JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 LENOX IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed racing in New Hampshire this weekend, getting through to the break in July and much more. WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK GOING...
JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 LENOX IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed racing in New Hampshire this weekend, getting through to the break in July and much more.
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK GOING INTO THIS WEEKEND? "We haven't run as well here as we would like to. We've had a couple of good races here since I've been at RCR but nothing to the extent of success that we want to have. We've worked hard on this program, on the one-mile flat track program, Richmond, Phoenix, New Hampshire. We've put a lot of effort into it but we've yet to prove that we got what we need. We ran very well at Martinsville earlier in the year but we didn't perform as well at Richmond and Phoenix and we would have liked to. We come here looking a little bit, searching a little bit, trying to find a way to be better and that's what our goal is."
IS THE FACT THAT YOUTH ARE PUSHING THEIR WAY IN, TEAMS BEING LESS PATIENT WITH DRIVERS FOR SUCCESS REASONS THAT WE ARE SEEINGNOT AS MUCH LONGEVITY WITH ONE TEAM? "I think there are a couple of factors. I think that drivers are retiring earlier than in the past. We do have a willingness to invest in youth as opposed to just before I came into this sport people were really nervous about young drivers, didn't really give young drivers much of a chance. Today young drivers do get those chances with really good teams. If you're going to make room for somebody then somebody has got to go and that's just how that works. It works in our business; it works in any business especially if you're in sports. So investing in the youth has been a factor. That's probably been the biggest factor. You know when Kurt Busch left that was a really big deal because drivers having success somewhere really don't leave. That's an unusual thing. We really don't see that a lot. So once somebody does get entrenched with their company I think it takes a lot of things going wrong for them to want to move. I think there is a lot of things that have to go wrong for the drivers for the owners to want them to move as well. I think there's probably a lot of factors but certainly the willingness for teams and sponsors to go out and make an investment in somebody else, they've been much more willing to do that today as opposed to what I think it appeared to be 15 years ago."
SO IF YOU ARE WITH A TEAM FOR SIX YEARS OR MORE THAT'S GOING TO CONSIDERED TO BE LONG-TERM? "No, if you think about it, I don't know how it worked out like this, but most driver contracts, sponsor contracts are three year periods. Why, I don't know but that's kind of how it works. I think that a six-year term is going to be normal; three-year is going to be short. I believe that one thing that's going to happen is as this sport becomes bigger and the money becomes bigger you are going to see contracts become more sturdy and have more legs and in some ways the exit clauses will be spelled out better which will allow us an easier exit in some ways and be spelled out so it allows a harder exit. That's going to be a factor as well. It's been an
interesting dynamic in our sport, if a car owner gets tired of a driver it's been kind of odd they've been able to say okay we don't want you anymore and the driver is just kind of off and out without a whole lot of recourse. But if a driver stands up and says I want to leave they say you can't leave you've got a contract. So it's been very owner-sided contracts in the past and I think you are going to see a shift into a more equal contracts. I don't know what kind of impact it will have but it will have an impact."
ABOUT A MONTH AGO YOU REFERRED TO THIS MIDDLE PART OF THE SEASON AS THE GRIND AND YOU'VE ALREADY TALKED ABOUT THIS WEEKEND, CAN YOU JUST TALK TO ME ABOUT YOUR MIND-SET ABOUT GOING THROUGH THOSE LAST THREE RACES BEFORE YOU GET TO EXHALE? "That's mentally how I do it. We have three more races to try to perform good and well in and then we get to kind of catch our breath. We've tested a lot, we've asked a lot out of our team. We've done that in hopes that when the summer gets here we can, not relax, but we can take a little bit of time, re-charge, re-energize, because when that little re-charge is over it's going to get big. We're going to hit it really hard. That's our strategy. So for me when it starts to get hot and we race for points every week, it starts at the Daytona 500 but the reality of the situation doesn't set in until about this time of year, you got a lot of people looking and saying oh my God I'm 15th, I've got to find my way to 12th. You got people who are third that say I've got to find a way to stay here. It's pressure for everybody. You got a 35th place guy wanting to stay there, its pressure throughout the field. The hotter the temperatures get, the harder it is to make the cars handle. The harder it is to do what you needed to do and the pressure just builds and builds and builds so this is the hardest time of the year in my opinion."
GIVEN WHAT YOU JUST SAID ABOUT THE TEMPERATURES BEING A FACTOR, RACING AT NIGHT IN CHICAGO, WHAT ARE YOU THOUGHTS? "It gives you a day off earlier, starts your break earlier. There is no question that the night time races are easier physically because it is cooler. There's no question about it. I view that as a good thing. The only thing I don't like about the night races is what do you do all day Saturday, that's the only thing I don't like about the night race. We all do it. I think for the fans the night races are really cool and that is why we do this. The temps do come down for the night races, no question. Of course, then we go to Indy and a lot of that will be forgotten."
JOB ONE UNTIL RICHMOND IS TO STAY IN THE TOP 12, HOW IMPORTANT PSYCHOLOGICALLY IS THE WIN THOUGH? "I don't think its psychology as much as it is facts. If you're a team that hasn't found a way to win, you're a team that hasn't done the things that you want to do then you are not having the success that you need to have. That has an effect on you. How do you handle that, what do you do, what direction do we go in? It is a factor, there's no question about it. We race to win; we race to finish the best we can. When we can't win and when you don't feel like you're doing that and the pressure starts, what are we going to do? How are we going to get better, what do we have to do? So the workload gets higher and it just snowballs. Then when you work harder and you don't have success because you worked harder and that becomes harder too. The pressure just builds and builds and builds. When things go well you are able to always see that you're making the next step. You're always being able to improve. When you aren't seeing that then you start questioning. What are we doing wrong or how do we do it better and that builds tension within the team as well."
WITH ALL YOUR CONSISTENCY THIS YEAR INCLUDING YOUR WIN AT BRISTOL YOU HAVE KIND OF BEEN RUNNING UNDER THE RADAR A LITTLE, ARE YOU GOOD WITH THAT AND IS THERE AN ADVANTAGE IN THAT AT ALL? "I'm good with it if it yields results. At the end of the day, our goal wasn't have an average finish of 8.9 or whatever I was just told it is. That wasn't our goal. Our goal was to lead more laps than we did last year, to win more races than we did last year, to be solidly in the top 12 in points when Richmond started or when Richmond ended rather and when the Chase starts to be a real contender. If this process and the way that we're doing it right now works out than I'm extremely comfortable with it. If at the end of the day we look back and say that didn't work then I won't be. I don't really care how we do it. It doesn't matter to me if we do it by winning 10 races or if we do it by winning two or winning none. The key is to win the championship. I just don't have in my head that we're doing it the wrong way or the right way. I know areas that we need to improve in and my team obviously knows areas that we need to improve in and that's our focus and the results are what matters."
IN REGARDS TO ADDING THE FOURTH CAR, HOW MUCH INPUT DO YOU HAVE WITH THE DECISION PROCESS WITH RICHARD (CHILDRESS)? "I have been not part of the decision making process from the standpoint of us doing a fourth team. That has to be Richard's decision. We believe that it would benefit us to have a fourth team. It would put us more on equal ground with teams that have more income. We believe that we're ready as a company to do a fourth team. Two years ago, we weren't. It would have been a huge mistake. We're more prepared today so a fourth team is what we believe is the next step in our evolution of what RCR needs to become to be successful not only in 2009 but more importantly in 2012 and 2018. I'm certainly not involved in the day-to-day decision making process of how we're going to do this. I have Richard's ear when it's appropriate and he asks my opinion when it's appropriate as he does with all of our drivers and all of our key people. Certainly by no means am I driving this ship for the fourth team but I'm a full supporter of it and believe it's a next step in our evolution that can make us better. We have to as every team does, we can't look at what we've done in the past as the vein that's going to carry us into the future. We have to look at what we're going to be doing tomorrow so that we can be competitive tomorrow. This is I believe the right step."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT THAT THE FOURTH DRIVER FIT THE DYNAMIC THAT YOU GUYS HAVE GIVEN THE THREE OF YOU GET ALONG SO WELL. DOES THAT MATTER AT ALL OR DOES IT JUST MATTER HIM BEING ABLE TO WIN RACES? "I think it matters. I think that we have to have a guy that we can work with and by the way he has to be able to work with us. We're going to have to bend some. Things are going to be different. We're going to have to work differently with another driver. It's hard. You get two drivers running together that's hard, you get three that's harder, you get four that's harder yet. We're going have to work hard at it; it's not just going to come naturally. Every one of our drivers supports the fourth team so therefore every one of our drivers will support the fourth team driver. That guy is going to have to come here with an open mind, a willingness to work as hard as we're willing to work and a willingness by us to have him better with us working. It's going to take all of us but I don't think we'll have a problem. I think we all understand the added bonus, benefit we'll get from it and he'll have 100 percent of our support."
-credit; gm racing