Tag:Hollywood Casino 400
Posted on: October 11, 2011 4:44 pm

Kansas TV ratings continue NASCAR's rise

By Pete Pistone

Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway continued NASCAR's impressive television ratings story with the race generating a larger audience than last season's fourth race of the Chase. It marks the third time during the Chase that TV numbers have grown from 2010:

From News Release

ESPN's live telecast of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 9, earned a 3.1 household coverage rating, averaging 4,173,000 viewers, according to the Nielsen Company. The rating is up from a 2.7 for last year's Kansas race. This year, the Kansas race was the fourth event in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Last year, the fourth race in the Chase was at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., and that corresponding race earned a 2.9 rating. Of the four Chase races run so far this year, the three that have been run and telecast and scheduled have all had ratings increases from last year. The first race of the Chase at Chicagoland Speedway was rained out and run on a Monday.
More NASCAR coverage
Posted on: October 9, 2011 10:52 pm

Charting the Chase: Kansas

By Pete Pistone

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - A quick look at how the Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers fared in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.  

Carl Edwards (Kansas: Fifth) – A miraculous recovery from a terrible start that saw Edwards sink from the outside front row to 19th and eventually two laps down before the race hit halfway.  Clawed his way back to the Top 5 finish as well to the top of the Chase standings 

Chase Chatter: “What a fun race that was. There was certainly a lot of luck involved there. Man I wanted to win for these home fans at Kansas but this is like getting a win considering how it looked like it could have been."

Kevin Harvick (Kansas: Sixth) – Put on a comeback of his own to notch the sixth place finish and now trails Edwards in the standings by a single point. Not happy in the opening part of the race with a tough handling racecar that got better in the end. 

Chase Chatter: “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.” 

Jimmie Johnson (Kansas: First) – Only his second victory of the season but it came at an important time – in the Chase. Yet another statement performance by the five time champion to show those who believed the 48 team had lost a step he will very much be in the title hunt for the sixth straight year.   

Chase Chatter: “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 Lowes’, 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.” 

Brad Keselowski (Kansas: Third) – Kansas Speedway definitely appeals to Keselowski who followed his June STP 400 victory with an impressive third place finish and in the process jumped up to only eleven points behind the Chase leader.   

Chase Chatter: “I’ve been very fortunate over the last few years to have very good cars here and picked up on this place.” 

Matt Kenseth (Kansas: Fourth) – Another week and another Top 5 finish for Kenseth, who had the Roush Fenway Racing Ford in contention all afternoon.  

Chase Chatter:  “I don’t think you can ever be disappointed when you finish in the top five. Overall it was a good day for us.”

Kurt Busch (Kansas: 13th) – Some strategy decisions including a call to stay on track when leaders all pitted for track position turned a potentially frustrating afternoon into a good day for Busch. Was able to follow his Dover win with a good effort and a finish inside the Top 15. 

Chase Chatter: "Track position is so important at this place and we fought tooth-and-nail all day to get it.

Tony Stewart (Kansas: Fifteenth) – A horrible final pit stop when Stewart overshot his stall and fell back in the field as a result was his undoing on Sunday. At one point had a car that could at least stay in Johnson’s wake. 

Kyle Busch (Kansas: Eleventh) – Another unmemorable day for Busch who did have his car in the lead pack at times but had to settle for a finish outside the Top 10. Time is starting to run out for Busch to mount a serious charge at this championship. 

Chase Chatter: (Crew chief Dave Rogers) “It would’ve been wonderful to get out of here with a solid top-five finish, which we had the car to do it, and Kyle did a magnificent job of moving around."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Kansas: 14th) – Fell further back in the championship race despite having a decent car – at times – on Sunday. 

Chase Chatter: “I just want to win a race. It’s a goal of mine right now to just go out there and win. Man, if we could do that, that would really, no matter what happened in the Chase, I think we’d be real happy with our season.” 

Jeff Gordon (Kansas: 34th) – Looked capable of keeping up with teammate Johnson until disaster struck. First the 24 car’s handling went away after an adjustment on pit road and Gordon fell like a rock. Then a blown engine only laps away from the finish sealed his fate and probably ended his quest for a fifth championship.

Chase Chatter: “I started seeing smoke inside the car. We had a really bad restart there and got shuffled back. Our day was pretty much over anyway and we were going to finish maybe 15th or something.” 

Ryan Newman (Kansas – 18th) – Nothing much to say about a day that saw the Stewart-Haas Racing driver run middle of the pack all afternoon.

Denny Hamlin (Kansas: 16th) – Did try to roll the dice late in the race and stay on track when leaders pitted. But was no match for faster cars and fresher tires once the green reappeared.

Chase Chatter: “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.” 

More NASCAR coverage
Posted on: October 9, 2011 8:15 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 9:56 pm

Johnson, Knaus, Hendrick post Kansas comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, just an awesome performance for the Lowe's team top to bottom.  Very proud to have won 55 races and tie Rusty Wallace.  That is a huge, huge honor.  Very proud, too, to win Rick his 199th win for Hendrick Motorsports, and also we helped Chevrolet clinch the manufacturer's championship today.  So huge day, and also just very fortunate to drive for Rick and Chad and drive this race car.

That race car was on the money today.  Our pit stops on pit road were phenomenal, and we ran really well at Chicago and didn't get the finish we kind of deserved there because the fuel mileage, and we came here and backed it up with another strong performance on mile and a halfs.

Very excited going forward into the remaining mile and a half tracks starting with Charlotte next week, and we'll just keep fighting.  This thing isn't going to be over until Homestead.  We came a long way from the opening race, or New Hampshire for that matter, but it's still a lot of racing left.  

Q.  Mr. Hendrick, we'd like to talk to you and tell us how you're feeling today.  You're at 199, just one shy away from that 200th win.  How does that feel being here with Jimmie today?

RICK HENDRICK:  It's unbelievable to be this close to the 200 mark, but what an awesome day for Jimmie and Chad and the Lowe's team.  I thought we were going to get it at Dover, so I'm definitely not going to miss any races coming up here.  I missed 150 when we did that; I was in the hospital with my dad.

But I'm just really proud of these guys.  A lot of people had said the magic was gone, and you look at Dover and then you look at this race today, and they just put their heads down when it counts and get the job done.  I'm really proud of them, and Jimmie said it:  I don't think we'll know who's going to win this thing until the last lap at Homestead with this points system.  Anything can happen.

THE MODERATOR:  Chad, talk a little bit about your strategy today, how far you guys have come in this Chase and how good it feels to be sitting here today.

CHAD KNAUS:  Yeah, I'm really proud and happy with the performance we had today.  Definitely the car wasn't where it needed to be on Friday.  We wanted to qualify a lot better than what we did, and unfortunately we just couldn't get it.  Yesterday was a tough day; the wind was blowing and it was difficult to figure out exactly what the car was doing.  But Jimmie was very dedicated last night with us to try to figure out the setup of the car, and Greg Iles, who's our lead engineer, we poured over a lot of data and a lot of information and came up with some good solutions obviously.
Ron Malec and the guys did a great job of putting that setup in the race car and making sure that it was going to last the full 400 miles, and it was a great day.  Couldn't be prouder of everybody on pit road and everybody back at HMS. 

Q.  Jimmie and Chad, your eye is always on the big prize, the championship, but how much did the 21-race drought play upon you guys?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  I can't say that I've known the number or thought about a number.  I look at this year, and there's probably three or four opportunities to win that come to mind that we just didn't take advantage of, and that's on everybody's back.  I've messed up, we've had pit road issues, we've had a lot of little things go wrong, and we've had a lot of second-place finishes that should have been wins.

The competitor in all of us, we've known that we've been close.  So yeah, we want to win and we want a lot more wins to start the Chase for bonus points, but it's been more about missed opportunity than really a number of races that we haven't won.  I'm shocked that 21 is the longest.  I didn't realize -- that doesn't sound like many races to me.  What was our longest streak prior?  Someone will know. 

Q.  What is it about Kansas here?  In 2008 your win really kind of propelled you to that championship, and last year even a second place got you the lead that you held down the stretch.  Is this kind of the place that you jump off on?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Well, I think on track it's just slick and tough to get the car perfect, and you have to adapt.  There are a lot of really good lines that you can choose from around the racetrack from the top to the bottom, and when I have the tools to use on the track, I seem to do a better job in the race car.  Trying different lines and braking techniques, pick the throttle up in different areas, there's just a lot that you can do on a track like this.  And I think that's a big part of it, what's helped us, especially in race qualifying.  I know that we've been able to sit on poles here with the old car, but of late that's not really been our strong suit, but the racing has been just fine for us.

CHAD KNAUS:  It's a really fun racetrack.  It incorporates a lot of the needs of a real race car.  You have to have great horsepower, and fortunately enough we do with the Hendrick engine program, and then when it really comes down to it, you have to have a good aero base and a good mechanical grip base because the tire falloff is high, tires make a difference, so you've got to make sure that the driver and the car is able to go out there and go fast enough and not abuse the tires, and I think we do a good job of that typically.  And I think that's part of the reason why tracks like here, the old Darlington, the old Charlotte, Atlanta, tracks like that, that we do pretty well. 

Q.  I was talking to Pohlman, Montoya's chew chief.  He was talking about how long a day it was for their group because of car issues and this and that.  By contrast, when you have, as you put it, an awesome day, does your sense of the length of the race seem to shrink, or does it still take a lot out of you emotionally and physically?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  All those cautions at the end tacked on about 200 miles in my book.  It just -- you're in a rhythm, we had a big lead that I could manage, and then it's time to start over.  The first one we came to pit road, which I wasn't sure what to really do there.  I was afraid to give up track position.  Chad made a great call to bring me to pit road to get rights.  And then we're coming around, and I'm like, all I wanted to see was the white.  That's all I wanted to see, and I came around and I saw the yellow, like coming to the white.  At that point you've got to buckle down and figure out how to get a good restart and put in two good laps.  That whole process makes for a long race.

But speaking to your point with the 42, when the car is off and you're struggling, it just -- the race can't get over soon enough. 

Q.  I have one for Jimmie and one for Chad.  For Jimmie, were you aware at all of the kind of small struggles Kevin was having and the big struggles Carl was having and are you surprised to them up there at the end, and for Chad, Carl's team made an adjustment from final practice to before the race that didn't work.  Can you just talk about the balance that crew chiefs face of even if you know you have a good car, making adjustments knowing that everybody else will pass you if you don't?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, I lapped the 99, and then we -- 29 was right there in front of me at one point in the race.  So for those two to both bounce back and finish where they did did surprise me.  I thought we were going to have a huge day on both those guys, and it ended up being just a small day on them. 

Q.  Jimmie, Kasey said that you surprised him with how early you went on that last restart.  Was that the plan or a spur-of-the-moment thing, and were you thinking about that restart given the difficulty that you had with the last two restarts at Dover?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  No, I mean, just win.  I made sure I picked the lane that wasn't dirty going into turn 1 with all the kitty litter that we had down.  That was it, just hit the gas and go. 

Q.  I guess for both Jimmie and Chad, you talked about those missed opportunities.  What was the difference today?  I mean, obviously you had a great car.  Was it just that?  Was it the pit stops?  Was it making the right calls? Could you guys just kind of touch on why you guys were able to maximize it today versus the missed opportunities you've had in the last year?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  I'm not going to tell you exactly why.  I hope you understand why.  But it's just -- there's just days when you have the strength across the board, you can control the race, and I think we saw it yesterday with Brad in the Nationwide race, and I think we had a similar situation today.

Kasey was coming.  He was on four tires, where we were on two.  I didn't know that until post-race, so I feel a lot better about the speed that we had and the way things worked out.  It was just one of those days where we had strength in all areas and could capitalize on it. 

Q.  For Chad, can you talk about the balance of having a good car but needing to make changes before the race knowing that if you don't, everybody else will just catch and pass you?

CHAD KNAUS:  Yeah, it's -- I wish you guys could feel the pain sometimes to be quite honest with you.  I'm sure it's a lot easier to write about than it is to actually do.

The race car that we've got now is extremely fickle, and it's very difficult to sometimes get the balance of a race car, and then once you get it, it's very easy to lose it.  For instance, Friday, we were extremely, extremely tight, made huge, huge swings with the race car to try to free it up and couldn't do it in practice.  So getting ready to qualify, we made just I think three super tiny changes to the car and just said, okay, let's just go and see what happens, and the car went extremely, extremely loose, and obviously qualified 19th, which was obviously subpar.

So it's very, very difficult.  Today, for instance, half round on the panner bar and half pound of air pressure would take the car from tight to loose, so it's very fickle, it's very difficult to tune these race cars, and it's very stressful for all the crew chiefs.  Kenny Francis sent me a text last night as soon as practice was over with, he said, Damn, these cars are frustrating, and it's the truth, and it's tough.  I wish people realized and knew how tough it really was. 

Q.  Is there a satisfaction in today in the Chase?  I know better than to ever count you out, but you've heard some of the naysayers over there, and here you are just four points off, and there's a lot of racing to go.  Is there a satisfaction for people who might have jumped to conclusions a little early?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  No, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about that stuff.  I mean, the -- if you're watching and reading all the headlines, you can get caught up in a lot of stuff that just really isn't important stuff, and I've known in my heart the speed that we've had as a race team when we were in Chicago and unfortunately finished 10th because of fuel mileage.  I know we were a heck of a lot better than 18th at New Hampshire but the damage to the car put us in 18th, Dover we were strong, and then here.

Again, I don't pay attention to that stuff that's out there, and I live in my little world, and I know what my team is capable of.  We showed today what we're capable of when all things -- when we're all performing at the top of our game, and hopefully we can do that for six more weeks. 

Q.  You've won this a number of times.  How much is luck involved?  I mean, Carl was talking about a lot of luck that put him where he was today.  For you, does that all have to bounce the right way to win this whole thing, too?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, I mean, it is involved.  At Talladega if you get caught up in something, you can certainly say that's bad luck.  If you get a flat tire for running something over on the track you can call it bad luck.  But you've got to be careful when you blame things on just bad luck because you do create your own luck, and that's why we're so focused on trying to qualify better because qualifying 19th you put yourself in a bad-luck area.  So that's where we try to be honest with ourselves in what is bad luck and what is just not performing right that puts you in that position. 

Q.  Could you speak to the misfortune that hit the 24 team today and how that may affect your stretch run? And for Chad, what was the thought that flashed through your head --

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  I didn't know the 24 blew up until post-race, so I'm glad these guys didn't tell me during the race.

Q.  Chad, I was going to ask you the first thought that flashed through your head in the box when that caution flew?

CHAD KNAUS:  Expletive.

RICK HENDRICK:  You know, the 24 was really good today, and we have been very fortunate with no engine issues.  For whatever reason, the oil temperature went peg to gauge, and we knew we were in trouble.  You know, nothing you could do at that point, so something went wrong.  And I hate it for those guys because they had some really good momentum, but parts are going to break, and we've got to go home now and figure out what started it and try to make sure it doesn't happen again, and our guys are really good about doing that.

You know, I think Alan and Jeff had some really good momentum, good cars, and there's still a lot of racing left, and there's -- you just don't know what's going to happen.  But when I see one of the cars have a problem, boy, it makes you tighten up a little bit.  But knowing that the oil temperature was pegged, we knew that there was something else going on.  I don't know what happened, but we'll find out. 

Q.  Chad, I may have this wrong, but at one point near the end of the race did you radio Jimmie about a fuel situation?  And to follow up, Jimmie, what did you think when you heard about that?

CHAD KNAUS:  It really all depended on how the race was going to play out.  We were, I think, four laps short right after whatever caution it was, and we were going to have to save fuel.  We were going to have to go.  Jimmie jumped out for about five laps, ran pretty hard, and then at that point we were going to start backing him off.  But then the caution came out shortly thereafter, so it really was a non-issue at that point.

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, and then the 14 was sitting there in second or something at the time, and I thought, man, this is just going to fall right in his lap.  This is one of those things that he's really good at.  I started right away -- even though we were putting up fast laps, I started early to make sure that if we had to go I could hopefully stretch it as far as the 14 could.

The way I look at it, if he could make it, I could make it.  Same stuff, I've just got to get better at it. 

Q.  We take it for granted now that it's Ford versus Chevrolet, and unless we can poke Jack Roush with a big stick, nobody even pays much attention to Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota and all that, but you won the manufacturer's championship today.  What does that mean today in the big scheme of things?  What does it mean?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  I didn't hear the first part if it was for Rick or me.  I'll take it.  It means a lot.  Chevrolet is a huge partner at Hendrick Motorsports.  We're a marketing tool for them, and the fact that we're out winning on Sundays will hopefully sell cars on Monday, like we've always discussed.  It's a proud moment for myself.  All I've ever raced is a Chevrolet, so to be part of them winning another manufacturer's championship means a lot to me personally, and I'm a Chevy dealer.  Rick obviously has a lot of dealerships, and the pride that -- what we do on the racetrack and how we carry ourselves, how we win races and championships, we can feel that energy in the store.  It really does help the brand.  So happy to do it. 
Q.  Jimmie and Chad, both you guys were very complimentary today on the radio about the pit crew, and it didn't seem like there was any stops that were off at all.  That's a pretty stark contrast to a year ago.  What's it been like to shore that part of the game up and knowing that going down the stretch that doesn't seem like that's going to be an area you're going to have to worry about?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  It is a very comforting feeling to pull down pit road and know that we have pit road shored up.  The confidence that they have in one another now and how well they're working together, all we're hopeful to do is maintain.  It's a tough environment on pit road, and we understand, and we're asking these guys to change tires in 12 and a half seconds.  Our goal was to stop the bleeding from what we had last year, and then we started this year and we had some issues, and we got that bleeding stopped, and now the chemistry and the ability of these guys that they've had some time together is phenomenal.  They've been really, really strong on pit road.  It's nice to pull into pit road with a smile on my face and looking for an opportunity to go forward.  It certainly changes the race round for you. 

Q.  Mr. Hendrick, you've got dealerships right here in Kansas City --

RICK HENDRICK:  I hope you buy your cars there. 

Q.  Are you able to get over there like on Saturday to any of them, and what does this mean here in Kansas City for Jimmie to win?

:  It's huge.  We had a -- I think 200 tickets here, and I came out Thursday night, and I visited the stores Friday and Saturday, and I'm staying over tonight to visit Superior Chevrolet and Superior Toyota and the Acura store in the morning, and it'll be a fun Monday.
These folks here, they have -- I'm real proud of the dealerships here.  They do a great job.  And it's like they're family, and they love it.  You know, we try to get them here and have contests for them to come to the racetracks, and they have banners and all have trophies in the stores.  It's huge.  This is a great place for us, and I think the fans in our dealerships here are as strong as they are anywhere in the country. 

Q.  How many stores do you have here?

RICK HENDRICK:  I've got -- I have to count them.  I think it's about nine. 

More NASCAR coverage
Posted on: October 9, 2011 7:34 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 9:59 pm

Speed Read: Kansas

By Pete Pistone

  Jimmie Johnson, Driver Of The #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, Celebrates



KANSAS CITY, Kan. – If you believe the moon is made of green cheese than those Jimmie Johnson’s done stories were right up your alley.

But for those of us who live in the world of reality, there was never a doubt that despite falling 29 points out of the lead after two races of the Chase Johnson would still be a factor.

Sunday’s dominating performance at Kansas Speedway was just a subtle reminder of why counting Johnson out of any Sprint Cup title scenario is a complete fantasy.

But Johnson insists that he doesn’t listen to the naysayers who had written him off nor does he plan to in the future.

“No, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about that stuff,” Johnson said.  “I mean, the -- if you're watching and reading all the headlines, you can get caught up in a lot of stuff that just really isn't important stuff, and I've known in my heart the speed that we've had as a race team when we were in Chicago and unfortunately finished 10th because of fuel mileage.  I know we were a heck of a lot better than 18th at New Hampshire but the damage to the car put us in 18th, Dover we were strong, and then here.”

All Johnson is concerned about, if he has any concerns that is, is the performance of his team. Sunday’s effort was exactly what he knew could happen if the 48 team performed to its fullest.  

“Again, I don't pay attention to that stuff that's out there, and I live in my little world, and I know what my team is capable of,” he said.  “We showed today what we're capable of when all things -- when we're all performing at the top of our game, and hopefully we can do that for six more weeks.”

Six more weeks like Sunday in Kansas will add up to championship number six.



Kasey Kahne

Chaser or non-Chaser, Kahne has perhaps been the most impressive driver in the first four races of the playoffs. Turned in another solid performance and neatly pulled off a win before Johnson was able to pull away on the final restart. The Kansas casino won’t be open until next year or else I’d have laid a bet that Kahne would get to victory lane before the season ends.

Brad Keselowski

Pretty good weekend in Kansas for Keselowski with his Nationwide Series win on Saturday and a third place run on Sunday. That comes on the heels of his June victory in the STP 400. Keselowski pulled to fourth in the standings and is now only eleven points behind with another 1.5-mile at Charlotte Motor Speedway awaiting on Saturday night.

Carl Edwards

If Edwards wins this year’s championship, he can look back at his come back in Kansas as a reason why. Was completely out of contention and a lap back at halfway only to fight back for a fifth place finish. Edwards was predicted by many as the clear choice to win on Sunday and could have walked away from Kansas hoping for a “mulligan.” Instead his perseverance gave him the Chase lead with four races down.



Jeff Gordon

What looked like it was going to be a solid day and continued success at Kansas turned into disaster for Gordon. He ran with the leaders in the first half but a bad set of tires dropped him back in the final third of the race before an engine blew to knock him out of the race and to a 34th place finish and to tenth in the Chase, a whopping 46 points out of the lead.

Martin Truex Jr.   

A broken axle, the same issue that plagued his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate David Reutimann, sidelined Truex Jr. after he ran near the front of the field in the early going. While there was euphoria around the MWR organization this weekend with the announcement of Clint Bowyer joining the team next year, there is clearly much work to be done in order for the now three-car stable to step up in 2012.

A.J. Allmendinger

Time is beginning to run out on his quest to join this year’s first-time winners club as member number six. Surprisingly uncompetitive on Sunday and with so many more 1.5-mile tracks still left in the season, Richard Petty Motorsports has some work to do based on the performance at Kansas.



(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)

"You almost looked like Brad Keselowski out there.'' – Chad Knaus to Jimmie Johnson early in the race

"I appreciate you taking a big stab at it, Bob. If we can get it right, we'll drive through the field." – Carl Edwards to crew chief Bob Osborne

"I'm in a (&(#&( hurry, I've got (stuff) to do.'' – Tony Stewart

"Good work there Kurt. Thanks for hanging in there.'' Kurt responds: "It's what I do.'' – Roger Penske and Kurt Busch

"It's (blanking) terrible. These adjustments have been terrible today." – Kevin Harvick



On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 a three. There wasn’t much going on for about two-thirds of Sunday’s race and the field was spread out in a single file line for the majority of the early going. But then as has been the case in so many races this year strategy kicked in and drama picked up. The late race caution to set up the green-white-checkered finish set the stage for an exciting finish that ended with Johnson winning but other stories like Kahne’s strong showing and Edwards’ come back. There will be a new Kansas awaiting teams next October after the reconfiguration project so the racing will most likely be different. Whether there’s drama like Sunday’s outcome remains to be seen.



The Chase moves to the halfway point with the only night race of the playoffs under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway next Saturday night. The first trip to Charlotte back in May featured major twists in turns in the closing laps that included a rash of fuel mileage strategies gone wrong. Now with the Chase making things more pressurized on a weekly basis it will be interesting to see what calculations are thrown into the October race’s mix. And of course there’s always just something about racing Sprint Cup cars in prime time that generates more intrigue.


For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @ppistone on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed

More NASCAR coverage
Posted on: October 9, 2011 6:36 pm

Kahne, Keselowski, Edwards post Kansas comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

KASEY KAHNE:  Yeah, it was a good race.  We had a good Red Bull car, came in third that first stop and the jack broke, so we had to get a new jack and came out dead last and just kind of battled our way back up through there the rest of the race and made the right adjustments.  At times we were really loose and then a little bit too tight.  We were pretty good there at the end.  We got on the right, we took four tires, started 12th, got to second there, and then on that restart Brad gave me a nice push -- coming on the restart Brad gave me a good push, and I had a shot at Jimmie, I just couldn't really get to him.  I thought maybe getting to 3 I would go high, and he kind of entered into the middle and then just creeped his way to the top and just really didn't have a shot there at him.

But I think we had a good Red Bull car.  The guys did a nice job today.

THE MODERATOR:  Brad, we'll start with you again.  Talk about your third-place finish today.  You also are now fourth in points, 11 points behind leader Carl Edwards.  Talk about the Chase thus far.

BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Sure.  Another solid day for us thus far.  Makes you kick yourself that last week at Dover we had troubles we did because we've had top 5 cars each and every week, we're executing very well as a group and as a team.  Just the things that we can control we're doing very well.  So I'm proud of everything and proud of our efforts.

We were about a third- or fifth-place car today and brought home a third, so proud of that effort.  Kasey looked really good there at the end, and I told Roger Penske to check the 22 car from yesterday because I'm pretty sure Jimmie stole the car and put new decals on it because he was gone.  He was fast.

Just proud of the effort and proud that we were able to get a solid run out of it again.  Just wish I could have beaten Jimmie, but he just had a little more in the tank than we did, and we gave it our best effort.

THE MODERATOR:  Carl, talk about being the new points leader, one point over Kevin Harvick.  How do you feel heading into Charlotte next week?

CARL EDWARDS:  I feel grateful.  That was very, very bad at the beginning of that race, and I cannot thank my guys enough for sticking with it and working hard the whole day.  I cannot believe we finished fifth.  It feels like a win.  That's the best we've done with the worst -- the most we've done with a car that wasn't capable of winning ever, so I'm really proud of my guys who made good adjustments.  Just I cannot believe from the way the day started, to finish like that is spectacular. 

Q.  Carl, what was the trouble with the car?  I mean, you're running 20th most of the race, and what adjustments did you take particularly late in the race to allow you to surge up?

CARL EDWARDS:  Well, there's two things that happened.  We had the wrong front suspension settings in the car.  Bob and I together in practice, we prepared the wrong setup, and they dropped the green and I realized we were in deep trouble.  So Bob made adjustments to the setup, made some bigger adjustments than we would normally make, and then we were very fortunate with the late race caution and being able to get two tires and have a shot to run up there through the traffic.  We were very, very fortunate, and I'm extremely grateful.  I do not deserve to be sitting up here.  We should have finished 15th or 20th, so it all worked out in our favor. 

Q.  Carl, last week the momentum swing was a little bit self-inflicted, not so much the car, but just purely looking at the car, can you remember in your career a change in momentum so fast for you?

CARL EDWARDS:  Yeah, that was pretty bad.  I thought we were going to run a lot better.  But it's not the car.  I mean, we made the decisions to put the setup in it that we did.  Matt was very fast, Greg was fast.  It's our fault as a group.  It's just that usually for us when we make those bad decisions we can't recover like we did today.  That's what I'm really grateful for.  That was amazing. 

Q.  For any or all of you, before Landon Cassill's spin it looked like it was going to be another fuel race.  I was wondering how you guys felt when there was an opportunity for a win in Kasey's situation, or to move up in points, does that put you in a new gear or something when that spin came out and gave you a chance to go for the win?

CARL EDWARDS:  Was there a fuel mileage issue?

BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I think everyone was good on fuel at that point, at least as far as I know.

KASEY KAHNE:  We were probably the worst on fuel as far as mileage goes, and we were even all right today.  So I think everybody else -- I would imagine everybody was if we were good.

CARL EDWARDS:  We probably would have run out of fuel just the way ours was going.

KASEY KAHNE:  Carl probably would have ran out first and I would have ran out second.  Brad probably would have won. 

Q.  Two questions for Kasey:  First of all, you guys seem to be running better and building consistency as your time with this team gets closer to the end.  Is there anything bittersweet about that?

KASEY KAHNE:  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 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 next year, so we're working on things for next year as well as just trying to finish strong this year.

Q.  To follow that up, you've been through so much change over the last 13 months or so.  Do you ever wonder what you might be capable of in a situation that's stable for a couple years with the same people around you like you're going to be going into?

KASEY KAHNE:  I don't know.  I feel like at times when things are going smoothly and we're making the right decisions as a -- communicating the right way between our group, we're capable of winning races.  Hopefully we have more of that as the future goes on.  I think I've learned a lot over the years, so hopefully next year and the next few years after that we'll be in a better spot than I've been. 

Q.  Brad, you seem to own this track.  You won yesterday and you won in June, third today.  Are you going to be sorry to see them tear this track up?

BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, I think everybody is going to be.  I talked to some of the guys from the track last night, and sometimes they have to tear them up because of the weather.  All these tracks in the Midwest, whether it's Michigan, Kentucky or Kansas that go through all that frost cycling or whatever they call it, I'm sure there's some technical term for it, I don't know, but they all go through that with the winters and the springs and so forth where they frost and dethaw and frost and dethaw and it just kills this track.  There's big potholes that I guess they're having trouble keeping down, and nobody wants to see us have another incident like we did at Daytona.

You know, it is tough.  It's unfortunate when tracks have to do that.  I hope that the technology is developed, or maybe it does exist, to build tracks that can hold up a little bit longer so we can use these tracks further and further and further because I think we see better racing as the tracks get older, and I think this track in particular has become very racy.  I think there's as much side-by-side racing as you're going to see in this style of race car here at Kansas.  I think it's bittersweet not just for me but for everyone in the sport.

Hopefully when they do go through that process they'll be able to get the track to cure very quickly to where it opens up and we can run those multiple lanes and put on a great show. 

Q.  What is it you like about this place?

BRAD KESELOWSKI:  You know, I think it's like anywhere else.  You go to tracks, and some tracks you just pick them up real quick and you get a feel for them, and some tracks you get a good car and you learn and define what you need to run well there, and I've been very fortunate over the last few years to have very good cars here and picked up on this place. 

Q.  For Carl, you talked about knowing you had the wrong setup.  What was the moment early in the race? Was there one moment when you knew this thing is not set up right?

CARL EDWARDS:  I had a hint of it the first corner, drove down in the first corner, and I was like, Man, this is not good.  I thought, well, maybe it'll be better next lap, and then it wasn't.  I'd say the second lap I realized that we were in a little bit of trouble.  That's the worst the car has felt in a race for a long time. 

Q.  Do you need a little luck to win the Chase, and do you think that maybe -- if you somehow pull this out you'll look back on today and think, Wow, we got really lucky today, that was the key moment in us winning a championship?

CARL EDWARDS:  I feel like we've had two weeks with very lucky breaks, this week and last week, to be able to come back from a bad position on the racetrack.  But there is still so much racing left.  It feels -- we've run four races, it feels like we've run 400.  There's a lot that can happen in the next six races.  You know, I have a feeling there will be more moments that define this championship.  All the way up until the last lap at Homestead I think you have to be on your game. 

Q.  Carl, when you were back a lap down, did you start scoreboard watching at all to see where the guys in the Chase were, and then at the end can you talk about how important was it just to get by Harvick considering that was the guy you were tied with at the beginning of the day?

CARL EDWARDS:  Yeah, they need to put that scoreboard somewhere where it's easier to see.  It's so hard. You're about to run into a fence trying to look at that thing off of turn 2.  So I watched as best I could.

Yeah, you can't really focus too much on that.  You've got to run your own race as painful as it is.  But that last pass of Kevin, that meant a lot.  We both knew it, too.  We both knew since we were tied whoever finished first would be ahead one point.  That was good that we were able to do that.  It'll be nice this week for the guys and everybody at the shop to be leading the points, even though it doesn't mean much.  We just talked about Brad being 11 points back.  That can change in a heartbeat. 

Q.  The prevailing logic going into the Chase is that you're a newcomer, you would undoubtedly botch things, that the pressure would get to you down the stretch, but yet the kind of stunt that Carl pulled today, throughout the Chase, you've managed usually to be at your best near the end and to get yourself to the highest position and put yourself in position to be up front.  Is this more because you've got nothing to lose, because you and Paul think clearly?  You certainly -- it doesn't appear as though the pressure has had any effect on your performance or lack of experience.

BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, I'm not sure exactly what the question is there.

Q.  What is the reason why -- why, is it because you don't have anything to lose?  Is it because you think clearly?  What is the reason you've been able to do so well near the end of the races?

BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I was just going to take that whole thing as a compliment.

You know, there's a lot of different reasons, and I think it all comes back to just having a good team.  Good teams have good cars; they're best at their end and fastest at their end.  They use good pit strategy and stay strong through adversity, and I feel like I just have a really good team, and I guess it's hard to define what makes a good team and a bad team do those things.

You know, last year we weren't a good team.  We were always our worst at the end, and that's not what it takes.  And I don't know why that was, but that's just the way it kind of works out sometimes.  This year it seems like as a group we're just clicking.  It really hurts after last week because I felt like this is the only week we've had that was a bad finish, and something happened that was outside of their control.

Sometimes that's the way it goes, and we're doing a good job of maximizing our day and taking care of everything that's in our control, and I'm really proud of our team for doing that.

Q.  For both Brad and Carl, I know you guys don't count him out, but there was a lot of talk about Jimmie Johnson two races ago being 10th in points.  He wins today on the mile and a half track, there's more mile and a halfs coming up.  He was so dominant today.  Can you both of you guys talk about does it just sort of reaffirm that this guy is going to be there all the way to the end going for a sixth title?

CARL EDWARDS:  I think he should just pack it up.  It's over.  He's too far back.  (Laughter.)

KASEY KAHNE:  I don't know.  He's going to be tough, I think.

BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, certainly he's going to be tough.  The real question is we've got two big wild card races with Phoenix and Talladega, and I don't think you can rule anyone in or out until those two races are over and we get to Homestead. 

Q.  For Carl, considering how bad you guys were at the start of the race and the fact that you came back, do you have any concerns going into Charlotte next week, another intermediate track, and if so, did you learn something in those closing laps that will help you next Saturday?

CARL EDWARDS:  That's the first thing Bob and I talked about when he got over the car is making sure we did not make the same type of mistake at Charlotte.  That place has been a little bit difficult for us.  We've been very hit and miss there, but I do feel like our run in the All-Star Race and the 600 earlier this year will be something we can build on.  We've got a baseline strategy with the setup, and we'll go use that, and hopefully it'll work out better than today's setup.

Q.  Will you be testing with Hendrick during the fuel injection test, and if so, will Kenny Francis be your crew chief for that test?

KASEY KAHNE:  Yeah, I'm driving the 5 at the fuel injection test on Monday after Charlotte but it's with the 5 team.  It's with the team that I have now.

Q.  You touched on this a little bit, but even though you guys struggled, what do you think it says about your team as a whole that you were able to come back from a 15th or 20th place car and finish in the top 5?

CARL EDWARDS:  Well, first we're lucky because we had to have luck go our way.  We had two cautions that were timed perfectly, so that was a big deal.  But we've messed up enough in the past that I'm pretty proud of our ability to just kind of take our bad days and just keep plugging along.  You know, we've messed up some races and some points races in the past, and I believe we've learned from that.  So it's kind of a little test when you go through something like this to see if somebody melts down or if you can kind of keep going through it, and I'm glad it worked out today, but there was a lot of luck involved, as well.

Q.  Just put us in your seat for that last green-white checkered.  What did you see with Jimmie?  Did you really think you could get him?

KASEY KAHNE:  Yeah, I thought if I could get a good restart I'd have a shot because my tires were a little fresher than his.  Jimmie was the car to beat all day that I could tell, so I knew he was going to be fast once we got going, and he actually just jumped -- like he took off before I expected him to, so I just was thinking it was going to be a little bit later, and when he took off I kind of jumped it and hit the throttle maybe a little too aggressively, spun the tires and then got them back and was accelerating, and Brad had a good start behind me and was pushing me at the same time because we weren't to the line yet, so he pushed me, and it ended up working out all right as far as being in the second place, but I didn't have a shot at all when I got to turn 1.  He had a car length on me.  So at that point I just tried to build a couple corners, and I got to him getting to 3 on the final corner, and that's when he just kind of went across and I just never really got it to turn.


More NASCAR coverage
Posted on: October 8, 2011 5:05 pm

Bowyer leads Kansas Happy Hour

By Pete Pistone


KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Hometown boy Clint Bowyer paced the field in Saturday's final Sprint Cup Series practice at Kansas Speedway.

Bowyer recorded a lap of 169.737 mph to top the last practice of the weekend as teams get ready for Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400.

David Ragan, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin were the Top 5.

More NASCAR coverage
Posted on: October 8, 2011 1:54 pm

Second Kansas practice to Harvick

By Pete Pistone


KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Kevin Harvick led the way in Saturday's early practice session at Kansas Speedway.

The Richard Childress Racing driver turned a lap of 170.401 mph to lead the way as teams dial in their cars for Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400.

Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, David Ragan and Greg Biffle rounded out the first five.

More NASCAR coverage
Posted on: October 7, 2011 6:38 pm

Biffle wins Kansas pole

By Pete Pistone


KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Defending race winner Greg Biffle will shoot for back-to-back Hollywood Casino 400 victories on Sunday from the pole.

Biffle paced the 46-car field in Friday's qualifying session at Kansas Speedway to win his eighth career pole and second of the 2011 season.

Carl Edwards will join his Roush Fenway Racing teammate in the second starting spot, marking the fourth time this season RFR cars have started together from the front row.

Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne rounded out the Top 5 qualifiers.

Paul Menard, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon completed the Top 10.

Other Chase drivers in Sunday’s starting lineup include Ryan Newman (11<sup>th</sup>), Brad Keselowski (12<sup>th</sup>), Kevin Harvick (14<sup>th</sup>), Kurt Busch (17<sup>th</sup>), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (18<sup>th</sup>), Jimmie Johnson (19<sup>th</sup>) and Tony Stewart (23<sup>rd</sup>).

Sprint Cup Series teams will have two practice sessions on Saturday afternoon. 
More NASCAR coverage
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com