6:05 p.m. -- Comments from Chad Knaus, Jimmie Johnson's crew chief:
It was a great day for us today. We didn't start the weekend off like we wanted to, qualifying as poorly as we did. Pit selection and track position was a bit of a hindrance at the beginning.
The car was ill?handling to say the least at the beginning but Jimmie really manned up at that point and drove the car straight up to the top 10 -- even with the car handling as poorly as what it was. When we got to the first pit stop, we were able to make some adjustments to car and it definitely got better. I think it got faster. It was exciting. It was fun to be able to pass through all those cars and work through traffic and be able to get into the top five to where we could race with all the guys. We felt as though, coming into that last pit stop, if we took four tires and went out somewhere in the top eight, that we would have a shot to win the race if everybody else took two. To leave pit road in third position, we were really pleased.
(Jeff Gordon said that his crew chief, Steve Letart, was pretty upset after the race because of their decision ot take only two tires on the last pit stop. What do you say to him when you go to work tomorrow and he's upset that you out?smarted him?) I didn't outsmart him -- he did not make the wrong call. There wasn't a wrong call to make. They came in first, they wanted to maintain track position because track position is so critical. The only way for us to beat them was to do something different. I didn't know they were taking two tires, he didn't know we were taking four tires. So I went with my plan because I thought that's what we needed to do because I had assumed a bunch of people were going to take two tires. Steve is a fantastic crew chief. He has done a phenomenal job with that race team. I think the way he works with me in the shop is unparalleled. He's a great teammate and a good friend of mine. He did not make the wrong call. He did what he thought was right to try to win that race and he came up a little bit short -- just a little bit. So there's no fault to him.
5:45 p.m. -- Comments from Jimmie Johnson, who won the Shelby American:
I'm really proud of the car we brought to the track. We had to work on it some through the race. But, you know, it was so fast on the long haul that we could make up ground from the 20th-place starting position we had.
We worked up into the top 10 and then worked up into the top five. At parts of the race, we were kind of stuck there behind the 24 (Jeff Gordon) and the 17 (Matt Kenseth). I think we were all very equal at that point in time and just couldn't get by one another and it came down to pit stops. I thought the race was going to come down to pit stops and who got a good restart and it kind of turned out that way, although the four tires I think helped us more than anything. I got a good start and got around (Clint) Bowyer at the top of (turns) one and two. I was behind Jeff, chasing him. I'd been chasing him all day and I wasn't sure I'd get by him but I just kept putting a lot of pressure on him, hoping he'd make a mistake, hoping that I could get him to overdrive his car and make it tight or do something wrong. Finally, I was able to get inside of him and committed to trying the slide job on him in three and four and bombed it off in there and I was able to get by. It was a great day.
(Two wins in a row. Are you starting to feel invincible early in the season?) No. I don't know if it's just our makeup or mindset or what it is. If you get off to a quick start, I think (Chad and I are) both sitting here, even though we haven't talked about it, thinking that we can't sit still; complacency is going to kill you. We're looking forward to going to Atlanta with new ideas and new things. We're excited, it's early in the year and it is a relief to know that we worked in the right areas over the off?season but Richmond is a long, long way away from right now and we need to keep collecting points, winning races, make the Chase and then get to work for what we're really here for. It's great but we don't feel invincible, though. It was nice to go out there today and really earn this one, race Jeff that hard for the win. So I feel very good about things but 'invincible?' Far from that.
(You won three in a row here at LVMS but the past two years, you were off. Did you put any extra emphasis on this race in the off?season to try to get back on track here?) In 2008, we tried to come back to win that fourth one in a row, we were just off -- and not just the 48 car, but the company. We went to California beforehand and salvaged a good run there and then came here. We were trying new things, trying to advance because we didn't have a lot of testing take place pre?season and we just miss ed it. Luckily, then, there was testing allowed and I think it was 26 or 27 test sessions later, we found our stuff running how it should and ready for the Chase, just in time for the Chase. So in '08, we just got off a little bit and it can happen to anyone in the sport.
Last year we were really, really fast. We were leading the race coming to pit road under green and (Jeff Gordon) was trying to follow us in and missed pit in and flat-spotted the left-front tire and then I had to drive around, while I was driving around, the tire blew and got a caution. We were unlucky being on pit road at that point. Then I was trying to come back up through the field and stuffed it in the wall up in (turn) two. That's why we had such a bad finish. Last year really doesn't show what the team had in it but '08, we were off.
5:20 p.m. -- Comments from Kevin Harvick, who finished second in the Shelby American:
It was a good day. For us, I put us behind on Friday when I smacked the wall there in practice. The guys did a great job fixing the car and we just got behind from that point and we were able to make up ground today. That to me is the most promising thing we've been able to do the last two weeks, is go to the back and come to the front. It was tough to pass today and we were able to get the track position that we needed at the end of the race. We just came up one spot short.
I feel like the beginning of the run, (Johnson and Gordon) got out from us. I felt like at the end of the run we were just as good as they were. It's just a matter of we got a little bit looser than we had been all day long the last two runs. We can run with them and they know it.
(You took two tires on the last stop. Were you surprised that Jeff Gordon did?) I don't remember if the last caution was the caution where they had all the lap cars in between. But, you know, I think, yeah, it all just depends on how your car is handling. The balance of our car didn't change when we put two tires on it and it didn't change when we put no tires on it. Our car was fairly consistent all day. I don't know exactly what they were fighting. Sometimes if you're a little bit loose you put two tires on and the thing will tighten up a little bit. I don't know what the characteristics of his car were at that point.
(If you had a better starting position, a better Friday, do you think you could have given Johnson a run for his money?) I mean, we had the opportunity there at the end and just kind of got ?? we were fifth or sixth there on the restart and kind of lost the same distance that we were behind at the end of the race. You know, having a better Friday would have been very beneficial for us to keep our track position where we needed it to be there at the end. If we had been second or third, I think we could have run with him. Do I think we could have beat him? I don't know, but I think we would have at least had a shot.
5:05 p.m. -- Comments from Jeff Gordon, who finished third in the Shelby American:
Obviously it was a great day for us. It was a dominating performance. The car was awesome, everything was good, and I'm very disappointed to get beat by a two- versus four-tire stop. Steve (Letarte, crew chief) and I talked about it all weekend long and going into today and we came here to win it. We knew we were going to have to take chances and risks and we did throughout the day and it paid off for us, we just thought more people would take two tires (on that last pit stop) and it just didn't work out.
(Do you ever have a day where you ask yourself, 'Why did I bring Jimmie Johnson to Rick Hendrick?') Today I do. (Laughing.) Five or 10 years from now when I'm cashing in on it, I'm not. Somebody once told me that if you're gonna get beat, make sure you're getting a piece of it. That's one positive to take out of it. It doesn't matter to me who it is out there -- whether it's our own teammate or a competitor -- you want to go out there and compete against the best and you want to beat the best. While it's coming in-house, it's still another competitor and it drives us and inspires us and motivates us. The reason you saw us perform and dominate the way we did today is because of those guys (the 48 team) and we don't take that lightly. We came here today on a mission and we did it all day long and, unfortunately, the two-tire stop just didn't work out for us.
(On the decision to take two tires on the last pit stop) That's how it goes sometimes. When you're leading, that's the toughest position to be in and to make that call. (Letarte) felt like more people were going to take two tires. Shoot, we were thinking for a split-second to stay out. If we would have done that, I think we would have finished tenth. I felt like we needed to come in and get some tires but I felt like two tires was the right call, too. We just needed the 48 (Johnson) to take two and they did the opposite of us and that won the race for them.
(On leading 219 of the 267 laps and finishing third) I'm disappointed but at the same time, we haven't dominated like this in a very, very long time. I'm disappointed that the opportunity got away, that we dominated so much and that we had the car to win the race... but at the same time, I'm really excited about this race team. I've been saying it all winter long and even the first two races I've been trying to say it but if you don't have the results, then it doesn't matter. And so today we showed what we're capable of and it gives us a lot of momentum to go to Atlanta. I think we've got more of what we showed today ... I think we're just starting to tap into it.
4:25 p.m. -- Comments from Kyle Busch, who finished 15th:
Our M&M's Camry wasn't bad all day. We were a little tight early in the race and our balance wasn't bad, it just didn't seem like we had the speed. We ran a really patient race, but on our last stop there was too much rear brake and I slid across the line coming in; totally my fault. I'm just sorry for the guys since we had a decent car but didn't finish where we ran all day long.
4:25 p.m. -- Comments from Kurt Busch, who started on the pole but finished 35th after being collected in a wreck on lap 93:
Certainly not the day that we anticipated with our Miller Lite Dodge. We had great expectations starting on the pole here at my home track and Lady Luck wasn't on our side. We struggled a bit early with the slick track conditions, but I knew that Steve (Addington, crew chief) had the game plan to tighten us up during that first (pit) stop. We talked on the radio and we both knew that there was plenty of race left to get our Miller Lite Dodge back to the front.
We got the car back underneath us, but then we got caught up in the wreck with the 1 (Jamie McMurray) and 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) that basically ended our day. It was a bit confusing and I'm still not sure what happened. We were 11th on the board on the restart and the next thing I knew we're positioned on the outside of Row 6 in 12th. I was a sitting duck for the wreck in front of us. Do we get collected if we're on the inside lane? Who knows. It happened and we have to move on. The Miller Lite guys did all that they could to get the right side fixed so that I could go out, make some laps and finish the race.
3:09 p.m. -- Jimmie Johnson took advantage of a four-tire pit stop late in the race and passed Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon with 16 laps remaining and won today's Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Gordon dominated for much of the race until the final round of pits stops, with 37 laps to go. Gordon opted to take two tires while Johnson took on four and Johnson was able to track down his teammate. It was Johnson's second consecutive victory, the 49th of his Sprint Cup career and his fourth victory in the past six Cup races at LVMS.
Kevin Harvick, who won Saturday's Sam's Town 300 at LVMS, beat Gordon to the line for second place. Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five.
Stay tuned for race stats and comments from the drivers.
3 p.m. -- The top 10 in the Shelby American after 250 of 267 laps: 1. Jeff Gordon; 2. Jimmie Johnson; 3. Kevin Harvick; 4. Mark Martin; 5. Matt Kenseth; 6. Joey Logano; 7. Tony Stewart; 8. Clint Bowyer; 9. Greg Biffle; 10. Kasey Kahne.
2:40 p.m. -- Las Vegas Motor Speedway officials announced that they sold all remaining tickets this morning for the Shelby American, marking the ninth consecutive year the race has been a sellout.
2:30 p.m. -- The top 10 in the Shelby American after 200 of 267 laps: 1. Jeff Gordon; 2. Jimmie Johnson; 3. Kevin Harvick; 4. Kyle Busch; 5. Tony Stewart; 6. Kasey Kahne; 7. Greg Biffle; 8. Mark Martin; 9. Clint Bowyer; 10. Joey Logano.
There have been six cautions for 25 laps and there are 11 cars on the lead lap
2:15 p.m. -- Juan Pablo Montoya, on the incident on lap 93 with teammate Jamie McMurray: "He runs straight into my a**. He nearly ran me into the fence in (Turn 2), as well. I don't know; he's not doing himself any favors. I'm sure he (McMurray) is going to say, 'Oh, I didn't mean that.'"
2 p.m. -- The top 10 in the Shelby American after 150 of 267 laps: 1. Jeff Gordon; 2. Jimmie Johnson; 3. Jeff Burt on; 4. Kevin Harvick; 5. Kyle Busch; 6. Tony Stewart; 7. Mark Martin; 8. Kasey Kahne; 9. Joey Logano; 10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
1:40 p.m. -- Pole-sitter and Las Vegas native Kurt Busch was involved in a three-car wreck on lap 93 and is three laps off the pace after 110 laps. The incident started when Jamie McMurray got into Earnhardt Ganassi Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya in Turn 4 and Busch was collected. Montoya's car is in the garage getting repaired and McMurray, this year's Daytona 500 winner, is the last car on the lead lap.
1:30 p.m. -- The top 10 in the Shelby American after 100 of 267 laps: 1. Jeff Gordon; 2. Matt Kenseth; 3. Carl Edwards; 4. Greg Biffle; 5. Tony Stewart; 6. Jimmie Johnson; 7. Jeff Burton; 8. Kyle Busch; 9. Mark Martin; 10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
There have been five caution periods for 20 laps.
12:52 p.m. -- The top 10 in the Shelby American after 50 of 267 laps: 1. Jeff Gordon; 2. Greg Biffle; 3. Kyle Busch; 4. Carl Edwards; 5. Kurt Busch; 6. Matt Kenseth; 7. Jimmie Johnson; 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.; 9. Ryan Newman; 10. Tony Stewart.
12:08 p.m. -- The drivers have been given the command to start their engines by co-grand marshals Carroll Shelby and Kim Kardashian. A.J. Allmendinger, who qualified 40th, will go to the back of the field after changing engines.
11:20 a.m. -- Some quick facts about the Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race:
10:55 -- Kim Kardashian is attending her first NASCAR raceat Las Vegas Motor Speedway but the reality TV star has more than a passing interest in today's Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event. Kardashian is promoting her new fragrance by sponsoring Mike Bliss' No. 36 Chevrolet.
Although she said she is excited to be sponsoring a racecar and attending her first race, Kardashian is not a big fan of high speeds when she's behind the wheel.
"I don't really like to drive fast," she said. "I know it sounds crazy; I have a Bentley that drives pretty fast and Reggie (boyfriend Reggie Bush of the New Orleans Saints) has a Ferrari and for some reason he steals my car all the time and so I always seem to be stuck with it and I know it goes really fast. But I'd say I've never gone more than 90. That freaks me out."
Kardashian said she jumped at the chance to sponsor Bliss' car.
"When the op portunity came about to be involved here, I thought 'I'd love to torture the driver and put him in a pink jumpsuit,'" she said. "Why not?"
10 a.m. -- Good morning from Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the grandstands are expected to be packed for today's Shelby American -- the 13th annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race to be held on the 1.5-mile speedway. Forecasters are calling for a high 65 degrees today with mostly sunny skies and -- more important -- no chance of rain.
Pre-race festivities already have begun and driver introductions will begin at 11:30 a.m. (PST). The green flag is scheduled to wave shortly after noon.
Check back here often, as we'll be updating this blog throughout the day with news, stats and interviews from the drivers competing in the Shelby American.