HAMPTON, Ga. (March 18, 2006) -- Quotes from the top-finishers in the Nicorette 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. JEFF BURTON (First place, No. 21 U.S. Coast Guard Chevrolet): "It was a great race. If you were to go to race two guys you ...
HAMPTON, Ga. (March 18, 2006) -- Quotes from the top-finishers in the Nicorette 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
JEFF BURTON (First place, No. 21 U.S. Coast Guard Chevrolet):
"It was a great race. If you were to go to race two guys you couldn't ask for two better racers. I couldn't ask for a better competitor than Kenseth. I look at everything he's done and it's just awesome. It was a good race. We took off there on the last restart too loose, but we kept running and it kept getting better. Things worked out for us. My crew chief, Shane Wilson, was beating himself up pretty bad this week because we ran so good at California and finished fourth. This week we were able to put everything together and it feels really good."
(What has happened to you the last few years? Why are you on a roll now?) "We haven't run that many Busch races, in all fairness. We haven't deserved to win. We haven't run good enough to win. We could talk all day long about why that is. I could take some of the blame from the driver's side, but I think more so from a leadership standpoint. We had a guy that put us in the position of not doing the right thing from time to time. I feel really good about what were doing at RCR. I'm proud to say I'm part of it and proud to say I'm part of rebuilding it. Mark Martin taught me that you're never guaranteed to be in victory lane and to appreciate it every time, and I remembered that today. When you can beat those guys it means a lot. I'm proud of myself for continuing to fight and give 100 percent throughout all of it. I never once didn't come to the race track and try, and I believe that'll pay off for me."
(Talk about being on a roll and being on a good streak) "In 1999 or 2000, I won first quarter driver of the year, and I feel now like I did then. I think we've got equipment that can run. I'm extremely confident in our ability to run at a high level. I've not driven really good race cars the last two or three years and that's made me a better driver. When I do have a good car, I can really get out there and run it."
(About questioning yourself the last few years and keeping your confidence up) "I question myself every day. I'm pretty convinced that all of us on the team need to do that. This is a results oriented business. When you're having results you don't need to as much, but there have been days I've left the race track and we must've been five laps down and we just couldn't keep up at all. You start to wonder how you go from winning all those races to that. If you don't look at yourself, you can't improve. I've never gotten down on myself, but I constantly look at how I can do things better."
(Did you have any right rear tire problems? Have you thought about being the guy that got the Coast Guard its second victory?) "I know we all talk about our sponsors and rightfully so, but representing the Coast Guard is truly something I don't take lightly. It's an honor to represent the Coast Guard. If you knew how many people they have, it's a very small force and they keep us safe. We did have some tire problems on the first stop. The front right tire had started to pepper and they could see the cords. We didn't have a problem in the sense that it blew out, but had the thing gone 10-15 more laps it might've been a problem."
(Is there one thing that's improved the most at RCR?) "Quite honestly I never thought that we were lacking just one thing, but from where I was sitting we weren't going through the corners fast enough and we didn't have enough horsepower. Without those things we just weren't going to run good enough. Looking at RCR today, from merchandising to chassis to bodies to engines, I can't think of a thing at RCR that hasn't been improved. That's the truth. We were not going to go from running the way we were in RCR just with new engines. We had to get through the corners better. We've been able to improve everything and we've got to do it again. We can't sit still. We've got to continue to improve. If you want to be the best, you have to do everything right. You can have something that's not quite as good, but you better have something else that's better. You can't afford not to have it all."
(Did you have any trouble catching Kenseth? Were you waiting?) "No, I wasn't waiting. He wasn't waiting and I wasn't waiting. My car was just too loose to start. Every time we'd go out on new tires we were really loose, and it would just take me a few laps. It looked like he just got tight and we started to get tight, too, but we started looser than he did. The long run worked for us. That was hard racing. I know watching it was good to watch, but you guys don't understand how hard we were driving. That's like 40 qualifying laps. Just driving as hard as you possibly can. It was a hell of a lot of fun. He wasn't laying back and I wasn't either."
(Were you aware of Kahne catching you and Kenseth?) "Yeah, I kept checking the mirror and I saw the 9 car coming. Matt is a really smart race car driver and he knew I wanted the bottom. He could've run faster on the top, but he went to the bottom and took away my line, which was the 100-percent right thing to do. So, that slowed us both up and Kasey was able to catch us. Kasey was fast all day too, but that was certainly what allowed Kasey to come. Kasey got by me in a traffic deal and then I was able to get by him and Matt, too."
(Can you talk about the abrasiveness of this track?) "We're going to pit a lot tomorrow. It's one of the reasons I've been so vocal about Vegas. When you pave a race track it screws it up. This race track is how it ought to be. It's wore out, it eats tires up. It's 190 mph to the corner when you need to slow down to 40. It's a riot and it's what makes the racing so good. If we could pave the race tracks with old pavement or something, that's what we should do. It makes the racing so much better. This is a very difficult challenge. Don't forget, we're not allowed to test anymore. Normally there would have been about 15 cars here testing and there would have been rubber out on this race track, but that didn't happen this year. We're going through that process now because we didn't have testing. The problems will get better as the race goes on, there's no question about it. The more rubber that gets on the race track, the least amount of problems you'll have with the tires."
(Talk about your pit crew and how important they are) "My pit crew is the same as last year, and the 29 is the same as last year. At the beginning of last year we had the best pit crew on pit road, but then things unraveled from there and we didn't' have the best pit crew. We got off to a reasonable start this year. Today we came in fourth or firth one time and came out leading. I don't know how we did that. I think they're still getting into the year. I'm very confident of the pit crew and I feel really good about it."
KASEY KAHNE (Second place, No. 99 Hellmann's Dodge):
"We worked on the car throughout the race to make it better and I think we had it pretty darn good there at the end. I tried to let Kenseth and Burton run their tires down and race each other so that I could reel them in. Then I wore my tires out once I got to them and started racing them. I wore the right-rear out a little more than the other guys, and Jeff Burton had a tough car."
(What was going on with the right rear?) "I think just this place is fast and running long runs. It's a good tire, it's just fast. Everybody has these cars so dialed in that when it wears out, you just keep putting so much force on them that it just wears right through them. Some people were cording the right front, some the right rear. It was a good run, we just didn't have enough right at the end.
(Can you tell when you're starting to cord a tire?) "Well, you just lose a lot of grip. Whether it's your front or rear tires, you'll slide the back or front of the car depending on what tire it is. Sometimes it'll shake or vibrate a little bit, but it's just part of it at these types of race tracks"
"I think Kenseth and Burton were about equal, but then Burton was faster and working on getting by Kenseth. I was able to reel those two guys in and I thought I was going to be able to get by them. I entered high on one of the turns and got trapped behind another car. If I hadn't done that I might have been able to lead a lap and get the five bonus points, but Kenseth was really strong."
(Will tire wear be a problem tomorrow?) "Some Cup teams were having tire problems in practice today even, so we'll have to take care of our tires tomorrow."
GREG BIFFLE (Third place, No. 16 Ameriquest Mortgage Ford):
"It was a great run for the Ameriquest car. I thought we might have had a car to lead with, but we had a little altercation that changed the right corner panel a little bit. Overall it was a good day for us. I'm really, really happy with this great new pit crew getting me spots every time on pit road. It was a really uneventful day for me. We had a great car, corded the right rear a little bit. I made a run on Kasey a little bit and thought I might be able to get him in dirty air and catch those guys a little bit. When I started pushing hard I could just feel that the right rear was going to be a problem, so I figured I should be satisfied with fourth."
(Will tire wear be a problem tomorrow?) "I think tire wear will be very similar to today. We're always pushing the envelope on speed and if you have a car that's really loose you're going to have to watch the right rear, and if it's tight you have to watch the right front. That's just how it is."
BURNEY LAMAR (Eighth place, No. 77 Dollar General Chevrolet and top Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate): "We had a really good day. The Dollar General crew did a great job on pit stops. KHI built a new car for us this weekend and spent a lot of late nights to get it ready. It was just great to have a good weekend."