Pontiac Racing qualifying notes

WARD BURTON, NO. 22 CATERPILLAR PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "We've been struggling off the corner. The changes we just made helped it right pat the center of the corner, but they didn't help us on exit. We're going to keep working on this Caterpillar...


"We've been struggling off the corner. The changes we just made helped it right pat the center of the corner, but they didn't help us on exit. We're going to keep working on this Caterpillar Pontiac real hard and try to get a good race car."


(ON KENNY IRWIN) "This is devastating. At times like this there isn't really much to say except how sad we all are and how much sympathy we have for Kenny's family. I saw Kenny at the airport on Thursday. It's hard to believe this could happen. That is two people we have lost within our small community in just a very short time."


"We've been a little bit too tight and tried to free it up (for qualifying). We got it a little bit freer on exit, but not quite as free as we want it to be. We'll keep working."


"This has been a real good racetrack for us. We've struggled all year qualifying, but this will be decent. I was happy with the lap, but the main thing is just thinking about Kenny Irwin's family. That's the main thing. The lap wasn't the most important thing today."


(ON HIS FRONT ROW STARTING POSITION) "I can see the green. I usually see the green here. But usually for some reason catastrophe strikes and we don't see the checkered. But we've always run competitively here and we ought to be here again Sunday."

(ON KENNY IRWIN) "What am I supposed to say? It's what we do and it's terrible. I was out there. I've got family. Everybody in racing is part of the family. It's something you can't talk about. It's something that's better to keep your mind busy. Tonight is going to be tough. I've already talked to my little boy (Jarett), and it's not easy."


(ON KENNY IRWIN) "I probably go back 10 years with him racing midgets. We weren't best of friends, but we raced against each other. We were competitors. You hate to see anybody get killed in a race car or anywhere. But I'm more mad and frustrated. If we could try to do something to look at these situations. If the throttle hangs, let's make sure our drivers are protected at the racetrack. Let's make sure they can hit a wall and walk away. There's proof. Jimmie Johnson, going 150 miles per hour (at Watkins Glen), walks away from a blow that should have hurt him. But they had barriers up there that were a safety.

"It's too bad we've got to learn from this.  But you think twice.  You don't
care about qualifying.  You don't even want to be here after that, but you
go.  It's like anything else.  You go on.  I don't think twice about what I
do for a living.  I sure wouldn't want to build those grandstands because I
hate heights.  But speed doesn't scare any of us.  We just need to learn
from it.  I'm going to my car right now.  I'm going to look at what I can do
for pulling the throttle back.  I need to see what I can do in my race car
to try to prevent anything from happening if my throttle hung.  I hate it
for his family.  I know his mom and dad, his sisters and his race team."


(ON HIS RUN) "The car drove good but I didn't do a very good job driving. I just didn't get in on either end very good. I got in a little too slow getting into three and I didn't really get into one real good. We could've gotten by with what I did in one and two if I'd have driven it right in three and four. I just didn't run a very good lap in three and four."

(ON KENNY IRWIN) "We always had a love/hate relationship. Ever since I met Kenny in '91 when we were running for the rookie of the year title at the Indianapolis Speeddrome. We both raced each other hard to win that championship. From then on, it's been a rivalry that continued through the present.

"Through nine years of rivalry though, there's been a mutual admiration and respect for one another and for what each other could do in a race car. Of all the year I've ever raced, I think I can pretty honestly say, sitting up here and thinking about it all day, of all the people I've ever raced with Kenny was the hardest and toughest racer I've ever had to run with on a daily or weekly basis. It didn't matter whether it was a sprint car on pavement on Friday night or a midget on dirt on Saturday night or a Silver Crown car on dirt on Sunday. You knew that you had to be on your game because if you weren't, he was going to beat you. I've said this a thousand time since I started in Winston Cup: Kenny's part of the reason I got here because he pushed me to make myself better each week. There's not a lot of guys who have worked any harder than Kenny has to get where he's gotten in his racing career."

"I don't understand why things like this happen to guys like him that have paid their dues and worked really hard to get to this level. It just doesn't seem fair.

"The thing I kept thing about is how bad his family hurts right now because his family has been behind him ever since I met him in '91. I know how important his racing was in their lives and how close as a family they were. So, I'm thinking about them right now."


"We're semi-pleased with that lap. I thought I could get in the 28-second bracket, but the car had to be right to do that and we just missed it a little bit. But the way our month has been we'll take anything good right now.

 "This is the car that was so bad for us at Michigan.  Philippe (Lopez) and
them had said, 'It's got to be the body.'  When they took it and blew it (in
the wind tunnel) it backed up everything they were thinking.  This all
leading up to a process for me at Indy.  That's my magic date of getting
this thing turned around, and from there on out, being good every week.  My
magic date is Indy.  I hope by Indy to have Conseco real proud of us."


(ON HIS RUN) "We turned a good lap. I'm happy with that. I think Petty Enterprises has really done a good job the last several weeks. This is the third time we've qualified second as Petty Enterprises in the last four weekends. Other than the restrictor plate race, we've been on the front row. I think that says a lot about our organization and what Greg Steadman has brought to the '43' as a crew chief. It's been a little bit of a haul for us, but he has done a great job and taught me a lot, as well. I think the second part of the season should be better for us."

(ON KENNY IRWIN) "It's a difficult situation. I have a little boy (Jarett) that I have to explain it to, as we all do - families. There is nothing I can say that is going to take the pain away, so why talk about it? We feel for the families."

(WAS THERE EXTRA DIFFICULTY FOR HIM COMING TO THIS TRACK WITH WHAT HAPPENED IN MAY?) "Yeah. Kyle's not here, so we feel it. It's tough. It's a tough situation. I feel really close to their family (the Pettys) and their family is like part of our family. It's extremely difficult. For me, my motivation is high because I want people to remember Adam, and I feel like the best way to remember him is for us to do well as a part of an organization that he was so key."

(WILL THERE BE MORE PASSING ON SUNDAY?) "I think so. It's always hard to say in practice. Goodyear just keeps building phenomenal tires for us. It depends on how much the tires fall off. Nobody really knows a lot on this track with what we have. If they fall off, that's when you really start seeing the passing because the best cars get to the front. If the difference between the front and the back, like at Martinsville, is so small, then you have to rely on your pit crew to make great calls and put you in a position that's going to make you be up there. You can be on old tires at Martinsville and still be up front. A lot of places you can't do that."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson