AVONDALE, ARIZ. – When the dust settled from the wild race at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR), Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, emerged as the winner of the AdvoCare 500. It is Harvick’s first win of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) season, and the 19th of his career.
Harvick, who won at PIR on two previous occasions, led once for 15 laps in the 319-lap race, seven laps longer than the originally advertised distance.
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet, came into the 35th race of the season leading the points by seven when the green flag dropped. Working his way through the field from his 24th place starting position, the five-time NSCS champion had skillfully maneuvered to the top-10. But, with 77 laps to go Johnson’s right front tire blew, sending him into the wall, and then to the garage for repairs. He returned to the race 38 laps down to the leaders. He was scored in the 32nd finishing position, and heads to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a 20-point deficit to leader Brad Keselowski (Dodge).
The race ended in a green-white-checkered finish when the race was extended following an on-track altercation involving Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, and Clint Bowyer (Toyota) in the closing laps. Gordon was unable to finish the final laps, and was scored with a disappointing 30th place finish.
The melee continued with a multi-car accident as the field thundered toward the checkered flag. Harvick held off Denny Hamlin (Toyota) and Kyle Busch (Toyota), who finished second and third respectively, as well as Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet in fourth. Despite being one of the severely damaged cars in the final wreck, Ryan Newman brought his No. 39 Quicken Loans/U.S. Army Chevrolet home in fifth place.
Other Team Chevy drivers in the top-10 were: Kurt Busch, No. 78 Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet – 8th and Paul Menard, No. 27 Rheem/Menards Chevrolet – 9th. Both Busch and Menard sustained damage to their race cars in the front straightaway wreck.
Danica Patrick, No. 10 GoDaddy Racing Chevrolet, was running 13th when the final wreck ensued, and limped to the checkered flag in 17th place in front of her hometown crowd.
The remainder of the Team Chevy contenders in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup finished as follows: Tony Stewart, No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet – 19th, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet -21st.
The season will conclude on Sunday, November 18th at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET – WINNER: THAT FINAL RESTART YOU HAD A SLICK RACE TRACK LOTS OF OIL DRY YOU ARE ALMOST OUT OF GAS AND A FIRED UP KYLE BUSCH BESIDE YOU. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT? “Well, I thought as crazy as this year has been for our Budweiser Chevy, I’m just thinking about not over driving the first corner, whether we were going to run out of gas or not, how far the No. 18 was going to drive it in. Then they were really quick to throw the caution and then just let us race through oil. I don’t know I guess it’s hard for them to be right. I’ve got to thank all the fans and Sprint, Budweiser, Rheem, Jimmy Johns, Chevrolet, Okuma, Realtree, Bad Boy Buggies, Hunt Brothers, everybody who helps us and thank you to all who have served this country we wouldn’t be able to do what we do today without that.”
THE WEEKEND BEGAN WITH EVERYONE TALKING ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE GOING TO BE IN 2014, BUT LET’S TALK ABOUT WHAT THIS MEANS TO END THE RCR DROUGHT AND A DROUGHT FOR YOU IN VICTORY LANE THAT HAS BEEN OVER A YEAR: “Well, it has been a struggle for the year. It has been an interesting weekend to say the least, but I know that these guys all want to win. I know Richard (Childress) wants to win and regardless of what happens in 2014 we have the end of this year and we’ve got all of next year. We want to win races and we want to be competitive and that is what we are here to do.”
ON HIS RACE: “What a great day. The car was really tight to start with and these guys did a great job on pit road. Gil (Martin, crew chief) did a great job with strategy and just gave us a chance. From there we raced and were able to put ourselves in position to race for the win. On the restarts we were able to get going pretty good and that last one was a little tense regardless and then we had to dirt track it through the oil there off of turn four. Regardless, it’s a great day for our Budweiser Chevy and just glad to be in Victory Lane.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 QUICKEN LOANS CHEVROLET – FINISHED 5TH: HE BRINGS HOME A BEATEN UP RACE CAR WITH A TOP-FIVE TODAY WHAT ABOUT THOSE LAST LAPS? “Well my race car is junk. That was a good run for our Quicken Loans Chevrolet, Veterans Day a special paint scheme really proud of everything there, but really disappointed in the way NASCAR handled that last lap there. That was not fair to the drivers at all.”
KURT BUSCH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW/FARM AMERICAN CHEVROLET – FINISHED 8TH: ON HIS RACE: “That was a wild ending, not sure at the time what was happening. I just stayed on the gas to get to the finish line. Everything was going smoothly and it was looking like a sixth-place finish for the Furniture Row car. But then all of a sudden all heck broke loose. I saw the door of the No. 16 car (Greg Biffle) come across my left front, and from there I went on to smack the wall. I kept on going and was able to nudge (Paul) Menard for eighth. We had a great run going today until a loose lug nut put us a lap down. We definitely had a car that was capable of winning, but you can’t afford those kinds of mistakes. However, we did battle back to notch our second straight top-10 finish. We keep on making progress. I like everything I see about this Furniture Row team.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – FINISHED 12TH: ON HIS RACE: “The Target Chevy was good all weekend. We struggled a little bit on the long runs. The car would start to get really tight but otherwise it wasn’t a bad day for us. We managed to stay out of trouble and stay on the lead lap all day. We’re making gains every weekend.”
DANICA PATRICK, NO. 10 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET – FINISHED 17th: WHAT HAPPENED IN TURNS THREE AND FOUR? “We had a green-white-checkered it was a nice exciting finish for the fans. Got around (turns) one and two and came off had decent distance on the No. 31 and he went down and took the apron got down into (turn) three and I did not think he was near close enough to be on me going into (turn) three. I left a little bit of room, not a ton of room for sure, but I think, Tony Gibson (crew chief) said he went down and talked to him and he said he just went in too deep. Clipped my left-rear, spun me around and I just tried to limp back to the line. I didn’t know exactly how much damage I had or what it was, but just trying to limp to the line and get the finish on the lead lap, whatever that was. Still our best finish, but you always want more. I was 13th I think or something right around there and that would have been a really good finish. Shoot, some days I would take that in a Nationwide car.”
HARD HIT ON THE FRONT STRETCH ARE YOU OKAY? “Yes, everything is fine. Obviously, there was the glance in (turn) three and four, but I definitely got airborne down the front straight. What is unfortunate is I’m pretty sure that the No. 39 was one of them. I hope I didn’t cause a problem, but I think we have different cars for Homestead hopefully. We don’t run our short-track cars on the big track right? And we get new ones next year. This will make for good charity crash damage body work.”
ON INCIDENT: “Green-white-checkered at the end. It was an exciting race at the end. Man, we save it all at the end in these Cup races. Came out of two on the back-straight, and with the No. 31 (Jeff Burton), and he took the apron. I already had a good distance coming out of two. The apron was not quicker all day long to make a pass, unless you had a big run going. So, got into three, and I think Tony Gibson (Crew Chief) went down and talked to him, and he (Burton) said ‘I’m sorry, I just bonzaied. I just went in too deep.” The No. 31 clipped me, I spun around, got it going again. Was on fire I think, and I was trying to get across the line. I was literally trying to drive into the wall then drive along it because I couldn’t see. I don’t know exactly what happened. I heard there might have been oil from me, or something. If so, I definitely wasn’t intending to make a mess. But 17th…we were 13th, that’s pretty good. Short tracks are not my strong suit.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE CAUTION NOT BEING CALLED? “Hmmmm. I’d have to see it. I think NASCAR does a good job of doing what’s safe and what’s right. We are all human though, and you also can’t control the intangibles; anything can happen how there. That’s why we watch right.”
TONY GIBSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 10 GODADDY RACING CHEVROLET: ON DANICA’S RACE: “Another great day. Everybody did a really good job today. She raced hard. She had some great runs today. She raced herself to the Lucky Dog there, and got a lap back. Then she was solid, man. She had a top-10, 12 car all day long. She deserved to finish 12th at least. But, she got wrecked by (Jeff) Burton. But, it’s our best finish. 17th. We’ll take that. But we know we were better than that. She’s getting better, and better, and better. It just makes up pumped for next year. She said herself, I wish we were going to Homestead. It is just pumping everybody up. It’s exciting. I’m glad we got these two races in, because it just shows her she can drive and run with these guys. It puts confidence in our guys, that yes, she can do it. Around the whole table it is awesome.”
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/ALLSTATE CHEVROLET – FINISHED 23RD ON HIS RACE: “We fought with the balance of the Bass Pro Shops/Allstate Chevy all day. The guys did a great job in pits, but the long, green flag runs didn’t play into our strategy. We’ll continue working hard as we head to final race of the season in Miami next weekend.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, FINISHED 30TH – INVOLVED IN ON-TRACK INCIDENT WITH CLINT BOWYER: ON THE INCIDENT: “Things have gotten escalated over the year and I have just had it. Clint (Bowyer) has run into me numerous times, wrecked me and he got into me on the back straightaway, pretty much ruined our day. I have had it, was fed up with it and got him back.”
IN THE MELEE IN THE GARAGE DID YOU GET HIT? “No.”
ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT ANY PENALTIES? “They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do. Just like I had to do what I had to do.”
ON INCIDENT: “Clint (Bowyer) has run into me numerous times, wrecked me. He got into me on the back straightaway, and pretty much ruined our day. I had it. That was it, and got him back.”
WHAT DID YOU TELL THEM IN THE NASCAR HAULER? “I told them what I just told you.”
ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT WHAT COMES NEXT? “They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do, and I guess I had to do what I had to do.”
ALAN GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, FINISHED 30TH:– COMMENTS FOLLOWING THE ON-TRACK INCIDENT INVOLVING JEFF GORDON AND CLINT BOWYER:
WHY DID JEFF GORDON GET SO UPSET BY THAT MOVE (MADE BY CLINT BOWYER) THEY WERE NOT RACING FOR THE LEAD: “Well I mean it’s about the fifth time that he (Clint Bowyer) has run us over. After a while you get really frustrated. We all work really hard on these cars and Jeff (Gordon) races everybody with a lot of respect. Evidently he had enough. If you are going to play that way, if you are going to race that way then you shouldn’t be upset when you get it back.”
YOU ARE THE ONE THAT HAS TO FIX THIS RACE CAR NOW. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND IMPRESSIONS ON JEFF (GORDON) WRECKING THIS CAR? “I love Jeff Gordon. I stand by him 100 percent and that is what we had to do. We will fix them all day long. He is a great race car driver and he knows, everybody out here will tell you he is as good a race car driver and a competitor as there is. If he is tired of it, it means it’s time.”
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN HIM THAT FIRED UP? “That was pretty fired up.”
ON THE CRASH BETWEEN JEFF GORDON AND CLINT BOWYER “We had a pretty good car. It was a good race. And we were having a good top five run and just got used up by the No. 15 (Clint Bowyer) and obviously we take offense to that and it’s not the first time it’s happened. After a while, that adds up and adds up and it’s time to put a stop to it.”
CREWS GOT INVOLVED; JEFF GORDON GOT INVOLVED, EVERYBODY GOT INVOLVED “The crew thing is it’s between Jeff and Clint and not those team members. My instructions to the guys was just don’t let anybody get to Jeff. And that’s what that’s about. We’re going to protect him and stand behind him at all costs. Those guys obviously have tempers running high as are ours, and that’s what happens.”
WHY WOULD JEFF GORDON GET SO UPSET BY THAT MOVE? THEY WEREN’T RACING FOR THE WIN? “Well, it’s about the fifth time that he’s run us over and after a while you get really frustrated with that. We all work really hard on these cars and Jeff races everybody with a lot of respect and evidentially he had enough. If you’re going to play that way, if you’re going to race that way, then you shouldn’t be upset when you get it back.”
YOU’RE THE ONE THAT HAS TO FIX THIS RACE CAR NOW. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND IMPRESSIONS ON JEFF WRECKING THIS CAR? “I love Jeff Gordon and I stand by him 100 percent, and that’s what we have to do. We’ll fix them all day long and he’s a great race car driver and everybody out here will tell you he’s as good a race car driver and a competitor as there is and if he’s tired of it, that means he’s tired of it. He was pretty fired up.”
MICHAEL WALTRIP SAID THIS WAS CHICKEN-BLANK. HE’S VERY UPSET. “I don’t care.”
WHERE DID YOU FEEL LIKE CLINT BOWYER HAS DONE THINGS AGAINST YOU THIS YEAR? “I can’t sit here and name them all. There are a couple of instances where we got into some difficult situations and both Martinsvilles come to mind right away. He cost us a win there.”
YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY SHAKING MAD NOW. WE CAN TELL BECAUSE YOU ARE USUALLY COOL, CALM, AND COLLECTED. WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF ALL THIS? “It’s racing man; that’s what happens.”
RICK HENDRICK, TEAM OWNER, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS: COMMENTS ON THE INCIDENT INVOLVING JEFF GORDON AND CLINT BOWYER: “I think the best thing for me to do is not say anything right now because you know everybody’s emotions are pretty raw. I like Clint (Bowyer) a lot he is a good guy. I like all those guys.”
WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN YOU SAW JIMMIE’S (JOHNSON) CAR HIT THE WALL? HOW DEVASTATING IS THAT? “It’s a tough deal. You hate that because you hate to have a problem like that. But that is just… you cut a tire and that happens and you just part of it. I hate it, but we will go on to Homestead.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET – FINISHED 32nd DUE TO ACCIDENT DUE TO A BLOWN RIGHT FRONT TIRE WITH 77 LAPS TO GO; MADE REPAIRS IN GARAGE, AND RETURNED TO RACE 33 LAPS DOWN “We still have to go to Homestead and race and anything can happen down there. But this is not the position we want to be in late in Phoenix. I feel terrible for my team and how hard these guys work; everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and Lowe’s and Kobalt Tools and Chevrolet. Across the board there has been a huge effort put in to try to get us a championship and I just hate for our day to turn out as it did today. But, that’s racing and we’ll go to Homestead and do all we can down there and see how things pan out.”
WHAT WAS GOING ON WITH THE RACE CAR AND WHAT WERE YOU TRYING TO DO WITH IT WHEN THE ACCIDENT OCCURRED? “We were cruising along and I think we would have had a top five day or a top 10 day if things worked out at the end. And I had a slight vibration starting in the right front. I didn’t really know where it was coming from but clearly now it was the right front. And as I was coming off of Turn 4, it went down and I went straight in the wall. If I were another 30 or 40 feet around the corner, I probably would just have had a flat and not hit the wall. But, where it let go, I had a direct line to the wall and knocked it down.”
FATE USUALLY SMILES ON YOU, BUT IT DIDN’T SEEM TO THAT TIME “No, that’s the way it goes. Anything can happen in racing. I’m very proud of the year. I’m very proud of the effort my entire Lowe’s team has put in. I hate to see it potentially end this way, but again, that’s racing. I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve won a few championships and I’ve lost a lot. Losing isn’t any fun; but we’ll be back next weekend and next year and do the best job we can.”
WHAT HAPPENED OUT THERE ON THE RACE TRACK? “We blew a tire coming off Turn 4 and I hit the wall real hard and damaged the race car. I think we would have been in the top five maybe at best; maybe 7th or 8th the way the race was unfolding. It’s unfortunate to have the day end like this and potentially end our season and hopes for a championship this way.”
DESCRIBE NOW THE EMOTIONS AND WHAT YOU GUYS HAVE TO DO TO REGROUP TO RALLY BACK WHEN YOU GET TO MIAMI? “Well, that’s what this team is made of. We’ll always rally and regroup and do all we can. Unfortunately we lost a lot of control or all control in the championship. We can go down there and win the race and do everything on our behalf and it still won’t net us a championship. So, we’ll go down and do our part and just see how things unfold. Today was proof that anything can happen in this sport and we’ll see how things shake out in Miami.”
YOU DISCUSSED LOSING CONTROL. HOW DOES THIS IMPACT THE WAY YOU APPROACH IT NEXT WEEKEND? “Well, it takes a lot of pressure off. I would much rather have the pressure of trying to win the championship and hang on to the points lead, but the position we’re in now, it really is a go for broke mentality from driving the car and all those types of things to try and catch the No. 2 car in this situation. If they have some bad luck it changes our game plan. But right now they have a ton of control going to Homestead.”
WITH HOW GOOD BRAD KESELOWSKI WAS, DO YOU THINK HE WAS PUSHING YOU A LITTLE BIT HARDER THAN YOU WOULD HAVE LIKED AT THAT POINT IN TIME? “It wasn’t necessarily on Brad’s behalf. It was just the No. 2. He was one of six or seven cars in front that had his feet on speed. The run prior to our tire going down, we were really, really fast. And I didn’t see this coming. I knew my car was tight that run the tire exploded, but I didn’t think we were going to have an issue with the tire going down. So, just running hard. It wasn’t driven by the No. 2. We’ve always raced out own race to see where the chips may fall and that was really all we were doing today.”
ON HIS CAR “We were just decent all weekend long. Qualifying didn’t go all that well but from there on, we made some improvements on the car and we were a top 10 maybe a top five car in a lot of different situations, but I think Brad started off as like a top 10 car and worked himself into a top five and was racing for the win; and I was content coming out of here within a few points up or down. I thought that was how our day was going to turn out and we would go to Homestead and race like crazy. But that tire going down changed that a lot.”
ON CHAMPIONSHIP: “It’s way, way out of our control obviously with the problem we had today. We still have to go to Homestead and race. Anything can happen down there, but not the position we want to be in leaving Phoenix. I feel terrible for my team and how hard these guys work. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, Lowe’s, KOBALT Tools, Chevrolet, across the board this has been a huge effort put into this to try to get us a championship. I just hate for our day to turn out as it did today, but that’s racing. We will go to Homestead and do all we can down there and see how things pan out.”
WHAT WAS GOING ON WITH THE RACE CAR? WHAT WERE YOU TRYING TO DO WITH IT WHEN THE ACCIDENT OCCURRED? “We were cruising along and I think going to have a top-10 day maybe a top-five day if things worked out at the end. I had a slight vibration starting in the right-front, I didn’t know where it was really coming from, but clearly now it was the right front. Then as I was coming off of turn four it went down and straight in the wall I went. Another 30, 40 feet around the corner I probably would have just had a flat and not hit the wall. Where it let go I had a direct line into the wall and knocked it down.”
FATE USUALLY SMILES ON YOU IT DIDN’T SEEM TO THAT TIME: “No, it’s the way it goes. Anything can happen in racing. I’m very proud of the year and very proud of the effort my entire Lowe’s team has put in. I hate to see it potentially end this way, but again that’s racing. I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve won a few championships and I’ve lost a lot. Loosing isn’t any fun, but we will be back next weekend and next year hungrier than ever and do the best job we can.”
DESCRIBE NOW WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO GOING TO HOMESTEAD: “Well that is what this team is made of we will always rally, regroup and do all we can. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of control or all control in the championship. We go down there and win the race and do everything on our behalf and it still won’t net us a championship. We will go down and do our part and just see how things unfold. Today was proof that anything can happen in this sport and we will see how things shake out in Miami.”