Dover II: Winning team interview

JEFF BURTON AND SCOTT MILLER, NO., 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS ON THE RACE BURTON: "We took off and weren't all that good. We were maybe a 15th place car. Scott just kept working on it and working on it. Today was just backwards...

JEFF BURTON AND SCOTT MILLER, NO., 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS

ON THE RACE

BURTON: "We took off and weren't all that good. We were maybe a 15th place car. Scott just kept working on it and working on it. Today was just backwards of what most of our races have been lately. We had a really good pit stop at the end. Scott had the car right at the end. Those two things together are why we won. It was an example of being right at the right time and how important that is. We had it today. We led six laps, but it was the right six laps. Obviously Matt (Kenseth) and I had a great battle. That was a lot of fun. That was all I had. I didn't know if I was going to get by him or not.

I'm glad he didn't run of gas in front of me because I would have knocked the hell out of him (because) we were running so close I wouldn't have been able to do anything. I have a lot of respect for Matt and Robbie and that whole organization over there. I could feel my team with me. They are a very emotional group; a very together group. They've been together a long time. This isn't about me; it's about us. I was dreading coming back into the garage looking them in the eye and not winning the race because they deserve to win and enjoy victory lane. I'm really happy for all those guys."

MILLER: "First I'd like to congratulate my friend, Jeff, for the outstanding job he did at the end of that race. Everybody on our team stepped up to the plate today when it counted. I'm just really proud to help him get back to victory lane because I know there are a lot of people who have counted him out. You haven't seen the last of Jeff Burton.

"We started off and we weren't good enough to win by any means. A few chances with the car and I think the track conditions came our way a little bit and the better track position we were able to get during the day, the better the car would work. That was really the key - just getting the car and the track and the weather conditions come our way and not getting that bad set of tires that we had in some other runs when we were running really well."

ON THE PATIENCE YOU SHOWED BATTLING MATT KENSETH AND HAS THAT PATIENCE COST YOU PAST VICTORIES?

BURTON: "It wasn't patience. I knew that the sooner we could get by Matt, the better chance we had of winning. Every lap that went by was another lap I had to pass a great race car driver. When the laps start dwindling down, there are less opportunities. I wasn't exercising patience. I was exercising the way I drive. We talked about this before Richmond and before that. I drive the way I drive and I'm not going to change because of the situation I'm in or the people I'm racing with. I am who I am. It's how I'm made up and I'm not going to change it. There are some races I could have knocked somebody out of the way and won that race. But there are races when people could have knocked me out of the way and I wouldn't have won that race. So when I look back on my career to this point, I think I've received every bit that I've given. I don't think I've come out on the short end of the stick with people that don't drive me the way I drive them. I think most people in this sport drive you the way you drive them. We all wreck and we all make mistakes. But I'm no different than a lot of guys out there. I was going to drive as hard as I possibly could drive, but at the same time if I'd have gotten into Matt, it would have been an accident. And if Matt Kenseth was running behind me, the same thing would have happened. That's the nature of the beast. If you're willing to give, the person behind you is normally willing to give as well. I think at the end of the day you come out the winner by doing that."

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU THE MOST TODAY? TAKING THE LEAD IN THE CHASE, WINNING FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE '01, OR TEAM PRIDE AFTER WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEKEND?

BURTON: "Certainly, I'm better on some days than others. But I bring all I am capable of every week. Some days I'm not as good as other days. I know we had a lot going on this week with the SPEED report. But at the end of the day, we know the truth. We were very comfortable with ourselves. We didn't like the fact that something got out there that's not true. I don't know where it got started and I guess I really don't care. Whoever started it, if my five year old behaved the way that somebody behaved when they started that story, I would be disappointed. So the adult that started the story can look himself in the mirror and think it's funny or that he's a funny guy or that he did something that was neat. He ought to be ashamed of himself. And if his mother knew he did it, she'd be ashamed of him too. And that's really all I have to say. It's a sad state of affairs when a five year old can hold himself to a higher standard than an adult. I'm not talking about Dilner. I'm talking about the person who said that to him. This child right here beside me has better ethics than that person. If he can sleep at night knowing that, then good for him. I hope I never meet him at night. That's enough said about that."

LAP AFTER LAP, YOU COULDN'T QUITE GET PAST KENSETH. IF YOU MOVE OVER WITHOUT QUITE HAVING HIM CLEARED, IT'S A WRECK. DID YOU THINK ABOUT THAT OR ARE YOU GLAD YOU DIDN'T HAVE TIME TO THINK ABOUT THAT?

BURTON: "Well you do think about it. That's what race car drivers do. We race as hard as we can every lap. We get all we can every lap. The lane that's available to you is what's available to you. When people wreck or say they moved up into him, well, yeah, they made a mistake. And that's what I couldn't do. I could drive as hard as I could, but I couldn't drive any harder than I could and keep my car in my lane. If we would have lost this race because I didn't clear Matt, I would have slept tonight because I was giving everything that I had. I would have been disappointed for our team, but all you can do is race as hard as you can and get 100 percent out of whatever the situation is that you're in. If you do that, you go home at night and you sleep. But in that situation I believed I was doing all that I could within my limitations. Someone else may could have got by him quicker, but my limitations were right there on the edge of my capability. If I wouldn't have been able to pull it off, then so be it. That's what racing is all about. You're not going to win all of them. You've just got to keep putting yourself in position over and over. If you do that, you'll get your wins."

AT ANY POINT IN TIME, WERE YOU HOPING YOU DIDN'T LOSE IT OR USE UP THE TIRES BEFORE YOU COULD MAKE THE PASS?

BURTON:

"Well I actually did think about using the tires up because we started with about 75 to go or something like that. I had to race the No. 41 pretty hard. I got by the No. 2 pretty quick. But one thing that Scott has to deal with me is that I believe the car saves tires, not drivers. I just drive as hard as I can every lap. That's frustrating for those guys sometimes because I'm not good at taking it easy. I'm hard on brakes; I'm hard on equipment. I drive in deep. That's who I am. Where we made up time really wasn't getting in the corner, it was as soon as I'd get to the corner. Matt actually would drive in a little deeper than me. But I would carry a lot of speed through the center of the corner and that's my driving style here and at Bristol. Some people give that middle speed up to get an exit that's better. It was two different styles competing against each other today - that's really what you saw. Matt won here in the spring and other times at Bristol by not worrying so much about the center of the corner speed, but the exit speed. I'm much more focused on the center of the corner. You saw today two different styles of getting around Dover."

HOW MUCH DID THE WINLESS STRETCH WEIGH ON YOU? ARE YOU BACK?

BURTON: "I never woke up in the morning wondering if I'd ever win another race. I never didn't sleep at night wondering about that. I've lost sleep wondering how we're going to make the car handle on the weekend that we were at that race track; or how we were going to get our company to be able to provide us with the right aero program and engines and those types of things. But I haven't lost sleep because I haven't won. I know that's difficult to understand. As miserable as I am sometimes, I'm not good at enjoying the moment. But the positive to that is, I don't relish on the bad either. I'm on to the next thing pretty quick. I think that's helped me through a time when we haven't won. Scott and I have had no conversation this year that we haven't won a race. We have put ourselves in position many times. We have spent maybe 10 minutes total talking about why we didn't win Indy or Bristol or races that we led a lot of laps. It's my opinion that we're working hard and smart. Scott is doing an incredible job. If you put yourself in position over and over, you'll win races. When I come to the track, my focus is on winning the race. I don't even know what that winless streak number is. It's not something I think about. It's not productive. What's productive is what are we going to do to win the upcoming week? You need to worry about what you've got to do to be where you need to be; not worry about why you're not doing what you need to do. That's just my personality. My wife gets mad at me because I don't ever celebrate wins and she'll want to stay out drinking all night tonight and raising hell (laughter), but I'm going to be asleep at 9:30 p.m. (laughs). I get on to the next thing pretty quick. That's not always the fun way to be, but that's just who I am."

WHAT IS MAKING THOSE RCR CARS THAT FAST RIGHT NOW?

BURTON:

"Well, it's those wheels; everybody knows that."

IT LOOKS LIKE VINDICATION, BUT A WIN ADDS TO THE SUSPICION AS WELL:

MILLER: "I don't feel that way at all. We've put ourselves in position many times this year. Our performances throughout the whole year are pretty good. I don't see this as too much of a shock to anybody. Everybody in the garage area has come up to me and asked when are you guys going to close the deal and win? Our performance is not something that's three or five weeks old. This is a year-long thing. Really and truly, the reason for the performance is a lot of hard work that started the middle of last year in all our departments and rearranging things at RCR to be a more efficient company and to provide us with better aerodynamics and engines and engineering and chasses and a whole better package to bring to the race track. That's what you've got to have to compete with these other teams that have those same resources. That's what we've done. We've tidied up our house here at RCR."

WERE YOU AWARE OF WHAT CAUSED THE FAILURE OF KEVIN HARVICK'S ENGINE AND WERE YOU CONCERNED AND DID YOU TELL JEFF AND WAS HE CONCERNED?

MILLER: "I didn't have to tell him because I'm sure he passed him on the race track and he probably thought the first thing I did. First it was the No. 29 dropping a cylinder and then 20 or 30 laps later, our other teammate the No. 07. The only thing we could do is keep our fingers crossed that the same thing didn't happen to us. I haven't spoken to any of the engine guys and really don't know the nature of the failures."

BURTON: "I knew the No. 29 was having trouble because we passed him after he was having his trouble. But I didn't know the No. 07 was having trouble. If you go back and look at the engine failures at RCR, it's pretty minimal. I figured it was just an isolated case with the No. 29. It was in our best interest to me not to know anything about the No. 07 (laughs)."

YOUR PERFORMANCE WAS STRONGER AT THE END OF THE RACE INSTEAD OF AT THE BEGINNING. DO YOU HAVE AN EXPLANATION FOR THAT?

BURTON: "We haven't spent a whole lot of time talking about why we haven't been able to close the deal. We didn't do anything different today. When we went into this race, I didn't think we had a chance in the world to win this race. I can't believe we won this race (laughs). We were as bad in practice as we've been in months. We stuck to our guns and our basic setup. We fine-tuned it some this morning. There is something to be said for being aggressive in your changes. At the same time, sometimes we've been too aggressive on our changes. Today we were right at the right time. I don't know why."

WHAT ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT NOW AND HOW INTENSE WAS THE BATTLE WITH KENSETH?

BURTON: "I'm in Kansas City right now. In all honestly, that race was all I had and it was all Matt had too, I'm sure. I know I'll get a phone call from Matt tonight. He was giving all he had, I was giving all I had and that's all really I can say. We had a little but fresher tires, obviously, and that was a help to us but all I can say is there was nothing left from me and that was it."

DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE CHAMPIONSHIP MUCH?

BURTON: "No, I really don't. I think that if we get down to three to go and we're still in a position then we can talk about it but I think that 10 races is an eternity in our sport. Break it down into four 10-race segments. at one point in the year; everyone was convinced that Jimmie Johnson was going to win the championship. Then it was Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and Kevin Harvick. Things happen fast in this sport. You can go to Dover and win the race and go to Kansas and run 43rd. This is a very difficult sport. We have positioned going into the Chase to have something special happen but just because we're in this position doesn't mean that. I don't think that we can even worry about it right now. Eight races is an eternity and we're not thinking about it. Not even talking about it. If we get down to three to go, we'll talk about it but we're not there."

WHAT TOOK YOU TO CHILDRESS?

BURTON: "Well, I was with a very good team. I was with one of the premier teams in racing. There was zero doubt that everyone looked at me and wondered 'what is that man thinking?' When I made the move, I told my wife, my business manager Russell, I told my mother, I told everybody. I said '05 is going to be a tough year'. No. 99 is going to run good and we're going to be in the building process and it's not going to look good for us. Some people lost patience about that but it was hard. To see the No. 99 winning and us really not, that was a difficult thing to deal with. The reason I went there, in a nutshell, was Richard Childress. When I looked in his eye, I saw somebody that had a passion for what he does, that was and still is committed to getting back to the top. I didn't look at the success level of the organization; I looked at the potential of the organization. When I looked around, I saw (RCR team) and we have a lot of good people. I looked at the tools and resources available to us and I thought there was no reason that RCR shouldn't run well. So I thought it was in Roush Racing and my best interests to do something different. Jack Roush is a really good guy, a hard worker, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and what he's been able to do and what he will do in the future, but I thought the No. 99 needed something different. I had kind of wore out my welcome anymore. We just weren't being effective anymore. The company that was used to working with me just wasn't going to work in these times. Bob Osborne came to me and said 'Jeff, leave for three weeks, I don't want to see you - I'm going to do this deal'. I thought that was the right start, but at the end of the day I looked in Richard's eyes and he said 'Jeff, I will do anything it takes to get back to the top'. He told me that I had to call him by a certain time and he had to know right then. I picked up the phone and I didn't know what I was going to tell him. I have weighed all the options and felt good about both companies. I called hi m and I said 'you tell me what you're going to do'. He said 'I'm going to do whatever it takes to get our company back in victory lane'. And I said I would do it. So he said there was no turning back now, and there was a 30-second window where I made my decision. It took weeks to get the information, but it's pretty funny to look back on that. I had tears in my eyes, so did my wife and business manager. It was a big move. I was at Roush for a long time. We've positioned ourselves but we have a long way to go. I'll be honest; I'm worried about next year. One of the reasons we're in the position we are now is that this time last year, we were working on this year. We can't put that same focus on there right now because we're in this Chase. We have to find a way to step it up again next year because every one of our competitors will.

"There are seven new drivers in the Chase this year and if we don't step it up going into next year, we won't be one of those 10. If we're going to be contenders every week every year, we've got to find a way to step it up every year. There's a lot of focus on that right now, but it can't be the same amount it was last year."

WHAT MAKES THE BIGGEST STATEMENT TOWARDS RCR'S IMPROVEMENT - YOUR VICTORY OR THE FACT THAT THERE HAVE BEEN ONLY RCR CARS IN VICTORY LANE SINCE RICHMOND?

BURTON: "If you look at the laps we're leading and the position that we're constantly putting ourselves in, I think that's the biggest statement. We have shown speed and the ability to do some really good things and I think that's the strongest sign. Without a doubt Kevin Harvick has been incredible this year. Four wins, leading the championship, sitting on the pole; we've had four poles and one win now. Bowyer won the Busch race yesterday. We've done a nice job this year. If you look at the overall output of what we're doing right now I think that's the biggest statement."

DID YOU GET TO TALK TO MATT TONIGHT AND WOULD YOU HAVE FELT COMFORTABLE RACING THOSE LAST 40 LAPS WITH ANYONE ELSE?

BURTON: "There's actually a lot of people that I would feel comfortable racing. We argue and we fight and yell at each other now and then but there's a lot of people I have a tremendous amount of respect for and Matt is certainly way up on the list. The way both engines were running we didn't have to say anything. I knew what he was saying to me and it meant a lot. When we won the Busch race at Atlanta he was one of the first people to congratulate me and it means a lot. Bobby Labonte went over to see me, last week Dale Jarrett went out of his way to congratulate me for being in the Chase. I think it's really important to be respected and I enjoy being able to walk through the garage and people not saying 'I don't like that son of a bitch'. Some of that goes on in this garage. I love this sport, though. I'm happy to be part of it and it means a lot to have former and current teammates - Harvick, on a day where he could have been very selfish; he came over and all but got in the car with me. He said 'I'm as happy for you as I'd be if I had won the race'. On a day where the guy who is leading the championship blows a motor, that means a lot. It does mean a lot."

WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE STREGNTH OF YOUR RACE TEAM LOOKING FORWARD?

BURTON: "This is a grossly underestimated race team. The core of this team has been together for a long time. I've made some comments that we look like a young team but we're not. I'm the newest member. This team is as together and pulls in the same direction as good as I've ever seen. They've come here with the will to win. I could ask them anything and they go do it. This is a really good group of people. They get along as well as any team that I've been part of. They mesh with each other. There's nothing they won't do to win a race. It's the strongest race team I've ever been part of."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR-CUP