Friday Pit Notes
Good morning, Happy Veterans’ Day weekend and welcome to Friday activities of the Kobalt Tools 500 event weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. This weekend’s events feature the Kobalt Tools 500, the 35th race of the 36-race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series; the WYPALL* 200, the 34th race of the 35-race NASCAR Nationwide Series; the Lucas Oil 150, the 24th race of the 25-race NASCAR Camping World Truck Series; and the 3 Amigos Tequila 125, the finale of the 12-race NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. Today’s on-track activities begin with Nationwide Series practice at 10 a.m. and feature qualifying for the Lucas Oil 150 at 2:30 p.m., qualifying for the Kobalt Tools 500 at 3:45 p.m., and the headline event of the day, the Lucas Oil 150 (150 laps – 150 miles), which takes the green flag at 6:18 p.m. (live on SPEED cable TV; coverage begins at 6:00 p.m.).
Up Close and Personal (and Free)…Following yesterday’s qualifying for the 3 Amigos Tequila 125, the entire K&N Pro Series West garage moved to PIR’s interactive midway behind Turn 2 for an unprecedented West Series Garage Open House from 12-5 p.m. today. The opportunity to meet the drivers and crews and see the cars close up is unprecedented, and best of all it is free of charge. All PIR patrons will also be able to watch the official pre-race inspection process, and can participate in autograph sessions, driver/team Question & Answer sessions and more. PIR Season Ticket holders will be granted early entry to the open house at 11:30 a.m.
Where the 3 National NASCAR Series Stand with 2 Races To Go…In the Sprint Cup Series, #11 Denny Hamlin leads four-time defending champ #48 Jimmie Johnson by 33 points and #29 Kevin Harvick by 59. Hamlin has six career third places in various races at PIR and a best of second in the Nationwide Series race in November 2008. Johnson has four wins, a third and fourth in his last six Sprint Cup races here; he is the only driver with more than two career Sprint Cup wins at PIR. Harvick has seven career wins at PIR (four in Camping World trucks, one in Nationwide, two in Sprint Cup). In the Nationwide Series, #22 Brad Keselowski clinched his driver’s first championship last Saturday in Texas, but the car owner’s title is still in play. Keselowski’s Penske Racing trails #18 Kyle Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing by 81 points (primary driver Kyle Busch has missed six races). Busch has won three of the last six Nationwide series races at PIR (including the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 last April). In 11 career starts in various series at PIR, Keselowski’s best results have been a pair of thirds (the last in April). In the CampingWorld Truck Series, #30 Todd Bodine holds a 230-point lead over #51 Aric Almirola and can clinch his second series crown by finishing fourth or better (assuming Almirola wins; if he does worse, then Bodine can clinch with any lower finish that leaves him at least 195 points ahead of his closest pursuer).
#11 Hamlin Knows Why #48 Johnson Is King of PIR …Though #11 Denny Hamlin leads four-time defending Sprint Cup champ #48 Jimmie Johnson by 33 points coming into this weekend’s Kobalt Tools 500, the driver of the FedEx Toyota knows that Johnson is the man to beat at PIR. Johnson has logged four wins, a third and a fourth in his last six races here. Entries from car owner Rick Hendrick had won six straight Sprint Cup races at PIR going into April’s SUBWAY Fresh Fit 600™ , but a late-race caution flag and a decision to change four tires (and not two) caused Johnson to slip to fifth for the two-lap trophy dash. Johnson fought his way back to third at the checkered flag, but needed a few more laps if he had hoped to take win number five. Hamlin finished third here last November and gained insight to Johnson’s mastery of the unique one-mile Arizona oval. It was the sixth consecutive and eighth career Sprint Cup race win in Arizona for car owner Rick Hendrick. Experts disagree about why the Hendrick entries have dominated in the Sonoran Desert, but Denny Hamlin, who finished third, thought he had an explanation.
#11 Denny Hamlin (after finishing third at PIR last November: “They’re (the four Hendrick Motorsports entries) really good on corner exit. You know, Jimmie (Johnson), when I did see him for the first time all day, had a tremendous arc into the corner. Of course, I tried to do that as soon as I saw it, but my car just would not respond to doing that. So, they (the Hendrick crews) set up their cars to run that type of line. For whatever reason, in Turn 3, everyone enters that corner the same and he could just accelerate off the corners much, much better than the other guys. That’s what makes him so good on a short track and one of the guys you have to beat every time. They’re so strong on the corner exit. We turn the center (of the corner) as good as them, but we just don’t have the acceleration that they do from that point on.”
Goodyear Raises Money for Troops…In keeping with the theme of Veterans Week, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company today announced that a four-month program raised over $100,000 for the Support Our Troops program. Support Our Troops provides care packages for troops overseas and assists military families back here in the U.S.
Kris Kienzl, Goodyear NASCAR Marketing Manager: “This is a very special weekend for us. It really is a combination of a program that we put our heart and soul into this year, all the way down to our race tires. As a company we wanted to do something to make a difference and we chose to put together a program this year to help the military families and the folks that are overseas and deployed and do what we could to raise funds to help them whether they’re overseas or at home. We did kick off the program back in July. For those of you who were there or remember, we had transformed our Goodyear Eagle NASCAR Tires to say ‘Support Our Troops’ on the sidewall, and it really kicked off a fundraising effort to raise funds for an organization that is called Support Our Troops. Support Our Troops helps too ship care packages to troops that are deployed, and they also run a program to help the families at home, kids programs, etcetera. So the tires ran on the weekend of July 2nd and 3rd at Daytona, and then we had each Cup driver autograph his tires and we put those up for auction as a kickoff to the fundraising, in addition to Goodyear initially putting a $20,000 donation in to get it rolling. We’ve run from there to today, and had a number of activities to raise the funds. We had the tire auction, we had a website that people could go to and make direct donations. We had videos from Cup drivers that were ‘thank you videos’ that people could send to their friends and family in the military. And in addition, during one of our retail programs, we had the opportunity that consumers could donate some or all of their tire rebates instead of taking the money back themselves. That was very successful. We really had a large community of people come together for this program. So we’re very happy to announce that at the end of this program, today we are announcing that we have raised $100,453 for Support Our Troops.”
Martin C. Boire, Executive Director of Support our Troops: I’d like to point out that the troops that are deployed overseas and fighting for all of us today are the veterans of tomorrow. And they show all of us, you and me, what the veterans of yesterday did for us. And so it’s appropriate that the Goodyear Tire Program that launched on Independence weekend over in Daytona includes here on Veteran’s Day weekend here in Phoenix. I want to thank Goodyear Tires and NASCAR for stepping up for the troops in a major way. If companies like this don’t step up, then big things don’t happen. The beauty of this program was it allowed individual everyday Americans to aggregate what I like to call patriotic private money to do things for the troops, which is the way it ought to be, citizen to citizen, people to people. And we’re very grateful for the opportunity to have an iconic company, like Goodyear Tires, step up and render such a successful initiative for the troops, in large part due to NASCAR fans, which are some of the loyal, patriotic Americans and dedicated people to the troops that we have in the world. It really makes a very big difference in the lives of our soldiers overseas, men and women, when there hear from us at home. At the way that we make sure they hear from us at home is by getting our hands on as much stuff as we can and pushing it their way. The amount that they’ve raised here is going to go a long way towards helping make that happen. I’ll tell you one way: we lost a 40-foot container this year in Pakistan, not a really pleasant place in the world. That was headed over to Bagram Base in Afghanistan. So if you guys and gals can hear me, understand that there are two replacement containers now heading your way through a different alternative shipping route. This money helps make that happen. Another way that they like to know we care about them is just sending them simple fun things to do in an otherwise unpleasant situation. So we took one of the tires here and 13 of the NASCAR drivers signed the tire. FedEx helped us get it over to Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan. The troops couldn’t wait to get it. They choppered it and trucked it all over the battlefield, every unit and every outpost. And all the signatures on this tire are our deployed neighbors. And while we sit here, they’re camped out over there, and they couldn’t wait to get their hands on it, they signed it up in all these colors with these NASCAR drivers. We did that because when Gen. Petraeus resumed command, he asked for unity in order to accomplish the mission and get done. And so the NASCAR drivers’ signatures are rendered on behalf of all of us Americans here at home, and the soldiers who could get a hold of this tire and sign it, they represent all of the troops all over the world that are out there doing things for us at home. And so symbolically, physically rendered on this tire is what Gen. Petraeus asked for, the unity of the troops and the people behind this mission. And the tire will move around the country to different locations. There is a sister tire right now, and incidentally this was all signed by the 82nd Airborne over in southern Afghanistan. The sister tire to this was signed by all 43 NASCAR drivers and thanks to FedEx has now reached southern Iraq and it is in Basra with the 101st Infantry Division. And it’s now traveling all over southern Iraq and all we ever hear though communications is, ‘Can we keep it a little longer, can we keep in a little longer? Can I take it here? Can I take it there?’ They are very grateful for these types of things, we’re grateful for the media, if you don’t get the word out nobody knows about these good things, not the troops, not the people. I would like Goodyear and NASCAR for stepping up in a major way, because it is this type of thing that makes the troops over there know that we know they’re there, and we care about them. Thank you Kris for this opportunity and I’d like to thank all the American people that joined in this to raise this money.
Goodyear Raises Money for Troops, continued
Martin C. Boire, Executive Director of Support Our Troops: “I’d like to point out that the troops that are deployed overseas and fighting for all of us today are the veterans of tomorrow. And they show all of us, you and me, what the veterans of yesterday did for us. And so it’s appropriate that the Goodyear Tire Program that launched on Independence weekend over in Daytona includes here on Veteran’s Day weekend here in Phoenix. I want to thank Goodyear Tires and NASCAR for stepping up for the troops in a major way. If companies like this don’t step up, then big things don’t happen. The beauty of this program was it allowed individual, everyday Americans to aggregate what I like to call ‘patriotic private money’ to do things for the troops, which is the way it ought to be – citizen to citizen, people to people. And we’re very grateful for the opportunity to have an iconic company, like Goodyear Tires, step up and render such a successful initiative for the troops. In large part, that is due to NASCAR fans, who are some of the most loyal, patriotic Americans dedicated to the troops that we have in the world. It really makes a very big difference in the lives of our soldiers overseas, men and women, when they hear from us at home. At the way that we make sure they hear from us at home is by getting our hands on as much stuff as we can and pushing it their way. The amount that they’ve raised here is going to go a long way towards helping make that happen. I’ll tell you one way: we lost a 40-foot container this year in Pakistan – not a really pleasant place in the world – that was headed over to Bagram Base in Afghanistan. So if you guys and gals can hear me, understand that there are two replacement containers now heading your way through a different alternative shipping route. This money helps make that happen. Another way that they like to know we care about them is just sending them simple fun things to do in an otherwise unpleasant situation. So we took one of the tires here and 13 of the NASCAR drivers signed the tire. FedEx helped us get it over to Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan. The troops couldn’t wait to get it. They choppered it and trucked it all over the battlefield, every unit and every outpost. And all the signatures on this tire are our deployed neighbors. And while we sit here, they’re camped out over there, and they couldn’t wait to get their hands on it, they signed it up in all these colors with these NASCAR drivers. We did that because when Gen. Petraeus resumed command, he asked for unity in order to accomplish the mission and get done. And so the NASCAR drivers’ signatures are rendered on behalf of all of us Americans here at home, and the soldiers who could get a hold of this tire and sign it, they represent all of the troops all over the world that are out there doing things for us at home. And so symbolically, physically rendered on this tire is what Gen. Petraeus asked for, the unity of the troops and the people behind this mission. And the tire will move around the country to different locations. There is a sister tire right now, and incidentally this was all signed by the 82nd Airborne over in southern Afghanistan. The sister tire to this was signed by all 43 NASCAR drivers and thanks to FedEx has now reached southern Iraq and it is in Basra with the 101st Infantry Division. And it’s now traveling all over southern Iraq and all we ever hear though communications is, ‘Can we keep it a little longer, can we keep in a little longer? Can I take it here? Can I take it there?’ They are very grateful for these types of things, we’re grateful for the media, if you don’t get the word out nobody knows about these good things, not the troops, not the people. I would like Goodyear and NASCAR for stepping up in a major way, because it is this type of thing that makes the troops over there know that we know they’re there, and we care about them. Thank you, Kris, for this opportunity and I’d like to thank all the American people that joined in this to raise this money.”
NASCAR Driver Press Conference
#29 Kevin Harvick (third in Sprint Cup points, 59 behind leader #11 Denny Hamlin, 26 behind second place #48 Jimmie Johnson; seven career wins at PIR – 4 in Camping World Trucks, 1 in Nationwide Series, 2 in Sprint Cup): “I’m excited, this has been a great racetrack for us in the past. Obviously I have raced here my whole entire career while coming up through the ranks and the track hasn’t changed a lot. It’s been something we’ve been looking forward to, and the last the couple weeks have been good racetracks for us. (re: place in standings) I’m really excited just for the fact that the worst we can finish in the points is third. We have two great racetracks for us (coming up). We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s really a no-question, no-lose (situation) for us and I like it. A lot of people write us off. Well, when you get these positions when you’re racing like the other teams are racing right now, you just exceed the expectations everyone sets for you a lot of the times, which is what we have done. The (#29) team is really focused, the car is good and their just performing at the top of their game at these types of situations. It seems like when you get ahead you can play a little bit of defense and play a little bit of strategy. With everyone so close it’s all offense. Anything less then winning a race or two the next two weeks, you’re just going to have to take it. All the teams are capable of performing, Denny (Hamlin) did it last week; he went out (from being behind) at the end of that race (to score the win) and I think the next two weeks is going to be (about) who takes control. There is no room for defense – you can lose because something is going to go out and (Hamil or Johnson will) win the race and you’re going to lose points. (re: Johnson swapping pit crews contrasted with Harvick’s pit crew swap earlier in the season) Well, I think when you do it in the middle of the race, there is no hiding and for us it’s been very beneficial. We had gained a spot on pit road in the Chase. It’s very simple to look at, I’m sure they (Johnson’s #48 team) are in the same situation and you know it’s different. It’s something you obviously don’t expect to happen in the middle of the race. It’s just very open and everyone gets to see it. Everybody has weaknesses, though. I think on that particular day with the pit stall selections that you saw in that particular race it was a very unique situation. If you qualify worse then the #11 (Denny Hamlin) I would pick the pit stall right in front of them again, just to do it all over because we all love watching it. (re: comparing himself to other two drivers) I think our whole team is a lot different. We’re a very unique bunch you could say. I guess you could categorize us as hard-core type of racers that have come up through the ranks and it’s just a little different from the other two teams, I think you can figure it out. (re: winning for the race team rather then just driver) I think Mike (Ford, crew chief of the #11) should take his own advice to his driver and not insert your foot in your mouth when you don’t do something that winds up being what you said it should be. I think the comments he made after the race, about being better then the #48 team, I think he’s just trying to stir stuff up. Whatever it takes to win is what you’ve got to do, so if there is something wrong with that then I’m missing something. The only good thing from being cocky is you better win because if you don’t you’re going to have to answer a lot questions about your comments when you’re done. You create a lot more work than what you see. Initially when you say those things, it all doesn’t go your way. I think when you’re tying to intimate the guy who won four championships in a row (Johnson) I think you may need to go rethink your strategy and just go out racing. It’s really not something that’s probably necessary. He (Mike Ford) got all over Denny (Hamlin) at Dover for saying the things he said about RCR (Richard Childress Racing) and the organization and I think in my opinion all the things that he (Ford) said is a disruption to his team – to have Denny (Hamlin) answer all those questions. We have to go keep doing the same things that we are doing and being in the position that we are in.”
#29 Kevin Harvick: “I think that we stepped up the finishes that we need to do in the Chase. Over the next two weeks, it’s all about trying to win a race or two in the next two weeks and this has been a great race track for us. It seems like this Chase is all about taking those wins and that is the one thing we haven’t done so far is win a race and I think we have to in the next two weeks to keep control of our situation. When you’re racing against a guy who is running about the same pace on track it’s a nightmare for both teams, whether you are in front or behind. It becomes tough to make quality pit stops. There is an etiquette, you want to be around the slowest car that you don’t think will be on the lead lap so you can have an opening in and opening out. The pit stalls are a lot smaller here, so who knows what’s going to happen. A lot of times, hard and difficult situations are inspiring. It inspires the team to not want to go out and fall on their face and say, ‘that was a bad move’. The driver get motivated, the team gets motivated and everybody get motivated to not fall on their face. It’s going to be an interesting weekend. Everybody’s got their own feelings about things that were said last week and we all have our feelings about where we are going and what we need to do and how we need to do it. When you speak of (#29 crew chief) Gil (Martin), he’s really great with the (crew) people and that can be my short fall sometimes. He is very motivating, he is very good at confrontational situations and guiding the team and letting them know what they need to do and keeping them away from the things they don’t need to focus on. As far as racing for the (Sprint Cup) championship, win or lose it’s all about racing for that championship. Considering the fact that last year we weren’t anywhere close to where we are this year, this is what you want it to be, to have it come down to the end and be apart of the Championship race.”
#18 Kyle Busch Press Conference
#18 Kyle Busch (seventh in Sprint Cup Points, winner of April Nationwide Series Race at PIR): (re: PIR) “I’m looking forward to it. It’s a good race track for me. It’s coming back to the west coast which is familiar territory. I like coming to Phoenix and love the race track here. Bryan (Sperber, track president) and the guys do a great job at putting on a good show for us and putting on a good weekend. We have the truck here, we have the Nationwide car and the Cup car here, so it’s going to be a filled weekend and hopefully some good results that come of it. (re: setting up the car for PIR) I think the most difficult aspect is the way the race track is so different from turns one and two to three and four. You’ve really got to be able to work on being able to work on get your car to be able to turn well through turn one but then not be too loose off of turn two. You’ve got the dogleg down the back – not that big of deal but the speed that you carry because of the dogleg down the backstretch into turn three is a lot greater than turn one and the corner is a lot flatter. It’s easy to get loose in there and kind of slide up the race track a little bit or if someone is on your outside and racing you tight, you can lose a little bit of sideforce there and get a little loose. It’s a fun race track because of those aspects. You have to be careful of everything and knowing what’s around you and what’s going on. With the race track this time of year, going through the whole summer of being hot and slick and now coming and racing during the day, it’s going to be a lot slicker than what it was here in the spring time at night.”
#18 Kyle Busch Press Conference , c ontinued
#18 Kyle Busch: (re: why drivers have difficulty making up ground in points late in the year) “I’m not sure why it is, maybe it’s sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to make up ground and we end up costing ourselves a little bit of ground. I think Denny (Hamlin) has done a wonderful job this year. He’s obviously been on his game for a lot of it winning eight races this year and being able to come out and say that he was going to be tough to beat and to back his words up. He’s done a great job in that aspect. The way that the 11 team has been running this year and the way that we’ve all been able to communicate and kind of help and seeing Joey (Logano) really running well -- the last eight, 10 races Joey’s been up there in the top-10 as well or fighting for top-five finishes as well. All of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is running really strong and I’m proud of the effort by everyone at the shop that’s done such a great job for us to have great race cars throughout the Chase. I didn’t say it because I knew it was coming, but Denny has said it through the year where (he’s said), ‘Just wait until we get to the Chase, we have some good stuff coming.’ By all he was right but I kind of tried to keep it on the lowdown. It’s been good for us that Denny is leading the points. More power to him and the best of luck to those guys and whatever we can do to help him, hopefully we can bring him a championship for JGR. (re: #11 crew chief Mike Ford’s comments after Sunday’s win in Texas) “I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing or what. It is towards the end of the season and Darrell Waltrip will tell you best, the best time to play mind games is at the end of the year. For ourselves, unfortunately we’re not in those same games because we’re fifth or sixth in points or whatever it might be. In the same aspect, we’re fighting for our standings and trying to get to fourth in points and make sure we’re the best of all the rest. Those three sort of separated themselves through the regular season as being the best three teams. We were right there too, I think we were second in points going into the Chase but then with the flip flop of the Chase, we were right there at the beginning of the Chase but then we had some bad luck in California, blowing an engine and stuff that set us back. If it weren’t for some of our poor finishes, we’d be right there too. (re: feelings about his $25,000 fine for making an obscene gesture in Texas) “There was a little bit in thinking about it. More in-depth or directly, it was that my actions were inappropriate – disrespectful to NASCAR and to their officials in the way that they go about business. So, with no doubt in my mind, what I did was wrong, but of course the reaction on NASCAR – it’s ultimately their decision and their discretion. So, I support that – what they did. You look back and you learn and you live and you try to move on and you go on and concentrate on this weekend here and finish out the year strong at Homestead.” (re: whether he will have to be extra careful around NASCAR officials now) “I don’t think so, no. I feel real comfortable with NASCAR officials. I have a great relationship with quite a few of them. Yesterday was talking with Bill Whalen with the Nationwide Series, few other officials from the Truck Series and then today already talking with a few in the Cup garage. I’ve got a great repertoire with those guys and I feel like the time that I’ve built with them has been really good. It’s not something where the whole relationship is tarnished in one weekend. I’ve built a great relationship with those guys where now I’m not on such great grounds but yet I’m a lot better than I was say four years ago.” (re: whether he met with his team owners about the incident last week) “It’s the same thing that any driver would say with a NASCAR meeting, those are behind closed doors. We had some good discussions and some good topics like what could be learned from the past weekend’s events and transpiring into going forward and being able to put our results back to the race track and being able to focus on the task at hand to get fourth-place in points and get on into next year and looking forward to chasing the championship points again.”
#18 Kyle Busch Press Conference , c ontinued
#18 Kyle Busch: (re: are the three JGR teams working together) “Yeah, we are. I’m not sure where that was going exactly, but I’ll try to answer it the best I can. Right now with Hendrick Motorsports being where they are – winning four consecutive titles – who is the last team to win a championship before that? JGR with Tony Stewart. So, right now there’s kind of a battle there between the best in the sport – which is Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota and all the people that help support us, and it’s Hendrick Motorsports and those guys. Right now, we’re trying to do everything we can to best outperform those guys that have won four in a row and bring them back into JGR. That would be the past five years it’s either been a Hendrick car or a JGR car that’s won the championship. There’s no reason why Chad (Knaus, No. 48 crew chief) shouldn’t be allowed to put all eggs in one basket, or Hendrick Motorsports should be, but it would be no different if Dave (Rogers, No. 18 crew chief) wanted to give my team to Mike (Ford, No. 11 crew chief) to make sure they had a better pit stop on pit road. The 11 team is – they’re right with us anyway, so they might even be a little bit better than us sometimes on pit road. We both have – all three teams have a great working relationship at JGR where we’re all one. We all feed off each other and we all work with each other and we all know that we can be exactly the same as the other guy over there.” (re: whether or not you have to contain emotions to contend for a championship) “Certainly to a point, you do. But, I think for myself there is a fire that has helped me win the races that I’ve been able to win, but it’s also cost me in some other times – which was the instance last weekend which was inappropriate and childish – what have you. I made mistake. I regret the mistake that I made last week. In going forward now – it’s not where I’m in the beginning of growing up. I’m definitely not to the end. I’m somewhere in between. So, there’s a balance there. And, obviously I haven’t learned exactly everything that I’ve wanted to learn yet about being able to control my emotions, or what have you. So, there’s a better way to do things. And I haven’t quite conquered that. Where I’m at, I couldn’t tell you. But, whether or not that is the cause for me not being able to contend for a championship I’d have to disagree 100 percent. I won a Nationwide Series championship last year as the same person I am. This year, I feel like we were in contention up until we had a couple bad races. I got into David Reutimann, unfortunately, and cost myself some points there. But, then the next week we blew an engine – nothing of anybody’s doing, just unfortunate circumstances. Right then and there, our championship chances were literally kind of down the tubes right then and there. So, it’s not where this past weekend’s events at Texas is what led us not being able to win this year’s championship.”
Jeff Burton Press Conference
#31 Jeff Burton (12th in points): Well, obviously, we’re needing to have a good weekend. We’ve had three weekends in a row (where we) haven’t had the kind of results we needed, and it’s obviously been frustrating. But this is a track that we’ve, that’s been really good to us. We’ve been able to come here and turn things around a few times in my career, so hopefully we can do that again this weekend. We’ve run really, really well as a team here. I think we finished 2nd the last couple races (climbed from 36th to second last November), and this has been one of our stronger racetracks. So, we certainly look forward to coming here and see if we can kind of turn the ship around. Being in the bottom of the Chase is not what we had in our mind, and that is where we are. And we’ve got two races to dig out of it. (re: why the Chase is so close this season) I don’t know if it’s that the 48 (of Jimmie Johnson) isn’t as strong or just other people have stepped their game up. I think that the whole COT (car of tomorrow) thing is starting to take effect. I think that the idea that NASCAR had about taking a lot of the things away from the teams to keep things a little more similar to create more chances for more people to win races, I think that’s started to take effect.”
Jeff Burton Press Conference, continued
#31 Jeff Burton: “It’s a lot of stuff going on that’s made the (championship) race more equal. Last week, after our incident, I went into the trailer and sat and watched the race, and I’m watching the monitor, speed monitor, and I’m looking at the top 20 cars. And the top 20 cars, it was like a tenth-of-a-second difference between the fastest guy and the 18th place guy. I mean, it’s just so crazy close. And I think that’s a factor of multi-car teams, it’s a factor of people becoming more familiar with the car, it’s a factor of Goodyear bringing better tires and making the car drive better. I think it’s all those things. You know, it’s more people coming to similar results on the racetrack, and that’s made for a tighter chase. (Whether he was surprised to have been in a physical altercation) I wasn’t surprised I was in a physical altercation, I was surprised I was in the initial altercation. When it all happened, I fully expected to be in a physical altercation. You know, the thing obviously got out of hand really quickly prior to the physical altercation. It is what it is. I hate to be 43 years old and still learning, but I’m still learning. Jeff and I have raced together for 20 years, and obviously we’ve had issues because if you race with your best friend in the world for 20 years, you’re going to have issues. It’s just competitive competition. I left the facility Sunday surprised I was in all of it, not just the physical altercation. I could tell by the gait in his walk and the look in his eye he wasn’t coming down there to talk. It’s all funny now, but…(will last week’s incident carry over to this weekend, and was it good for NASCAR?) I feel like it’s over. Like I said earlier, it’s a chance for me to learn, a chance for both of us to learn. You know, I took the brunt of the responsibility, and I’ll continue to do that. But as far as I’m concerned, and I’m not going to speak for Jeff, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s racing. You know, we’re here this weekend to win this race. And obviously tensions have a possibility of being a little higher this week because of what happened last week, but the reality of it is we’re here to win this race, and so is he. So I don’t feel like this thing will continue on. You know, the whole debate about what’s good for NASCAR, what’s not good for NASCAR, I don’t know. I know the fans on the back straightaway thought it was cool. I could hear that, but I’m torn between what’s good for NASCAR and what’s not good for NASCAR. I try to conduct myself in a way that will make me and my team and my kids proud of me, even when things aren’t good, and you can certainly cross a line. I come to the race to race. I don’t come to the race to be part of the show. You know, when I hear people describe these events as shows, that perturbs me a little bit. I’m here to race, and I understand that this is entertainment for people. I get it. You know, I’m a sports fan. Sports are entertaining for me. But I’m not here to create a show. I’m not here to be involved in that stuff. I’m here to race. I want the race to be the show, and that’s my take on it. The difficult thing here is that both ends of the track are so different. You can see this front straightaway is downhill. If you look right there, you can already see, you know, you’re sitting perpendicular to the turn one wall. So that’s a very, very sharp corner. That turn one happens really, really quickly. You’ve got to transition your car from going straight to turning very, very quickly in one. In three and four, you’ve got a really, really long sweeping corner. So both ends of the racetrack are completely different. You brake completely different. It’s a real challenge to get the driver in sync with both corners and to get the car in sync with both corners. That is the most challenging thing about the racetrack. That’s what makes it hard. That’s what makes it fun. That’s what makes the people that run well here, that’s their advantage – that they can do well in both corners. (re: visibility at Phoenix) This track, historically, has been a difficult track for visibility with the sun setting and getting into turn one. It’s made of…It’s very difficult. It’s really, really hard to see. I know it sounds silly, but I can’t remember if it’s the spring race or the fall race where it’s the worst. I’ll go back and look at my notes, I just don’t remember. But when the sun’s setting getting into turn one, it’s very, very difficult to see getting into turn one. Even in qualifying, it’s hard to see getting into turn one. So that is an issue. You’ve got to be able to see your corner. And when that sun starts to set, it’s very hard to do that.”
Jeff Burton Press Conference, continued
#31 Jeff Burton: (Clarification on last weekend’s incident – collision during yellow flag and subsequent scuffle – with #24 Jeff Gordon) To be perfectly honest, when the whole thing went down on Sunday, it all happened so quickly that I didn’t 100 percent know what happened. I mean, I obviously didn’t mean to wreck myself, and I obviously didn’t mean to wreck him. When Jeff came and he let me know that he didn’t like the way I raced him, I went to try, like I did say Sunday, I went to let him know that ‘Hey, I got it,’ but also that I didn’t understand how he was as mad as he seemed to be. And that was just frustration. And the rest of it was just…I honestly don’t know how to explain what happened after that, I really don’t. So, you know, that’s really it. (re: #29 Kevin Harvick’s comments about the #48) I think Kevin’s very prepared. I think Kevin’s ready to win a championship. I think Kevin’s in great position to win a championship. I think he’s ready to go. I don’t know that Kevin’s playing mind games. I think Kevin’s just telling you how he feels. You know, that’s the cool thing about Kevin is that you know exactly where you stand, exactly how he feels. But I don’t think Kevin’s playing games. I have no idea what the comments were, but I know Kevin well enough to know that he is just telling you what he believes to be true. And Kevin’s not a ‘mind game’ kind of guy. He’s just straight at you. This is how it is, this is how I feel. And what you get from Kevin is what he honestly feels.
#17 Matt Kenseth (fifth in Sprint Cup points): “I just try to finish as best as I can every week and hope to finish as high as I can in the points. (re: bragging rights in points with teammates) Not for me, Greg (Biffle) and Carl (Edwards) would have to speak for themselves. I just want to do the best for the team every week and if we had it our way we would be 1,2,3 in points and battle it out. I would want those guys to finish as high as they can, but just like everyone in the top 12, I want them to finish behind me. Every off season you try to look at all aspects of your program; from personal to equipment to pitstops. The most recent races are the freshest in your mind. So, you want to get some momentum, you want to get the best finishes you can the last few weeks, so you have something to look at and evaluate over the Winter. (re: challenge of PIR) The hardest part is both ends are quite a bit different. To be good in turn one and and two without being too lose in turn four is probably the hardest thing. There is a little bit of a compromise but you want your car to work as well as it can on both ends so their a lot different. (re: Johnson winning a Championship again) Well, everybody is different. I wouldn’t bet against those guys until they lose one. I wouldn’t bet against them the last four years and I wouldn’t do it this year either until it’s over really. It’s interesting; the three guys up there are all quite different. The teams are different, the driving styles and approach I think are different, so in my opinion it’s a pretty interesting chase for the championship this year to see which one of those three guys is going to be on top when it’s all over next week. I wish Denny (Hamlin) would have been careful last week and would have let me win. I was happy racing for the win last week and I think it’s an interesting Chase and there’s a lot of good story lines for the fans to follow. I believe that whereever you are in points you should race clean, the same way you would race them at the beginning of the year. Everybody is racing their own race and trying to finish as high as they can in the points.”