Race Weekend Central

Running Their Mouth: 2011 Bank of America 500 at Charlotte

Best Quote

“It doesn’t really matter to me that much what everybody thinks. We’re in it or out of it or whatever. What’s important to me is trying to win races and trying to be competitive and go do the best job we can do every week. I don’t really care about Wii dance offs or how much coverage you get for doing certain things. If somebody wants to say I’m boring or whatever, I was hired to try to go win races and try to run good and that’s what I try to do every week.

“I take my job real serious when I’m at the racetrack. Jimmy [Fennig] and I and all the guys work as hard as we can on the common goal of trying to be the best and trying to win and trying to run for a championship and that’s who we are at the racetrack.” – Matt Kenseth, winner, on whether it bothers him that he gets lost in the shuffle among the Chase contenders

Make no mistake, Kenseth will likely never be NASCAR’s “class clown,” but his uber-serious demeanor has paid great dividends this season. He went into this season with a two-year winless drought, but the Cambridge, Wis. driver has had a bit of a career resurgence in 2011 with three wins so far on the season.

Kenseth’s quote seemed almost like it was a bit of a shot at some of these Chase drivers who participate in these Wii dance-offs and crew chief-driver “Newlywed Games,” but the driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusion’s attitude and demeanor is eerily similar to another former NASCAR champion from Wisconsin in the late Alan Kulwicki. Both were very serious about what they did and both used consistency to win championships.

Beware the darkhorse, NASCAR, because Kenseth is right in the thick of this Chase!

Most Controversial Quote

“You know, you make you own luck. Yes, it was bad luck that the [No.] 21 ran out of gas and stopped on the back straightaway when people think he could have gone a little differently when all of the Roush cars hadn’t pitted, yet so it was just convenient (smiles). If you look past all that, hey, we just weren’t fast enough, that’s all. Any time you’re relying on race conditions to make a race for you, you’re not good enough and that’s just all it was.

“It was a matter of lacking some speed and lacking overall grip for the car. We’ve got to go to work on it and figure out what we missed here this weekend with both of our cars and go on and see what happens at Talladega.” – Travis Geisler, Competition Director for Penske Racing

It certainly seemed as if Geisler was perhaps implying that Trevor Bayne may have intentionally brought out a late race caution that allowed the Roush Fenway car to pit without losing any track position. One can understand the frustration of Geisler and the Penske Racing organization over the timing of the caution during green flag stops, but the notion that Bayne would intentionally bring out a caution is absolutely ludicrous.

It wasn’t like the Knoxville, Tenn. native was mired back in the pack. In fact, he had been running in the top 10 prior to his fuel pump issues, so what would have have to gain by intentionally bringing out a caution? Chalk this up to simply sour grapes, NASCAR fans.

Crew Chief Quote of the Week

“Well, we’ve just got to go race. It’s part of racing. It’s not really luck. You put yourselves in the position that you’re in and with that one pit call, that’s what blew it for us for the day; that put us behind the 8-ball and we just weren’t able to overcome it.” – Chad Knaus, crew chief, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet Impala of Jimmie Johnson

If Johnson and his crew showed vulnerability last year, this year’s disaster at Charlotte might cause some sense of urgency for Johnson, Knaus and the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet Impala over-the-wall crew. Through no fault of the driver or the crew chief, the No. 48 crew once again finds themselves in another hole. A 29-point deficit with eight races to go is one thing to overcome, but a 35-point gap with five races left could be another matter entirely.

It’s certainly not impossible as the El Cajon, Calif. native has won or ran strongly at each track left in the Chase, but he will need some help in the coming races through other drivers bad luck and misfortune. This is where his trusty crew chief will come into play. It’s not like this team has never battled adversity, but this might be the tallest order to overcome yet.

Best of the Rest

“We have to keep finishing like this — it’s all it takes. It’s not that hard. We finally finished where we ran except we didn’t. We still lost a position, which is four points essentially because you get three for bonus points of winning a race. Again, it’s frustrating, but we’ll take it and if we can finish second from here on out then we might win this deal. These other guys — the [No.] 99 (Carl Edwards) and the [No.] 29 (Kevin Harvick) finished too good tonight too.” – Kyle Busch, finished second, on how he feels about his Chase chances

“It was a solid night for us and congrats to Matt. This is a big night for Ford. We have five times the points lead we had coming in. We went from one point to five points, so that’s something. We didn’t know what to expect coming in here, but our Aflac Fusion was fast. My pit crew did a good job. Bob [Osborne] made the right calls on the box and it ended up being a good night.

“I’m just glad we didn’t tear anything up. We dodged a bullet here. This has been a tough track for us. I’m excited, well, I’m stretching the truth there, I’m not too excited to go to Talladega because you never know what’s gonna happen there, but it will be fun one way or another.” – Carl Edwards, finished third

“It was tough. You would come off the bottom and for whatever reason you would slide the nose. You weren’t even loose up there — you were just tight. It was just tough to pass. Usually there’s a top here and there just wasn’t tonight, so you had to just rip the bottom all night and try to get people off the corner or when they get hung up or miss the bottom.

“That was your opportunity. It was frustrating, but these races are so long and you have so much time to move up and think about pit stops and making your car better. When you have 500 miles, you have enough time. When you restart 20th or 24th, you just can’t waste it at all because it actually takes a lot longer than you think.” – Kasey Kahne, finished fourth

“We made it through the first five Chase races this year. We have had a lot of goals that we wanted to achieve this year and that was one of the goals we wanted to achieve was to get through these first five races, with not too much damage, so five points, if you would have told me we would come out of Charlotte with a only a five point deficit going into the next five races, I would be really happy.

“Everyone did a great job on our Jimmy John’s Chevrolet, wasn’t great but it was better at the end of the race then it was in the first half.” – Kevin Harvick, finished sixth

“I don’t know. I don’t know. They said he hit the wall off of [turn] 4. I don’t know if he hit the wall and got into us and couldn’t get off of us or if … he made contact in [turn] 3, but, I don’t know. I didn’t try to put him in a bad spot. So, I don’t know if he thought we did something wrong or not. I honestly don’t think we did anything wrong. If I did, I’m sorry.” – Tony Stewart, finished eighth, on whether traffic played into the situation with Greg Biffle

“It was just a frustrating night for our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge. I thought we had the lucky dog there about halfway through the race. We were just tight in and loose off all night. And we got bit twice when the caution came out right after we pitted under green. But, we got the free pass and got back on to the lead lap and we at least came away with a respectable finish. We did lose a few points, but we’ll try to get them back next week. Faster racecars will make for better decisions.” – Kurt Busch, finished 13th

See also
Holding a Pretty Wheel: Is Rumor Mill Grinding the No. 22 to a Halt in the Chase?

“We missed the setup just a little bit and I did a bad job in qualifying. Between the two, that put us behind. We were a 10th to 15th-place car. On your bad days, a 10th-to-15th place run isn’t bad. We got behind on track position and got about every bad yellow you could catch after pitting under green. You can’t make up for that when you keep catching those bad breaks. That’s just part of the deal here.

“Real unfortunate it happened that way, but we did a great job of taking the bad breaks and at least not getting a 20th day out of it. If we just didn’t catch the yellows the way they came, we would have had probably an eighth or ninth-place day. We caught the strategy wrong every time, but I don’t feel bad about the effort, I don’t feel bad about the calls. We just got a lot of bad breaks.

“We still made up some points, at least on Jimmie [Johnson]. We got rid of what could have been a really, really bad day, what looked like for a long time would be a 23rd or 24th-place day. I feel like I know what was wrong; I wish could run this race again tomorrow and come back with a little different setup. We just didn’t catch the right breaks.” – Brad Keselowski, finished 16th

“It’s very costly. You want to finish as high as you can in the points, no matter where that is. You want to do as best as you can. And we’re not doing the best we can and it’s just disappointing and frustrating. But, I don’t think we need to make any changes on the team. I believe in these guys and believe every time I come down pit road I’m excited about the group that’s going to put some tires on my car. We just made a mistake and I’m sure he won’t let that happen again.

“Everybody knows how critical it is in this sport and there’s a guy right behind you that is ready to take your spot and is waiting on you to make that mistake. You can’t make it too many times before somebody will come in there and fill your place. That’s really all Steve’s call and decision and how he’ll handle it. I understand that everyone is human, but I’m pretty upset that we’re just not capitalizing on opportunities. We should finish in the top 10 every single week.

“We’re either beating ourselves or making mistakes or circumstances just aren’t happening for us. We can’t seem to really put together a clean race and we have to work real hard just to make up for the things that happen to us and the things we do to ourselves. We work really hard at least, so we’re definitely learning a lot of lessons in that regard.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished 19th

“It was a pretty good night for the Long John Silver’s Ford team. We had a lot of things go right for us with some cautions coming at the right times and a Lucky Dog, and we had a chance to lead some laps. I just wish we had a little bit more for them at the end. Jay Guy and the team did a good job adjusting as the track conditions changed and the guys did a great job in the pits, too. It was a good points day for us, which is what this No. 38 team is really working for right now.” – JJ Yeley, finished 22nd

“That’s a bad feeling to run out of gas, especially when you’re not expecting it. We weren’t even pushing it. It wasn’t time for that yet and I think that No. 21 was just fast. It must have been sucking up more fuel than we thought being that fast, but I think something just had to be funky in the fuel cell or something messed up on the can because it just wasn’t taking all the fuel we needed it to.

“We had an easy top-five car tonight. I feel like this would have been another shot to win a race. That thing was just so fast. It was that way all weekend. On the long runs, it was that good and the whole race we didn’t adjust one thing and we were really competitive. There aren’t many nights when you get to do that and be that fast. We didn’t get the finish we deserved, but it’s definitely a confidence builder for the whole team to run that good all night. We want results, but they’ll come if we keep running that good.” – Trevor Bayne, finished 31st

“It’s obviously disappointing that we didn’t really get to race after we suffered the damage on that restart. The [No.] 5 car checked up and everyone behind him just wound up in a pile-up. There was nothing we could do. We were just starting to get the Tastykake Ford where we needed it, and then that happened. Peter (Sospenzo, crew chief) and the guys did a good job making our car better all weekend. It’s too bad we didn’t have the chance to do more with it.” – David Gilliland, finished 36th

“It was a tough fight all night. We didn’t qualify where we needed to be. Our car wasn’t good enough to pass, we were just hoping to get in that sequence where could do a little different strategy to get toward the front. This never played out. We tried short-pitting to gain some track position and the cautions fell wrong.

“This was a frustrating night. We recovered somewhat at the end. Finishing 16th is not where we wanted. We’re on the edge, but we’re still in the hunt. We’re still within reach, but we have to put together stronger runs to have a shot.” – Paul Wolfe, crew chief, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger of Brad Keselowski

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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