JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Martinsville Speedway and discussed racing at Martinsville, his win last week at Lowe's Motor Speedway, the announcement of no changes to the COT next year and ...
JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Martinsville Speedway and discussed racing at Martinsville, his win last week at Lowe's Motor Speedway, the announcement of no changes to the COT next year and more.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR WEEK COMING OFF THAT BIG WIN AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY AND ALSO TELL US ABOUT RACING HERE AT MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY. "Well it's certainly been a busy week. I had a lot of stuff scheduled anyway, photo shoots and some appearances and some testing. Then we won on Saturday night so that added to the schedule. It's been a pretty hectic week. I was kind of glad to get here last night and came early just so I could get some sleep. To me, this is a really fun race track. I think it's one of the hardest tracks that we go to. It requires a great deal of aggressiveness, also at the same time a great deal of patience. It's hard to do both. It's been a really, really good track for me, it's been a really, really bad track for me. But this is a place that I grew up. I remember the day they announced they were going to have a late model stock car race here and I was getting ready to race late models and I thought wow, I get to race at Martinsville. That was really cool. This has been a really special place. It's hard. It's demanding but it is a lot of fun."
ON THE RUMOR THAT MARTINSVILLE MAY LOSE A RACE. "There's always a debate about what race tracks should have races and which tracks should have two races in particular. I think it's important as we've moved our sport into bigger venues, bigger parts of the country. I also think it's very important to remember what has put us here. Having an understanding of the history of our sport I think is very important. You certainly could make a case that bigger cities and all that stuff is cool, but I just think it's real important to embrace the history, to be able to run the race tracks that started the sport. The history here is really long and this track has been very committed to the growth of our sport. I think we need to reward those things and I also think it provides such a different race from what we're going to see next week and the next four weeks and I think that's good. I think that's what makes our sport fun to watch. What really makes it fun to do is a variety of race tracks. So I think we need to be here. I think just for the history and the understanding and the embracement of the history I think we need to be here."
YOU KNOW IN OTHER SPORTS THERE'S ALWAYS THAT ATTITUDE ESPECIALLY IN THE NBA AND NHL LETS GET THROUGH THE REGULAR SEASON AND GET TO THE PLAYOFFS, IS THERE A CONSCIOUS EFFORT THROUGHOUT THE SEASON TO DO THE BEST YOU CAN BUT GET TO THE PLAYOFFS? "Goal number one for us was make the playoffs, that's goal number one. If you make the Chase then you can win the championship. If you don't make it you can't obviously. You've got to come into the Chase believing you're fast enough or proving you can do the things it takes to win a championship. But you always want to make the Chase because if you make it at least you've had a good year and if you make it you definitely have a shot at the championship.
"Even if you're not the best running team you still have a shot. Who would think the (Tampa Bay) Rays would be in the World Series? You just never know what's going to happen. So if you put yourself in position to make the things happen, it really depends on the situation how you get into the Chase. I think the first 16 races you're just racing. You're just trying to get into a rhythm of racing and trying to do the things you know how to do well and then those last 10 you really start looking at it trying to figure out exactly what you do to get in it. It seems to me like the Daytona 500 was forever ago. It's seems like that was a really long time ago and that's how long that regular season is. That regular season to me is more stressful than this because it's positioning to be in the championship."
DO YOU MAKE A CONSCIOUS EFFORT TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE GOOD ON THE TRACKS THAT ARE IN THE CHASE? "To me and statistically I may be wrong here, but to me the tracks that are in the Chase are very much representative of the tracks that are in the regular season. So yes, you do but to make the Chase you have to be good on those kinds of race tracks as well. The only exceptions are Sears Point and Watkins Glen. If you can survive those races, that's very beneficial. If you are real good at it then you can try to win them but if you're not real good at it survival is very important."
ON HOW AGE AND EXPERIENCE CAN BE AN ADVANTAGE IN THE CHASE. "I think every driver is different. I can only speak for myself and what my experience brings to me. I think the biggest thing it brings to me is the perspective of what we're trying to do here and a calmness that I've never had in my life. The age that I am to me is a great thing. I love the age that I am. I couldn't have the things in my life that I love so much if I'm not the age that I am and I couldn't have the experience without having been through the things I've been through and the only way to do that is to be the age that I am. To me, I look at my age as a benefit because I'm able to draw experiences. I'm able to watch other people's experiences and learn from them. I view it as an advantage not as a disadvantage because I have a pool of information that's larger than a lot that I can use so to me that's actually an advantage."
DO YOU WORRY THAT PEOPLE WILL LOOK AT THAT AT SOME POINT AS A DISADVANTAGE? "At some point it does become a disadvantage. There's no getting around that. I truly believe that at 41 I'm a better driver than at 25. Now, was I a good enough driver at 25 that's for someone else to decide but I believe that I'm better at 41 than I was at 25. Am I going to be better at 70 than I was at 41, probably not. But physically our sport allows someone if you take care of yourself and you're committed you can be successful in this sport well into your 40's. I have no concerns if I'm emotionally able to put the effort into it. I have no concerns about being in my mid-40's being able to be competitive, none whatsoever. I speak from experience in watching people that I respect. I watched my father compete in tennis. I've watched Mark Martin. I've watched people that I know are willing to put forth the effort and the people that I see that are willing to put forth the effort that they can still be successful."
IF QUALIFYING IS RAINED OUT YOU GUYS GET CHOICE OF PIT SELECTION IN ADDITION TO STARTING TOWARD THE FRONT, HOW BIG OF AN ADVANTAGE IS THAT FOR THOSE HIGHER IN THE POINTS TO BE ABLE TO HAVE THAT SELECTION? "Pit selection here may be the most advantageous race track that we go to, to have the first pit stall. It may be the most advantageous. Qualifying is important. I will say though this is one of those race tracks that if you watch the races and I go back and watch most races, a lot of times people have benefited by qualifying poorly here. You get three or four different pit sequences going on here because you get so many cautions at odd times. It's really one of those places, and I have a lot of experiences of not qualifying well. I don't flip out about it because the way cautions fall here it's so different than everywhere else in how you can pit and what kind of tires you need and all those kind of things. Those sequences get so mixed up during the race you'll find a guy that's running 20th and the next thing you know he's leading the race. It matters a lot here in being able to pass people but in a lot of ways it doesn't matter a whole lot because you get so many pit sequences going on."
CONSIDERING WHAT'S HAPPENED TO YOU HERE BEFORE IN THE CHASE, DOES THAT AFFECT YOUR OUTLOOK AND APPROACH TO THIS RACE AND WHAT WOULD A GOOD FINISH ON SUNDAY HERE MEAN FOR YOU? "This race track has meant a lot to me. It's one of the tracks that I grew up thinking was one of the biggest deals in the world. I grew up an hour from here. We'd come here and watch cup races and come to watch the Twin 250's, so the history here is really important to me because I've witnessed some of it. Certainly not all of it, but I've witnessed some of it. That makes it special. There's people in the stands that watched Ward (Burton, Jeff's brother) and I grow up as people not just race car drivers. I think that's real special.
"As far as what happened to us here in 2006, we did that not the race track. We made a mistake. The race track didn't cause us to make that mistake so I don't look at this race track in the sense of you owe me one. I look at it really in the sense to me it's a special place. We've had a lot of success here and we've had real bad runs here too. I don't come here with preconceived notions that we're going to run well. I don't come here with preconceived notions that we're going to run poorly. I just think we've got to go practice and see what we've got and work from there. This race track didn't cause us to lose the championship, we broke a part and ultimately we are responsible for that."
CAN MARK MARTIN REALISTICALLY HAVE A SHOT AT THE CHAMPIONSHIP NEXT YEAR GIVEN NOBODY HAS EVEN COME CLOSE AT HIS AGE? "No question he'll be competitive. This is a strange sport and you never know what's going to happen but I would be willing today and he's going to shoot me for saying this, I'd be willing to guarantee you that that car will be in the Chase next year. He will make that team better. Mark Martin is a special driver. Look at where that car is in points now.
"We never talk about this but the car that Mark drives on a part-time basis is like 15th or 16th in car owner points. I'm sure that's wrong but it's right there. Mark Martin is consistent. He's fast, he's smart. He is the kind of driver that's required to win a championship. There's no question in my mind he can win a championship next year, none whatsoever."
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE BREAKING POINT IS AGE-WISE? "I don't think that something swoops down from the sky and says you're 47, no longer for you. I don't think it works like that. I think its individual. I think it boils down to physical, emotional, most of it being emotional, the dedication that you're willing to put into it. You've got to remember if you're 48 years old, you've probably been doing this for 40 years. There's hardly any race car drivers that didn't start, not right now I know there's some exceptions to this, but most drivers started when they were five, six, seven, eight, nine years old. If you're 50 years old you've been doing it for 40 years. Bringing the intensity level every day, I think that's what becomes difficult. Willing to put the effort in not just on the track on a Sunday but on a track somewhere on a Tuesday when it's 100 degrees somewhere, putting that effort in that's where it becomes harder I think."
YOU'VE BEEN AROUND LONG ENOUGH TO REMEMBER 36-CAR FIELDS AT RICHMOND, AND BRISTOL, HOW DIFFERENT WAS THE RACING WITH FEWER CARS AND WAS THE RACING BETTER OR WORSE? "It was more spread out at (North) Wilkesboro. Wilkesboro is really for some reason the place that I remember the smaller fields and how much more things were spread out than they are today. Seven more cars on a half-mile race track is a lot. It's a whole lot. I also remember a lot of us loading our cars in trailers going home not making races at Wilkesboro, Martinsville and those places. It has changed because things are much more bunched up. There's more cars on the lead lap. There's more cars a lap down and it's made it harder. It's made it more congested for sure."
CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR DECISION TO COME HERE LAST NIGHT? A LOT OF THE DRIVERS ARE LATE BECAUSE OF THE RAIN AND JUST KIND OF TAKING THEIR TIME, THERE'S NOT MUCH GOING ON HERE. "Well both my children had friends spend the night. My mother was there, my wife's mother and her father were there and between the four of them they'll drink enough wine to kill a small animal so the only way for me to get any sleep was to leave. So that was the brunt of my decision. That's why I made my decision because it was probably loud at my house last night."
HOW FAR ARE YOU FROM HERE? "I bummed a helicopter ride last night so it's 40 minutes for me. It wasn't exactly a hardship tour."
EVERY TIME WE ASK YOU OR ANY OTHER DRIVER IF YOU TRIED HARDER YOU LAUGH AT US BECAUSE YOU TRY THE SAME EVERY WEEK, BUT ON THAT LAST RUN LAST SATURDAY NIGHT YOU SEEMED DETERMINED TO MAINTAIN THE LEAD, WAS IT A TRACK POSITION DECISION OR WAS IT MORE A HAVE TO SEIZE THE MOMENT NOW DECISION? "I think it was both. We do always try hard, well I do. There is a difference on how you drive on lap10 and how you drive on lap 200. That difference I don't think should be real big but there is a little bit of difference. Where we are and the things we're trying to accomplish it was time to go for it. I mean it was time to lay it on the line and see what happened and whatever the result was it was going to be so my willingness to, I wasn't going to wreck Jimmie (Johnson) or anything like that, but my willingness to hang it out as far as I thought I could possibly hang it out was certainly there because if I'd come off of turn four and spun it out, what the hell. It was time to go and we're not racing to be afraid to lose something we're racing to go try to gain it. I think that showed. Obviously track position was big. The call was 100 percent the right thing to do. Lost in the shuffle was we came to pit road in the lead and I'm proud of that. The No. 16 (Greg Biffle) car is a really strong car and we were able to take the lead from those guys, come on pit road, hold serve, make a great car and then ultimately win. Carl (Edwards) was really good so things worked out for us. Certainly with where we are we're willing to put the risk level out there a little more than we would have been. Not a lot, but a little bit."
AS A CHASER WHAT IS THE SCARIEST PART OF MARTINSVILLE AS FAR AS TRYING TO STAY IN THIS THING? "A couple of things. There's a lot of mechanical problems here if you go back and look through history. A lot of rear end gears have broken here, a lot of people have brake problems, and a lot of people have transmission problems but more rear gear problems. Engine problems occur because of the low RPM to the high RPM, how many times you do that. That's very hard on the engine. And then just quite simply the race. It's so easy to drive into turn one and two guys get together in front of you then there's nowhere to go and the guys behind you have nowhere to go. It's easy to drive in the corner underneath a guy and get free and have to chase the car up and hit him. It's easy for you to be the guy on the outside getting run into. So this it's just really, really difficult racing. The shorter the tracks the more hostile it becomes because it has to. Just getting into a wreck or causing a wreck that you really didn't want to be involved in happens very easily here. More easily than most tracks we go to. Honestly you can run well here and get on the wrong pit sequence and finish 18th. It's so hard to pass, but if you get in the back at the wrong time you're done. Everything has got to work out. You've got to have the cautions fall the right way, you've got to run well, you've got to stay out of trouble, you've got to keep from causing the wreck, you've got to not have mechanical problems, there's a lot of stuff going on."
IF KYLE BUSCH DOESN'T WIN ANOTHER RACE AND KIND OF STAYS WHERE HE'S AT RIGHT NOW IN POINTS, WILL WHAT HE'S ACCOMPLISHED THIS YEAR WITH ALL THE WINS BETWEEN THE THREE SERIES BECOME A LOSS IN HISTORY? "It won't be to me. It may be to him. Their team I think would be really disappointed because certainly they came into this thing having very, very high hopes of winning a championship. To me they've had a phenomenal year and Kyle has done a phenomenal job. It won't be lost on me but it will probably be lost on them."
COULD YOU CALL THAT A COLLAPSE? "They certainly haven't executed when they've needed to execute. That's obvious and I'm not being critical it just it is what it is. I wouldn't be the one to call it a collapse but they certainly weren't able to execute at this point post-season and they were able to in the regular season.
"They could win five in a row. Honestly. That team could go win five in a row. It wouldn't surprise anyone. It's very hard to win five in a row, but that team could win five in a row."
WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT 2006 AND WHAT HAPPENED IN MARTINSVILLE, DO YOU KIND OF FEEL LIKE THIS IS A CHANCE MAYBE FOR REDEMPTION? "We were in position the same way I said Kyle and those guys haven't executed in post season, we didn't execute that in post season. We certainly want to be able to execute. We want to look back on the year and say you know what when we had an opportunity, we took advantage of it and we didn't do that when we had our opportunity. I don't look at it from a redemption standpoint but I do look at it from a satisfaction standpoint. It would certainly be great to be able to look back and say hey we put ourselves in position, number one, but then after we put ourselves in position we executed and got done what we needed to get done. If you're in sports that's certainly has to be what you want to hear."
REFERRING TO THE LEVEL OF FRUSTRATION AT SHORT TRACKS, HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE THE LEVEL OF FRUSTRATION HERE (MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY) TO MAYBE BRISTOL? "You know to me this track is much more like the new Bristol than it was the old Bristol. The new Bristol is still very aggressive and still real easy to cause a wreck, real easy to get into a wreck but not at the same level it was before which by the way I think is a good thing. You get very frustrated because in Michigan if you can't pass a guy, you can at least try to go around him the outside. You can at least try something different. Here if someone is a little slower than you are it's very, very difficult to pass so every lap, every corner that frustration level gets higher and higher and higher. That's why we see a lot of wrecks because you know laps are clicking away and you know you've got to get by that guy. You're just a touch quicker but you can't pull it off so the frustration level grows and grows and grows and then you lose patience. That loss of patience is what eventually normally causes the wrecks. It can be a very frustrating race track. It can be a mentally taxing race track because it's a long race.
"Time-wise I don't know how long it is compared to other races, but when you drive through these corners 500 hundred times it's a long race. You're leg hurts from braking, you're back hurts from braking; you use different muscles here than you use at other kinds of race tracks. Mentally it's a grueling race. When you add that to all the stress and the stuff going on with the Chase and then you add that to that guy in front of you won't cut you any slack, it gets frustrating."
DO YOU REMEMBER ANY FIGHTS OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT OVER THE YEARS? "We don't fight, it's against the rules (laughter). I can't remember specifically an incident but when I think of this place I know people are going to leave mad. I know people are going to leave upset at each other. It seems like there's always a little carryover of frustration when this race is over to the next couple of weeks. There's always, I wouldn't say a fight, but there's always an altercation between drivers."
HIS THOUGHTS ON THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF NO CHANGES WOULD BE MADE TO THE COT FOR NEXT YEAR. "I certainly don't think they should make any changes during the year. I think that throws a curve ball at us that isn't fair. I do believe that we have to remain open-minded to the ability to improve everything we do, the car, pit road procedures, whatever. I think we have to remain open-minded to doing what we can to make racing the best that it can be, as fair as it can be, those kind of things. There has been an effort by NASCAR to minimize the changes the teams are having to deal with because we do have a history of making so many changes that it's very difficult to ever get a center or to get a real base line on what it is that you're dealing with. They used to cut spoiler heights off. You'd go to a race and they would put a notice out that they were cutting the spoiler height off so all the aerodynamics testing you've done, all the stuff you had done you had to start over. So in many ways I'm a proponent of minimizing changes. At the same time I think we have to be careful to say you know what if something comes up at the right time that we believe will make the car better we will be open-minded at that rather than just saying no changes. It is important to know that we are in the process today of preparing equipment for next year and if at this point it's very difficult for them to make a change. That puts us in a difficult box in trying to be prepared for next year. So if NASCAR is going to make a change it has to be earlier than December and we need to know. So at this point I'm okay with that but I do think that going into 2010 that we have to be willing to, because now we've run a full two years on big tracks a full three years on short tracks, we have a lot of history with the car. I think that going into 2010 we have to be looking okay what is it that we can do better without turning the world upside down. You have to be respectful of when NASCAR makes a small change how big that impacts us in costs and efficiencies and testing.
"When they make a change it's extremely expensive. With the rumored testing policies for next year, our expenses are going to go way up so if we're going to do the amount of money we're going to do to test next year then I really think it's important for us to minimize changes so that hopefully the testing can help the cars a little bit but to spend more money on top of the testing would be a lot."
DOES NASCAR HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY OR SHOULD THEY HAVE A ROLE IN TRYING TO SAY WE NEED TO BALANCE WHO WE ALLOW TO COME TO THE RACE TRACKS AND CAMPAIGN OR SHOULD IT BE UP TO THE TRACKS AND CANDIDATES? "That is a good question. I don't know. On the surface of it I think what's best for all of us is to not make a decision until we have to walk into the booth. I think the more exposure that we have to the candidates the better we can make that decision. This is always been a very conservative garage if you think about the politicians that have come they typically have been conservative politicians. I don't know. I don't know the answer to that question."
-credit: gm racing