2nd, 3rd finishers press conference

Event: Phoenix

Transcript: Phoenix International Raceway
February 27, 2011

An Interview With:
KYLE BUSCH - 2nd place finisher
JIMMIE JOHNSON - 3rd place finisher

KERRY THARP: Post race for today's 7th annual Subway Fresh Fit 500 here at Phoenix International Raceway and our race runner-up is Kyle Busch. He drove the No. 18 Combos Toyota. And Kyle, certainly, you had a terrific race weekend and I know you would have liked to have topped it off today, but talk about your run today on the 18 Combos Toyota.

KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, today felt a lot longer than the whole weekend itself, that's for sure. Unfortunately there, the car got out from underneath me right around the backstretch and I made a mistake and got into Carl Edwards there and completely destroyed his day so.

Pit stop for Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Pit stop for Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Eric Gilbert

I can understand his frustration that he had and so I apologize to him first and foremost. But just with the day that we had, and the outcome we had, it's kind of the same thing as last week. We are just glad to get out of here with what we got.

It was a rough beginning there for a while for a lot of guys and we were able to persevere and work through the it and work on our car and get most out of the day. We came back strong and we had a really good car there on the long runs, and on the really long runs we were kind of running those guys down.

But it seemed after the restarts, Jeff was just really, really good. We thought we could beat him after 20 or so laps but he had just so much forward bite today we just could not hang with him. I was sure pried by him having it none of the other Hendrick cars but congratulations to them, they are my old five bunch, so cool to see them get the win.

KERRY THARP: Kyle Busch takes over the NASCAR Spring Cup Series points lead. Kyle has a three-point lead over Kurt Busch. We'll take questions now.

Q: Jeff before he even gets out of the car he says, "I just beat Kyle Busch." This is a guy who has been through the longest drought of his career, and I mean, he's just shocked that he got around you. What does that say about -- just about the race about Jeff about the drought, everything?

KYLE BUSCH: I think he was on a mission today, that's for sure and when Jeff Gordon has a good car and he has the opportunity to beat you, he's going to beat you so. There's no doubt about that. He's my hero and I've always watched him and what he's been able to accomplish over the years. It's no surprise that he beat us. You know, we were good. If you look at it, we were better than the third place car by a little ways, kind of like yesterday. Seemed like front two would just kind of walk away from it. But there's always that one car that's got to ruin the whole weekend, and it had to be the 24 car.

But you know, it is what it is, and unfortunately we come home second. We missed the chance of a sweep, but you know, all things considering and what we are going after for this year, we would have loved to have gotten a win with our Combos Camry today but we'll take that and head on home to Vegas.

Q: Kyle, could you take us through, you and Jeff, looked like you banged fenders twice, might have been more. Could you take us through those last couple of turns?

KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, he was gaining on me really good and I knew he was going to get to me eventually and this place is so flat and it's one groove that we all run the bottom. He got so tucked up behind me on three and four, he got me loose and I could not put the gas down. I mean, he was so far up underneath me that I could not go forward.

So I was loose, and he was just waiting for the exit of the turn to turn underneath me and get alongside of me and then once we got down into turn one, we both drove off in there pretty deep and I had enough where I could slow down and kind of run on what I thought would be the second lane. And he just drifted up a little bit into me and knocked me out of the way.

But it don't matter. He had a fast enough car. He could have done that, either way, would he have won if he didn't do it, if he did do it. It has nothing to do with how he won.

KERRY THARP: Let's now also hear from our third place finisher, Jimmie Johnson who drives the No. 48 Lowe's Cobalt Tools Chevrolet. And Jimmie, certainly a pretty good comeback you had out there, a little trouble on pit road but your thoughts on today's finish.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: We just struggled from Friday's first practice session when we unloaded and just been working on understanding the new stuff we have developed during the off-season in trying to get laps and reps. We tried to test -- well, they are not missing an opportunity, are they. (Laughter) right in front of all of us, tear the track up.

Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Action Sports Photography

KERRY THARP: Mike mulligan and his steam shovel.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Hell, I want to watch. Anyone else? (Laughter) (Pausing, turning to look outside at track. )

KERRY THARP: Stand by.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Heck, now I forget what you asked me.

We just needed laps. We were struggling and getting smarter through practice. The first half of the race we could not really get going, just way too loose and we pitted every caution that there was. And at one point we thought we were going to be out of tires because we came to pit road so many times. We got the car right and I was trying to come through traffic and I was right in the middle of those two wrecks on the backstretch and luckily I got through there clean, but from that point on, after the red flag, we were able to then get going because the car was underneath me. We got it tightened up and off I went.

So we had a good day. On the short run I think the 18 and the 24 had us beat. Longer we went, the more our car kind of tightened up and I seemed to be a little closer to these guys. But third was really where we ran all day and where we deserved to finish.

Q: All four of the Hendrick cars were terrible in qualifying and practice. What happened today?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: You could see that we are all in bed together and we all run the same stuff. During the off-season, the four crew chiefs worked really close together to find speed. We felt like at the end of last year we did not have the pace that we needed.

So all four cars came pretty close, and then through the practice sessions, we all went in our own directions trying to get the cars better. I think it really boiled down to reps. The more laps, the more chances to work on the car; all four teams made their cars faster and faster.

It's pretty neat to see how it worked and we all noted (ph) slow and as the weekend went on we got better and better.

Q: Kyle, you seemed kind of worried that Carl might retaliate; were you worried just because -- would it matter who it was or because Carl has a history of retaliation that you were worried?

KYLE BUSCH: He was mad, for sure, and he was frustrated, definitely. You can see that entirely out there the whole rest of the race; any time I got within five car lengths of his rear bumper he would start checking up early, getting into the corners and slowing down and getting more space between me and the other guys.

Finally after about 20 laps of that, he let me go. It was weird. He just -- he was playing. You know, it didn't cost me anything at the end of the day so, it didn't hurt anything on our side, you know, but again, from what happened with us yesterday and how we raced each other, I thought that was great. And I made a mistake today. I've admitted that, time over again and again.

Hopefully we can get past this and go on. I know it's early in the year and all that stuff, but it doesn't matter even if was late in the year. It was just a mistake on my part.

Q: Could you just give us, please, your reaction to Jeff's victory, after such a long period of time? And do you think that he feels more a sense of relief or joy?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm not sure what he's feeling. He looks pretty happy. (Laughter).

I know that Kyle and I both are sitting here wishing we were the happy guy in victory lane.

KYLE BUSCH: I would be more happy than you.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: See, we all argue about how happy we would be.

I know it means a lot to him with what has gone on from the end of the season until now; not only did we switch around the shops and the drivers, but the over-the-wall guys have changed dramatically on all four teams, our cars, the setups, there's a lot of new stuff underneath those familiar paint jobs on the Hendrick cars.

As a group we came here and started today with our tail between our legs and it's nice to finish up the day with one in victory lane and one in third. A good day for HMS.

Q: What were you doing with Carl? Were you trying to push him down? It looked like you were trying to duck in behind the guy that just passed you.

KYLE BUSCH: I was. I was. I got a little bit loose, and when I caught it, I just kind of steered down to try to get down underneath or back in behind the 39 car and I never even looked in my mirror. I was just watching out in front of me.

You know, the spotter didn't even have time to react and say anything; Carl was there. Yeah, I just turned down right across him.

Q: Two things between and you Carl now?

KYLE BUSCH: I don't know what that means, two things.

Q: Yesterday you said that he had one thing --

KYLE BUSCH: You'll have to ask Carl.

KERRY THARP: Thank you, Kyle. Good luck in Las Vegas.

-source: nascar

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, chevy, toyota