Chase hopefuls trade quips before crunch time

NASCAR.com

RICHMOND, Va. -- The final race before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff field is locked in is typically a pressure cooker. Thursday in front of some early arriving fans at Richmond International Raceway, there was some levity before getting down to business.

The nine drivers with a chance this weekend at locking down five available postseason berths met the media Thursday to assess their chances in Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC). But the playoff hopefuls also took time out for the fans along the track's midway area, answering questions and exchanging zingers in an informal session moderated by MRN Radio's Steve Post.

Another interactive, fan-driven opportunity to meet this year's title contenders takes place Thursday, Sept. 12 at Chicago's Navy Pier Grand Ballroom, site of the 2013 NASCAR Contenders Live event for the 12 Chase-eligible drivers. The event will serve as an unofficial kick-off to the 10-race Chase, which opens with round 1 on Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway.

But before the Chase is underway, here are some of the more entertaining quips and lighter moments -- about racing and otherwise -- from the late-afternoon, early evening appearances at Richmond:

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Jeff Gordon, on his kids going back to school: "I'm telling you, if you want to get intimidated as a driver, go to carpool. There are some parents out there who get very serious about carpool, not to mention the staff that is organizing carpool. Don't mess that up. So, I have a lot of pressure when I go to carpool."

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Dale Earnhardt Jr., a Redskins fan living in the backyard of the Carolina Panthers: "I really didn't dislike the Panthers up until about last year. All my friends are Panthers fans and I had to hear it over and over and over about how awesome Cam (Newton) is. It's just about drove me to hate 'em."

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Gordon on his birthday, Aug. 4, being in close proximity to his son Leo's: "I get shorted these days because my son's birthday is on the 9th, so it's just close enough to where mine doesn't really matter any more."

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Gordon on his teammate's recent sponsorship deal with Time Warner Cable: "I just have a feeling that when Dale Jr. calls to have some work done on his TV that it's not quite the same as the rest of the world. ... I think he's got a Time Warner truck parked out front in the yard in case he has a problem."

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Jamie McMurray on fatherhood: "Being a dad is awesome. I always thought that I was going to be the cool dad, and I'm not. I'm the dad that wants everyone to follow the rules, and I don't even care about being cool any more. I just want my kid to do what I say, listen to me and not do anything to hurt him." A fan blurted out, "How's that going?" prompting McMurray to say, "It's not going very well."

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Martin Truex Jr., on his wrist injury: "It's still broke."

Ryan Newman, to Truex: "He wears it for the looks. It's a sympathy cast."

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Greg Biffle on his Chase chances: "They've got all the scenarios. They say I've got to finish ninth, but I haven't found the guy who figured that out yet, because I would like him to explain to me what happens if I finish 10th -- how I'm not in the Chase because I finish 10th, because I'm doing the math and I'm fairly good at math -- that's about it, and driving a car -- and I can't figure it out."

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Kurt Busch on making the move to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014: "It's an opportunity of a lifetime to be teamed up with (Kevin) Harvick, with Tony (Stewart), Danica (Patrick). Us four in the same meetings, it could be hell or could be great. I'm just kidding about the hell part."

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Brad Keselowski on veteran team owner Roger Penske: "He sleeps less than I do, which I guess isn't saying much. You know what's amazing about him, though? I guarantee if he walked through this whole crowd and met everybody and told him your name, he'd remember your name. He's really impressive. I don't know how he does that."

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Teammate Joey Logano on Penske: "He calls you at like 10:30 at night. He's like, 'Hey, what're you doing.' I'm like, 'Uh, I was in bed.' He's 70-something years old and he's out-working me."

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Keselowski on his newest automotive purchase: "I needed a vehicle for road trips. I was trying to think, well, I don't want to just buy a van. That would be kind of lame. If I'm going to own a van, it's got to be something that's cool, so we built a complete replica of the A-Team van."

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