The Sounds of the Media Center – Quotes from pre-race at Darlington
Tony Stewart was asked if he thought Danica Patrick could become frustrated during the race Saturday.
“Sure, anytime you go somewhere new it’s hard. The races that we picked this year were not meant to be easier races. They are all harder races that we think are valuable for different reasons. It’s very easy that this weekend could be a frustrating weekend but it’s all a part of a bigger plan. I think that is part of what will keep it from being frustrating is that she knows that this is set out to be a tough weekend. It’s with a bigger picture in mind and a bigger goal in mind at the end of the day.”
Regan Smith talked about last year’s win and what it meant to come back to Darlington to defend his title.
“I was an extremely happy guy the last time I was in here. I remember this seat pretty well it was in the same spot I think. That win meant the world to me. It was certainly a pretty special place to get a first win, here at Darlington. The way that we did it with the old tires and thing like that, this is a track that I have always enjoyed racing at right from the first time I came here. I still remember the first time I came here, standing over in turn two. At the time the grandstands with the roof were still sitting over there and I remember thinking ‘man this is old school here, this place has got a lot of history’. I never anticipated that we would get our first win with Furniture Row Racing or myself here, but couldn’t have picked a better place really. It made it extra special to do it here.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked about working out with his pit crew.
“I don’t train with my guys. I don’t think I could keep up with them. I don’t really work out a lot. I play sports in the spring, summer and fall. This probably the past 12 months, I’ve changed my diet quite a bit. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight. I think it gets harder and harder the older you get just to maintain your weight. I’m trying to get a hold on that and knowing what I need to do as far as my calorie intake to manage my weight a bit better. I try to eat more healthy kind of things and it makes you feel better and gives you better fuel. It’s something that I take pretty seriously, but I’ve been learning a lot the last four or five years just being around Jimmie (Johnson) and Jeff (Gordon) and those guys. Jimmie, he’s like an expert at everything. He understands everything that’s happening to his body at all times as far as what he’s eating and what he needs to be doing. He’s a good guy to be around when you’re concerned about those things.”
Kevin Harvick was asked about the lack of ‘dustups’ during this season.
“This isn’t boxing (laughs). This is racing. Sometimes you get frustrated and you have things happen and you have those dustups. It’s not something that is going to happen every week like everybody wants it to happen. There is just no way you can make things happen like that. It’s just unique events happen at unique times; it’s just not going to happen every week though. Nobody’s getting any pressure from NASCAR or sponsors or anything about it. It’s just not going to happen like everybody thinks it should.”
Jimmie Johnson spoke about Danica Patrick running at Darlington after only running on restrictor plate tracks previously.
“I didn’t realize. Did she test on a short track or anything, with the additional power? Does anybody know?” ‘She tested at Nashville’ “When you get to about half-throttle in the Cup car, that’s what a Nationwide car feels like (laughs). There’s a lot left from that point down in a Cup car. As far as tracks go, this track in my opinion has the highest sensation of speed over any other track we go to. And it’s due to it being so narrow. But it will be an eye-opening experience. Fortunately she’s been real fast in other cars so hopefully it doesn’t affect her too much. But we’ve all looked at this race on her schedule and know it is going to be tough for her. And it certainly will. This is not an easy race track to get around but she’s going to do it and we’ll see how it goes.”
Denny Hamlin was asked about his opinion on racing at Darlington in the 60s.
“That’s what’s so amazing to me is you see the old video and it definitely doesn’t do it justice. These guys had no air conditioning, no power steering, no nothing. They had to man through it and tough through it and when you saw them after the race and their face is all black and everything. That’s how it used to be. These guys were iron men back then. Nowadays, the cars are hot because we’re closed in and not as much air comes in the cars today as what it used to be. You had to have some arms on you. You had to have mental toughness back then. That still applies today, but it’s just a different beast all together. It’s still racing and it’s still about beating 42 other guys.”
Marting Truex Jr was asked about the success at Michael Waltrip Racing and when it started.
“It did (start last year). At the end of last year, towards the middle part of the year – I’ve told this story a lot this year, but we made a lot of changes with the way we were building our cars and a lot of personnel changes and things. I think for our team, Chad Johnston (crew chief) and myself still getting to know each other and getting on the same page. A lot of that was a big part of the turnaround for the end of last year too. Just across the board, Michael Waltrip Racing as a whole – all three teams – we’ve got better equipment, smarter people, we understand our cars better. TRD (Toyota Racing Development) provides us with really good engines and they’ve gotten better too. The whole package has been better. That’s all you can really say about it.”
Travis Pastrana was asked how his first day at Darlington went.
“Never really been scared in NASCAR until today, for sure. Everyone says every track you go to, ‘Oh, this is the hardest track or this is this or this is different or challenging,’ but never before have I been that scared that far along. It’s definitely faster than it looks on TV and you have so much room to the inside, but there’s only one line. You have to hit – especially turn one – you have to hit the inside, it slides all the way to the top no matter how slow or fast you go, so you might as well hold it pinned and see what happens. I kept lifting right at the end and they said, ‘Well, the good drivers around here will hold it pinned,’ so I did that and spun a 720 down the backstretch and was able to keep it off the walls and realized maybe I’m not a good driver yet. We’ll learn on that.”
Matt Kenseth waxed philosophic on racing at Darlington.
“I really enjoy it and appreciate it. I was riding my motorcycle down here last night and I was thinking – I really enjoy the couple hours of quiet time – and I was thinking about how cool it was the first few times you came here when it was Labor Day and it was always in the nineties and you were just sweating standing there, and then you had to get in there and drive 500 miles. The track would slow up so much and it seemed like it was almost a five-hour race and you were just totally done and spent when you were done with the race. I always remember how special that event was and being part of that, so I’m glad we still get to come down here. I’m glad the Southern 500 is still alive, but I spent some time thinking about that last night and how cool that was because it was a race you always looked forward to, but you were always making sure you were in shape and drinking a lot of Gatorade, and you were hydrateed, and everything was right in the car because it was always a marathon, and it was always hot, slick and treacherous.”
Carl Edwards was asked about racing on the old pavement vs. the new pavement.
“I think all the drivers really liked the old pavement. I think the new pavement, intially, took something away from the racing here, but I don’t know if it’s just me, I don’t know if other guys feel the same way, but I feel like this year compared to last year has been a big step forward. It seems like it’s aged a little bit. The Goodyear tires are falling off a little bit more. It’s not so white-knuckle, on the edge. The car can slide a little bit. You can mess up and kind of slide the car and gather it back up, so there’s a little big of forgiveness there and I think all of that leads to better racing, so I’d say we’re 50% there or something like that. But I think every year we come back here it’s just gonna get better and better.”
Jeff Gordon spoke about Tony Stewart’s diatribe after Talladega last week.
“No, there is no deep message there (laughs). I can’t keep a straight face. That’s what so impressed me about what Tony did. I wasn’t even there and I was laughing. And right now, I can’t keep a straight face. I thought it was unbelievable. I thought it was awesome.”
“Why? Because all the things that he had to say are things that weigh on all of our minds as drivers and you want to get that message across but there’s only a slight few that can do it in a certain way but gets the message out there as well, very clear. I don’t know. I thought that took some real skill, too. I sent him a text saying I thought that was awesome.”
Asked if anything can be done to address those issues.
“I still like the Figure 8 idea. I’m leaning toward the Figure 8.”
Greg Biffle spoke about tire runs on the old and new surface.
“Before, you could directly relate like a math equation. You could run any lap time you wanted, but every tenth or two-tenths you went faster on new tires, you could subtract 10 off the back end you’re gonna slow down a second. So you could go as fast as you wanted for those first 10 or eight laps on new tires, you were like Superman, but you had to drive them like you had an egg with a soft shell on it. You just had to take care of them and, if you wanted to, you just crammed the throttle down and could smoke off a lap, but it’s kind of like nine lives – you just took a bunch off the back end of that tire. After 10 laps, the thing dropped dramatically, so it’s nothing like that.”
Danica Patrick was asked about how big her involvement was to the community and the sport.
“That’s very nice of you to say, but there’s a heck of a lot of big name drivers here. Quite honestly, it’s my honor to finally be here at a place like Darlington with so much history and tradition. I think I heard it was the first paved track. Is that true? And that’s why it’s called the Lady in Black because it finally got paved. I’m learning my history and it’s good to be here. I had a lot of repect for this place coming in, but having finally hit the track in both cars, I’ve got even more now.”
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