Tag:Charlotte Motor Speedway
Posted on: January 23, 2012 9:20 am
Edited on: January 23, 2012 10:45 am

NASCAR Media Tour rolls in Charlotte

By Pete Pistone

CHARLOTTE -  More than 230 motorsports journalists have gathered in Charlotte for the 30th annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The annual started in 1983 "experiment" with a handful of media that struggled to fill one charter bus, the four-day Tour has evolved into an important preseason media event.

"The NASCAR Sprint Media Tour is four days of non-stop news and a great way for fans to hear the latest about their favorite teams just a few weeks before the start of the season," said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. "It's the Tour's 30th year and it's stronger than ever, with a record number of media coming to this year's event that features more than 20 stops throughout the four days. We're excited to host to such a fantastic and meaningful event."

More than 20 stops will keep the participating media busy over the four-day tour including visits to Hendrick Motorsports, Michael Waltrip Racing, Richard Childress Racing and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions Stewart-Haas Racing, plus Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush-Fenway Racing are among the many teams that will also be making announcements.

"Eye on NASCAR" is on the media tour and will have daily updates throughout the week.

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Posted on: October 18, 2011 5:03 pm

Charlotte TV ratings remain solid

By Pete Pistone

Saturday night's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway generated a solid television audience for ABC.

The fifth race of the Chase earned a 3.2 U.S. rating, averaging 5,396,000 viewers, according to the Nielsen Company. The rating is even with the rating for last year's race, which also aired on ABC on a Saturday night.

So far every race of the Chase run on its scheduled date (the Chicagoland opener was postponed to a Monday afternoon by rain) has drawn higher or at least flat ratings from the 2010 season.

Sunday's Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway will air on ESPN.

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Posted on: October 17, 2011 6:21 pm

NASCAR concludes Charlotte fuel injection test

Posted by Pete Pistone

From News Release

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.  — Teams representing 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars turned upwards of 400 miles Monday during a test of Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Both NASCAR officials and drivers were optimistic about the continued development of the system. Plans call for the full implementation of EFI in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series beginning with the 2012 season.

“The entire NASCAR community has worked very closely together in developing the EFI system,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president for competition. “Today was a positive step in the right direction for us. We have associated ourselves with some world-class technology partners, including McLaren, Freescale and Holley, and going to EFI next season is only going to enhance the racing. The horsepower should be about the same, or perhaps slightly more, the cars will be more fuel efficient, and it’s the right thing to do from an environmental standpoint. Plus, it helps us become more relevant with the production cars that our fans drive every day.”

Four Hendrick Motorsports teams, two Stewart-Haas Racing teams, one team from Richard Childress Racing, one team from Michael Waltrip Racing, one Earnhardt-Ganassi team, a team from Joe Gibbs Racing and one team from Roush-Fenway Racing participated in Monday’s test session.

The No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford, driven by Trevor Bayne, turned in the day’s fastest lap with a speed of 189.793 mph. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also tested the No. 6 Ford on Monday.

Richard Childress Racing’s Jeff Burton said that Monday’s test provided some “great feedback for the team engineers to build upon.”

“To have the engine tuners interface with the drivers and teams at today’s test is very important in the development of this system,” said Burton. “The test is an excellent tool for the engineers to improve upon their ability to tune the engines.” 

Another NASCAR EFI test is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 20 at Talladega Superspeedway. The test is set to run from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (CT).

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Posted on: October 16, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2011 12:51 pm

Charting the Chase: Charlotte

By Pete Pistone

A quick look at how the Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers fared in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.   

Carl Edwards (Charlotte: Third) – Did more than hold serve and actually increased his lead in the standings to five points. A steady night and was in position to try to run down the leaders in the closing laps but just did not have quite enough.

Chase Chatter: “We have five times the points lead we had coming in.  We went from one point to five points, so that’s something."


Kevin Harvick (Charlotte: Sixth) – Is making a living out of taking a not so great race and turning it into a decent finish. Like Kansas, Harvick wasn’t much a factor Saturday night but dodge a major bullet late in the race when he avoided a wreck and stayed in the title hunt with the effort.

Chase Chatter:  “Really, we ran terrible at Chicago last year, we have not ran great at Kansas, and had not run great here so, to come here through these first five races and only be five points back, knowing that four of the last five races are great race tracks for us, I’m really excited about that.”


Matt Kenseth (Charlotte: First) – A quintessential Kenseth performance on Saturday night that resulted in a trip to victory lane.  Steady and persistent, Kenseth wasn’t flashy but had more than enough to take the lead late and hold on the rest of the way to solidify his place in the championship standings.

Chase Chatter: “You’re always thankful.  I’m always thankful to get to victory lane.  You never know if you’re ever gonna win another race or when your last win is, and I’m certainly thankful for them all and I greatly appreciate being in a position to be able to win races and these guys giving me the cars and the crew and the opportunity to do that.”


Kyle Busch (Charlotte: Second) – Two nights of the same scenario for Busch this weekend in Charlotte as he gave up a lead late in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races and was forced to settle for second.   Still a good night in terms of the points race for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. 

Chase Chatter: ““We have to keep finishing like this -- it’s all it takes.  It’s not that hard.” 


Tony Stewart (Charlotte: Eighth) – A pretty solid effort to rebound from his Kansas disappointment and pit road mistake a week ago.  Stewart had a powerful car and although wasn’t able to get a third Chase win showed he’ll be a factor for sure in upcoming 1.5-mile tracks in Texas and Homestead. 

Chase Chatter:  “We were good off the front there, just, when we got back in traffic we got really tight. You know that was kind of the theme of the night. We just seemed to, our car changed balance-wise a lot more in traffic it seemed like, than some of the other cars did.”


Brad Keselowski (Charlotte: 16th) – Surprisingly not a factor all weekend. Keselowski qualified poorly and could not make any kind of charge toward the front of the field through adjustments or pit strategy. Lucky to finish as high as he did in Charlotte.

Chase Chatter: " 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.”


Kurt Busch (Charlotte: Thirteenth) – Like it or not Busch now finds himself in a controversy with the reports of crew chief Steve Letarte’s possible defection from Penske Racing after the season. A mediocre night at best in Charlotte didn’t do much to put those rumors to rest.

Chase Chatter: “We did lose a few points, but we’ll try to get them back next week.  Faster race cars will make for better decisions.”


Jimmie Johnson (Charlotte: 34th) – The shot heard round the NASCAR world came with 25 laps to go when Johnson crashed hard into the backstretch wall. While he was uninjured in the accident, Johnson took a big hit in his quest for a sixth straight title and now faces a possible insurmountable climb from 35 points behind with only five races to go.

Chase Chatter: “Definitely not the night we wanted. This is not going to help us win a sixth championship. Promise you, this team and myself, we won’t quit. We will go for every point we can from here on out and hopefully we are still champions at the end of the year.”


Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Charlotte: 19th) – Was hoping to replicate his May Charlotte run when he was in contention for a win until running out of gas on the final turn. Did not have anywhere near the car that rolled off the hauler in the spring race and was forced to play catch up all night with a loose wheel adding insult to injury.

Chase Chatter: “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.” 


Ryan Newman (Charlotte: Tenth) – A very nice effort for Newman at what he calls his favorite track. While his hopes of winning the championship disappeared a few weeks ago Newman has the look of someone who could find his way to victory lane again before the end of the season.

Chase Chatter: “We just didn’t have quite what we needed at the end to give us a better finish than we ended up with. We’ll take a top-10 here tonight and now it’s on to the next one.”


Jeff Gordon (Charlotte: 21st) – The final nail in Gordon’s championship caution was driven home in Charlotte. Another driver who was expected to do well at a track where he’s flourished but never mounted any kind of serious threat.


Denny Hamlin (Charlotte: Ninth) – Hamlin told the world earlier in the weekend he was expecting changes within Joe Gibbs Racing to right the ship and planned to get a jump start on 2012 immediately. Turned in a nice performance in Charlotte that can be used as a building block for the No. 11 team’s future. 

Chase Chatter: “We’re making strides and we’re heading in the right direction.  We’re still trying to dig through all this information that I’ve got to give these guys to head us in the right direction for the future.”

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Posted on: October 16, 2011 11:16 am

Around the Circuit: weekend web wrap

Posted by Pete Pistone

News, notes and biews from around the World Wide Web in the aftermath of Saturday night's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER - "Kenseth Outlasts Kyle Busch" 

VIRGINIA PILOT - "Kenseth Wins, Johnson Crashes and the Chase Takes Another Twist"

SCENE DAILY - "Did Jimmie Johnson's Title Run Come Crashing Down in Tuwn Two?"

USA TODAY - "Matt Kenseth Wins in Charlotte as Jimmie Johnson Takes Hit"

GASTON GAZETTE - "Kenseth Wins Again in Charlotte"

NASCAR BEYOND THE TRACK - "Yes Folks, Even Jimmie Johnson Has Bad Luck"
Posted on: October 16, 2011 1:33 am

Matt Kenseth, Roush team post Charlotte comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

MATT KENSETH:  Well, thanks.  It was awesome win for us.  We had a pretty decent car.  All night, I felt like we had a car that would probably last 150 laps or so, that if we could get it front, it would be hard to beat.  But it was really hard to pass tonight, especially after you had about 20 laps on your tires, you needed to get it done right away. 

And we got ourselves behind just a little bit that one time and got back to fifth or sixth and honestly took that last 150 laps or whatever to get back to the lead.           

So it was a good race.  I had fun racing with Kyle there.  We had a pretty decent restart, the second to last one and got by Denny and Carl, and ran Kyle down and it was tough to get by him.  I'm glad we could make it happen because it was -- like I said, it was challenging.           

KERRY THARP:  Well, congratulations.  And Jack Roush, Matt Kenseth certainly showed championship material here once again this evening, and now he's third place in points and halfway through the Chase, he's got to be a guy that people are looking at.           

JACK ROUSH:  Well, I'm really proud of what Matt and Jimmy did tonight.  Crew chiefs have a tough job, he's out shuffling the car through the tech line to make sure the height measurements are fair and everything works out the way that he thinks he should; that's why he's not here right now          
With all of the engineering and technical support behind these teams, it comes down to the decisions, the last 20 percent of the decision is worked out between the driver and crew chief.           

And Jimmy is a championship quality crew chief.  He won with Kurt Busch a few years ago, and Matt ran with Robbie of course and Robbie is our general manager now.  We have a lot of depth in the organization and the Ford cars ran well tonight.  Just a matter of time before Matt broke loose from his obscurity in the middle of the pack and worked his way to the front.           

What happened to Jimmie Johnson is a sobering lesson for everybody.  You can't afford to break apart, you can't afford to put a wheel long, or a loose lug-nut on pit road with an extra pass at the wrong time down to serve a penalty could be a championship-losing event.  There's just a lot that these guys have to do that has to be really done correctly.  And Jimmy and Matt got it done tonight and I'm sure they are going to be a factor in this championship coming down the stretch.           

KERRY THARP:  Joining us now is crew chief Jimmy Fenning, and Jimmy, certainly got to be proud of this team the way they came together and really just showed their strength there towards the last third of the race.  Congratulations.  Talk about the win here this evening.          

JIMMY FENNIG:  It was pretty good at the end there.  We made another adjustment and seemed like the car come to life a little bit better.  Still didn't get it totally fixed but it was good enough to win tonight.            

Q.  Matt, you've talked about this a little bit, but could you and Jimmy talk about how important it is to have improved in qualifying and how much of a factor, being able to start up there tonight was?           

MATT KENSETH:  Yeah, it make as a big difference, a lot different than that it was five or six years ago.  I probably did not stress out quite as much about qualifying, because -- it wasn't a problem in the past 24 cars in four hours.  Everybody's running at the same speed, which makes it difficult to pass and track position is really important.  So qualifying, that always helps with your pit style and track position and get out and get a bonus point and lead a little bit so it's always important.           

JIMMY FENNIG:  Yes, qualifying is real important, because if you don't qualify good you're stuck back in the pack and you have the dirty air and makes the adjustments for us harder racing against the dirty air and figuring out what to do.  So it's pretty important to qualify good.            

Q.  You talked on television about toilet restarts in the past.  What did you tonight different than in the past.           

MATT KENSETH:  I hit my head -- what did you just say?  Just a joke restarts obviously have not been my specialty lately if you watch many races, especially when we restart second from the bottom.  I was kicking myself when Kyle got around me and 11 got around me on the next restart and I knew we had a shot to win the race if we got in front of Kyle and ran him down the last long run we had, I knew our car was a little bit superior to his and I was going to feel pretty bad if I cost these guys a race again.  Thankfully we got the second laps restart, we were fourth and outside and I could get rolling with Kyle right away, and had a good couple sets of corners and got up to second and then it was -- I was able to race him one-on-one and that was a big key.          

Q.  Can you talk about the run on the third restart after the third caution where you went from 11th in the back of the pack, given how bad it's been trying to get out of traffic, to gaining three spots on that first lap and gaining a couple more, you know, I think your comment was, I can breathe now, hole I crap.           

MATT KENSETH:  Well, there was a few toilet jokes thrown in tonight.  But yeah, that particular restart I ran three-wide through turn one and two the first two laps which is not really advisable, but it's difficult to pass, and what happens is there's a lot of guys on two, and you have to take advantage of your four tires, it seemed like tonight, it was weird you could run 15 to 20 laps and had an advantage and you could pass and then it flipped a switch and everyone was the same speed and you could not go forward anymore.  We were aggressive and ran our way back to fifth or sixth and he settled right there and we had a good pit stop.  Jimmy pitted me early and ran past a couple more guys and got ourselves back up to third and that got us back in the mix again.            

Q.  It's been 20 races since you won but you've had some good cars in the Chase, talk about the satisfaction to win at the halfway point of the Chase?           

JACK ROUSH:  I don't know if you saw the same race that I did, but we had seven of our cars tonight that ran in the Top-10 most of the night except for problems we had.  We are at the top of our game as far as our mile-and-a-half program.           

There's other teams that have got good programs but nobody has got a better mile-and-a-half program than us and including tonight there was three races left, mile-and-a-half races left in the Chase and so I felt really good about that.  Ford has given us great such for the for our Fusion, we have a good aero package and mechanics works well based on the lab testing and engines make a lot of power.          

I am not embarrassed we have not won more race.  We have had races with we missed because we made the wrong decision with two tires, three tires, fuel economy, but we are in championship form.  And in my 24 years, I've never had better cars for the championship stretch than we have got and we are anxious to see how it's going to work out.  But I don't feel vindicated.  I just think that the hard work everybody's done is paying off, and we are getting what we deserve.           

MATT KENSETH:  I mean, you know, I'm happy to be -- happy to have won obviously.  Like you say it's been 20 races which doesn't seem that long because I don't know how many it was before that, I think it was 70 some before.  That so you're always thankful.  I'm always thankful to get to victory lane.  You never know when you are going to win your last race -- I'm certainly in a great position to be able to win races and these guys give me the cars and the crew and the opportunity to do that.            

Q.  How much does Jimmie Johnson's accident change maybe the complexion of the Chase for the rest of you, and do you feel like this is Roush Fenway's maybe best chance since 2008 to win with Carl and Matt?           

JACK ROUSH:  For anybody that has a wreck or breaks an engine or has a cut tire at the wrong time, you can't expect to get a mulligan.  You'll be very lucky if somebody will give you a chance to make up the whole race.  I thought that Jimmie Johnson would be a factor in it and he's definitely doing to have to stand in line and wait or the other folks in the Top-5 to have problems for him to get back in it.  He won't race his way back in it.  He won't finish high enough above the top four or five cars to beat them on the racetrack.  He'll have to wait for them to have trouble I think.            

Q.  What does it say, a guy has a good race, third in the points and has a legitimate chance of winning the championship, and almost the first words out of his mouth are needing a sponsor for next year.          

JACK ROUSH:  We do need a sponsor for the 17 car, I didn't hear that but that's a fact.  The 17 car is secure in Roush Fenway's livery.  We will run it with or without a sponsor next year but it will be a shame if we are not able to attract sponsorship.  We are talking to people with some interest, but this is my 24th year of being in the business and this is the most difficult time I've had.  We have gone through a transition with our sponsors from a time where they wanted to compete for a top car to where now the best sponsors want just enough of a car to be able to do their promotions and want to share the bulk of the expenses if they can't.  It's a really strange time.  I've never seen anything like this.  I'm not sure what we'll have coming out of it and it will be different than it has been in the past.           

Q.  You improved your position the last four races but the media seems to focus on other drivers for the most part.  Kyle made a joke that the Wisconsin guys are quiet most of the time.  Is that your personality or does it bother you a little bit that you get lost in the shuffle when people are talking about, oh, these Chase contenders and you are right obviously in the thick of things.           

MATT KENSETH:  Well, it doesn't really matter to me that much, what everybody thinks, we are in it or out of it or whatever.  What's important to me is trying to win races, trying to be competitive to go do the best job we can do every week.  I don't really care about wi dance-offs or how much coverage you get for doing certain things or 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 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 try to run for a championship.  And that's who we are at the racetrack.           

Q.  Considering that you did bring up sponsorship, is there a sense of urgency?  Do you feel a sense of urgency even though Jack has green-lit you for next year, to do whatever is necessary to try to attract a sponsor at this point?           

MATT KENSETH:  I'm not going to get stressed out about it, especially right now in the Chase and all of the things we have going on.  I don't know really what else we can be doing except for trying to be competitive and run good.  Guys down in marketing and sales department need to figure that out and they need to figure out how to get that done and Jimmy and I will keep working on the jobs that we were hired for and I'm sure it will work out.  I've been fortunate throughout my career, we had Crown Royal over a decade, they were involved over at Roush for over eight years and been supporters of the organization and thankful for the time they have been there and how much they have helped the whole organization, not just me but they have been with a few different drivers there.  Certainly thankful for that and look forward to whatever is next.           

 Q.  Jack addressed this question about the 48's troubles changing the complexion of the Chase, what are your comments about that?           

MATT KENSETH:  I have to be honest, I don't know where anybody is at in the points really.  I don't -- you know, all we can really control, all we have any control over, and we always can't control the whole outcome of that, all we have any control of over is our own car and ourselves and what we do.  I don't really honestly spend my time to see where anybody else finishes.  We go out every week and try to beat the other 42 cars and finish as high as we can and that's how you get the most points and not really worry about what everybody else does.  Jimmy, I don't know what else happened to him, where he finished, but a few weeks ago everybody thought he was out of it finished first and second and got right back in it.           

I don't know, the whole points thing where anybody is at but certainly anything can happen at Talladega and Phoenix I think is going to be quite interesting as well.  There's a lot of racing to do, we are halfway through it, but five races is a lot of races.           

Q.  Jeff Gordon has been talking about winning under the Chase format --  does that mean anything particular?           

MATT KENSETH:  Well, if we could actually do it I could probably answer the question better afterwards, but certainly no matter what format they come up with or what points system they come up with or how they do it, your goal every year is to try to win a championship and your weekly goal is to try to show up and win and that never really changes.  Yeah, you would love to be able to win another one but I tell what you, they are hard to win and you've got to have everything go right and you have to have a lot of nights like we have had here the last two or three weeks and the next five, I think you're going to have to run in the Top-5 every week to have a shot at us, just the way I feel and the way them guys are running.           

So you know, just keep taking it one week at a time and if that happened, that would be -- obviously that would be great.  The same guys won it for five years straight and I think anybody that could beat him I think would feel good about it no matter what system or how the points or how they do that, I think they would feel good.             

Q.  Y'all picked the pit stall all the way down by turn four, just curious when you're getting down to the later stages of the races and the potential is two tires or four tires and you are the one setting the bar, does that make it more difficult that if you choose four and others do two, it's possibly going to catch you out or do you like the fact that you dictate what other people can do from that spot?           

JIMMY FENNIG:  Well, you know, picking pack down there, I like dictating what people do.  If we can control the race, then they are at our mercy, could you say.  But I don't really pay attention to what they are doing because I've got that pit stall.  I just worry what we are doing.           

Q.  Jack mentioned the strength and success of the mile-and-a-half program but three of the next five races are not mile-and-a-halves.  What do you see as the challenges for you guys in those next three tracks?           

MATT KENSETH:  Out of the first five, I don't know how many were mile-and-a-halves -- three of them were.  You know, Loudon I feel is one of my worst tracks and Jimmy got the car rolling good and we finished sixth.  That was one of our worst tracks and I felt like we did okay, so you know I guess moving forward, and I don't know what's going to happen at Talladega.  Certainly in July we had a plan and stuck to it and finished first and second, and so would be expecting a lot for it to go that smooth again and for it to all work out.  The way that tandem racing is there, hopefully him and I will both be able to finish and stay together and make something happen there again.  I don't think anybody has an advantage or disadvantage in Phoenix.  I think it's just -- who knows what's going to happen at that one and Martinsville we have been better at lately.           

I feel it's one of my worst tracks but the last few times we have actually ran pretty competitively there.  So I don't feel like our cars are limited to only being fast at the mile-and-a-half tracks.  I think certainly the tracks with more speed, more banking seems to fit maybe, you know, I don't know if it's so much our cars or style or whatever, but it seems a little easier for us maybe than some of them other tracks but I think we have been pretty competitive at most of the tracks this season at most times.           

Q.  I know you said earlier you don't pay as much attention to the points per se, but that being said, with what happened at Chicago, losing those potential points, certainly if you don't run out of fuel at the end, you are the points leader at this point.  How do you not let that hangover you or hang over the team or how do you not let that be something that is in the back of the mind at some point?           

MATT KENSETH:  Yeah, it's gone, and I mean, the only thing you can do from that is learn from it.  I know dog and everybody has been working hard at trying to get us key power and fuel mileage and tonight I think we were closer to where we needed to be if we would have been like that at Chicago.  As a team, on the 17 I don't think we could have done a thing about Chicago.  We could not have done anything better we were on the pole and leading in the last restart.  He put me in position to win.  There's just nothing else we could have done.  Would I have had to go so slow that we would have finished where we finished anyway and probably went two laps down.  We just did not have control over that.           

That's just when the caution fell and we were getting a few tenths worse mileage than most of the field and could not do anything about that.  So all you can do for those things I think is try to hopefully learn from it, you know, work on it, and try to be hopefully closer or better if the caution flag falls at that point again.            

Q.  I was asking you a question in January, and I phrased it in a way, I said, and you're this guy that contends for a couple wins a year, and you cut me off and you said, God I would kill to contend for a couple wins a year.  Now looking back, you have three wins and I just looked at your numbers what was that like in those years that you, I guess felt like you were probably in an uphill battle and maybe didn't know if you would get back to victory lane.           

MATT KENSETH:  Yeah, I probably meant more, you would kill for a couple wins.  I think we have contended for some wins, even toward the end of last year, seems like as an organization, all of our cars started running better and by the end of last year, Jimmy and I think we always understood each other but after you get to work together for a while, you work better together and know more what each other is saying, that type of thing and I felt good about things when we finished the year off last year.  We had some really good runs and we were in contention a few times.  Our finishes didn't show I don't think how good we ran.  So I felt like the potential was there, and you have to learn to enjoy these, like I said before, you don't know if you're ever going to get another win or if it's your last win or not and certainly I've gone a long time before in my career without having a win at all.  And certainly the longer you go without one, the more it weighs on your mind about if you're ever going to win another one or not.          

As you get older and as you do this longer, I think you realize how hard it really is and I think you appreciate the wins and the success probably more so than when you first start.            

Q.  How are you appreciating this championship?           

MATT KENSETH:  You need a microphone and you need to say your name and your affiliation.  You know the rules.            

Q.  You talked about appreciation in the wins but how is the appreciation in this championship running for you?  Can you appreciate it or is it just head down, hammer down, for ten weeks and that's all it is?          

MATT KENSETH:  Yeah, we are going to appreciate it.  So I might even talk Jimmy into having a drink tonight after he gets through tech.  We are still getting it free, right?  I forgot what you asked me.          

Can I appreciate it in a Chase?  Yeah, I mean, I think this is the first time we've ever won a race in the Chase actually.  You know, it seems like for some reason through the years we have been better in the beginning of the year than the end of the year so certainly you appreciate it running that good.           

Honestly I know you probably don't believe me, but I don't look at the points that much.  If you go out and do the best job you can do every week and you leave the track knowing that everybody did their best, you executed as good as you could and did what you could do on the track, you can't -- any points you gained or lost, you're not going to give them back and you're not going to get them back, the ones you lost.           

So I don't really -- I don't really look at it much.  We keep running like this every week, I think be in the mix at the end.  Take it one race at a time and I'm happy about this and thinking about Talladega and how that's all going to go and when we get there, we'll hopefully have a plan and be able to, in, this new kind of racing, get it all figured out where we have a plan and backup plan so we can be there at the end.            

Q.  What do you appreciate about this?           

MATT KENSETH:  Just winning.  It's hard to say exactly what you appreciate about it.  I appreciate being with a winning organization, with a winning team, with Jimmy on top of the box calling the races and working so hard bringing me fast race cars every week.  Just appreciate being in the situation.  You don't -- you never want to start -- when I started racing, never thought I would be racing at this level much less be competitive and win a few championships along the way.  Just appreciate being able to drive that car.            

Q.  I'm just curious what tracks are you looking forward to; and do you believe that can get you to get another win, or to get you to get to the championship win?           

MATT KENSETH:  Well, you know, if I had to look at the final five, would I probably, you know, Texas, probably look forward to Texas the most, and Homestead.  Homestead, it's weird going to Homestead because it's the last race of the year, it's a different layout, we race there one time a year and you get there and almost feels like a new track every time you go there.           

They have done a nice job with that track with the configuration.  It's a racy track and a difficult track because you have to race close to the wall most of the race.  Those are the two I'm looking forward to the most, but looking forward to the challenge of all of them and looking forward to hopefully staying on this run that we are on.            

Q.  I know you're not looking at points or looking too far ahead but if you do win the championship, do you think NASCAR will change the points system?  (Laughter).           

MATT KENSETH:  What's that?  I don't know.  Jimmie had to win five of them before they changed it.          

KERRY THARP:  You did have a Chase win:  Homestead 2007.          

MATT KENSETH:  Forgot about.  That was Robbie's last day.  Thank you for correcting me on that one.

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Posted on: October 16, 2011 12:49 am

Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards post Charlotte comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

CARL EDWARDS:  Yeah, it's huge for us.  We had this one circled on the schedule as one that our whole Aflac team was nervous about.         

We qualified well.  We were not that fast at the beginning of the race and Bob did a really good job dialing it in, the car and the track kind of came to us, so just overall a really good nice for Roush Fenway, it's great to see Matt get a win.  Those guys, I guess it's great as a teammate, but now he's only seven points behind us in the Chase.  A great race and a lot better finish I than I thought we were going to have so I'm happy with it.           

KERRY THARP:  We are joined by our second place finisher, Kyle Busch who drives the No. 18 M&M's Toyota.  Kyle moves up to fourth in the points, 18 out of the lead.  Kyle, talk about your race out here this evening.           

KYLE BUSCH:  It was a good race for us.  Certainly we started pretty deep in the field and made our way up through there slowly and steadily, and just real tough to pass and make up ground.  You could be 2-10ths faster than the guy in front of you and run him down and catch him and slow down and just get stuck.           

So you had to be creative and work your way up and work your way past guys, but I don't think we made a change to the car all night.  We just kept running with it and just kept letting the race play out, and let it do what it was supposed to do, and lo and behold, we thought we were going to win and you get down to all of these late restarts and give it away.  So finished second. 

Q.  Carl, we saw you talking to Kyle after the race and we heard your comments on TV and then Kyle shed a little bit more insight into it, and I asked this question with all due respect, shouldn't the guys racing for second and third be rating each other hard, because Kyle's explanation seemed to be that you were unhappy with the way he raced you.           

CARL EDWARDS:  We should definitely be racing each other hard.  It's just that there's a difference between racing hard and then cutting across the guy ease nose.           

What I told Kyle is I just wonder why coming off of turn two when I got underneath him that he drove down instead of going up to the wall like we would normally do.  And I just let him know that next time that happens, I'll just stay where I'm at and he can drive across my hood and wreck himself.           

It just surprised me.  Now he told me that he didn't mean to do it, and so I got to believe that, but I don't know what else there is to say about it.  Just it's racing, and we didn't wreck, and we are going to race hard like that; that's just how I saw it.            

Q.  For Carl, what was your reaction when you saw Jimmie or heard Jimmie had wrecked and what does that mean for all of you in the Chase now        

CARL EDWARDS:  Well, it can happen to any of us, so you know, obviously the more points we can get on the guys in the Chase, the better.  But it's obvious that that could happen to anyone.  So he could go on a tear and be leading the points in three or four weeks; and that could happen, too, so I don't have count him out.            

Q.  Kyle, could you speak of the balance between the frustration of not winning against actually getting a good finish and being in the best position you've been at this point in the Chase, each time you've been in it?           

KYLE BUSCH:  Well, we've kind of set out that we need to start finishing where we run during the race, and we have not done that maybe but Loudon.  For tonight, we certainly ran really, really well.  We ran strong.  We drove up through the field and we got in position to win the race and was leading much of the majority of the end there.          

Just got out-drove there by Kenseth there on the restart there.  He just flat-out drove right past me like I was standing still.  The frustration is, again, we did not finish where we wanted to, which could have been a real win, a real highlight.           

The next frustration is we have yet to win a Chase race, and I'm sure I'll be hearing about that for the next four years if I continue that.  But, you know, we'll keep working on it, and going into next week at Talladega and see if we can't get one there.            

Q.  Could you describe the engine issue that led to the change?  TV seemed to say that it was not a failure but some sort of maintenance issue that caused the problem.           

KYLE BUSCH:  I can't elaborate.  I don't know what it was.  I heard something in the valve train, rock or arm stud, that's all.            

Q.  Can you comment on Matt, everybody talks about you guys possibly winning the title, but looked like he came out of nowhere tonight.  Is he a real threat to this thing?           

CARL EDWARDS:  He's the only one of the three of us that's got a championship.  He's doing really well, and tonight, that car was really fast and he drove it really well.  I spent a lot of time behind him.  He was wheeling it.  So I don't think you can count him out at all.           

KYLE BUSCH:  You can never count out.  It seems like those Wisconsin guys are awfully quiet most of the time.  You know, maybe that's just a part of it.  They will squeak it out there at the end, and leave you in the dust.           

CARL EDWARDS:  It's all the cheese they eat.           

Q.  I know that the Chase has not started the way that you would like to, but in a sense do you feel like you've gotten the worst of your tracks behind you and you guys have a good stretch coming ahead to look toward to?           

KYLE BUSCH:  You know, it's not necessarily the way we look at it.  I feel like certainly we have -- we were running Top-5 at Chicago, ran out of fuel.  Loudon was certainly not our best track, and then Dover was a pretty good track for us.  We were running third and way too loose at the end and finished sixth, not bad.  Kansas we ran fourth, fifth, all day.  Just got caught up in the wrong lane on some restarts at the end and faded.           

We had some decent runs going.  Just were not able to capitalize on those runs and finish where we wanted to.  So with the weeks remaining, we just can only take it one by one, and go into next week and put our best foot forward, put our best car on the racetrack and try to win Talladega and from there go to Martinsville where we get better every time we show up.           

There's certainly some positive tracks that are coming up that we look forward to.            

Q.  Was there any key adjustment you made to the car to achieve the finish that you did tonight at a racetrack that's not been your best; and how was your car compared to last week?           

CARL EDWARDS:  It was a lot better than last week but we were off a little bit.  We were not as fast as Kyle or Matt.  We have to go back and look at it.  Greg was fast and Trevor was screaming fast at one point in the race.  He was really good.  I don't know what happened to him but I thought he was going to be the guy to beat.  We'll just go back and look at it and figure out what we are missing.  It might be something I'm doing driving that's not correct here and there might be some set up stuff but we are slowly working on it.  I feel better after this run.  The All-Star Race, Coke 600 and this race were all decent for us, so that's three in a row.  That's the best we have ever been here.            

Q.  Probably should not be a surprise that you're going to lead the points two weeks in a row during the Chase considering the way you ran during the off-season, but the people way Jimmie Johnson, not won as many opportunities as you've had, maybe it is a little surprising.  How do you look at it with five races to go?  Is it where you expected to be?  Does it matter that they have as many wins --           

CARL EDWARDS:  The wins, they matter, obviously.  It's great to win.  But our goal is to win the championship.  We have won nine races in a season and not won the championship, and I definitely trade that for a zero-win or one-win season with a championship.           

Our goal is to win this championship.  We are leading the points now which does not really amount to much with five races left but it is the -- we are on track.  We are doing well.  So there are some tough races coming up for us.  I mean, Talladega is not my best track.  Martinsville is not my best track.  But after those, I feel pretty good.            

Q.  Carl, this is the latest in the season you've ever been the points leader.  At what point do you have to start thinking about that, racing with that in mind?  Does it change your style?  Are you aggressive?  Do you race conservatively to hold it -- do you know what I mean?           

CARL EDWARDS:  I was probably -- well, I don't know.  I think right now, you have to still get everything you can.  I mean, I raced really hard tonight.  Not quite as hard as you (turning to Kyle).           

KYLE BUSCH:  I'm in the catbird's seat.           

CARL EDWARDS:  I'm racing as hard as I can, trying to get every point I can.  That's how we have raced all season.  It has not worked out for some wins but that's mostly been strategy and stuff like that.           

I feel like I've kind of -- I found kind of a balance where I've wrecked enough, made enough stupid decisions early on that I'm trying to be better at not giving them away.  So just keep doing what we've been doing and if it works out, it works out.           

But part of your question, I don't think -- I don't think -- this season's not like others.  I think that it's going to come down literally to the last few laps at Homestead.  If you watched what happened tonight, anything can happen.  It can turn, you know, turn quickly.            

Q.  Kyle, I know obviously would you like to start up front and race up front all night, but did you at least have a little bit of fun starting at the back and getting to pass that many cars that early on?          

KYLE BUSCH:  Well, there was a point in which the leader was going into one and I was coming off of two.  So you know, that kind of leaves you a little bit worrisome.           

But you just have to let it play out.  Certainly there's going to be some cautions in there that will allow the field to bunch back up and everything like that.  You know, it was -- it's all funny guess when you can start back there and run well.  You know, there's obviously the big chance in getting caught up in something early.  There was a couple of cars that came off turn four within the first ten laps of the race pulling sideways and I don't know how they didn't wreck.  I was checking up to see what was going to happen, whether they were going to go shooting through the grass or keep it straight.  That always keeps you on toes, keeps you a little nervous.  The more you get up toward the front sometimes, there was a few moments that got a little close out there.  But overall, that's just a product of racing.            

Q.  Seemed like almost all night long drivers were complaining about how hard it was to pass.  Kyle, you were able to go and pass a lot of cars tonight, but when the leader is struggling to pass slower cars, the lap cars, what is it, just too much aero push?  Is it time to relax the rules a little bit and let the crew chiefs and engineers work on these cars and figure out a way for them to pass a little bit better?           

KYLE BUSCH: (Shaking head).           

CARL EDWARDS:  Be fine with me if they took the spoilers off and splitters off and we didn't have any downforce.  The cars are so close that the difference between them is smaller than the difference when you're following somebody.           

So NASCAR has done a really, really good job of making sure that the rules are close and we're all about the same speed.  But then when you're going that fast and relying on downforce, it makes it really tough.           

This track is probably one of the toughest ones to pass on.  But you know, it just overall tough almost everywhere we go.            

Q.  Do you agree with Carl's assessment of what happened on turn two, or what was your version of it?          

KYLE BUSCH:  Yeah, certainly it's a tight race and Carl got a good run through the turn and got up to my left rear quarterpanel, and typically that gets you a little loose.  And my car got loose, and it started moving out a little bit and I just held the wheel straight and it was essentially staying -- steering almost downhill.     

It did not get sideways like really loose, loose, that I about wrecked.  It just started steering and kind of free-wheeling, so I just let it go.  I ran him a little tight.  Essentially it made me run him a little tight out there on two and I just hugged on his door down the stretch to kind of side draft him to keep him alongside of me to give me another chance at redeeming myself through three and four and getting back by him and it worked out.          

There was no malicious intent involved to cause anything or to hurt his chances at finishing second or anything.  So it was just a product of what we had at the end going for everything we could, and trying to come home second.

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Posted on: October 16, 2011 12:34 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 1:09 am

Speed Read: Charlotte

By Pete Pistone



Matt Kenseth has made a career of flying under the radar while being successful.

That description pretty much sums up his Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. 

Despite winning the Bank of America 500, Kenseth’s story wasn’t completely unnoticed but was definitely the second biggest of the night. 

Jimmie Johnson’s hard crash with 25 laps to go and how the ensuing 34th place finish may have ended his sixth straight title quest was the headline story. 

Johnson’s violent wreck into the backstretch wall after losing control of his car racing for the seventh spot stunned the Charlotte crowd of over 100,000. It wasn’t until he first crawled from his battered racecar and the subsequently walked out of the infield care center thankfully uninjured did the ramifications of what happened start to sink into the Chase picture. 

After crawling back to within three points of the lead with his Kansas win a week ago, Johnson suddenly now finds himself in eighth place, a whopping 34 markers behind Carl Edwards with only five races to go. 

“We just have to keep racing,” Johnson said after limping slightly out of the care center. “That’s all there is to it. There’s five races left, and a lot can happen in five races.” 

Much has been made about how Johnson not dominating this season or the Chase has helped NASCAR gain more awareness and exposure. Many believe a more wide open playoff run without Johnson pulling away to an easy sixth straight title would be better for the sport in overall interest. 

Those folks are about to get their wish. 

Johnson will now have to write the ultimate chapter to his championship legacy and put together one of the all-time come backs in NASCAR history. 

For what it’s worth, his fellow competitors aren’t ready to write Johnson out yet. 

“It can happen to any of us, so obviously the more points we can get on the guys in the Chase the better, but that can happen to anyone,” said Edwards. “He could go on a tear and be leading the points in three to four weeks. That could happen, too. So I don’t ever count him out.” 

Whether he’s successful or not there’s one certainty – Johnson’s performance over the next five races will be anything but under the radar.



Kyle Busch 

Nearly pulled off a worst to first story but was forced to come up one position short of ending his Sprint Cup Series career October drought. But Busch remained firmly in the championship hunt with his performance and may have provided his team with just the dose of confidence and momentum it had been lacking in the early going of the playoffs.

Kasey Kahne 

Kahne is making a habit out of running upfront and challenging for wins despite not being a factor in the championship. Made a tremendous come back late in Saturday night’s race to come home with another impressive Top 5 finish and stay in the picture as a potential race winner before the season runs out. 

Kevin Harvick 

Somehow managed to finish sixth for a second straight week despite a multitude of problems not in the least of which an bad handling car. But Harvick remained squarely in the title fight trailing Carl Edwards by a mere five points and heading to Talladega, where he has been a dominant force in the last two seasons.



Brad Keselowski 

A rough weekend all the way around for Keselowski who qualified 26th and was stuck in the middle of the field all night long. A strange turn of events for the Blue Deuce team after a strong showing at Charlotte in May and a good run at the 1.5-mile in Kansas last Sunday. Keselowski’s Cinderella story may be coming to an end after Saturday night. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.  

Even the most loyal Junior fan has to see his chances at winning a championship are over after his dismal night in Charlotte. Earnhardt had a middle of the pack car to begin with and had things compounded by a loose wheel and return trip to pit road in the closing stages. About all Earnhardt can do in the final five races of the year is throw complete caution to the wind and shoot for victories since points are meaningless at this point. 

Jimmie Johnson 

His violent crash handed Johnson a 34th place finish, the worst Chase result since he was credited with a 39th at Texas two years ago when he was involved in an early incident with Sam Hornish Jr. Johnson sunk 35 points out of the lead and now has the biggest challenge of his championship reign ahead in the final five races of the season.



(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs) 

"Go ahead and cross your fingers and rub your lucky charms. That's about it right here." – Kurt Busch 

"We'll get it back, we'll get it back. We've got plenty of time. We're plenty fast." – Greg Biffle after going a lap down

"I'd like to disassemble the front suspension and throw it in the lake." – Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

"I don't know what the hell to tell you." – Jeff Gordon to crew chief Alan Gustafson on his early race problems

"That's a reminder to hold on to everything.'' – Carl Edwards to his crew after watching Brian Vickers drag a jack out of his pit stall on an early pit stop 



On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 a three. The early going was pretty uneventful and the night had the look of yet another fuel mileage strategy race. But the latter stages were filled with side by side racing after several restarts and tremendous drama regarding the championship picture in the aftermath of Johnson’s hard crash and the come back performances by Busch and Harvick in particular. Like most sports events it’s how things finish that matters and the Charlotte race provided a very memorable ending.



What most believe to be the biggest wild card of the championship race is on deck next Sunday with the Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. But there’s another new wrinkle to the restrictor plate race in the form of new rules implemented by NASCAR. Larger restrictor plates and a tweak of the engine cooling system were put into play by the sanctioning body in an effort to break up the two-car tandems that have infiltrated racing at Talladega and Daytona. Based on a recent survey at Daytona, the majority of fans don’t like the new style racing. So the guessing game is on regarding how the new policies will impact the competition – and in turn the Chase picture.


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