Daytona 500: Busch, Johnson, Sprague press conference, Part II

An interview with: KURT BUSCH, Second Place JIMMIE JOHNSON, Third Place JACK SPRAGUE, Top Rookie Page 2 of 2 Q: Are you upset that it ended this way, with the rain? Johnson: No, I'm not upset. You know, of course, I would have loved to...

An interview with:
KURT BUSCH, Second Place
JIMMIE JOHNSON, Third Place
JACK SPRAGUE, Top Rookie

Page 2 of 2

Q: Are you upset that it ended this way, with the rain?

Johnson: No, I'm not upset. You know, of course, I would have loved to race till the end. I felt we had a shot to win the race.

We've been here for two weeks. This pays the same amount of points was Rockingham does next week. We need to get home and get ready for that. I wish we could have finished under green and been out there. That's kind of a double-edged sword. I told Kurt I was going to try to push him for the lead, and we would have been first and second, or maybe 21st and 22nd. To come out of a restrictor plate race with a race car, Top 5 finish, I'm happy with that.

Q: Did it look like the 15 and the 8 were hooking up or was Junior on his own out there?

Johnson: When we got the one to go, I looked in the mirror and I saw the 15 and 8, hands out the window, hand signals, pointing, thumbs up. I knew I was in trouble then.

Q: Jack, you're the highest finishing rookie of the day. How do you feel about being the highest finishing rookie for the first race, how that might affect the overall goal for you to win the Rookie of the Year title?

Sprague: Probably not much. This is the first race, man. There's a hundred to go or whatever we run in this deal.

You know, like I said, there were rookies in front of me throughout the day, they would cycle around back and forth. There was probably only three or four cars or five that you saw that stayed in the front, four or five all day. At one point I saw Jimmie three cars ahead of me back around 15th or so.

I mean, to come out of here with a straight race car, something we can take to Talladega, at least test against a new one to see if we can build something better, that's a plus. Not to be wrecked 43rd in points, that's a plus. These first races are tough on a new team without points to fall back on to get in the race. That fifth race logging points will help me. We certainly don't want to go home from a race. That's the big thing right now. We want to keep the NetZero Pontiac in every race and learn. This is a little different than a Busch car, probably back closer to the truck I'm used to. I'm relating on things with these cars that we've been testing over the winter, more back to a couple years ago. I'm getting older so my mind's not as good as it was trying to remember all that truck stuff.

That stuff seems to relate more than the Busch stuff does to these cars. We had a great test at Rockingham. We're looking forward to going there in a few days, then on to Vegas.

The rookie deal is a long, drawn out deal. Jimmie has been through it. I don't know how they decided that one. That's a tough deal. I know it's a strange point system. I'm not going to worry about that part of it.

Q: The last pass, Jimmie, the way the 15 car ducked behind the 8 car, teamwork made a big difference in that pass. Is that fair? Is that the way racing ought to be?

Johnson: The older I get and the more experiences I go through, nothing's fair. It's just how it is. It's how restrictor plate racing is. You cannot do anything on your own out there. You need someone, teammate or not, to work with you, to help you get a run, to help you finish passes. You need someone.

You know, I wish that I had the 24 or the zero or the 25 or the 5 behind me there at the end. Possibly would have been a different situation getting started on that restart.

That's how it is. Those guys have done a very good job to find a way to work together all the time. We've been trying very hard at Hendrick with all of our cars to try to find a way to make it work. It usually benefits one person, the lead car, and everyone else pays the consequences.

Somehow, the 8 and 15 can both pull through situations which is really hard to do. I think it shows how strong their cars are. Hopefully we can find out wherever they're hiding that speed at, and we can do it ourselves at Hendrick.

Q: Follow-up to that question is to have a car that was two laps down and play a role in that finish. Does that make it even more not fair?

Johnson: You know, fair or not fair, I knew what the situation was going to be. You know, I would wish and hope -- you know, what Junior got the jump, Junior wasn't back there pushing the 15 past me or anything. I would assume he would. His name is on that race team, as well, let alone being a teammate and partner in it.

I really don't have any feelings on it one way or not, if it's fair or not. It's just racing, what you have to deal with on a restrictor plate race.

Q: One pass under green. Could you comment on that? I was done on pit road.

Busch: Pass for the lead, I wasn't obviously in on easily. I would have gained more points. Those pay dividends at the end of the year. With the way the DEI has a threshold on the front of the competition, they're able to do things to help one another maintain the lead, the other to maintain second. We're all racing for third.

Today I ended up second place just due to the fact there was a mechanical issue on that 8 car. We're happy with our finish. It was by no means a mistake or a surprise. We worked just as hard as any other team did over the off-season. This is a good way to pick up where we left off last year, with a second place finish.

Q: Jimmie, late in the race Jeff was up there with you. I believe it was over in turn one, you kind of consciously moved high to work with him, let him catch up with the draft, but he lost it. Were you trying to do that? Would it have helped if Jeff would have been able to stay up there? Would that have made a difference for you?

Johnson: Absolutely. It's lonely up there when you look in front of you, there's two DEI cars, I see Kurt and Mark and the 17. It's how the game is played.

I wish that Jeff was able to be up there with me. Unfortunately, things didn't work out for him. I guess he had a scary moment with the 20, had to get out of the gas, lost a bunch of spots.

I knew that if it came to the white flag or racing back to the checkered, Jeff would hang me out just like anyone else because he's trying to win the race. You want that teammate around you, someone you know who is good to work with you, so you can stay up in the front.

Q: The race is official. Kurt, Jimmie, do you think NASCAR could make an exception to the rule because this is the Daytona 500?

Johnson: I think it shouldn't matter which race it is, it just needs to be consistent throughout all 35 or 36 so we know what we're dealing with every time.

Busch: I agree with him. Then there's the fact that this is the Daytona 500 and you have to respect how long this race has been continuing on over the years, the prestige that it has, and of course the history behind it.

I think Dale Jarrett led us all in the right way saying we should try to complete this race. Mother Nature had other ideas today. There's nothing you can do when there's rain on the racetrack. There's no special rules you should develop because this is the Daytona 500. We have to go by the same rules that every other racetrack has.

Moderator: Congratulations. Thank you.

Part I

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett