JEFF BURTON PRESS CONFERENCE -- Citgo SUPERGARD Ford Taurus TALK ABOUT YOUR DAY. "It did go well. Obviously, our car really handled well. Frank and all the guys did a great job in setting it up. We're to the point with our race team where I...
PRESS CONFERENCE -- Citgo SUPERGARD Ford Taurus
TALK ABOUT YOUR DAY. "It did go well. Obviously, our car really handled well. Frank and all the guys did a great job in setting it up. We're to the point with our race team where I get real involved with what's in the car after we get here, but Frank is setting the cars up and making all those decisions himself. Once we get here, then I look at what's in the car after the very first run and then he and I work together on making changes on the car. So, we've progressed our race team in a very positive way and I think that's been showing the last four months. We've been very competitive and today was another example of that. I'm real proud that nobody got down. We just kept working when we weren't running as well as we needed to run. Obviously, we had some things go wrong for us in the pits today and you're gonna have those. It's fortunate we were able to overcome them. We had a jack break, we had a lugnut hanging in the socket. Those things are gonna happen to the best pit crews in the business and it happened to us today, but, fortunately we overcame 'em." YOU WERE CONFIDENT YOU COULD CATCH RICKY. "We come to every race trying to win, wherever we are in the points doesn't matter, we're here to try to win. We were about a tenth-and-a-half, two-tenths quicker than Ricky and he had a lot of lap traffic in front of him that he was gonna have to contend with. It's always harder for the leader to pass the lap traffic than it is the second place guy, so we were a little faster than he was at that point and he was gonna have to deal with the lap traffic. Between those two things, we were gonna get to him I think. What we did with him once we got to him, nobody knows, but it would have been an exciting place. I felt good about my chances because I could run where most people couldn't run. I could run the high line and that gave me an advantage. It's really hard to pass here, but for some reason I could run high and jump on the outside of people and that's how we were able to pass. Maybe we could have done that with Ricky, I don't know if we could have or not." WERE YOU CLOSE TO THAT ACCIDENT? "It was far enough ahead of me where I really got checked up nicely. I was worried about, whoever was behind me, I think the 1 car, I was worried about him because I thought he may not have seen it as well as I could. I was worried about him hitting me in the back just from not being able to see it, so I always try not to slow down a whole lot because I'm scared I'm gonna get run over, but it wasn't very close for us." YOU HAD A CLOSE ONE EARLIER WITH THE 32. "That was the closest of the day that we had. The 32 spun in front of us, but fortunately he spun to the bottom rather than spinning up. I had committed to go high because it looked like he was in one of those suspended spins where they just kind of sit there and they don't really go anywhere, so I chose to go high and fortunately that was the right decision." HOW MUCH WOULD IT MEAN TO HAVE THE MOST WINS THIS SEASON? "That would mean a lot to us. We came into this year wanting to contend for the championship and to do that you've got to win a certain amount of races, you've got to lead a certain amount of laps, you've got to gain bonus points. Our goals are to finish as high as we can in the points. We want to win the Gatorade Front Runner Award. We want to lead the most laps. We want to win the most bonus points. We want to do all those things and if we do those things we'll be winning races. I'm looking more at that lap leader and Gatorade Bonus Award than I am finishing second in points because if we're doing all those things right, then we're doing what we need on the race track." DO YOU HAVE EMPATHY FOR RICKY? "I do. I don't feel as bad for him as I do good for us because that's the way this thing works. But I do feel bad for him. Even if we would have caught him, like I said, I don't know if we would have passed him. I'm sure he would have felt much better about the whole thing if we would have caught him and he just beat us. He got taken out and had an opportunity taken away from him, not of his doing, and that's always hard as a driver, as a car owner, as a crew chief to take. 'What did we do wrong? Well, we didn't do anything wrong, it's just circumstance.' That's the worst way to lose a race because when you do something wrong, you can go back and learn from that. He has nothing to learn from what happened today. It just happened in a bad spot and there was nothing he could do." WAS THERE A POINT AFTER THAT LAST STOP WHERE YOU FELT YOU COULD WIN? "Obviously, the further back you start the harder it's gonna be with only a few laps left. People race really hard. It's a big difference in finishing second and finishing fourth. They just don't pull over for you and let you go. Like Frank said, Rusty really worked with us, but I had to prove to Rusty that I was faster than he was. I had to get up beside him and once I got up beside him he let me go, so I had my doubts. You never know what's gonna happen, like with what Mark did. Mark has had a little bit of a down year. I knew he would do anything in the world to try to win because he's had a down year and he's a little bit down, so a win would have been really big for Mark and his team. I knew he was gonna run hard. I didn't know what he had for tires and I didn't know how that was gonna work for him. Rusty is always very difficult to pass on short runs. Their cars are set up so they turn so well in the center of the corner that they're hard to beat. So I was concerned about Rusty, I was concerned about Steve Park -- he was fast all day -- and all you can do is just go lay it out there, give 'em all you've got and what you come up with is what you end up with." MARK WAS TRYING TO GET THEM TO CLEAN UP THE TRACK MORE. HOW MANY LAPS WOULD HAVE BEEN TOO FEW FOR YOU TO WIN? "Three or four less laps would have hampered us quite a bit. The shorter the race gets the more desperate everyone gets. Rusty would have fought a little harder, Mark would have fought a little harder. It would have been harder. It's so funny, when something like that happens the guy leading is screaming that the track's not ready, the guy in third is screaming let's get going, the track is perfect. I'd love to be in NASCAR's booth because I know they listen and laugh at us, but I know at one point we were lapping some cars and there was some oil on the track, there was a windshield on the track, there was all kinds of stuff. It's pretty funny." WITH FIVE OR SIX IT WOULD HAVE BEEN TOUGH. "Your point there is a good point because with 10 to go the 10-lap rule is in effect, which means there are no lapped cars on the inside. There were 11 to go and having lapped cars on the inside was what I wanted because I wanted to run the outside. I didn't want to run on the very bottom, I wanted to try to pop up on the outside of Rusty and try to get by him. When you do that you take a chance of it not working and the guy behind you getting beside you and once he gets beside you, you're dead. I was real fond of the fact that there was 11 to go rather than 10 to go. I thought that played into our hands because I wanted the lapped cars on the inside."
Crew Chief --99-- Citgo SUPERGARD Ford Taurus
ANY DOUBTS AFTER THAT LAST CAUTION? "You always have doubts. What I didn't know was how fast Mark would be and how much he'd hold up anybody, or whether we'd be able to get Rusty quick enough and Mark would be able to get away. Mark actually ran surprisingly fast on as old a tires as he had on the car, which I half suspected. We weren't really sure whether we needed to come or stay out at the time. I told Jeff to stay out unless he thought that everybody behind him was gonna come and he made the call. He saw that everybody was gonna come, so he came down pit road. But if four or five more guys would have stayed out, somebody could have pulled that thing out from back there. Rusty worked with us really well all day -- hat's off to him. We had a good car all day and I think Rusty realized our car was as good as his or maybe a little bit better most of the day and he didn't race us all that hard there at the end. He gave us an opportunity to go up there and get Mark and he raced us good all day, even earlier when we were trying to catch the 28. I had gone down to see Robin and they gave us plenty of racing room then, so I just told Jeff he needed to get up on the wheel and do it."
Car Owner --99-- Citgo SUPERGARD Ford Taurus
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES YOU'LL RUN ONLY FOUR CARS NEXT YEAR? "There is that possibility. We're committed on the 97. We haven't gotten a sponsor agreement signed on that yet, but that is a go program regardless. The 16 program hinges on whether or not we're able to put together a situation that winds up working for Hank Aaron actually. We've made the commitment to try to come back and help his organization get involved. They very much would like to be a team owner and would like to have a car. A driver has got to be developed and there's got to be a period of time for the acceptance of their understanding of how one of these teams work from a business point of view. So we've kind of decided that's what we'd like to do with the 16 is to partner with Hank and to help him do that thing or provide leadership in it for two or three years and then back out of the picture by the point in time where they've got a minority driver organized for it. Kevin Lepage is still in the middle of his transition, it seems, from Liberty down to Concord. We haven't gotten that to work as well as it should, but I've got confidence in Kevin and we're in discussions right now with sponsors. Anything could happen. Somebody could come along and decide they need a program or want that program and Hank Aaron and his group may not be a factor, but our effort is to come back and partner with them in finding a sponsor and figure out how to get then a gong show going for a minority driver like we did with our truck program, and then to put that driver in a program that would make some sense. It wouldn't be a truck program, I think next year. It would be something else like a baby grand or a sportsman program of some kind. Four Winston Cup teams is a possibility but we certainly haven't reconciled ourselves to that yet." BUT HAS PAT TRYSON MADE PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR? "Well, I guess I could go on and announce this. Our good friends the Wood Brothers are also good friends of Pat, so they've been courting Pat. We're gonna let Pat go over and help the Wood Brothers next year. It's a friendly situation. We're an engineering source for them, we're a body source for them, we're a chassis source, we're an engine source and Pat would integrate the crew chiefs and do a nice job with the Wood Brothers, so that's our plan."
HOMESTEAD IS SIMILAR TO THIS TRACK, SO YOU MUST FEEL GOOD ABOUT NEXT WEEK. "I think the whole Winston Cup Series tested at Homestead. There were maybe only 10 cars not there, so any advantage gained here today will probably be nullified by the fact that everybody tested. It looked like Daytona. I think that flat tracks have some similarities. I think if you can run well on flat tracks, you can run well on all flat tracks and it doesn't get a whole lot flatter than where we're going next week. We're optimistic about that and we're also optimistic about Atlanta. We were leading Atlanta in the spring when we ran over something and had our problem, so we feel good about the next two races. Just because we ran well there in the past doesn't mean anything, but it certainly gives you a certain amount of confidence. I hope it's not false confidence, but we feel good about our flat-track program and our banked program."
WITH WHAT YOU'VE DONE THESE LAST FEW MONTHS, DOES THAT MAKE YOU THAT MORE CONFIDENT FOR NEXT YEAR? "We are very excited about next year. It is our belief right now that every single member of our race team is gonna be intact next year. We're bringing a few more people in next year as well, so we're very excited about next year. This is a people business. This is all about giving the people the right stuff it takes to work with and letting them go do their deal, so we're very excited about it. I'm excited about my pit crew having a winter to get ready, to really get in shape and kind of shake off the weariness of the year. I think we've got one of the best crews on pit road, we just need to give them a little time to catch their breaths. Frank and I are working together better than we ever have. Frank has matured a great deal as a crew chief. He's not leaning on me near as much as he used to, he's doing the deal. I'm there to support Frank, where before we were more 50-50, now Frank has taken leadership and he's taken control of this deal. I think he's doing the best job in Winston Cup, so I'm real excited about where we are. I think we've got great race cars. Our engineering staff is working real hard to make sure that our bodies are where they need to be. Jack has made some commitments to our team that, I think, are gonna pay dividends. It's always a tough deal to decide how to spend money and when to spend money and Jack is one of the best in the business. We don't try to have the prettiest trucks. What we try to do is build great race teams and I think that's a good structure. I think some people lose focus on trying to build the Taj Mahal or trying to have this image of having beautiful stuff, we want to have nice stuff but we want to win and I think that's the way run our program and I think that's the right way to run the program. That's because of Jack. If you turned Frank and I loose, we'd have the pretty building and the pretty race track and we'd have all that pretty stuff, but that doesn't make you go any faster. Jack does a good job of understanding how to spend money and when to spend money. We all have about the same amount of money to spend in this sport, so it all boils down to knowing how to spend it and that' really important. You can throw money at these things. A lot of rich car owners have come in and had no success. Throwing money isn't the way to fix problems. The reason we got on this subject is because I feel good about the structure of our team. I feel good about the things that we're doing for next year. I think we've got the personnel that we need. We've got a few additional personnel that are coming in and I'm pretty pumped about next year, I really am. I'm smart enough to know that just because I feel good about it doesn't mean we're gonna run well. We've got to go and work. We've got to work better and smarter than everybody else and if we do those things, then next year can be a good year for us."
JACK ROUSH: WHERE WOULD YOU RATE THE 99 TEAM RIGHT NOW? "Bobby Labonte is likely to win the championship this year. They were close last year and they've been building to that point for four or five years and we're like the third year into building to where they are five years down the road, I think. Frank is just electrified. Somebody as young as he is, and Jeff Burton is really the guy that gave him this opportunity because Jeff hung tight with Frank and said, 'I want Frank to be my crew chief,' and Jeff was doing an awful lot of the work to start with and Buddy was helping out too. But Frankie has got more motivation and he works harder than anybody in this business. He's young and he's tough. He's like a young bird dog that's been fired over but he hasn't been hit. Frankie and Jeff has got the kind of communication that should make both of their wives jealous. They're extraordinarily tight and it shows on the race track."
IS THERE A TENDENCY TO PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET WHEN YOU SEE THIS KIND OF MOMENTUM? "I fought that kind of expectation by many of my critics and pundits since I've been in Winston Cup. We have got the resources, the commitment and the determination to support all of our programs adequately. In most cases that means equal. It's certainly equal in terms of personnel. It's equal in terms of dollars spent. It's equal in terms of housing and engines and the rest of the things. I may be more attuned to the change and dynamic of what the team needs in the 99 than I might be the 97 next year based on the fact that Kurt's program is a rookie program and maybe my expectation isn't as great and I won't stay as attuned with it on a real-time basis. But as far as the way we portion our engineering, the way we portion all of the resources that we can buy or we can make for ourselves, they go equal. I know when drivers look at multiple team situations many times they'll look and say, 'I don't want to be a part of a multiple team because then I won't get the same as everybody else,' but I think Jeff and Mark are the best examples of guys that have worked together with stuff that was equal and they've helped one another. I don't think that either Mark or Jeff would feel like they would be as well off if they had what the other guy had, but if the other guy wasn't there to lean on and exchange information with."
FRANK STODDARD: "The 99 team wouldn't be nearly as successful as what we are today without me being able to go in on Monday morning and beat Jimmy Fennig up. As Jeff said, they're right now in a little bit of a funk and they're working hard to get out of that and we're there helping them. For the last three years, since Jimmy Fennig has come into the building, our relationship has gotten better every year. He doesn't like to go to lunch and that makes it tough because I like to eat lunch, but I think we have a very good bond this year. I'm extremely happy with how Jimmy has treated me this year and I just know that beyond a shadow of a doubt we wouldn't be as successful as we've been this year without the help they've given us the last two years. Even this year when they're in a funk, Jimmy continued to come over and come into my office or I go in his office -- we always get together. For me at 32 years old, to have somebody like Jimmy and Buddy there all the time, but with Jimmy I have somebody at the race track all the time that I know what he's thinking and he knows what I'm thinking. To have somebody that has been in the business as long as he has is neat. I take a lot of pride in the fact that he respects some of the things I have to say to him because two years ago it used to be just me getting all of the information out of him. I hope that I can continue to help him."