Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch Discuss Jimmie Johnson at Martinsville Media Center

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Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch Discuss Jimmie Johnson at Martinsville Media Center
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The No. 48 team comes into Martinsville as the team to beat not only this year, but right now, at Jimmie Johnson's best track.

Harvick was the first driver in the media center Friday morning and stated that the No. 48 team deserves credit.

“They haven’t won three of the first five races by being lucky,” he said. “They have won because they have all their stuff together.”

This past week, Harvick went testing at North Wikesboro and said he was pleased with the track.

"The surface is fine. They've done a really good job of cleaning it up," Harvick said. "Obviously, they still have a lot to do with some of the facility. Obviously, they're working on the surface to fix some of the cracks and things. We were one of the first ones there just trying to feel out what it would be useful for and things like that. Still wears tires out and still drives around, I guess, like it used to. That's the first time that I'd ever been there. It looks like any race track going around it."

He also stated in that same press conference that in reference to the discussion surrounding Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a truck, the invitation is always open.

Kyle Busch was the next driver in the media center following Harvick, and he said he looks to have a good run at Martinsville based on notes from teammate Denny Hamlin.

"We would like to show up with the same tune-up as (teammate) Denny (Hamlin) has and fine-tune from there," Busch said in reference to Martinsville.

When his performance so far this year was addressed, he deferred to the quality of his equipment.

“I’m only as good as my equipment will let me go,” Busch said. “Everyone’s been asking me why I haven’t been running good: Is it my head? Is it because I’m running a truck team? Is it this, is it that? I’m driving my butt off every single week—I can only go as fast as my car will let me go.”

He doesn’t hold regrets on letting Steve Addington go last year, though, adding that he’s happy about Addington's success.

“It’s not tough at all—I’m happy for him,” Busch said. “I knew he was a good crew chief, I just didn’t feel like we had enough leadership skills around the team that would keep us championship-caliber year after year.

“Dave (Rogers has) done a real good job pushing everybody harder and keeping everybody on the same page and making sure we try to elevate to the next level. Our on-track performance maybe hasn’t been as good as we would have liked, but I feel like the team’s a lot closer together and gelling a lot better.”

Rogers, Busch's crew chief, also admitted that he’s got a lot to learn about the car.

"It's all the fun I expected it to be," Rogers said. "It's still difficult. It's the most difficult car I've ever worked with. You're in such a tight box. There are so many interactions between changes, it's a whole lot less forgiving than the Nationwide car.

"We've done a lot of R&D. We've raced different concepts every race this year. Bump-rubber configurations, spring configurations, different shock packages. Each race we've gone down a different path, trying to see which one works better for us.

"Essentially testing at the track, using each race as a test to see if we can hit on something. We've had similar results at all the races, we've been about a seventh-to-10th-place car at most races except at Bristol, where we were off. Conceptually, they're all different packages. We're going to start to hone in on one package to do more fine-tuning.

"I think it's time to stop messing around and pick a package and fine-tuning. We're headed down that path now."

Busch used Brian Pattie, crew chief for Juan Pablo Montoya, as an example of someone who struggled out the gate from Nationwide to Cup yet is good now.

“[Pattie] was decent out of the box [in Cup], but it really took him about a year to learn this car,” Busch said. “And once he learned this car, you look at Juan and he’s top of the [speed] sheets every week.

“I hope it doesn’t take that long with Dave—I don’t feel like we have that time. I feel like Dave’s a smart enough crew chief where we’ll get going pretty good.”

On whether Phoenix has made their race longer, Busch joked it just means "more laps for Jimmie to lead, I guess."

He was then asked about how Jimmie Johnson may be getting in his head, though he doesn’t see that.

“Jimmie's not going to beat me because he's in my head,” he commented. “I don't ever see drivers [say those things] to my face."

Johnson, however, asserted that he is in Busch’s head when it was his turn in the media center.

“I've always wanted to be that guy that frustrated the garage area,” Johnson said. “Absolutely we're in his head.”

Johnson was then told by the media that the viewers think he’s winning too much, to which he responded, "Perfect."

Johnson then spoke about his teammate, Earnhardt Jr., and how the pressure is good for him.

"From my perspective, he's always walked into the meetings and applied himself and has been in a positive mood,” Johnson said. “I tend to hear more outside our environment about lack of confidence and things than what I see from myself.

"I can also say that with the changes and really combining the (No.) 88 and (No.) 5 car, the shops, the setups and cars and all the stuff, I think it's been good for him to have that mark—literally have Mark—have that car to follow and chase and adapt and come out of his comfort zone in some ways.

"I saw where Lance jumped on him in the race last weekend. (Dale Jr.) is letting people push him and he's pushing himself in areas that aren't comfortable and that is helping him a lot this year.

"I know Lance jumped on him, 'don't lay down on me,' and being pushed like that, that pressure sparks things in people. He kept his composure and stayed up on the wheel and drove up and got a top-10 finish.

"I think it's good to be pushed. Chad (Knaus) does it to me. He'll drive me freaking crazy, telling me to lay off, you're using the brakes too much, do this, do that, but as much as it annoys me and I hate to hear it, it's good to have that pressure.

"I think that this year (Dale Jr.) has put more pressure on himself. The fact that the two cars are the same, now there's more inherent pressure through that and I think that Lance is also applying more pressure and that's helping him continue down the road and development and fall into our system better."

 

Other Notes from the Media Center

Jeff Burton shared the thoughts he experienced once he realized Earnhardt Jr. was in the top 12 and parked next to him.

“I thought, God Almighty, we are parked next to Junior,” Burton said. “That means we won't get a moment of peace all weekend.”

He also spoke of how his season he’s gone and referenced the zero in the win column.

“We need to do a better job at executing,” Burton said. “My focus right now is why we haven't been winning. You are what your record says you are. So I'm disappointed we haven't won yet."

Clint Bowyer, for his part, is looking to use Martinsville to bounce back after blowing a motor at Bristol, in which the failure was quite simple to describe.

“It was a part failure,” he said. “Flat-out broke a rod...it happens. Time to bounce back.”

Matt Kenseth looks to continue things going well with Todd Parrot, though he states they’re only at the beginning

"We're still on our honeymoon period," he said. "We'll see how it goes."

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