_Welcome to Mouthing Off! Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR, and all of our own stuff to give you a first-person account of the best reactions from teams, drivers, and all the major players after a given NASCAR race weekend. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what they all were thinking following the Autism Speaks 400 in Dover, Delaware:_
“It’s a special race for me. Last year, I didn’t make it here. Last year, I was laying in the hospital with IVs in both arms when this race was going around. It feels pretty good to finish it — and finish it well.” _Brian Vickers, fifth, on whether this race shows everyone that he’s back_
One year ago, Brian Vickers was lying in a hospital bed with his career in serious jeopardy. And, to be honest, Vickers has had a roller-coaster return to NASCAR with highs of a few good runs here and there to the lows of Phoenix when he blamed Matt Kenseth for a wreck that Vickers himself caused. But, no matter how Brian Vickers accumulated this finish today, this was a statement by the Red Bull veteran, telling not just his fellow drivers, but fans as well that he is back and hasn’t lost a step. It’s great to see Vickers get such a morale-boosting finish at a race he didn’t even get to compete in last year.
“Awe, man, I just got loose in that slick stuff and he got in the back of me and about lost it. It is just racing. I mean, like I said, everybody was sliding around. He was pretty close. I wasn’t about to let him pass me at the end. (LAUGHS)” _Clint Bowyer, sixth, on what happened between he and Carl Edwards in a late-race dust-up_
There’s no denying that in the closing stages before the final caution, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, and Carl Edwards were putting together an impressive three-way battle for the lead. In the midst of the hard racing, mainly due to the rubber build-up on the track, Carl Edwards slid up into Bowyer and for a brief moment, it looked like his Darlington misadventures were about to crop up again. Amazingly, Bowyer and Edwards both held on to their cars and the end result? One heck of a display of wheelsman-ship between two of the finest competitors on the NASCAR circuit.
*Most Controversial Quote:*
“That rubber was awful. It has been like that the last three times here. I was really a hindrance for me more than other people. I could really run fast on a green track but when the sun came out and the rubber started piling we went backwards. Through really good pit stops we were able to work our way up into the top five or six that put us in position to make that call at the end.” _Matt Kenseth, winner, on how slick the track was_
The story of the race was the amount of rubber build-up on the track that left the Monster Mile slicker than a greased pig for the drivers. Not even race winner Matt Kenseth was immune to the track’s rubber problem, and he was not alone. Several drivers remarked on how wicked loose the track was, especially in the preferred grooves. The fact that there were so few cautions on the slick track should be a testament to the true skill of all 43 drivers in the field
*Crew Chief Quote Of The Week:*
“That was all Matt there. He figured we needed to have clean air and he called two tires and we did two and away we went.” _Jimmy Fennig, crew chief for Matt Kenseth, on the winning pit strategy call_
Modesty was the word of the day for Jimmy Fennig. In reality, according to Matt Kenseth, they both made the call as Kenseth wanted to not pit for track position and Fennig wanted to take four tires. The end result? On pit road, the two compromised and took two tires. Conventional wisdom at that stage of the race, nine times out of ten, is that four tires are better than two, but both Matt Kenseth and Jimmy Fennig tossed that conventional knowledge out a ten-story window. The fact is, with the cars being so aero-sensitive, clean air is of the utmost importance, and being out front in the clean air gave Kenseth his loophole in the law, so to speak, to win the race.
*Owner Quote Of The Week:*
“They didn’t back into this thing. They deserved to be up there. Jimmy made the gutsy — between the two of them, they made the gutsy call for two tires. As many times as they’ve been burned by it, I was surprised they did that. “ _Jack Roush, winning car owner, on his surprise at the call made by Matt Kenseth and Jimmy Fennig that won the race_
Jack Roush seemed to bristle at the thoughts of anyone in the media that dared to insinuate that Kenseth “backed into” his win. To set the record straight, Roush is right. He mentioned how at one point Kenseth had been 23rd in the race and had legitimately worked his way into the top five on the track by passing other cars, which the way the track was today was no small feat in of itself. Kenseth merely took advantage of a strategy call in the late stages and held on for his 20th career win. And at the end of the day, “The Cat In The Hat” has to have a Cheshire Cat type of smile on his face.
*Best Of The Rest:*
“I didn’t have any choice in it really, that is up to the guys up on the box. That is too tough of a choice to make right there and I don’t blame Bob Osborne one bit. I thought we would be able to march up through there and I thought the race would be between Clint and I. I did see a couple cars go fast early on two tires but I really felt we were going to have something. If we had had a caution who know what would have happened. You can’t look back, you have to look forward. We still have the points lead and the fastest car here today. Everybody did a good job on the Aflac Ford and a teammate won, so that is good.” _Carl Edwards, seventh, on the call to take four tires instead of two_
“Looking back, it is easy. At the time, we had done four all day and we saw some two yesterday and it didn’t pan out. Four looked like the call so I have his back, it is no big deal.” _Jimmie Johnson, ninth, on looking back on whether he would have changed the call to go for four tires_
“What a difference a week makes. The frustrating thing is that our Furniture Row Chevrolet was coming to life when the track bar mount broke during a caution (Lap 334). Our car really picked up steam during the second half of the green flag run before the caution came out. We were definitely in position to make a late-race charge and get a nice finish out of this race. I think we were running 16th when the mount broke. It hurts because we had a good car and wanted to continue the momentum from last week’s win in Darlington.” _Regan Smith, 34th, on today’s race_
“I don’t know, it was weird because it all happened at once and there was no sign of it. I was getting under the 6 car to lap them and we were running the leaders down. The track had gotten really slick. It was fun and you had to work really hard on finding the right line. It showed what drivers had to do. We were going to run them down and all of a sudden off of two it went. It was getting steadily worse. Doug Yates and all the guys at the engine shop do a great job. We had a ton of horsepower and this rarely happens. Honestly it sucks. I really wanted this for us and Ford and Best Buy and everybody, the King especially. I hate this.” _A.J. Allmendinger, 37th, on what happened to his engine_
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