Daytona 500: Top two qualifiers, top rookie, part 1

Post Qualifying Transcripts - Clint Boyer, Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Richard Childress Daytona International Speedway February 12, 2006 CLINT BOYER , NO. 07 JACK DANIELS CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS - FASTEST ROOKIE, QUALIFIED 7TH HOW MUCH SPEED...

Post Qualifying Transcripts - Clint Boyer, Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Richard Childress

Daytona International Speedway
February 12, 2006

CLINT BOYER , NO. 07 JACK DANIELS CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS - FASTEST ROOKIE, QUALIFIED 7TH

HOW MUCH SPEED DID THE GUYS FIND BETWEEN TESTING AND WHEN YOU RETURNED TO DAYTONA? "Quite a bit. Obviously the engine people were the biggest part of it; but just fine-tuning the body and massaging everything. The main thing was bringing them ponies underneath the hood back."

DID RICHARD CHILDRESS TALK TO YOU AND/OR ALL THREE DRIVERS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS YEAR? "RCR needs to come back and change and turnaround. Richard has made a lot of difficult changes personnel-wise. It was for the good and it's already starting to show. This is our first race, but the attitudes at the shop are better. It's just improved all through the shop across the board -- from our aero program and engine program. Last year, our Busch cars were always really awesome and our Cup cars really struggled. I think (crew chiefs) Gil and Todd and Scott have done a good job figuring out the differences between those and have found a couple of things we can pick up on the Cup cars as well. Aside from Daytona -- that's one thing -- I'm really optimistic about getting to California and seeing what we've got there because I think we're going to be pretty happy as well."

ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT YOU AND JEFF BEAT KEVIN? "I think a lot of people were probably surprised about that after practice. But you know we just stayed on our game plan. I don't know what happened to Kevin. I really haven't talked to him. But they weren't quite as fast. But as far as Jeff and I, we were actually about the same. It was a good lap for both of us. All of us are pretty close to the top 10. I'm really proud of everybody at RCR and I'm really happy for Richard. I know he had a smile on his face when I just saw him."

JEFF GORDON , NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS - QUALIFIED 2ND:

"I'm really excited about being on the front row. I started looking at the laps that those guys were putting up there and with the wind and conditions, you have no idea whether you're going to be able to pick up or not. I'm just really excited to be on the front.

"It's a big deal for all the hard work and effort that goes into Daytona qualifying. It's a big deal to be on the front row and I'm proud of my guys for making that happen for me."

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING LOCKED IN ON THE FRONT ROW: "Every year I say man, it's so important to get on that front row and get locked in. It really does a lot for you. But at the same time, it adds pressure going into the Duels. You've got to make sure you keep that car in one piece. But I've got to say I'm not going to be conservative in the Duels because my guys have already assured me that we've got as good as car sitting in the truck, the backup car, as this one. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the week and just getting the car dialed in for the 500. Now it's all about just getting the car to drive as good as you can. We put it in the slickest conditions we can to go out there and run fast by itself. Now you've got to make sure it runs fast in a group. And there are little things that we'll do to the car to make that happen. But you don't know what you've got until you get into those conditions on Thursday. Sometimes you've got to be shuffled back in the pack to really know what you've got. I don't want to get into a dicey situation where we're risking too much, but at the same time I don't want to be too conservative."

BOTH RCR AND YOUR TEAM HAVE BEEN REBUILDING AND YOU'RE BOTH ON THE FRONT ROW. DO YOU SEE ANY COMMON THEMES? HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO COME BACK INTO CHAMPIONSHIP FORM? "Sometimes it takes some beatings before you really get things turned around. It puts you in a position to make changes and be humbled and really want it that much more. I would say right now we're as hungry and fired up as we've ever been. We've got youthfulness and excitement back in the team and it's all about chemistry. We've been talking about chemistry since we missed the Chase last year. And I'm seeing that chemistry back. This is Daytona. We ran good here and qualified good here last year. We won the Daytona 500 last year. We ran good at restrictor plate tracks the rest of the season last year, maybe other than here in July. But we really could use some thing like this to happen and I'm sure Childress would tell you the same thing. Anything positive is good for the team and good for you. I'd like to see us do is have a good strong run in the Daytona 500 and carry that momentum and try to keep it going. We're not as good as we can be, right now. But we're a lot better than we were last year at the end of the season and I think we're only going to get better as the season goes on."

JEFF BURTON SAID HE WAS LUCKY THAT THE WIND WAS JUST RIGHT. WAS THAT A FACTOR IN YOUR RUN TOO? "That's just good television. Don't listen to that (laughs). When you're in that car, you have no idea whether you caught the wind or not. You have no idea. You know if it's a better run than what you've had the day before because you see the rpm's get up there a little bit. But I could not have told you whether we had too much headwind or not enough tailwind. I knew it was going to be really close. I could tell just by watching the rpm's that we weren't dropping from what we had yesterday."

HOW MUCH EMPHASIS DID YOU PUT ON QUALIFYING? "I think everyone in this garage area -- especially the top 15 or 20 teams -- put a tremendous amount of effort into it. Some guys find things that work and some guys don't. Some say their car doesn't qualify good but it's going to race good. All I can tell you is that last year we had a car that qualified good and it raced good also. The car that qualifies good typically doesn't handle as good so you've got to do a little bit more to get some of the downforce and get the car driving a bit better. We did that last year and I feel confident we can do that again this year. We know the speed is there and that's important. And we're locked into that front row. It paid off. That's why so many hours are spent. We do things for Daytona that we don't do anywhere else -- not even Talladega or this race in July. This car is completely paint. Sometimes to save time in the paint shop, we'll paint the car but we'll use decals for sponsor logos. But this car. This thing is completely painted. This is just one of a hundred things that we do different for qualifying than we do anywhere else."

ON THE MINDSET OF THE DAY: "I wish this was Saturday and we were doing all this yesterday -- qualifying and then running the Shootout Saturday night. I was fired up last night to get the Shootout going and hated to see the rain. But now it's even better for us to carry a little momentum out of that qualifying run. It has nothing to do with the speed of the cars and all that. It's jus the energy you have as a driver and a team. To get back to the chemistry thing of going into a race. Hey, we just got one trophy for being on the front row. Let's go get another trophy. I'm looking forward to the race."

ON ROBBIE LOOMIS LEAVING THE TEAM AND IS MIXING IT UP WITHIN THE TEAM IN GENERAL IMPORTANT: "Absolutely. I was the first person to try to make that clear to people on the outside. Robbie Loomis' departure had nothing to do with his abilities and talents. I think the guy is awesome. We won a championship together and came close in '04. So for us, sometimes those things do happen. With some of the things that Robbie went through with his mom, he really started re-evalutating life and thinking about his long-term ambitions. To get into that position at Hendrick Motorsports was one option for him. We went into the 2005 season already knowing that option and talking about Steve Letarte becoming the crew chief. We wanted to win the championship in 2005 and send Robbie either up in management at Hendrick Motorsports, or on his way somewhere else if that's what he wanted to do. So, it is so important to have chemistry and confidence and everybody believing in one another. It's really hard to get it, but it's so easy to lose it. Last summer, we were all frustrated including Robbie. So the whole thing made sense."

AS DEFENDING CHAMPION OF THIS RACE AND STARTING ON THE FRONT ROW, AND AFTER HAVING AN UP AND DOWN SEASON LAST YEAR, POLITICALLY WOULD THAT MAKE PEOPLE MORE PRONE TO WORK WITH YOU?

"When practice is going on out there, at least when drafting practice is going on, step out into the grandstands or get a better view from TV cause I have no friends out there. Everytime we come to Daytona, I've got no friends. I haven't had any for a long time and you know what, I have stopped trying to make them. I work with my teammates the best that I can. I have explained to them that in that process "Guys, I want to do everything I can but lets not forget that each of us are here trying to win the race too. You are going to do things that I could take as hanging me out. I will do things that you could take the same way.' You try to make the best friends you can out there but I just don't see how you can.

You hear about all the things Michael (Waltrip) and Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) have said. Let me tell you that is more commitment on one side than the other. That is the only way you get a friend out there is when one person heavily commits to you and sticks with it. You know what, enough restrictor races have come along for me that I can't make that commitment. I know that I am going to break it somewhere along the way and it is going to cost me positions or the win along the way. Last year's race, if you watched it, I was in second place in a great position, I had Jimmie Johnson behind me and then he got shuffled back by Junior behind me. I just knew I had a good car, it is time to go, I have got to go to the outside. Junior was behind me and I pretty much knew he wasn't going to go with me.

But I hoped by making that move, it would create some other scenarios and it did and we ended up winning. There is nobody out there feeling sorry for us because we didn't make the chase and win the championship, especially when we come here to Daytona.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF BUMP DRAFTING? "I think bump drafting is probably the worst thing that has come along in this sport. I know why it happens, it is about getting momentum. You get locked into side-by-side racing and the only way to break yourself away is to get a bump from behind or get a bump from the guy who is in front of you. One of the reasons why we have so many wrecks is because of that. Then you got guys that bump draft in the middle of the tri-oval and through the corners. You have some guys now, who, and I have seen Junior do this, he will get a run on a guy and will run right square in the back of him, and practically turn him sideways, about sending the guy to the grass. But he goes on. I just think that as long as we build the bumpers up on these cars, with 1/4 steel and the tubing the way they are, we are not going going to see bump drafting stop. And as long as we have it, we are still going to see wrecks. I am not saying, we aren't going to see wrecks, but it certainly doesn't help that and I haven't really seen NASCAR do anything about it either. I would like to see them try and make an effort to slow it down or stop it.

HOW MUCH WAS THE WIND AN IMPACT ON QUALIFYING - "There was wind yesterday. Maybe it wasn't quite as gusty today and the direction changed a little bit. I know we made a gear change based on that and felt like it helped us yesterday and played role in us being strong today. The wind, you can't predict it, you can't change it so you have to just deal with it. You have to be as smart as you can about it. I know there are times when a gust might help you or hurt you, it does happen. But I think we are talking 100ths of a second. We aren't talking half a second. So I think when you go through that inspection line, and you get out there, that has a lot more to do with how fast you go than a gust of wind. Unless it changed drastically from beginning to end, but I felt like it was pretty consistent all day today."

JEFF BURTON , NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS - POLE WINNER

TALK ABOUT YOUR LAP OUT THERE TODAY - "Well, we had a fast car out there, fortunately. We knew that yesterday, we knew we had something. We never put tires on it, we never put all the tape on it. We had not much time on the engine. I knew we had a shot a running well but I didn't know we could run that well. Jeff (Gordon) is exactly right on the wind thing. It isn't about a half of a second, it is a tenth, That is the most we have picked up from the first two-second lap since we have been down here in qualifying trim or in testing. On that second lap, I saw the flags, I have gotten used to looking at the flags and can tell what kind of an affect the wind is going to have. I could tell they were blowing in the right direction and I knew that was going to be advantageous for us. Fortunately it worked in our favor.

HOW MUCH DOES YOUR POLE AND CLINT BOWYER QUALIFYING SEVENTH SHOW THE IMPROVEMENTS AT RCR. "Well. I don't know. I would love to say we had a great day today and all is right in the world and everything is perfect from here on out. But I am smart enough not to say that. There is a lot of racing yet to go at Daytona much less the rest of the season, there are a lot of days that will challenge us. I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the test we had in January was the best test I have ever been involved in. We had a really really good test at Las Vegas. My confidence level is as high as it was in 1998 and 1999 when I came down here. That is not just wanting to feel good, that is based on what facts in regard to our test. We will see what happens, but I have very high hopes for our team. I hope this isn't the only highlight of our season. Hopefully we can outshine this accomplishment a lot. You have got to remember historically I am not a good qualifier, that isn't a big secret. When you don't qualify well, you justify it to yourself that qualifying isn't that important. So when you do qualify well, you can't get too excited about it, cause it isn't that important. It is a great day for us, hopefully we can build on this. But we came down here to put ourselves in position to win the Daytona 500. Today is a day that went well for us but when the green flag drops, they don't care anymore who was on the pole. It is all about who can race well and that is what our focus will turn into on Wednesday.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Robbie Loomis
Teams Hendrick Motorsports