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November 14, 2014
Q.Â What are these guys, what's going to be going through your minds, and how much as a teammate are you going to be able to help Kevin Harvick?
KURT BUSCH:Â You know, the year I came down here, I had a points cushion, and you have to use that to your advantage.Â This year, everybody is racing as the last man standing.Â Everybody is equal on points, so you have to race to win, and you have to keep track of those other cars that are out there with the yellow banner across the top of their windshield.Â That's ultimately who you're racing.Â The year everything came together for me, it was Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and myself, and we all pitted with 60 laps to go.Â That's before we had all these yellows and all these pit stops at the end of the race, and none of us could make it on fuel unless we had a fuel‑conservation‑type run.Â So we were all going to finish top 5 together or we were all going to run out of gas together.Â You have to race the competitors in your specific group.
Q.Â Based on what you've seen with these four guys racing for a championship, what do you expect on Sunday?
KURT BUSCH:Â Well, raw speed always comes into play, and the 4 car has had that all year.Â That's who I'm rooting for.Â That's what we'll do out there on the track to take care of him.Â The 22 is going to be his toughest competitor.Â The 11 car will surprise you though; Hamlin is good here.Â And then Newman, all year long I've watched him.Â I shook his hand, I think it was at Texas, I said, you're just rolling through this Chase, running for eighth place, and I told him, I said, you're going to end up at Homestead and have a shot at it.Â So he punched his ticket with consistency.Â With this new program I think you have to go for the win, and that's where the 4, 22, and 11 seem to have shown more strength.
KERRY THARP:Â Kurt, thank you for coming in, and congratulations on a good qualifying run, and good luck Sunday here at Homestead‑Miami.
Our third fastest qualifier for Sunday's 16th annual Ford EcoBoost 400 is Matt Kenseth, and he drives the No.20 Dollar General Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.Â Certainly it's good to see you.Â Just talk about your qualifying run here this afternoon, how your car is shaping up, and your outlook for Sunday's race.
MATT KENSETH:Â Yeah, it was really good.Â I mean, it wasn't as good as Kurt and Jeff's, but it was good, so we had some decent speed our first lap on the track.Â They just worked on qualifying, got a pretty clean lap that last one, so overall it was good.
Q.Â How important is it for you to come in here and try and get that win that you've been searching for all season long?
MATT KENSETH:Â I mean, it's always important to run up front and be competitive, and obviously to win races.Â I don't know that it's any more or less important to me than the other 35 races this year, really.Â That's what you show up and try to do every week.Â Obviously, the longer you go without a win‑‑ you know, I don't necessarily feel the pressure or anything like that, but, obviously, you think about it a little bit more.Â So yeah, it would be great to end the season on a positive note.
Q.Â Matt, what can you do to help Denny, and what would you do?
MATT KENSETH:Â Denny who?Â (Laughter.)
I just noticed him sitting there.Â I mean, really the same as every week.Â I mean, I feel like we have a good group over at JGR.Â I feel like Kyle and Denny and I work really well together, and we always try to help each other as much as we can.Â I don't think anything really necessarily changes this weekend.Â I mean, we try to help each other as much as we can throughout the week, throughout practice, maybe changes we've made in our car, things that worked, things that didn't work, things like that.Â Anything we can do obviously to try to make us all faster as a group.
KERRY THARP:Â Matt Kenseth, good luck Sunday.Â As promised, we're going to hear from our Championship Four drivers, and because they were in here first, I'm going to call up Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.Â And then Ryan, we're going to pair you with Kevin Harvick if that's okay.
Joey Logano, driver of the No.22 Shell‑Pennzoil Ford for Team Penske, and today Joey qualified ninth for Sunday's 16th annual Ford EcoBoost 400, and joining him on the stage will be Denny Hamlin, who qualified eighth.Â Denny drives the No.11 FedEx Express Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Denny, eighth qualifying position.Â You've won this race last year.Â Just your thoughts, your outlook, how practice has gone, how qualifying went, and what you want to try to work on tomorrow.
DENNY HAMLIN:Â Well, yeah, I think today kind of went like most of the year for us but better.Â You know, we weren't blazing fast for the first couple laps, but we have a car obviously that's pretty good after that, and obviously that helped us in qualifying, being that we had to run an extra run there at the end, so that helped us.Â And really all weekend, right from the first lap unloading, I felt like it's got the feeling that it needs to be successful on Sunday.
KERRY THARP:Â Joey, qualified ninth, so you'll be starting pretty close right there next to Denny.Â Talk about your car, practice here today, preparation, and then what you hope to be able to improve upon tomorrow.
JOEY LOGANO:Â Yeah, we had an okay day today.Â I felt like we unloaded in race trim.Â We had good speed in our car.Â Felt like our car was pretty good, and we kept staying committed to the bottom and trying to work down there and trying to make that work for qualifying.Â We switched over to qualifying trim, and just the speed didn't transfer.Â We were actually trying to go just as fast as we did in race trim as we were in ‑‑ to do that in qualifying trim.Â Just didn't have the speed there in practice, and once again, the 22 bunch kept their heads together, and we were able to make some good changes and found quite a bit of speed out of our car.Â I think we were third through the first round, so that surprised me.Â I was hoping I made it through the first round.
Overall we were able to rebound off a car that didn't seem to be too fast in qualifying trim, and we qualified halfway decent there in ninth, and we'll be able to race up from there.Â I feel like my car was a little better in race trim than it was in qualifying trim for sure.
Q.Â Denny, how close is your car to last year's winning car here?
DENNY HAMLIN:Â My last year's winning car is scrapped somewhere.Â I don't know, it's pretty far away.Â (Laughter.)
It feels good.Â It feels good.Â Last year I knew we were going to win the race.Â I knew in practice we were going to win the race, and my car feels equally as good this time around.
Q.Â For both of you, after qualifying after practice, do you feel more confident or less confident about winning the championship than you did when you got down here?
DENNY HAMLIN:Â More for me.
JOEY LOGANO:Â I feel the same.Â I felt confident coming into this racetrack, and after our test I thought it went well.Â I may have lost a little bit after we switched to qualifying trim, but we're back, and I feel about the same as we did when we walked in this morning, with a positive attitude.
KERRY THARP:Â We're going to hear from our other two Championship Four drivers, Kevin Harvick, driver of the No.4 Budweiser Chevrolet for Stewart‑Haas Racing, qualified fourth, best of all the Championship Four drivers.Â Congratulations, Kevin.
KEVIN HARVICK:Â Thanks.Â I was actually fifth, but that's okay.Â We've had a good day.Â Just kind of went back and forth there on the balance of the cars.Â Went through the second round and didn't quite get everything I needed to out of the car in the last round, but all in all, it was a solid day.Â The car has got good speed in race trim, I got a good starting spot, so should get a good pit stall and just go out and try to have another solid day tomorrow and get prepared for the race.
KERRY THARP:Â And qualifying 21st is Ryan Newman.Â He's the driver of the No.31 Caterpillar Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.Â Ryan, talk about how practice went for you today and then also about your qualifying run.
RYAN NEWMAN:Â Well, it was actually all good.Â None of it was great, but that second qualifying run wasn't what we wanted, and at that point it was really difficult to get a good refire on the tires and make any gains to make it back in with hot tires.Â We start 21st with the CAT Chevrolet and I don't think that's the end of our day, but my comment after qualifying was we beat half of them today, and we've got 267 laps to beat the other half on Sunday.
Q.Â Kevin, do you feel like you needed to have a good day maybe more than the others just because you guys have been fast all year and scratching your head a little bit that you weren't in the top 5?
KEVIN HARVICK:Â Well, the good news is we don't have to worry about that because we had a good day.Â We had planned on having a good day, and everything went pretty much according to what we wanted to do in practice.Â You know, I think as you look at the morale of the team, we know we can get better tomorrow.Â We have a good spot to start in race trim, and seven other cars that are running good to see some of the trends on their stuff today that were good in race trim, also.Â All in all, we have a lot to look at and a lot of resources to pull from, and everybody is pulling the rope in the same direction, and we'll just keep plugging away.
Q.Â Ryan, based on what you've seen and felt today and observed from your competitors, what leads you to believe that you might be able to beat these guys head to head Sunday just based on raw speed?
RYAN NEWMAN:Â Just the opportunity.Â I mean, we've got good equipment, good cars, good people.Â Our pit stops have gotten better.Â It's going to be a crazy race, I think.Â It's going to be some really crazy restarts, but I don't think your starting position defines who's going to finish there.
Q.Â Kevin, Denny was asked about his car and how it feels.Â He said it feels the same as last year's car, and he knew in practice last year he was going to win the race.Â Do you have any sense or feel of what you're capable of or will do on Sunday?
KEVIN HARVICK:Â Well, I think just kind of echoing what Ryan said there, I think there's just too many things, way too much to live up to to make those kind of comments for sure.Â I think for us, you just have to keep checking boxes.Â You want to try to prepare yourself for the races as best you can.Â Hopefully, you make the right adjustments going into the race, and regardless of how our car is in practice, we'll all wonder if we made the right decisions in the things that have gone on.
I think our biggest goal is just to keep doing what we've done all year.Â Same things we did last week and the week before and the week before.Â The guys are doing a great job and brought a great car, and we had a good test down here and feel like we unloaded better than we ended the test, and that's really what our goals are, and that's to get better every session.
Obviously, you want to try to qualify on the pole and do the best that you can, but it's hard to complain about a top 5 and being in front of the other three is really the ultimate goal today and tomorrow and the next day.Â I think if we prepare, we should be competitive.
Q.Â What specifically are you guys going to be looking for tomorrow?Â Forget about the fact that it's the last race on Sunday.Â If it was any race, what would you be looking for with two practices tomorrow?
KEVIN HARVICK:Â I just want consistency in my car and enough tape in the window that I can see going into Turn1.Â That's really what I'm looking for.Â And like I say, we have a good baseline already, and this is just one of those races where you know the groove is going to go to the top.Â But it's just a matter of how long you can run the bottom before you move to the top and how high do you need to move to the top.Â The top is treacherous.Â It's six inches away from you at all times in order to run as fast as you need to, and that's hard to do during the daytime.Â Just find a good balanced car.
RYAN NEWMAN:Â Yeah, same kind of deal, just make a car that drives real good.Â If it drives good, it should be versatile because in the end you've got to go where the guy in front of you isn't.Â Like Kevin said, it is treacherous up next to the wall, but if you've got a car that is versatile and can move around, then you don't have to put yourself in that position.
Q.Â Kevin, you said on Wednesday going into this race your plan was just to stay in front of everybody‑‑
KEVIN HARVICK:Â Are you going to write exactly what I say or only part of what I say?
Q.Â Everything this time.Â Sorry about that, by the way.Â Anyway, going into the finale, what is your goal or what are you looking at the at the start of the race?Â Do you want to just ride for most of the race or go straight to the front?
KEVIN HARVICK:Â I think you have to be aggressive.Â I think everybody is going to be aggressive.Â I think you also have to be smart about where your put your car and who you're around as to how aggressive you need to be and the things that you're doing.Â It's really no different.Â You're safer in front of the pack.Â You have more opportunity to have a good strategy in the front of the pack and see what everybody else is doing throughout the day.Â So there's going to be a lot of ups and downs throughout the day, and you have to manage the things that go right and wrong all at the same time, and you just know that those things are going to happen.Â You just keep grinding away lap after lap, and hopefully in the end you're where you want to be.
KERRY THARP:Â Kevin and Ryan, thank you very much.Â Congratulations on good qualifying runs and certainly good luck Sunday in the championship finale.
Our Coors Light pole award winner for Sunday's 16th annual Ford EcoBoost 400 is Jeff Gordon, and he drives the No.24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.Â This is the 200th career pole for Hendrick Motorsports.Â Congratulations on that milestone, and certainly you've won this race down here before, and I know you'd like to win it again.Â Just talk about your preparation here this weekend, your practice, the pole, and then your outlook for Sunday.
JEFF GORDON:Â Yeah, I'm just blown away right now.Â To me this has been one of the toughest places for qualifying for me over the years, and that's why we've never sat on a pole.Â I think having the three rounds of qualifying actually helped me a lot, and the team did an excellent job with the tuning to get it ready for that last round.Â And I knew we had a pretty good race car when we ended practice today because we made a qualifying run, and it was pretty decent during the day like that.Â Backed that up during qualifying.
The second round I tried to do the same thing I did during the first round and it didn't stick, and I kind of got a little nervous at that point what was going to happen.Â Luckily, we were seventh, I think, and then the team made a good adjustment and we saw some guys moving up the racetrack, and I just committed to the top, and it really stuck well, and it's great to be on the pole.
KERRY THARP:Â What about the 200th pole for Hendrick Motorsports, just another milestone in that great organization.
JEFF GORDON:Â Yeah, and I think today's pole just proves and shows why they have 200 poles.Â It's a great organization.Â We just never quit.Â We always are bringing great race cars and great power to the racetrack and just surrounded by good people, and that's what contributes to wins and to poles.Â We take poles very seriously.Â They're hard to get.Â It's a lot of work.Â It's a great reward, as well, because we all know how important it is to have good pit stops, and a good pit stall makes a big difference there as well as that all‑important track position.
Q.Â How long did it take you to kind of get over last week?Â I saw you had a busy week.Â You were in New York and took the kids to the zoo.Â Do you just move on?
JEFF GORDON:Â I mean, it hit me hard when I crossed the line at Phoenix.Â I think I was just really in disbelief for a good 24 hours that we did everything so right and didn't make it.Â You know, that disappointment was definitely there throughout the week, and then of course I go up to New York and I'm around people that are asking me about it, so you get these constant reminders.
You know, I think even if we win this race on Sunday, that's only going to make it hurt a little bit more in some ways because we could have won the championship if we were here.Â I think it's not that I'm over it yet, but I've definitely‑‑ getting to the racetrack, it allows all of us to focus on what we do best, which is go and compete, and when you're fine‑tuning the setup of the car and making laps, especially at this place, right up an inch off the wall every lap, that takes your mind off of it.Â That part has been nice, and this is certainly a great achievement for us to start the weekend and something that's positive that we can smile about and be proud of.
Q.Â A little bit along the same lines, what would it mean to you personally to finish ahead of those four guys that are in the Chase here on Sunday?
JEFF GORDON:Â Yes.Â That would be‑‑ I mean, I think everybody‑‑ no matter what kind of format there is, everybody's goal is to come in here and sort of spoil the championship by winning this race.Â This is one of my favorite races to win, and that's because you have the longest stretch between when the next race is, so you can enjoy it probably longer than any other race that we have because you end the season with it.Â This is a tough place to win at.Â Yeah, there's a lot on the line for those guys, and we want to be the spoiler.Â There's no doubt about that.
Q.Â How would you characterize the mood or attitude of the team?Â Are they still a little bit bewildered or are they frustrated?
JEFF GORDON:Â This week was tough on them.Â You know, the last two weeks have been tough because we lost crew members from the Texas incident, guys that are a part of our race team that have been there all year long that aren't at the racetrack.Â I mean, just that mood in itself at Phoenix was unique and different, and it's still there.Â But I will say that as the week has gone on and you get closer to going to the racetrack, I think then you start switching your mindset and your focus.
Today I've not noticed anything but positive energy from the team, and I'm excited to be here and excited to go out there and compete and try to win this race.
Q.Â On the flipside of this not being in the Chase, how do you feel, though, you're just allowed to go out and go for a win?Â As a driver, how does that make you feel?
JEFF GORDON:Â Yeah, I mean, I feel like that's kind of what we do every weekend.Â I mean, really to me, our goal was to get to fifth in points, so we're still racing extremely hard.Â I mean, we're not going to race the points necessarily in that instance.Â We're going to try to win the race and hope that we can get to fifth.
I think that there's no doubt that in some ways throughout this week there was definitely some relief, as well, that‑‑ these last rounds, like especially at Talladega, the immense amount of pressure on our team to move on to the next round was intense.Â It was ‑‑ one of the toughest races I've ever run was at Talladega this year from a stress standpoint, and then Phoenix, you know, there was definitely some stress there, too.Â It's a tough racetrack.Â I felt like we did the best we possibly could to come home second.Â Kevin was just unbeatable that day.Â So there's a lot of stress there, too.
The only difference is this weekend, while we wish we had stress on us, there's just a lot less stress, and so we can just go focus on competing and competing at a high level.Â But I can tell you, if we come out here with a bad finish, it's going to sting.Â It's going to hurt.Â That's not the way you want to go into the off‑season.Â With everything that's happened for us the last couple weeks, we need to have something really good to carry into this off‑season to think about for next year.
Q.Â How do you approach racing the four guys in the Chase on Sunday?Â Are you more aware of them?Â Are you more careful around them?Â What's the balance between racing them hard and being fair and not affecting the championship?
JEFF GORDON:Â Yeah, I think it depends.Â I think if you're racing for a win, if you're leading the race or you're second and trying to win the race, you're going to race hard because they have a responsibility and you have a responsibility, and you have to share that load.Â That means that if you know the guy behind you is hungry for that win, doesn't have a role in the championship, and that position is not the position that's going to cost you the championship, then take into consideration that guy might race you really hard, and it might be too risky for you to race hard back.
On the flipside, I'm not going to go out there and do anything silly and stupid and just make an over‑aggressive move to get a position when it could be for tenth or for eighth or 20th or something like that on one of those guys.
Yeah, I'm going to be mindful that they're out there, but I'm also going out there to win the race.
Q.Â This morning Brian France left the door open slightly for a possible tweak maybe for the Chase next year, and Dale Jarrett was in here earlier and said maybe they could consider that you have to win Homestead if you don't have a win prior to this race.Â During your week of reflection after Phoenix, are there any thoughts that you might have, ways they could improve it or tweaks they could make?
JEFF GORDON:Â Yeah, I think it's a good system, number one.Â I like how important it is to win, how that moves you from one round to the next.Â I would say that the one thing that I thought about‑‑ and this would not have moved me to the final round, but I think it's the right thing to do‑‑ and that's you have a separate points system just for the 16 and then for the 8‑‑ or the 12 and then the 8.Â I just think there's so many factors with all the other competitors out there that you should be racing those guys.Â You should be racing them in points, not necessarily racing them and all the other competitors out there.Â I think you've earned that right.
So I would like to see a few of the highest finishing, then you get 16, 15, 14, 13, but it doesn't matter if you finish 25th.Â And that just allows you to kind of throw out one of those bad races.Â I think you've still got to be consistent, winning is still going to get you through, but it allows you to race those guys, not necessarily go race everybody else.
When I think of our rounds that didn't go well for us, besides the one in Texas, they really had more to do with the guys outside the Chase that kind of cost us some spots and some points.
KERRY THARP:Â Jeff Gordon, congratulations on the Coors Light Pole Award, and good luck Sunday here at Homestead‑Miami.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports