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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola

Jeff Burton
Matt Kenseth
July 7, 2012


DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

KERRY THARP:  Let's roll right into our post‑race for tonight's 54th annual Coke Zero 400 here at Daytona International Speedway.  We're joined by our second‑ and third‑place finishers in tonight's race:  Our race runner up, Jeff Burton, and he drove the No.31 Wheaties Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, and our third‑place finisher is our points leader Matt Kenseth, and he drove the No.17 Zest Ford for Roush‑Fenway Racing.  We'll start with you, Jeff.  Certainly good finish for you here this evening, the type of finishes that I know you've been looking for.  Talk about the race out here tonight at Daytona.
JEFF BURTON:  Well, certainly feels good to have a good finish.  We've had a miserable year, and to come‑‑ to get out of Daytona with a second place finish, we ought to be happy.  We finished fifth here in the 500 and second tonight, so two top 5s down here is probably more than I can expect with all the wrecks and stuff.  Hopefully it's something that'll kick start our year a little bit.  It's been a difficult year, and hopefully we can build on this.
KERRY THARP:  And Matt Kenseth, you increase your points lead a little bit and come out of here with a third place finish.  Talk about how you thought things went for you out there this evening.
MATT KENSETH:  Yeah, you're always‑‑ I guess you need to be happy when you finish that good, but also when you have restrictor plate cars that fast, that doesn't happen very often and sure want to figure out how to win with so the last two I feel like you always second‑guess your moves, but I feel leak we had one of the fastest cars all three races this year really.  Happy to get third but on the other hand, I am incredibly disappointed.  My team kind of deserved to be down there holding the hardware and I kind of let them down.  But overall, we had a really fast car, we had a pretty good race, made our way back to the front after the pit road thing and were in contention, just didn't get it done that last lap.

Q.  Matt, it sounded like maybe you were lamenting what you did, second‑guessing yourself down the stretch.  Is there any real thing you can do?  There's no, like, manual for how to handle it anymore.
MATT KENSETH:  Yeah, I mean, every situation is different, and the tough part is to manage your speed.  You know, we're all racing your whole life, you go as fast as you can every lap.  That's what you do and you hope you can outrun the competition.  This is just different.  Daytona worked really well for us in the spring, had that kind of somewhat figured out, I guess, and Talladega didn't.  Talladega I did the same things I did at Daytona and we got beat because I didn't I didn't do a good enough job dragging the brake and keeping my teammate with me, and we got beat by a tandem there.  This time I was going to make sure I kept Greg with me and did a really good for a lap and a quarter.  We were locked on there.  Somehow Greg got off me just a little bit, but Tony I think was separated, as well.  I didn't think he was going to clear me and get in front of me, and I decided to‑‑ because of Talladega experience drag the brake and get back to Greg, try to get hooked up and then make a run on Tony.  If he was by himself, I knew we could pass him as long as me and Greg could get rolling again, we'd pass him somewhere over by Turn 4 hopefully.  Got him, made a run, tried to go outside of Tony and he made a block real high and I still kind of had position, and then from there I'm not really sure what happened.  They just started wrecking behind us.

Q.  In hindsight what you would have gone?
MATT KENSETH:  Yeah, hindsight is easy.  I guess if I just would've not waited for Greg after we got off of two, us and the 14 would have been side by side going into Turn 3, but that's not to say if there wasn't a wreck, I don't know what was going on behind that.  I don't know if the 88 or 5 could've got teamed up and went right around both of us because two cars without being pushed side by side aren't very fast.

Q.  This is for Jeff.  What was the problem early with the overheating?  What was the culprit?
JEFF BURTON:  We had the trouble at Talladega, as well.  We were just too hot.  We can't run a whole race racing the way we really want to race.  We have to get out of the pack or we run too much oil temp and too much water temp are Joan telling us we can do without having an engine failure.  It's not one thing wrong, it's just I think we have a package issue that's just not working with this combination.  We had the tandem thing figured out really well, but we're just a little behind on this it seems like.  Didn't have any trouble at the 500, but we had it at Talladega and then we had it again here this weekend.  We're just got to go to work and figure out where we're hissing it because we're not wanting to ride around in the back.  We're feeling like we have to.  If we don't, we're not going to finish a race.

Q.  Early in the night I assume you knew obviously you had a strong dominant car.  Was there ever‑‑ did you consider it your race to lose without all the other variables that come into play in?
MATT KENSETH:  Well, it seems like that, but on the other hand, if the one run where 16 got us off pit road I don't think I could have went around him easily, either.  Seems like we always end these things on green‑white‑checkers and whenever you do, anything or anybody that's in the front few tandems has a shot to win that thing.  It's just so unpredictable and you do things those two laps that you never do the rest of the race.  It's really hard to figure.  You can be leading the whole race and come down on one of green‑white checkers, and just really have no idea where you're going to finish.  But I thought overall, at least from the cars I ran around a lot of, the 16, the 24 and the 14 seemed like they were all pretty stout.

Q.  Jeff, this is the last time this iteration of this car is going to run at Daytona since the new cars will be introduced next year.  How would you grade how this car has performed at Daytona during its existence?
JEFF BURTON:  Well, I mean, it's‑‑ you kind of get whatever race they want to do with the rule package.  They wanted to separate tandem racing and they've done it.  They've made it where you can't push anybody for too long.  You can do it for three or four laps maybe at the end of the race but you can't do it at any other time.  I don't know, I rode around in the back all night so it's hard for me to judge it.  One thing about the car they have been able to adjust the rules to get the kind of race that they're looking for, and that's been a positive thing.
But I'm not going to judge the quality of races.  That's just not my place.  I have a perspective that's different than perhaps a fan's perspective, but they have been known to make changes to get the race what they want it to be.

Q.  You said you had to ride around all night until you decided to go.  Did you work with anybody in particular to get up there to have a runner up finish?
JEFF BURTON:  Well, Kevin and I were working together.  We always try to work with our teammates every chance we get.  Honestly without it being tandem racing you are kind of on your own.  You really, in the middle of the pack, when there's a hole that you feel like you got to go in, you've just got go in it.  Your teammate can't be waiting for you when you're in the middle of the pack.  When you're in the front of the pack that's a different deal.  You can drag a brake and do the things to keep yourselves hooked up.  But in the middle of the pack, with pack racing you've just got to go where you think you've got to go.  All the Childress cars ended up on the same strategy based on what the race delivered with the water temp and oil temp situation, and we worked together a fair amount getting back up through the pack.  In pack racing it's hard to work with any one person.

Q.  Matt, your thoughts on almost making history but still coming in, and how did that compare to consistency and maintaining, which is important, also?
MATT KENSETH:  Yeah, I mean, Daytona has been wonderful to us this year, really I guess starting last July when we were able to push David to his win there and finish second.  Obviously, I had a really good Speedweeks and then come down here and sit on the pole and be able to lead the most laps I would think, so we were up front most of the night.  We had one of the fastest cars and didn't get caught up in the wreck and still had a good finish.  It's hard to be disappointed with that, but the racer in you, when you have a car like that, you certainly want to figure out how to try to win with it.

Q.  Top 5 in the 500, top 5 here in the 400, how do you turn this into momentum going on into the season now as we look at the second half?
JEFF BURTON:  Well, momentum is created by running well.  Momentum doesn't create good runs, good runs create momentum.  So we've got to go to New Hampshire and perform.  We've done okay on the mile and three quarter mile, half mile tracks.  We have been not good at all on the mile and a halfs.  We're doing a lot of work between now and going back to Michigan to try to change some stuff to get some speed and some drivability back in the cars, and that's what it's going to be about.  I mean, running well and finishing well here tonight is great.  Unfortunately it doesn't mean a lot about how our cars are going to drive when we go to Michigan or somewhere.  We're obviously behind on that or we wouldn't be 20th in points.  We've got to perform.  If we perform, the momentum will get built.  Momentum is in my eyes is a highly over used word.  Success creates momentum, it's not the other way around.

Q.  Jeff, what happened in Turn 2 on the last lap?  Did you just run out of room?  And when you slipped there, did you bump into anybody or anything?
JEFF BURTON:  You know, Kevin was pushing me, and we had caught, we had gotten to the back of the 16 car, and we just were going faster than we needed to be going.  I had to check up and when I did, it kind of moved me up the track a little bit, then Kevin because he was pushing me, now he was pushing me more on my left rear quarter panel and it just pushed me up the track.  We just got lucky nobody was there.  I think the 5 car was there.  I knew somebody was there and I pushed him up the track but didn't really hit anything somehow, and he did a good job of avoiding it because he was‑‑ we were getting ready to have a big wreck there.  A little bit of luck and just not being able to talk when you are two car tandem, not being able to talk is very, very difficult because the guy that's pushing you, you can't see anything, and I'm sure Kevin didn't really know how close I was to the 16 or what I had going on there.  Just a product of plate racing, and we got lucky to get out of it.

Q.  Jeff, as far as a shot in the arm for your team going into the weekend, could you explain to the fans basically how long that lasts for you and for your team?
JEFF BURTON:  Well, it doesn't last for very long for me, a good win or a bad loss.  You know, I get over those things pretty quickly.  Our success or fail our tonight doesn't dictate our success or failure next week.  It feels good tonight, it'll feel good tomorrow, and then Monday it'll be back to work.  It's always good to have finishes, but we need to put a string of finishes together.  This sport will‑‑ just when you think you've got it all figured out, you'll realize how stupid you are and vice versa.
It feels good to finish good here tonight, but my biggest concern is how we're going to go to New Hampshire and run and how we're going to use our off week to improve so we can go to Indy and run well and go to Michigan and run well.  That's my largest concern.
KERRY THARP:  Jeff, Matt, thank you very much, and thanks for the great show tonight.  We'll see you at New Hampshire.

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