JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA, met with members of the media at Auto Club Speedway and discussed racing at Auto Club Speedway, expectations for the season, the Daytona 500 and other topics. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT RACING AT AUTO...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA, met with members of the media at Auto Club Speedway and discussed racing at Auto Club Speedway, expectations for the season, the Daytona 500 and other topics.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT RACING AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY? "Obviously, I'm sure you've all heard it before, but everybody in the garage kind of feels like this is the start of the regular season. Daytona is so different than every other kind of racing that we do and of course it's the Daytona 500. This kind of starts the regular season and everybody is really interested and anxious to understand where we are with the cars. We haven't been on this type of race track in three months either so it's good to kind of get the rhythm going and do a real quick analysis of where you are and where you need to be better because we run so many two-mile race tracks that its highly important to be good at these race tracks."
CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO GET OFF TO A GOOD START IN THE SEASON? "I've had good starts and I've had not good starts. When you have a good start, it enables you to just relax a little bit. You're going to have mistakes along the year and you're afforded a certain amount of them and everybody is going to have some, but when you have them early that means you can't have them later. There's a whole lot later coming up ahead. It's real nerve-wracking when you get off and the first three or four races don't go well and you're trying to play catch up and you're trying to make up what you lost and you can't make up what you lost -- what's done is done. It's a lot of pressure and the people that have gotten off to a bad start, there's two different ways to do it. Mark Martin last year, they got off to a slow start, but they were running well. When you're running well, you can kind of rest on that and say that things are going to turn for us, just keep doing what we're doing and we'll be okay. If you get off to a slow start because you're running poorly, that's when panic sets in. That's what happened to us last year and it's not a good place to be."
ARE YOU GETTING A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT THE TIRES CONSISERING YOU WERE HERE FOR THE TIRE TEST?: "We'll figure that out after we run the first time. (Greg) Biffle did the tire test at Atlanta and he was very vocal at how much better the tire was and everybody went out the first time and it was like, 'It's worse.' He couldn't get far enough away from all of us. We'll see. I think the tire is a pretty large improvement over what we've had here in the past. I think the racing is going to be better because of it and I feel pretty confident that Goodyear has brought a tire that not only feels better, but also is faster and has longevity. We ran a lot of miles; we ran probably a little over 700 miles here in two days and put a lot of long-lap runs on tires. Tires have fallen off a lot here in the past, these don't fall off quite as much and I think everybody will be pretty happy with them."
HOW MUCH BETTER ARE YOUR ENGINES FOR THIS YEAR AND FROM LAST YEAR? "That was one of the most disappointing things about last year was that the engines were so good. They were some of the best engines that I've ever been a part of in my racing career -- great power, great reliability. They really got things figured out, but the cars weren't very good so we couldn't take advantage of it. They've done a lot of work and it's been methodical work. There's never just a magic button that you can push. There's been a lot of changes, a lot of long nights and those guys have just done a really, really good job making power -- night races, short tracks. Our short track stuff a year ago or so, we didn't accelerate like other people did and we would really get beat up on the straights. It would show up on the short tracks and you would think that engine doesn't matter there, but really that's where you see a lot because it's so hard to pass. They just went to work and got better and made everything better. It's been a real big improvement with the ECR engines. Anytime there's a merger like that or when you first talked about Earnhardt and Childress joining together to do the engine thing, everybody got really nervous because it's something different, but it has certainly worked and they've found a way to make it work very well."
ARE YOU JUST AS ANXIOUS THIS YEAR ABOUT THE SEASON AS YOU WERE AT THIS SAME TIME LAST YEAR? "I'm a lot more confident today than I was sitting here last year. I was concerned going into last year because I knew we had worked, but we didn't finish the year strong and I just didn't feel like we had done the stuff that -- I knew we worked hard, but I just didn't feel right about it. We had gone and done a tire test in January and we were pretty far off on speed, I was really sick and not feeling good and I kept saying that I am still fast when I'm sick so it's not that. Then it showed itself pretty quickly that we weren't very good. The tire test that we did this winter and the way we ended last year and the things we've done this winter, I'm not saying that we're going to win the race -- I don't know what's going to happen Sunday, but I feel like we come here with a much, much better shot at doing well than we did last year."
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK ON THE REST OF THE SEASON? "I think the rest of the season is going to be broken up into sections. I'm in the minority in this, but I believe that when the spoiler comes, it's going to be a new ballgame. I just think that's a major change and a major difference and some people are going to adapt to that quicker than others. My view of this is that there is a wing season and there's a spoiler season. I think you have to capitalize on the wing season, but the future is in the spoiler. What we have here is what we have for Vegas and what we have for Atlanta, but I'm sure the spoiler will be here by Texas. So all of our work right now is getting ready for that and how we get ready for that will determine what the rest of our year will be like."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE PATCH FOR THE POTHOLE AT DAYTONA? "I don't want them to repave the race track. I want them to keep the race track like it is. It is rough. It's not that I want them to pave it; I'm really mixed about it. It needs work done to it, it is too rough, it needs to be smoothed out. It would be awesome to pave it and do it in a way that it has the grip level that it has today. I think that's impossible to do, but it would be great if we could do that. The quality of racing at Daytona is different than Talladega. I think it's better, I think it produces better passing, different than Talladega. The handling really comes into play and I just hate to see them pave it. I think ultimately they are going to have to. It would be cool if they could find a way to raise up the areas that have sunk to smooth the race track out, but keep the grip like it is. In the same token, the track probably needs to be paved and I know that would also be good for a lot of people as far as jobs and stuff too, that wouldn't be a bad thing. Maybe they could get some stimulus money to do that."
WHAT TYPES OF THINGS CAN YOU LEARN HERE THAT WILL HELP YOU ON SHORTER TRACKS?: "This track is obviously a two-mile race track, it's a big race track, but it's completely different than the two-and-a-half mile track that we were at last week. This is a relatively low banked race track, handling is everything here. If you go through the corners well then you'll go fast. So if you go through the corners well here then you should be able to go through the corners well at other race tracks as well. That's what people are talking about. If you leave here and your car is driving good, you leave here comfortable, you leave here feeling like you've got something you can drive hard feeling the way you want to feel then you go to Vegas feeling really good about it. Somebody is going to finish 43rd and somebody is going to run 35th and nobody in the garage knows who it is. Everybody believes that they've prepared, but nobody knows. Nobody knows how you stack up against the competition because we haven't compared ourselves. This is our first chance of the year to figure out where we stand. Every team has worked to be better; every team has tried to improve in every area that can make our cars go faster. We can't grade ourselves until this weekend is over. We'll be grading ourselves here in about two hours, pretty quickly. That's why everybody keeps saying that because this is the first time that we get to compare ourselves against our competition."
HOW MUCH TEAMWORK IS DONE AT THE SHOP AND HOW MUCH IS EXPECTED AT THE RACE TRACK?: "I've been teammates for a long time with a lot of different people and you're destined to have your heart broke. You're destined to get disappointed because you think that the world revolves around you and when you turn left, your teammate should turn left. The reality of it is that your teammate has to do what he has to do to make sure that he gets the best finish that he can get. When you go into a race at Daytona and Talladega and you're expecting more than you are perhaps willing to give then you're going to be disappointed. I've learned over the years that I cannot trust anyone, my brother, my mother, my sister in-laws, that when I make a left that they are going to make a left because they gotta do what they gotta do what's best for them. When you're drafting, you have to have the mindset of, 'If I give something, is it beneficial for the guy behind me to do that as well.' Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do and hope that they do it. People are always going to be disappointed; people are always going to feel like they got hung out. We have a rule and I heard Kevin (Harvick) talking about it and it was my rule when I came there and it's that if you can help me, help me. If you're going to hurt yourself my helping me then I don't want you to help me because guess what? I'm not going to help you if it's going to hurt me. That's just how it has to be. You can't help push a guy across the start-finish line to win the race when you could have pushed your own guy. When you have a choice to make, then you try to make the right choice, but there are many times that the choice you have to make is the choice of what's best for you. We are teammates, but my sponsors, my team, my fans expect me to win and that's the mentality you have to have. It's not selfish, it's just racing. We're here to compete and that's what we're doing. We help each other when we can, but when it doesn't work then you can't help each other and you have to expect that as well as be willing to give it."
IS JAMIE MCMURRAY'S WIN IN THE DAYTONA 500 A POPULAR WIN IN THE GARAGE?: "Jamie (McMurray) is a popular guy and he's a guy that four or five months ago, didn't even know if he was going to have a job. I talked to Jamie some about that and he was really nervous about what his future held. You guys know my opinion about NASCAR saying we should show our emotions, I never had NASCAR tell me that I couldn't show my emotions. If you walked up to Jamie McMurray after winning the Daytona 500 and told him that he couldn't show emotion after the race, he probably would have anyway. Jamie was just being Jamie. I saw Matt Kenseth and he was crying in victory lane last year too and he's a robot. You all are going to tell him I said that aren't you? This is an emotional sport, especially when you care about it. You put yourself in Jamie's shoes, he made it to the Daytona 500 trying to prove to the racing world that he should be in Cup racing and trying to prove to his team that he could get the job done and won the Daytona 500. That's pretty emotional."
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES FOR NASCAR CONSIDERING THE LOSS OF CASUAL FANS WITH THE DELAYS IN THE DAYTONA 500?: "Let's be honest, the pothole thing sucked. We can cover it up, that was bad and you didn't want to see the field at the Super Bowl come apart and you don't expect to see the track at any race come apart. I will say that I don't know what you would have done about it. I don't know how possibly they would have known that issue was there. It's one of those things that you look at and say, 'Well that should have never happened.' Then you have to look at it and say, 'What should you have done to prevent it from happening?' It's kind of hard to tie those two things together. Sometimes in life things just happen. What's done is done and the sport has to be the sport. The sport will recover if the racing's good and it's competitive and it's fun to watch. If it's not fun to watch, not fun to participate in, not fun to come to be part of whether you're a driver, crew member or spectator, it doesn't matter what happened at the Daytona 500. What it's about is what a great race the Daytona 500, it went very well. We had an issue that was not good for the sport, not good for the race, but at the end of the day it was still a great race. If we continue to have great races then end-of-story. Not one issue is going to harm the sport in a way that can't be recovered. If we have great racing then it will be something we talk about years from now and we laugh about it."
-source: gm racing