Race Weekend Central

A view from the top 12 – Coca-cola 600

The top 12 drivers in Sprint Cup points were once again available for media questions at Charlotte Motor Speedway Thursday, and The Frontstretch had the chance to ask each of them a question to share with the fans.

Frontstretch.com: You spoke about driving for the Mitlers. They’re giving Nick Hoffman a chance in their truck this year. What have you seen from Nick in the Truck Series?

Carl Edwards: I think Nick Hoffman is a guy that you guys are gonna hear about a lot in the future. His father and his uncle are amazing racers. Nick has been doing really well. He’s been running his dirt modified and doing great with it. He does a backflip when he wins, which I think is really neat. They’re a family that are true racers. When I moved down to Charlotte and Jack hired me and I was looking for a place to live, I lived at their house for the first couple of weeks while I was in Charlotte, so they’re just good people. Nick is driving Mike’s truck, I think they’re going to Kansas with it and he’s a very smart racer. He’s got the gift that it takes, it’s just a matter of him getting the right opportunities and him and Mike getting him that experience that he needs.

Frontstretch.com: When you look at the age of instant gratification, do you think it’s still necessary for a 600-mile race and do you enjoy the challenge in the length?

Jimmie Johnson: I definitely enjoy the challenge in the length and I think there are a lot of things that balance out. Sure the world has changed and the instant gratification is a big hook now and everybody is into that but there’s certain races that founded our sport and shaped our sport into what it is and we need to keep those in mind and I think the 600 is a great event. I really enjoy racing in it. It’s been good to me over the years. I think if you are a motorsports fan this weekend you’ve got three big, big races between F1, IndyCar and what we have going on here. So it’s an exciting time to be a motorsports fan this weekend.

Frontstretch.com: What is your outlook for this weekend’s races?

Kyle Busch: Given our past successes here from last week with the NOS Energy Truck and having Zahra Baker (A 10-year-old disabled North Carolina girl who was found slain last year) on the side and winning that race in remembrance of her. Then being able to carry on a good, strong run into Saturday night with the All-Star race for my best finish in that event. Things were good. We’ve got nothing but excited guys coming in here for this weekend’s race, the Coca-Cola 600, and being the longest race of the year, we’ve definitely been ready for it and looking forward to being able to get out on the race track, have some good results and maybe win this thing and bring home my first Cup win at Charlotte.

Frontstretch.com: What is your reaction to one of your counterparts going 128 mph on a public road?

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Sometimes you go a little fast, even away from the race track I guess. I’ve been guilty of the same thing myself just been lucky enough not to get caught.

Frontstretch.com: You did 128?

Earnhardt, Jr.: I don’t really know if I got that fast, I didn’t know if we had enough straight road in North Carolina to get going that quick but, apparently there is a piece somewhere.

Frontstretch.com: KHI is obviously doing well in Trucks and Nationwide, how do you feel you are making progress and do you ultimately feel you can get to Cup in a year or two if you get the right sponsorship?

Kevin Harvick: We don’t have any plans to go to Cup. I’ve said it many times, I think it would have to be 100 percent of a perfect scenario. The way that we work with RCR right now is basically like we have everything tied together and everybody is working well together so we don’t have any intentions of doing that.

Frontstretch.com: If Jack Roush owned a World of Outlaws Sprint Car team and called you right now and said you were racing tomorrow night, what would be your reaction?

Matt Kenseth: I’d say no (laughing). I’d really like to drive one sometime, not so much race one. I’ve never really raced dirt and I’m pretty sure Jack would want to find somebody that actually knew what they were doing. He’d probably put Stenhouse or Carl in there. I’ve never really done any dirt racing. It’s really neat to watch that stuff and those cars are awesome. I think those guys are just great drivers and I think I would be thoroughly embarrassed if I went and tried that right away.

Frontstretch.com: How much have these cars changed since they were introduced in 2007? How much different is what you’re running now than what you ran six months ago?

Ryan Newman: They’ve changed a lot when it comes to the handling of it. We’ve done a lot to make them handle a lot better. Kyle Busch’s first comments were pretty spot-on, even though nobody really wanted to hear it, in saying that they’ve gotten safer; and we as teams, the biggest changes we’ve made is just working to reduce the weight in the cars and putting the weight in the right spot. That’s been a big help with reference to the tires themselves and getting to use the left-side tires a little harder instead of the right-side and having the problems we had like at Indy a few years ago. So, just working with them and getting that notebook is a big part of making them consistent and being able to unload and not have guys…two or three years ago or whatever it was, you’d go out there for first practice and you’d see splitter marks all over the race track from guys just clobbering the splitter. And now guys have a lot better understanding of where we need to be and what the speed’s got to be like in the race track and how we work with these race cars. I think a part of the help as well has been going back to the spoiler because obviously there’s years and years of history with the spoiler and the notes that go along with it.

Frontstretch.com: With where you are in points now, do you as a team do anything different? Do you take more chances, do you bring new cars in, are you more conservative?

Clint Bowyer: More of the same; more of the exact same is what’s in store for us. I’ve got a brand new bullet built for Kansas. That’s what you have to do is to continue to move forward. If you don’t you’ll be left behind. We have a game plan of bringing new cars in and implementing those in on a time frame. If you do them all at one time, it might be the week after, you might learn something and then you’ve already got your cars built for that timeframe. So having a good structure and timeframe of when that next car is coming down the line is very important to keeping up with the competition.”

Frontstretch.com: Is there a point where you guys know where the drop in performance started? Have you been caught by surprise during the race by how you car has struggled?

Kurt Busch: I feel like how the month of May went for us last year, we were top 5. I think we were top 5 and right where we needed to be in points – top 5 in points. We came off a dominating month of May. We seemed to drop off when we went to Chicago in July. It was a car that we couldn’t describe and figure out. Chassis changes came towards the Chase and that’s when we really never found the speed. We had a very successful Daytona Speedweeks – a top 5 in the Daytona 500. I think we all know that driving a restrictor-plate car is a lot different than a mile-and-a-half car. We hit it right for a superspeedway car. And now we’re back to the mile-and-a-halves and we’ve struggled. Twelve months later, we just find ourselves a bit behind in the mile-and-a-half department.

Frontstretch.com: With this heat, is there anything that you can use from last week that you’re going to bring over?

Tony Stewart: Look in your archives. Every year everybody tells you ‘Yes’ on that. That’s what everybody says. That’s what everybody said last week. It’s the same answer this week. Log this answer for the rest of my life that yes, everything that we learned last week we will use toward this week for the rest of my life. That’s what we’ll do.

Frontstretch.com: Does the length of this race and the night-time atmosphere make it more likely for one team to hit on something more than others?

Mark Martin: I don’t think the length has a significant impact on that. But, the day into night can have. But usually what that does, most of the time, it takes a car that can run up front initially can’t quite get it done late at night. Or vice versa. Which has been mostly the case for me. I’m usually miserable for half of the race and then the race track starts coming to us and we get better. But, the race track itself lends itself to a hot streak seemingly a little bit more than a lot of tracks and that’s because it’s so demanding handling wise. It is quite the character. I mean, this race track used to be one of the moodiest race tracks that we ran. One of the most moody race tracks of all with temperature. It is a little bit different animal now with this new asphalt mix, a little less than it used to be. It used to be really crazy.

Frontstretch.com: Have you ever received a speeding ticket?

Greg Biffle: That’s a loaded question (laughing). In my younger days I have driven a little faster, probably, than I should have a time or two. I never got pulled over or never got a ticket for doing that, but the fastest I’ve gotten stopped is maybe 85 or 90 – something like that. I think I got pulled over going 90 out in California. I was on my way to the desert one time, going through the desert with tumbleweeds and was on Highway 8 or something like that. That was probably the fastest I ever got a ticket for, but there is obviously a time and a place for going a little bit faster than we should at times. You have to watch your P’s and Q’s.

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