NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Crown Royal Presents the Russell Friedman 400
Topics: Crown Royal Presents the Russell Friedman 400
May 2, 2009
KERRY THARP: We'll go ahead and take questions for Jeff Burton.
Q. Two races in a row we've had exciting racing out there after sort of a slow start. Going back to Darlington now, exciting, then the All-Star Race.
JEFF BURTON: In the media center at Talladega, I told you we were fixing to have three great races in a row, Phoenix, here and Talladega. I think Darlington is going to be another good race.
It's the stretch of races that we're in. You're gonna see great races in Phoenix and you're going to see great racing here. Talladega, obviously you're going to see whatever that is (laughter). You know, the racetrack puts on great races. These cars are capable of putting on great races. The smaller the tracks, the better the racing.
Q. Talk to us about the incident with the 88, working yourself back up to the front.
JEFF BURTON: We were both kind of struggling. I was on the out. I had gotten underneath him. He was pretty loose. Then I got loose. He got back underneath me. We drove into three. He just got loose and came up the track. I spun people out like that before. Just a racing incident. He was struggling. Looked really loose getting in the corner.
Junior and I don't have any problems. That Tony on the other hand... (Laughter).
Q. We've seen Kyle win races a lot the last few years. How good is he?
JEFF BURTON: He's pretty good. You know, you are what your record says you are. I just saw that stat most wins before the age of 25. That's pretty impressive. Everything he sits in, he goes fast in. He's real aggressive. He's driving good equipment, but nonetheless everything he sits in goes fast. That's a sign of a really good racecar driver.
You know, I don't want to compare him against anyone else because I don't think that's fair. But he's awfully good.
KERRY THARP: We are also joined by our race runner-up, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot Old Spice Chevrolet. Tony moves up to third in the points.
Tony, talk about your run out there this evening. You put on a terrific show for us.
TONY STEWART: That's what I try to do, put on a show.
Long night for us. Fought loose off all night long. We think we know what we missed. Just something that you can't fix during the race. But really proud of our guys. I was most impressed tonight with our pit crew. We had one bad stop that we lost about six spots, but the majority of the night, I mean, they were gaining us track position. Man, it makes my job a lot easier when they do that. So really proud of our guys.
Proud of the whole organization. I mean, Ryan, I think Ryan's fourth-place run was more impressive than our third-place finish. I think we backed up into it with the luxury of getting tires towards the end. But still, just to see how good a night Ryan had, I was proud and happy for those guys, just proud for our whole organization.
KERRY THARP: We'll continue with questions for Jeff or Tony.
Q. There's a lot of times when it looks like there might be rain, people are on their best behavior. From the halfway point on, it seemed like a never-ending series of wrecks in turn two. Is the track more treacherous than usual? Was the rubber washed off by the rain?
JEFF BURTON: That's restrictor plates (laughter).
TONY STEWART: I'm glad I let have you that (laughter).
JEFF BURTON: It's just hard racing. It's really competitive. When there's a hole, you know, people go for it. The restarts are crazy because guys in the front are trying to be the Lucky Dog. It's three-wide getting in the corner because they're trying to make something happen. It's just so competitive.
Everybody feels like if you don't make a move right then, you might not get a chance to make another one. I don't think the rain had anything to do with it. It's just the intensity level's really high.
TONY STEWART: I think also with that, at the beginning of the race, everybody's cars are the worse they're going to be all night. Everybody gets a chance to make them better. A lot of guys were hanging on to their cars at the beginning of the race. That got us all strung out. It was more racing the racetrack than it was racing each other.
As the night goes on, like Jeff says, the competition is so close, you get past the halfway point and guys have had three or four shots to make their cars better, all of a sudden it gets that gap closed down with everybody. Like Jeff says, you have to start taking holes that you didn't have the luxury of having the first half of the race.
I agree with Jeff, it doesn't have anything to do with the rain. That's the product of our racing. That's how competitive everything is.
Guys that you normally see give and take a lot, there's less and less guys doing that every week. It makes it harder and harder to have good, clean racing like that when you have guys that are two, three laps down that are racing their guts out. They're trying to get their laps back. At the same time it makes it hard when you're at a short track to do much more than that.
Q. Tony, having worked alongside the 18 car, you know racing against him as a competitor, are you surprised what he's been able to accomplish at the age of 24?
TONY STEWART: Nothing surprises me anymore. I mean, after 29 years of racing, I know I haven't been here as long as some guys have, but I've seen an awful lot in 11 years.
I've watched Kyle this week, raced with him Thursday night, got to watch him run last night and tonight. When you get in a string like he's on, you got so much confidence and momentum on your side. That means so much in this series.
It doesn't matter what you're driving. When you've got that confidence going into it, it carries a long way. I know what he's been driving. But like Jeff said, we all drive for good race teams and we all have good equipment. There's just guys that got that momentum on their side and got that confidence, that little extra that you need to be on top right now.
Q. Talk about the start a little bit. It looked like the track was a little wet on the frontstretch and also up on the back line there.
TONY STEWART: It was wet. You're right. But it wasn't any big deal. Everybody knew at the start that everything wasn't exactly perfect. But we had the fans up there in the stands who sat in the rain all day. We all wanted to get the race started. We as drivers don't like sitting there running around on a line to help dry the track off either. We realize for TV and fans we have to do it and we're more than willing to do it.
I don't know that it was perfect. I don't know that it was a hundred percent. I don't know that it was unsafe by any means or a problem. Nobody really had a problem at the beginning of the race. We all went a long time without a caution. Everybody worked hard to get it right.
You know, that's the luxury with these cars, with a heavy racecar like this, it doesn't have to be 100% totally dry, it can be damp like that and not saturated, and we can still get the job done out there.
Q. Tony, you said you kind of backed into this one. Over about a nine-lap span, you gained eight positions. Was it just tires or had you found something that late in the race?
TONY STEWART: It was tires. I wish I could say that we found some magic there, but we didn't. The magic was four bolt-on tires. As odd as this is going to sound, I've been impressed with how hard Goodyear is working. They continue to not sit on their hands. I mean, they keep trying different things and keep trying to find combinations that make it better for us.
It's nice to not have to sit there and just rely on track position. It's nice to know that you can bolt on four tires and it's going to make a difference and takes the track position game out of the equation. I mean, it still worked for Kyle. But at the same time the tires helped Jeff and I drive through the field, too. I think that makes it exciting for the fans to watch versus just being able to stay out there for the last hundred laps and every time a caution comes out just stay in line and not seeing any passing.
Q. Tony, my brain really hurts from all the math I've been doing.
TONY STEWART: I have no doubt.
Q. Ryan has moved up 23 spots in seven races. Now you and he are both inside the top 12. What's happened with that team for them to really turn it on the way they have? At Stewart-Haas, everybody thought this would be a bad year for them, and here you are sitting inside the top 12.
TONY STEWART: I think Ryan would have had the same kind of runs we had the first four races. He just had really weird bad luck happen, just weird things happen. Pulling an endplate off on a stop, either a loose wheels or flat tires, just weird things have happened that got him behind the first four weeks. After that fourth week was over, we've been basically running the same pace. In practice all four events we were running about the same. Just may have took a couple weeks longer for them to kind of get the combination like Darian and I have got. I feel every week we go out, and yesterday in practice, Ryan was really happy with his car. I was a little off. That's kind of where we ended up today.
But it seems like when we sit down and talk about our cars, we understand what each other is talking about. The crew chiefs are working well together. I think the performance would have been there if it wasn't for bad luck the first four weeks.
Q. Everybody thought this would be a long year. Did you know?
TONY STEWART: God, if I knew that, like I've always said, I would have been a bookie a long time ago in Vegas.
JEFF BURTON: Still going to be a long year, isn't it?
TONY STEWART: It's been a long year already.
JEFF BURTON: I know the question wasn't directed to me, but it's been impressive to watch the change, the mentality that Tony has brought in there about not being there just to be there, but to be there to win. I'm not sure I remember a team changing possession, you know what I mean, a new owner stepping in and the turnaround being what it's been. He's making other people want to go and own their own cars. That's probably not a good thing (smiling). But it's been real impressive to watch.
Q. As somebody who has had the unfortunate experience of banging your head against a wall trying to win at your hometown racetrack, what is Denny going through right now?
TONY STEWART: You know it's frustrating for him. But it's like I told somebody yesterday, the good thing is he gets to try it again this fall, he doesn't have to wait a whole year before he get a chance to try it again.
I think there's some satisfaction at the same time with knowing how good he's been every time we've been here. And especially the last two races in a row, like you said, and especially last year, last year was probably the ultimate heartbreaker. I'm not sure that it's ever going to feel that bad to him again.
But he runs really well here. Like I say, we got the chance to come in and get tires. They didn't get that opportunity. It got away from them again tonight.
But, you know, it kind of is like what happened to us at Indy, you don't run that good here to place consistently and go the rest of your life without winning. He's going to win multiple races here because he's that good here. He's got this place figured out.
Q. Jeff, this is the second weekend that you've come back from struggles, laps down last weekend, then in the wall this weekend. Talk a little bit about when you find yourself in that situation, what you have to do as a driver, maybe talking to your crew, what the crew tells you to kind of get back the confidence to come back and finish like this.
JEFF BURTON: Well, I mean, you can't worry about what's happening. You just got to worry about going to try to make something happen. When things aren't good, you got to put your head down and go. You know, that's one thing that our team is really good at, is we're very resilient, we never quit. You know, that's kind of our trademark, is we don't have the fastest car here every week. Every now and then we might be the fastest car, but we're not normally the fastest car. We chisel finishes out. We find a way to finish sixth and eighth and ninth. That's not great, but that's our strength. We keep trying to find the speed to put with that. When we do, we'll be pretty dangerous.
But, you know, we're pretty resilient and we just go fight. I take a lot of pride in trying to make something happen. I still say, and Tony will probably agree with me, that the people that finish seventh with a 15th-place car, that's who did the best job. It's not necessarily the guy in Victory Lane every week. It's the guy that found a way to make something out of something that didn't look good.
Again, I'm not the fastest guy, but we just work real hard to try to chisel finishes out.
Q. Tony, with all the different factors that go into running well or winning a race, how does momentum play a role in the sense of with what your team has been able to do this season and even in the sense of what Kyle Busch has done, winning last night in the Nationwide race and tonight?
TONY STEWART: I've been racing 29 years with a lot of different series. Momentum's everything. You can come in once in a while and somebody will sneak in here and there and win one, but guys like Kyle and the consistency that he has, I mean, that's that momentum that you're speaking of. That gives you such a head start when you get to the next track that weekend.
But, you know, for us as an organization, that momentum, I can't wait to get to the shop Monday and see the smiles on the guys' faces. That's the payoff for me. That's the stuff that will carry us into Darlington next week and carry us into the All-Star Race the week after that.
It means a lot. I told somebody, I would rather have five second-place finishes in a row than I would have a win, a 32nd, an 18th, a 43rd and a 7th. You know, that consistency and that momentum of being up front every week and knowing that you have an opportunity to run for the win each night, you know, that momentum carries you into that week after week stretch. That's what you need going into the Chase. You need to have that momentum. You need to have that confidence that goes with the momentum to feel like every day when you go out there you got a shot to win the race.
Q. Tony, to follow up on what you were saying. Obviously you mentioned the Chase. There's still a long way to go. How challenging is it to maintain that type of momentum at this point for the next few months? Does that become a concern?
TONY STEWART: I don't know that it really becomes a concern. But, you know, you do that by hard work, by doing the same things at the shop, repeatability. A lot of that is due to guys that don't even get a chance to come to the racetrack and guys that don't settle for anything that's not right on racecars. You know, that gives you that opportunity when you come to the racetrack to know that, you know, the car you're bringing is not a little off from the one you were in the week before.
I don't know that it's ever really a concern. You just go out there and try to do the best job you can and hope that what you did the week before and the two weeks before that carry you through that week, continue it on down the road.
You know, there's no way of predicting when that momentum is going to stop or when it's going to start. It's just a matter of having, I guess, when preparation meets opportunity at the same time, that's how you gain that.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations, guys. Thank you. We'll see you at Darlington.
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