Top-3 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver Quotes From The Birmingham News Qualifying
Joe Nemechek, driver of the No. 78 National Day of Prayer Chevrolet
“That’s the same car we had at Daytona, and we were really fast down there. They’ve been able to go back and work on it. We have to really thank Hendrick Motorsports for the engines.
“We’re a small organization that’s trying to compete with the big guys. Being a single-car team operating out of Denver, Colorado, this is a big day for this team.
(qualifying strategy) “You have to get in the car and go as fast as you can. If you don’t, with the situation we’re in not being locked in the top-35 (in points), you don’t get to play. That’s a tough day. I haven’t had very many of those throughout my career.
“With a new team and the COT, there are so many challenges that we have to overcome on a weekly basis. It’s about qualifying. You have to get qualified in. I’ve never had so much stress. It’s tough, one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do.
“This track is so smooth, it’s awesome. You can run anywhere you want to run.
“The guys working on the car have made it a little bit better since Daytona, and I think Hendrick Motorsports has found a little more power for us. It’s a pleasure to drive when they drive like this. It’s just getting them to drive like this every week that has been a challenge.
“When they drop the green flag, I’m going to go as hard as I can go. I think we’re going to be fast. We should be able to lead some laps. But with the COT, you never know.
“The goal is to finish the race, number one. We need to gain some points in this race. I think it’s a race we can have a very good finish out of. I’m looking forward to a good day.
“It takes a lot of work and a lot of innovative thinking to get your cars to go fast and cut through the air. We’re just a small team. We don’t have that many employees. You look at the mega companies, and we were able to beat them today. We’re very proud of that.”
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota
“I’m happy. It’s the best we’ve qualified here in a long time, and all three (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars are fast. The good news is we’re all starting close to each other up front. Obviously we would love to have been on the pole, but I’d trade the pole in for a win tomorrow any day of the week.
“I’m definitely real excited. We never even did any mock qualifying runs yesterday, so we didn’t have any clue what it was going to run today. I was just excited that it ran as good as it did.
“All the decisions I’ve made so far (in Talladega races) haven’t worked out. I don’t know what to do. You just hope on the last restart that you’re in position to be up close to the front. As much as you can get shuffled back at this place so easy, you try to hope that you’re in the right position at the right time to be there at the end, and then hope that you have the help that you need to get the rest of the way there.
“There’s no perfect strategy, or at least I don’t know it, obviously. You just hope you’re close enough up front where if you get that push you can get there.
(on having seven second-place finishes at Talladega but no victories) “Two or three or four of those second-place runs have been teamed up with Dale Jr. And second place still pays second-place points, no matter what. Dale Jr. and I were always a combination that could get together and run up front. It would just always work out that he would be the lead guy and I was the second guy.
“When you look at the big picture, it’s not that disappointing of a stat. It doesn’t mean that’s my goal for tomorrow, by any means. My goal is to go out and win this race. It has been all those times I ran second, too. There hasn’t been a pattern. The scenario has always been different
“There’s no way of predicting how the races are going to play out at the end. It’s all instinct and being in the right place at the right time at the end.”
Ken Schrader, driver of the No. 70 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet
“We knew we had a decent race car yesterday. Thought it ought to be a solid top-10, but you don’t know what everybody else is running, because they had the advantage of being able to do a little drafting practice.
“We did some stuff for qualifying that we’ll probably have to undo tomorrow. But first things first, and that was to be in the thing. We had to get today’s job done first.
“We’re definitely going to run the car some more this year. We’re working on the schedule. Jay Sauter is going to run it next week. That’s the only real good advantage I’ve found to being old so far. I told them just let me know if I need to be there.
“We thought we could run quick enough the first lap to lock in. And if anything happens on the second lap, you could be (out). So we decided to not throw away the first lap and go ahead and take it.
“The cars are so much faster when you’re drafting. We weren’t drafting, because we were worrying about today’s one lap. So we elected to not go out and be in the group yesterday. You’re not comparing apples to apples when you look at yesterday’s practices and speeds.
“We knew we’d be pretty solid. Thought for sure top-10. And as times went on today, thought we might be better than top-10. We’re happy with it. It went the speed that we thought it would.
“I believe we should be able to make those changes. And it helps a lot that we’re talking Talladega, as smooth as it is.”