NASCAR Winston Cup Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Citgo Taurus, has enjoyed tremendous success at New Hampshire International Speedway, site of next weekend's New England 300. Burton has a record four career victories at the one-mile track...
NASCAR Winston Cup
Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Citgo Taurus, has enjoyed tremendous success at New Hampshire International Speedway, site of next weekend's New England 300. Burton has a record four career victories at the one-mile track - including one in 2000 in which he achieved a Winston Cup rarity by leading all 300 laps. He also made his NASCAR Winston Cup debut there in 1993, finishing sixth.
JEFF BURTON-99-Citgo Taurus
LOUDON IS A TRACK WHERE YOU'VE DONE WELL. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THAT TRACK AND YOUR ABILITIES AS A DRIVER THAT SEEM TO COMPLEMENT EACH OTHER?
"Historically, we've run well on tracks that get slippery and require, you know, handling's a premium, and it seems like, for whatever reason, we've run well on flat tracks, too. And, New Hampshire falls into all those categories. We haven't run as well up there the last couple of years, as Goodyear came out with a better tire that made a lot more grip and lasted longer. That kind of took away our advantage, and we've been slow in trying to figure out how to get that back. New Hampshire, what used to be a big advantage for us, has turned out to be a challenge for us, because I think the tires made such a difference in how you have to set your car up, and we've been slow to let go of what it is that's worked for us there in the past."
WHAT IS AT THE FOREFRONT OF YOUR MIND HEADING INTO A FLAT TRACK LIKE LOUDON?
"We concentrate 100 percent on corner speed. You know, what does it take to get around the corner? I work a lot on how far my entry, as far as, where do I start to brake? When to get off the throttle? All of those kind of things. Those things are real important. I'm real picky about the way my car handles. I work real hard and try to demand a lot out of the car, and try not to settle and be happy with something that isn't just perfect. We keep working and working, and that seems to get us our best results, when we get real picky about the car and we don't accept anything other than it being perfect."
THE FLATTER THE TRACK, THE MORE HANDLING PLAYS INTO IT?
"I think it does. I mean, handling's important everywhere, but you handle at New Hampshire for different reasons than what you would handle at, say, Chicago. Aerodynamics are important everywhere, there's no doubt about it, but they're less important at New Hampshire than they are at Chicago. It's a one-mile race track, but it's still a short track, it's still a flat short track, and it has a lot of short-track characteristics."
A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, YOU LED EVERY LAP EN ROUTE TO A VICTORY AT NEW HAMPSHIRE. WHAT WERE SOME OF YOUR THOUGHTS LATE IN THE RACE? WAS THE CAR SO MUCH BETTER THAT DAY?
"The 18 car, they ran with me all day. If I ran first all day, it seemed to me he ran second all day. He actually got beside me, late in the race he got beside me, and I was able to fend him off, but he and I had the best cars that day. I really didn't think about the fact that we had led all the laps until real late, and then I'm going, 'You know what? I think we've led all the laps here so far.' That made it much more special. To do that in today's era, obviously, it's unheard of. To do it and dominate like that and have the fortune of no one not pitting and leading a lap, that was odd. But, we were fast. We had good pit stops, obviously. We started second, started outside pole, and were able to get around Bobby on the first lap, and everything went our way."
SO FAR, YOU HAVE SEVEN TOP-10S, BUT YOU ALSO HAVE A NUMBER OF FINISHES THAT AREN'T SO GOOD. WHEN YOU LOOK AT THAT, WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU?
"We're kind of teetering on the fence of running well and not running well. The last two months, we've run well. The last four races, our finishes haven't been any good - but not because we weren't running well. We had problems in all those races. We've climbed our way up to being a top-10 competing team, but you can't give finishes away, and we did that at Daytona, we did that at Sears and we did that at Michigan. We never got a chance to show that we were going to be competitive at Michigan because we got into a wreck right off the bat, not of our own doing. At Sears we had mechanical problem and we also had a pit-road penalty that got us a lap down and we never made our lap up. And at Daytona we ran in the top-10 all night and got in a wreck with 30 to go. So, those races we had bad finishes, but we ran well and were going to run well. That's disappointing. We can't let that happen. You have to capitalize on every opportunity that's there for you."
THE SEASON IS HALF OVER. LAST YEAR YOU MADE A BIG SURGE IN THE SECOND HALF. WHAT IS THE STATE OF THE 99 TEAM RIGHT NOW?
The people on the team can see the improvement, and if you're part of this team, you can see and feel it. If you're sitting on the outside looking in, you may not see it, mainly because all you're looking at is finishes. But this team, to be a part of the team, you understand where we're headed and what we've been doing and why we've had our problems, and I think everybody feels good about where we're headed. At Charlotte, we got a lap down because we had a tire go down, and then when we finally broke, we were running in third position. We had a long green-flag run, and we were still sitting there running in third position. We were better than our two teammates at that point, we were better than the second-place car, and we weren't as good as Jimmie Johnson. But, we ran well. So, those kinds of things, when you're a part of the team, you look at it and you say, 'Well, we're making improvement; we're running better,' but you don't see it in the results. So, I think the team understands that. At the end of the day, you judge yourself on your results. You can't keep saying, 'Well, we have a good effort and we've run well,' and all that. Eventually, you got to put it down into results, and we haven't done that."