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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 31, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Jimmie first off, out here for the test, this is your first day on the track, just talk about how the morning has gone so far.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: The morning has been fun. Daytona everybody always talks about. It's really about the teams and the driver, doesn't have a chance to challenge himself out there. Today it's been fun to get out in the car and get that racing feeling back. We're working on some things, and today is about getting a lot of things out of the way for the start of the season, and I had my first spin. Thankfully we didn't hit anything. I don't know, there's just something relieving about spinning, definitely not hitting anything, but when you spin out and drive off, like, all right, now that's behind me, now I can go forward. I feel very accomplished this morning.
THE MODERATOR: Jimmie is also the defending champion, Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth both have gone back-to-back here; talk about your chances of going back-to-back here in Vegas.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I would hate to screw that up to be honest with you. Hopefully we can do that. Obviously there's a lot to be learned from the start of the season. All of the teams have worked hard over the off-season. Our Daytona tests went well, look to make are a lot stronger. So hopefully tomorrow we'll be able to close the gap and get a little advantage on those guys. But for the first day, first morning really back in the car with new team members, just kind of trying to get everything going again, we're on par.
Q. The new noses and back ends on the 2006 Chevrolet, how long will it take to get those just the way you want them, or might they be a handicap in the Daytona 500 instead of a plus?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: There really is actually more to it than just the nose and the tail on the car. We actually have just as many changes to our car as Ford has for theirs. We just don't have a new name on it. So there's really changes from bumper to bumper. All 13 templates that sit on the car have been adjusted some this year. So we virtually have a new car that we are trying to work through. Everything we saw in the wind tunnel for our downforce stuff was really strong. Typically your downforce stuff carried over to Daytona and slowed the car down. One thing I believe we have a lot of horsepower under the hood and put up some strong numbers in the Daytona test, and then I think our guys have been creative to try to do the right things for the Speedway car to take some drag out of it. So all in all I think we've got a good compromise, and Chevrolet dominating like they have, like they did last year, I think we're building on that and we feel as the year wears on, we'll make this car better than what we had last year.
Q. Talk about the prospect of the new GM engine.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I definitely think there's been a lot of changes. All teams sit here and say we haven't had changes, everybody else has, but we truly have been dealing with the same combination for quite a few years. And obviously everybody is hopeful that we'll be able to make some changes to stay on an even playing field with the other manufacturers that are coming in. I think that's a big concern in general. We're very happy with the changes we're getting this year, but I still think that if we're allowed to have an equal block and an equal engine combination as some of the other makes, we'll really be able to show what our teams are capable of.
Q. You had an unusual winter, you got way out of town, I understand you went to Africa, how was that and did it kind of like open your eyes to like a whole new world and new adventures?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I would say that -- I didn't come home and feel like I could solve the world's problems. But being out on a safari, being completely away from everything like I was, I spent a lot of great, great quality time with my wife, was just able to forget about racing and all of the other things and just enjoy being on vacation, being with her and seeing and following animals. At one point we followed a pride of lions for three different days, just watching them, seeing what they were going to do. Of course, we went with Jeff and his girlfriend, Ingrid, on the trip, and of course Jeff and I wanted to see the lions feed and the girls were scared to death of that happening. So Jeff and I were eager to see that. We didn't see it, but we saw them trap some animals and watched them hunt and do their thing and be lions. It was pretty cool.
Q. Is that a -- inaudible?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, it's total photo of safari. I didn't own a nice camera until that trip, so you can definitely see my photos develop as the ways went by. The first three or four days weren't very good.
Q. We're sitting here, new car, with only six tests this year; this is an extremely important test. How does it benefit you to have three other teammates that you guys can kind of share the wealth back and forth?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Right now, I think all of us, all four Hendrick teams, we just started the morning off with what we felt was the right thing for our individual teams, and we're each on a similar plan but trying different things. I think tonight is when we'll really see the benefit of our four-car team and all of the engineers and crew chiefs are able to get together, look at the data and spend some time and really pour through all of the information we've collected. In most test sessions, it's really tough to react really fast to things that are going on because you've got so many different censors on the car, so many different things to look at; that in our experience it seems that if we go home for a couple of days, sit on it, digest it, we're able to come back -- or we can't come back -- but we come back to that race or the following race the next weekend, bringing something new to the table. So tonight is going to be a very important night for Hendrick Motorsports, getting all of the members together and crew chiefs to sort through everything and really work on a game plan for tomorrow.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think that they are all really similar. You know, the difference between our two cars, one was an early version car that we built. And then after the complex cycled through building a car for everyone, we had another shot; then it was our turn to build a new car. We learned some things in that period of time and adapted it to the new car. So there are some subtle changes and we do feel that we have one car that's a little better than the other but it's not a huge difference. It's really important to us to make sure that all of the power plans have the same horsepower, torque curves and the cars are as close to one another as possible. So when we head off on our separate agendas, we are actually comparing apples to apples, and you can really take the things that we learn and cross over to the other cars.
Q. What are your views on the car tomorrow? Is it going to be better for NASCAR or is it going to be a problem?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think there's a lot of work ahead of everyone to get that car in place. I definitely respect the hard work NASCAR is putting forward to keep the show improving and make for better racing every year. I do think that there's some things we need to recognize and understand that you're never going to get rid of the aero push. It's not going to happen. The lead car has all of the air, the cars behind it have less air; that's just how it works. I look at that and say, yes, we can improve the cars and I think we've definitely learned things that we can do and shouldn't do. And I think one good example of what we shouldn't do is that five-for-five rule, five-and-five rule that they had. I didn't drive the cars, but Jeff said they are really tough to drive in traffic and that was a direction not to go in. I think over team we've learned certain things do help the cars. One thing I'm looking at is if we are on a racetrack and we know the lead car has all the air and the advantage, what if we make a solid second lane that's just as fast, or a third lane and a fourth lane? I think we've all looked at Homestead and different tracks with progressive banking. Martinsville, the accident (ph) -- to roughen up the inside lane, I thought they were smoothing it out; they roughened it up, gave us an option for a second lane. I think we need to look at the tracks as the next big thing in my opinion and how can -- how can we make two and three lanes on a racetrack. I have to give a lot of credit to Bristol. They are looking at their situation and adjusting it. I think a lot of tracks are looking at that and from what I hear, the Vegas track is as well. I think the more lanes we can provide, the better the racing is going to be.
Q. With that in mind, what are your thoughts on the renovations they are going to do to the racing surface here?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I just heard about it in passing today, so I don't really have all of the --
THE MODERATOR: The banking is going to go from 12 degrees to 20 degrees, and the pit road is going to be moved almost 200 feet out to the start finish line.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know if -- pit road is tough to make under green flag conditions, so that will make it a little easier on the drivers and obviously moving pit road out would help the fans. Now the banking, progressive banking, going into Homestead before they change it, I didn't know what to really think of progressive banking. I raced at south Boston on their little small track with progressive banking and really enjoyed it. I watched a lot of racing at a track in Arizona, used to have Winter Heat racing, Tucson, and they put on great racing. Now after racing on it myself in one are our cars, I definitely see the advantages of it, and it's definitely something that a lot of tracks should look at. I don't think it's a fix for every track; Daytona, Talladega, there's no benefit to really having a progressive banking track. I think once you get to a certain amount of banking, you're in good shape.
Q. Inaudible -- trying to get out ahead in the Chase?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I think it's really important and that's been a luxury that we've had each year. We've been able to get off to a quick start and unfortunately right around the 23rd race in August sometime, we slowed down and we've been second a few times in the championship and then fifth last year. Looking back on it the last four seasons, I almost want to get off to a slow start personally -- I'm kind of lying when I say that. I would hope that I can peak in August and on instead of at the start of the season. I wish we could really plan and say, all right, this is when we are going to do our best, blah, blah, blah, but making the Chase is the first priority, and that's something that we have a big focus on for the 48 team and all of Hendrick Motorsports. We want all four cars in the Chase.
Q. Wondered if you can just comment on the development of your teammate Kyle Busch, Rookie of the Year last year, a lot of people picking him as a dark horse this year, talking about how quickly he's developed as a driver?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I have to say Kyle and Brian both. When I look at their age, I was the youngest driver at Hendrick Motorsports until Brian came along, and then I felt bad and felt kind of old; and then Kyle came along and made me feel even worse. Kyle has shown so much ability inside the race car. I think we've all seen it with his victories last year at the Cup level, Truck level and the Busch level, he's done amazing things in the car. I think we take for granted that he is, what, 20, I guess now, and that he -- speak of the devil -- and that he has a lot of great years ahead of him; he has a lot of speed, and I think he's definitely in my opinion more than a dark horse. I think the 5 and 25, you'll see amazing things out of them this year and hopefully all four of us in the Chase fighting for the Championship.
Q. How about 48's were in your garage last season, and did you really need that many?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm not sure the total that we had. But I can say that Hendrick Motorsports, we're in a fortunate situation where we don't have to -- we don't need to have the big inventory that other teams do because we have a chassis shop on site. If we crash one, we send it down and if we destroy one, we order a new one. Some of the single car teams and teams that don't have their own fabrication shop or chassis shop, they need to buy 30 cars, put them in a warehouse somewhere and use them as needed. We're not in that situation, unless I crash a lot; we don't typically go through a lot of race cars, a lot of chassis.
THE MODERATOR: Jimmie, thank you for coming in and good luck with the rest of the test and we'll see you in about five weeks. We'll now bring up Kyle Busch, driver of the Kellogg Chevrolet. First off, your first day here for the test so far just talk about how your car is and how the test has gone so far.
KYLE BUSCH: It's gone well, not quite gone to expectations but we'll get there hopefully before the day is out and maybe even we'll have to work in tomorrow. But being as though it's a two-day test, we have plenty of time to work on things. There's a lot of guys that were here yesterday that have a little bit of a head start for us, so that may be why we're further down on the speed charts. All in all the guys have been gelling really well. We have one, maybe two new guys on the team, but all in all it's all the same guys from last year and everybody is working well together. We had a great Daytona test. We had a great test just before Christmas, we went to Kentucky Speedway and had a really good shakedown there of one of the cars we brought here, and everything is going so far so well, but we're trying to find a little more speed out of it as we can.
THE MODERATOR: This race last year you finished second, your breakout race, how important was this race to have the momentum that you kind of built throughout the season?
KYLE BUSCH: Coming to Vegas, hometown, of course it's always special, you always want to do well. And go out there, if you can, win; and if not, do the best you can. Obviously you also want to do it every other place but especially here in Vegas. It was a good time for us, me finishing second, Kurt was third and teammate, Jimmie, he ended up winning the race. It was definitely a good weekend for us. We didn't start off too well. We didn't think we were going to fair too well but Alan and all of the guys kept digging on the car and made it a lot better and so we were able to finish second. This year we came back here with something completely different than what we raced here last year. So we are trying to find something if we can of anything and see if we can make it work.
Q. How much more comfortable do you feel here in your second go around, as opposed to your rookie season?
KYLE BUSCH: There's a little bit more of a comfort level that's been built up so far, but this is actually my third trip here, I ran here in 84 Car Quest car a couple years ago and that was not a very good adventure for us, but last year was. Coming back this year, I've definitely got a lot more experience under my belt; and being able to run the full season last year in the NEXTEL Cup Series and do very well, end up 20th in points and all that kind of stuff. But to be able to come back out here to Vegas with the experience I have now, it makes it easier to do just a little bit better and of course being able to have a better feel for the race car. I know exactly what maybe I can work ourselves towards to make the car better.
Q. You finished second, your brother finished third last year, any little bragging rights going on and any little rivalry coming up here for March?
KYLE BUSCH: Not really. We always try to go out there and beat each other anyways, but especially here in our hometown, it's a lot more fun. Coming out of here last year, I think Kurt had the quote that, him helping me was all over. But it still goes on today. We both talk to each other. We get a lot of help from each other. And him moving over to the new stable at Penske, he's had a great experience so far and he's loving it over there. He's looking for forward to this year I think than he has ever, really, and just being able to communicate with his guys. For myself being able to go out there this year and being my second year, I think it's Kurt's fifth season, something like that, so he's got a little bit more over me. Hopefully we can outdo him every time we come to Vegas.
THE MODERATOR: His sixth year, can you believe he's been around that long. '01 was his rookie year.
KYLE BUSCH: You're right, that's too many.
Q. What did you guys learn from start to finish, what was the greatest improvement that your team made last year?
KYLE BUSCH: The biggest thing that we worked on last year was our rear package, things that we were doing in the back of the car. We had a lot of success there through -- we really started working on it about mid-April to the end of April. And then Charlotte we really showed all Hendrick cars were running up front with it and during the rest of the season, we were kind of running it until Dover and then NASCAR made the rule change. As far as myself being able to learn the different tracks and things like that, of course that's a big thing that you have to do is be able to learn what techniques are going to be needed at different facilities. But also, the patience throughout the longer races and things like that, being able to understand that if you have a 20th place car, you just need to finish 20th, run 20th with it. Besides, I mean, there was a couple races last year where we probably had about a 15th place car and I'm trying to run 10th or 11th with it and just out of control, and we end up scraping the wall or something like that and just hurting our chances to at least have a good finish. And there were other times where, you know, Michigan we were leading the race and we're so hyped up on leading the race that we have paper on the grill and whatnot and we burnt the motor up. So those are some things that we need to work on for this year and just be being able to make it to the finish, that's the big prize, not necessarily just finishing up front. Now that I've won my first race, it's a lot easier to go out there and run Top-5 than having to force yourself to win races.
Q. Your thoughts on Vegas, during your time here, are you going to visit Durango or any of your buddies or ex-girlfriends or anything like that? (Laughter)?
KYLE BUSCH: I sure hope not on the ex-girlfriends. (Laughter). Actually the friends that I do have, they just come out here and I'm able to see them out here at the racetrack, so that's pretty cool. As far as going back to Durango I'm not sure, that's more up to the PR schedule and things like that if there's some kind of deal that I have to do out there. As far as going over there just on my own leisure, not necessarily; I've got so many other things that I want to do or that I need to do or that I have to do. So being able to go out there is not necessarily what I want to do. School wasn't a priority of mine. It was something that I had to do, but it wasn't necessarily what I wanted to do back then.
Q. What was your grade average?
KYLE BUSCH: My grade average, I think I graduated with like a 3.8 or 3.7. It wasn't bad but it wasn't the best. All in all just being able to -- maybe seeing some of the teachers or something like that. But when we come back out for the race, I'll be able to do that. When my mom is here I'll be able to see the old teachers and stuff like that because she's still real good friends with all of them.
Q. Did winning at Fontana really take a monkey off your back and take a lot of pressure off you?
KYLE BUSCH: Exactly, being able to win my first race, especially on the West Coast, I was able to win both of my races last year. Being able to get out to California and get the win, it means so much, because not only you make it to the Cup level, but the next thing is to win a race. And once you win a race, the next thing is to win more, and of course, the Championship. So being able to go out there last year and win that race in California, it took -- not only did it take the monkey off your back, but just took all amounts of pressure off. Because now you try so hard throughout the year to run up front and to win that race, you put too much emphasis on being able to do that. Now that you've been able to do that, you can kind of lay back a little bit and just run your own race and do those kind of things, somewhat similar to Phoenix. I didn't think I had a shot in the world to win that race after we got two laps down. We had some good pit strategy go on and we were just able to come back up through there and race with Greg Biffle at the end, and of course win. It's a lot easier now this year to just go out and run our own races, instead of having to push ourselves so hard to win races.
Q. You mentioned that school is not what you want to do. When did you find out that racing is what you want to do with the rest of your life?
KYLE BUSCH: It was probably -- I was probably in 7th or 8th grade and just racing Legends cars and things like that. I was having a good time doing that kind of stuff. School was just, I had friends at school and stuff like that, but I never saw them outside of school. I was more so worried about racing and doing the things that I wanted to do and really concentrating and put most of my energy towards that was definitely a priority of mine. You know, every kid has got to go to school and do what they need to do there and graduate. I was fortunate enough to learn what I needed to do to graduate a full year early, and I did take some honors classes, so I was able to graduate with some honors as well, too. It had to be back in 7th or 8th grade where I decided I wanted to pursue racing for the rest of my life.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We have Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards making their way into the media center. First off, Greg, we'll start with you, just talk about how the test has begun so far today and what you guys are looking for while you're here.
GREG BIFFLE: We haven't started out nearly like we thought we were going to. A little bit slow in the morning practice, but it felt like we got going pretty good with about an hour left in the practice. But the track is slowing us down; it's hard to judge how you stack up to everybody else. But the car feels like it's driving better and just looking forward to this afternoon's practice. Kind of feel like we got it going the way we need to now and see how this afternoon goes and try to get through some of the changes. So far, I would say average, not real happy with it, but we're learning.
THE MODERATOR: Either one of you want to talk about how the Fusion has been working here? I know you had been to Daytona but now you're on a downforce track.
GREG BIFFLE: It was hard to tell a lot of difference between the two cars. This car seems like I said after the morning, closer to lunch, my car seemed like it was handling a lot better and we figured some things out. But the balance seems really good on it and I'm real happy with it so far. I've only been in it for about three hours now, and real happy with it.
THE MODERATOR: Carl, you guys tied for second in the standings last year. Of course Greg is going to say he finished second and you finished third; any little battle there for you this year just because you guys tied last year?
CARL EDWARDS: I don't know, any time I can beat him I feel like I've accomplished something. That would have been awesome to have another point. But they deserved it with six wins. So no real battles, really.
GREG BIFFLE: We could tie for first.
CARL EDWARDS: We could tie for first. I'm sure that would be all right with me.
THE MODERATOR: Roush has had so much success here at this track, Jeff Burton, has won here, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth. Does that make you feel better coming into race or does it put pressure on you that you need to get a win for Jack yourself?
CARL EDWARDS: Makes me feel better just to have a little bit of confident and knowing our teammates run that well. Earlier I was looking at data from Matt Kenseth just to see how he drove around this racetrack because he's so good, so it's a help to me.
GREG BIFFLE: I'd certainly like to win here. I've won here in a Truck before, but would be real excited about winning this race. It's a big race. Matt has won here a couple of times and I'd sure love to win out here.
Q. Is if your car improves, is your backflip going to improve?
CARL EDWARDS: I feel like any landing is a good landing. Any landing you can walk away, from; it's an (like) airplane, and the same with my back flip. As long as I don't fall down, I don't know if I can really improve on it.
Q. With all of the changes on your cars, nose piece and the back and everything, are they easier to drive or harder to drive than last year's model?
CARL EDWARDS: I feel like the Fusion, like Greg said I only have three hours in, it feels pretty good, and feels like our cars last year and when they were good last year they were easy to drive. If we can get it a little bit better I think it will be really awesome. I can't tell that much of a difference, but at Daytona I could tell quite a difference but not here.
Q. Greg or Carl, in response to a question about the car of tomorrow a couple of minutes ago, Jimmie Johnson said it might be a good idea to start looking at the tracks themselves, bankings and things, what are your thoughts on that?
CARL EDWARDS: You were saying instead of the car tomorrow, interchanging the bank?
THE MODERATOR: Jimmie was in here early and was talking about all the changes NASCAR wants to make for the car of tomorrow, he thinks maybe they need to look at more of the racetracks, maybe they need to change some bankings. In fact, we announced yesterday we are changing our banking from 12 to 20 degrees by the 2007 NEXTEL Cup race.
CARL EDWARDS: I'm not going to touch that one. (Laughter).
GREG BIFFLE: We can't, you know, tell NASCAR what to do obviously. They are trying to improve safety and they are trying to improve competition. I have to tell you, though, that I really, really like the cars we're driving right now. You know, I think there's a great competition across the board. We brought two different kinds of cars here -- inaudible -- we're looking at data, trying to do all kinds of things. That's what I feel like the heart of our racing is about is the way we're working on our cars right here. And of course we've never been able it do that with the car of tomorrow. So without knowing, we're skeptical about what it's going to be like. I'm sure it will be fine, but we really -- I really like and I think a lot of the drivers really like what we're doing now and enjoy this because we know what to expect and we know what to do. Any time something is an unknown, it's just an unknown, you just don't know. It could very well be way better than what we have. We just don't know. I don't know about the whole change in all of the traction and all that, though.
Q. Greg, looking at the way the season is shaping up and what you tested in Daytona, drivers said you could not get a lot of data because it's a restrictor plate track, is this the best track or would it be better to go to California, Texas Homestead, just want to get your idea, what is this the ideal situation for preseason testing?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, that's a tough question because each racetrack brings a little bit of a different aspect to it. Atlanta brings something a little bit different, Texas brings a little bit different, Chicago and Kansas both bring a little bit different. I'd have to say that this racetrack is a little bit different than most of the mile-and-a-halfs we go to. But we do learn everywhere we go. Almost every racetrack is so specific. You would think that what you do at California would work at Michigan; it doesn't, and who knows why. What you do here may work at Texas, and who knows why, because the racetracks are so different. So wherever we've got to test, we'll test and we'll gather the data we can.
Q. What's your thoughts about Toyota coming into NASCAR next year?
GREG BIFFLE: That got taken out of context a little bit so thank you for allowing me to answer that. My comment on NASCAR.com was "they don't stand a chance." But the question was -- the question was: Will Toyota come into the NEXTEL Cup series and dominate like they have in other series; and I said, no, they don't stand a chance to dominate. Certainly they are going to win races and they are going to have competitive teams and just like all of the other teams. But I think it's good for our sport. I think it's going to bring more fans in and it's going to bring Toyota fans to our sport, and it may bring some IRL or other forms of motorsports, maybe off-road racing or something like that to NASCAR, and I think it will be good. And I think they will do well and they will win their share of races, but I don't believe that they will dominate. They are not going to come in and win all the races, I don't believe.
Q. How did you spend your brief winter break in did you get away from racing, did you do anything fun or did you just obsess on being -- inaudible?
CARL EDWARDS: I got to do a lot of fun stuff back to Missouri, spending time with my brother. He's going to race some cars this year, so had fun with that. One of the coolest things I have done so far in the off-season is I went mountain biking out here in Las Vegas yesterday, that was a blast, Bootleg Canyon. It was unbelievable. Anyway, so just a couple things like that. But mostly probably speaking for both of us, when you go to bed at night, it's like, man, we've got a season coming up. I mean, I can't wait to go racing. So the other stuff is to just pass the time.
GREG BIFFLE: Same here, spent some time with my family and went snowmobiling with my brother, first time I've ever been. Went to Mt. Adams and snowmobiled in the Northwest; that was fun. And then I'm going to Mexico tomorrow afternoon as soon as I'm done testing, and then I'm going to come back for the Busch test, so sneak off for a little four-day -- don't drink the water, right. Gotcha on that one.
Q. What does it mean for both of you having Mark back for one more year?
CARL EDWARDS: It's going to be awesome. I mean, Mark is the ultimate competitor. I saw him at the gym this morning working as hard as ever and he's over there digging in the garage and he's going to be tough to beat. So I'm pretty excited to have him as a teammate for another year.
GREG BIFFLE: Same thing. I'm excited he's back, really excited. He does a lot for our teams and helps us a lot. We're over there looking at his data, he seems like he's about the best Roush car out of camp, just preliminary, I haven't really looked into it that far. I want a chance to look at the lap record (ph) and see. Just looking at his setup before I came over here, quite a bit different than mine. I don't think it will work on my car, but certainly over here testing, we have time to try it. So Mark brings a lot to the table.
Q. Both of you guys drive in the Busch Series, is it a strain, is it fun, just what are your comments about doing both series full-time?
CARL EDWARDS: I enjoy it. It's an unbelievable opportunity to go race more. You get to race for another championship, which is unreal. It's just fun to wake up on Saturday mornings and know I get to go run a race and I love it.
GREG BIFFLE: I really enjoy driving the Busch cars. It's kind of an outlet for me. It's kind of a relief. It's fun. I look forward to it. You know, Saturday afternoon, I look forward to buckling in that car and going. I'm not going to run for a championship in the Busch Series, I'm going to be about five races short, or four. But I just enjoy driving those cars. It's a lot of fun. It's almost like it's some pressure off your mind for Sunday. It's almost because like when you get in a NEXTEL Cup car, every single race is so important and so much pressure, and then I get to go race on Saturdays just for fun and then try and win and then do the best I can. So you know, it kind of is a balance. And I'm like Carl, I can't stand it when the cars are out there racing and you're just sitting with your motor on. It just kills me when arco (PH) race is going or something else. I'm just clawing the walls wanting to drive. So I love driving the car. I just hate sitting there when they are racing.
Q. Carl, since you had such an exceptional season in your alleged rookie year last year, do you feel any pressure to back that up this year?
CARL EDWARDS: Boy, I've gotten that question about six times a day since Homestead, and honestly, I don't feel any more pressure. I put a ton of pressure on myself, and right now, I feel like I have just an opportunity. I feel like the success we had and the things we learned last year just give me an opportunity to go run even better next year. The pressure -- the only pressure I've felt in my life is just from me internally. I don't think that any results or anything anyone says really adds anything. I wake up in the morning and want to win worse than anything in the world. I think the success is a good thing, not a bad thing.
Q. When people are talking about preseason predictions, they are talking about Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle. It has to be humbling and exciting that you are one of the contenders and people think that highly that you can win it this year?
GREG BIFFLE: I haven't heard that prediction yet or haven't seen it anywhere but makes me feel really good to get put into a category with those guys. Jeff Gordon is probably one of most talented drivers I've been able to come across in my career. He has an extraordinary amount of talent inside a race car. And Tony Stewart, obviously, very level-headed and he approaches each race very smart and drives a good race car. So to be get put in that group, I feel pretty good about it. I just need to hold up my end of the bargain now, so that's a little bit of pressure. I feel like Carl; I put a lot of pressure on myself to run well and to run a good race on the racetrack every week. So I'm just going to do the best I can and take advantage of it. And people are like: Well, what do you expect this year after your year last year? Well, I would be happy if I did the same thing I did last year. That was a big year for us. So definitely want to win but a big year for us.
THE MODERATOR: Want to thank Greg and Carl for coming in. Thanks, guys, for being here. We also have Brian Vickers, driver of the GMAC Chevrolet. Brian, first off, this is I think your first time back in the car this year. You had a little surgery a couple of weeks ago, talk about how your feeling and just getting back in the seat.
BRIAN VICKERS: Yeah, I'm definitely feeling a lot better. If you asked me last Monday or Tuesday whether I would be in the car the whole two days, it would definitely have been questionable. I was pretty concerned. The first week, the healing process was pretty slow, but then it took leaps and bounds after that. Still a little tender here and there, getting in and out of the car, but once I'm in the car, I feel pretty good. I feel real good.
THE MODERATOR: Being here in Las Vegas, both Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson both have a win here, Kyle finished second in the Cup race, does that give you some confidence going in or put a little pressure on you going into this year's race.
BRIAN VICKERS: I think it's confidence that the Hendrick Motorsports teams have run pretty good here. For the first time -- a lot of you guys were at the media conference, and for the first time ever Hendrick Motorsports, I feel and so did Rick and everybody in the complex that all of the teams are in equal positions. You know, last year was the first step in the process to putting everybody and bringing everyone together and on the same playing field, but it wasn't going to happen overnight. It took a year for all of that to take place and we are finally where we need to be.
Q. There's a large rookie crop this year, you're not that far removed from your first year, what kind of pressure are they going to be under and what kind of advice can you give those guys?
BRIAN VICKERS: Well, they are definitely going to have pressure and stuff. You know, from my experience, the majority of the pressure you have is as much as you put on yourself is probably the worst of it, especially being a rookie. They are going to have to just be patient and they are going to make mistakes. They are going to have drivers that don't remember when they were rookies and are going to be really, really hard on them when they make mistakes; and they are going to have drivers that do remember when they were rookies and get on to them, but at the same time, they are going to try to help them so they can get better. You know, you're just going to have to deal with it. You do the best you can, be patient and just try to make it to the end of every race. The more laps you're out there, the more you're going to learn.
Q. How did you spend your time off during the winter? Did it just go by really quickly or could you not wait to get back to the car or decide, "I'm taking some time off and getting away from things?"
BRIAN VICKERS: Well, I always try to take as much time off as I can. I think you're just that much better when you get back. Now at the same time, I'm happy to be back in the car. It was good to be back in the car this week, especially after missing Daytona test. The off-season is something that I've always tried to get away and spend with my family over Christmas and travel some and just really get away and relax. Then I try to put more emphasis on it now than ever because of the demanding schedule and being in the Cup series and things I've learned from my teammates like Jeff and Jimmie and their experience with that. So I guess to more directly answer your question, after I spent a couple of days in Miami and spent some time in New York and then I went to spend the holiday season in Charlotte (ph) with my family which is always a standard, I couldn't imagine being anywhere else for Christmas. Then for New Year's, I was in Brazil, and it was a beautiful place, a lot of fun. I went there with some friends from home and some friends from there, a couple friends from there that was a huge benefit. Would have been lost without them. Then we went to -- where did I go off that? Just kind of bounced around a lot. I was in and out of the shop. I was supposed to have my surgery on the 3rd when I got back from New Year's, but I had strep throat, so they pushed me back to the 16th. And kind of, like I said, I was in and out of the shop, team meetings, Christmas parties here and there for the shop. Back and forth between Charlotte and New York, mainly.
Q. Last week Rick Hendrick said he wanted all four teams in the Chase, what is your team going to have to improve your standings, climb up in the points standings?
BRIAN VICKERS: I think we just have to continue to do where we left off last year. The last couple of races we had a couple things go wrong, but for the most part the second half of the season for several months in a row, not sure of the exact dates, but for a long time we accumulated the second most points of anybody in the series; so for a pretty good stretch there. So if we can just do that, we'll be in more than -- we'll have more than enough points and we'll be in plenty of good shape to accomplish that goal. We've just got to start off better. At the beginning of the season last year is what really killed us. We knew it was coming, we knew it was going to be a hard time, we didn't have any new cars, the cars we had were not what they needed to be but you just cannot change everything overnight. This year we are starting out in a lot better position.
THE MODERATOR: Brian, thanks.
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