JIMMIE JOHNSON AND JEFF BURTON FINISH 2ND AND THIRD
An interview with:
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS, Finished 2nd
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS, Finished 3rd
THE MODERATOR: We're pleased to be join in the media center by our second and third place finishers of tonight's bank of America 500. Finishing second, the driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet is Jimmie Johnson finishing third. Driver of the #31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet is Jeff Burton, our current points leader.
Jimmie, talk about the race out this evening.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: The race, Jeff and I were just talking before we got started. It was so tough to get going with the short runs that we had and the small fuel cells. It was kind of boring and frustrating from the driver's standpoint. As soon as you would get into a rhythm, the handling of the car would start to show up, and it was time to come in for fuel.
And just really it felt to me like it took some of the racing out of it having to stop so often and need fuel so much. Hopefully we can come back next time with the bigger fuel cells. The track was really fast tonight. I think there were segments where the 48 was the best car, segments where the 8, the 24, the 9. Then we all just kind of bounced around.
At the end Kasey had his stuff put together really good and got around me. I would barely hang on to him, then at the end just made sure I got home. Haven't finished one of these things where I should have in a long time so I was trying to be smart.
THE MODERATOR: Jeff, talk about your run out there tonight. You are still the points leader. Talks about that as well.
JEFF BURTON: Similar, you know. It's very difficult when you take off with these tires, it's handful. And then like Jimmie said, you run for a little while and then the handling starts to come in then you pit. It's hard to get into a rhythm. Good night for us all in all. I stalled the car leaving the pits and got us a lap down and had to fight to get that back. Fortunate to get back by the 9 car and get our lap back.
And then we were we had a good car tonight. I think the track position was really big. Whenever I got in the back, I had a really tough time getting back to the front. But nonetheless, we had a good car tonight and feel pretty bad that I stalled at leaving the pits. But nonetheless, it was a good night.
THE MODERATOR: Okay we'll take questions.
Q: Jeff, looks like you are kind of using the consistency to break away from the pack here. I mean Kahne finished second in these wins tonight and he is still 160 points out. Talk about how you are able to use that consistency to pull away right now?
JEFF BURTON: I think if any, whatever team it happens to be, if you can finish second, fifth, seventh, if you can do those things, you will be really hard to beat. It's not easy to do those things. We haven't had you know, we had some bad luck at Talladega but our luck hasn't been as bad as Jimmie's or Kasey's or a few other ones.
So we're one race away, in my opinion. We've had at least one less bad luck race than Jimmie and Kasey and those guys. If we have another one, and they don't, then they'll be right there with us.
So, you know, we've done a nice job of positioning ourselves. At the same time, I'm pretty sure that Jimmie and Kasey and Mark Martin and all those guys aren't just going to say, He's got the lead so we'll give him the championship. I'm sure they're going to race every week.
We just gotta go to every single race and do the very much the very best we can. It's one race at a time. Whether you finish first or 43rd, you got to put your best effort in. If you do that, all you can do is go home and go to sleep at night. When you don't feel like you put your best effort in, that's really aggravating.
Like after Talladega for me, I was pretty frustrated that night. But I woke up Monday morning and realized we were running fifth with nine to go. That's all you can do. We just it just didn't work out for us.
We've had some fortune and we've run well and hopefully we can keep doing both of them.
THE MODERATOR: A question right here.
Q: Along that same vain, you and Kasey, you did everything you could and you hardly gained any ground on him at all. Junior said when he got out of the car, he called Jeff the Iceman. When do you start banging your head against the wall thinking, what do we gotta do to catch this guy?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I was banging my head against the wall after New Hampshire, how the Chase started for us. But Jeff, if you look at the 31 and the 29 what they were doing from mid season on and the points they're collecting, I think everybody knew that they were, RCR was going to be a threat for the championship.
Jeff, with his experience, you know, he's been in this position a lot of times. And I think they're doing an awesome job. So it is frustrating to only gain 10 points. But at the same time we've had a lot of other races where we've given away a lot of points. We just gotta see what happens. It's going to be a long five more races.
If we can go out and run up front, fight for wins and finish up front like we did tonight, the rest will fall in place. If we don't get to the championship, I want to finish as high as I can in the points this year. I've got a record of being in the top five every year so far. I want to keep that going. The racer in me, I want to finish as high as I can regardless of the championship.
THE MODERATOR: Question right here.
Q: The last pitstop you come out thought you had a loss wheel, but it's funny how things work out sometimes. I heard you say if you hadn't had some things happen first in practice with some tires, you absolutely would have pitted, but it turned out to be the tire.
JEFF BURTON: We put a set on Thursday that shook so bad,I told them that something was going to fall off the car. We took the tire to Goodyear and they rebalanced it and we put it back on the car and it was all good. So we dealt with that on either Thursday or Friday, I don't remember what day it was.
Tonight, I mean, when I drove into turn one, they dropped the green flag, and I mean it shook. I mean it shook bad enough where it scared me. And I screamed, We got a wheel loose, we got a wheel loose. And they said, We do not have a wheel loose, we know we got them tight.
Had I not done that on Thursday, I would have pitted regardless of what they said because it shook so bad. It never got worse, but it never got better. I was glad the race ended because I mean it was vibrating hard. And it did it all the last run. Probably wasn't very smart to keep running, but I was banking that we had that same deal that we had Thursday.
We had it in the Busch car and in the Cup car. So I would have pitted without that experience.
THE MODERATOR: Question in the back. Go ahead. Q: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kasey Kahne both got out of their cars and said they can't break you, as if they couldn't get you off your game. Do you feel you have a mental edge as a veteran? What were you thinking when you stalled the car and they were pushing you down pit road, what was going through your minds?
JEFF BURTON: I probably can't say that. They would probably fine me. I mean, I was just mad at myself. It was my fault. I was having trouble with the carburetor and I was afraid to give it enough rpm because I was afraid it was going to break the rearend gear, and I just didn't do a good job getting out of the pits. Then I flooded it trying to get it restarted. It was just a complete screw up all the way around on my part.
As far as, you know, as far as, you know, them saying they can't break us and all that, I mean, you know, they seemed to break us last week. How soon people forget (laughter). I take it as a tremendous compliment when people like Jimmie or Kasey or Junior talk, you know, good about us.
At the same time, this is this sport, five races is a long time. You can go from having all your stuff together and really feeling good about yourself to really figuring you can't run a lick. So I've been through it, I've seen it, and I'm not going to we're not going to take ourselves too seriously just yet. We still have a lot of work to do. And you know anything can happen.
We put a good effort together and hopefully we can just we'll continue to put a good effort together. I just hope that we can keep yielding results.
THE MODERATOR: Question right here. Go ahead. Q: Jimmie, how hard has it been to get over what happened last week? Vickers just said that every single driver on the tour had congratulated him and said, Don't worry about it, except one. Would that be you?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I guess no, it's not me. You know, last week's last week. In racing, you are going to have things that take place. You are going to have I mean, I've caused wrecks, people have wrecked me. It's just part of it.
Last week's last week. I've congratulated him. I've congratulated the team. I went through the shop and shook everybody's hand in the 25/5 shop. All those guys deserve all the compliments in the world for what they did.
I think it was obvious that Brian made a mistake last weekend, and that stuff happens. It's racing. We're all good.
THE MODERATOR: Question right here.
Q: Jeff, with your success, the mile and halves this season, how much does any more does Martinsville become a challenge? Maybe it's not a track you have dominated as much. You have finished an average of tenth in the last three races.
JEFF BURTON: I think Martinsville is a challenge for everybody every time we go there. It's such a unique racetrack. It's unlike anything else in the country. I don't know of any racetrack that's similar to it. It's a huge challenge.
I think that Martinsville will have a huge bearing on the points race because it's so easy to, you know, mess up there and, you know, cause a wreck. It's easy to get in a wreck. It's easy to break a transmission. It's easy to burn the brakes off the thing. There's so many things that happen at Martinsville every single time we go there.
There's a reason that people throw helmets at each other. You know, it's short track racing. And, you know, I think it's a lot of fun though. I think Martinsville is I enjoy it. I think it's fun. But it's totally different than what we did tonight; certainly different than what we did last week. But that's what's fun about our sport.
I mean the best thing about our division, in my opinion, is that we run so many different racetracks. That's what I enjoy. Martinsville is a huge challenge every time we go there. When you unload at Martinsville, it's like you have been dropped into another planet. I mean the racetrack's so different. But I think it's a lot of fun.
THE MODERATOR: Less' go upstairs to the press box for questions. Who has a question? Go ahead.
Q: This question is for Jimmie. What does this finish this week, finishing second, say about your team's ability to bounce back after last week's run at Talladega?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think our team's kind of known for that. And what we look at with Talladega, Kansas, even Dover we had a strong run, New Hampshire we had a great car, didn't have a chance to show it, we feel like we've had speeds we've been able to go back each week, you know, have a positive attitude in the shop and get prepared for the next week and show up with that feeling that you need inside to come here and compete for a win.
So we feel good. We're glad to finally get a finish where we've been running, where we deserve to finish. So that's very refreshing tonight. We're all going to go to sleep well and be ready for next week.
THE MODERATOR: Let's stay upstairs. Go ahead.
Q: Jeff, I know there's 42 other guys out there and nine other guys in the Chase, but would you consider your teammate to probably be your toughest competition because you know he's got the same kind of good stuff you do?
JEFF BURTON: I have a tremendous amount of respect for Kevin and for Todd Barrier and everybody on that team. I mean, they're exceptionally talented group of people. There's no question about it. And they will be a huge challenge.
But, you know, the 48 team, I mean, the 9 team, the 24 team, there's a lot of teams that have shown a tremendous amount of speed. Like I said earlier, the only reason that we're ahead of them in points, I mean, we've run well, but so have they. And we saw it with the 24 tonight, the 11 tonight. I'm not sure what happened to the 29, the 6. I mean they all ran well. Who didn't run well? Just they had stuff go wrong.
So I am not looking at any one team saying, that's our biggest competition. I think we're our biggest competition. I think that we've gotta go and do our job. And I think the racetrack's the biggest competition. If we go and race the racetrack and try to go around the racetrack faster than our competition, then that's the goal.
You know, I don't look at it as a competition between the 48 and 31. I look at it as a competition between us and the racetrack because it's all about lap time. And I know that sounds a little goofy, and everybody knows I am a little goofy, but I focus on I try to focus not so much on what these guys are doing because if you do it will drive you crazy. I mean, you don't want to go toe to toe with Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson. Those guys are really good. So we focus on the racetrack and try to make the best lap time we can and hopefully we do it on any given night better than they can on that day.
But I am not looking at any one team by any means. I don't even I mean, I won't know until tomorrow where we are. I know we're leading the points but I don't know by how much. That's inconsequential right now. It's five races to go and we'll try to race the next five racetracks.
Continued in part 2