JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed mindset heading into the Chase, who is the favorite; racing at New Hampshire, RCR having three cars in Chase, his approach to ...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed mindset heading into the Chase, who is the favorite; racing at New Hampshire, RCR having three cars in Chase, his approach to challenging tracks, Chase competitors trying to win their first race of the year and other topics.
TALK ABOUT BEING BACK AT NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAY AND KICKING OFF THE CHASE: "We ran real well all day, there were several people who ran real well all day too that had trouble. This has been a real good racetrack for us. The first race of the Chase is always real intense. It's fun. The first race of the Chase is a lot of fun; there is a lot of pressure; it's exciting. I'm proud to be here with the situation that we're in and we'll see if we can go get off to a good start."
OTHER THAN TALLADEGA WHICH IS ALWAYS KIND OF GOOFY, IS THERE ANOTHER TRACK THAT CONCERNS YOU OF THE TEN? "No, not really. Not one that sticks out. We're going to unload somewhere and be not where we need to be and need to catch up. We don't know where that is. Every track is going to be a challenge. There is not one that sticks out where we say, 'Ok, this is problematic for us.' They're going to be some surprises. This weekend, we came here running really well last time and we typically run really well there, but we could unload here and be real off. We don't know where the challenge will be right now, but there certainly will be one."
WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO TALLADEGA? "My approach at Talladega hasn't worked real well because I haven't won a race at Talladega. I've tried everything. I've tried to ride around, I've tried to be aggressive and be in the front, I've tried to kind of wait around and see how things are going. At the end of the day, it is. You go in there with a strategy and whatever that strategy is you just stick to it. It's one of two things, it's either be aggressive and go try to lead as many laps as you can, or it's go ride around in the back. It's nothing in between. I think the guys that ride around in 15th trying to not be aggressive I think that's a major mistake. I think if you're going to ride around, go ride around. My take on Talladega is do one of the two and whatever happens, happens."
HOW DOES THIS TRACK PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS? "That's a good question. Honestly the best we've run here since the track was reconfigured was this last race. My success was prior to the track change, and because the track has changed so much and the way you run these racecars has changed so much that advantage got away. When I was winning a lot of races here the strategy of winning this race and running around this track fast wasn't really about the center of the corner; it was about get in the corner deep and get off the corner fast and you kind of gave up the center of the corner. Well you can't do that anymore. Today, drivers have learned to carry speeds through the center of the corners. They have faster cars that carry speed. Teams have started working on that, so that strategy has changed and that way of winning a race here has changed. I had to adjust and it's hard to adjust when you're doing well. It took me awhile to catch on, but that was our synergy of success for a long time."
YOU WERE KIND OF A VICTIM OF SUCCESS THEN? "I felt like I was. I just didn't feel like I adapted as fast as I needed to."
A LOT OF CHASE GUYS ARE COMING TO THE RACES WITH NEW CHASSIS, BUT THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT VIEW THAT AS A RISK. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHY THAT IS? IS THAT LESS OF A RISK THEN IT USED TO BE WITH THE WAY TEAMS PREPARE NOW? "Well, if our program is running right our chassis 240 should be better than 239. If not, then don't build 240. So we are constantly evolving our race cars and we are constantly trying to make them better. We do have more ways of measuring what a better car is today; we have more data ways without having to bring it to a racetrack. In today's environment, we can't go test car A compared to car B on a racetrack; there is nowhere to go do that. So we've made big investments in trying to find ways to do that at the shop and we have a good amount of confidence in those things. When we bring a new racecar out we're bringing it out because we think it's better than the one we had prior. By the way, this will be one of many new racecars that we bring out. We've geared our program up to be ready for the Chase and to be the best that we can be in the Chase and we believe that if we aren't building better cars right now than what we had in June, it isn't going to be good enough. That's our thought process to it. We'll see if that plays out or not, but in my eyes it's a constant evolution."
WHAT CAR ARE YOU RACING THIS WEEKEND? "You know what, I don't know what car it is anyway. When I come to the race track--I know what the game plan is for building new cars, I know what the strategy is for building new cars. The most we've run a car all year is like three times. Every car I sit in looks brand new. Hell, I wouldn't know if it was four races old or brand new; they all look brand new to me. I'm much more comfortable with a company that is trying to be progressive and is trying to build something better now than what they were building yesterday. If I had came here--we ran really well here in the first race, we had a great chance to win that race--if we had brought that same car, and that would be the conservative strategy to bring that same car. I'm pretty sure the 48, the 20 the 18--I'm pretty sure all those guys are building new cars to bring cars that can go beat that. We have to do the same thing."
YOUR TEAMMATE SAID THAT HE IS ADMITTEDLY AGAINST A DIFFERENT POINTS FORMAT FOR THE GUYS IN THE CHASE. DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT? "I agree with him. I believe our series is built on racing the entire field. I believe that if you finish 35th, you should get 35th points. If you finish 35th, you should not get 12th place points. You should get the points you earn that day based on the entire field. There are a lot of reasons for that. If you win the race and you are a point guy, lets say three people finish second-third-fourth
that aren't in the Chase, well the next guy that's in the Chase, he didn't finish second. He finished fifth. When you compare him to you, that's where he finished; he didn't finish second, he wasn't second best to you, he was fifth best to you and so he should be awarded fifth-place points. It would make the Chase more exciting going into Homestead because the fewer times your penalized for having bad races the better the championship hunt would be at the end of the season, but it is not the most fair way to crown a champion."
JEFF IT DOESN'T HAPPEN EVERY YEAR, BUT IT DIDN'T HAPPEN LAST YEAR; THE GUYS THAT GO INTO THE CHASE WITHOUT HAVING WON A RACE IT SEEMS HAVE A HARDER TIME WINNING IN THAT LAST 10-RACE STRETCH THAN THE GUYS THAT DID WIN. IS IT HARDER TO WIN ONCE YOU GET INTO THE CHASE, OR IS IT JUST 10 MORE RACES? "Well, I think they're 10 more races, but I do think that everybody steps their game up. There is a reason that you haven't won. You know, our weaknesses were exposed. It wasn't that we weren't fast enough; it was that we didn't have the right pit stop, we didn't have the right move by me, we didn't have the right strategy. The questions for the teams that haven't won races are, 'have you been able to fix your weakness?' It is hard to fix weaknesses in a year. I think that's why it's hard to win if you haven't won, because there is a reason that you haven't won. It's hard to adjust those things throughout a year. I believe that everybody is going to bring their best the next 10 weeks, everybody is trying to elevate their program and it does get harder. I hope that it would get harder."
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR IDEAL FORMAT AND DOES TWEAKING THE CHASE DE-LEGITIMIZE THE SYSTEM? "I don't want to say I don't car because obviously I do care, because if I didn't care I wouldn't have made the comment I made about how you award points. But part of me doesn't care at all. Because whatever the points are......it's the same for everybody. And it's building the race team, its driving the car; it's all the things you have to do when the rules are the same for everybody. So you can take advantage of those rules. I like the Chase format and I think the playoff type system is fun and it's what sports are all about. Sports are about pressure-filled, high-energy moments when there is a lot on the line and the more of a tournament atmosphere you can bring to it the more opportunities there are for that.
"At the same time, I like the traditional body of work meaning something. You know? I think your body of work should mean something. So, combining those two things in some form or fashion is the right thing to do. Which by the way, is what we have. So I don't think we need major changes but the thing that we lack or potentially lack is a Super Bowl. Where there are two teams, maybe even three or four teams, where it's zero to zero and you kick the ball off. We lack that a little bit, and it would be cool to have that, but you can only have that be legitimate if your body of work still has to mean something. You can't just say, 'okay its zero to zero, last two cars have at it in the last race'. It's not what our sport has been about but there is part of me that says, 'wow, that is really exciting'. How many super bowls do you guys go to where there are half the people who aren't even watching the game? You know? But they are there for the party. And that is what is cool about the Super Bowl, it's a national event. And the more we can do those kinds of things, the better it is for our sport. And on top of that, there is one person who always wins the pool who doesn't even know who is playing (laughs). And that really pisses you off."
ON THE POSSIBILITY OF JIMMIE JOHNSON AND THE 48 TEAM BEING MORE VULNERABLE THIS YEAR THAN IN THE PAST. WHY IS THAT A PREVAILING THOUGHT?
"Because he doesn't hold the trophy for the fifth time. When I say that and you guys know my opinion on this, I think we re-write history. How many of the last four years, of those four years, did you go in there and say, 'well, the 48 is hot right now'. 'The 48 is by far the favorite.' It hasn't been there every time. They haven't dominated every race and they haven't dominated.........so I think that everybody is looking for an opening but again, I go back and I watch what has gone on in prior years and they have always certainly been a top pick but its
never been a lock. You know? They made it a lock because they went and got the job done. So I don't think they are any more vulnerable this year than they were last year. I happened to think they were vulnerable last year. And they were vulnerable the year before. The same way every sports team is. There is no team that is not vulnerable. And if it was, then Duke wouldn't have beaten UNLV and knocked them out of the tournament. If people weren't vulnerable then the Giants wouldn't have won the Super Bowl a few years ago. Every team is vulnerable."
ON MEMORIES THAT YOU HOPE YOU NEVER FORGET? "Man, you are asking me to get out of my comfort zone here. Professionally and personally are two different categories. Professionally there has been...........it's really hard to say. You know professionally it's been winning Dover racing Matt Kenseth to me was a big moment because I respect him so much. I don't know...........I am much better about looking ahead than looking behind. The birth of my children, you know obviously....it's really hard to answer that question because I am so into Chase mode and getting this thing going that my mind is on that. Get back with me on that. My brain is just not there."
ON HOW MUCH IS MENTAL TOUGHNESS A PART OF STAYING IN THE CHASE: "I think mental toughness is always important. It's easy when things are going well. You know what I mean? When things are going well, it's easy to be mentally tough. The question is when the chips are down, who is going to be mentally tough? The chips are going to be down for everybody at some point in this Chase and those will be the defining moments in this Chase and who can come through those........that's going to determine who the winner is. So I think mental toughness is real important and I think attitude is real important and not for only the drivers but for everybody on the team. There has got to be a desire to win it. You know, everybody wants to win it but the question is who is going to sacrifice to win it and what are you willing to sacrifice and be willing to give up? And I feel like my group of people will give up just about anything to win this thing and I feel like I will too. Short of our integrity.......we are not going to give up our integrity. But short of that we are willing to make a lot of sacrifices to do what needs to happen."
ON WHETHER THE MULTI-CAR TEAMS HAVE A BETTER CHANCE AT NOT HAVING A PART FAILURE IN THE CHASE "There is not a team in the Chase that doesn't have a lot of people. Every team is at least a two-car team or three-car team. Stewart-Haas is a two-car team but they have a lot of help from Hendrick so.......or I assume they have a lot of help from Hendrick...so every team has enough people to answer the call. I think it's very important for every team not to fail. I hear a lot about 'well, we can't do this or we can't do that' and I am really tired about talking about it. Let's talk about what we can do. There is a lot of talk and when Chases start, and races start its 'well we can't do this, and we shouldn't do that' and you know......no kidding. 'We can't break a motor' and I am like, 'really?" (laughs). I am more about what are we going to do to make more horsepower and more torque and not break the motor. Sometimes when you get in that mode of we can't do this and we can't do that, you start forgetting about what it is you can do. So our approach to this thing is more about what we should be doing and what we can be doing and what we need to be doing versus what we are not going to do. You know, we are going to make some mistakes along the way. Every team is. No team is going to not have a bad pit stop, not have the perfect strategy or perfect set-up. You know? What have you got and what can you do with it? That is what this thing is all about."
-source: gm racing