“This is what it’s all about. We ran well in the Duel race and now we’re concentrating on what will be one of the biggest races I’ve been in. That’s how big the 50th edition of this race is. You saw the guys who didn’t race in, the frustration of not making it. This is a big deal. I feel fortunate to be a part of this event as a driver. We’ve heard so much about this race, and the anticipation is great, now it’s time to race and be a part of something special. It means a lot.
“Daytona is always big, and there are other big races too. But, it’s not like Daytona at 50. That makes it special and something even more to be a part of. We saw guys today racing real hard to make it. Look at guys like Kenny Wallace and Dale Jarrett. It’s a tough thing to do when you’re not guaranteed a spot. Like I said, I’m happy we ran well and weren’t in that position. We can concentrate on Sunday now.
“Who would have thought it? I’m just excited to be in it. The 50th running, it’s Daytona, my family will be here, my uncle (Mario Andretti) will be here. It’s just a great feeling to be a part of it. I don’t know what the odds are, but to race in this great race on Sunday is just great.
You think of this race and the Daytona 500 is history. I grew up in an open wheel family, and Indianapolis is the greatest track in the whole world, but Daytona and the Daytona 500 is special too. The 50th running of this race is going to be a great event.
You know, my uncle won this race before he won the Indianapolis 500. That’s a big deal, and to have him here on Sunday is going to be great. We spoke after qualifying earlier in the week, and I’m sure he’s excited. My sister will be here, my father is here and it’s a great time for the whole family. I’m proud to carry the Andretti flag during this 50th event.
“The car felt great. I was going with (Jeff) Gordon regardless. I thought maybe we could hook up and go good together. I got behind him and was pushing him real good, we were pushing (Denny) Hamlin and got by (Tony) Stewart and then Tony came right back. The Gibbs guys are really good. Stewart is tough. He went with his teammate and we ended up fourth. I was happy with the whole race, the pit stops, our tires stayed on the car and our fuel mileage was great. We had a lot of power in our Dodge Charger. I thought it was the best car Gillett Evernham has ever brought to the track compared to the field. It was a good team effort. Hopefully, this will give us a top-10 starting spot, not that really matters, but I’ve never started in the top 10 here. The car handled great. It was a little on the loose side, but handled really well and went around the corners fast. We need just a little more to run in the top 10 on Sunday.”
“It was pretty uneventful to be honest with you. My plan was to ride around until lap 50 and then go. I was good with Tony (Stewart) for a while, but then we got away from me. I got left on the inside. The car wasn’t good in the high groove, but it’s not that big of a deal. We have a decent race car and it’s all still here. We’ll learn from this race and we’ll apply that to the (Daytona) 500.”
ON HELPING OUT THE NO. 10 CAR: “Well we were going forward and then they said get behind the No. 10 car and at that point I think he was like 12th and I was like 13th, so I was running behind him and I saw him hit the wall. I was like, ‘he hit the wall’ and I wanted to run behind them. I knew he was very, very tight in the middle of the corners and I saw him smack the wall again. Unfortunately I checked up there at the end and that cost us a little bit of track position, but I was doing everything I could to help Patrick get in.”
HOW MUCH DID THE PARTNERSHIP WITH GILLETT EVERNHAM HELP IN A RACE LIKE THIS? “There support is wonderful. I didn’t use my teammates very much today just because that didn’t fit into our strategy. We wanted to put ourselves in position to be there at the end and that caution came with too few of laps left. We needed it to come with about five more and we would have been in good shape.”
ON THE WRECK: “We went all the way to the max. The No. 10 Valvoline was fast all day, but it started to get really tight on me. I kept hitting the wall there the last four or five laps. I figured I might as well stay close to the wall so when that thing let go I would be right up there. I thought we were going to finish it there at the end with only a few laps to go. Our guys did a great job in the pits. There was nothing else you could do. We’re going to go to Fontana and dig deeper to get into the field.”
DID YOU PROVE THAT YOU CAN RUN WITH THESE GUYS? “It was fun. Elliott Sadler yesterday taught me a lot. Pete Barnwell, my spotter today, did a good job. They were explaining everything they can to me. They gave me so much information and with the team back and forth, so I think we are going to come out on top of this.”
“We didn’t have enough speed. That was the problem.”
WOULD YOU HAVE PITTED AND TAKEN ON TIRES AT THE END THERE? “We had to we were crippled when that last yellow came out. We had a right front messed up that wouldn’t turn at all any more. It was crippled.
MICHAEL WALTRIP RACING CARS WERE ABLE TO HELP EACH OTHER GET INTO THE DAYTONA 500: “Everybody is on their own agenda. My problems aren’t Michael’s. I couldn’t be more proud of Michael for getting all three of those cars in. We just weren’t fast enough. That’s what the bottom line is. It’s not really hard to figure out.”
ON THE WRECK: “By the time I saw what was going on, Jacques (Villeneuve) was already sideways. I don’t know what caused that, but he was sideways and I think he tried to chase it and catch it and the car turned hard right on him. He took myself and the 26 (Jamie McMurray) and put us in the wall. We were innocent bystanders in it, but that’s restrictor-plate racing.”
ARE YOU OK? “Physically, I’m fine. I’m upset for my guys. We’ll probably have to bring out the backup car out because I don’t think there’s much left of the primary which is a real shame. I was trying not to take any chances and hadn’t taken any up to that point. Luckily, we’re in the 500 thanks to the top 35 owner points. It’s really unfortunate because we were running pretty well. It’s frustrating when that happens. It wasn’t like I was out there taking risks. I was being very conservative. I was following guys like Dale Jarrett and Tony Stewart and trying to learn from those guys.”
YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE OUT THERE; WHAT WAS IT LIKE? “It was intense. I was talking to Jamie (McMurray) coming back and the ambulance about how much we were lifting, how much we were pedaling. He said it caught him by surprise too; how much the cars are sliding around. We’ll come back on Sunday and try again.
ON THE RACE: “The track was quite a bit slicker today than it was on Saturday for the Shootout. I think it's going to be hotter on Sunday, so that means it will even be worse. Tire management I think is going to be the biggest thing for the 500. The car is pretty good. It seems to be balanced well. It just gets really slick after about 20 laps. Just really happy with the way the car was today, and I feel like we got a good race car for the 500.”
IS YOUR SUCCESS ATTRIBUTED TO THE CAR OR DO YOU LIKE THIS DRIVING STYLE? “I haven't had that much luck with this type of racing. I've had a lot more fun this past week, restrictor plate, than I think I ever have. Both the cars have the same setup. They seem to handle really well on old tires. I would say that we have a little bit of advantage on car setup right now compared to what we've had in the past. Just real happy with the way the car is on old tires. Everybody is slipping and sliding. It's just who can keep it wide open after it starts sliding around.
IS THERE ANY REAL STRATEGY TO THIS TYPE OF RACING? “I think just because the track is the way it is, how slick it is, it puts a lot of those strategies out the window. There were a couple times there where I had to stay to the high side because my car was a lot better there. It's real hard trying to pick who you're going to go with, who is going to push you. Right there at the end I pushed the 88 as hard as I could to try to get going as fast as I could. I knew the 12 was behind me. Didn't really know what he was going to do, who was behind him.
”A lot of the strategies do go out the window. You just got to go where your car is best when the track is as slick as it is and when the tires wear as bad as they do. You just got to go where your car is best. After about 20 laps, that's the key to staying up front.”
DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO RYAN NEWMAN THERE AT THE END? “Yeah, I pushed the 88 car all the way through one and two. When you get two of these cars stuck together, they really move fast. Right after we crossed the start/finish line, when I was still in second gear, I was on the bumper of the 88. All the way through fourth gear, through one and two there, just really gave him a good push. Spotter said clear about six or seven, and we stayed like that pretty much all the way to the end.
“These cars are really weird. When you get two of them stuck together they really gain a lot of speed. That's what did that right there.”
HOW DO YOU SHARE YOUR EMOTIONS WITH THE TEAM? “I mean, obviously this isn't the big race. This is a qualifying race. But it's still good to learn a lot and run good in this race. We had a good run in the Shootout. We had another good run today. It makes everybody on the team excited about going into the 500. We're optimistic about it. It gets everybody in a good mood. Everybody is energized, ready to go. It's always good to have a good finish here in the 500 to get some momentum gained for the rest of the season. It's always good to run good here. We've done well so far. Just need to do good in the 500 and we'll be good to go.”
KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
ON WHAT HAPPENED “It’s too early to diagnose the problem. It’s too early to tell. I think we might have had something electrical underneath the dash, because there is a bunch of wires burned up.”
HOW NICE IS IT TO HAVE THAT CHAMPIONS PROVISIONAL? “Yeah, I mean when you take away all your points you put yourself in a position where maybe the racing gods aren’t looking the brightest upon you, but we’ll get through it. We have a past champion provisional that’ll get us into the Daytona 500.”
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger)
ON THE RACE: “The Alltel Dodge was pretty good. I was worried about the tires, but they held up for us. We’re still wondering if we can make it a full fuel run, but we’re happy with the way the car handled. We have a little vibration in the car that we need to work out. It’s just nice to have some laps and get the car really fine tuned for the (Daytona) 500. I’m pretty happy with the car. We can make it better and we’ll do that. We’ll just keep working on it.”
IF THE RACE WAS LONGER DO YOU THINK YOU COULD HAVE CAUGHT DALE EARNHARDT, JR.? “We had a run on him a couple of times. Sorenson kind of gave (Dale Earnhardt) Junior the win when he pushed him there so hard on the restart, because with these cars there was no way you can just catch up after a guy does that. Obviously his car was strong. Junior got up to the front almost by himself. We’ll keep on working on our Alltel Dodge.”
SOME TEAMS WERE HAVING BLISTERING ISSUES. WERE YOU CONCERNED? “I don’t know what team yet that hasn’t. We were a little bit tighter. We tightened the car up a little bit. Our first run we were great. We were loose but we were great. I’m hoping the tire life gets better because it’s not any fun having a tire that’s questionable.”
DID DALE EARNHARDT JR. MAKE THE MOVE BY HIMSELF TO GET BY YOU? “Yeah, I mean he had a good push down the back straightaway, but he made the pass and I tried to pass him back and Sorenson went with him. Way for the Dodges to stick together there.”
ELLIOTT SADLER (No. 19 Best Buy Dodge Charger)
ON THE RACE: “We had a great race car, one of the best cars I’ve had here in a long time. I’m proud of my guys. The Best Buy Dodge was fast. I was up there and almost took the lead right before my right front tire went flat and then we were racing with these guys with 12 or 13 laps more on my tires and could still run with them. We have no changes or anything we’re going to do for the 500. We’re just going to figure out our tire problem and work on that. As far as the car and speed, we’ve got something for these boys on Sunday.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)
ON THE RACE: “It was pretty good. We knew we had a good handling race car. I was a little surprised with some of the late race decisions by other drivers, but apart from that it was pretty good. The Texaco/Havoline Dodge was pretty good. We knew it handled good. You know we came from the back and we worked our way all the way up there.”
SAM HORNISH, JR. (No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger)
YOU FINISHED NINTH. HOW WAS YOUR RACE? “We scraped it up a little bit. Right before that last caution I was working on getting a little bit higher on the racetrack and I went a little bit over that. I know it’s another learning thing but I was real happy with the way the Mobil 1 car handled. We had to pit a little bit earlier than some of the other guys and changed tires. That last restart we had a good run going down the back straightaway and I went to the outside to go around the 87 and the 5 and nobody went with me so that ended up costing us a couple of spots. I was just real happy with how the team worked. They had a great pit stop and there’s still a lot of stuff I have to do yet but I don’t have any complaints right now.”
YOU HAD TO MAKE A GREEN FLAG PIT STOP. DID YOU HAVE ANY PROBLEMS FINDING SOMEONE TO DRAFT WITH ONCE YOU WENT BACK OUT? “Not really because of just kind of the way it happened to work out. I was right in the pack with the rest of the leaders. It really wasn’t too bad. I feel like I could have got my in and my out a little bit better than what I did and that would have maybe put us up a little bit better but the way everything cycled through I was right there with the leaders anyhow. I was just real happy with the way the Mobil 1 guys their pit stops. This is not a first for any of ‘em but first time really working all together so I was happy with that.”
DID YOU NOTICE THE CARS MOVING AROUND? “I noticed mine moving around a whole lot [smiles]. We were too tight the first run and then we were too loose the second run so we’ve got to work on that a little bit over the next couple of days. There’s a lot of guys moving around, a lot of guys bumping into each other and as you saw it started real early in the race, even. It was fun.”
HOW BIG OF A RELIEF IS IT TO GET THROUGH THIS RACE? “It’s a big relief. I’m real happy with the way that that worked out. We’ve definitely bumped ourselves up quite a bit as far as where we’re going to start. I was real happy with that.”