Race Weekend Central

Running Their Mouth: 2011 Sylvania 300 at Loudon

Best Quote

“Well, we got rid of some dead weight earlier this week. So, it made it a lot easier. It’s been a big weight lifted off our shoulders. Just sometimes you have to make adjustments in your life and we did that and it has definitely helped this weekend for sure. These guys never quit, man. These guys have never given up and we’ve got a shot at this thing.” – Tony Stewart, race winner, on his team’s recent turn in fortunes

In a mystery suitable for Scooby-Doo, Stewart gave a cryptic quote about deadweight being lifted off of his shoulders. The thing is, no one is quite sure what Stewart was referring to. Some fans on Twitter have speculated that it had to do with a personal relationship, but there has been no concrete proof of this.

Another plausible theory is that Stewart has several interests outside NASCAR, namely owning the famed half-mile Eldora Speedway dirt track as well as USAC and World of Outlaws sprint car and late model teams. Surely, these types of ventures can weigh heavily on a Sprint Cup driver’s mind. Yet again, there is no proof of any transactions taken place in that regard. This mystery remains to be solved.

Most Controversial Quote

“Yeah, he was being a bit stubborn. But it was racing.” – Jimmie Johnson, 18th, on late-race contact with Kyle Busch

In the closing laps, Johnson, who had been getting knocked around like a human pinball the entire race, had contact with Busch that bent the right-front suspension of his car and relegated him to an 18th-place finish. Given the aggressive nature of Busch, it was natural to assume that there might have been more to this contact than meets the eye, but such does not seem to be the case.

Chalk it up to two highly-skilled drivers racing for position with 20 laps to go and not yielding for each other. Now, Johnson finds himself in a 29-point hole with eight races to go. It’s definitely too soon to wonder if the pressure has finally got to Johnson, but two straight disappointing races to start a Chase with are definitely not what the doctor ordered for the No. 48 team.

Crew Chief Quote of the Week

“You could hold a pep rally, but it’s not going to do anything for you. Everybody goes to the racetrack wanting to win. They know what you’re up against. We took a shot at getting a top five and it didn’t pan out.” – Mike Ford, No. 11 team crew chief, after a second straight disappointing finish

The miserable luck of Denny Hamlin in 2011 carried over to New Hampshire Sunday (Sept. 25). Mike Ford made a call to try and stay out to salvage a good finish on what was otherwise a so-so day and with three laps to go after Hamlin’s car sputtered out of fuel, Ford went from hero to goat again. While the Joe Gibbs Racing organization gave Ford a “vote of confidence” earlier in the year, one has to be wondering how shaky that confidence is at this point and whether changes could be store for 2012.

Competition Director Quote of the Week

“NASCAR wasn’t 100 percent happy with what they saw on one of their gauges that kind of checks where the rear end is in the car, so we had to do a little work on it. … It’s a ‘go’ or ‘no-go’ type of gauge and it didn’t go. We needed to make sure that it went. It wasn’t like there was any gray area that NASCAR was saying maybe we were or weren’t legal. We weren’t right yet. [We had] to kind of do it on their schedule to make it work the way they wanted. Everybody knew what needed to be done to be fixed.

“It wasn’t a mystery of what was wrong or a panic of whether or not we were going to be able to get the car fixed. It was just a matter of getting it fixed and getting it done in the timeline that NASCAR wanted to see, and they worked with us and got the car through. …

“I don’t think they were happy with us having to go around. We were pushing a little bit time-wise for their schedule, so we just had to deal with that and fortunately we got everything fixed and we’re going to make a good day out of it.” – Travis Geisler, Penske Racing Competition Director, on why NASCAR held the team up in pre-race inspection

Murphy’s Law was in effect for Kurt Busch’s No. 22 Pennzoil/Shell Dodge Charger, as anything that could go wrong did go wrong. The day started off on a sour note, as Busch’s car was held-up in pre-race inspection for a gauge check on the race car. When the car was deemed illegal, it took right up until the invocation was given for Busch’s car to get to the starting grid. Follow that up with a 22nd-place finish and that, race fans, is a recipe for a bad day. Bad days like this are needed for Kurt Busch about as much as salt in an open wound.

Best of the Rest

“That’s pretty good. I think I left here in the spring like 25th or something. That’s a lot of points to gain in 10 races.” – Brad Keselowski, runner-up, on being third in points

“I hate these fuel-mileage races. We like to run hard and go. We had a really fast car that could have been second or third no matter what, but I just wish it didn’t come down to that. I would have liked to see how hard we could have run and see if we could have caught them.” – Greg Biffle, finished third

“I’m just glad we finished fourth. It is tough conditions to race in (saving fuel). I don’t think that we wanted to see back-to-back fuel-mileage races like this, but, it is kind of the name of the game these days. I don’t know, somehow we misjudged how far we could go on that second to the last run and we ran out. We weren’t even…we didn’t feel like we were even close to running out. So it just shows you how important every little detail [is].

“I ran a little bit fast that run because we were out front in clean air and the DuPont Chevrolet was just driving unbelievable. We were just setting the pace so it is unfortunate that that happened. They’re at the end, conserved fuel. It is something that we need to be better at. We did it and we made it and we finished fourth so we’ll take that. We made some gains in points. But, [not] necessarily overall to the leader.

“But another great run by Tony Stewart. Those guys, we knew they would be tough here. I don’t know if we expected them to be quite as tough as they were last week at Chicago. But, he’s on a roll now. We have eight more to put together.” – Jeff Gordon, finished fourth

“Yeah, it was a good run for us. The Red Bull Toyota guys did a good job all day. We were good in the first stint, but not great. We over adjusted and got way too loose in the second or third stint and lost our track position. The last two runs we were awesome. The car was so good, probably one of the better cars on the track. We had to pass 20 cars just to get back to the top five and ran out of time, but I’m really proud of the effort by everyone.” – Brian Vickers, finished fifth

“Oh yeah. I mean, gosh, when you race people all the time you’re gonna have accidents and bump into each other every once in a while. That was no big deal. I was having a little bit of brake fade and I backed up extra early, I just didn’t expect it or I probably could have saved it, but that was no big deal. Those things happen.” – Matt Kenseth, finished sixth

“It was a frustrating day. Our Shell Pennzoil Dodge was certainly a handful. The front tires felt like they were on skids and the car was plowing through the corners. We were late going through inspection and that set the tone for our day. We were able to stay out and lead some laps under green and Steve Addington and the guys kept making changes and got our Dodge better by the end of the race. I just wish we could have started the race with the car that good.” – Kurt Busch, finished 22nd

“We thought we were good and that’s just strategy racing nowadays. We just came up short right there. The only thing I can think of is we were on a little bit of a cleaner racetrack that last run, but that was the worst fuel mileage we got all day and I was backing my corner up quite a bit. There’s only two things, either we weren’t getting the fuel mileage we thought or we didn’t get it full or I just used too much.

“We’ve got to work through it. Another tough day for us, but we’re just figuring out what we need to do to be a little bit more competitive.” – Denny Hamlin, finished 29th

“It doesn’t hurt that’s for sure and we see from short tracks to mile-and-a-halfs, it doesn’t matter where we are, it all comes down to fuel mileage. These Dodge engines seem to be good in that area and not giving up a lot of speed to do it. That’s the key thing – having good fuel mileage and being able to have the speed to go with it and I feel like we had that today.” – Paul Wolfe, No. 2 team crew chief, on recent fuel-mileage racing

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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