NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Auto Club 500
Topics: Auto Club 500
February 21, 2010
KERRY THARP: Let's roll into our post-race press conference for today's race. Joining us right now is Jeff Burton. He finishes third in today's race. He drives the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.
Strong afternoon for RCR out there, Jeff. I believe y'all have three of the top five in points right now. Talk about your run out there today.
JEFF BURTON: Well, obviously we ran really well the second half of the race. The first half of the race we struggled a little bit with handling.
But they kept working, making it better. Then I got busted for speeding on pit road. That turned our day around right there. I don't know why. But we took off after that. Had to start last and got up to sixth quickly. That's as quirk as I've seen anybody pass on this racetrack in a long time.
There in the end, you know, when the caution came out, I slowed down. The 48 beat us out. Then they got a break there, but they did a really good job of making their car good when it needed to be good. They definitely got a break, but they executed on it. That's what they do so well.
We gave up a spot on pit road. I don't know if I get in a little easy. Got to go back and examine that. Lost a spot there to Kevin on pit road. Again, I don't know if that was my fault or if we were just a little slow. But we were too loose there at the end. Couldn't stay on the gas like I needed to.
KERRY THARP: Joining us right now is our race runner-up, Kevin Harvick. He drives the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet for RCR Racing. Kevin is now our points leader in the Sprint Cup Series.
Kevin, talk about your run out there today. You certainly had a lot of car, put on a good show good for us.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I mean, to start the year off good is always a good thing, especially the way we started last year wasn't spectacular.
But today, you know, I don't know, I mean, I was running the top there, and Jimmie saw me coming and he just moved up. I got tight, just scrubbed the wall, knocked the right front fender, and that was it for me.
Just a great day. We got a speeding penalty early. The car was good enough to come back through the field. Put ourself back in contention in the end. Just came up one short. Good day and a lot of fun today.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions now for either Kevin or Jeff.
Q. Jeff, when Jimmie was in the pits and you were coming around, the yellow comes out, were you aware those guys had pitted already? Did you know all of that was going on or were you conscious of that?
JEFF BURTON: I knew people were on pit road. There's a fine line between slowing down and not slowing down. I don't know where that line is. I came around as quick as I thought I could without NASCAR getting upset at me.
You know, I don't know. If I'd have come around probably 2/10ths of a second quicker, we would have had him a lap down. Nonetheless, I did what I thought was right. You know, I didn't just stop. I carried speed around. They ask you to slow down. You can't run down there wide open or they'll get you for that.
You know, I don't know. I don't know what the right thing to do there is. I'll go back and spend some time with them and ask them their opinion. If I could carry more speed the next time, I certainly will.
Q. You were both confident coming in this year with the changes in the organization. Did you expect to be this good this soon?
JEFF BURTON: We felt good about what happened in the fall, over the winter. Until you start racing, you don't know where you are honestly. You feel good about it. I had quite a bit of confidence coming in.
But until everybody gets out here and they're going to give somebody a trophy, you don't really know where you stand. I expected to run well.
I think the 29 has had a shot to win both races, for sure. We weren't quite as good as they were at Daytona. Today at times they were better than us; at times we were better than them. I think the 29 by far, the first two races of the year, has been the best car.
KEVIN HARVICK: He pretty much said it.
Q. Jeff, you and Kevin battled there for several laps on the last segment. Do you feel if you could have gotten by Kevin, you could have caught Jimmie and maybe won it or do you feel if things had gone different between the two of you there, he gained some time while you guys were side-by-side, so if that had gone differently, do you think things could have turned out differently?
JEFF BURTON: I think we would have had a chance to run him down. I thought Kevin and us, we ran the same speed. I kept running the bottom because if he slipped, I could get the spot. But me running the bottom, him running the top, we weren't slowing each other up. Just the way he was running his fastest line, I was running my fastest line. Wasn't like we were slowing each other up.
I think when we were doing that, we were running him down. And then we got a little bit looser. Kevin looked like he got better. When he did, I thought he was going to win the race. Kevin, in retrospect, had a better chance to win than we did because he got up there and we didn't.
If things would have been different, I don't know. But they weren't different, they were what they were. I thought in retrospect Kevin had the best shot to win.
Q. Kevin, to have the best car the first two races, as Jeff said, is that a hollow title or something to look at positively?
KEVIN HARVICK: I mean, it's just what we're supposed to do. That's just how -- I think that's just how it's supposed to be. That's what we get paid to do. We get paid to go out and drive the car as hard as we can, and we're supposed to run up front. That's what everybody pays to be on our cars and what we work for.
With the three of us running good, it pushes us to fine tune our stuff and really get the best out of our cars week in and week out.
There's no hollow title. We're happy we have a shot. He just keep building on those things. It leaves that sour taste in your mouth when you don't win and you want to go back and win again.
Right now it's just everybody's very motivated, letting our cars talk for us.
Q. The one guy who catches the lucky break and gets off pit road happens to be the guy who won four straight championships. Does that stick in your craw a little bit?
KEVIN HARVICK: They're really good, but they're really, really lucky, too. I mean, Jimmie is a good friend of mine, but there's no way of getting around how lucky they are. You don't win four championships and do all the things they've done.
They did a good job today in winning the race, but they have a golden horseshoe stuck up their ass. I mean, there's no way to get around that.
Q. You closed in on Jimmie on the high side. Did you have a feeling he was going to make you make the pass on the low said?
KEVIN HARVICK: When he moved up the first time, I got tight. Caught the wall there just enough to knock the right front fender in. You know, if he doesn't move up, he's gonna get passed pretty easily. He moved up and did what he was supposed to do to take that line away. The front took off of my car, just able to get that much out of the car. He was able to drive off. So he did exactly what he had to do.
Q. In spite of how well you've run, do you know where you guys need to improve? Is it something obvious?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think, in my opinion, you always need to get better. You need to constantly work on everything to keep going forward. You know, we worked hard to get to this point. But you can't stop. We don't need to get behind again. We need to work to progress forward before everybody else.
I think, in my opinion, that's going to be the thing that will be the most challenging for us. It's not catching up. We did that. It's just getting in front of everybody else.
JEFF BURTON: Spoilers. We got to start working on spoilers. That's going to be a big change. You know, everybody has what they have for the next two weeks. When the spoiler comes, you better be ready. Like Kevin said, if we get behind, you won't catch back up anytime soon.
We did that all last year. So that's where I think the whole garage is working right now.
KERRY THARP: Kevin, Jeff, thank you very much. Good race out there. See you next week.
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