Notes from TNT’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coverage – Sunday, June 7, 2009
TNT’s coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series continues on Sunday, June 14 from Michigan International Speedway. NASCAR on TNT Live! begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, followed by Countdown to Green at 1:30 p.m. ET. NASCAR racing from Michigan begins at 2 p.m. ET.
NASCAR on TNT Live! from Pocono Raceway
Marc Fein (host), Larry McReynolds (analyst) and Kyle Petty (analyst)
McReynolds on NASCAR implementing double-file restarts during races: “I’m excited about it. When you look back at the All-Star race, we have the double file restarts there every single May and it’s exciting, it’s exciting for the fans. It’s going to be a learning process, it will be a learning process for the teams, for the drivers, for the broadcasters and for the fans, but I’m excited about them doing it.”
Petty on the double-file restarts changing the sport for the better: “If crew chiefs and engineers don’t understand, it’s for dang sure drivers don’t understand it, we just put our head in a bucket and get in a car. But I agree with Larry on this, we’re going to have to wait until it plays out to see exactly what it is. I give NASCAR huge kudos for changing something. They had their town hall meeting, everyone talked about it, but now they’ve stepped out and they’ve made a change on the race track. Let me say one thing, I compare this to the NBA. This is like when the three-point shot was implemented in the NBA, it was a game changer. (Double-file restarts) is a game changer, this is on the same level as that. This sport will be different moving forward.”
NASCAR president Mike Helton joined the TNT set to discuss the new double-file restart rule.
Helton on why and why now NASCAR implemented double-file restarts: “Why is because of the fans, why now is we noodled it out for a good period of time and we fine tuned it. Pocono is a good place to start because there are two and half miles to get used to this, not just for drivers, but for crew chiefs too.”
Helton on whether NASCAR will continue to implement changes to help the sport: “I would say yes. It may not be visible to the fans and masses, but certainly it should be visible to the car owners and drivers. What the meetings were in Concord, as much as anything, was to establish a newer, broader, better way of communicating with the stakeholders and obviously car owners and drivers are a huge part of that. It’s also a matter of explaining that today we are all in unique times and it helped for the drivers and the owners to hear the input we get from fans, we have a fan council of over 12,000 fans that our offices talk to every week. Telling the drivers and owners what the fans are saying is important and it was a good opportunity to do that, and from that comes, ‘what can you do for me now?’ And that’s the double-file restarts.”
Helton on the support given to the new double-file restart rule from the drivers and owners: “I’ve never seen a procedural issue that we implemented that has had the most wide ranging support from the drivers and car owners and that is because they know that this is something that the fans will like. They understand it’s complicated and we understand it’s complicated and there are some things that we have to figure out on the fly, but we tried to figure out most everything we could. Everyone in this garage understands why we are doing it.”
TNT’s acclaimed Pride of NASCAR series returns with the first installment featuring legendary driver Dave Marcis who was notable for being one of the longest independent drivers.
Petty on Dave Marcis’ work ethic: “(Marcis) was a great race car driver, one of the first guys to come out of Wisconsin and come south and race against the guys from the south in the late 60’s. But what Marcis was always about is this, it was a job, he loved to drive a race car, but he had that work man’s ethic. He hammered it out, he beat the fenders out, he built the engines, he drove the car, he drove a van home after he drove the car. It didn’t make any difference, it was all about getting to the race track, doing his job and going home. The wins were gravy, that was icing on the cake, but that’s what he wanted to do.”
Petty on No. 18 Kyle Busch smashing the guitar trophy on Saturday night after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series race in Nashville: “I don’t think it was very well thought through. I understand the mentality of smashing the guitar because rock stars do it, sorry, (Busch) is not a rock star. He’s a race car driver, number one. Number two, that’s a trophy, all those other guys driving the race cars would have given anything in the world to hold it in their hand, not to smash like that. I understand they talked about it before and he said I’ll smash it and we’ll give everyone on the crew a piece of it. I would rather see him say, ‘I’m not going to smash this one, but I’ll buy all of you guitars and we’ll get Sam Bass to paint it up special for you guys to commemorate it.’ I don’t think it was disrespectful because I don’t think he meant it that way. I just think it was poorly thought through, maybe well executed from his side, but not thought through. I don’t like to see trophies destroyed for any reason.”
McReynolds on No. 18 Kyle Busch showing emotion after a win: “I’m not going to say right, I’m not going to say wrong, and I’m not saying that’s what I want to see. But I would like to see that personality, that emotion rather than that driver hunt his hat, hunt his sunglasses and soft drink, and saying, ‘the crew is working hard at the shop and I’m going to thank all my sponsors.’ We’ve been looking for personalities and that’s personality right there.”
TNT’s Lindsay Czarniak joined No. 39 Ryan Newman and his father, Greg, for a fishing trip in the surrounding area of Pocono Raceway.
Newman on what it would mean to win a championship with his father serving as his spotter: “It would be the completion of all the things that my dad has done for me to help me in my racing career. That’s the ultimate, I’ve always said stock car racing is where I want to be, and NASCAR in particular, and to win a championship would be the ultimate for what I could give back to him for what he’s sacrificed for me.”
Greg Newman: “He’s given me plenty already, but the championship is what we’re looking for. That makes things go full circle.”
Petty on teammates No. 14 Tony Stewart and No. 39 Ryan Newman: “I thought Tony (Stewart) was taking a chance and I just thought Ryan (Newman) was crazy to go along with him. You taking a chance is one thing, talking someone else into coming along with you is crazy.”
Reining NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion No. 48 Jimmie Johnson joined the TNT set for an interview prior to the race.
Johnson on how his team has continued success: “In a lot of ways we try to focus on ourselves and we know when we’ve given 100% and we’ve got the job done. Other times we’ve given 100% and we’ve just gotten beat. That’s the thing we all focus on and what I’m most proud of is regardless of race wins and championships, we know what we’re capable of and we can look ourselves in the eye and say, ‘ok, we got lucky today and we go this win or we worked our butts off and finished 15th. You’ve got to recognize those things in order to stay together as long as we have and to have continued success. I feel the sky’s the limit, but that garage area is full of a lot of tough teams and you just never know how long it will last.”
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Countdown to Green
Bill Weber (host) and Wally Dallenbach (analyst)
TNT’s Marty Snider interviewed No. 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Earnhardt, Jr. on the mounting pressure to be a winner and no longer having excuses for why he is not winning: “The pressure, it comes and goes. When I first game to Rick’s, I knew all this stuff about this is the place where I’m really going to have to prove myself. Ninety percent of me was not even looking back, but there was a small percentage of me that was asking myself some serious questions like you’re putting yourself in the best equipment, you’re not going to have any excuses. We’re in a definite rut that we’re trying to get out of. This is the type of situation that I kind of feared could happen. I asked myself when I got the opportunity to drive for Rick whether I would be able to handle going through this type of thing and if I even wanted to because I’ve always had excuses before. I wouldn’t even have to make excuses, either my fan base or the media would come up with a reason why we weren’t a winner. It was never really placed squarely on my shoulders. I knew that at Rick’s it would be if we didn’t win. I can handle that and I would have not made that decision if I thought I couldn’t.”
Earnhardt, Jr. on not alienating people around him because things aren’t going well: “It’s not the hardest thing (to be me). It’s really good most of the time. It’s really easy and really fun. I never have days where I don’t feel like I’ve got it really good. When things get tough that’s when you really rely on those feelings and thoughts. You’ve got it really good, don’t get crazy here and make any rash judgments or say anything wrong. When things are bad you can do a lot of things on gut feeling and you can damage a lot of relationships. Once the bad is behind you, it’s hard to repair those relationships so you have to be careful when things aren’t good to upset everyone around you because you’re cranky.”
Earnhardt, Jr.’s crew chief Lance McGrew on when the No. 88 car will start winning races: “I want him to win yesterday, too. I’m going to be a little non-committal on that, I hate to disappoint millions, but I’m not sure yet. Jr. has used the quote time and time again, we’re building Rome here and that doesn’t happen overnight. As we go along and as we progress, we should see progression. We will continue to build on that and we need to put ourselves in position to win. You’re not going to win from 15th, you’re just not. You have to put yourself in the top five on a weekly basis and then you start winning races.”
No. 18 Kyle Busch on whether his smashing of a guitar in Nashville was controversial: “No, that’s not controversial, a guy showing true emotion in Victory Lane. It’s great to be able to go out and win races. I talked to Sam (Bass) and I talked to the Gibson (guitar) people and they all thought it was great, it was fine. What it was to me was to give the pieces to the team. Unfortunately, it didn’t break on my part, but fortunately for Gibson they have a great product in their guitars and I ordered up two more of them for myself and for my crew chief. The one from last night, it will be going to the band saw tomorrow to break it up and distribute it, and I’m to assign the pieces to all the guys on the crew last night and share it with them. They never get a chance to get a piece of the trophy after we win races, it’s the best opportunity for them to get that.”
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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Racing from Pocono at Pocono Raceway
Announcers: Bill Weber (play-by-play), Wally Dallenbach (analyst) and Kyle Petty (analyst); Larry McReynolds (analyst) contributes from the in-field with the TNT Offtrack Robotic Car (TORC)
Pit reporters: Lindsay Czarniak, Ralph Sheheen, Marty Snider and Matt Yocum
Petty, in reaction to No. 11 Denny Hamlin having engine issues immediately after the race began, on a car never having mechanical issues when you want it to: “It never does. When you’re out there begging for the thing to blow up because you’re 40 laps down, you can clutch it and it won’t blow up.”
Dallenbach on No. 5 Mark Martin moving on turn two to make room for another driver: “When you’re on the inside it’s really your corner. I say that because when you’re up on the high side in turn two, you’re in the marbles.”
Petty: “They preach in the drivers’ meeting all time, give and take, give and take. A lot of drivers take but never give. That’s an example of a veteran driver (in Mark Martin) giving a little bit. Knowing that he’s not going to lose anything and even if he loses position, it’s only 18-20 laps in. We’re not going to name the guys who don’t give.”
Petty on No. 5 Mark Martin being one day short from the oldest driver to win a race at Pocono at 50 years, five months and 29 days: “Maybe (Martin) just needs to hold off until the second race (to win).”
Weber: “You want to explain that to him? Jump on radio to tell him that.”
McReynolds on how to best describe the racetrack at Pocono: “You know what we like to say, it’s not really a road course, but it’s hard to call it an oval, so we’ll just call it a ‘roval.’”
Petty: “Call it whatever you want. I’m going to call it aggravating. From a driver’s standpoint, it just aggravates the rear end off of you.”
Petty on No. 99 Carl Edwards and his crew miscalculating a pit stop causing him to pit earlier than the rest of the field: “Very dejected crew, not a dejected driver though. You heard (Edwards) come back, he’s still fighting. He said, ‘ok we might want to take this adjustment.’ If this had been Kyle Petty in the car, I’d have cut somebody’s head off, if I’m late in the race and something like that happens. You just go crazy. Carl handled that incredibly well and I think (crew chief) Bob (Osborne) and those guys in the pits did also.”
Dallenbach on No. 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. getting into No. 12 David Stremme after Stremme was turned into the wall: “A lot of this, the No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) is frustrated right now. He could have cut the No. 12 (David Stremme) a little bit of slack right there, all he had to do was just get out a little bit and could have avoided that. The reason why the No. 88 is frustrated is because he blew his pit stop. He comes down, he smokes through the pit stop, he gets the car up against the wall. This puts him in the situation where it put him further back in the pack, as well as the No. 48 when they had their mistake. It put them in the back and things happen back there a lot more than they happen up front and it could have taken both these cars out.”
Petty on the frustration of No. 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s pit crew: “You see the pit crew guys, they’re hot right here because they are doing the best they can and Jr. just smokes in, doesn’t see where he’s supposed to be and runs through the pit box right here. We’ve seen that numerous times this year, let’s be honest about that.”
Petty on No. 00 David Reutimann: “They call (No. 00 David) Reutimann the franchise guy, and what franchise means is they can build something on this. He is building a great foundation for Michael Waltrip Racing over there.”
TNT aired in-car audio between No. 24 Jeff Gordon and crew chief Steve Letarte in the final laps of the race.
Letarte on which cars Gordon needs to pursue to move up in the standings: “No. 39 and 00, push it forward, those are our two, push them. They’re trying to save, don’t let them, the two cars in front of you, right now.”
Petty on No. 24 Jeff Gordon being encouraged by crew chief Steve Letarte to go after other cars on the track: “Steve Letarte smells blood in the water right there, he’s like, ‘push them, push them, go get them,’ and (even if he doesn’t believe it,) he wants (No. 24) Jeff (Gordon) to believe it and that’s what crew chiefs are good at.”
TNT’s Marty Snider interviewed Pocono 500 winner No. 14 Tony Stewart after his first victory of the season.
Stewart on whether the win is more meaningful as the owner of his race team: “It is because of the group of guys I’m working with. I’ve always had a great group of people to work with at Gibbs and it’s a little different when it’s your own, when you’re the one at the end that has to be accountable.”
Stewart on how he managed to conserve fuel to finish the race: “I’m not telling.”
TNT’s Ralph Sheheen interviewed second place finisher No. 99 Carl Edwards.
Edwards on his second place finish behind No. 14 Tony Stewart: “I bet I’ve got a gallon or two (of gas) left in there. I’ve got one of those new Fusion Hybrids, no joke, I’ve been playing around. I think I’ve been getting better at saving fuel, Tony is obviously getting better, I didn’t he was going to be a factor. My Aflac Fusion was good all day, my guys have really stepped it up. He barely beat us off pit road even with his first pit stall and I mean, we made a decision, are we going to race him or are we going to save fuel and we saved fuel. I was sure he was going to run out like Jimmie did, but he didn’t and they won the race. I’ve just got to rest on the fact that we’re stronger than we have been all year.”
Unofficial Pocono 500 Results:
- No. 14 Tony Stewart
- No. 99 Carl Edwards
- No. 00 David Reutimann
- No. 24 Jeff Gordon
- No. 39 Ryan Newman
- No. 47 Marcos Ambrose
- No. 48 Jimmie Johnson
- No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya
- No. 31 Jeff Burton
- No. 77 Sam Hornish, Jr.