1st, MATT KENSETH
2nd, KYLE BUSCH
5th, DENNY HAMLIN
8th, CARL EDWARDS
19th, DAVID RAGAN
23rd, CLINT BOWYER
35th, JJ YELEY
40th, MATT DiBENEDETTO
41st, JEB BURTON
MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 1st
How strong was the qualifying lap in the final round?
“It was a heck of a lap and I knew it had a lot of speed. Changed up (turns) one and two a little bit – I just got a little tight in the middle of three and four trying for it. I knew it was pretty fast. Our Dollar General Camry has been really fast all day. It was a lot of fun to drive today. We only did qualifying, we have 500 miles on Saturday, but it was a lot of fun today.”
How is the car in race trim?
“I’m not really sure, we didn’t really work on any race trim today. We just kind of worked on getting qualified and the weather looks good tomorrow so we’ll work hard on trying to get a nice race balance. In the spring, we weren’t where we wanted to be for race balance. We had good speed and we qualified really well, but we didn’t race as well as we wanted to so we’ll work hard on that tomorrow and hopefully find a nice balance, something that drives good and has some speed for Saturday.”
How important is it to get a good starting spot for this race?
“It worked out, these guys brought me a lot of speed in our Dollar General Camry today and I was able to get three really good laps in and they made good adjustments. Had it where we needed it there at the end. Proud of the guys, people always say, but they’ve been working really hard to give us good stuff and to keep trying to improve our stuff throughout the Chase. We can’t really rest on what we had four of five weeks ago, we have to keep making these things better to try to run with the best guys down the stretch. They’ve been doing that and we obviously have some speed, we just need to get it driving good tomorrow for Saturday.”
Does starting from the pole give you added confidence for the race?
“Not really, you never know what’s going to happen until these things are over. You just have no idea. That’s why we all qualify, we all want to start on the pole and we all want that first pick of your pit stall and all that stuff. We did what we set out to do today, but 500 miles a lot of things can happen.”
Does starting on the pole make working on race setup tomorrow easier?
“It matters, I don’t think it necessarily makes tomorrow way easier because race setup and qualifying setup seems to be fairly different here anyway, at least it proved to be in the spring. It certainly helps though if you come here and you’re struggling in qualifying trim and you qualify bad, I haven’t had a lot of those times in recent history where then you went to race trim and all of the sudden it drove great. It’s encouraging that it had speed today, it really reacted to changes, it did the things I like the car to do at Charlotte to make it go fast. It’s encouraging and it’s there so it always helps, but race setup is certainly different.”
Is this qualifying effort a statement by JGR in response to Kevin Harvick’s statement win at Dover last week?
“No, it’s what we try to do every week, it’s what everybody tries to do every week so no, no different. We didn’t get to qualify last week so I don’t know how we would have qualified, but I didn’t think we raced bad. I didn’t think we were as good as we should have been for Dover. We tried some different stuff on pit strategy, but probably maybe still had a fifth or sixth place car and finished seventh with it. Kyle (Busch) ran second and he was the second best car all day. We didn’t run bad last week, we know we need to be a little bit better. Kevin (Harvick) certainly dominated at Dover and definitely dominated New Hampshire as well. We’re still working on our stuff to try to get it faster. We realize our competition is going to keep getting better and we have to be able to do that as well.”
How have you become such a strong qualifier this season?
“When they can get my car to drive absolutely perfect, every once in a while I’m not going to mess it up. It was pretty darn close to perfect in qualifying trim, it really was in the spring here as well. We had a ton of speed. We made a couple adjustments in practice today that really woke it up even though we didn’t end up with the fastest car in practice, it had all the feel of everything that I liked and I knew it was going to be really fast tonight. I didn’t know that we were going to sit on the pole by any means, but I knew it had a lot of speed to it. It had the feel and everything that I wanted and it’s funny this place, if you can get it to drive like you want then you can perform well here, but it’s hard to get that feel. You know what it is, but there’s been times where I’ve gone years here without ever really getting it to drive exactly like I think it needs to drive. Today he got it that way in qualifying trim for me and it showed because it had a ton of speed and I could do what I wanted to with it. I was going to have to mess it up to not get is as good as they had it there.”
Do you expect restarts to be more aggressive in these final rounds of the Chase?
“I don’t know that it’s a lot different than any other time, I think you’re as aggressive as you think you need to be at that time to get the best finish. You never, I don’t anyway no matter what the stakes are and no matter what’s going on, you never want to be so aggressive where you end up making a mistake or put your car somewhere it shouldn’t have been and you end up ruining your own efforts. I think it’s the same as always. Restarts are always aggressive because it’s just once it gets singled out, it’s just not easy to pass. You can have somebody get in front of you and be faster than him and follow him for a fuel run really. Restarts are important, pit stops are important – all those things are important and I think ever since really the two-wide restarts, they’ve always been aggressive. I don’t expect them to be a lot different tomorrow or Saturday or whatever day it is.”
What was the strategy to go out early in each round of qualifying?
“It seemed like the first round it took a while for the track to come in. It was fairly slow in the beginning so we waited a while there and I don’t know, we were lined up toward the front of pit road, nobody was in there in front of us so the last round was only five minutes and we thought we’d go. If you mess it up maybe you can run again or whatever. There was nobody there and we were lined up on the front of pit road so we went.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Pretty in Pink Foundation Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 2nd
What was the difference between first and second in qualifying today?
“I don’t know – Matt Kenseth, he’s way better than me that’s for sure. He got more out of it than I did tonight. Our Pink M&M’s Toyota Camry was awesome tonight. The guys brought a really good race car – it was good in practice and didn’t show good speed there because everyone went out later and got good times, but we were able to post good speed there. Real happy with it – thanks to M&M’s for allowing us to run the pink car for the Kyle Busch Foundation this weekend and looking forward to the race.”
Would you like to get your first Charlotte Cup win on Saturday night?
“I’d certainly like to think so. I’ve been close here before, led a lot of laps and I finished second, finished third I don’t know how many times. I just have to break through for that victory and hoping it can come here on Saturday and that would propel us almost all the way to Homestead. We still have to race Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix, but I’m pretty sure we can get through the next round if we can get through this round.”
What is your mindset for Saturday’s race starting from the front row?
“Our mindset is pretty good. We like coming to Charlotte, this is certainly a good track for me and has been over the years. Look forward to Saturday night being another good night for us. Obviously, coming off the truck, having good speed and making some race runs and then putting on some tires and making some qualifying runs today. Just kind of worked on the balance of our race car and it was fine. We ended a little early so we didn’t post a quick lap later in the session where the track got a little bit better. We were behind in times there, but knew we had a good piece and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys ended up making some good adjustments for qualifying there and again showed that we were a contender for the pole and our teammate there got it from us. He ran a really fast lap and he got more out of it than I did or I could. Good job to Matt (Kenseth), real excited about having the Pretty in Pink/Kyle Busch Foundation on board this weekend with Mars allowing us to run a pink M&M’s car this year, it’s pretty fun to do and certainly a lot of work goes into it. My wife (Samantha), neat for her to have that opportunity to be a big part of it as well too.”
Is this qualifying effort by JGR a statement?
“Qualifying is not a statement, the race is more of a statement. You have to have a good race, put it all together. You have to have fast race cars, good engines and good guys on pit road that give you fast pit stops. Putting it all together is certainly what the 4 (Kevin Harvick) bunch did last week and they proved that they’re obviously a championship contender. We knew that they were, but they certainly put it to everybody. We were a distant second, but third was distant on us and I look forward to this weekend hoping that we can be better than all the rest of the guys and put on a 4 car type performance with the 18 car this weekend.”
Are you completely recovered from the accident in Daytona?
“I’m 100 percent in that respect and I feel really good about where we’re at and where this race team has come from in the last year and a half and where our organization has come from in the last year and a half. I appreciate Adam Stevens (crew chief) taking on the role of crew chief this year. He certainly has been a great leader when I was gone and he’s a great co-leader I feel like when we’re together with the rest of our guys. I feel really good about being back in the race car and being back in the swing of things and the rhythm of things and being able to put up good finishes. Each week it seems like we’re in contention somewhere, somehow, some way and sometimes it’s each race that we run in and it’s all we can do is stay within that and hope that we can score some victories.”
What do you think of the restart lines on the race track here at Charlotte?
“It doesn’t bother me, I really don’t have an opinion as to whether they needed to be there or don’t need to be there. I think it’s fine that they are. If other race tracks want to spend the money to paint the race track, so be it. It’s not that big of deal to the rest of us. The guys that know how to do it right will do it right and the others that continue to not know how to do it right, sure as heck should learn.”
Will you work on passing ability in practice tomorrow?
“No doubt, certainly the fastest way around this race track is on the bottom, but as the run goes on and tires wear, you’d like to have and see that groove kind of move around a little bit – move to the middle, move to the top and have some ability to pass guys. This place is just so fast and you’re carrying so much speed here that you’re never in a good position if you’re behind somebody. You don’t have the downforce that you need to pass that guy so you have to try to work around and be outside that guy’s wake. We’ll work on those things, that’s certainly something I worked on in my Xfinity car here today for our final practice to make sure we have a race car, something we can race with people and try to make those moves that are necessary to win that race. We’ll do the same with the Sprint Cup car tomorrow and hope our M&M’s Camry is balanced well enough bottom, middle and however high the groove goes in practice that we can run in order to make sure we’ve got a good piece for Saturday night to move around with.”
How will the race speed compare to the qualifying times?
“I’m not exactly for sure 100 percent on that, but I’d imagine that we’d probably run some 28.30s so I’d say that’s within four tenths or so of what quick time was tonight. I think you’ll see that as temperatures continue to cool down later in the night when it’s dark out certainly. You probably won’t see that the first run of the race, but it will be a fast race.”
How high do you expect the groove to move Saturday night?
“I don’t know, in years past, I remember two years ago in the Xfinity race I was running the bottom and I couldn’t catch Sam Hornish so then I went to the wall and I ran the wall for a few laps and got my rhythm going up there and then I was able to run Sam down and I beat him by running the wall. I found some speed up there. Sometimes you can find it running the middle and sometimes you can find it running the wall so it’s just dependent on what’s going on and exactly how the setup of the car is and stuff like that. For us, the best groove is always around the bottom. If you’re the leader, you’re always going to run the bottom and make everybody else behind you work and make a pass on you so they’ll have to be the ones to figure that out.”
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 5th
CARL EDWARDS, No. 19 Stanley Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 8th
DAVID RAGAN, No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Starting Position: 19th
CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Starting Position: 23rd
JJ YELEY, No. 26 Maxim Toyota Camry, BK Racing
Starting Position: 35th
MATT DiBENEDETTO, No. 83 Cosmo Motors Toyota Camry, BK Racing
Starting Position: 40th
JEB BURTON, No. 23 Dr. Pepper Toyota Camry, BK Racing
Starting Position: 41st