Ward Burton, No. 0 NetZero Hi-Speed Chevrolet (Qualified 2nd) "It was a lot better than yesterday. The NetZero Chevrolet guys really did a good job putting it together. The shocks are the biggest thing we changed since yesterday. It allowed the...
Ward Burton, No. 0 NetZero Hi-Speed Chevrolet (Qualified 2nd)
"It was a lot better than yesterday. The NetZero Chevrolet guys really did a good job putting it together. The shocks are the biggest thing we changed since yesterday. It allowed the car to turn really well in and turn to the center real good. It did get tight off of four."
(ON GOING OUT EARLY) "Going out early is always important when we start qualifying at this time of day. It's the complete opposite of Charlotte when we start at 7:10 and the last 15 cars are under the moon so to speak. When the track got less temperature the lower grip you got."
Joe Nemechek, No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet (Qualified 4th)
"I tried getting the pole but I got a little bit loose getting in four. I was trying to get everything I could get. The thing stepped out real bad and I had to come out of the gas all the way. It kind of hurt my exit speed a little bit off of four. Right now we're second and hopefully it will be a top ten run. Some quick cars are still to come. It was a good lap for the U.S. Army/USG Sheetrock Chevy guys. We struggled a little bit yesterday in practice and just couldn't quite get the handle. Then we finally put what we thought was in it right and put a set of stickers on and it was incredible. The speed was fast."
(ON THE COOLER TEMPERATURES HERE) "That's where all the speed comes from. The cooler asphalt temperature definitely makes the cars run faster. I think you'll see as the day heats up it will probably slow down a little bit. It's just typical. We're starting off nice. The weather is still pretty cool."
(IS THE STARTING SPOT MORE IMPORTANT SINCE IT'S TOUGH TO PASS HERE?) "It's important but the bottom line is you have to have a car that handles good."
Brian Vickers, No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet (Qualified 6th)
(ON HIS FIRST QUALIFHYING RUN HERE) "I liked it. It was pretty good. It's a fun track that's for sure. It's got a lot of energy to it and a lot of history. The GMAC Chevy team did a good job through the whole week. Practice went pretty well. We were a little tight at the end of practice. We made some changes. We didn't make quite enough changes. We were still tight in qualifying. We should still come out with a good starting spot I believe."
(WILL YOU KEEP ON GETTING ADJUSTED TO THIS TRACK AS THE RACE GOES ON?) "I think so. I think that goes for any race track not just here."
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet (Qualified 9th)
"The draw didn't help us but it was still a great lap for the Lowe's Chevy. We put in a good solid effort. One and two went really well for me. We got through three good and tried to get a little more out of four. We didn't lift going through there and ended up picking up a push. Looking back on it I wish I would have cracked the throttle a little bit. I would have got through four better. Maybe it would have helped us a tenth or two and moved us up a few more. It wouldn't have been a shot for the pole. Casey Mears and those guys did it when it was hot as well and they nailed it. We've been very excited with this race car. It's a new one that we've been trying to sort out. That's 15 laps on that car here. We're ready for race practice and ready for Sunday."
(ON QUALIFYING IN THE TOP TEN) "Top ten is a realistic goal going out late. I think that if we were going out earlier a top five would have been where to be. Casey's lap is pretty much untouchable. It didn't matter what time we would have gone out. He put down a heck of a lap. We're very happy with that top ten. We should get a good starting spot. Track position is going to be important and also pit stall pick. That's very important with the narrow pit road."
(ON JEFF GORDON HERE) "He's very good at this race track. He's very good everywhere. I'm very fortunate to have a teammate and friend in Jeff Gordon and that our teams work so closely together. We looked at Pocono and we were 13th and 14th in qualifying. Right now we're side by side again. The cars are the same. We're just having a lot of fun. We're trying to elevate these Hendrick cars and make them as good as we can."
(ON THE POWERADE SITUATION LAST WEEKEND) "I don't know much about the whole Poweraid thing. I'm just doing my job to defend my sponsors. NASCAR was put in a position to make a move too. I made my move and they had to make theirs. We're all smiling and worked our way through it. It's just part of the game. I'm just trying to defend Gatoraid."
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet (Qualified 11th)
"We've been tight. We were tight all day yesterday. We tried to free it up. We probably didn't do it enough. The car feels really good and solid. The power is good. I'm very pleased with the way things are going for us. It was a much better qualifying effort than we had here the last couple of years. I'm looking forward to Sunday."
(ON QUALIFYING IN THE TOP TEN) "I'm pretty happy with it. That's really what we were shooting for. I knew I didn't have anything for the pole. I knew we could pick up from yesterday. We didn't get our best lap in there yesterday. The car was still a little bit too tight. I think that's about all we got in it right now. I want to be in the top ten. We're ninth right now. We'll see if we can hold on to something close to that and go after them on Sunday. I'm really excited about the race."
(DID THE LUCK OF THE DRAW HURT YOU?) "I'd say it did except that Casey Mears put up a heck of a lap in the middle of the day. They really have their act together right now. We put up our best lap and best effort. It's certainly better than what we've had in the last couple of years. I think we're going to be really good in the race. We'll get it freed up and see if we can drive to the front."
(DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE A GOOD CAR THIS WEEKEND?) "We race so good here even as bad we have qualified the last few years. I've been saying all week long that I want to get close or in the top ten. If we can be 10th or 11th, I think that is a big plus for us compared to where we started the last couple years and as good as our race program is right now."
(HOW BAD DO YOU WANT TO KISS THOSE BRICKS AGAIN?) "I want to kiss them really bad. There's no better feeling than after a race being able to go and taste that grit and sand and rubber on those bricks."
(ON HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS) "We'd love to have a one two three four finish for Hendrick. Hendrick Motorsports is really on top of things right now. Certainly the 24 and 48 teams have excelled and done very well this year. I'm looking forward to trying to accomplish that."
Robby Gordon, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet (Qualified 20th)
(HOW MUCH HAS WHAT YOU LEARNED LAST YEAR HERE TRANSFERRED TO THIS YEAR?) "I think a lot of it does. We came kind of with the same set up. When it came to qualifying it just got too tight. It just pushed too much coming off turn four. That hurt us and we lost a lot of points after that."
Tony Stewart, No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet (Qualified 24th)
(ON THE TRACK HEATING UP) "That's just the luck of the draw. It's that way every week. It was quite a bit freer than we thought it was going to be. It wasn't the lap we wanted."
(ON GOING INTO THE RACE) "It's hard to say. We'll know better when we get through the two happy hour sessions. We're going to have to crawl our way from the back."
Comments made at the Media Center
(ON QUALIFYING) "It was just loose off all four corners. There's not much you can do. We spent the first half of the session yesterday on race set-ups and then switched it over. With the accidents late in the session we only got one real good run in, which wasn't much slower that what we ran in qualifying."
(ON CHANGES MADE TO THE CAR TODAY) "I don't know what they did this morning from yesterday. I don't think we did a lot since we only got that one run in yesterday so we really didn't know what to do with it."
(ARE YOU STAYING IN YOUR OLD HOUSE HERE?) "We're staying at the motel here. The activities are so busy here you can't really afford to stay too far away."
(ARE YOU ABLE TO RELAX DURING THIS WEEKEND?) "I told Zippy (Greg Zipadelli, Stewart's crew chief) yesterday when we got here that my whole attitude coming into this weekend is that no matter what happen, we're going to have fun this weekend. This is a terrible day. Last year I'd be pretty wound tight right now. I've had a fun week. When I got up here on Thursday our silver Crown car won at IRP. I went and watched Danny Lasoski last night. I'm doing things that I enjoy doing instead of doing things that people make us do. We've just not obligated ourselves to anything but having fun. I had fun seeing my mom yesterday. I'm about to see some friends of mine up in our suite in a minute when you guys get done grilling me. Whatever happens, if we finish 43rd or if I wreck on the last lap leading, we're going to have a fun weekend no matter what."
(DO YOU SEE THE SAME PEOPLE IN THE TOP TEN MAKING THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP?) "To be honest I haven't even worried about it or paid attention to it. I couldn't even tell you who is in the top ten right now. I just know we're fifth. To me it's more worrying about what we're doing right now to be good for that last 10 week stretch."
(ON PUTTING HIMSELF IN DALE EARNHARDT JR.'S SHOES AND COMPETING IN OTHER SERIES) "I'm going to answer in two different ways to cover all bases so I know I've covered your question. As far as driving other races, this isn't like a trial run in all of our lives. We don't get a chance to run through it once and say 'this is how I'm going to do it the second time.' A guy taught me a long time ago 'regret what you did do, not what you didn't do.' I think that's the way a lot of us drivers feel about going out and racing. That's what we do. We race. When it comes to doing things outside of the Cup Series, if that's what you want to do then go do it. If your car owners don't want you do that and it's in your contract to where you can't, then you can't. If it's not in your contact that you can't go do it, you should be able to do it if you want. As far as during the race and him having to get out and at what point is safety more important that being in the car, I think at the point he feels like it's him being in the car and the injuries are a distraction to him. If it's a distraction to him, then that's the point where he needs to get out of the car. I've been in situations where I've had to drive injured too. At the point where you start feeling the injury, that's the part that starts taking away from your concentration and making it unsafe for you and other guys out there. I've tried to stick it out. I've stuck it out and finished races and done well. I've got out of cars in situations where I just didn't feel like it was safe for me to go on. He's the only one who really truly knows his limits inside the car and what he can do with his injuries. We're all comfortable with him as a driver knowing he's smart that if he doesn't feel like he's safe in there we know he's going to get out so when we're around him it doesn't cause any alarm for us as drivers to be concerned when we get next to him."
(HAVE YOU TALKED WITH DALE JR. ABOUT WHETHER HE WILL WANT TO CONTINUE TO PARTNER WITH YOU ON PROTOTYPE RACING?) "I think we have a lot of time before January gets around to decide whether he wants to do it or doesn't want to do it. Whatever way he decides, I'll accept and understand. It's ultimately his decision in my opinion. He has to feel comfortable with whatever he does whether he does or doesn't do it. We enjoyed it. We had a lot of fun down there this year (Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona). I would love to do it again with him. If he decides he doesn't want to do it we'll understand."
(DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON RUNNING IN THE BUSCH SERIES WHEN IN VISITS MEXICO CITY?) "No."
(ARE THERE SOME DRIVERS OUT THERE THAT THINK A CHAMPIONSHIP IS WORTH THROWING EVERYTHIGN AWAY FOR?) "I'm sure to some guys. There's some guys where their number one goal is to make their mark no matter what. There's guys like Dale Jr. and the Eury family and myself. There's a point where relationships mean more than trophies. None of us are going to take a trophy with us when we go. I think the thing that is most important is the relationships that you build during that time frame. I've been racing 25 years this year and I can count on one hand the guys that I have the relationship and the bond like I have with Zippy. I'm sure it's that way with Dale Jr. and Tony (Eury) Sr. and (Tony Eury) Jr. I can understand that very well."
(DO YOU THINK IT'S HARD FOR DRIVERS TO ENJOY RACING WHILE THEY CAN SINCE SOME DAY THEY WON'T BE IN RACING AGAIN?) "I think it's easy to get tunnel vision. I'm proof of that. The year that we won the championship, after the year was over you realize there were so many things in your life that you put on hold while you were doing everything else. It's the way things kind of happen sometimes."
(ON THE DIFFICULTY OF COMING THROUGH THE FIELD HERE) "I didn't even remember where I started last year to be honest. We took the lead in the first stint of the race. I think if you get your car driving well you'll be able to get your way to the front. I'd like to see it get warmer than this. I'd like to see ten more degrees of temperature for tomorrow. I'm not sure we're going to get that. It's going to make it more comfortable for us drivers but I'd like to see it get hotter so the track gets slicker tomorrow. That would make it easier to pass where aero grip isn't going to mean everything. Mechanical grip gets into it more. I'm just not sure we're going to see that so it may be harder to pass tomorrow."
(DO YOU SEE OTHER DRIVERS DRIVING DIFFERENTLY AS THE FINAL TEN RACES APPROACH AND HAVE YOU STARTED DRIVING DIFFERENT TO STAY IN THE TOP TEN?) "No not really. I really don't see anything like that. I think everybody understands what it takes to win races. If you win races, that's how you get the most points. If you're out there beating your car to death, it makes it pretty hard to win the race that day with the aero package as sensitive as it is. To be honest, I'm not doing anything any different. Our approach has been what it is all along and that's just try and win event that we run. As far as other drives, I really haven't seen a change in their driving styles either."
Michael Waltrip, No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet (Qualified 28th)
"It was fine. The car drove really well. I was real pleased with the way it handled in the turns. I just didn't get any speed out of it for some reason. I don't know what held me up but it wasn't the best lap I turned all year."
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet (Qualified 32nd)
"That definitely wasn't the lap we wanted to put down. The car was terribly tight in all four corners. I lost a bit too when I hit the wall between turns one and two on my first lap. I really thought we might get some help with the clouds, but that didn't even help. I'm sure going out so late didn't help either."