into another car. That messed the front end up; it seemed to overheat at that point. We had to pull some tape off which made the car tighter. It was an OK day. We would have rather run better with the movie Fast Five on the car.

“When the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) had the flat tire, if they (NASCAR) had thrown the caution, we would have been back on the lead lap and there were just a few cars on the lead lap at that time. We would have been in good shape, but overall, it was a good day. That last stop, we pitted a little too early. We pitted under green and the caution came out. That put us two more laps down. We finished 23rd. It could have been a better finish with any luck.” – Robby Gordon, finished 23rd, on his day

“I was a victim. I don’t know what [Michael] McDowell was thinking. I got stuck on the outside and lost 20 positions just trying to get to the bottom and he just jacked me up and put me in the fence around lap 100. We weren’t even a fifth of the way through and it was uncalled for and unfortunate for us. It made for a very long day.” – Marcos Ambrose, finished 29th, on his incident with Michael McDowell

“This is my only race of the year and I’m not going to waste it.” – Michael McDowell, finished 32nd, after he wrecked Ambrose. He said the No. 9 came down on him. The No. 66 car ran the distance for the first time in 2011 Sunday.

“We are not really sure. It started blowing up. The water temp was fine. Came in and saw a hole in the radiator. The water pressure was OK. Not sure. I think the No. 7 (Robby Gordon) thought I got into him during that last run and he brake-checked me and I hit him. That is probably what put the hole in the radiator. So I owe Robby Gordon.” – Paul Menard, 38th, on what happened to his car

“From my hit, it was actually a lot harder than I thought it could hit at Martinsville so Martin’s (Martin Truex Jr.) was probably even harder than that. I think you can hit pretty hard anywhere in a racecar, it just depends on how it happens and what the circumstances are. Hung throttles are the worst. That’s where you usually hit about the hardest. Mine didn’t hang, but the other guys did.” – Kasey Kahne, 39th, on how hard of a hit it was for him when he and Truex Jr. crashed

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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