Tag:Kobalt Tools 500
Posted on: November 15, 2011 2:39 pm

NASCAR TV ratings rise in Phoenix

Posted by Pete Pistone

ESPN's live telecast of the Kobalt Tools 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, Nov. 13, earned a 3.3 household coverage rating, averaging 4,766,000 viewers [in 2010 there vere 4,201,000 viewers], according to the Nielsen Company. The rating was up 13% from last year's race, which also aired on ESPN and earned a 2.9 rating. ESPN2's live telecast of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix on Saturday, Nov. 12, earned a 1.3 household coverage rating, averaging 1,757,000 viewers. The rating was up from a 1.2 for last year's race, which also aired on ESPN2.

Every race of the Chase with the exception of the opening race at Chicagoland Speedway which was rained out and held on Monday has had either a ratings increase or remained steady from the previous season's event.

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Posted on: November 13, 2011 9:54 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2011 10:15 pm

Matt Kenseth, Brian Vickers "have at it" again

By Pete Pistone

AVONDALE, Ariz. - The bad blood between Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers that boiled over in Martinsville two weeks ago hasn't gone away.

Depending on who you ask.

Vickers and Kenseth made contact in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway in an incident the Roush Fenway Racing driver is sure was another payback.

"Obviously, it is retaliation for retaliation, I guess,'' said Kenseth, who insisted Vickers was telling people all week he planned on settling a score with a payback. "I was out of brakes and I was up on everybody and I saw him coming and I lifted at least 10 car lengths before where I normally would lift, and he drove in there at 165 miles per hour and cleaned us out.

"You have someone that has been telling everybody for four or five weeks that as soon as he got a chance at a fast racetrack, he was going to make it hurt and wipe us out. And they do nothing about it. It was so premeditated. It just surprises me that (NASCAR) didn't do anything."

NASCAR didn't agree with Kenseth's view of the situation and issued this statement after the race:

"Had we felt it was more than a racing incident, we would have reacted."

Vickers reportedly first admitted it was a payback but later had a different explanation.

"I don't know what happened," Vickers told the Associated Press. "He just lifted halfway down the backstretch. I was planning on paying him back, but he just lifted halfway down the backstretch. He just stopped. I don't know why.

"If he wants to doubt us, that's fine. He wrecked me at Martinsville, he got wrecked here, but it actually wasn't (payback). I'm not saying I wasn't going to pay him back, but I'm just saying that wasn't it."

The altercation again puts into question NASCAR's controversial "Boys Have at It" policy and how the sanctioning body does or does not enforce those guidelines.

Kenseth believes there's no room for such behavior at the highest level of stock car racing.

"We aren't racing street stocks at a quarter-mile track," Kenseth said, "so they need to figure out how to get the drivers to settle their differences in a different way and talk about it or figure it out or do something instead of using your car as a battering ram somewhere this fast." 

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Posted on: November 13, 2011 8:14 pm

Kasey Kahne, Kenny Francis post Phoenix comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

KASEY KAHNE:  It was a big win for the whole Red Bull team.  All our guys did an awesome job.  To win on a track like this, it was technical at times.  Early in the race, it was different than any time I've been on it.

It was just different.  We had to work on the car as the rubber came on the track, then it started changing more.  It was a hard-fought day.  The Red Bull team did a great job with the pit stops and the adjustments throughout the race to get us back to the front, just put us in position to have a shot.

THE MODERATOR:  Joining Kasey is crew chief Kenny Francis.  Talk about the day today from the pit box.

KENNY FRANCIS:  From the pit box, the track changed a lot.  It wasn't really surprising.  I think everyone knew it was going to do something, we just didn't know what.  Everyone was kind of guessing.

We started, went in one direction, then had to turn around and go back in the other direction to get the car to work.

All in all we made a lot of adjustments on the car.  Actually got it reasonable and pretty fast at the end.  So we were pretty happy with it.

THE MODERATOR:  We'll open it up for questions.

Q.  Your team is supposed to be shutting down in eight days.  Kasey, you're second in points during the Chase behind only Edwards and Stewart.  How have you put this streak together with the pressure of knowing the team is closing down around you?

KASEY KAHNE:  Well, we're lucky that everybody kept working hard and has stayed after it, preparing great racecars.  We're bringing awesome cars to the track.

KENNY FRANCIS:  Brand-new car.

KASEY KAHNE:  Brand-new car.

I wouldn't say there's anyone out there that's building better cars at this time.  The Red Bull guys are doing an awesome job and they haven't given up.

It's tough to hear you say it's shutting down in eight days.  Over the last three months, you have one of the top-five cars in NASCAR shutting down and that's crazy.

I think it's just the people.  They haven't given up.  They're doing a great job.  We've been able to stay focused.  I love racing.  If I'm in a racecar, I want to do the best that I can.  Kenny Francis has given me some cars in the last few months that we've been able to perform with and run with Carl and Tony, who have been probably the two best.

Q.  What are your impressions of driving on the track?  I know there was some concern coming here.  Kenny, what kind of information did you have coming in that you could use and what did you have to gather as you went  along this weekend?


From my side, to me, other than the track being slippery, and that's a hard tire a brand-new surface, it takes time to rubber in, takes time to get old and gritty and things.  So the entry to the corners are slippery.  The car slides a little bit more than you would like.  That's part of this place.  It's actually like that with the old track, too.  It's flat when you turn off the wall.  It's somewhat of a slippery, technical track at times.

As the rubber went onto the racetrack, I really think this place is cool and I think it's only going to get better as time goes on.

I think it raced probably the best I can remember a brand-new race surface racing on the first race.  I think it's only going to get better, be a pretty exciting track.  I think you're going to have a lot of the drivers, teams, fans, looking forward to racing at Phoenix, looking forward to coming to Phoenix twice a year.

KENNY FRANCIS:  For my part of the question, what kind of information we had to work with.  We had the test back in October where we gathered a lot of information, ran a lot of laps here.  Kind of got an idea what we thought the car kind of liked as far as the setup, which was different than what we had run here in the past, because we ran good here in the spring here on the old track that was completely different from that.

We felt like it was sort of similar to Loudon and we used that kind of as a basis for our thoughts.  We raced a different setup than we tested.  We raced a different setup than Loudon.  You're thinking in those kind of directions.

Once we started the race, we knew the track was going to be a lot different than how we practiced.  We knew it was going to change through the day; we just didn't know what it was going to do.  We were fortunate to be able to adjust correctly and get our car pretty good.

Q. Kasey, coming into Red Bull, being a newbie there, what do you think is the difference between the type of performance you've been able to put up there and the performance of your teammate Brian Vickers?

KASEY KAHNE:  I think like coming to Red Bull, it was exciting for me.  It was something new, a change.  I was really looking forward to coming over here and having one strong year here.  I've been able to work with Kenny and Keith.  We just keep trying to get a little bit better each week.  They keep trying to give me things to make me be able to go around the track as fast as I can.

I'm not sure how Brian and those guys go at it, but he's been a great teammate.  Ryan Pemberton has been great to work with.  Always has a ton of enthusiasm.  They're both in Victory Lane after the race congratulating us.  They're right there in all of our debriefs and things.  It's been a lot of fun working with those guys.

Like I said, I was excited to go to Red Bull this year, to be able to have fun and have a good teammate and work with a lot of good people over there.  It's been cool.  It's been a lot of fun.

Q.  Kenny, can you give a short explanation of why have you entered here a third car?  Will you enter a third car in Homestead?  (Question regarding the Red Bull team ownership.)

KENNY FRANCIS:  I think they ran the third car with Cole because Cole has been a Red Bull driver.  They just wanted to give him a shot.  We had the equipment in the shop.  It was just a matter of putting it together and bringing it out here for him.

As far as I know, Cole is going to run next week, which I think is good.  I think Cole is a good guy.  He deserves to have a shot and get some experience.

As far as anything with the selling of the team or whatever, I don't really have any knowledge of any of that.  I couldn't speak to that even if I did.  But I have no idea what's going on with that.

Q.  You both have known this was a one-year deal, then heading off to Hendrick.  Can you talk about the emotions of getting Red Bull possibly its last win as an organization.

KASEY KAHNE:  It feels really good.  Hopefully it's not their last win.  I think we're going to have a shot next week, too.  I'm looking forward to Homestead.

It feels great to get a win for Red Bull and get a win in the 4 car.  It's something new for both of us to come over and have a one-year deal.  It takes time to get familiar with things and the people and working together.  To win a race at this level, as competitive as everything is right now, for myself, to see how happy all the pit crew guys were, the guys preparing the racecars at Red Bull, it was pretty cool.  Makes you feel pretty good to be part of that.

KENNY FRANCIS:  From my perspective, like he said, hopefully we have a shot at it next week, too.  We got a good chance.

The biggest thing for me is how proud I am of the guys that put these cars together.  We built all these things in-house, pretty much the hole thing.  So to see this team, it's kind of go their own way, do their own thing type of team.  We feel like we've been growing all year and getting better and better and better.  To finally cap it off with a win, I'm excited for the guys that built these cars and put all the effort into making this happen.

We're just kind of the tip of the iceberg.  There's a lot going on underneath for sure.  Those guys deserve a lot of credit and a lot of pats on the back for this win, for sure.

Q.  Kasey, was this a statement win for you of sorts, proving you can get a win in this equipment, basically you're not biding your time before you take off for Hendrick Motorsports?

KASEY KAHNE:  We have great cars.  I feel each week I'm going to the racetrack with as good a car as anybody out there, which has been really nice this season.

Yeah, we haven't won in a while.  There's been a lot of ups and downs.  We were able to finally put a whole race together today, a little luck.  Everything that falls into winning a race, we had it today.  That's what you need to win at this level.

It feels great to win.  I look forward to next year and look forward to Homestead.  Every time I get to race a car, I look forward to.  It's pretty cool to get to do what I do.

Q.  Kasey, as a driver who has won multiple times, then the long drought, it's been since '09, what does this win do for you?

KASEY KAHNE:  Well, I think it gives you confidence.  It's a great time to win, late in the season, with a two-month off-season coming up.  Definitely a good time to win a race.

But these last couple months, I don't know if it's 10 races or 12 or 15, we've been really competitive and really fast.  There at the beginning of the that when we got competitive, we had a little bit of bad luck, things happened, didn't get the results we were looking for.  But since it's been great.

So I've been each weekend going into the race feeling confident and feeling like we had a shot.  Then to win a race, it boosts you even more, boosts the guys.  Those pit crew guys, they've really stepped up the last couple guys which is exciting from my standpoint.  I come into the pits, know we're going to have a good stop, know we're going to be in the mix still.  That's pretty good.

Like Kenny said, there's a lot of people under us that have really performed, really put in a lot of time and effort into this so that the 4 car was able to win today.

Q.  Kasey, in Victory Lane you talked about how it took time to get adjusted at Red Bull, took time to learn the cars and everything.  How do you feel about what next year is?  Is it going to be starting over again?  How do you look at the start of next season?

KASEY KAHNE:  I think anytime you change, it's going to be different.  We were able to test the 5 car at Charlotte.  Some of the feelings and things were definitely different than what we have right now, what I've had in the past.  So you have to figure that out.

As long as myself and Kenny are communicating well and trying to work together, we go to lunch a lot, try to run through things, think about stuff, hopefully we can figure it out pretty quickly.

This season we started off pretty good at times and there were other times we were down a little bit.  Hendrick Motorsports has a really good platform.  They have a lot of people there that are solid.  I feel like we can step in there and be pretty competitive off the bat.  It's going to take time to be really strong - as strong as what we want to be when we're racing over there.

Q.  Kasey, although you're not in the championship Chase, we have two really determined drivers left.  How do you look back as a fellow racer and size that battle up?

KASEY KAHNE:  It's been fun to watch from my standpoint.  I think the last couple weeks I started right behind them.  They started the two spots in front of me.  I raced with them, right behind them.  To be able to beat them today feels pretty good.

They've put on a great show.  Carl has been really consistent and really fast all season long.  Tony's stepped up like no other in the Chase.  It's pretty impressive what those two guys have done.  It's going to be the same way at Homestead.  I feel like it's going to go right to the end of that race before we know who is going to be the champion.

Hopefully we're in the mix because you know those two are going to be up front.


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Posted on: November 13, 2011 8:07 pm

Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart post Phoenix comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

Tony, talk a little bit about this race here today, going into Homestead next week, three points behind in the championship.  It's between you and Carl.  All other drivers were officially eliminated today.  This is the third closest championship race going into the final race ever in the history of NASCAR.

TONY STEWART:  I'm not thinking of that.  I'm just thinking of the three points.

No, we had an awesome day.  We came up two spots shy.  I don't know how you could have asked for a better day really.  I mean, you figure we led the most laps, we were on the same pace we were last week just to have a perfect day.  Just fought as hard as we could all day.  Got out of balance the second to last stop and just lost that little bit that we needed to stay up there and keep Carl honest.

THE MODERATOR:  We'll open it up for questions.

Q.  The last couple weeks it literally has been you and Carl lap after lap.  What is that like for you?  Where does this rank as far as championship battles that you've been in?

TONY STEWART:  Well, it's fun.  He's keeping me honest, I'm keeping him honest.  It's fun when we're first and second in the points and we're running first and second on the racetrack the last two weeks.  It shows why we're both in this position.

We just got to keep doing what we're doing.  We got to keep the pressure on.  Two weeks in a row we've led the most laps.  Really proud of that.  Proud of the pressure we're putting on him.  A lot can happen in 400 miles next week.

As far as I'm concerned, it's a dead heat going in there.  We just got to do our job like we've been doing.  To have three top-three finishes in the last three weeks, pretty proud of that.

I'm still pumped up.  I want to go to Homestead tomorrow and start.  I want tomorrow to be Friday.  I'm pumped up, I'm excited about it and ready to go.

Q.  Where does this rank?

TONY STEWART:  I don't know.  Shoot, after 31 years of racing, I've been through so many championship battles.  We've had somewhere we never won a race, we were the third guy in the Silver Crown deal in '95, just mathematically in it, won it by two points the last race because the two guys in front of us, one blew up, one crashed out with 15 to go.

Under the circumstances I don't know.  It's hard to rank anything.  I'm more worried about where we rank after Sunday next week.

Q.  Tony, how do you handicap this?  Do either of you have an advantage?

TONY STEWART:  I don't think so.  I think we both have momentum.  We both had two really good weeks in a row.  I still think our mile-and-a-half program has come a long way this summer.  You look at how we ran at Chicago, Kentucky, Charlotte, Texas last week.  We've been good on the mile-and-a-half's.  I'm excited about it.

I like Homestead.  It's a place that we had a lot of success when it was flat.  We haven't got that win with it banked.  I like the way that track races right now.  I'm pretty excited about it.

I don't know where to handicap it.  Doesn't matter to me.  It's just about getting four more points than he does.  That's all that matters.

Q.  Do you see any Jedi mind tricks in the next couple days?

TONY STEWART:  I don't even see any Jedis.

Q.  Any verbal throw-downs?

TONY STEWART:  Does it matter?  It's still going to matter what happens on the racetrack.  I don't think it really matters right now.

Q.  What will you do this week?  Are you going to think about racing?  Try to get away from it?

TONY STEWART:  I've got a busy week.  Office Depot's headquarters are in Florida.  We've got a store appearance on Tuesday.  We're going down to Office Depot's campus in Boca Raton on Wednesday.  We're going to have a pretty busy week.  That's kind of what I like.  I'm better off being busy this week and going down to Florida early and getting ready.

THE MODERATOR:  We now welcome Carl Edwards who finished second in today's race.

Carl, give us an opening statement going into Homestead.  You're the only two left in contention.  I told Tony you're the third closest championship battle going into Homestead in NASCAR history.

CARL EDWARDS:  That's cool.  Couldn't ask for any more.  It's neat to go to Homestead and race it out.  I'm sure these guys are going to be good down there.  They're fast on the mile-and-a-half's.  I love that place.

Just proud of my guys today.  They did a great job on pit road.  Tony was really fast.  We got our car tuned in, were able to go up there and race with him and compete.  That was just a good, hard-fought day.  Just really pumped about Homestead.  I think it's going to be a good time.

Q.  After all of the prerace talk about how the track would race, what are your thoughts on how the race actually did unfold and how the track did?  Tony, could you comment on your ability to pass on the outside line on restarts.

TONY STEWART:  I mean, I think a bunch of the credit has to go to Randy LaJoie, Steve, Tim, the guys that came early this week, Kimmel.  I think if it were not for those guys, we wouldn't have had a two-groove racetrack today.

We have to thank those guys for getting that cleaned off, getting that base of rubber in there to where we could actually get up there and run the last couple days.

I still wouldn't have changed the shape the way they did.  I guess the computers are smarter than the drivers these days.  But I thought it was a good race.  I didn't get to see all of it.  From where we're at, we get to see the part we're involved in.

You did have the flexibility to move up and down.  Really that's all you can ask for.  I didn't think there was any dramas with it today.

Q.  Were you surprised you were able to pass on the outside on the restarts?

TONY STEWART:  Yes and no.  I mean, our car was a little loose on restarts, but it just seemed like we were actually better on the outside than we were on the inside.  Once the groove moved up, once they got rubber up there, I don't think it was a reason to be surprised.

The racetrack was wide enough you could run two-wide then.

Q.  Carl, could you comment on the track.

CARL EDWARDS:  I think what Tony said is absolutely correct.  Noffsinger, all those guys that came out here and spent that time, I think that helped a ton.  I think Bryan Sperber recognizing the issue we were potentially going to have and addressing it like that was huge.  It was a lot better than I thought it was going to be.  It moved out, the groove did.  It got wider and wider.  I started to remember the old Phoenix.  I believe after it sits for a while, we come back here for the Subway 500 in the spring, even a year from now, I think it's going to be awesome.

I'm a convert.  I was ready to put a tombstone up and say good-bye to the place, but I think it's going to be good.

Q.  Carl, around lap 190 to 210, Tony was leading and you followed him.  I had the impression watching it you could go quicker.  Was it part of the strategy to follow him and study his driving style?  And what's the preparation for the last race?

CARL EDWARDS:  That's exactly what I was doing.  I was just hanging out back there, keeping his blood pressure up (laughter).

No, I was having fun.  I think our car was a tick faster right then.  I was watching what Tony was doing, searching around, doing what I could.  That was really fun.  That was neat to be able to race like that.  I think if it would have gone green from there, I know the chances of that are virtually nil, that would have been a fun race.  I think we would have battled it out.  You can't ask for anything more.

The way this has turned out for us to be running 1-2 racing hard like this the last two races is pretty cool.

Q.  Carl, given your success at Homestead, is there anyplace you'd rather have the season finale?

CARL EDWARDS:  There's some dirt tracks I grew up on that would be fine with me.

TONY STEWART:  I think we should do it then.  I'm all for changing.

CARL EDWARDS:  If we tie, we should go to the dirt tracks in Florida.

TONY STEWART:  I have one in Ohio we can use.

CARL EDWARDS:  I'm not doing that.

TONY STEWART:  Just saying.  I got one in Kentucky and Illinois we can use.  But that's all I got.

CARL EDWARDS:  That's why you got a busy week this week.

Yeah, Homestead is going to be a lot of fun.  I really enjoy racing there.  The cool thing about Homestead, we're going to go there, you're going to be able to move around, pass, not get hung up as badly in traffic as you can at other racetracks.  For the sport in general, I don't think there's a better place to go than Homestead to fight for this championship.

Q.  Been a long time since the first and second in points have battled not only for the win but also in points.  Can you talk about how that feels going into Homestead.  Will there be any distractions?

TONY STEWART:  I don't know what distractions you would be talking about.  It is kind of fun to be in this scenario where you got guys that are three points apart.  Last week we were running first and second in the race.  Today we ran first and second.  It does make it fun.  We're both having to earn what we get.

No matter how it ends up next weekend, it's not going to have been given to you.  We're going to have to definitely earn it and fight for it, for sure.

Q.  We watch you come in and sit down next to each other after battling on the track.  What is it like to sit down and have to talk about your race and the Chase next to the guy you're battling?

TONY STEWART:  We've been doing this how long together?  I mean, it's no different.  Our demeanor isn't any different than we always are.  It's you guys and ESPN that loves to try to build that crap in between everybody.  The total drama network, for sure.  At least they're consistent about it.  Everybody at ESPN is consistent about it.

I don't see it being any different than normal.  If you want, we can eliminate the chair, if that will make you feel better.

CARL EDWARDS:  We're good.

TONY STEWART:  I think that answers your question, though, doesn't it?  Can you make sure everybody at ESPN understands that?  Thank you.

CARL EDWARDS:  Thanks, Tony (laughter).

Q.  Carl, last year Jimmie Johnson wouldn't come into this room when Denny was sitting here talking.  He sat outside, didn't want to hear it.  You did come in the room.  Tony has been in this championship battle before.  This is your first real one that you're going in as the leader.  How is your mindset right now?  How are your nerves?

CARL EDWARDS:  They're really good.  I'm fortunate.  There's a potential for me to get real nervous there at Homestead.  You never know what's going to happen.

I guess for me the thing that I've always tried to do, I've been fortunate enough to be able to do, is to go get in that racecar and go race.  There's no time for me that's more calm and I feel better than in that racecar.

I understand what all this stuff is.  I understand that we come up here and we answer questions and that's part of our sport.  But when it comes down to the racing, both of us know we've got to go race each other.

It is truly neat for me, like you said, this is my first time to come into this not just tied but to have a little bit of a points advantage going into the final race.  It's fun.  I'm just enjoying it.

It really truly doesn't matter what anyone says or what anyone's predictions are.  It gets done on the racetrack.  That's when we'll see.

Q.  What will you do this week?

CARL EDWARDS:  I don't know what I'm going to do this week.  I don't have a very busy schedule.

Q.  Is that good or bad?

CARL EDWARDS:  That's good.  I can always find something to do.  I'll just go hang out and do what I normally do.  Spend a little time hopefully with the guys, talk a little bit with Bob, keep doing what we've done all year, go down there and enjoy it.

Q.  It's not coincidental that you are battling like this side-by-side.  How fun is it that you're battling for a championship?

TONY STEWART:  We saw what happened at Texas in Hornaday's championship run.  We saw what happened with Elliott Sadler's championship run.  I want to beat a guy because you did a better job, not because a circumstance happens that takes somebody out of it.  To race Carl for the lead in the races, for the points championship, that's going to mean something at the end of the year.  That's going to add to whoever wins this.

We both had to fight and fight and fight to get every point we can get up to this point.  I think it makes it more gratifying, the results, at the end of the day.  I feel like I'm working towards something and I feel like if we accomplish this, we have worked for it, not had it handed to us, not had it given to us.  That's all you can ask for as a driver, is to be in that position.

I think it's pretty honorable to be in that situation right now.  It's an awesome championship battle.  So I don't know how you could ask for more than what we got.

Q.  Carl, your thoughts on that?

CARL EDWARDS:  This is strange to say right now.  We're battling.  A zero sum game, one of us going to win, one of us is going to lose.  It's neat to me that Tony and the guys on the 14 are running so well, won so many races, performing on a high level.  It's going to mean more if we're able to beat them in this championship because of that, to beat Tony and those guys at their peak.

I know for us I can say completely truthfully this is the best Chase we've ever had.  We haven't gone out and got the trophies that we have in other Chases, but we've performed better than we ever have.  If they're beating us, they're beating us at our best, and I think that's pretty neat.

Q.  You've been a part of most all the Chases.  We're going to be saying this is one of the best ever.  How would you rate it from being on the inside?  Is this the best ever?

CARL EDWARDS:  It's the best points battle I've been a part of at this level, so it's fun for me.  I still don't understand why we're both running so good.  It's pretty neat.  Seems like subconsciously we're both able to dig down and our teams are able to give us what we need and everybody has been performing at a high level.  It's been neat that this battle has brought out the best in us.


Q.  Tony, you've talked a lot about driver etiquette this season.  In light of this points battle being close, certainly at the end of the season there are times where guys use Homestead as a way to get back.  Because this points race is so close, should drivers have a little bit more respect for this championship battle and put that stuff on hold?  How should that issue be addressed?  Obviously something could happen.

TONY STEWART:  It's a mile-and-a-half track.  Wherever I'm at, wherever he's at on the racetrack, as long as it doesn't happen around us, I don't care what they do around each other.  You can't control the other 41 guys in the race.  It's just you hope one of those 41 guys doesn't do something that impacts the championship.

I don't care what they do; just don't do it around us.

Q.  Carl, you have raced hard with each other, racing for a championship.  How much harder does it get?  Where does that line get between good, hard racing and crossing a line for a championship?

CARL EDWARDS:  Heck, I'm going to trip him when we walk out of this room (laughter).

No, I think we're just going to go race as hard as we can.  Both of us, we want to win this thing because we're the best out there next weekend.  That's all we can do is just go out there and race hard, race like we've raced for years.  There would be nothing better than coming down the last lap side-by-side racing for the win.  That would be really fun.

Q.  Jimmie's run came to an end today.  Winning five straight, do you think anybody will ever do that again?

TONY STEWART:  I haven't won two straight so I have no clue what five straight feels like.

I don't see anybody doing it again.  I think it's been absolutely remarkable to begin with for Jimmie to put five in a row together.  I know this year hasn't ended up the way he's wanted by any means.  I think he goes to Vegas and holds his head up high knowing what they've accomplished.  The fact that there's a real good possibility in the history of the sport for eternity that it could never happen again.

The competition gets tighter and tighter, tougher and tougher.  I just think it's amazing.  You understand why people didn't want him to win a sixth one.  At the same time, I've said it from day one, how do you knock down a guy that's going out and doing what he's supposed to do?  If we could trade places with him, we'd do it in a heartbeat, go out and win five in a row.

I think you've got to tip your hat to him.  I think that's something in NASCAR history that I would put my money on that it will never happen again.  I'm willing to put that bet with anybody in this room right now.  I just think it's remarkable at this level to do what he's done, what that team's done.  I know this year hasn't ended the way they wanted, but I still think they have to have a lot of pride in knowing they've done something in the history of the sport that most likely will never be duplicated.

CARL EDWARDS:  Yeah, I'd say if anyone is going to go out and do it again, it will be those guys.  They've got as good a shot as anyone to do it again next year.  I don't ever see them quitting and giving up.  It's very impressive.  I agree with what Tony said.

Q.  You have scored exactly the same amount of points in the Chase.  Kasey Kahne has scored the second most points.  Have you noticed him turn it up and come on the last nine weeks?

TONY STEWART:  I'll be honest, I haven't worried about it.  Haven't really thought about it and paid attention.  I don't know that anybody doesn't see that coming.  Kasey had bad luck like we did the first half of the year, just stupid stuff happening.  He's put together some really good runs here recently, run consistent.

Obviously if he was staying with that organization next year, I think we'd all be more worried.  It's kind of a question mark now that he's switching to a different organization.  Going to have to try to find their way over there.

But couldn't happen to a better guy.  I think Kasey is a guy that has fought through a lot of adversity this year to be able to rifle off these finishes.

CARL EDWARDS:  Kind of snuck up on me as well.  I didn't realize that statistic.  I feel we got to work with those guys really closely when he was driving a Ford.  He's a really, really impressive driver.  Those guys are going to be tough for a long time if they can find a groove, if he can stick with one team, have people rally around him, I think he's going to be really tough for a long time.

Q.  Carl, as precious as points are, was it at all deflating that you realized that Kasey had the race and you didn't?

CARL EDWARDS:  Yeah.  But, you know, I felt with the strategy that we went with, we had to do it that way.  I think to pit early with him would leave the opportunity to be stuck a lap down, be mired back in the field.  I believe Bob did the right thing.  If we had a caution there at the end, I felt like our car was a little faster than his, we had a good shot at the win still.

Yeah, I would have loved to have won this race for sure.  That's what we all do this for.  But we still did our jobs.  I think we did a really good job today.  I'm not certain if we had the fastest car but we performed well with it and got a good result.


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Posted on: November 13, 2011 7:38 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2011 7:56 pm

Speed Read: Phoenix

By Pete Pistone


Kobalt Tools 500 Race Recap

AVONDALE, Ariz. - The angst of just what to expect at the new and hopefully improved Phoenix International Raceway turned out to be all for nothing.

Despite the massive reconfiguration and repaving of the track that caused many to worry about a potential crashfest, Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 was a competitive and exciting affair.

The championship battle wasn't negatively impacted at all, much to the relief of NASCAR who had hoped to hype a tight title fight heading into next week's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

And the sanctioning body got its wish.

Carl Edwards held serve with a second place finish, Tony Stewart stayed hot on his heels finishing third and the two go to the Ford 400 separated by only three points - the closest championship race in the history of the Chase.

Color both drivers happy with what lies ahead.

"That is cool," Edwards said. "I couldn’t ask for anything more. It is going to be fun. It is neat to go to Homestead and race it out. I am sure these guys are going to be good down there. They are fast at the mile-and-a-half tracks. I love that place. I am proud of my guys today. They did a great job on pit road. Tony was really fast and we got our car tuned in and we were able to race with them and compete. It was a good hard fought day. I am really pumped for Homestead, I think it is going to be a good time.”

Stewart was disappointed he couldn't close the gap further to Edwards but still likes his chances for a third Sprint Cup championship.

"We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing," Stewart said. "We have a third and two wins in the last three races so we’re going to keep the pressure on him and we’ll make him sweat it out.”

Don't expect the pressure of being involved in the third-closest points championship in NASCAR history to rattle either driver. Both have been in title races before and both expect to rise to the challenge.

"I'm not thinking of that," said Stewart.  "I'm just thinking of the three points."

So is the rest of NASCAR Nation. Which is exactly what everyone had hoped for when the season began.


Carl Edwards

Still does not have a win in the Chase but maintains the Chase point lead with only one race left on the schedule. No matter how hard Stewart tries to close the gap Edwards simply won't allow it with the consistent finishes needed to win the championship. You'd have to think the edge goes to the Roush Fenway Racing driver next week in Homestead, a track that has been one of the team's playgrounds for years.

Kasey Kahne

Became the season's 18th different winner and his stock continues to climb. Somehow amid all the turmoil going on at Team Red Bull, Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis continue to shine. Their future looks very bright indeed when the take their act to Hendrick Motorsports next season and Kahne could definitely end the year with back to back wins.

Jeff Burton

The veteran driver's mostly forgettable season has taken a definite turn for the better in recent weeks. Followed up his nearly winning last week's Texas race on fuel strategy with a fourth place finish on Sunday and had a very strong race car all afternoon. Richard Childress Racing's fortunes could be in Burton's hands next year as he looks very close to returning to the competitive form he held for several years.



Kyle Busch

Did his best to write his very own Cinderella story only to come up short because of another engine issue for the Joe Gibbs Racing team. After his tumultuous week of controversy in the aftermath of last week's Texas incident Busch was forced to start at the rear of the field for an engine change before he even made it on track. Busch had worked his way up to as high as third before being hit again by engine woes that ended his day.

Jimmie Johnson

A mediocre fourteenth place finish officially ended Johnson's title run and put a finish to his amazing streak of five straight championships. It was a remarkable accomplishment that more than likely will never be done again but there has to be some disappointment inside the 48 team that Johnson was not really a factor in this year's Chase and his performance on Sunday was a microcosm of the 2011 playoff effort. 

Brian Vickers

Vickers continued his vendetta against Matt Kenseth that blossomed in Martinsville two weeks ago. He reportedly told several people of his intention to purposely wreck Kenseth on Sunday and followed through on it. "Boys Have at It" is apparently back to where it started as NASCAR did nothing to reprimand Vickers, who may have punished himself by displaying behavior that might not be the best way to attract a ride he is looking for in 2012.


(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)  

"We go to Homestead with the points lead. It couldn't be better." - Carl Edwards

"It feels reeeeeaaaaalllly nice right now." - Tony Stewart on the early race handling of his car

"The guys that are too loose are running better than the guys that are too tight." - Mark Martin

"Geoff Bodine! He couldn't drive 20 years ago." - Kevin Harvick's crew chief Gil Martin after Bodine's third accident of the day

"The brake pedal just went to the floor. I'm going to take it easy here. It's just real spongy." - Jeff Gordon

"We can never learn from our mistakes. Brilliant. Just brilliant." - Kurt Busch after running out of fuel

Race Rating

On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 a four. All the worries about the new track layout and repaved racing surface perhaps having a negative impact on the race and the championship were erased pretty early on. The "new" Phoenix provided one of the most entertaining races of the Chase and the two guys in the middle of the title fight were front and center all afternoon long. The three and four wide racing was some of the best of the season and with a little "Boys Have at It" drama thrown into the mix with Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers, the Kobalt Tools 500 was a nice way to help bring the season to its final curtain.


Down the Road

The long and winding NASCAR road comes to a close next Sunday with the end of season visit to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Ford 400. The championship will again go down to the wire and although there isn't the four or five driver free-for-all some predicted when the Chase began nine weeks ago, there's still a very interesting and dramatic title story to be written. The 1.5-mile Homestead track isn't the typical intermediate speedway with its various grooves and multiple lanes of racing so get ready for what has the makings of being a pretty good way to throw the final checkered flag of the season

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

Posted on: November 12, 2011 3:30 pm

Phoenix pole goes to Matt Kenseth

By Pete Pistone


AVONDALE, Ariz. - Matt Kenseth only needed one lap to win the pole for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Kenseth turned a lap of 137.101 mph to earn the third pole of his season and seventh in his Sprint Cup career.

A.J. Allmendinger will start outside the front row with Marcos Ambrose, Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr. the first five.

Chase contenders Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards qualified eighth and ninth. But Edwards may have an advantage in starting on the inside of his row as the track's slick racing surface in the aftermath of the repaving and reconfiguration project appears to have only a single groove near the bottom.

Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 is slated for a 3:15 p.m. ET start.

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Posted on: November 11, 2011 8:11 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2011 8:27 pm

Phoenix Happy Hour to Paul Menard

By Pete Pistone


AVONDALE, Ariz. - Paul Menard led a blistering final Sprint Cup Series practice at Phoenix International Raceway on Friday.

Menard's lap of 141.121 mph was one of 35 times to beat the old track qualifying record at the newly repaved and reconfigured PIR.

Carl Edwards rebounded from his first practice woes to turn the second quickest lap of the session with Regan Smith, Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch - who will start the race on Sunday at the rear of the field after an engine change Friday morning - rounding out the fast five.

Qualifying to set the field for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 is slated for Saturday morning.

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Posted on: November 11, 2011 4:01 pm

Jeff Burton leads opening Phoenix practice

By Pete Pistone


AVONDALE, Ariz. - Richard Childress Racing's Jeff Burton topped Friday's opening Sprint Cup Series practice for the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Burton turned a lap of 140.067 mph to pace the session.

Matt Kenseth, David Ragan, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman were the top five.

Championship contenders Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart did not have particularly good practices. While Stewart was elevent fastest Edwards was mired back at thirty fourth.

Sprint Cup drivers will have a second practice session later on Friday afternoon.

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