Fontana: Burton - Saturday media visit



ON FINISH TO DAYTONA 500: "That was a great finish, there is no question about it. That is what is so cool about our sport. We have those great finishes and all of that drama. That is what it is all about. The controversy, is it, it seems like no matter what happens, there is controversy swirling around something. At some point somebody needs to be worrying about trying to make the rules and just report and talk about what actually happened. It seems like everybody wants to question everything now and that is ok. The scrutiny comes from the exposure of the sport. At the end of the day, I thought NASCAR did the right thing. The reason you throw a caution is because of safety. It is to make it safer for everybody who isn't in the wreck. Throwing a caution would not have had any impact on that whatsoever last week. I am really hard on them when it comes to safety issues and I support their decision 100%.

"Everybody was either in the wreck or in front of the wreck. When you have one big pack, and they throw the caution, it doesn't do you any good. It doesn't matter if the caution out or not, all you are doing is trying to get through the wreck. If they had thrown the caution and the competition is all spread out, you do slow down, you have to slow down, and you are locked in your position.

But in that situation, there was nobody behind the wreck that would have benefited from the yellow flag being thrown. Throwing the caution is about rolling the rescue personnel, it is about a lot of things, but in that situation, it wouldn't have impacted it in a positive way whatsoever."

ON CALIFORNIA TRACK HAVING A REPUTATION OF BEING BORING: "I don't know. I am here to race my Cingular Chevrolet and try to win the race. I don't get caught up in if it is four-wide, three-wide. I don't get caught up in all that. I just get caught up in what we have got to do to win the race. Every race track we go to has the tendency to put on good races or be boring.

If somebody gets hooked up, then off they go. It isn't boring for me, I can assure you that. I don't pay a lot of attention to the conversations of whether it is boring or not."

ON ENGINES ON CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY: "We saw here in the spring last year toward the end of the race, three or four people had trouble. They made it almost all the way and then had trouble late in the race. Any time you run 500 miles somewhere, especially a two-mile race track, it is a lot of miles, a lot of wear and tear on your engine so reliability is a major issue. "

ON DAVID RAGAN: "He needs to try to keep his nose clean. Try to be competitive and get everything out of his car that he can. But he also needs to understand he has a lot of growing to do, I do to by the way, and be respectful. Nobody needs to pull over because you have been here for 10 years, nobody expects you to do anything but race hard. This goes for anybody, but you have to race smart and you have to understand this isn't the last race you are going to run. You have to understand the race you are at is the most important race you are ever going to run. But, it is not the last one you are ever going to be in. If you forget you have to look everybody in the eye the next week and race against everybody the next week, they can make it really hard on you. Guys in this garage demand respect and demand to be driven against in manner that is appropriate, and then they have a way of making you wish you had.

"It was different when I came in. I was told if we finish 20th in points, we are going to be really happy. No one expected us to win a race; no one even had a conversation about that. It was just hey; lets make the races and try to be around at the end of the races on Sunday. It wasn't let's go out and get a top-five or top-10, it was let's just try and finish the race. There is a different level of expectations now. I was afforded the opportunity to be able to take my time and learn, not cause a lot of stuff. The first Cup race I was ever in, I caused a wreck on like the third lap because I made a mistake. Not because I was being overly aggressive, but I listened to my spotter rather than me driving my car. I learned from that and that has never happened again. He just has to understand if he wants a long career, you can't be successful in this sport if the people in this sport don't want you to be successful. You have to be respectful."

ON BALANCE OF EAST COAST VERSUS WEST COAST DRIVERS IN CUP SERIES: "Anybody who thinks you have to come from the Southeast to be a NASCAR driver is crazy. There are great drivers all over the country, all over the world. It is not something in the water in North Carolina or Virginia that makes you a great race car driver. I think you are born with it and I think you nurture it, you grow it and you make yourself better. I think the people that are here have natural ability, but the people who are able to stay here are the people who have harnessed it and tried to improve it and that doesn't' matter what part of the country you are from. You have to be in a part of the country that allows you the opportunity to be exposed to it and be able to compete. Your level of success has nothing to do with where you are from."

ON INJURY TO CREWMAN AT DAYTONA: "It is really disappointing, Josh (Yost, team jackman who suffered an ankle injury) worked his butt off to get back, He has a long road to get back, it wasn't one of those overnight things, he really had to work hard to get back. Then to blow out his other one, is hugely disappointing. He is pretty down about it, but he has been through it before so he is smart about it. He'll fight it and he'll do everything he can to get back."

ON MARK MARTIN'S LEGACY TO THE SPORT: "For me it is about a level of professionalism and respect he has brought to the sport. He has been a mentor, not so much in what he says, but what he does, to a lot of young drivers. He is respectful, drives with respect, race hard, race smart, race people the way you would like to be raced. And he brings a level of intensity. I worked with Mark for a long time, every race he goes to, he is really wound up about it and agonizes when things don't go well and is a true racer, there is no question about it. He is trying his best to do it the right way, there are not many people if you asked if Mark ever made them mad, there would not be many in the garage who said he had."

ON UPCOMING CAR OF TOMORROW TEST: "Every team needs to evaluate where they are compared to the competition. You can test all you want by yourself, but until you get out in competition, you really don't know what you have going on. An evaluation of where you are on your speed compared to other people is really what we are going to take out of it. There are certainly some issues with the COT that are going to come up - reliability and things we don't know about, but the main thing we want to take out of there is we want to be able to see where we are from a speed standpoint compared to our competition. We can't win races if we aren't faster than they are. We can't compete at a high level unless we can't at least run with them. So we have to go there to evaluate where we are, see what we need to improve and not worry about what we have done well. Worry about what we haven't done well and try to improve on it."

ON PERCENTAGE DRIVER PLAYS IN SUCCESS OF A TEAM: "That is a tough question and the way I answer that question when I am asked is a great driver can't take a bad team and be successful. And by the way, a great team can't take a bad driver and be successful. It takes everything. The driver is obviously very important in the level of success a team has in other ways than just mashing the gas. But there are a lot of things that influence whether he can be successful or not. There is no room to just point to the team and say you need to do better stuff nor is there room to point to you and say you just have to do a better job. It is all about them working together and finding out what that driver needs to do this job. Finding the right combination for that guy is critical and what works doesn't necessarily mean it will work for someone else."

ON NASCAR SAFETY AND POSSIBLE IMPROVEMENTS: "We can always be looking at things. If we ever get to the point that we don't think we can have room to grow, then we are in trouble. Continuing to absorb energy is obviously a huge thing as is continuing to work on every factor. There is nothing we can't continue to work on. The absorption of energy and helping a driver be able to withstand major impact, that is obviously number one. We have come a long way on that with soft walls, better head and neck technology, better belts and a lot of stuff. But if we ever think we have got to the point we have done it all, we are in trouble. Safety is a goal you can't reach. Something you are always trying to do, but you are never going to get to the point where you are as safe as you are ever going to be because technology allows you to continue to grow. If you are not willing to look at technology, if you are not willing to look at better things, you can get to a point to where that is as safe as you will ever be, but that is your own fault. It is not because there are not answers out there. I don't have one thing on my mind that NASCAR needs to be looking at, other than to say we have to continue an aggressive approach to find better things to do what we do."

ON HAVING A DOCTOR AT TESTING TRACKS: "I think definitely having trained medical professionals at a test is very important, there is no question about it. We have a relationship with a doctor but not to the point he goes to a test or to a race track to help the drivers in case they are in a wreck. I am not aware of it. Today with the tests that we have, every team is there and they can fully staff all the medical people. But when we get to somewhere and test, certainly we are there with responders, rather than physicians and they do a great job. But there is another level of being a trauma surgeon or a trauma physician in some form or fashion, yes that is certainly something we could do a better job at.

ON ATTENTION LEVEL AS A DRIVER: "I have yet to a race track and test in the last say 10 years where there weren't medical personnel there in some form or fashion. I can also tell you I am not sure I have ever been to a private test where there was a physician there. There have always been emergency respond teams but I have never been to a private test where we have had a trauma surgeon or a trauma specialist of some kind.

"Certainly the more trained medical care we can have, the better there is no question about that. You can't argue that point."

ON CONFIDENCE TEAM TOOK AWAY FROM DAYTONA: "We are smart enough to know that we ran well in the Daytona 500 and were fortunate enough to come out of there with a car in one piece. Anyone that finished that race was fortunate, that is what I honestly believe. It was really wild that last 40 laps and we put ourselves in position to have a good finish and we got one. It is better than running terrible but we separate Daytona and Talladega from the rest of our year. We could have gone to Daytona and finished 35th and we wouldn't feel any different coming here. It is just such a departure from what we do every week, so other than adding or subtracting points from your tally, there is little that matters about how you do at those two tracks versus how you are going to do here."

ON HOW MUCH YOU AND TEAMMATES TALKED ABOUT HELPING ONE ANOTHER AT DAYTONA: "The stories about teammates talking about helping each other are so exaggerated. I know it makes a great story and I understand all that but at the end of the day, if Kevin Harvick helped me finish third and he finished eighth and could have finished fourth, he did the wrong thing. That is just how it is. Anybody who thinks teammates go in to the race thinking we are going to work with each other all day long is crazy, you don't run with each other all day long. It doesn't happen that way. There is a time at some point late in the race, your teammate does something and you can try to help him make sure it helps him. But that is a very situational thing and we have rule if you can help me without hurting yourself do it, but if you are going to hurt yourself don't do it, I don't want you to do it. That is not fair to you, your team, your sponsor and everybody involved. It is just not. We work together, but we don't go in to the race thinking that. If you do think that every time you do something your teammate is going to go with you, you are destined to be mad, that is just how it is. Matt Kenseth helped Kevin Harvick because he thought he was going to get the best finish he could by doing that. He didn't think oh there is Kevin Harvick, I am going to help him win the Daytona 500, or to be a good guy or because all the Harvick fans will like me and the Mark Martin fans will hate me. He said my opportunity to get the best finish is to go right here. And that is why he went there. He didn't go there to help Kevin; he went there to help himself. That is what we do. We are selfish, self-centered, arrogant people drive race cars. That is how we are supposed to be. It is not about helping other people; it is about doing what you need to do for yourself. That is what competition is. You can't live your life like that, but if you aren't willing to race like that, you won't be successful."

ON JIMMIE'S REPRESENTING THE SPORT AS THE CHAMPION: "Other than not being able to ride on a golf kart very well, he has done a great job. He has proven to not being a good golf kart passenger (LAUGHS) Short of that, I think he has been terrific. Jimmie is a quality guy. It doesn't matter if he is champion or finished 50th in points, he is still a quality guy. Being a champion doesn't change who you are or aren't. Jimmie is the kind of guy people can look up to, people can respect, he is the kind of guy you expect to do the right thing and he will do that as our champion, there is no question in my mind.

And by the way, he would do it if he wasn't the reigning champion. But again, he isn't a good golf kart rider.

ON NEW CHEVY ENGINE: "We are looking forward to it. Our engine department has worked really hard on it and we aren't quite ready with it just yet. A new engine requires a tremendous amount of effort and we aren't quite there with it yet. But, it puts us back in the ballgame, we are racing technology that is really outdated compared to our competition. It puts us back in the ball game and we are excited about that."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Mark Martin