Race Weekend Central

The View From The Top: Quotes From The Top 12 In Points

Every week the top 12 drivers in Sprint Cup points make themselves available to the media. The results of those press conferences can be interesting, boring, funny, sad or even contentious. Here are some of the questions and answers that struck our fancy from Bristol.

*Jimmie Johnson* – What is it going to mean for the sport to play in front of a full house here this weekend?

It’s important everywhere we go. The spring race here was an eye-opener for everyone and really it’s been going on for a while. The track owners, the sport, the drivers, everybody is trying to understand how we can create a better value for the fans. I see a lot of tracks I’ve been in partnerships with where we’ve made opportunities available for the fans, for kids, I’ll be doing a question and answer thing that is relative to a ticket package tomorrow for the race here. I’m proud of the tracks and I still think there is a long way to go and some tracks just aren’t familiar with the way that times are now and we’re almost educating them on what’s a good value and how to go all about it; how to use social media, how to really reach the fans and create a value for them to come out to the track. I think everybody is focused on it and knows that, if there aren’t eyeballs on our sport, we’re not going to have the success that we need. The sponsors aren’t going to be here and our sport won’t be as strong as it needs to be. Long answer to your question but happy to hear that we’re near capacity and hopefully we get there before the start of the race tomorrow night. Moving forward I think there are new things coming, drivers, the tracks, everybody involved is trying to reach out to the fan and make sure they have the best experience possible.

*Kyle Busch* – Have you watched the film from Wednesday night’s race?

I didn’t watch any film. Just talked to Elliott (Sadler) – it’s all good. Everything’s fine. It’s over, it’s done with, it’s in the past. We agreed on some things. It was a delightful conversation.

*Dale Earnhardt, Jr.* – What are your great memories of Bristol?

When I think of Bristol I think of being 11, 12, 13 years old in ’85, ’86 and ’87, around that time and watching the Wrangler car go around here. Watching a lot of great races at that time here. That was when I really kind of first figured out what was going on. I think the first time I came here was ’85. I watched both races down in turn four on top of a van. That was the greatest part of the racing season was coming here. The one at Charlotte was pretty cool. We didn’t get to a lot of races. Going to July in Daytona was cool. Bristol is so different and couldn’t get enough of it. I couldn’t as a kid. That is what I think about. I think more about that time and that era when I think about Bristol.

*Kevin Harvick* – Have you spoken to Kyle since Wednesday night and do you anticipate anything between Sadler and Busch tonight?

First off, I do not have any reason to talk to Kyle. I was not even involved in any portion of the incident. Second off, hopefully he went back and watched the race. The first thing that happened was he shoved him (Sadler) up the racetrack and he got mad because Elliott (Sadler) ran in the back of him, and then he drove over the front of him and wrecked himself. It is just old Kyle I guess showed up last week and really laid into the fact that he was kind of pouting because he was getting his butt whipped. Keeps running his mouth he might get it whipped off the track.

*Kurt Busch* – We hear from a lot of fans when they reconfigured this track, they actually screwed it up. A handful of fans like the new configuration. What would you say to fans that say they’ve screwed up the racing and do you think it’s better now?

Well, this is Bristol. It’s what we have. You know, there’s been quite a few drivers that have helped with the configuration on what we have today, most notably Rusty Wallace, who has helped create his legendary status here at Bristol. Moving the banking around a little bit here, a little bit around there, making it wider, creating the atmosphere for two-wide, sometimes three-wide racing at a half-mile track, there’s not any other half-mile track across the country that can provide the racing atmosphere that Bristol can. We’re just not seeing as many wrecks as we used to in the past. But this track is mean. It is rough. It is tough. It will chew you up and spit you out just like the old one would. You always are going to have the people that are thinking positive and then you’re going to have the people that are thinking negative about it. The problem is, this is what we have and this is the best Bristol I’ve seen.

*Jeff Gordon* – Regarding struggling since they brought the new car in, can you expand on that? Also, Dale Junior said he thought the reason the racing has changed here is because the new car coincided with the repaving. Do you think that has had an impact on it?

It was definitely a double-whammy. The combination of the two; we’re just now starting to get this car to where we can rotate the middle the way that you could with the old car. So one of the biggest challenges we’ve always had with this car is that it’s just real, real tight in the center of the corner. I still think it’s something that we’re challenged with. So, that’s a characteristic that you really need here. You have to have a car that really rotates the middle and sticks in the race track. And this car just did not have that at the beginning. We’ve been gradually getting it better and better and better. Then you take the race track. It was just that one groove right on the bottom. There were just certain spots on the track that you had to hit. And now, you don’t necessarily have that. And it’s multiple grooves. To me it’s far more challenging as a race car driver to make passes, to get the car to go fast, and some guys have figured it out and some guys haven’t.

So I guess, yeah, the combination of those two things. But I’m kind of confused now because I didn’t realize that what the fans really love about this race track was just how you knock one another out of the way and the sparks. I knew that was an aspect of it. I didn’t realize that if we actually made three-wide racing at Bristol, then people wouldn’t like it as much as single-file racing, you know? And so I find that interesting. It teaches us a lot about the sport and the fans and I think as long as we put exciting racing out there, which, like the other night in the truck race, there was controversy, there were sparks flying, and there was great racing, and they loved that race. So, the racing can still be great and the fans can still love it even under this configuration.

*Tony Stewart* – Why does Kyle Busch have so much success at Bristol?

Well, he runs three nights a week when he comes here. That’s an easy way to win a lot of races when you run three times the races everybody else does.

*Clint Bowyer* – Are you getting a lot of phone calls from other owners, or do they realize you are not going anywhere and leaving you alone?

Man, I tell ya. I have been busy. We have two things. Obviously the future, we have to take care of that, just like I said last week. The the Chase, the Chase is item number one. I want to be in the Chase. I think my team deserves to be in this Chase and we have a shot at it. We can make this happen. You have to stay 100 percent focused on that. The biggest thing is you have to work hard on keeping your team focused. A lot of rumors and things going on, it is hilarious, they call it Silly Season for a reason. Good God, I heard rumors that I needed helicopters, it is pretty amazing. You don’t know me very well lady!

*Brad Keselowski* – How do you think your comments of “Kyle Busch is an ass” here last year has played into your image a year later?

Well, I think it’s a better question for the fans than me because I can’t honestly sit here and understand my fan base, or what my fan base thinks of me. I know some of it. I hate to speak for all of them. It’s hard to generalize a whole fan base. Every autograph signing that I go to, there are two comments that are always made. One, wreck Kyle Busch, and two, Kyle Busch is still an ass. I get that at every autograph signing that I go to. Before I get the “go win this week.” I guarantee I’ll get the, “this week I’m going to be in the stands, go wreck Kyle Busch.” You’re like, “Ok, alright. I didn’t want to win this week, I just wanted to cause a wreck this week.” So, it’s kind of difficult and funny at the same time. You can kind of see some of the fans passion that they have. It’s very interesting. I want to have a fan base that likes me for who I am and what I do performance wise. But I understand that there is more to this sport than that.

I don’t try to hide from that. As far as the perception, as I continue to perform better, I would like to think that I get more recognition for performance and that’s a large goal of mine.

*Carl Edwards* – People kept saying during your contract negotiations that if you didn’t make a decision soon it would affect your championship possibilities. Since you signed you went from first to fourth. Cruel coincidence?

I should have held out longer huh? I don’t think that stroke of the pen on the line there affected the spark plug on Sunday. I think it is just racing luck right now. We had cars on Sunday that were very good, cars that could have won that race out of the Roush Fenway camp and I felt like ours was one of them. We have a fast car here. Yeah, that is kind of an interesting coincidence and I thought about that a little bit.

*Denny Hamlin* – How much pressure are you feeling?

I think every week that leads into the first Chase race, there’s going to be more and more pressure. Especially if you’re going backwards and not forwards. The pressure will continue to build and that’s going to be a given. I feel better about it, I feel like we’ve had some good meetings this week. I feel like we have a good game plan going forward on how we can improve our program, but it’s not something that’s going to change overnight. It’s just stuff that’s going to take a long time to kind of show the changes that we make from here on out.

*Matt Kenseth* – Pit calls have been a big focus lately. How have you handled that with Jimmy?

It is a little different and it has been different at times for several reasons. The tire is a big reason for that. We are burning less gasoline but we are burning more volume of fuel so our mileage is worse so we can’t run as many laps as we even did the year before. Those two things and then circumstances and how the cautions fell. Obviously if you can run 40 laps on fuel and the caution falls with 60 to go, and it goes green to the end, strategy doesn’t matter much. It has been one of them years. There have been years like that if you think about it. In 2008 Carl won a lot of races I think four or five on fuel mileage. There have been years like that in the past if you look through and I think most people would like to see it all be about performance but that is just not logical.

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