CHEVY NSCS AT PHOENIX ONE: Kahne and Johnson Post Qual. Press Conf. Transcripts

By Official Release On Sat, Mar. 02, 2013

subway fresh fit 500

KAHNE GRABS OUTSIDE FRONT ROW FOR TEAM CHEVY AT PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
SIX CHEVROLET SS RACE CARS WILL START IN THE TOP 10

AVONDALE, Ariz. – (March 1, 2013) – Kasey Kahne led the way for Team Chevy in qualifying by piloting his No. 5 Quaker State Chevrolet SS to a second-place effort for Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR), Round 2 of 36 on the 2013 tour.  Kahne missed collecting the pole by four hundredths of a second.  This will be the highest Kahne has ever started at the 1.0-mile track.

Following Kahne in the line-up, six Chevy SS drivers will start the 312-mile race in the top 10:  Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner, Jimmie Johnson, will start third in his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS.  Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon, behind the wheel of the No. 24 Pepxi MAX Chevrolet SS, will start fifth. They are followed by Tony Stewart, No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Racing Chevrolet SS in sixth and Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS in seventh.  Ryan Newman in the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS rounds out the top-10 for the Bowtie brigade with a tenth place starting slot.

Other Chevrolets in Sunday’s 43-car line-up include: Paul Menard, No. 27 Menards/Serta Chevrolet SS who qualified 16th; Jamie McMurray, No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS will start 19th, Jeff Burton, No. 31 Cheerios Chevy SS qualified 20th, Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS qualified 21st.

Kurt Busch, No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevy SS qualified 25th, but will go to a back-up car following contact with the outside retaining wall during his qualifying run.  Dave Blaney, No. 7 Sany Chevrolet SS will start 26th; JJ Yeley, No. 36 Accell Construction Chevrolet SS qualified 27th; Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Target Chevy SS will start 29th, and Danica Patrick earned a 40th place starting position in her No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS.

Mark Martin (Toyota) won the pole position and Kyle Busch (Toyota) qualified fourth to round out the top five starting spots.

Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 takes the green flag on Sunday, March 3rd at 1:00 p.m. MST (3:00 p.m. EST) and will be aired live on FOX.

KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 QUAKER STATE CHEVROLET SS – Qualified SECOND:

GREAT LAP OUT THERE. TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR LAP AND BEING HERE AT PHOENIX

“It was a really good lap. In practice we fought loose-in a little bit in both corners, so that was our main goal for qualifying was to work on that. We got it a lot better for when we went out. I thought it was a really good lap. The sun was still out across a lot of (Turns) 1 and 2 and all of the rest of the track. So, it was good. The team has done a nice job. Preparation has been there. We’ve run pretty good with Quaker State on the car in the past, so hopefully this will be a good start for us. It’s definitely going to be a good start, and a great start to our weekend.

DO YOU LOOK AT MARK MARTIN (POLE WINNER) AT AGE 54 AND SHAKE YOUR HEAD? IT SEEMS KIND OF CRAZY THAT HE’S ABLE TO KEEP DOING IT

“It is. But I think we all know going into it that he can. I watch everybody qualify when he goes out, he’s probably the guy more than anyone else that’s probably going to beat me. It’s just the way it is with Mark right now. Last year it was the same way. I think he has a really good connection with the situation he’s in and they’re fast when it comes to qualifying every week.”

CAN YOU GIVE US YOUR EARLY IMPRESSION ON THE NEW TIRE? DO YOU LIKE IT?

“Well, I definitely feel the difference. The only spot that I really felt is from the time that you turn off the wall until you get to the white line, or get to your lowest point in the corners, through that load area. I felt that tire a lot. It moves more, to me. And I’ve been trying to figure out which tire. Left front, right front; which one it is that I’m kind of feeling the most there. But left-sides or right-sides. But there is definitely a difference and a feeling that I haven’t had in the past. We also have so many differences with the car this year compared to what we were last year when we were here in November. So, there are some variables. But I think the tire is a big part of that and something that I feel. Hopefully tomorrow we learn more about it when the car is in practice. And the Sunday for sure, it will be interesting how it races. I look forward to Sunday’s race. I want it to be from the bottom to three-quarters up the track, and can pass and all that. Hopefully the tire allows us to do that.”

WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED YOUR CAREER IN PHOENIX, IT SEEMS LIKE THIS IS ONE OF THE TRACKS YOU STRUGGLED AT.  AND NOW, THREE OF THE LAST FOUR RACES HAVE BEEN TOP TENS. WHAT HAS CHANGED FOR YOU?

“This was always a tough track. And when I was racing open-wheel cars, I loved it. It was like my favorite track. And then I came here in a stock car, and it was one of my most difficult tracks to figure out. We got it a little bit better, right before they repaved it; and then since they repaved it and changed the banking a little bit and the way the track races, I’ve been way better here and felt really good every time I come. So I personally like the new track way more than I like the old track, which I think is different than someone else who was in here (Media Center) earlier. That’s my opinion on it. This track is perfect.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED THIRD:

TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING EFFORT:

“I’m just really pleased. We’ve been working in the right areas. Granted there is still a race to run here, but what we saw today, we know that our downforce stuff is close. That’s good, and that’s all we can really ask for. So, Daytona-plate racing-a different animal as we all know. But here, we had a very good showing from the first lap on-track, qualified well. I’m running the Nationwide race to try to get some more reps around here to sort this place out. I think the combination between the new car, and the new tire is playing into the No. 48’s hands a little bit. We seem to be closer than we were here last time. I will certainly have fun in the No. 5 (Nationwide) car tomorrow, but the big focus has been trying to get right in the Cup car, so when we come back in the fall, we can race here like we need to.”

WHAT IS IT ABOUT MARK MARTIN THAT HE KEEPS PEELING OFF POLES?

“He’s not afraid to stand on the gas for starters. I just deeply admire him, and his passion for the sport. He’s tried to walk away a few times, and I think we had a farewell tour for him one year, and he couldn’t do it. He came back. He just loves driving for his team. Loves driving his car, and is an inspiration to any team he works for. He walks into a room and everybody has been having a bad day, and Mark will bring the spirit up. Then also get in the car and tell you how to make it faster. I really enjoyed my time working with him, and I know he is a big asset to MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing). Today he showed it once again.”

DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE ISSUE WAS WITH THE LASER PLATFORM IN TECH?

“I don’t. But, I noticed that we were one of quite a few over there dealing with it. It is really different now, because the machine runs its course. I got there so late, I don’t know what happened. Everybody stands around waiting, and the lasers are doing what they do, and you get a pass or go. Evidently we got a couple of no’s to start, then it was right. I think it was something in the back of the car from what the guys were saying.”

IT SEEMS LIKE YOU ARE TARGETING THIS TRACK SPECIFICALLY WITH THE NNS CAR. IS THAT ACCURATE OR IS THAT MAKING TOO MUCH OF IT?

“No, that is absolutely it for sure. The tracks in the Chase we’re very strong at. We feel like with the testing policy that is in place now, we can prepare for some of the other tracks that are within the Chase if we want. We have that flexibility. But what we couldn’t do is test here. All four teams have to go, and then the tire has to have raced at that track before, before you can go. We couldn’t come before. Then our teammates didn’t think this track was all that important to test at, so my only way to get more experience, and to try to get a better handle on this track is to run the NNS car. That’s really the bottom line. I’m still trying to learn the two cars, and figure out what can carry over from one to the other, because they are pretty different. I’m not sure I will figure it all out this weekend, but my first time on the track in the Cup car, I knew we were better off than we’ve been here in a long time. It should be a good week for us.”

THIS CAR HAS BEEN REALLY FAST EVERYWHERE YOU’VE BEEN WITH IT. A LOT OF EXPECTATIONS THIS YEAR ABOUT QUALIFYING RECORDS, ETC. WHY DO YOU THINK THERE WAS NOT A RECORD HERE TODAY?

“Did we go faster than the pole last time? The fall pole? I don’t know. I expected it to fall. Maybe when the track was brand-new, was when that record stood, and I had a good comeback for you on that front. I don’t know to be honest. One small thing, the speeds aren’t as high here as you see at like Las Vegas coming up, so the effects on the downforce aren’t as impactful. We’re still going pretty quick here. So I’m trying to get off on a limb to try and help you out with your story here. There could be a little something with that.”

HOW DID YOU KEEP CALM WAITING FOR THE LENGTHY TECH TIME BEFORE QUALIFYING?

“Fortunately, or unfortunately, I have been in that position before. I knew just to stay calm. You’ve got that long push down pit road, so I can get all of my gear on. I also knew, I asked how many cars before we were on the clock, so I had two to three cars, and six to eight minutes, plus the five minute clock. So, being in that position in the past, helped me ask the right questions. Manage it in my mind, and just get in and take my time. We do have some new guys on the car, and Ron (Malec, car chief) was communicating these things as well to guys as we were pushing down, because they were kind of panicked, so Ron stepped in and said ‘Hey guys, we’re not even on the clock yet. Just slow down and get it right.”

 

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