Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday's Driver Quotes From Auto Club (California) Speedway

Jimmie is the King of California
JIMMIE JOHNSON FRIDAY QUOTES:HOW HAS SPLITTING UP THE RACE SHOPS AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JEFF GORDON?: “I honestly can’t say that there’s a big difference. The times I see the other drivers are really at track in our meetings and debriefs or our post-race phone calls, meetings that we go through and all of that is still the same. Inside the shop there are some changes — minor again because we only changed the drivers. We didn’t change the teams around. I think that it was a very well thought through plan. It’s worked well and I think we’re off to a good start. Shaking things up a bit has been helpful. We as a group are still trying to figure out the mouse trap that we’ve built over the off season so we’re all getting stronger and better as a team. It’s going really well. The one thing I can say is that just have (Dale Earnhardt) Junior teamed up with Stevie (Letarte, crew chief) — you all know their personalities and Steve is a fun guy. It brings that out in Junior a lot more. I see a lot of smiles on his face and Stevie is just Stevie doing his thing. It’s entertaining to say the least.”

HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS YOUR SEASON SO FAR?: “I think we’re in good shape. We’re not where we want to be. I think we still have a lot of room for improvement from the speed in the cars, a little bit on pit road — although if we hadn’t had that issue late in the race at Bristol, if you look at our average pit stop time, even including that — it’s the best we’ve had as the 48 team. Those guys, the stops leading up to that last one were in the 12s. They did an amazing job. We have speed on pit road. We’re finding the speed with the car and I think that if I can rate us — we’ve done maybe in the B or B minus range right now. Not bad with all that we’ve changed over the off season. A lot of room to grow.”

HOW CONCERNED WOULD YOU BE IF YOU DON’T RUN WELL THIS WEEKEND?: “The progression is absolutely right. So Vegas is the first mile-and-a-half and we’ve had a couple weeks to work on some new ideas and then hopefully we can get out and get to work today. Every lap is going to help us progress our cars. If we leave here with a poor run, it’s right in front of us, we know we have a lot of work to do. I feel like we have a direction and hopefully we’re competitive and run well. This weekend’s race will really tell the tale.”

DO YOU THINK YOUR TEAM IS STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS?: “It is a work in progress, but it’s weird how and I’ve seen this over my career, you could be out of rhythm, not have the runs going like you want, but you go to a track that’s good for you and the results come. In a small way, I know we’re here and I have expectations and hopes of winning, but if I really think it through, I would say that a top-five run would be our goal. Don’t want to lose anymore points and want to continue to build a gap between where we are and 10th. There’s still a chance that we could win here. We’ve come here before struggling and have found a way to win. I’m optimistic about our chances.”

CAN YOU USE ANY DATA FROM THIS RACE LAST FALL?: “We ran really good here and finished second or third — something like that. Think we had a late restart. I know we led a lot — us and the 5 (Mark Martin) ran really, really well so that will be the baseline setup that we work off of. Then from a concept standpoint, the areas that we’ve been exploring over the off season and at Las Vegas, we’ll start heading that way as the weekend progresses, but we’re going to come back real close or we are very close to how we left here last fall.”

Harvick doesn't think Edwards is driver to beat
IS CARL EDWARDS THE GUY TO BEAT RIGHT NOW?: “I don’t think so. He hasn’t won every race has he?”

DO YOU THINK THE OTHER RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING DRIVERS ARE LOOKING FOR MORE SPEED?: “I think those two teams obviously are in different situations than the 27 (Paul Menard) or the 29. Our cars have really had speed three out of the four weeks. Vegas was my fault, we drove up into the top-five and were where we needed to be and I got a speeding penalty and kind of ruined that day. We’ve had top-five cars every week and I felt like three out of the four weeks we had cars capable of winning races. I feel comfortable about where our team is.”

WERE YOU MAD ABOUT THE WRECK IN BRISTOL?: “Things happen. You’re going to be mad at the moment. You sit there and you led the race, ran in the top-three all day and something happens then your first reaction is to get mad. Things happen.”

HOW LONG IS THE MEMORY AND WHAT IS THE ETIQUETTE FOR PAYBACK?: “I think a lot of that just depends on kind of where you’re at with everything and a lot of times as you get to the end of the year you have to let a lot of things go. There’s a lot that rides on what you do on the race track from a results standpoint and it affects a lot of things that you do. If you carry a lot of things too far too long sometimes it affects your team and the results that you get on the race track. That’s not fair to those guys.”

ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED THAT THERE IS ONLY ONE RACE AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY THIS YEAR?: “Honestly I wish all the race tracks would be held accountable for how many people are sitting in their grandstands. I think sometimes there’s just certain places that we go to — I think this particular track is a good venue that when we first started coming here supported one race very well. Sometimes a lot of people want more and you try to make two races out of it. I always tell people there is no reason to make two mediocre out of one good. This is a good one event and there’s several race tracks that should be held to the same accountability on a yearly basis in my opinion. I think that new markets and new, fresh fans that haven’t been able to see the races year after year would be an eye opener for a lot of race tracks.”

IS THIS RACE WEEKEND A FAIR TEST FOR THE TRACK?: “I don’t see why it shouldn’t be considered a fair test.”


Edwards says he still owes Kyle one
Are you surprised that Carl Edwards didn’t try to move you out of the way at Bristol? “He (Carl Edwards) did try. He did get into me once. He bumped me, but it wasn’t like he tried to get into the left-rear quarter panel and spin me out at all. We raced each other hard, we raced each other clean. That was good. If Carl wants to continue saying that he still owes me one, whatever, I don’t care. I’m racing my race and how I should be racing, and racing all of my competitors and not worrying about all of that stuff. To me, we’re here at California and I’m ready to move and see if we can’t win out here.”

What has made you become more mature and more relaxed this season? “A lot of people have pointed to that — with Samantha (Busch, wife) and getting married this off-season and stuff like that. I give a lot of credit to her and just some things that we’re doing together in our lives that we’re happy with and we’re doing. It’s been really good. Other than that it’s just great that people have taken a little bit of notice more to maybe who I am or what I am. With that, we just continue on moving forward and doing what we’re doing.”

How do you balance your new attitude along with still being competitive on the race track? “Tony’s (Stewart) is the best at it. Tony’s really quick at being able to just come up with snide remarks sometimes so I’m not that good. He’s got it going on. For me, I don’t know. You listen to some of the people that say, ‘Well, don’t change,’ and ‘Stay the way that you are and get in trouble,’ and all of that stuff. I can’t do that anymore. I’m more about just trying to make do with what I can do and keep things right. Like I told her, keep moving forward in what I’m doing and keep seeing the change. I think maybe last year or the year before or whatever it was maybe it was a little more fabricated. People were telling me what to do and how to act rather than me doing the work and actually becoming the person inside.”

How big of a weekend is this for Joe Gibbs Racing engines? “This will be a good weekend for us. The guys back at the engine shop, they’ve been working hard and working some long hours trying to get our issues resolved. They’ve done a really nice job. We haven’t had that many engine failures except what has popped up this year. You’re going to have some here and there when you’re trying stuff. You’re always trying stuff and you can always go so far on the chassis dyno or on the engine dyno, but until you get to the race track dyno is what I call it — the asphalt — you don’t necessarily know what exactly is under the hood. It will be a good test for us this weekend for sure with the big race track here and the long, sustained RPM at a high level with the out of gas through the corners. On the long run, you’ll be out of the gas a long time. Seeing how all of that plays out will be good. I suspect we’ll be fine.”

How is Joey Logano dealing with his bad luck this year? “I think he’s doing well. He’s high spirited — he’s a kid you know. He enjoys where he’s at. He likes the role he’s in, but he would rather be in the top-10 of course. Or at least just getting the finishes that they deserve in the past weeks. Joey’s (Logano) got a little frustration too. We were doing autographs yesterday for a bunch of people at Toyota headquarters and had a great day there and there were some people that were kind of razzing him a little bit about his bad luck and they’ve been trying tell him, ‘Hey, keep it up, keep your spirits up.’ A couple ladies, I told them to rub his head. We’re trying to change it for him, we’re trying to help him out. It’s not that he’s struggling at all — he’s fine. It’s just a matter of it beats you up a little bit mentally because you know you could be 10th to 15th or maybe even higher in points and you’re not there. I think he’s mired back in the 20s somewhere. He’s fine and he’ll get back up there. It’s just a matter of getting some good weeks going here and once he does get back on that string like he did last fall, I think he was the second higher points scorer in the final 10 races. He can do it, it’s not a matter of his driving talent, it’s just a matter of getting it all put together.”

What do you think of the fact that you are paired with Jeff Gordon and Richard Petty for most wins before age 26? “I beat them to 25, but they beat me to 26. I didn’t win enough this calendar year from May 2 to May 2. There’s still some opportunities for some more wins. Essentially that’s what it tells me. That’s what I read into it when you say that is I think I was the highest winner to 25, but now I’m not to 26. Whatever. It’s interesting. It has all come at such a young age, but there has been guys that have been here at a young age too that have been just as successful. You say the guys — (Richard) Petty and (Jeff) Gordon and so I’m watching video of (Jimmie) Johnson winning here and he’s another one of those guys. He wasn’t quite as young, but when you look at his career and how long he’s been here from 2002 — his rookie year to where he is now — going on 10 seasons. 54 wins or whatever it’s been — that’s a guy that you look at and say, ‘Man, he’s done a lot in a short period of time and five championships and everything else.’ Never finishing outside the top-five or 10 in points or whatever. That’s a guy that everybody would like to be if they had their choice and could pick somebody to follow after. We’ll see how things go here in the next few weeks and next few years and through my career, but all in all it’s been good so far. There’s plenty more for it to grow.”

Edwards-Busch rivalry is what NASCAR needs
IT IS HIGHLY PLAUSIBLE THAT YOU COULD HAVE WON EVERY RACE THIS YEAR. IS THIS THE BEST START TO A YEAR IN YOUR CAREER EVER? “I would say this is the best start of a season that I have ever had. The fact that we are as competitive as we are every week is great. I was just talking to Jack and I am really excited to practice today and race this weekend and that is fun. It is fun to come every week and know you have a shot to win.”

YOU DISCUSSED LAST WEEKEND THAT YOU STILL OWED KYLE BUSH ONE PRIOR TO THE RACE, BUT THEN YOU COULD HAVE TAKEN HIM OUT TO WIN THE RACE BUY YOU DIDN’T. WHY DIDN’T YOU TAKE HIM OUT? “I have thought a lot about last week’s race. I think I did the best I could. I don’t think that my car was fast enough to go up there and compete for the win at the end of the race. On the restarts I was pretty good but we were too far from the end of the race to start running into each other. It could have ended up way worse than a second place finish.”

SO THAT WAS A CONSCIOUS THOUGHT IN YOUR MIND AT THE TIME? “Of course. It is Bristol. I think I did the best job I could. After I thought about it a little bit, I realized that race went pretty well. It was okay. It is hard to finish second. Some guys handle it better than others. Standing there right after the race and knowing you finished second it tough. It is one of the hardest positions in this sport.”

BECAUSE YOU SAID YOU OWED HIM ONE FANS PROBABLY EXPECTED YOU TO TAKE THAT OPPORTUNITY ESPECIALLY SINCE IT PROBABLY WOULD HAVE MEANT YOU WOULD HAVE WON. HAVE YOU TAKEN ANY GRIEF FROM FANS OR PEOPLE ABOUT THAT? “No. It boils down to this. I had my shot to pass him and I couldn’t because I wasn’t fast enough. When things got going, his car was just faster. I couldn’t get back to him. If I could have got to him with one or two laps to go then maybe I could have made something happen. I know that is what all the fans wanted to see. Trust me, nobody wanted to see it more than me. I would have loved to be in that position. As it went, I wasn’t even in position to consider that.”

JEFF BURTON SAID THAT IF YOU ARE GOING TO SAY YOU ARE GOING TO OWE SOMEBODY, JUST DO IT, DON’T KEEP SAYING IT. “Yeah, that is fine. People can say whatever they want. I am going to do what I have to do and say whatever I am going to say. That is me.”

Burton: Just do it, Don't keep saying it.
AFTER THE PHOENIX RACE KYLE APOLOGIZED BUT YOU SAY YOU STILL OWE HIM. WHY DO YOU STILL FEEL THAT WAY? “The deal is I am just going to go race how I need to race. It is nothing personal. That deal at Phoenix cost me 28 points at least in my opinion. So, the least he can give up is one spot. I don’t know. I told him I owed him one and he asked for me to give it back to him at the All-Star race. You never know. Maybe that is how it will go. This is racing guys. You go to Bristol and are on a guys back bumper and you have a chance and you start thinking of all the little things and all the little reasons behind everything. Really it is fine. Hopefully him and I get to race a bunch this year and hopefully it is good clean racing. It might get exciting, you never know.”

WHEN IT COMES TO PAYBACK OR RIVALRY OR ANYTHING ALONG THOSE LINES, IS IT SOMEWHAT IN YOUR FAVOR AS A COMPETITOR FOR THAT GUY TO KNOW THAT YOU HAVE ONE STASHED IN YOUR BACK POCKET? “I think so. I can tell by the way he drove his car on those restarts that he knew I was there and he was worried about me. That is good. You want a guy to be in that position. At the end of the day, I thought about it a little bit after I got home. I was kind of a little bit whiny after that race. I should have just got out of the car and said that it was a good race and he did a good job and that is the way it is. I was just so frustrated because I wanted to win so bad. It is racing. It is competition. At the end of the day, he had the best car and won the race.”

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH RIVALRY. “I know. I know. I wouldn’t call it a rivalry right now but it is just hard racing and that is what it is.”

WHEN YOU LOOK AROUND THE GARAGE, HOW FIT IS IT COMPARED TO WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE SEEN WHEN YOU FIRST CAME INTO THE SPORT? “Real fit. When I first came in there was nobody in the gym. I would be by myself. Now there are tons of guys that are there at the gym and a lot of guys that are fit. I did a deal for Sports Science yesterday and they asked me that question. They asked how I stack up and I got to thinking about it. Guys like Jimmie, Vickers, Mark Martin a number of the guys I see them working out hard. Kasey Kahne. Those guys, I think they all would do really well in any type of insurance situation.”

WHAT IS WORKING FOR YOU GOING BACK TO PHOENIX LAST YEAR? WHAT IS DIFFERENT? “It is a number of things really. The team is working really well. It is the engine. Robbie Reiser is doing a good job. Everyone is working well together. It is not one thing. We are just fast and it is for all the right reasons.”

Montoya says "Luck" is reason for good start
HOW CLOSE IS YOUR SETUP TO YOUR TEAMMATES SETUP?: “It’s not. Last week actually it was pretty close. Normally we run completely different setups in the front and the back. Just completely different ways of getting around the car. He looks for different things in the car than I do. I think I’m a little more aggressive on the wheel than he is. That’s why we run different setups.”

WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE YOUR GOOD START TO THIS SEASON?: “Luck. Last year we had the pace. You look at my numbers last year and averages with where we were running and we were pretty good. At the mile-and-a-half we struggled last year, this year mile-and-a-half we seem to have the car a lot better. At the short track we are still pretty good. I think everybody is doing a better job as well. It’s like when (Brad) Keselowski wrecked in Daytona, I had blue on the side of the car and didn’t even feel it. We’ve been that close. Last week when they all wrecked, we got hit from behind and everything is spun. It didn’t really do a major thing to the car. We’ve been in the right place at the right time. I think that makes a big difference. I think everybody is really positive about it and everybody seems to be in a really good mood about it.”

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