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Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch looking forward to Bristol race

Posted On Thursday, 16 April 2015 20:00 Written by
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Here are the thoughts of the Stewart-Haas Racing team drivers (Tony Stewart,  Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick) ahead of this weekend's race at Bristol Motor Speedway.


DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10:

Do you like racing at Bristol?

“I do. I like Bristol. Obviously, it can be a little bit – the cars definitely got in a train last time we were here. It was tough. It was a little bit hard to pass. But like I said, that is why the bottom becomes important because, if you get stuck or even if you start on the bottom on a restart, if your car is turning, you can make that work, I think, for a little while. I think qualifying is going to be really important, so I’m definitely going to find myself doing a lot more qualifying runs – as many as possible before qualifying in the afternoon. But, I’ve liked Bristol since the first time I came here.”


How grueling is 500 laps at Bristol?

“It’s fine. I think it is a little daunting to say 500 laps, but there are a lot of times that we do 500 laps, or 500 miles, and this is just one of them. I feel like no matter what happens – whether it’s a 400-mile race or a 500-lap race – you find your rhythm. Time goes by fast sometimes, and then sometimes it’s slow. All I hope is that the car has a good balance because, when it doesn’t, that’s when the laps seem wrong. If we can just get into a rhythm, find ourselves in a good spot and have a consistent car throughout the race, then the time does go pretty quickly, usually.”

Fans come to Bristol and typically expect a lot of beating and banging. Do you like that kind of racing?

“Yes, I enjoy it. I mean, I don’t mind some beating and banging out there. I don’t mind pushing your way around a little bit. It just happens. It’s just the nature of short tracks when you’re running really close to one another. You put 43 cars out on a track the size of Bristol and you’re filling up a lot of the track. The short tracks are conducive for close racing since aerodynamics don’t come into play quite as much.”

Overall thoughts heading into Bristol?

“I’ve liked Bristol since I went there the first time. I remember when I set foot onto that track, it was the day before, it was load-in day and I looked out there and you’re standing on the straightaway, but it sure seems like a corner. It’s a very cool track and a spectacle for the fans. I feel like that is always the one that everyone says, ‘I want to come see a Bristol race.’ It’s always entertaining there for the fans and, hopefully, we can put on another good show for them this week.”


TONY STEWART, Driver of the No. 14:

Talk about your run in last year’s Food City 500.

“If you come out of Bristol with a top-five, you’ve had a good day. To start 37th and end up fourth is an even better day. Track position was big, like it always is there. We were pretty strong at the end, but we just couldn’t run down the three guys in front of us. Overall though, I was very happy with the day that we had.

You’ve had to work really hard at Bristol of late. You enjoyed success there early in your career, but the track has proven to be a challenge in recent years. Why?

“It’s a track where we’ve struggled. We’ve led a lot of laps there but we just don’t have the wins to show for it. It’s a track I definitely like. Everybody goes, ‘How can you like it when you’ve not had any success there for a while?’ To me, that’s just motivation. It gives us the ambition to be successful.”

What stands out during your years of racing at Bristol?

“It’s a hard race to win. You look at guys like Rusty Wallace who have had so much success and won so many races there, it shows you how good you have to be to win and win there consistently. It only takes one minor incident to screw up your day. You would think being a short-track race that if you have a great car you can get there, but normally one small mistake will take that opportunity away from you. Seems like you have better odds of something happening that keeps from you winning than you do of actually winning.”

Can you summarize your history at Bristol?

“Bristol is one of those places where you’ve got to have everything kind of go your way. If you have one hiccup, it’s hard to recover from it. We’ve only won one race there and we’ve kind of been all over the board. It’s been feast or famine for us. It’s like if you have one problem in the first half of the race, it’s hard to recover from it. It makes for a very long day. We’ve had more long days than good days.”

What do you enjoy most about racing at Bristol?

“I’ve always liked that the crowd is right there at the edge of the track – all the way around it. You can just feel the excitement from the fans. The fans that go to Bristol are passionate about racing. And whether they like you or hate you, they love their racing at Bristol. I’d say the fans are the best part of Bristol. It’s just a cool place and a cool atmosphere, and it’s because of the fans.”

How miserable is it when you get several laps down at a track like Bristol?

“It’s a place where it’s hard to have a good day. There are so many variables that can go wrong at Bristol versus other tracks. If you have that one bad incident that gets you in the back, it’s hard to recover from that. There are guys who have done it and do a good job at it, but you have to have a great racecar to be able to recover from something bad, especially if you get laps down. It’s like going from the bottom of the mountain and climbing and climbing and not getting anywhere. You fight and fight and fight and at the end of the day you’re right where you were when you had your problem.”

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4:

What makes Bristol Motor Speedway unique to you?

“Well, Bristol is a lot different than it used to be. The fast way around the racetrack it up against the wall now, so it becomes a little bit harder to pass. They’re also making some changes to the soft walls on the straightaways, so I think that’s going to make the bottom even harder to run. We’ll see what the weekend brings and try to keep track position as we go through the day to run up against the wall.”

What makes the spring race at Bristol different than the fall race?

“It’s usually a lot cooler, so in the spring you don’t fight a lot of the same things that you fight in the fall. Obviously we have different rules this year, so I think we’re going to have to adjust to that, as well. I think it will be a lot like it is everywhere else in terms of the new rules – you’re just going to have a lot more throttle time through the corner, which at Bristol sounds hard to believe, but you’re going to have more throttle time through the corners.”

Through the first part of 2015, what stands out to you most?

“I think just capitalizing on the days that we’ve had chances to win races. To me, it feels a lot like last year at the beginning with the exact opposite results. Just for the fact that last year we were a new team and had a lot of issues that we had to work through from the mechanical side of it and a lot of parts failures – you could call them back luck situations. I think when you look back at the performance from this year to last year, it’s virtually the same with the speed of the car. It’s just that the team is better. It’s the same group of guys, but everyone just knows each other so much better now. When you look back at the first half of the year last year and you look at the first seven weeks of this year, it’s just run so much differently just because this group of guys knows each other so much better. When you look at the results, it would look a lot different from last year but, really, it’s very much the same only with a team that has been together longer now.”

You already have your third-highest single-season laps led total and we are only seven races into 2015. When you put up numbers like that, where does the significance of that register with you?

“I look at it as we’re doing stuff that I’ve never experienced before. It’s a much different feeling than having to figure out how to win a race, come from behind or whatever the case may be. It’s a much different way that you have to manage expectations, manage the race and manage the weekend. It’s a different approach because you know we have speed in our cars and we have people doing their jobs and performing at a very high level. The guys on the shop floor, the pit crew and the guys on the pit box – everybody is performing at such a high level. You almost respect it more now just for the fact that you went through all of those years of scrounging to do what you do to get the results that you wanted to and we were fortunate to have good results. But it was just a different path, I guess you could say. You just keep your head down and keep working just for the fact that you’ve seen it the other way.”

Have you seen any shift in how people view you this year compared to last, be it race fans or competitors?

“It’s definitely different. Everybody wants to see what you’re doing. When you look at how (crew chief) Rodney (Childers) and everybody on the team has handled it, it’s definitely a different situation than anything I’ve been a part of in past years. After we got about halfway through last year, you could kind of feel a little different perception. The way you see that is everybody wants to look at your cars, complain about your cars, or throw stones at what you might or might not be doing. When you look at how everybody has handled that, it’s really more flattering than anything, especially when they start throwing stones. Everybody is doing their job and putting the pieces together. We just try to get better and do what we can to perform well on the racetrack. When you look at all that stuff and how people handle situations, really look back on the beginning of 2014 as kind of that deal where it could have gone either way as we were having all the problems, but really it just made everyone stronger. It allows us to view situations, whether good situations or bad situations, pressure up or pressure down – there’s really not a week now that the pressure is not up. We have a different level of expectations from our team standpoint, but you also have that level of expectation that comes from the fans and the people who expect you to perform. When you perform at the level we’ve been performing at, it also comes with a different level of expectation when you roll your car through inspection, the amount of work you have to do and the things that come with it. You have to work through that balance of what you can do, what you can’t do, what you don’t have time to do and how you feel. There are a lot of things Rodney, myself and the whole team have had to learn about and work through. I really think that came as we got to the halfway point last year.”

KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41:

Is there a sense of excitement for you when you think about Bristol?

“Yes. Bristol is one of those tracks that I get a little extra pumped up for. For me, I think that feeling gets a little stronger when you’re talking about the night race at Bristol. There’s just something special about that race. I knew it before I ever made it to the big-league level of the Sprint Cup Series but, the first time I was able to experience the night race as a competitor, it’s almost indescribable. It’s a place that gives you a big adrenaline rush. You can literally feel the energy around the track from the competitors and the fans who are just excited for 500 laps of racing at Bristol. There’s really nothing quite like it.”

With the way Bristol has been the last few years, what has been the most difficult part?

“For me, the most challenging aspect is getting into those long, green-flag runs. It’s about being able to settle into a steady groove and making the best lap times you can. It’s tough at that place because it’s so fast for a short track and you can get dizzy there pretty quickly. It’s a physical track but it’s also mentally taxing, and you really have to be on your game when it comes to the concentration that is required to run well at Bristol.”

You earned your first Sprint Cup win at Bristol. You’ve got four wins in the spring race there and one in the night race. Talk about heading to Bristol.

“Bristol really seems to fit my driving style. Ever since they polished the outside groove, you have to wait for it to come in. But when it comes in, it’s fast up there. So, I expect a lot of the fast cars to be up there on the high side. One of the most important tasks of the weekend will be getting the splitter control set properly.”

-- Quotes courtesy of Stewart-Haas Racing


Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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