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Tag:Martinsville Speedway
Posted on: March 6, 2012 11:28 am
Edited on: March 7, 2012 8:55 pm
 

Martinsville names Gary Sinise grand marshal

Posted by Pete Pistone

Martinsville Speedway announced that award-winning actor Gary Sinise will serve as the grand marshal for the April 1 running of the Goody's Fast
Relief 500.

The track also announced local hero and wounded veteran Marine Cpl. Josh “J.B.” Kerns will wave the green flag to start the 500-lap event. 

Sinise, currently starring on CBS’ “CSI:NY,” launched the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011, a non-profit organization that honors defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen and build communities.

Recently, the Gary Sinise Foundation and The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation (named after a fallen firefighter on 9/11), announced a partnership to build Kerns a “smart home” in his hometown of Ararat, Va., as part of the Building For America's Bravest Program. Throughout the April race weekend efforts will be underway to raise funds and awareness, including a concert with Sinise's Lt. Dan Band at Martinsville High School on March 31.

“When I was growing up I remember sitting down with my family on the weekends and watching the NASCAR races,” said Kerns. “And now, it’s awesome to think that I am going to be the one waving the flag that’s going to start the race.”


 
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Posted on: February 10, 2012 12:58 pm
 

Actor Gary Sinise to play Martinsville concert

Posted by Pete Pistone

From News Release

Award-winning actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise is going to make sure Cpl. J.B. Kerns’ dream of a log cabin on the Ararat River becomes a reality.

Sinise announced today that the Gary Sinise Foundation and The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation (named after the NY firefighter who perished on 9/11), are partnering as part of their Building For America’s Bravest program to build a “smart home” for Kerns that will allow him to live independently. 

Kerns lost both legs and his right arm last April as a result of a blast from an improvised explosive device (IED) while on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. The heroic Marine, who’s had to undergo dozens of surgeries, is from Ararat—a small, rural town in Patrick County, about 30 miles from Martinsville Speedway.

The fundraising centerpiece for the project will be a concert performed by Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band at Martinsville High School on Saturday, March 31, at 7 p.m, and 100% of the ticket sales will go toward funding the specially-equipped smart home for Kerns. The next day, at the running of the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Sinise and Kerns will play a special role in the Speedway’s pre-race program.

General admission to the Martinsville concert will be $25. There will also be a limited number of VIP passes available, which include a ticket to the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 and a Sunday morning meet-and-greet with Sinise at Martinsville Speedway.

Tickets will be sold by the Piedmont Arts Association in Martinsville and will go on sale Friday, Feb. 10. They may be purchased online at www.piedmontarts.org or by calling (276) 632-3221. To make donations to Building For America’s Bravest Program, you can go to http://www.garysinisefoundation.org
/help_us/donate
  or  https://tunneltotowersfoundation.or
g/donate_now.aspx
 .

Sinise, nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Lt. Dan—the character who lost both legs in battle in “Forrest Gump”—and the star of CBS’ popular “CSI: New York,” is also an accomplished musician.   He formed the Lt. Dan Band in 2004 primarily for USO Tours, and now performs 30 to 40 concerts a year to entertain troops and families, to raise funds for charitable efforts to help wounded warriors and families of the fallen, and to support charities devoted to the same.

Said Kerns, "I am overwhelmed at the support my community has given me. I have loved auto racing and NASCAR my whole life, and the fact that Martinsville Speedway, a star like Gary Sinise, and a foundation named after a 9/11 hero fireman, have come together so that I can have a home that is going to give me a good life, is awesome."

“It is my honor to partner with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation to raise the necessary funds to support the building of a home for JB Kerns,” said Sinise.  “JB has given so much in service to his country, and it is a privilege to do what I can to give something back to him. I hope that the entire community will join me and my band to help show our support and our gratitude to a great American hero, JB Kerns, the night of March 31.  As our 30th president Calvin Coolidge said, ‘The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.’ Let's come together to honor this brave American, and show him that we will not forget what he has sacrificed in defense of our freedom.”

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Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:03 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 3:51 pm
 

Idle Thoughts: Respect in short supply

By Pete Pistone

  Joey Logano Drives
(When the sparks fly on track, fan interest goes up, as it did last Sunday in Martinsville)

Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway was a smashing success (pun intended) with fans. 

By far feedback from the last short track race of the season has been positive with many calling it the best race of the season. 

However not everyone shares that view, including the man who went to victory lane Sunday.

Tony Stewart may have crossed the finish line first and stayed ahead of the fray that included eighteen caution flags for 108 laps, but he wasn’t very impressed with the way most of his fellow competitors conducted themselves. 

It’s not hard racing or even an aggressive nature that bothers Stewart but the intentional paybacks and retaliation that ran wild at Martinsville. 

“NASCAR is going to have to at some point make these drivers be responsible for their actions amongst each other and not baby-sit and not protect these guys,” Stewart said. “Let them get their butt kicked. That's what used to happen in the old days. You didn't have guys dumping each other and taking cheap shots like that.” 

Before the word hypocrite gets tossed Stewart’s way, the two-time Sprint Cup Series champion is well aware of his early reputation as a barroom brawler on the race track. 

However Stewart says he understood fairly quickly that using your front bumper repeatedly in order to succeed carried a price. 

“I used to be as guilty of it and bad as anybody about taking a cheap shot at guys early,” Stewart said.  “But you realize that it's not about the two guys driving the cars out there as much as it's there's a bunch of guys that go back to the shop. 

“There's a car owner that spends a lot of money. There's a bunch of crew guys that spend a lot of hours and put a lot of heart and soul into what we have as a product each week with these racecars. I think at times we all forget about that.” 

This discussion has been magnified in recent years with the introduction of the “Boys Have at It” era in NASCAR racing. But while the sanctioning body intentions may have been to take a more hands off policy in officiating, Stewart is still unclear of exactly what the mandate meant and its ramifications. 

“I'm still trying to figure out what 'have at it' meant,” Stewart said. “I don't know that any of us really knows what's different now than before they said that.” 

Stewart thinks there has to be a line and one that is enforced by NASCAR or the sport is in danger of turning itself into a glorified demolition derby. 

“NASCAR has to stay involved. You can't just make it a free-for-all obviously,” Stewart said after Sunday’s wreck-marred race. “But when you got guys, Jamie McMurray's car was destroyed, he waited for his opportunity to take out a guy he had a problem with. Whether it was justified or not, he took that opportunity. We got to get away from doing that and let guys settle it in the garage area with guys that have the problem. 

“Don't take it out on everybody that works on these things. If him trying to take that other guy out would have taken a third party out that had nothing to do with it, it shows how big a problem you got, and that didn't happen. I'm not picking on Jamie. There were a lot of instances today where guys were going back and retaliating against each other. There's 43 guys out here. You catch an innocent guy in somebody else's problem...”

Stewart wasn’t alone in his assessment of Sunday’s behavior. Denny Hamlin, who was gunning for a fifth career Martinsville, win was in the mix until he was shoved out of the way in the last laps dash to the checkered flag. 

Hamlin understood the nature of short track racing leads to contact more often than not but in his view there’s a limit to how things should be handled. 

“There’s a point and it’s almost like it’s out of control,” Hamlin said. “Eventually, someone’s going to get hurt in this whole thing because we keep sending guys in the corner and in the wall. These are deadly machines. Everyone who gets run into then pound the guy that runs into him. Eventually, there’s nothing good that’s going to happen from everyone to keep retaliating like this.” 

Then there’s Jimmie Johnson’s take on the situation, which might be seen as sour grapes by some from the guy who wound up finishing second behind Stewart. 

Johnson had a sizeable lead that was wiped out on the day’s last caution that was triggered by a multi-car incident involving Brian Vickers, who was involved in perhaps a half dozen altercations. 

The turn of events definitely impacted Johnson’s run to victory lane but the five-time champion provided a wider view of how he believes retaliation is conducted. 

"When you're on the race track and someone wrongs you, you have some decisions to make in how you want to handle that,” said Johnson. “Each man's decision how they want to handle it. I don't agree with the way things were handled at the end."

But even with some of the sport’s heaviest hitters like Stewart and Johnson – who carry seven Cup titles between then – sharing their distaste for the style of driving currently on display, it probably won’t change anytime soon.

There’s no arguing NASCAR’s popularity spikes when drama and controversy are in the mix.

The tightest Chase in the format’s history and a competitive season that has seen 18 different winners including six first timers might not be enough to generate the kind of interest NASCAR needs.

Hot tempers, high emotions, scores settled and wrecks – preferably lots of them – is what the majority of fans want. That has come through loud and clear after Sunday’s race in Martinsville.

And it’s come at the expense of respect and sportsmanship - may they rest in peace. 

 
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Posted on: October 31, 2011 10:29 pm
 

Martinsville fuel injection test goes well

Posted by Pete Pistone

From News Release

For the third time this month, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams tested Electronic Fuel Injection on track, as 10 cars churned out laps around Martinsville Speedway Monday. Teams from Roush Fenway Racing, Penske Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, NEMCO Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing and two teams from Stewart-Hass Racing participated in Monday’s session.

This marked the third EFI test for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this month. Previously, teams had tested at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Plans call for the full implementation of EFI in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series beginning with the 2012 season.

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, and winner of Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville, said today’s test was all about helping his race team get better.

“This test is big for the engine guys and also for our overall organization,” said Stewart, who is second in points in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. “It gives them the opportunity to read the fuel maps and get a feel for the ins and outs of the EFI system. We’re confident that this system will be bullet proof when we go all in with it next season. Being out here today, running laps; you do this to make your race team better.”

Stewart’s crew chief, Darian Grubb, said that his team came out of Monday’s test “very satisfied.”

“We’ve received a lot of data from the earlier tests and this was a good indicator on how the system might perform on a short track and we came away very satisfied,” said Grubb. “We’re all still in a bit of a learning process with the EFI and still doing some trouble shooting, but this is an exciting move we’re making in the sport.”

Grubb went on to say that Stewart provides the team with “excellent feedback” on how the car is handling on the track.

“Tony has experience racing with the EFI systems in the past and with his background in IndyCar and sprint cars, he is able to provide us with a lot of valuable and insightful feedback.”

AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 43 Best Buy Ford, drove a car for Roush Fenway Racing at the test and said that today was his first experience behind the wheel of an EFI stock car.

“It was kind of cool making laps in the EFI car after going 500 laps yesterday at this track,” said Allmendinger, who finished 11th in Sunday’s race. “It was pretty amazing seeing the marks on the walls and divots in the track from the race. We were able to make a few minor adjustments with our car today and all in all, it was a productive test for us.”

John Darby, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director, said today’s test “was just one more step in the planning process for EFI.”

“Since the time we first began testing EFI in July in Kentucky, I think the teams have been able to work through just about all the configurations of race tracks and the different extremes of weather that they will see in 2012,” said Darby. “At Kentucky it was brutally hot and the teams were faced with the extreme heat and this morning it was 30 degrees here at Martinsville, so they’ve been able to test this system under a variety of conditions.”

Darby said that the feedback he has received from the drivers has been “consistently positive.”

“When they have the throttle wide open, they (the drivers) say the car might run even a little smoother,” said Darby. “When they run it mid-throttle, they say it might feel even a little softer in handling. They all say the cars are handling very similar to what they are used to driving now."


  

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Posted on: October 31, 2011 11:31 am
 

Video of the Day: Kenseth, Vickers tangle

Posted by Pete Pistone

Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers engaged in a couple of spats during Sunday's TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway:



Posted on: October 31, 2011 11:29 am
 

Around the circuit: weekend web wrap

Posted by Pete Pistone

News, notes and observations from around the World Wide Web in the aftermath of the weekens' racing at Martinsville Speedway:


CHARLOTTE OBSERVER - "Smoke from a Distant Fire?"


SCENE DAILY - "Tony Stewart Wins Martinsville to Climb Within Eight Points of Carl Edwards"


NASCAR INSIDERS - "The Gloves Came off at Martinsville"


USA TODAY - "Stewart's Third Win of Chase Comes with Warning to Edwards"


VIRGINIAN-PILOT - "Stewart Wins, Add Spice to Ever Tightening Points Race"


ROANOKE TIMES - "As Usual Johnson, Gordon Factors at Finish"



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Posted on: October 30, 2011 8:40 pm
 

Tony Stewart, Darian Grubb post Martinsville

Posted by Pete Pistone


DARIAN GRUBB
: It's a really tough race, especially the way the weekend went with the rainout, not a lot of practice. We had to do a lot of practice in that little bit of short time to figure the car out. Once we did that, started the race off, the car was pretty good to start. As the rubber was laid down, we got handling issues. We played with that. The ebb and flow of the track position strategy here is tough because if you're the guy that stays out, we went from the front to the back two or three times, major adjustments on the car, ended up being well and being in the right spot at the right time at the end.           

KERRY THARP: Questions for Darian.         

Q. With all the crashes that were going on, what was your game plan? How can you figure out what sequence you wanted to be on?           

DARIAN GRUBB: It really didn't happen until right at the very end. We were playing our sequence to make our car right. It's easier to make those calls when you're in the front because you can decide, the strategy is going to play out, we'll be back at the front when it matters. Mid race we made some major changes, long pit stops, guys did an awesome job of getting everything done. When we got up there and got the lead, he thought he had a left rear tire going flat. Pitted. Took four tires to be safe. We thought that was going to kill us. But the way the strategy played out after that with a few more cautions, we were able to stay out, pit when we needed to. And at the end being able to take those two tires was a big deal for us. We were in the right position to be able to do that. Restarting on the inside with that the first time, that let us march forward. It was tough to start on the outside, and Tony figured out what he needed to do to pass the 48.           

Q. Did you have any help from the 39 with the setup today?          

DARIAN GRUBB: We started out with the exact same baseline when we came here and unloaded Friday morning. We evolved to quite a different setup between the two teams. We take a lot of each other's notes from each other. It's always a learning experience when you have a teammate with another strategy, setup and driver's input. That helped. They're really good teammates for that.          

Q. Multiple times after the race Tony was forthright about challenging Carl Edwards, saying he should be worried, not going to sleep for the next three weeks. What have you seen from Tony today? Seems he was in a good mood all weekend, maybe he has a different outlook on the season.           

DARIAN GRUBB: He does. We all have the attitude that we feel we should be leading right now. We made the mistakes that gave up those points there in the third, fourth and fifth race. We're ready to get back in this game and show everybody what we've got left.           

Q. You have gone from Tony upset, not really focused on entering the Chase, saying, If we're not going to compete for wins, we shouldn't be in the Chase. Now you have three wins in seven races. Where did things get turned around to get you this confidence?           

DARIAN GRUBB: It was way before those comments in Michigan. That just put a little bit more fire in everybody, I guess. We've been working hard all year. We've had good cars ever since the Daytona 500. We just never got the finishes we needed to get every weekend.          

We had some bad strategy calls on my part. We had some cars that weren't the greatest. We had some situations on the racetrack that didn't work out.           

We had a good team that just keeps fighting. They dig every week. When those comments were made in Michigan, we all fought just a little bit harder to make sure we got 110% out of every person there, to make sure we're all doing the right things and moving forward. We've been trying not to look back ever since.          

KERRY THARP: Let's go ahead and hear from Tony. This is your 42nd career Sprint Cup win, your third win here in 2011, all in the Chase. You now have nine Chase wins in your career, second behind Jimmie Johnson. Congratulations to all that.          

Talk about that victory here today being textbook, the pass. Talk about everything that fell your way.           

TONY STEWART: It was a long day, for sure. The first 200 laps, Darian was making changes. We just couldn't get the car to respond to anything. He made some good changes the whole last half of the race that got us in the ballpark. He had two awesome pit calls with pit strategy that got us track position.          

The first time I screwed up and gave it away thinking I had a flat tire. Then at the end of the day, he got us that track position back with another great call. That is what truly gave us the shot to have that opportunity at the end of the day.           

For a guy that grew up 22 miles from here, he had than a All-Star day today. He made the right calls that gave us that opportunity, kept making changes. We have not been good here for probably the last two or three races. I think two races ago we were decent and I messed up and changed lanes before the start/finish line and got us moved back. Today was a fight, for sure.           

When you win a race today with the obstacles that we overcame, that's what makes winning races like this so special.          

KERRY THARP: We'll continue with questions.           

Q. You kind of grabbed everybody's attention winning the first two races of the Chase, then dropped out of the picture. People were starting to say on Friday, Don't forget about the 14. You were excited in Victory Lane. Jeff Gordon was, You guys better pay attention to Tony. Talk about how that feels, Darian, to have people looking your way.          

DARIAN GRUBB: It's funny to us because we never lose that feeling that we can win the championship. It's just that the media doesn't pay attention to it. We work as hard every week. We're doing 80-hour weeks every week. Doesn't matter whether we finish 34th or 1st. I'm proud of the guys for doing that. Everybody shows up for work every day with their game face on no matter what circumstances they're going through and get the job done. I'm very proud of everyone at Stewart Haas Racing for doing that.          

Q. In New Hampshire you said it was too early to address this. How extra special is it to be able to bookend Jimmie Johnson's reign on this sport?          

TONY STEWART: Come check with me in three weeks. We're closer than we were at Loudon. But it's awesome we have that opportunity, to get three races in the Chase like this. It's an awesome feeling sitting here tonight. We got three tracks that we feel are really good to us coming up.     

I'm excited about it. It's a great feeling obviously. To be honest, it's really not the fact of beating Jimmie as much as it's just hard to win in this series to begin with. You cherish the opportunities. You make sure that when you have the opportunity, you make the most of it.           

This is a tough series. It's been a tough Chase. There's the best Chase field that we've ever had. The cool part will be, the stuff I pay attention to, to have three of those trophies that are different in two different formats, three different sponsors, that would be a cool deal.            

Q. Tony, at the beginning of the Chase you made the comment that you hadn't listed your guys as one of the true title contenders. What changed? Were you just using us?          

TONY STEWART: I would just use you, Dustin. I'll be honest. You're easy to take advantage of. I don't think anybody cares if we take advantage of you, so it's not like you feel a huge amount of guilt in that process. Sorry, but...           

You know, at the point when we talked about that, I mean, I felt like there were some things that were missing. I think our Chase run here, obviously Dover was not what we were looking for. But every race since then, we have been a contender. The result hasn't always shown at some of these races. But we've been pretty solid in this Chase here.          

I don't know what changes. The guy beside me is the guy to ask that. He's the guy that's orchestrating it, organizing the people to do the job. It doesn't matter what it is that's changed; the good thing is that it has and it changed at the right time when we need it. That's all you can ask for.           

Q. Tony, during that long green-flag run, you were ready to be lapped by Denny Hamlin, how important was it for you to fight him hard on the outside, maintain that lead lap status, and back up the determination you talked about in Victory Lane of your crew members not giving up on you?         

TONY STEWART: I was reminded by Darian this morning, I was reminded by my spotter this morning, and I was reminded before the race by many crew members to not be so nice today, which I know sounds odd of me.          

You know, this is a tough race. I think right at the end, a perfect example is having Jimmie there racing you, Jeff, Jeff Burton, the guys that we were around at the end of the day. You race these guys with respect and they're going to race you back with respect.          

Could Jimmie just hauled it off in the corner, blown the corner to try to take us down? Absolutely. He could have done that to anybody. He didn't do that to us. I think he knows we respect him and have that level of respect. I messed up and got underneath the 43 car, probably the big bonehead move of my race today. Luckily I really only feel like I put myself in a bad spot one time that you couldn't get out of. That was with the 43 car. I got underneath him in a spot where he was already coming down. I screwed up, he got sideways. I just checked up and let him have his spot back. I never saw anybody give anybody a spot back in a situation like that today. It wasn't his fault.           

I think later after that I got back by the 43 car and instead of dumping me like the other guys were doing to each other, I think he knew I gave him that spot back because I knew I made a mistake. It just shows the respect that some guys did have for each other even though there was a lot of disrespect amongst a lot of guys out there today.          

NASCAR is going to have to at some point make these drivers be responsible for their actions amongst each other and not baby-sit and not protect these guys. Let them get their butt kicked. That's what used to happen in the old days. You didn't have guys dumping each other and taking cheap shots like that.          

I used to be as guilty of it and bad as anybody about taking a cheap shot at guys early. But you realize that it's not about the two guys driving the cars out there as much as it's there's a bunch of guys that go back to the shop. There's a car owner that spends a lot of money. There's a bunch of crew guys that spend a lot of hours and put a lot of heart and soul into what we have as a product each week with these racecars. I think at times we all forget about that.           

You let a guy get his butt kicked once or twice, he'll quit doing stupid stuff like that. I saw a bunch of it today out there. Luckily we weren't one of the guys that were in the middle of it a lot. I think they ought to get a portable boxing ring. As soon as they get done with the victory celebration, set the boxing ring on the frontstretch, give the fans a real show they paid for. If you want to boost the attendance at Martinsville, have a boxing match with each of the guys that had a beef with each other.           

Am I the only one that thinks that way in this room? I thought so.           

Q. Has your outlook changed as an owner?           

TONY STEWART: Not necessarily. I mean, when Dale Sr. was here and Dale Jarrett, when I started, you just didn't do that because that guy would come grab you, pull you out of the car at the end of the practice session, rip your head off talking to you about it, intimidate you into understanding why you didn't do that.          

Now there's nothing. You can go yell at a guy. We watched Biffle and Kevin Harvick yell at each other. What did they accomplish? Did it make anybody understand what the other guy was thinking or saying? They yelled at each other, walked away, nothing was different than before it happened. There's nothing different to make these guys do anything other than what's in their head. There's always two sides to a story.           

I don't know. I mean, I guess I thought that way before that a little bit. Even as a car owner now, I remember Joe Gibbs sitting me down and saying, There's other guys working on these things, too. You knock the nose off of it after a race because you're mad as somebody, all of a sudden you created a lot more work for these guys. Maybe the crew guys need to get mad at their drivers when we do something stupid. Maybe the crew guys ought to pull the drivers back in the shop and make them fix it when they do it. I would be screwed because I can't do it. I can barely put something that bolts together together.          

Q. You told me after practice yesterday that you weren't sure where you were competitively but you weren't where you needed to be. Were you messing with?           

TONY STEWART: Are you and Dustin hanging out, holding hands right now?          

Q. We're tight, man.          

TONY STEWART: You look a lot alike, too.            

Q.  You're a good-looking man, Dustin.           

TONY STEWART: Well-played.            

Q. When did you get your car to the point where you knew you could win?           

TONY STEWART: We sat down, went through our normal debrief at the end of the day. Darian brought a report by and we were still texting each other at 10:00 last night, still talking about it.           

We were looking at the time sheet. We weren't a strong car the first 12 to 15 laps, but it seemed like we were as good as anybody after that. But the race today seemed to change. I wasn't messing with you. We didn't feel as strong by looking at the sheet as what we wanted to be on the front of a run. We felt 15 laps into it we were solid. We needed to keep working on it.          

Like I said, Darian was still working on it at 10:00 last night. That's what you got to do. You got to keep digging. Our guys with the sim programs were working, crunching numbers, running through different changes and scenarios to try to find an answer. I'm glad they do that.           

Q. Tony, Jeff Gordon came in here and said he was stunned to see you up in the top five. You really seemed to move through the field fast. What happened to get you back in that position?          

TONY STEWART: Honestly, when I thought I cut the tire, it wasn't a down tire. We just had made so many changes, it felt like it was down honestly. After the contact with Harvick, I thought I had a flat, but it wasn't.           

It was due to Darian. Like I said, he had two really key calls in the race that gave us that opportunity. We kind of just got stuck during the race. Wherever we restarted, we were kind of stuck there. It was hard to make any ground. We weren't able to make the car do what we were looking for to try to pass guys. We just were stuck.          

He kept working on it, kept adjusting on it. We got it better. We still never got it 100%. We got it close enough that when we did get there late in the day, when we had cleaner air, we had a shot. You never think clean air is a big deal here. I think more than the clean air, it was like I told Darian, we could be 22nd and be running within a 10th of what the leader was running. The problem was to do that I had to have the open track to run the way I needed to run the car to run those lap times.          

To race a guy for position, have to run and brake different and get on the gas at a different spot to try to pass somebody, I couldn't make the car do what I wanted it to do at that point.            

Q. We heard what you said to Carl Edwards a couple times in the Victory Lane interviews. It seems like you're obviously relishing it. Six years since you've been in a championship hunt this deep in the season. You're back in the game and it seems like you're enjoying it.           

TONY STEWART: Yeah, I don't know anybody that doesn't enjoy being in the middle of it with three weeks to go. It's a great feeling. You work hard all year to try to be in this position. When you start the Chase off with 10 races to go, a lot can happen. There's a lot of variables that you worry about along the way. It doesn't mean we're still not worried about it.           

There were guys that may have had their chances taken away today. So to be in a position that we're in right now, sitting here knowing that we're right in the middle of this thing with three weeks to go, it is obviously a great feeling and great position to be in. We just got to go out and keep doing what we're doing here.           

It's nice to leave here with the momentum going to three tracks that we like and enjoy.            

Q. Two years ago when NASCAR let drivers go out there, so-called 'have at it,' a lot of drivers said they were better able to take care of these things themselves, NASCAR shouldn't police them, it was best left on the track. A lot of drivers said that they were grownups. Are you saying that NASCAR should get back involved or do you think drivers should really take care of themselves?           

TONY STEWART: I'm still trying to figure out what 'have at it' meant. I don't know that any of us really knows what's different now than before they said that.           

NASCAR has to stay involved. You can't just make it a free-for-all obviously. But when you got guys, Jamie McMurray's car was destroyed, he waited for his opportunity to take out a guy he had a problem with. Whether it was justified or not, he took that opportunity. We got to get away from doing that and let guys settle it in the garage area with guys that have the problem. Don't take it out on everybody that works on these things. If him trying to take that other guy out would have taken a third party out that had nothing to do with it, it shows how big a problem you got, and that didn't happen. I'm not picking on Jamie. There were a lot of instances today where guys were going back and retaliating against each other. There's 43 guys out here. You catch an innocent guy in somebody else's problem...            

It's easier for drivers to handle it back here. They'll find a way to sort it out amongst each other if you give them the opportunity. You can't keep your hands over top of each other and protect them. You have to let them handle it their way.            

Q. You just mentioned a minute ago that some drivers may have lost their chance today to contend for the championship. The top four are separated by 27, next guy is 36. Are we down to four now?           

TONY STEWART: I don't know. You look at how these races have gone. One day one race can change a lot. I don't think it's going to help a guy get back into it, but it sure can eliminate guys from it if you have a bad day. It's hard to say.           

There's never been a consistent year in this Chase as far as being able to say at this point this guy with this many points is really out of it. Anything can happen. It's hard to say.           

Three weeks ago, the probability of guys up front, to have three or four guys back up to somebody in fifth, it's not very likely that that would happen.           

Q. Martinsville fans seem to have a love affair with certain drivers. You're one of those. Couple hundred folks standing at the gate screaming, Climb the fence.           

TONY STEWART: Why didn't they climb the fence? If they wanted to climb so much, why didn't they climb the fence?            

Q. There were about 20 deputies out there. Talk about how the fans embrace you.           

TONY STEWART: There's two places where when you take the lead you absolutely know it. It's Bristol and Martinsville. To pass Jimmie Johnson on the outside with two laps to go and to watch the crowd on the backstretch, then watch them on the frontstretch when we cleared him, you swear people are going to fall onto the racetrack.           

You feel that energy. You sense that. That's not that you need extra motivation, but it's cool to know you got that kind of support. It's just that extra drive that gets you the rest of the way that last lap. It's cool.           

Q. You mentioned the motivation, adrenaline. You see that in the Victory Lane comments to Carl. Did you really mean it?           

TONY STEWART: My adrenaline has worn off and he better not sleep too long the next three weeks. It's no disrespect to him. He's a great competitor, he's a great guy, he's with a great organization that deserves their shot at that championship, too. We've had one of those up-and-down years and we're having a run in this Chase now where we're hungry. We're hungry for this. I feel like our mindset into these next three weeks, we've been nice all year to a lot of guys, given guys a lot of breaks. We're cashing tickets in these next three weeks.

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Posted on: October 30, 2011 8:27 pm
 

Johnson, Gordon, Edwards post Martinsville

Posted by Pete Pistone

CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, that's just a gift to finish ninth and to have the day we had. Did Tony have to come in and pit? On the replay, he cut a tire, had to pit, came back through the field. All right, he took two the next time.           

That was our strategy, we did the same thing we did last week, cruise around the back, wait for everything to work out.           

JEFF GORDON: That strategy worked out okay for you.           

CARL EDWARDS: We did not deserve to finish ninth. Proud of my guys for sticking with it. Bob did a good job of keeping me calm. Now we go to Texas. I'm excited about Texas.           

KERRY THARP: Our third-place finisher in today's race is Jeff Gordon. Jeff, you got caught up in something early on, then your car as the race went on, you led laps, persevered throughout the afternoon. Talk about that.            

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, you know, got caught up in that incident early on there. Junior hit the curb and spun. I chose to get out of the way of the guys behind me, so they didn't get into me. Unfortunately I got into Junior.          

I wasn't too worried about the damage to the car speed-wise, it was just the right front brake duct was tore up pretty good. Obviously cooling the brakes is pretty important here. We went to the back. We didn't necessarily drive up to the front. We just got out of sync with guys and then we found ourselves going from 40th up to 20th, then we drove up there.           

We had a really strong racecar. Denny I thought was a little bit better than us on the long runs. Then those last couple runs, I don't know, we made some adjustments and it just didn't work out for us. We got real lose off so we didn't have much for him at the end. So third is not bad.    

KERRY THARP: Also joining us our race runner-up, Jimmie Johnson. You shaved some points off that deficit coming out of this race here today with certainly a second-place finish. Talk about your run out there this afternoon.           

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, great performance for the racecar all day long. We tried to take care of our tires, our brakes, and just be smart. It seemed like there were really four cars that had the pace throughout the whole race. Between the 24, the 11, the 18 and us, we kind of rotated around positions.           

Then Chad, to make fun of my cheerleading comment before, Chad made a call that was going to give us the win for the race. He second guessed himself. I'm sure a lot of you heard him cussing himself on the radio. But it ended up being a good thing. Three or four laps later he stopped cussing himself and said we had a chance to win this thing, and we did.          

At the end, all the cautions were not what we needed. Saw Tony in Victory Lane. He said he found something on the outside lane. Drooling at the opportunity to start out there and certainly made it work.           

At the end it was frustrating to see the same few cars over and over with the caution. That was something we certainly didn't want to see.          

KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Jimmie, Carl or Jeff.            

Q. Carl, is this a bigger miracle than Kansas City?           

CARL EDWARDS: It's unreal. We were so bad probably 200 laps to go, I was thinking, Okay, the Cardinals didn't give up the other night. That's a little motivation. Missouri Tigers didn't give up the other night. That's motivation. I became all right with the fact we were going to finish 20th or 25th. I was already thinking about Texas, everything we were going to do.           

My guys stuck with it and we got very, very fortunate. Just glad we could move on.            

Q. Jimmie, it seems like the 83 was involved in half the cautions out there. I know you were a little disappointed the way that happened at the end. How do you feel when a guy who is not in the Chase is playing such a key role in the way things shook down today?           

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I mean, I certainly understand that if you're unfairly wrecked, regardless of who that person is, there's a chance retaliation is going to happen.           

After a fourth, fifth time with the same car in the crash, you start thinking about maybe you're the problem. Something is going on. You're having a bad day. You need to stop crashing for whatever reason.           

When you're on the racetrack and someone wrongs you, you have some decisions to make in how you want to handle that. Each man's decision how they want to handle it.           

I don't agree with the way things were handled at the end. Tony Stewart is sitting in Victory Lane smiling and he's real happy it turned out that way.           

Q. Jeff and Jimmie, in regards to Tony having to hold off Denny Hamlin while you were bunched up, looking back at it, how key is that for him to run that hard at that juncture of the race to stay on the lead lap and be able to have the benefit of working his way back to the front and winning it?           

JEFF GORDON: It was pretty early, wasn't it? It wasn't right there at the end. So, I mean, you saw how many guys got their lap back today. I don't think that was that big of a deal. I thought a guy in that position up in the points, he's going to have to fight really hard to stay on the lead lap.           

No offense, but as bad as his stuff was today, he still fought pretty hard to stay up. I think that's what Tony did. He did what he had to do. But, I mean, if he had gone down a lap, he would have gotten it back pretty easily.           

It was more impressive to me about what the 14 did, when they had the problem with the 29, I'm still trying to figure out where he came from. I was up there battling with Jimmie. We came in, didn't have a great pit stop, and he came out in front of us. They say he took four tires. I'm questioning whether they took four. Maybe took two.           

But he was fast. Doesn't matter. He was ahead of us and he was fast. Especially on the outside, I mean, Jimmie unfortunately got to see it, but I saw it earlier, too, when he drove by the 29 on the outside with two tires. So he definitely had a good car that could really rotate the middle even on the outside.           

CARL EDWARDS: I think credit needs to be given to his crew chief. I raced around Tony for the first 100, 150 laps. I thought his car was as slow as mine was. They did a good job of turning the balance of that car around overall. It looked like he was struggling a lot.            

Q. Carl, can you explain in essence what went wrong and what went right for you today. Also, in Victory Lane after the race, Tony said about you, being close to the points, He better be worried, that's all I've got to say, he's not going to have an easy three weeks.           

CARL EDWARDS: He's wound up. He won the race. We'll see what happens at Texas. I mean, I feel like we're going to go there and we're going to have as good a shot to win as anyone.           

This track has been really, really tough for me. I think this is one of those days where everything went wrong and everything went right as well. Unfortunately the timing of those things worked out so we finished ninth.           

I think Tony and those guys, they've won three Chase races. When I sat in here on Friday, I told you guys I thought he was one of the guys that could win this race and be a guy that you'd have to beat for the championship. I think he's proven that. He's proving it right now.           

But, yeah, we'll have fun. We'll go race hard. They're going to have to race us, too. I'm excited about the next three races.            

Q. Carl, what was going through your mind when the black flag came out, then it was rescinded?           

CARL EDWARDS: I'd forgotten about that. My spotter Jason, NASCAR was telling him for me to pass the 31. Jason was yelling at me, We've got to pass the 31. I drove around the outside of Burton right as the green was coming out. I have to give credit to Burton. He probably had no clue what was going on. He thought about turning me around in turn one. I'm grateful he didn't do that.           

Whether or not there was a communication error, what was going on, I appreciate NASCAR looking at it and realizing they told me to do what they were black flagging me for. Not very often they rescind the black flag like that.            

Q. Jeff and Jimmie, at the end of the race with two laps to go, there's a restart, what are you thinking being on the same team, points race? Are you both gunning for the win or trying not to ruin the other one's chances, but you're still going to try for the win? Are you communicating?         

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think at the end of these races, you're not going to blatantly drive over the top of a teammate, but you're going to go race and race as you always do.           

When I saw the 24 lined up behind me, I knew he had taken tires earlier. Knew how fast his car was in the short run. When I restarted, I was actually a little more concerned with the 24 than I was the 14. I was hopeful to clear the 14 off of two, Jeff and Tony would be racing side-by-side, I could get distance on those two.           

Certainly didn't work out that way.           

When I was inside of Tony, I went down in the corner and thought that eight tires would be a lot better than four. I changed my mind. With where he is in the points, what's going on, the fact we raced throughout the day today, he never touched me, I had a hard time doing that.           

JEFF GORDON: I think it would have been great (laughter).           

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Jeff probably would have won the race if I would have done it.           

I couldn't bring myself to that. He got by. I tried to be smart. That's typically how I race guys. I don't run over people to get positions.            

Q. Jimmie, you've had these championship runs before and had things happen like with Carl today. Do you feel like what happened today may be something that will contend for a championship now?           

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, at the start of the year I said I thought the 99 would be the guy to focus on. I think there's a lot of things through the history of Bob and Carl together that show their strength. They were separated at one point and came back. We didn't hear things about these two trying to kill each other in the process, even though the toughest time, when they were trying to turn Roush around a couple years back.           

I definitely know what he's capable of, feel that he's a threat.           

Tony is going to be tough from here on out. Highly motivated. Going to be on some good tracks, he's been fast on those mile-and-a-half's. I think it's going to be a great run all the way to the end.            

Q. It seemed like all year long we've heard guys talk about people with lack of respect amongst the drivers. Seemed like today you heard that a lot from a lot of drivers. Why do you think that is? Just the end of the year, short-track racing?           

JEFF GORDON: It's just Martinsville, isn't it? I think it's a combination of late in the year and Martinsville, and sometimes just the way the race goes. If you get early cautions here at Martinsville, that usually contributes itself to more cautions. Those are more guys, somebody's upset, tempers are flaring, incidents happen. It escalates from there.           

Seems to me that's what happened. We couldn't get into a rhythm with the race, couldn't get it going. Seemed like guys were ticked off at one another, driving over their heads, whatever it may be. We saw that for a big majority of the race.           

Obviously the 83 had that throughout the whole race. But I think it was just one of those crazy days. I don't know. You can't always explain it. Usually Martinsville does contribute towards that.            

Q. Carl, lug nut issue on a pit stop. Get the lucky dog at least twice, maybe more. You're sitting here with a ninth-place finish at what's probably the toughest track for you in this quest. Is this basically like victory?           

CARL EDWARDS: Yes, it is. If we could come just out of here in the top 10, that's like a win. Very happy with the result. Not happy with the performance. We struggled. We struggled in a bunch of different ways today. We've got to work on this. We've got to figure out exactly what causes us to struggle here. Looks like a couple of our teammates figured it out. We have some homework to do before we come back next time         

Q. Jeff just made the comment, This is Martinsville. We only have three tracks on the schedule that are less than a mile in length. Would you like to go to more short tracks or is a day like today enough to make you think we have enough of them on the schedule?           

JEFF GORDON: Who would like to answer that?          

I mean, I'll admit that when we went through this big building process of all these mile-and-a-half's, nobody considered building something more like a Bristol or a Richmond or something like that. I think that we need one or two more tracks like that on the circuit.          

So, yeah, Martinsville is a little extreme. This place is tough on brakes, tempers flare. It's a narrow place to race on. It can be tough. But it's very entertaining. So you got to like that.          

I mean, if I had my choice, we have two races here. It would be nice to have something a little unique and different but still in that short-track fashion.
 

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