Chevys dominate Daytona 500 Qualifying
Martin, the only driver to top 191 mph during qualifying Saturday, earned the first pole of his career for the Sprint Cup Series' season-opening race. Earnhardt will start second, trying to rebound from the worst season in his Cup career.
The front-row sweep continues Hendrick's domination in the sport. Not only has Jimmie Johnson won the past four Cup championships, but teammates Martin and Jeff Gordon gave Hendrick a 1-2-3 finish in the 2009 point standings.
The top 35 drivers from last season are guaranteed starting spots in next Sunday's race, but their positions will be set in Thursday's 150-mile qualifying races.
MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM IMPALA -- Pole-Winner
YOU KNOCKED YOUR TEAMMATE OFF THE POLE; CAN YOU HOLD ONTO IT?
"Well, I don't know. This is a crazy thing and it would really be cool to see. If we don't, I'd like to see Bill Elliott. But maybe we'll be able to hold onto it here."
THIS IS YOUR 26TH DAYTONA 500 AND YOU'VE GOT TO LIKE HOW THINGS ARE STARTING OUT
"It's time; it's time. You know we haven't done it yet, so this is the best shot I've had, or as good. I had some really good shots and didn't get it done, but think we have our best chance now."
WITH YOU AND DALE, JR. SO FAST TODAY, IS THIS A SIGN THAT THINGS ARE WORKING? "When we went out yesterday and he ran a .70 and we ran a .72, I looked at Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and said 'It is supposed to be like that, RIGHT?' and he said 'Yea.' So yes, we hope to both raise our game this year, the No. 5 and the No. 88"
POST QUALIFYING COMMENT: "This is just a great accomplishment for this GoDaddy.com team, Alan Gustafson and all of the guys. I want to thank Bob Parsons for stepping up to the plate here. It is pretty exciting to have them on board. It is all about the team. That was not accomplishment of mine, it is one of all of our guys on this team. To have Dale, Jr. on the outside of the front row, locked in, just means that we are doing stuff right."
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA -- Qualified 2nd
"We were hitting the ground a little bit yesterday, which slows the car down some and it did it a little bit today, which was kind of disappointing. But those guys worked really hard to try to fix that the best they could. And we just picked up so much more speed in the car and the car traveled just that much more and got into the race track a little bit down in (Turns) 3 and 4, but aside from that, the engine is incredible and the body is doing everything it's supposed to do. The guys have put together one hell of a race car and I'm just proud to be able to drive it. I want to thank AMP Energy and the National Guard and all our sponsors. The team is doing an amazing job building such a great race car. The engine and the body is doing its job just perfectly and we've just got to get it up off the race track and that thing will be hard to beat."
HOW DID THE CAR FEEL OUT THERE? "Man, it is fun to drive a car that performs like that. We have a little bit different wind situation but we were able to put down a pretty good lap. It was hitting the ground a little bit yesterday and that is slowing it down some. Was hoping to get that fixed. We ran so much faster, we got such a good tail wind down the back straightaway today that we didn't do it enough. It hit the ground a little bit in three and four and slowed it down some. It had a 46.9 or a 47 flat in it for sure, the car is really, really fast. I am just glad the guys have done such a good job of putting it together. The engine is really, really amazing. It is really fun to drive a car like that."
WHAT WILL YOU WORK ON FOR SUNDAY? "We will see how it does in race trim. We felt like we learned a lot in our practices for the Shootout and had a pretty good idea where we want to start in race trim for the 500. We will see how it goes tonight and go from there."
IS THIS THE KIND OF BOOST THIS TEAM NEEDS TO START THE SEASON? "We need a lot. This is nice, we just need to keep going; you know what I mean. We just need to keep going. We did a lot to get this, but you can never have enough good things happen to you."
HAS LANCE (McGrew, crew chief) BEEN A GOOD COACH TO YOU AND THE GUYS ON THE TEAM? "Lance is doing a great job. Everything that is in his hands and everything that is his responsibility, he has done really good. I am assured every time that I am around him that he has got everything under control. It took a while for us to get that kind of trust. But I feel real confident, he has never done anything that I thought was strange or he has never really left me hanging. There is a lot of pressure on me and I like guys that want to get in there and dig and want to help you with the pressure and he does that. He understands how difficult the pressure can be sometimes. He does a lot of things to make you feel like you are going to be ok, that you'll be able to handle it. He has a lot of different responsibilities and he has a lot of different hats he to wear, he does a good job right now."
POST QUALIFYING COMMENT: "I would have like to have had the pole, but at least we got two Hendrick cars on the front row. I just have got to thank the engine shop for the power and all the guys in the body shop for making that thing as slick as it was and our guys for putting it together and doing all the things they did to make that thing go fast like it did. It is a tribute to a great organization. The driver really doesn't have nothing to do with it at that time, it is just all race car right there. We just want to be able to do good things for AMP Energy and the National Guard. This is a start and hopefully we can keep the ball rolling the next several days and have a good Speed Weeks. Then we will get to Fontana and Vegas and all those places and see what happens there."
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 14 U.S. ARMY IMPALA -- Qualified 3rd
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE LAPS? "You really can't feel it out there, the wind is pushing you so hard down that back straightaway that you kind of lose perspective. You just focus on trying to be smooth, hit your marks. I felt like I did 90% of that, I got a little high down in three and four on my second lap. Just tried to be smooth. I thought it was more important to be smooth than it was to pull the car back down. The wind was blowing was so hard in turn three."
DID THE NEW AERO PACKAGE FEEL ANY DIFFERENT? "Not doing qualifying, but when you are on the race track racing in a pack of cars it does. It was a good lap for the US Army Chevrolet. Tony Gibson (crew chief) and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing had done a great job in this off season and we will see what we shake out here."
SO THE WIND WAS A LITTLE TRICKY OUT THERE? "The wind was a little tricky out there. It kind of like chances not in just direction, but speed so there is no real good way to read it. You just have to go after it. I felt it was a pretty good lap, there were a couple of things I wish wouldn't have happened, but with that wind out there I don't think anyone can predict what is actually going to happen."
"I want to give a shout-out to all the troops out there. We are doing our best for you."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET IMPALA -- Qualified 5th:
HOW WAS YOUR LAP OUT THERE? "I don't know, it was hard, the wind was shifting so much out there. You get to where it is really slowing down the car."
WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING OF THE NEW AERO PACKAGE THURSDAY? "It is going to be interesting on how it makes the car behave and how it really works. But it is ok. It is the same for everybody."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA -- Qualified 6th:
THE HENDRICK CARS HAVE PERFORMED REALLY WELL TODAY: "Our people are a big, big part of it. Chassis and bodies are closer than they have ever been. I think that is a big part of it. I think those are a big, big part of it, Hendrick Motorsports is doing an amazing job there. Our engine shop...all of our departments are working really, really well together and are really focused. Everyone is doing a great job. I am really impressed with our lap because we were a little conservative with our Lowe's Chevrolet and wanted to make sure it is going to race well in the 500 so to be up where we are that is far better than we expected."
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH YOUR QUALIFYING EFFORT? "To be as high as we are because we are so focused on how we are going to race, makes me very, very excited."
ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT THE "OLD MAN" MARK MARTIN IS ON THE TOP? "No. Those guys have been working hard on their stuff. We expected them to be faster than us based on what they have done with their cars. We didn't want to go that route. We wanted a little more effort on the car in the race to make sure we race good Sunday in the 500. All things considered, we thought we would be about three tenths off of them and we are about a tenth and a half off of them. My guys did a really good job to make sure we got some speed for qualifying."
WHAT IS YOUR BEST GUESS ON HOW CRAZY TONIGHT WILL BE? "In practice we couldn't even stay on the road, so tonight is going to be exciting, I can promise you that."
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 CHEERIOS/HAMBURGER HELPER IMPALA -- Qualified 8th
"All three of our cars are pretty fast down here. Engines are running strong; the No. 42 car (Juan Pablo Montoya) is up there as well. We're not quite as good as the No. 5 (Mark Martin) but nonetheless, it's a good effort for everybody."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA -- Qualified 10th: "When your teammates are further up the board there and you ran so well in practice yesterday, you get your hopes up.
"I'm really proud of Hendrick Motorsports and the effort that's been put out to come down here and be strong. And we were hoping for a little bit more than that. But we'll take it and get ready to go race with the DuPont Chevrolet."
THE SUN HAS COME OUT. HAS THE TRACK GOTTEN HOTTER AND MAYBE SLOWER?
I don't know. We'll see when Bill Elliott goes. I think he's going to be pretty fast. But you hope for the gust of wind and a lot of things here at Daytona that could be a factor. But we'll go back and look at everything. I feel like we could have had maybe a little bit more oil pressure and didn't just quite get the RPM that we were hoping for. The car was real loose through the corner yesterday, which I felt like was good to get it through the corner. It wasn't quite as loose today. So, just little things here and there that make a big difference."
JAIME MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS IMPALA -- Qualified 19th: "It was pretty uneventful, you are out there by yourself. You just kind of have what you have when you unload. I think our car is going to be ok. The Shootout car seemed like it raced really well. So we will see what we have tonight and see if we can apply some of that to the 500 race car.
"I think we will learn as much tonight in the Shootout as we will in practice for 500. Actually I think we will learn more because the Shootout is run at the time when the 500 is going to end and all the practice is throughout the day so hopefully tonight will be a good learning experience."
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE IMPALA -- Qualified 21st
YOU ARE ALWAYS GOOD WHEN WE COME TO DAYTONA. HOW GOOD IS THE CAR THIS WEEKEND?
"We've only got a couple of laps on this car so we won't know until next week when we get a chance to get in qualifying practice; but our Office Depot/Old Spice Chevy is pretty good here and it drove good. That's what you've got to have here at Daytona is a good handling car."
ON HIS QUALIFYING EFFORT: "Pretty uneventful. I mean, we hit the race track pretty hard yesterday, so we were just trying to get it up off the track a little bit. Other than that, pretty uneventful."
HAVE YOU NOTICED ANY NEW HUMPS AND BUMPS THAT WEREN'T HERE ON THE TRACK BEFORE THE FLOODING? "Not really. It has always had those characteristics, but that is kind of what makes Daytona, Daytona, too. That is what makes handling such a premium here. The more they have, the better is actually is for us here 'cause it makes guys have to work on their cars to get them driving good."
WHAT WILL YOU WORK ON HEADING IN TO THE 150? "I am sure we will learn a lot tonight. I am sure handling is going to be the biggest thing. It seems like every time we come here, handling becomes that much more crucial than the time before. We will just keep trying to keep the balance in the car.
"You won't know on the setup until you go out there and run practice. You still have a lot of work to do between now and then. Every day you are going to try something whether or not you were perfect the day before, but you are going to try something just to see what it does. See if you can make it better or if conditions are going to change so you can see what it does. It is in a constant state of change."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL IMPALA -- Qualified 30th
YOU'RE BACK IN THE CAR, THAT'S THE GOOD THING, RIGHT?
"Yeah, we're happy to be back in the Shell-Pennzoil Chevy (missed practice due to flu-like symptoms). I'd still like to run good and hopefully we can have a good race tonight and run good for the rest of the week. We'll go from there and see what happens."
KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) 7th Fastest
DID THE WINDY CONDITIONS UPSET THE HANDLING OF THE CAR MUCH? "Yeah, the wind is really pushing you into Turn 3, so you have to be ready in (Turns) 3 and 4 if the car is going to bottom out and try not to shoot up the race track to far and scrub speed."
WHAT'S YOUR EARLY IMPRESSION OF THE AERO AND RESTRICOR PLATE CHANGES MADE TO THE CARS FOR DAYTONA? "It's just bad fast right now and the closing rate is more extreme than the drivers have noticed before. I'm leaning back on some of my truck series days when I raced here at Daytona, based on the closure rate. There's going to be a lot of guys running on top of each other by accident. It's going to make for some really interesting racing."
BRAD KESELOWSKI (No. 12 Penske Dodge Charger) 15th Fastest
"A good start for our Penske Dodge. It was nice to get out there and get qualifying under our belt. The lap felt pretty good, not great. I think we brought a good package to Daytona and now we have to get ready for the 150. The Penske cars didn't qualify well here last year. We seem to have made strong gains in that department. Hopefully, that will carry over to the race. The strategy now changes from speed, which you still have to have, to handling. It's more of a balancing act. Right now there's no balance, it's just raw speed. It's hard to tell about the balance until we get back on the track Wednesday. The strategy for Thursday...make sure we don't tear our car up. This is our best car and we want to make sure we have it for the 500."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger) 12th Fastest
"YOU'RE CAR LOOKED LIKE IT WAS STUCK RIGHT TO THE BOTTOM OF THE RACE TRACK: "Yeah, it felt really smooth. This is just a credit to Penske Racing. The guys have worked really hard in the engine shop and chassis shop trying to make sure that we come down here with the best equipment that we can possibly have. The last two years that we came down here, we qualified as a team down around the 30's, so it's a big jump to have Kurt (Busch) and Brad (Keselowski) qualify so strong. I'm real proud of what the guys are doing back at the shop. This is exactly what we needed."
SPEEDS SEEM TO BE WAY UP; CAN YOU TELL A DIFFERENCE IN THE CAR? "Definitely. You get into the corners a lot quicker and the car wants to move around a bit in (Turn) 3. The car really wants to dart the front end once you get into Turn 1. Just the way that the wind is hitting the car and the aero changes made to the car has made a difference. Just to go out there and run as well as we did is a great feeling."
IT HAS TO GIVE YOUR TEAM A BOOST OF CONFIDENCE KNOWING THAT YOU BROUGHT SUCH GOOD EQUIPMENT TO DAYTONA? "It really does. Hopefully it will mean a lot to our team as the year goes because the teams has worked really hard to give us great equipment and to try and move forward with our program. This is one of the things that we struggled with the most...coming to tracks like Daytona and trying to qualify. A good start of Penske Racing and Dodge."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&'M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What is important in the Shootout tonight? "Just to see how the restrictor-plate plays out and whether or not we need to go bigger or smaller next week for the (Daytona) 500. Tonight, it's going to be a cool race with cool temperatures -- so it should be a fun race. It's going to be something to look forward to and kind of develop a little bit more handling for what the 500 needs next Sunday."
How has the new restrictor-plate affected the draft? "It's easier to suck-up, but it's a lot easier to stall-out people too. I'm not sure if the stall-out effect is from the side wicker on the wing or not because it seems like we can move each other around a lot more and I don't know if that's just a faster speed that we're carrying or the different end plates on the wing. There's some different effects to it, but until you get out there in a race and kind of get all the race scenarios underneath you and feel all that, you don't really know for sure."
How has the wing changed? "The side of the wing, they (NASCAR) changed. It used to be a flat piece of aluminum, but now they put the carbon or wavy piece on there, and it adds more drag. What I think is that when you get somebody's nose that pushes air up next to the left rear quarter panel or the right rear quarter panel, it kind of moves you around a little more because the air is trying to figure out which side to go around that wing and it doesn't know."
What is your big news this weekend? "Samantha (Sarcinella) and I got engaged -- asked her to marry me and she said yes. We're excited about that, to become a couple and make it official is a good step in both of our lives. It was about 80 percent planned, but I built everything up kind of spur of the moment."
Is Samantha (Sarinella) supportive of you racing? "She's very receptive to me and my racing. It's a big deal for me to have her so supportive of what I do and she lets me go race all the time. I still race all my Late Model races, my Truck races, the Nationwide races -- that's the whole deal. When you find someone that's right and can accept what you do and how crazy you are, then you pretty much found it."
SCOTT SPEED, No. 82 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team
Were you nervous about your qualifying lap? "I could tell Jimmie (Elledge, crew chief) was real nervous with us having to qualify in here on time. We weren't so quick yesterday. The guys made a lot of good decisions before qualifying and it looks like it's paid off because we picked up more than we expected."
What would it mean to qualify into the Daytona 500 on speed? "Getting in on speed and not having to race your way in -- that's ideal. Even if you're fast, the 150s can go either way. You can get involved in something that's not even your own fault and not qualify for the Daytona 500. The guys did a lot of good work between practice and here. On Thursday, you're still running your good car and you don't want to crash, but you're certainly going to be able to push it a little more and not be quite as cautious if you're already in the race -- no question."
MARCOS AMBROSE, No. 47 Kroger Floral Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing
Are you happy with your qualifying lap? "That was way better than what we practiced yesterday. We really had a good pick-up overnight -- the car was a lot better to drive. It's like wrestling a bear in there for a couple laps. These suspension packages to qualify here are very aggressive and I'm just pleased that I kept it on the straight and narrow and got a good lap timing."
Is your team excited to get the season started? "We're just pumped up, fizzed up, everything -- we just can't wait to go racing. We feel like we've done a little work in the off-season, I had a great off-season myself and went back to Australia and chilled out for a while. Just reflected on who I need to be in order to be a better race car driver and I'm ready to go."
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports
How did the weather affect your qualifying lap? "The wind is just gusting down in (turns) three and four. It's tough -- you get a tailwind down the back (straightaway) that gives you some extra speed and then it bogs you right down. It's just luck of the draw. Really proud of all the guys on this NEMCO Motorsports crew. They have been working hard and trying to do it with very limited finances out of my own pocket. There are a lot of guys out there helping us and I can't thank everybody enough for what they do."
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How did the weather affect your qualifying lap? "I could feel a big tail wind down the back straightaway that time. I felt the motor kind of crank up a little bit so that should help. I'm sure everyone is getting the same amount of help out there. It seems like everyone is picking up at least a half-a- second and I don't know where it's coming from. I'm glad we picked up that much, we actually picked up a little more from our practice run. The guys on the Home Depot Toyota team did a good job in trying to find some speed. At least we have our teammates down the center, we're all close so that's the good part. Hopefully, these things are good in the pack. We haven't got them in a pack yet with our (Daytona) 500 cars so we'll see."
MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 51 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Are you happy with your qualifying lap? "I'm real proud of my team to get a top-20 in qualifying and that is certainly something to be proud of. I think the guys did a great job getting all they could. It was a handful to drive -- I don't know if we left a little bit on the table with having a setup that was so aggressive. It was balanced everywhere and a lot of times it was driving me and I wasn't driving it. We were able to get around there in the NAPA car and got ourselves a place to start on Thursday and try to race our way in. We've been in this situation before and worked it out so I'm pretty confident."
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
How was your qualifying lap? "It was disappointing -- we really felt like we were going to pick up a whole lot more than we did. Just had the car into the race track a little bit and that didn't help us any. We just didn't pick up as much as I really thought we could. The wind is gusting, but I never could feel that big of a difference. The only thing I could feel was the car getting into the race track a little bit and I think that hurt us."
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How was your qualifying lap? "We are pretty disappointed with it. I felt like we could have been a little better or closer to the field at least. It's just one of those things where you try a little different stuff. We didn't get much practice and we just try to bring the best package that we can. We'll start mid-pack in the 150s (Gatorade Duels), but we've won that race before." How important is it for you to win the Shootout? "It's very important to us. We won it in 2006 and it was probably one of the turning moments in my career. This year in particular, we've got some stuff to prove. We're going to have to come from last, but we've done that before too."
ROBBY GORDON, No. 7 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, Robby Gordon Motorsports
Were you surprised by the increase of your speed from yesterday's practice session? "Yesterday we were fifth and we thought we would pick-up about three-tenths (of a second). I didn't expect everyone else to pick-up. I think Ryan (Newman) probably picked-up eight-tenths of a second. That's a big pick-up. I think the tire might have rubbed on the fender a little bit. This is a tough game -- we are competing against the toughest teams in the business and we're excited to have our Monster Energy car here. Hopefully, we'll have a good race on Thursday of next week and we'll see how it works out on Sunday."
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip
How was your qualifying lap? "We were off a little yesterday with the NAPA Toyota. We actually had a huge pick-up so that was a good job by the guys to get some speed out of the car. I don't think we expected a shot at the pole today. Looking forward to next week and getting this car handling good and racing up toward the front and win one of those Gatorade Duels."
Why are the speeds faster today than in practice yesterday? "Everybody is tuning them up and the weather is a little bit better. There's a real big tail wind coming across the back and the way it's blowing across the front straightaway so it's really slowing you down on the front. It's really just helping everybody go a little faster, plus everybody went to work last night and showed everybody their little tricks and threw everything they had at it today."
BRIAN VICKERS, No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team
How did your car handle on your qualifying run? "We kind of made some changes last night and were trying to really go for it and they didn't work out. We misjudged on some of the (suspension) travels. We hit the track really, really hard at both ends through the bumps. I'm sure that took a lot of speed out of the car. It was turning great RPMs at the end of the backstretch, but as soon as I got in the corner and started hitting bumps then it really killed the time."
GREG BIFFLE -- No. 16 3M Ford Fusion (Qualified 37th)
KASEY KAHNE -- No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion (Qualified 28th)
"I was actually really happy with it. We picked up close to a second from yesterday, so, to me, that was a great lap for our Budweiser Ford. The team has done a great job and the Roush Yates engines run really well, so it was nice. It was a good pickup and I'm looking forward to the Shootout tonight. I think it's gonna be a lot of fun. It's gonna be exciting."
HOW DO YOU LIKE WEARING THE TEAM USA COLORS? "I like it. Budweiser did that with the Olympics coming up and we're gonna do it here at the 500 and also the following week at Fontana, California. It means a lot to us and it's all for the Olympians, so it should be a good program."
CAN YOU READ ANYTHING INTO WHAT WE SAW YESTERDAY AND TODAY? "It's tough to say. We picked up a lot. Greg picked up a little bit, so I think it'll be a lot closer. It looks like the 88 is really quick again, but I'm happy with the way my car ran from yesterday. I felt like it was a lot better."
ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT QUALIFYING HERE? "No, because I've never qualified good at these tracks, ever, so I don't worry about it. I just go and make my laps. I was actually pretty excited coming down here because I thought this would probably be the best I could ever qualify here and I think we should have a pretty decent spot for the 150 on Thursday."
ROBERT RICHARDSON JR. -- No. 38 Mahindra Tractors Ford Fusion (Qualified 44th)
"It was a lot better than what we had yesterday. We struggled a little bit yesterday for the two laps that we had. The car was bottoming out real bad on the race track and the side valances were bottoming out real bad, so we worked on that yesterday with the time we had in the garage. It was a lot better in qualifying, but we still need to work on some things and try to get the car handling a little bit better for the Duels next week."
IT MUST BE COMFORTING TO KNOW YOU'RE IN THE 500 NO MATTER WHAT. "Absolutely. I've got to thank Bob Jenkins and Doug Yates for giving me the opportunity to run the 38 car this weekend at the Daytona 500. They could have picked anybody in the world to run it, but I'm honored to be part of their organization and glad to have Mahindra Tractors on board for the Daytona 500."
BORIS SAID -- No. 26 Window World Ford Fusion (Qualified 48th)
"We're locked in the show, so we're kind of on a different program. We don't have any qualifying oil, qualifying rear-end -- none of the tricks that you normally do for qualifying -- so we're just really gonna work on race setup. We're in the race, so we're gonna save the car. I just can't wait until next week. Today was kind of boring."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE DIFFERENCE IN HOW YOU FELT LAST YEAR WHEN YOU HAD TO QUALIFY ON SPEED VERSUS THIS YEAR? "It's unbelievable what a mental nightmare that is, trying to qualify when you're a go or go-homer. This week, we've just been laughing and joking around and having a good time. We had some pretty sad news with Todd when he unexpectedly passed away Thursday night, so that's really brought a downer for the program, but, still, his love for racing and for what he's done with St. Jude Children's Hospital, and all the charity and money he has raised, he would definitely want to see the show go on. Hopefully, he's looking down on us laughing."
DAVID RAGAN -- No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion (Qualified 24th)
"Obviously, it would be great to qualify on the pole today, but we've put a lot of emphasis on our race car for the races and I think that's just about what we expected. We expected to pick up a little bit from yesterday, not having a lot of practice. We changed a couple of things and Donnie Wingo and everyone did a nice job. The car looked pretty good and it's got some good speed to it, so we'll see how it is when we put our race setup in. I'm looking forward to Wednesday when we start practicing."
JOHN ANDRETTI -- No. 34 Window World Ford Fusion (Qualified 42nd)
"It's nice to be in because you can have a strategy of bringing a different kind of race car, maybe. Everybody wants to drive good here. It's not like Talladega, where it's just kind of as fast as you can go and that's all that matters. Here, you've got to handle good, too. I think we've got a good balance between both. We'll have to wait and see, but I'm excited about it. Obviously, we're going through some difficult times right now with the loss of a really good friend of mine and the CEO of Window World, Todd Whitworth. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. They're a wonderful family and that's somebody's shoes that will never be filled."
PAUL MENARD -- No. 98 Peak/Menards Ford Fusion (Qualified 23rd) -- "Obviously, you'd like to qualify well, but your focus has to be on the race. At a place like this, you kind of have to give up a little bit of pure speed to get some handling for the race on Sunday and the 150 on Thursday. We weren't planning on sitting on the pole, but being the fastest Ford to this point is pretty cool. We picked up a lot from yesterday -- everybody did, but we picked up a little bit more than most. Hopefully, that will give us a good start for the 150 and we can race and have a good handling car where we can race good."
TRAVIS KVAPIL -- No. 37 ExtenZe Ford Fusion (Qualified 45th)
"All winter long we knew we weren't really building a pole-winning car, and yesterday was kind of a fumble on our part. We really didn't get in a good effort to see where we were because we had some problems under the hood. We got that resolved, but we never got another run to really see where we stacked up. You'd like to say we've got a good race car, but we don't even know that. We knew we weren't gonna have a pole-winning car going into it. We just don't have the resources and the windtunnel time and all the things to really make a pole-winning effort, so we just put the best race car out there we could. We'll really go to work Wednesday to make it drive good. That's gonna be more important than today because where we start the 500 depends on how we finish Thursday."
ELLIOTT SADLER -- No. 19 Stanley Ford Fusion (Qualified 36th)
"We definitely wanted to run a faster time than that, but our hearts are not broken. We want to race good on Thursday and want to race good on Sunday, so, hopefully, we'll be able to do that. We'll work on getting it driving good. That's what has worked well for us in the past and being the Daytona 500 time has moved up being more in the daytime on Sunday, you've got to have it handling so we'll go to work then and see where we end up. Hopefully, we'll get a good starting spot for Sunday."
CARL EDWARDS -- No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion (Qualified 26th)
"It's hard to feel that extra mile an hour, but our Aflac Ford Fusion was not as fast as we wanted it to be, but it is cool standing down here with all these fans. You have a bad lap like that and you come down here and they're all pumped up ready to go racing. We've got a race tonight with our Scotts Fusion in the Bud Shootout. That should be a lot of fun, but we've just got to go race in those qualifiers and try to get the best spot we can, and then go into this Daytona 500 not thinking about qualifying. We've just got to go to be the best handling car we can be and be there at the end, and I'd say we've got just as good a shot of winning it as Matt Kenseth did last year, so that's good enough for me."
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion (Qualified 11th)
THE PROBLEM ON PIT ROAD DIDN'T HAMPER YOU ON THE TRACK. "Once the engine got running it was fine, so just getting the engine started was the problem. That was a really good lap for us. That was faster than the rest of the Fords so far, I guess, so that was good. Drew and Chip and everybody back at Roush in the fab shop did a good job to get some speed out of the car, so I'm excited to get it in race trim and see how it runs."
HOW DO YOU FEEL GOING FOR TWO STRAIGHT 500 WINS? "All fifty-some cars are here trying to win one, so it's tough every year. There's a lot of competition every year and this year is no exception, so there's gonna be some really exciting racing down here this weekend. I'm really looking forward to racing the Crown Royal car tonight as well as next week."
AJ ALLMENDINGER -- No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion (Qualified 25th)
"I think that was a little slower than we wanted to be. Looking at everybody's times and where we were yesterday, we thought we could be a little better than that. We knew we weren't gonna be on the pole, and, ultimately, that's all that really matters here is being on the front row at Daytona. Qualifying is just better for stats, but we're happy. The car is fine. We'll get here on Wednesday and get down to real business, get the thing handling good for the duels and go try to win that."
BILL ELLIOTT -- No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion (Qualified 4th)
"These guys laid down a nice lap. Everybody worked hard -- David Hyder, Len and Eddie Wood have put so much effort into this deal, Ford, Motorcraft and Quick Lane, all the people that support this deal, you can't say enough about those guys. I think that's the key part. It's a team effort. I know from the time Homestead ended last fall to right now David Hyder and these guys have worked their rear ends off to get down here and do what they need to do. They've got one of the nicest race cars out here. I'm telling you, this is a gorgeous race car, very well put together, and I'm just proud to race it come Sunday afternoon. Hopefully, we'll get in where we need to be today and then we can kind of decide what we want to do as far as the 150 goes. But the main thing is our sights are set on the Daytona 500 come a week from tomorrow."
HOW WILL THIS CAR RACE? "That's another question. We worked all of our stuff on trying to get qualified because that's our number one goal and now on Wednesday we'll work on what we need to do for the race. I think we've got a pretty good idea of what we need to do and let the guys do their magic in the garage and then see what we can do on the race track."
THAT WAS A GOOD RUN. "That was a great run. You never can tell about circumstances -- when you go, what happens, how the wind blows for this guy or that guy, but the Hendrick guys are hard to beat. Week in and week out, they're the most stable team in the garage as far as what they need to do and what they're trying to do. We worked all winter to come down here for today and now we need to work on once we leave here today, work on what we need to do for Wednesday to be as good as we can on Thursday, and, hopefully, everything works out and we'll be in the 500."
YOU'RE STILL HUGE OUT HERE. HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THAT? "To run well is a part of that. I think from the fan's standpoint, they remember a lot of the stuff that happened in the old days and what we did and what we were able to accomplish, but this stuff is a tough deal. When you come here week in and week out, it's just like I told those guys on pit road. For the guys that are locked into this deal -- the top 35 -- it's kind of a cakewalk for them, but when you get to that 36th guy and he's got to make it on time or whatever he's got to do, and today is just one part of it. Then we turn around and Thursday will be another part of it, so you take it a step at a time. For us, we worked hard. We did our homework. We came down here and we'll hold our heads up when we leave here this afternoon."
DO YOU STILL GET GOOSEBUMPS WHEN YOU WALK INTO THIS PLACE? "This is a unique race track. I've had a lot of good runs here, a lot of success and a lot of fun. I still enjoy it or I wouldn't be here."
LAST YEAR IT WAS KIND OF AN UPSET TO RUN AS WELL AS YOU DID. DID YOU EXPECT IT THIS YEAR? "It's still always nerve-wracking because when you roll in here it's one thing, but once you do everything you've got to do and then you leave pit road on your qualifying run it's a whole different world."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS PROGRAM FROM A YEAR AGO? "Well, two years ago there's no comparison. Last year, Hyder started turning things around about this time and I feel like last season was a tribute to the Wood Brothers and the way their team should be. If we can just keep chipping away at it and getting better and better everytime we race, I mean, the problem we have is not racing every week. That's what makes it tough, but, all in all, for what these guys do and as hard as they've worked on a limited basis, that's the attitude you've got to have when you come into these race tracks."
Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Go to our forums to discuss this article