Fontana: Burton - Friday media visit



DO YOU WANT TO PUT A RIBBON ON DAYTONA AND WRAP IT UP FOR US? THERE IS ONE HAPPY GUY AND 42 UNHAPPY GUYS, I'M SURE A LOT OF GUYS ARE STILL KIND OF LOOKING AT IT AS THIS IS THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY. "Certainly it was a real competitive race. Any time you get all those cautions at the end of the race, there's probably 15 people that can look themselves in the eye and say hey we had a chance to win and all those people are a little disappointed.

"Some people really didn't have a chance to win until late in the race, they had to look at it from a more realistic standpoint. When you are at Daytona it's the biggest race of the year, when the Daytona 500 is over then it's just another race and that's really what happens."

AS WE COME HERE WITH THE OLD CAR, ENGINE DURABILITY WAS ALWAYS AN ISSUE. ARE THERE SIMILAR ISSUES WITH THE NEW CAR OR DID THAT CHANGE A LITTLE BIT? "It's still a long race and its 500 miles and none of that changes. I don't see how the new car affects the engine thing at all. This is one of the hardest race tracks on engine because of the amount of time you are at a higher RPM so I don't think that this car really affects that more than the other car."

A LOT OF PEOPLE WERE ASKING ABOUT THE VIDEO OF YOU AND CLINT BOWYER AFTER THE DAYTONA 500 AND THEY COULD SEE IT BUT NOT HEAR IT. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THAT AND WHAT HAPPENED AND WHY YOU GUYS WERE MAD? "Clint and I were mad, but we weren't mad at what people thought we were mad at. The conversation that Clint and I had we'll keep to ourselves. There's no strife amongst the drivers, there's none of that. We did have a discussion and it is clear that you can't have productive conversations as soon as the race is over. That just can never happen, never has happened, never will happen. But there's nothing leaving Daytona that we have any concern about whatsoever."

COULD YOU TWO HAVE HELPED EACH OTHER MORE COMING DOWN THE STRETCH? "To be honest I haven't watched a replay of the race and until I go back and really analyze what we could have done differently I don't know. I never at any point felt like Clint did anything to jeopardize my opportunity to win the race. That's all I know.

"On the surface of it when the race was over I never once felt -- I think everybody thought I was mad at Clint like Clint did something to me that I thought he shouldn't have done but that was the furthest from the case. I never once felt like Clint did anything to negatively affect my race. And by the way, you know I've said this for years I don't expect my teammate to help me if it's going to hurt him. I never expected it and I don't expect it now so any thought that I was mad at Clint and that I felt like Clint could have done something to help my cause -- that's totally misconstrued. I don't think Clint did anything wrong in that race at all in regards to running with me."

HE HAD A FRUSTRATING RACE AND IT WAS HE WHO WAS PROBABLY FRUSTRATED "I think we were both frustrated. I'm sitting there leading the Daytona 500 with three to go, he's leading it with 20 or 25 to go. Clint had a good car and I finished 13th and he finished 30 something. I think we were both frustrated and we should've been. If we're going to skip out of Daytona finishing where we finished and be happy then we are in the wrong business.

ON THE FINES AND PENALTIES ROBBY GORDON RECEIVED FOLLOWING THE DAYTONA 500 "NASCAR is in a tough spot there. I'm sure in the panic to get everything switched over, I'm sure it was an honest mistake. But at the end of the day, NASCAR cannot concern themselves with whether it was an honest mistake. If you break the rule, you break the rule. That goes for anybody. The problem is who's ever going to raise their hand and say, 'I did it on purpose? I meant to cheat.' Everybody always didn't mean to do it. In Robby's case I'm sure that is true. I'm sure it was an accident. Can you imagine going through what they had to go through to get ready?

"That was a difficult situation but NASCAR is in a tough spot too. They can't look at stuff and say we think he might have not meant to do it in that kind of a situation. There are situations where NASCAR can look at people's intentions and make a decision but on a technical standpoint on something like that it's hard for them to take any stance but one and that's if you're wrong, you're wrong."

WHERE CAN THEY LOOK AT INTENT? "Racetrack stuff, stuff that happens on the racetrack. We have seen occasions where we have had post-race issues in tech where there was a legitimate reason where the intent mattered. Jeff Gordon's rear shock at Daytona a couple of years ago comes to mind. I think you have to look at each situation independently but as a whole intent can't matter, but there are situations where it does matter."

BUT IN SITUATIONS WHERE THEY ARE CONSTRUCTING BODIES AND PRESENTING THEM FOR PRE-RACE YOU CAN'T MEASURE INTENT "We can't bring a car -- Earnhardt Jr.'s last year at Darlington they said they put the wrong rear wing brackets on. It was something they have or tested, they put them on and they were wrong -- what do you do about that? They got penalized even though they said it wasn't on purpose, that they didn't meant to do and that it was a testing piece they had made it didn't fit the rule. NASCAR came down hard on them and at the time I thought that was the right decision and looking back on it I think it's the right decision. When we submit a car to tech especially in today's world with this car, when we submit a car we know how tough they're going to be. There is no wiggle room anymore."

WITH THREE LAPS TO GO IN THE DAYTONA 500 YOU WERE LEADING THE RACE. EVERYBODY WANTS TO SIT AROUND THREE OR FOUR DAYS LATER AND SECOND GUESS THE MOVES YOU MAKE. "Armchair quarterbacking is honestly what makes sports fun. I'm watching basketball and I'm watching an 18-year-old playing and I'm thinking what a dumb ass, how can you be that stupid to make that kind of play and he's an 18-year-old kid. We are professionals and we get paid to do the right thing at the right time and when we don't its okay to be scrutinized because that's what we do. You are always going to be second-guessed, people are always going to say I would have done this different. That's part of sports, that's part of business, that's part of anytime you do something and people are watching. That goes along with the territory. What's key is knowing when to pay attention to that and knowing when not to.

"I'll be honest, I felt stupid after the Daytona 500 because we were leading the race with three to go and you finish 13th, why wouldn't you feel stupid? In the situation we were in, had I just taken off and got a normal restart we weren't going to win. I tried to do something and shake things up to confuse people to try to steal a win. We didn't have a car fast enough to win, and we put ourselves in a position on that last restart that made it harder for us. What's interesting about our sport is I did the same thing on the last restart as I did on the next to last restart and on the next to last restart it worked. On the last restart it didn't. At the end of the day you are only judged by the result and I didn't get it done."

FOR THE AVERAGE GUY TO BE SITTING THERE AT HIS HOUSE AND BE THINKING, THIS GUY IS LEADING WITH THREE LAPS TO GO, THIS COULD BE THE BIGGEST WIN HE'S EVER HAD AND HE'S LOOKING BEHIND HIM AND HE'S GOT TO BE THINKING, I'M SCREWED. I CAN'T MAKE MY CAR WIDE ENOUGH TO BLOCK BOTH LANES. TAKE US THROUGH YOUR THOUGHT PROCESS. "My thought process was that I knew with who was behind me that they were faster. My thought process was number one if they make a move, put them in a position where they have to make a decision about going below the yellow line or not, number two was if I get to far out in front of them, half way down the back straightaway they're going to blow by me, so my thought process was to try to keep them close to me prior to getting to the start/finish line.

"Kyle (Busch) did a really good job of slowing way up to extend the amount of time he had to accelerate after he got past the start/finish line in which at that point he could pass on either side. When you're the leader of a race, your friend is the start/finish line. Now we are in a single-file restart. In a single-file restart you can't block the inside because there is nobody there, you can only block the outside. My only choice was, I knew if they got away from me they were going to freight train me down the back straightaway so I tried to keep them to me. I just slowed up too much and Kyle (Busch) did a really good job of moving it back further which put me closer to the start/finish line when he could start accelerating. That's what happened."

SO YOU TRIED TO PUSH DOWN TO THE LOW LINE AND THAT OPENED UP THE OUTSIDE LINE? "Yeah, the only thing I could do at that point was to defend whatever I could defend. I had no way of defending the third-place car I could only defend the second-place car. It's pretty ironic, when I won at Daytona whatever year that was I had the same exact situation. I had Dale Jarrett behind me on a restart and I pulled it off. But I didn't pull it off this time. But it was a different situation, that was much more of a single-file kind of a race, this was much more double-file."

WHAT'S THE BEST CASE SCENARIO FOR YOU THERE? "I don't know. You have no way of knowing. Had I not done anything what would have happened was it would have eventually gotten double-file. Kyle (Busch) would have either got on the inside of me or the outside me and it would have eventually got double-file. Then it would have depended on what the next group did. Whoever picked me up, did they pick me up or did they three-wide me. There's no way of knowing."

YOU HAVE TO GO BACK TO WHAT'S IN YOUR ROLODEX OR MIND, EVEN IF IT DOESN'T WORK OUT THAT TIME, YOU'VE GOT TO GO BACK TO WHAT YOU DID BEFORE. "You do. All you can do is the best you know how to do. Nobody really wanted to be leading the race that late. I know I didn't want to be. As soon as I got the lead, I hit the radio and said oh that wasn't a good thing.

"And then the caution came out and we got that next to last restart and we ran along there for a lap and nobody made anything happen and I'm like wow then it got double-file behind me and I started thinking we might have a chance to win this thing, because if they are double file behind me we are all running at such a close space you never know what's going to happen at that point, but that last caution pretty much did us in. I don't know I haven't watched a replay of it but I know what happened and I played it over and over and over in my mind and certainly I would still do something that wasn't ordinary, but I probably wouldn't do the same thing that I did if that makes sense."

DID YOU EVER LET YOURSELF ENTERTAIN THE IDEA THAT YOU COULD WIN THE 50TH RUNNING OF THE DAYTONA 500? "I never thought about winning the Daytona 500 until that next to the last restart and we ran for about a lap and it was single file, three or four rows, three or four cars, and then it was double file behind them. At that point, I thought, wow, this could work out. And then when the caution came out, then I kinda went, all right, now I've got to change the game plan."

AFTER A RACE LIKE THAT, HOW LONG DO YOU TYPICALLY DIGEST ALL THAT AND THINK ABOUT IT? "I have a time. If it's three o'clock on Monday afternoon and I'm still thinking about it, I'm spending too much time on it. That's me. I was still thinking about it Monday night. And it was time to move on. And I woke up Tuesday morning and was on to the next thing. But the hardest thing to be perfectly honest, was when we were going home, it tore my son up. My son loves racing. And he thought his dad was going to win the Daytona 500. And he cried for hours. And trying to grab him and hold him and say it's going to be all right, his response was, 'Well it's the Daytona 500!' And I wanted to say, yeah, you're right (laughter). And my daughter was disappointed. But what a great experience at the same time, to see your dad have a chance to win the Daytona 500 and then blow it (laughs). That's my dad! (more laughter)."


THERE ARE SOME DRIVERS THAT WOULD BE EATING ON THIS FROM NOW ON. BUT YOU HAVE A WAY OF COMPARTMENTALIZING THIS STUFF. IT'S GOT TO BE HARD. "Listen, it's 100 percent the truth. It's the biggest race of the year. It's the biggest thing going on in everybody's lives until it's over and then it's only the biggest thing to the guy that won. Everybody says, well, it's just another race. And that's how it's been since I've been going down there. I went to Daytona understanding that it is our biggest race of the year, but also that it's the first of 36 races.

"I'm disappointed because I would have liked to have; well, I think that we did a great job in running our race and if I had it all over to do again, there are two things I did wrong: I missed my pit box on our first pit stop and that got us back. But the whole rest of the race, I had a strategy to be in the right place at the right time and I think I executed that for the most part. So, for the majority of the day, I thought I did a really good job. I missed pit road. I don't know why I did that, but I did. And then at the end, I have to go back and try to learn from that. That's how I look at it. I thought I did a great job. There is some of it I didn't."

HOW DO YOU LOOK AT THE WEATHER HERE WITH THE RAIN AND PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING? "I think we'll be okay. I think it looks okay for today. I'd be surprised if today's schedule isn't impeded a little bit, but I don't think it's going to be impeded a lot. And tomorrow looks good. So the biggest thing is practice time. It looks like some possibility of rain on Sunday. There is nothing we can do about that. The only thing we can do is prepare for the race whenever it happens. The only way to do that is to have practice. So, tomorrow looks good. I think it's going to be interesting. With this car, do you work on qualifying today? Do you work on race trim today? I think it's going to be pretty interesting to watch that. With this car, with no more knowledge than we have about this car, we're going to work on qualifying trim because we think that we need to learn quickly. But I want to be working on race trim because that's when they pay points. So, you're going to see a lot of different strategies today, I think."

IT LOOKED LIKE TOYOTA HAD A BIG HORSEPOWER ADVANTAGE AT DAYTONA. HOW DO YOU MAKE A GAME PLAN AROUND SOMEBODY THAT'S GOT A BIG EDGE? OR, DO THEY JUST HAVE TO MAKE A MISTAKE LIKE THEY OBVIOUSLY DID? "Well, it's hard to beat horsepower at Daytona and Talladega. It's hard at Talladega. It's a little easier at Daytona. The only thing we can do it be the best we can be. And if Toyota has an advantage on us, and we're doing the very best we can, then it falls in NASCAR's lap, unfortunately. I hate to even say that. I think it's been wonderful the last however many years we've had, where we haven't had to have the, well we've got to take this from Chevrolet and we've got to give this to Ford and it's been great not having to deal with all that. And in NASCAR's defense they did make Toyota change some stuff from last year. Part of this sport is doing it better than everybody else. And Toyota, on the plate stuff, right now, they're doing it better. So we're not the best Chevy team right now on making horsepower. Until we do that, we don't have a dog in the fight to complain. We've got to build the most horsepower out of the Chevy camp first and once we do that, then we have a dog in the fight."

CHEVROLET WANTED A NEW MANIFOLD AT DAYTONA. TOYOTA GOT ONE BECAUSE NASCAR DIDN'T LIKE THE ONE THEY HAD LAST TIME. NASCAR SAID CHEVY DIDN'T NEED A NEW MANIFOLD. IS THAT A DISADVANTAGE? "I don't specifically know the steps in the engine process. I'm kind of out of touch with the engine thing. So I hate to comment knowing only half the facts."

DO YOU THINK TOYOTA HAS MORE HORSEPOWER HERE IN CALIFORNIA? IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE A MICHIGAN-TYPE ENGINE "I don't know. I honestly don't know. I think it's hard to make a correlation between Daytona and here. I can tell you that in the Nationwide Series last year, the Toyota's were ridiculously more powered than everybody else. But we didn't see that in the Cup side last year. I honestly don't know. Until we race on Sunday I don't think anybody knows."

GOING TO THE NATIONWIDE ENGINE IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES, PEOPLE ARE SAYING THAT YOU ARE 10 MPH SLOWER ON THE STRAIGHTAWAYS AND 14 MPH FASTER IN THE CORNERS. "It's an interesting mix. The data we showed was 14 mph slower on the straightaway and 14 mph faster in the corner. Honestly, going into this race, the Nationwide race and the Cup race, there are more questions than I can ever remember at a race track; and the truck race too. The trucks are dealing with less power and we're dealing with a different car. It's going to be interesting to see what happens. I'm looking forward to it. I like it when things are different because when things are different, that's an opportunity."

WHAT'S YOUR BIGGEST CONCERN GOING INTO THE NATIONWIDE RACE ON SATURDAY? "My biggest concern is understanding as quickly as we can how the power affects how our car drives. We won the last race here. I'm suspect that that same stuff isn't really going to work when you're dealing with that much of a different power curve in the way you accelerate and the way you decelerate, I think it's going to require some different stuff. So my biggest concern with that car is making sure that we get to those conclusions quickly."

IN THE VEGAS TEST, THEY WERE SAYING YOU WERE ABLE TO HOLD IT WIDE OPEN GOING INTO THE TURNS. HOW IS THAT GOING TO AFFECT IT HERE WITH THE SPEEDS YOU ARE CARRYING? "How do you run wide-open here? You may, but I don't think so. I'd be surprised if you can run wide-open here. At Vegas, there's a lot of grip; it's an extremely high grip race track. I'm not sure. And you could run wide open at Vegas, but not everybody can run wide open at Vegas and it wasn't always in your best interest to run wide open at Vegas.

"So anytime we start talking about wide open, the truth of the matter is that everybody lies. And that a lot of people think they're running wide open and they're not running wide open. But I will tell you that I did make laps in Vegas wide open, for sure. But I don't think you can run wide open for 40 laps or anything."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE SUCCESS YOU'VE HAD A TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY? YOU WON THE FIRST ONE AND YOU WON THE LAST ONE "Well, it's been one of those races that has driven me nuts because we've run really well at times and run really poorly at times. It meant a lot to me to get back in victory lane because we've kind of struggled there to be quite honest. I've struggled there in the recent past. And so it meant a lot to me to get back in victory lane. One of the tough things about Texas is it seems like every time we go, it's different. And of course now, with this car, it's going to be different again. We've had a lot of changes at Texas and that's made it hard to keep up. That's why I think we've seen so many different winners."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett