Martinsville II: Johnson, Burton post qualifying interview

JIMMIE JOHNSON AND JEFF BURTON GIVE CHEVY FRONT ROW AT MARTINSVILLE WHEN QUALIFYING CANCELLED FOR NINTH TIME THIS SEASON Martinsville, VA - For the ninth time this season, qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) was cancelled due to...

JIMMIE JOHNSON AND JEFF BURTON GIVE CHEVY FRONT ROW AT MARTINSVILLE WHEN QUALIFYING CANCELLED FOR NINTH TIME THIS SEASON

Martinsville, VA - For the ninth time this season, qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) was cancelled due to rain giving Chevy the front row for the Tums QuikPak 500 at Martinsville Speedway. The 43-car field has been set by provisions set forth in the NSCS rulebook.

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, will start on the pole by virtue of being the leader in the Chase to the Sprint Cup standings. Jeff Burton, No. 31 AT&T Impala SS, will start along side.

The four remaining Team Chevy drivers in the Chase will start as follows: Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Impala SS - 5th; Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Impala SS - 6th; Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS - 8th and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Impala SS - 10th.

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Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, and Jeff Burton, No. 31 AT&T Impala SS, met with members of the media following cancelation of qualifying for Sunday's race due to rain. Johnson will start on the pole with Burton along side in second.

DOES QUALIFYING BEING CANCELED CHANGE YOUR STRATEGY FOR SUNDAY'S RACE?

JIMMIE - "Man, I have had some chicken, rice, corn, ate probably 15 Hershey Kisses, two Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, took a slight nap, watched a little TV broadcast and here we are. How about everybody else? About the same. You guys need some candy in here? (LAUGHS) It was a great lap. Good to start up front. (MORE LAUGHTER)"

HOW ARE YOU GOING TO APPROACH THE RACE?

JEFF BURTON - "I was actually contemplating that I am a little concerned that my best average qualifying position here is when we don't qualify, that is what I was contemplating. I don't know, try to keep up I guess. These guys (referring to Jimmie Johnson and No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS team) have been, with the No. 24 have really dominated this race, so trying to find a way to answer that. They have been really, really fast. That was the case no matter where we started, I don't know, not a lot has happened since we last spoke three hours ago. "

IS THERE A TIGER WOODS KIND OF QUALITY ABOUT WHAT JIMMIE HAS DONE THE LAST THREE YEARS?

JEFF -- "Listen, I have a tremendous amount of respect for what Jimmie has been able to do, what Jeff (Gordon) has been able to do. That entire organization is the best organization over the last 10 years-period. There is no debating that. It is what it is. They have set the standard really high. This is a really competitive sport with a lot of good teams. A lot of effort being put out, they have been incredible. They have done it better than the rest of us have. It is just that easy to say. There have been some teams that have flirted with it and maybe won a championship, but there has been no team that has consistently put themselves in position to win races and championships the way that Hendrick has and as of late, the No. 48. There is a lot of respect in the garage, not from us, but from the entire Cup garage about how Jimmie races. He races hard and races clean. I read an article this morning and I don't normally read a lot, there is no way you can win a championship if you can't be ugly on the race track-well, he's done it. We have tried to emulate a lot of what they do and I have a lot of admiration for what they have been able to do. More importantly how they do it. I think they do it the right way."

HOW WOULD YOU RATE YOUR INTERMEDIATE TRACK PROGRAM?

JEFF -- "I think it has been the weakness of our program this year. We haven't been able to match the speed that consistently the No. 99, the No. 48 and the No. 18 have been able to put up there, lately the No. 16. Our speed hasn't been what their speed has been. That's been our major concern. That was the case on Saturday (Lowe's Motor Speedway) as well. On long runs, we would do really well. The No. 48 and No. 99 could kind of get away from us and then we would come charging back at them later but they were so far gone by then, if you don't get green flag runs, it didn't work out for us. That concern is still there. The way the race worked out Saturday, it kind of played in to our strength, we had a couple long runs. It just kind of played in to what we have been doing well. But our biggest concern is still speed. Those guys can go out the first lap of practice and drive away from and we are still trying to figure out how we can do that. We think we have made some gains, but I am not sitting here today telling you we have made enough gains. I think we are still behind the ball a little bit."

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU PERSONALLY IF MARTINSVILLE LOST A RACE?

JEFF -- "This track has a huge history. It is entrenched in the history of this area. I understand it is easy to make an argument that there are bigger cities and towns that we could be near. I understand that argument. As I said earlier, I do think it is important to embrace our history, to embrace the past and this is a great way to do that. There is no other track that we race on that is like this. I think it belongs. We aren't the ones that get to vote on where we are going to race. They really don't ask us, but as far as I am concerned, we have to have places like this because I think it reminds us of where we have come from and I really think that is important."

DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS PLANE CRASH EVERY OCTOBER WHEN WE COME BACK TO MARTINSVILLE?

JIMMIE -- "It does enter my mind and I see this weekend coming and it is hard not to think about what took place. Those things just register with me. I have lost some other very close friends through racing, grandparents and others that have really affected me, it is just my personality I guess. When I come to this track and think about the 10 people on that airplane and how many close friends that I had. Ricky (Hendrick), the reason I am at Hendrick Motorsports was because of Ricky Hendrick and his belief in me. Randy Dorton and what he meant to me and my growth as a driver and also my home life. The guy was just an awesome, awesome man. I just go down the list and think of everybody that was on that plane. It is in my mind, but I can't say it makes me try any harder or focus anymore. I do go out on track and when we run well, have a huge sense of pride and so look forward to bringing up their names and talking about them and recognizing them. So it is more than a pride issue than it is changing focus or will to win. I am just proud to talk about them. Some very, very great people that we miss dearly. I look at Mr. Hendrick and still today wonder how in the world today he deals with the loss of that airplane and everyone that was on it, from his brother to his son, nieces...just go down the list, it was a mass, mass tragedy. He is the head of Hendrick Motorsports, leads it every single day. I sit here and look at his strength and commitment to what he's built and it is just amazing that he can overcome that type of tragedy and still lead."

YOU'VE HAD TWO SITUATIONS IN A ROW WHEN YOU'VE HAD QUALIFYING RAINED OUT AND YOU GUYS ALL START TOGETHER UP FRONT, IT SORT OF TENDS TO WORK AGAINST THINGS GETTING SHAKEN UP A LITTLE BIT DOESN'T IT?

JEFF -- "I know what you're talking about. I think it's really interesting. I think it's really exciting that all the guys that are racing for the championship start the race together. I think that adds a level of excitement and intensity. If I can keep him (Jimmie Johnson) from leading the first lap and maybe he won't lead any laps. If he can keep me from leading a lap, then maybe I won't lead any laps. Right off the bat there's a little bit of intensity there that I think is healthy. You're right we are clearly one of the teams in the Chase that struggles with qualifying. Honestly I came here today not looking forward to the questions -- how the hell are you going to finish and run any good from qualifying back there? I already had an answer (laughter) but it changes the weekend for sure but I think it's fun all starting together, I do. I think it puts the focus especially on a short track, I think it puts the focus right on us. I think that's good for the fans. The cool thing is I think we respect each other a great deal as drivers and we'll race each other smart but also hard and we'll get to do that lap one. I think that's pretty cool."

JIMMIE -- "I certainly understand your point. I think it depends on each individual driver. Last week with how important track position is in Charlotte, I was one way thinking along the lines that's it's too bad we're all starting together because we could all be spread out. It could be a situation where somebody couldn't overcome the track position. I'm thinking along those lines and at the same time we had a terrible test so I'm not sure how qualifying would have gone so I felt like that may have helped us out a little bit there. This would be the flip of that where I think our qualifying effort would have been really strong and there may have been a chance to shake it up. It's a long race. The thing about this track is you're going to lose track position at some point, maybe two or three times throughout the race depending on the strategies that take place. Pit stall pick really becomes the important thing and we all have a shot at a good pit stall. Obviously number one is the best. Pit road can be really, really tough so this way everybody's got a good, clean shot at running well and not having something ridiculous kind of take you out of the championship battle."

JEFF AND JIMMIE -- WHEN YOU HEAR THAT QUALIFYING HAS BEEN POSTPONED AND YOU HAVE THE GOOD STARTING SPOTS AND YOU KNOW YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE THE PIT STALLS, HOW MUCH OF A RELIEF IS THAT FOR YOU GUYS?

JEFF -- "It's big for me. As Jimmie said, pit selection here is huge and that first stall I think is really important. They've earned that first stall because they're first in points. We talk a lot about well some people say they got lucky they didn't have to qualify and they got that stall, well they're leading the points they earned it. So now we've got a decision we've got to make about where we want to pit. It is very important and it will have an effect on the race."

JIMMIE -- "I zoned out. What were we talking about, pit road? I just ate too much and took a nap (laughing)."

IF IT CAME TO A POINT IF NASCAR DECIDED TO TAKE A DATE AWAY FROM US WOULD YOU GET BEHIND AN EFFORT TO TRY TO SAVE IT?

JEFF -- "You know I've never tried to get involved in where NASCAR has the races. A driver's perspective of where the races should be is completely different than the perspective of race fans. I think the race fans need to determine what race tracks need to have races. I would certainly voice my opinion to NASCAR and remind them about the history of the race track but ultimately we don't get a vote and it's completely out of hand about where we race. Me getting behind an effort probably would be of little use because the decision made by NASCAR is going to be what NASCAR believes is the best for the sport. We've been having this conversation for 15 years about Martinsville losing a race and it hasn't happened yet. I haven't gotten too concerned about it because I've been hearing this for so long. It is a moving target there's no question but I've been hearing these rumors for as long as I've been doing it and we still have two races here."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Kevin Harvick , Ricky Hendrick , Jimmie Johnson , Clint Bowyer