Loudon: Ford - Jeff Burton interview

This Week in Ford Racing July 15, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Citgo Taurus, leads all drivers with four career NASCAR Winston Cup victories at New Hampshire International Speedway. When he won there in 2000, he ...

This Week in Ford Racing
July 15, 2003

NASCAR Winston Cup

Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Citgo Taurus, leads all drivers with four career NASCAR Winston Cup victories at New Hampshire International Speedway. When he won there in 2000, he became the first driver in more than two decades to lead every lap of an NWC race. Burton also has one Busch Series win at the flat 1.058-mile oval. However, after winning four races and finishing a career-best third in the standings, Burton and the 99 team has struggled, and has not reached victory lane since late 2001. Burton finished second at Daytona to kick off the second half of the season two weeks ago, his best finish since that win at Phoenix in late '01. He heads into Sunday's New England 300 in 13th place following a sixth-place finish at Chicago, a race which marked the 250th consecutive NWC start of his career.

JEFF BURTON - No. 99 Citgo Taurus:

DO YOU HAVE NEW HAMPSHIRE INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY FIGURED OUT?

"To me, it's one of the more enjoyable tracks we go to. I've always enjoyed the track. From the first day that we ran there, I liked it. And, of course, I still do. The last few races there we haven't run very well. We got behind it a little bit, the latest technology. As an example of how you get behind, you can get behind quickly. So, we go to New Hampshire hoping to regain our competitiveness, and I'm real confident in being able to get around that place, and go see if we can make something happen."

YOU'RE ONE OF THE FEW DRIVERS TO HAVE LED EVERY LAP OF A RACE. WHEN YOU DID THAT AT NEW HAMPSHIRE EN ROUTE TO YOUR VICTORY THERE IN 2000, WHEN DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU HADN'T CHASED ANYBODY ALL DAY?

"We sat there and ran and ran and ran, and it was real late in the race, it was under caution, actually, and I started thinking, 'You know what? Nobody's led this race but us.' And then it was like, 'Oh, God. We got to try to finish this thing off.' That's exactly how it happened. It didn't start out where we were going to try and lead every lap. That was never a goal, but as it developed, and as it happened, we certainly put an emphasis on trying to finish it off. It would've been very disappointing to lead all those laps and then not be able to finish it off."

IN 2000, YOU FINISHED THIRD IN THE STANDINGS. DURING THAT OFF-SEASON, MANY PUBLICATIONS PICKED YOU TO SERIOUSLY CONTEND FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP, AND MANY PICKED YOU TO WIN. YOU FINISHED 10TH IN 2001 AND 12TH IN 2002.

"Not only did we have a great year that year, the year before we won six races and finished fifth in points. The year before that we won four races. We were in the midst of our fourth year of being in the top-five in points and winning races and being very competitive on a consistent basis. And, that particular year we were up in the points most of the year. It wasn't like we made a strong run just at the end or hung on at the end to finish there. We were there all year. I don't think those people were wrong to say that we were a team that could get it done, by any means. When we had that year, we went into the next year thinking that we were prepared, and the whole Roush organization struggled. We were, in 2001, the best Roush car - even though it wasn't up to our expectations, it also wasn't up to Mark Martin's or Matt Kenseth's or any body else's. We finished 10th in points. We won two races. We were the only Roush team to finish in the top 10 in points, and we were the only Roush team to win a race that year. So, it was a sub-par year for us, but it was a sub-par year for the company, and we got more out of it than they everybody else did - although we never really got to the level that that we needed to get. We were consistent; we weren't where we needed to be. Then, we came into 2002 and struggled again. Early in the year we were fifth, sixth, seventh in points, but we were fifth, sixth, seventh in points because we weren't having any problems. It wasn't because we were running well. So, it started in 2001 and it carried into 2002, and we're recovering from it today. I can't put my finger on what happened. I can't put my finger on any one thing that headed us done the wrong path, other than to say that when we got behind we had a real hard time figuring out how to catch back up. And we're still catching back up; we still haven't figured it out. So, I don't know what to tell you, other than we've worked really hard through that whole time. We are in the process, it was my determination and Jack's determination that we needed to re-build and start over. And, that's what we're in the process of doing. This is a brand-new team this year, and there's times we look like a brand-new team and there's times we show a tremendous amount of promise. But, how it got from there to here, I can't put my finger on it. It hasn't been a lack of effort; it hasn't been a lack of desire. We do have a renewed commitment to putting the program back to where it needs to be. No lack of respect to the other teams, but our team has tested more than any other team at Roush. We have worked, probably, as much, if not more, hours than the other teams at Roush. I mean, we're busting our butt, and that's where we are. We're going to figure out how to win it. It hasn't been easy. There's not one thing sitting out there that's saying we're doing this wrong, we're doing that wrong. If it was, we'd be fixing it. But we are continually evaluating our program, and we will get there. There's no question in my mind that Paul Andrews can crew chief a championship team. There's no question in my mind that I can drive for a championship team, drive the car at championship caliber. We just got to get it done."

WITH THIS BEING A NEW TEAM, HOW IMPORTANT WAS THAT SECOND-PLACE FINISH AT DAYTONA, IN TERMS OF THE TEAM'S GROWTH?

"People on this team are intelligent. We don't have a bunch of guys on this team that when we run 10th we all think we could've won. And, there's a lot of teams out there that are like that - that even if you've got a glimmer of running well, you know, everybody thinks that you could've won the race. This team is really good about understanding what we let go and what we grab a hold of. And, at Daytona, we didn't have a second-place car. We did have a top-12 car, which was an improvement on our speedway program. But, through great strategy and through the understanding of what we needed to do, we got a good finish out of it, and that's a good thing. So, it was good for us because, just the race before we had a great car and I stuck it in the fence, and we got that back, although you never get it back, we made some of the ground that got away from us based on my decisions. So, that was good for us. So, Daytona was important, but it also, like I said, this is an intelligent team, and we know we have some improving we got to get done."

ARE YOU GOING TO RUN THE NO. 9 BUSCH SERIES CAR AT NEW HAMPSHIRE, TOO?

"We'll run the Busch car at New Hampshire."

THAT 9 CAR HAS BEEN A GOOD DEAL FOR YOU, HASN'T IT?

"It's been a really good car. It's been real fast. Brad Parrott and that team were just extraordinary last year. This will be my first race with that team. Essentially, it's a scaled-down version of what the 60 car was, basically the key principals of that team are still in place. So, we're taking that team and going to New Hampshire with them, and I'm looking forward to that. I like running Busch races, and I hope that's it's the beginning of running several Busch races. We've got great guys up there, we got equipment up there, we may as well run."

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Mark Martin