JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS, Qualified 2nd, and BRIAN VICKERS, NO. 25 GMAC MONTE CARLO SS, Qualified 3RD: Q</I>: Let's start with you, Brian. If you could just tell us about your run out there today. BRIAN...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS, Qualified 2nd, and BRIAN VICKERS, NO. 25 GMAC MONTE CARLO SS, Qualified 3RD:
Q</I>: Let's start with you, Brian. If you could just tell us about your run out there today.
BRIAN VICKERS: It was pretty good. You know, we started out in practice and made some runs. I've never really felt like this track, 1 and 2 were real different from 3 and 4, but today for some reason it was. I was on the rear tires real bad all the way from Turns 1 and 2 in, and not very comfortable down there but real good in Turns 3 and 4.
The GMAC guys did a good job of getting good qualifying setup in there. Looks like the test in Milwaukee paid off. All the Hendrick cars are pretty quick and we had good qualifying.
I felt like during the qualifying lap itself, I felt like it was actually better than a .38. I felt like we were better than .37 and had a shot at the pole. Obviously not, they came back. It was one of those laps where you were kind of caught off guard.
Like last week at Chicago, I felt like we had a good lap, but I definitely, you know, wasn't sure if we had the pole or not. You know, they come on the radio and they tell you what the time was, and I was like, hmm, I was kind of praying we didn't get Jeff beat. But this week I kind of felt like we did, and we didn't. That's just how it goes sometimes.
Q</I>: Jeff, can you take us through your run out there?
JEFF BURTON: Yeah, much the same thing as Brian spoke about. We worked on race setup, made two qualifying runs in the practice. We, too, found that 1 and 2 were quite a bit different than 3 and 4. Not real sure why that is, but we saw a similar thing.
You know, I was really proud of our lap. I think going out early to run that fast was really, really cool. I mean, I told all my guys we wouldn't use that as an excuse. We had to get it done and find a way to make it happen, and we really did. I'm just real proud that we were able to lay that lap down that early. That's two good qualifying runs in a week for the last two weeks for us for sure, but we need to continue to try to get better and improve, and we'll see what happens Sunday.
Q</I>: Jeff, the track position obviously last week was a huge trump card. This week, this track is notoriously tough to pass on. Obviously qualifying well here is a huge break for you, or a huge effort. Just talk about how hard it is to pass here.
JEFF BURTON: It is exceptionally hard to pass here, and if you go back to watch races from the past races here, what happens is the leaders will stay out on an early caution, the guys that are running 25th, 27th will pit, the leaders pit and then they're running 15th. It's that all day long.
The key is having the track position at the right time. I agree with you, last week I ended up finishing 2nd because of the incident. I was going to finish 3rd. But if I would have been running 7th I would have finished 7th. I had a hard time passing.
So I think Sunday is going to be really difficult to pass. I actually think, and I'm in the minority, but I think it's harder to pass on today than it was in the old configuration because it was harder to get beside a guy with the old configuration, but once you got beside him, you had the spot.
Today you can be faster than a guy and get beside him and you never clear him. The slower guy on the outside can really hold the faster guy up. I actually think it was easier to pass on the old race track. But again, I know that I'm in the minority, and the further the groove moves up, the harder it becomes, and I think we'll see the highest grooves Sunday that we've ever seen. I think it's really going to go high.
But again, track position will be critical, as it is every week. But this is probably the tops of track position, this and Martinsville are two of the most important places for track position.
Q</I>: Jeff, you guys have shown so much improvement this year and the whole RCR team has. What's been the biggest difference this year?
JEFF BURTON: Well, it's not one thing. Our cars are faster. When they hit the lift gate going into the trailer, they're better cars. They're aerodynamically better, they're chassis?wise better, the engines that are bolted in them are better.
We have revisited and rebuilt every part of our program, everything from marketing and merchandising to shock expertise and chassis and bodies. For the most part, we've seen improvements in every area.
Without a doubt, with our team in particular, Scott Miller has come in and done a phenomenal job, he's really stepped up the level of intensity within our team, demanding that we strive for excellence. But our cars are ?? we have faster cars, and you can't ?? these two guys can attest to it. When you have 16th place cars, you finish 11th and you think you've done a really good job and everybody else thinks you suck. That's just how it is. You leave the race track feeling like you got all there was but you finished 15th or 14th or 20th, and you just can't get anything done.
This year our cars have been have been faster and it's enabled us to do things that we couldn't do last year, and it's just ?? you've got to be able to go fast. I mean, that's the basics of racing obviously. When you go fast, you find things wrong ?? your pit stops are off, you need to get on Pit Road better, you find all these little things you need to work on, but until you go fast, you have no idea what things you need to work on, the ancillary things.
Q</I>: Jeff, you're sort of a Mark Martin?type of driver, nice and courteous and stuff like that. Looking back at last Sunday, you're also very, very hungry, probably hungrier than Jeff Gordon. Same situation, five laps to go, you're on somebody's tail, how aggressive are you going to be? Do you make the same move to win the race?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I don't believe in spinning people out to win races. You know, I think that you've got to do ?? I'm not going to say Jeff Gordon did the wrong thing. He won the race. I've tried not to do that, and I've certainly spun people out before, and I can tell you that 99 percent of the time it's been totally unintentional.
Here last year I ran all over Brian for the whole corner, and stuff happens when you're racing, but I think you really have got to ?? you've just really got to think about next week.
I think this is a give?and?take sport, and if you run over people continuously, then you will continuously get run over. I think that you've just got to really stay in check and remind yourself that ?? of the big picture, and the big picture is this is a 36?race schedule, and winning a race is really, really big, but you can win a race and cause yourself a lot of problems.
But for me, certainly the level of intensity and the things that you will do will step up with two to go versus 200 to go, but again, I think if you knock people out of the way, essentially what you do is you tell everybody, not just the guy you knocked out of the way, but you tell everybody that you will knock them out of the way, too, so therefore they're going to knock you out of the way when the time comes. I just think you've got to keep that in mind.
Q</I>: Jeff, given the success you've had at this track, is this kind of a harbinger of things to come maybe on Sunday?
JEFF BURTON: By no means do I ?? historically I'm not very good at qualifying, and I always said to qualify doesn't mean who's going to win the race. We qualified well but I'm not going to change my tune. I thought we had a good car in race trim. I thought it was comfortable. The 20 car to me looked like to be in a class of his own in race trim, so we've got to chase him and see if we can figure that out.
But I think we have a good car. What I saw in race trim, I think we will have a chance to put ourselves in position to win, but just because you qualify well, that doesn't mean you're going to run well. Just because you qualify poorly doesn't mean you're going to run poorly. Qualifying in my opinion is not indicative of who the fastest cars are.
Q</I>: Brian, I don't know if you had the opportunity to answer the question, but Hendrick horsepower seemed pretty impressive today in terms of the number of guys in the field, and granted, you guys didn't qualify on the pole but you're still up there. With track position being what it is here, how important will it be for you to have other teammates to work with early on?
BRIAN VICKERS: Yeah, it's a good question. As far as the ?? first we'll tackle the Hendrick horsepower, which is obviously pretty good. I think that we've talked about it before, when the gear roll came into place last year, we were so chasing the rpm thing so much that kind of set us back a little bit, but I definitely think we're back where we need to be pretty consistently and the power is good.
But I wouldn't relate four Hendrick cars in the top 7 to just power. We went up to Milwaukee and did some testing, along with a lot of other things, as well. That obviously helped a lot and we learned some new stuff, but we're trying to get the cars better, as well. I think that is a combination of a lot of things.
Q</I>: Jeff, your most recent victory here has almost been forgotten in the since where it was a race where they used restricted plates. I just wonder almost six years later, what are your memories of that? What do you remember about that?
JEFF BURTON: Well, the thing I remember about it is we were at Richmond the week before, and we heard that they were going to put restricted plates on, and we were on the phone that night with the engine department in Michigan getting us an engine to go to Milwaukee and test. There was only two teams there testing.
A lot of people were complaining and moaning and groaning about the plate thing, and we just went to work to figure it out. That's what I remember about it is that we embraced it and said, well, hell, it is what it is, and I think also that we just went and worked. We just went and tried to make it work. We tested and they flew a motor up to me on Saturday and changed engines. They worked on the plate stuff with that size plate on it but got us a better engine. Everybody just went to work.
That's what happens, when stuff gets thrown at you, you can complain and moan and groan or you can go to work, and we went to work. I feel confused about why some people didn't pit, why the 25th place guy or 25 cars in the lead lap didn't stay out and get five points. I still don't understand that. But we did end up leading every lap, and it'll be a long time before it happens again. It was cool to be part of it. I take a lot of pride in the fact that we went to work. We went to work and tried to figure it out.