Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Taurus, won the Jiffy Lube 300 earlier this year at New Hampshire International Speedway and is now tied with Jeff Gordon for the most NASCAR Winston Cup wins at the "Magic Mile" with ...
Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Taurus, won the Jiffy Lube 300 earlier this year at New Hampshire International Speedway and is now tied with Jeff Gordon for the most NASCAR Winston Cup wins at the "Magic Mile" with three.
JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus -- WHAT DOES A DAY LIKE THIS DO TO A TEAM? "It really doesn't do anything to us because the guys who had to be at the race track had to be here anyway. This is a grueling schedule. It's a physically and mentally hard time of the year because we run so many races in a row. You can utilize this day to get everybody a little rest and to spend a little time talking about something other than rear ends and transmissions and springs and shocks. It really gives you a chance to spend a little time just shooting the breeze, talking about nothing. I think that race teams don't have enough opportunities to do that, so, really, you can utilize a day like this for rest, a little bit of conversation other than what the conversation is normally about -- kind of break things up. It's OK. I know it's not OK for the fans, but for the teams it's OK to catch a day of rain. It's a little boring because you come here with the mindset of ready to race, ready to go, ready to do it, but everybody will have the same amount of practice, everybody will have the same deal to work with so it really doesn't affect things as much as people would think they would."
WHY HAVE YOU DONE SO WELL AT THIS TRACK? "I don't know. I've always liked the race track. The very first time we came here and ran I was running fourth or fifth, which was very good for us at that time in my career, and I had a brake problem and ended up not finishing well. I've always seemed to run well here. I like the race track. This race track, to me, was the track that started -- this and Richmond -- started the new style of nice grandstands, nice media centers, garages and all that. To be a part of that in its early stages was pretty neat and I still remember that. I mean, it still feels new to me when I come here and I think that I'm real relaxed when we come here and I like the race track. That's the main thing I like the race track."
IT'S A MILE RACE TRACK, BUT EVERYONE TALKS ABOUT IT LIKE IT'S A SHORT TRACK. "It is a short track. It has every characteristic of Martinsville or Richmond. If you run through the corners, you'll run well. If you can't run through the corners, you can't run well. You can give up all kinds of speed on the straightaway, but if you run through the corners you're OK. That's how short tracks are, you don't have to run down the straightaway. Although these straightaways are long, if a guy out-handles you and out-engines you, then he's gonna beat you. But if you can out-handle a guy and he has more horsepower than you or something like that, it doesn't matter. You just go through that corner and don't worry about it."
FRANK STODDARD, Crew Chief --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus -- HOW MUCH TOUGHER DOES IT MAKE IT FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM TO GET THE CAR WHERE HE LIKES IT THROUGH THE CORNERS? "I think every race track we go to, the goal is to get through the corner better than anybody else. So I don't think there's much difference other than at places like Charlotte where aerodynamics and the banking of the race track will hold the car a little bit. It may be a little easier at Charlotte to get a car working than it is on a flat race track, but you've gotta go at it the same way. You want to get a car to turn well in the center and have as good a forward bite off the corner that you can. This place, it's really just a big Martinsville. If you can go through the corners you're gonna go all day long."
CAN YOU BRING THE SAME PACKAGE EVERY RACE? "No. It's like Richmond a lot from the aspect that they seal this place every once in a while. Sometimes it's hurt and sometimes it's helped, so every time that they've sealed it or haven't sealed it the race track is either gonna lose some grip or gain some grip. We've found that we've had to vary the setup quite a bit. Actually, in every Jiffy Lube 300 we've run, there's been a different setup in the car. You can't come back with the same package. I was telling somebody earlier, today we will have a baseline of what we had in for the Jiffy Lube 300, but I doubt come Sunday afternoon that everything will be exactly the way it is now."
JEFF BURTON CONTINUED -- MOST FEEL IT'S IMPORTANT TO START UP FRONT HERE, BUT YOU PROVED THAT WRONG EARLIER THIS YEAR. "I think it's important to start up front, but it's not the end of everything. I mean, if you don't start up front it's harder, there's no question about that. But not starting up front isn't an excuse for not running well. You can still run well from any position on the race track. Mark and I both started 36th and 37th and with 50 or 60 to go we were both running in the top five. That's really all that matters. What matters is being in position at the end of the race. It is a difficult race track to pass on, you do need to start as far up front as you can, but at the end of the day they pay you points for where you finish, not where you started and that's all that really matters."
HOW CLOSELY DO YOU WORK WITH THE OTHER ROUSH CARS? "The 6 car and the 99 work very closely together. All the teams try to work close together, there's an effort to work close together, but it's hard for five or six teams to get on the same page. The 6 and 99 don't team up against the other teams, it's just that we have a better working relationship -- not personal or anything else -- it's just a working relationship. That's just the way it's kind of worked out. We'd like to work with as many teams as we can because the more information we give the more information we get. That benefits us as well as benefits them, it's just difficult to get that many teams on the same page."
FRANK STODDARD CONTINUED -- HOW MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE WOULD IT MAKE IF YOU RACED WITH THE SAME ENGINE YOU QUALIFIED WITH? "It would certainly make it easier of the teams. Whether it would make better racing? Possibly and probably. I was listening to Ricky Craven a little while ago with the 50 team and he's got to spend so much time worrying about making sure he gets in the race because he's not up in the points and so forth, that he only basically gets Happy Hour, one hour, to try and get your race setup on the car. We're sitting here and if we qualify decently today, we work and hour and a half or two hours tomorrow morning and then an hour in the afternoon, so we've got two-thirds of an advantage on him when we start the race. So, for the guys, when you struggle qualifying and we're one of them sometimes, when we qualified bad here we were thinking that we had to make some practice runs. That hurts you and then you don't put as much time into your race setup because you're worried about getting in the race. So, yeah, I think that does take away from the racing. I'm used to that. Going back to Busch North and stuff, we never got a lot of practice time. When you go to short tracks, you'd get like three 20-minute sessions. You went out and made 10 or 15 laps run at a time, made a couple changes and went back out. I mean, all you did was work on your race setup. When it comes time to qualify, you put a little tape on the nose, blow your tires up a little bit more and went out and qualified. You virtually had the race setup in the car. You might throw a little bit of rubber in the right rear to free the car up a little more for qualifying, but you certainly didn't worry about qualifying. You're there to win the race and maybe we put a little too much of an emphasis on qualifying in the Winston Cup division. Maybe that's something to look at in the future."
The 2000 Taurus will be participating its first on-track test session on September 28 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The test, which will include officials from NASCAR, will have either Mark Martin or Jeff Burton behind the wheel.
JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus -- "If Mark can't do it, then I'm gonna do it. We're excited about it, but we're nervous about it at the same time. The Taurus is a good race car now and we've tried to improve it. We won't really know if we've improved it or not, it probably looks like we're gonna break even on it the way it looks right now. We hope that we've improved it, but we probably haven't. Chevrolet has had a couple years to develop their car. We have had a great team of people working on the new Ford. The Taurus is a beautiful car. The new Taurus is a beautiful car. It has all the features that you want and all of that got applied to the race car. It appears it's not gonna make much difference. It looks a lot different. It looks better. It looks good, but there doesn't appear to be any aerodynamic difference. We're a little nervous that Chevrolet has built a car for the race track, rather than build a car for practical use by customers. If they did that, then we could be behind on the race track a little bit, but, with the teams involved in the new Taurus and with Ford's backing, we feel OK about it. But, because it's an unknown, we're nervous about it."
GREG SPECHT, Ford Racing Technology Operations Manager -- ARE YOU HAPPY WITH WHERE YOU'RE AT AS FAR AS GETTING THE CAR ON THE TRACK? "I think we've got to hit home runs from this point on. As long as there aren't any bumps in the road from here on out, we'll be OK. So we're working hard and the teams are working hard to make sure there aren't any surprises for NASCAR or for us or the teams. If everything comes off as planned, we'll be all right."
ARE THERE ANY OTHER TESTS PLANNED IN ADDITION TO THE ON-TRACK TEST? "We've got a little problem with the wind tunnel because they had a failure at the tunnel where they experienced some down time. They're supposed to be back online today, so that's put a crunch in their schedule. They've got to go through and do a bunch of rescheduling, so we're still trying to finalize when the tunnel date is gonna happen, but it's towards the end of the month."
HOW HARD HAS IT BEEN FOR THE TEAMS TO WORK ON THIS CAR DURING THE SEASON? "It's been a joint effort with Roush, Yates and Penske working together. These last six weeks they've really bitten the bullet. The Roush team has really bitten the bullet of taking on the task and getting the job done in terms of actually fabricating the pieces. They've done a terrific job. We've got the best teams for them to be able to pull off something like this during the middle of the season. You look at Mark and Dale being in a championship run, it's pretty incredible that they can keep that effort going and, at the same time, do a terrific job on the new car."
NOTE: NASCAR Winston Cup qualifying was postponed on Friday due to rain. There was no practice at all as remnants from tropical storm Floyd kept the track wet all day. Qualifying has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday after a one-hour practice session, which is slated to begin at 9 a.m.