Daytona 500: Top three press conference, part 1

Daytona 500 Post Race Transcript: Top three Drivers: JEFF BURTON, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Monte Carlo SS MARK MARTIN, No. 01 U. S. Army Monte Carlo SS KEVIN HARVICK, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Monte Carlo SS Winning Team: RICHARD CHILDRESS, Team...

Daytona 500 Post Race Transcript:

Top three Drivers:
JEFF BURTON, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Monte Carlo SS
MARK MARTIN, No. 01 U. S. Army Monte Carlo SS
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Monte Carlo SS

Winning Team:
RICHARD CHILDRESS, Team Owner, Richard Childress Racing, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Monte Carlo SS
TODD BERRIER, Crew chief, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Monte Carlo SS

KERRY THARP: We are pleased to be joined in the media center by our third place finisher today in the Daytona 500, and that's Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet.

Jeff, talk about the run out there that you had today and what you saw there at the end.

JEFF BURTON: Well, I was ecstatic with how our car drove all day. We didn't have the fastest car in the race for sure. That's the thing we lacked was speed. But what we didn't lack was being able to drive the car wherever I wanted it to be. We ran really well. To be honest, we ran well.

I still don't know the whole story, but we had a jack man, came in running third, I think, and our jack man injured his ankle. I'm not sure what happened, I just saw him limping around the car after the pit stop. But he toughed it up. Went ahead and did the pit stop. Went around the front of the car literally hopping on one foot carrying the jack, got the left side up. We lost all our track position with that, but he got it done and he kept us from going a lap down. Really proud of him for doing that.

And then it was kind of fighting our way back up. I think I passed somebody for third with maybe five or six to go, and I drove into turn three, and I just was completely sideways and backed up the racetrack in front of everybody, and we were four-wide, people banging on my doors, and recovered from that and then missed another wreck.

So the last 40 laps were just crazy. I mean, I cannot tell you guys how wild and aggressive those last 40 laps were. I mean, it was insane, as all the carnage proves.

So glad to get through it. We had a good start to the year. I'm real proud of Kevin and his guys and equally disappointed for Mark and his guys.

Q: It seems like it's two races: the first half of the race everyone is just kind of riding around, and the second half. Is that how it turns out?

JEFF BURTON: Well, what happens is as the track temps cool down, the track gets a little more grip. As the laps wind down, the risk versus reward ratio starts to change and people do things that they otherwise wouldn't do.

It's really wild. The first part of the race, people are racing hard, but the last part of the race, they race -- we race harder than we should, if that makes any sense.

So we're at a point where we're racing and everything is cool, but then we try to take it the next step. There's just not enough grip to take it that next step and therefore you get people running into each other and all the carnage that we had.

I hate late-race cautions on restrictor plate races. I hate them. When that last caution came out, I was really glad because that got us caught back up, but I was really disappointed because I knew we were 40 to go at Daytona for the Daytona 500, it's going to get ugly.

Q: I hate to put a little downer on this, but in your mind should the caution have been thrown before it was, because Mark is saying that he thought he would have won the race if the caution would have come out?

JEFF BURTON: I haven't seen a replay of it. I mean, I can't comment because I just have not seen a replay. The only thing I did see was it looked like Harvick got way in front of him, then Mark got a little bit in front of him, then Harvick got a little bit in front of him.

I don't know if the caution -- when the caution would have come out, where everybody was at that point. Honestly, I just saw that one brief thing because I saw it live. But I haven't seen a replay.

I think throwing a caution at that point, turn four, last lap, doesn't do you any good anyway. Nobody is going to do anything different than what they otherwise would.

Before I really comment, I'd like to see a tape of it.

Q: Was the cold temperatures and the wind a factor at all in the beginning?

JEFF BURTON: Yeah, I thought the wind was a factor. I hope it was. We believe that we worked on our race car because of the wind and we did a lot of setup stuff based on the wind.

Yeah, I think that the biggest thing that happens at the end of the race is just, like I said, that risk versus reward ratio changes, and people start trying to get more than perhaps they should. It just gets wild.

It's hard to even describe. The cars don't drive good enough to be three-wide consistently. You can for a little while, but early in the race when you're three-wide, people lift a little bit, get a little more room. Late in the race, nobody gives any room, and it just gets bizarre.

Q: Kevin is your teammate and Mark is your long time friend. If you're sitting there and assuming yourself you can't win, what are you rooting for?

JEFF BURTON: As good as I feel for RCR and Kevin, I feel that bad for Mark. I'm going to tell you that Mark Martin is a champion. I don't care if he ever wins a championship. He's a champion. I don't care if he ever wins the Daytona 500, he's a champion.

But it would be nice for Mark Martin to be able to see the hardware on the trophy case - for him. But to the competitors, he has so much respect - and not only as a competitor but as a person. He is a world-class individual and driver and mainly person.

You do a whole lot more living than you do driving, and when Mark Martin steps away from the race car, he'll have friends and he'll go on and live a really good life. So disappointing for him, but at the same time, I'm so ecstatic for RCR. To get another Daytona 500 means a great deal. It's huge. But it's exceptionally disappointing for Mark and all the things that he was close to doing.

KERRY THARP: We are joined by another competitors today. Our runner-up in today's race, driver of the No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet, and that's Mark Martin;

Mark, a great run for you out there today. Talk about it. Give us your viewpoint.

MARK MARTIN: Well, first of all, you know, I've got several things I want to say before I talk about the race. First of all, I want to thank the race fans for supporting me so much because if it wasn't for them, I might not have got my dream ride with Ginn. And I also want to thank, you know, that team that worked so hard to give me this deal.

It gives me such great pride to represent the U.S. Army and to work with people who want to win so bad as this group and who gave me a chance to do it the way I wanted.

I also want to say that I didn't ask for a win in the Daytona 500; I asked for a chance. Those guys gave me exactly what I asked for, and I let it slip away, slip through my fingers, and I'm fine with that. I did my best.

When I looked up there at the end, I was minus any pushers. I didn't have any help to get it done, and that's the way it goes. It was really looking good. I told this team through Speed Weeks when we qualified 35th, that we still -- we came down here for Sunday. We came down here to win this race. Ryan Pemberton and all these guys, they got it done. They got it done on Pit Road, they gave me the car, huge horsepower with Hendrick Chevy horsepower, and they gave me the tools to get out there, and we came up a little bit short.

JEFF BURTON: Before I leave, I do want to say one thing that Mark Martin told me this winter. This would be his best chance of winning the Daytona 500 ever, and he was right. He knew what the hell he was doing. I know a lot of people scratched their head, Why is he doing, why is he going over there?

He's not a dumbass. He's a pretty smart guy (laughter).

MARK MARTIN: Thank you. I appreciate that, Jeff.

Q: For Mark, on the last lap when you saw the car spinning behind you and saw the smoke, what were your thoughts? Did you think you had won the race? And secondly, obviously NASCAR allowed you to race back to the caution. Should they allow you guys to do that on the final lap?

MARK MARTIN: You're asking tough questions there. NASCAR was doing their best to get an exciting finish for the Daytona 500. I have no idea what happened behind me. I was ahead when they were wrecking -- my spotter said they were wrecking. I did notice that there was some smoke and stuff. But my focus was basically on beating the 29 to the line. And I knew that we were in good shape being on the inside line when I had Kyle behind me because he had been so strong. I didn't even realize, until I saw a replay afterwards, that I lost Kyle.

Gosh, I was kind of -- that outside line usually gets us up forward just there in the short chute behind the start/finish line. And it was my hope all the way down to the line that I was going to get a push. But I see there was nobody left back there.

No, I didn't think it was over. It isn't over till it's over, and I never saw a yellow flag and I kept racing with everything that I had.

Q: For Mark, I've got to keep belaboring the point, but when y'all came to the line and you crossed it, I think the first words on the radio from you was, They waited, they waited, I can't believe they waited. Did you really have no expectations based on the information you got either from your mirror or crew chief or spotter or anybody else? Did you have no expectation that you would look up at the line and see a yellow there?

MARK MARTIN: You know, I've been racing for over 30 years, and I know one thing for sure, I'm real dumb, so I do stupid stuff. So I sure as heck aren't going to quit racing.

I never thought twice about the prospect of the race going yellow. I could hope because we were ahead at one time. Coming off the corner, I think we were still ahead. And even at that, I thought, Hey, this is a no-brainer. I've got the inside line. I've got Kyle back here, he's fast as all get-out. We're going to zoom back.

But we never picked that speed up, and all I was looking at was the start/finish line. Obviously that's what you do. And that's how it works out. I took a Pepcid Complete before the race, and that took care of my heartburn. And I had a Coca-Cola afterwards, and everything's good (laughter).

Q: When Kyle was behind you, it looked like he might have just been kind of waiting for the right time, but you really felt like you had him beat. What was it that gave you that confidence in Kyle Busch? You felt confident with him behind you, although you made it seem like he was waiting to set you up. Why were you able to be confident you would finish up?

MARK MARTIN: Because when we were side by side that meant Kyle couldn't pass me. He wasn't going to pass me on the inside and he wasn't going to pass me on the outside because there was an outside line, so he would have been caught in a box where he had to push me to get the most positions he could.

Look, y'all saw more of it than I did. I don't know. I knew Kyle was behind me. I knew he wasn't going to get under me because I was on the yellow line. And I thought that Kyle's car was really fast, and I thought he was trapped on the inside line and he was going to be pushing me come off of four. But, you know, I wasn't doing a whole lot of thinking about anything but trying to beat the 29 to the line. You know, that's what happened.

I'll say again: I didn't ask for that trophy; I asked for a chance at it. And I'm very proud of what this team did for me this weekend.

KERRY THARP: We are pleased to be joined by the winner of the 2007 Daytona 500, and that is Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet. Kevin, congratulations. What's it feel like to win the Daytona 500?

KEVIN HARVICK: I'm cold right now. They got me with the water there. I smell like I have a heavy alcohol problem.

But it's just hard to put into words. I mean, we got ourselves in a little bit of trouble there with a hole in the nose and got really hot and had to drop out of the draft there with about 20 to go. Luckily we got a caution and were able to come back in and fix the front of the car.

Just Daytona 500, it's hard to believe. I knew I was going to be the bad guy there at the end with Mark leading. But we just held the pedal down and hoped for the best.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Kevin Harvick , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Richard Childress Racing