“No, not really. I’d love to win at Homestead, the last race of the season. That’s a good way to go out. But I don’t really know. You can’t say Talladega anymore because you don’t even race at Talladega anymore; you just kind of run around together and it’s just really silly. So I don’t know. I don’t go to Talladega with any kind of idea of what the hell is going to happen. I’ve got as good a chance of anybody of finishing last as I do first in that race. But Charlotte may be a good one for us. We’re going to try; obviously it’s a special place and I haven’t won there in a points race and I’d love to do that. So that would be a good one.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr., 14th, on what track he’d most like to win at before the end of the season
Even though Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s chances of winning the Chase are about as good as the proverbial snowball in hell, there’s no question a victory in the Chase would be just as sweet for the Hendrick Motorsports driver as winning the Sprint Cup championship. Perhaps more so; Dale has taken a lot of flak from fans and critics for not having won a race in over three years. A win this year would go a long way in silencing the critics. It’s not like the perennial “Most Popular Driver” hasn’t been close. He came four laps from a win at Martinsville in the spring and a heart-breaking 500 yards from a win at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “June-Bug” needs to crack the winner’s circle just to silence his detractors, and the driver of all people knows this all too well.
Most Controversial Quote:
“I think we know what direction to go in — whether we can get there or not — got to have cooperation from everyone. People need to be open-minded to make changes. We’ll just see where it goes from there.” – Denny Hamlin, 16th
One certainly have to wonder who and/or if Denny Hamlin’s comment about people needing to be open-minded about changes on his team can just be chalked up to a frustrated driver, or if it was a shot at anyone in particular. Certainly, the Virginia native has been the biggest disappointment of the 2011 season; Murphy’s Law has been in effect for the No. 11 team. Hamlin has taken some steps personally to rectify the problem, including seeing a sports psychologist. Moves like this show the driver of the No. 11 is certainly determined to turn things around, but the big question is this; are the other team members on board with turning things around or not? Time will certainly tell.
“I think he should just pack it up. It’s over, he is too far back (laughter). I don’t know. He is going to be tough I think.” – Carl Edwards, fifth, on Jimmie’s Chase chances after Sunday’s race
Sarcasm is just one of the many services Carl Edwards has to offer. But in all seriousness, in the last two races, it has been hard to ignore Jimmie Johnson after many wanted to count him out following a less than impressive start to the Chase. While the Columbia, Missouri native and Kevin Harvick are currently on top of the Chase standings, they’ve got to be sweating bullets at the thought of “Mr. Five-Time” being right on their heels. With eight drivers now separated by a scant 20 points in the Chase this year, and a new points system in place, consistency is more important than ever.
Crew Chief Quote Of The Week:
“Absolutely, can’t you tell? I am really excited, I really am, It is just an honor to be able to work with Jimmie and Hendrick Motorsports and everybody we have and all the support from Lowe’s, not to sound like a commercial but we have a pretty special thing going on right now and it is great to be apart of.” – Chad Knaus, winning crew chief
It’s been said a thousand times, but Chad Knaus is truly the modern era version of the late, great Smokey Yunick. Knaus, who has been a wizard with the wrenches, certainly has the track record to prove he’s up there among the greatest crew chiefs ever in NASCAR history. It’s hard to argue with 55 career wins, and the fact that he and driver Jimmie Johnson have as much long-term chemistry as Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. While the wins haven’t been quite as frequent in 2011, the Lowe’s crew chief and driver have generally been more consistent this year than in year’s past, especially compared to last year’s relative inconsistency. Will this lead to a sixth straight championship? It very well could.
Best Of The Rest:
“The biggest thing to me would be to leave on a good note. There’s a lot of people there working really hard and unsure about maybe their future and where they’re going to work next year, and they’re still putting everything they have into our race cars each week. That’s pretty awesome on their part. Kenny Francis (crew chief) is doing — just always is looking, him and Keith Rodman, they’re always looking to make the car just a little bit better, how can I do this, how can I do that, so we’re always working together trying to do that. I’m fortunate to go with him (Kenny Francis) next year, so we’re working on things for next year as well as just trying to finish strong this year.” – Kasey Kahne, runner-up
“Yeah, I think that everybody is gonna be. I talked to some of the guys from the track last night; sometimes they have to tear them up because of the weather. All these tracks in the Midwest, whether it’s Michigan, Kentucky or Kansas, they go through all that frost cycle with the winters and the springs where they frost, de-thaw, frost, de-thaw, and it just kills this track. There are big potholes that I guess they’re having trouble keeping down. Nobody wants us to have another incident like we did at Daytona. It’s tough. It’s unfortunate when tracks have to do that. I hope that technology has developed or exists that can hold up a little bit longer so we can use these tracks further and further and further because I think that we see better racing as the tracks get older. I think this track in particular has become very racy. I think there is as much side-by-side racing as you’re going to see in this style of racecar here at Kansas. I think that it’s bittersweet for everyone and the sport.” – Brad Keselowski, third, on Kansas’ upcoming repave
“Well everybody on our Budweiser Chevrolet did a good job. I am ready to get out of Kansas, I am tired of eventful days. We had an eventful one yesterday and an eventful one today. These guys didn’t give up. We put four tires on the next to last stop and I knew that we were going to be close to the cut-off point there coming to that last caution, and I saw the No. 22 hint to stay out, so I stayed out and everybody else pitted. We should have pitted there, that is my fault, but good job for our Budweiser guys and get on out of here!” – Kevin Harvick, sixth
“Yeah, it always is. Every time you get here another year goes by as it is. But we’ll be here again.” – Clint Bowyer, seventh, on how tough it is to not win at his home track
“Our car wasn’t that good. We worked really hard on it to get it better. We still struggled some and I don’t know what happened with the speeding on pit road. That was stupid. I was the same number that I had been all day. One good thing about it is that I must have been right on the number all day and the bad thing about it is that I got over it one time. We were fourth, fifth, a couple of times there. I wasn’t that good in traffic. My car just wasn’t that good in traffic. That is where I got hurt there at the end.” – Greg Biffle, eighth
“We stole one there. We’ve had some really good runs and we stayed out. It is good to get a bit lucky at the end there. We really worked hard all day. The DeWalt team really kept trying some stuff and actually got it going pretty good there the last 80 laps and were able to get back on the lead lap and back in the top-10.” – Marcos Ambrose, ninth
“I don’t know what it is about this track, but it’s just always been tough for us. From the time we rolled off the truck, Peter (Sospenzo) and the guys worked on trying to make it better all weekend. And we did get it better, but track conditions changed during the race and it just seemed like we were always chasing it. I can’t wait to get to Charlotte, though. It’s great racing at home and it’s a track we run well at, so I’m really looking forward to next weekend.” – David Gilliland, 32nd
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