News & Media


Say what? NASCAR filled with memorable quotes

December 29, 2011, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

It was a spectacular NASCAR season on the track, and no less interesting off it. From an overhaul of the sport's points system in January to the closest Sprint Cup championship race ever in November, it was a year full of events that had everyone talking. Here are some of the best of those comments, in chronological order:

January

NASCAR president Mike Helton, explaining the reasoning behind the sport's new, more simplified points system:

"This is like going to the high school dance. You're going to hook up with some girl and go until about 11 o'clock. But by 11:05, you're going to have to find another date, because she hooked up with your buddy. That's what you're dealing with."

--MARTIN TRUEX JR.'S SPOTTER KEITH BARNWELL

"Every form of motorsports championships is complicated. You have to be a really hardcore student or you look them up to figure out how it's calculated, including ours for a long time. Our goal was, with this change, was to give a fan an opportunity whether that fan is 5 years old or 85 years old, an opportunity to sit in the grandstand without technology or anything ... [and] being able to look at the race track and in their mind understand the fact that one position on that track is worth one point. And we think they've got a better opportunity to get [them] more engaged in the race by being able to understand it."

Team owner Richard Childress, on how much longer the reign of five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson would last:

"We had good season, and the only guy that had a great season was Jimmie Johnson. I'm really proud of what every one of these guys did last year. This year is the year to [knock] Jimmie off that throne."

Nationwide Series championship favorite Elliott Sadler, on taking the step down from the Sprint Cup circuit to the Nationwide tour:

"It's made me a better person. It's made me appreciate things a lot more. I took for granted when I drove for people like the Wood Brothers and Robert Yates and stuff like that. It's good to be with owners, and it's good to be with sponsors where, all they talk about is performance and racing. I promise you guys, it makes you a lot happier and a lot more focused on the job at hand, and that's getting the most points you can each and every week."

February

Martin Truex Jr.'s spotter Keith Barnwell, on managing the action during tandem drafting at Daytona International Speedway:

"This is like going to the high school dance. You're going to hook up with some girl and go until about 11 o'clock. But by 11:05, you're going to have to find another date, because she hooked up with your buddy. That's what you're dealing with."

Trevor Bayne, over team radio after winning the Daytona 500 in a Wood Brothers car:

"Are you kidding me? What?"

Wood Brothers co-owner Eddie Wood, on Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne:

"He reminds me of the great ones. He will be a great one. I told somebody the other day that I felt like he just might be the next big deal, and I think he is."

Jeff Gordon, after snapping a 66-race winless streak with a victory at Phoenix International Raceway:

"It feels so amazing. I can't tell you how amazing this feels. It's been a long time, I know, and I'm going to savor this one so much."

March

Danica Patrick, after a fourth-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which tied the best ever result for a female driver at NASCAR's national level:

"To be honest, I think we're making some real progress. We make progress every weekend, but it's just a matter of, are you on the lead lap and in position to take advantage by the end of the race?"

Kevin Harvick, on how losing to Jimmie Johnson a year earlier helped him win at Auto Club Speedway:

"I keep going back to last year. Last year taught me a lot about patience, and the things I needed to do to beat a guy that doesn't make mistakes. In order to do that, you can't make mistakes yourself. This race one year ago is what helped us win today, by being patient, not taking yourself out of the race, having something there at the end until it was time to go."

April

Kevin Harvick, on overtaking Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the final laps to win at Martinsville Speedway:

"I could see the people just going crazy coming off of Turn 2 when [Dale Earnhardt Jr.] took the lead from Kyle [Busch]. And as I was catching him, I'm like, 'Man, I'm gonna be the bad guy here. But I gotta do what I gotta do."

--KEVIN HARVICK

"I could see the people just going crazy coming off of Turn 2 when he took the lead from Kyle [Busch]. And as I was catching him, I'm like, 'Man, I'm gonna be the bad guy here. But I gotta do what I gotta do.'"

Matt Kenseth, on snapping a 76-race winless skid with a victory at Texas Motor Speedway:

"I've felt better the last six months. Everything's been looking up. Certainly the previous 12 months before that were frustrating for me, and as you start to get a little older, and you're not getting the results, and it's been over two years since we've won -- you can't help but thinking, 'OK, is this the way it's going to go? Are we going to keep trickling backward?' You just keep working as hard as you can at it, and try to get the cars as best you can, and then hopefully you'll have some more chances to win. But it certainly gives you more confidence, and it's a big relief to get back to Victory Lane and break that winless streak. It's been a long time."

Jimmie Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus, over the radio to Dale Earnhardt Jr., after Earnhardt pushed Johnson to a victory at Talladega Superspeedway:

"The next one is on us, brother."

May

Regan Smith, after earning his first Sprint Cup victory in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway:

"There were a lot of emotions. I was trying to get them all out at that point so I didn't show it too much on TV there. But I couldn't help it. It's Mother's Day weekend. My mom is not here. She's in Tuscaloosa, Ala. She left Thursday, about the same time I left to come down here, to help out with the [tornado] recovery efforts and save some animals down there. She's down there doing that. She's always been there for all my wins, all my races, everything. She doesn't miss too many of them. To not have her here, that got me choked up a little. It is now, too."

Kevin Harvick, to the crew of Kyle Busch, after Busch took out the No. 29 car in the final laps of the Southern 500 at Darlington, sparking a melee between the teams in the garage area:

"Y'all are a bunch of [expletives]!"

Dale Earnhardt Jr., after running out of fuel in the final corner while leading the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:

"To be honest, I know there's disappointment about coming so close , but our fans should be real happy about how we're performing, how we're showing up at the race track, how we've adapted. We've definitely improved things, and we want to keep getting better and better and better. ... We're definitely going in the right direction. I felt like a true frontrunner tonight. I've felt like that sometimes this season. But the 600 is a true test. Charlotte is a true test of a team, and we performed well all night long."

June

Brad Keselowski, after prevailing at Kansas Speedway in a fuel-mileage victory, and scoring his first win with Penske Racing:

"It's because of the bad finishes and the struggles that we had to get here that I really appreciate this win. We're in good shape. A few more wins like this and we can make the Chase."

NASCAR Hall of Fame selection Darrell Waltrip, on the nervousness he faced after being shut out of the hall's first two classes:

"When you don't get in the first go-round, that's understandable. And then the second go-round comes along and you go, I don't know, I felt pretty good about that one. And then you get to this point, and you start wondering -- maybe there's something. Maybe there's something that's going to keep me from getting in for a while. And it was that talk about the pioneers and the guys who built the sport early on, and I understood that. I guess I could have accepted that if all the guys from that same era as I, if none of us got in. That would be one thing, but if you start picking and choosing, then that made me a little bit nervous."

Brian Vickers, after exacting revenge on Tony Stewart at Infineon Raceway, and contact that left the No. 14 car hanging from a tire barrier.

"He wrecked me, and I wrecked him back."

July

David Ragan, after winning at Daytona International Speedway for his first career Sprint Cup victory:

"I knew we could do it all along. I feel like we should have done this 100 years ago."

Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger, on the traffic jam that marred the facility's inaugural Sprint Cup event:

"I think the basic issue was that cars just kept coming. We parked a ton of cars. We parked a ton of cars. And they kept coming. We parked cars in every square inch of this place. The neighbors parked cars in all the remote lots that we had estimated that would have been more than sufficient for this crowd size, and yet they still kept coming. That was the issue. We'll look at all the data, and we'll figure it out."

Slugger Labbe, Paul Menard's crew chief, on the fuel strategy that helped the No. 27 team win the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

"Seems to be a trend in the Cup Series, that people take gambles on pit road. It was our turn to get aggressive. I told Paul he had to support me. He supported me a hundred percent [Sunday]. Three times he had an occasion where he could have said 'No, I don't want to do that,' but he did. Fortunately it worked out."

August

Kurt Busch, on racing at Pocono Raceway that led to a pit-road confrontation with Jimmie Johnson:

"You want to race, let's race. I didn't know we were supposed to pull over when it came down to five to go. ... I raced him hard. I raced him smart. I raced him clean, and he wants to come over here and bitch about it."

Jimmie Johnson, one week later at Watkins Glen International, addressing the same incident:

"The bottom line is, he just started running his mouth. And if you look at over the years and what his mouth has done for him, it got ... Jimmy Spencer to punch him in the face. It's led to issues with the NASCAR officials on pit road. I think we all tune in weekly to wonder what he's going to say to his crew guys. You look at what he said to Roger Penske, his car owner. That aspect is the part that really got me mad. At the end of the day, I'm not going to let him run his mouth at me. That's kind of how it is."

Marcos Ambrose, after scoring his first career Sprint Cup victory at Watkins Glen:

"Just a dream day. The sacrifices you make, we all make to get here, [crew chief] Todd [Parrott] and all the team, the Petty family, my family to get here, to be a contender in the Cup Series, to finally get to Victory Lane -- it just is a dream come true for me. I've traveled halfway around the world and dragged my kids and my wife with me, and I kept telling them I was good, but until you can win in the Cup Series you can't really put that stamp on it."

September

Jeff Gordon, after winning at Atlanta Motor Speedway for his 85th career victory, moving him into sole possession of third on NASCAR's all-time list:

"To win 85, you know, is unbelievable. And to do it here at Atlanta -- I'm not sure really to kind of rank everything, because the significance of this win today, the timing of it, doing it here in Atlanta on such a tough race track, battling with Jimmie [Johnson], the bonus points, the 85th win, the momentum that this team has got right now and the race cars we're taking to the race track. Man, this is cool."

Steve Letarte, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief, on Tony Stewart's assessment that he wasn't worthy of a Chase bid:

"If you believed him when he said [that] ... you've never raced Tony Stewart. He's a master of deflection. He seems to always be there."

Tony Stewart, on whether his victory in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway made him a favorite for the Sprint Cup title:

"One day doesn't change the whole season."

October

Jimmie Johnson, after crashing at Charlotte Motor Speedway to fall well out of the championship lead:

"We just have to go racing, that's all there is to it. There's five races left, and a lot can happen in those five races. But [this was] definitely not the night I wanted. This is not going to help us win a sixth championship. I promise you, this team and myself won't quit. We'll go for every point we can from here on out, and hopefully we're still champions at the end of the year."

Matt Kenseth, on taking out Brian Vickers after a series of incidents between the two at Martinsville Speedway:

"We're at Martinsville and I gave him the bottom. Obviously, I'm not going to roll over and let him go with 40 to go or whatever it was, and he just kept driving in harder and harder, and he slammed me in the door at least five times and just ran me up in the marbles, and I was just tired of it. So I spun him out."

"That was my maximum effort, right there. And Tony beat us."

--CARL EDWARDS

Tony Stewart, after winning at Martinsville to pull within eight points of series leader Carl Edwards:

"My adrenaline has worn off, and he better not sleep too long the next three weeks. It's no disrespect to him. He's a great competitor, he's a great guy, he's with a great organization that deserves their shot at that championship, too. We've had one of those up-and-down years and we're having a run in this Chase now where we're hungry. We're hungry for this. I feel like our mindset into these next three weeks, we've been nice all year to a lot of guys, given guys a lot of breaks. We're cashing tickets in these next three weeks."

November

Jimmie Johnson, after seeing his five-year reign atop NASCAR's premier series end after being mathematically eliminated at Phoenix International Raceway:

"To a certain degree, being on top for as long as we have been takes a lot of effort to maintain that. It just takes a lot out of you. So this winter will be a nice winter to unplug and relax and really look internally and dissect the different areas of the race team and what we do and come back stronger."

Tony Stewart, on how far he would go to beat Carl Edwards for the Sprint Cup title in the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway:

"I'd wreck my mom to win a championship. I'll wreck your mom to win a championship. ... I respect him as a driver, but this isn't about friendships this weekend. This is a war. This is a battle. This is for a national championship. It's no holds barred this weekend. I didn't come this far to be one step away from it and let it slip away, so we're going to go for it."

Carl Edwards, after finishing second to Stewart in the finale and losing the championship on a tiebreaker:

"That was my maximum effort, right there. And Tony beat us."

Tony Stewart, after passing a total of 118 cars and rebounding from mechanical trouble to win the season's final race and edge Carl Edwards for his third championship in NASCAR's premier division:

"To do it under the circumstances and the pressure that we had today, I'm very, very proud of that. And man, I've been racing 31 years, I can't even remember some of the races I've won. But I would have to say that under the circumstances, I've got to believe that this is definitely one of the greatest races of my life."