JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed racing at Michigan, Paul Menard joining RCR, position in points, racing at Bristol and other topics. WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed racing at Michigan, Paul Menard joining RCR, position in points, racing at Bristol and other topics.
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK HERE AT MICHIGAN AND SITTING THIRD IN POINTS? "This has been, I don't know, this has been one of our weaker tracks. For us, I think it is a track that we need to be better on. I don't know why it has been a weak track. I really like. In the spring we ran well; it is the best we've run here in several years. Hopefully we can build on that. But, it is certainly one of the tracks that we've tried to definitely make improvements on. We'll see how it works out."
HOW ARE YOU AS AN ORGANIZATION TO WORK YOUR WAY BACK UP FROM DIPS AND IMPROVE PERFORMANCE AND WHAT ROLE DOES RICHARD (CHILDRESS) PLAY IN THAT IN. DO YOU HAVE TO FIGHT TO CLIMB BACK UP THE HILL? "I think we do have to fight to climb back up the hill. I think his (Childress) personality and his commitment to his sponsors and his employees and his competitiveness means that not running well isn't acceptable. I think he does feel the desire to fight back up. What we have to work on is not getting back down. This is a competitive sport. You're not always going to be as good as you can be. I just think that we've done a few things that have been really good and we've done a few things that haven't been good enough. When it hasn't been good enough, it shows. We have brought the company back. There was several years that the company didn't run the way it needed to run and we have all collectively brought it back. Last year, we all collectively put it down. So, it is hard. I think the main thing is the mindset. I'm a driver that started not having the success that I was accustomed to and the same can be said for drivers. When a driver starts going downhill, it is hard to get it going back uphill. I've been fortunate enough to do that. I think it is a mindset. I think it is about the business. I think Richard is not a lot different than me. He is very driven. He has a desire. He expects to run well, but he doesn't do it...if things aren't well, he's not negative about it. He just goes to work. I think at the end of the day, that is what it is about. You just have got to go to work and not accept failure."
WE HAVE SEEN TEAMS UP AND DOWN THIS YEAR, IS THERE A CLEAR-CUT FAVORITE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR OR IS IT TOO EARLY TO TELL? "You know, I said coming into this, which I might have said it going into last year too, that I didn't really see a clear-cut favorite. Obviously, what Jimmie (Johnson) and his team have done, you have to respect that and you have to say that they are a favorite. We have seen them show weaknesses. We've seen every team show weaknesses and we have seen a lot of teams show a lot of strength. I don't know. I think the Chase is going to No. 1; you still have to make it. There is still a lot of racing left to go. No. 2, I just believe that this Chase will be like most Chases, you've got to run in the front. You have to avoid the bad races. The year that Jimmie won, and I don't remember what year it was, but it was the year that we led a lot of it and we had the problem at Martinsville and then followed up with a problem at Texas; that is really the only year the winner had several races that weren't as good as they could have been. Most every other year, the winner has, for the most part, been in the front most of the time. I think you have to look at it and say you have to be able to run in the front most of the time. You also have to avoid the bad races. I just believe that is what it will take. I go into it with a lot of respect for a lot of teams, but I don't go into it just saying that is the team you have to go beat."
RICHARD CHILDRESS SAID HE CONSULTED YOU, CLINT (BOWYER) AND KEVIN (HARVICK) ABOUT BRINGING PAUL MENARD TO RCR AND EVERYONE IS ON-BOARD WITH IT, HOWEVER, THERE IS TALK THAT HE WOULDN'T HAVE THIS OPPORTUNITY IF IT WEREN'T FOR HIS FAMILY SPONSOR SO, WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN FROM HIM THAT SAYS HE DESERVES THIS OPPORTUNITY? "I think he has a dedication to do what it takes to win. I think that in the situation the situation he is in with his family, no matter what he does, it's always going to be 'If it wasn't for Daddy, he wouldn't be here'. That is was I lived through when I was racing late models. My Dad wasn't rich, but he had enough money for Ward (Burton, brother) and I to race. It didn't matter how well we ran or how poorly we ran, it was always because Daddy could afford it. At the end of the day, Paul is his own man. He's been assisted by his Father, the same way I was assisted by my Father. Paul is going to stand on his own feet. He is committed to doing what it takes to be successful. He is committed to doing what it takes to be a better race car driver. I think we saw, especially earlier this year, that he is capable of running in the front. He is capable of making lap times. He is a growing driver; he is still relatively young. He hasn't always been in the best situation. We've got to put him in a situation where he can be successful. If we put him in that situation, I think he can be. I think there is a tremendous amount of upside with Paul. The main thing is he is committed to doing what it takes. If you are committed and you are dedicated and you have a certain amount of talent, then you can be successful. It comes easier for some than others. It has never come real easy for me but I have been committed and been willing to work. That has been why I have had success and I think Paul is the same way."
THERE HAVE BEEN SOME TEAMS WHO HAVE HAD TROUBLE GETTING SPONSORS, BUT RCR IS DOING IT AND HAVE A NEW SPONSOR TO ANNOUNCE FOR HARVICK NEXT WEEK, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHY RCR IS SUCCESSFUL FINDING SPONSORS WHEN OTHERS ARE HAVING DIFFICULTY RIGHT NOW? "I think there is a lot of reasons. I think that the sponsors No. 1 know that when they work with Richard, they are going to get 100% effort. We don't always deliver the results that the sponsors expect, but we always deliver the effort. You guys know this, Richard is an honest guy; he is up-front. He is very well respected everywhere you go because he is a good person. He also has the ability to put together fast race teams and put together teams that can contend for championships. So, you are dealing with a person that is respected. You are dealing with an honest person. You are dealing with a straight-forward person; with a person that is gifted in the arena he has chosen to be involved in. So, if you are going to work with somebody, it is easy to work with Richard because of all of those things. He is good at what he does and he always does it in a way that people enjoy being around him. It is a relationship. It's not just a business relationship; it's a relationship of 'this is your team'. It is Caterpillar's team. It's not my team; it's not Todd Berrier's team; it's Caterpillar's team. That is what Richard works really really hard to make sure that everybody on the team understands that they are representing the sponsors in everything we do. I think the sponsors have an appreciation for that."
DO YOU THINK THE SPOILER WILL HAVE AN IMPACT AT BRISTOL AND WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR YOU TO GET A WIN THERE? "The spoiler thing is really interesting to me. I talk to some people who think it has changed stuff and I talk to others and they say it hasn't. I know that this is going to sound stupid to y'all, but I haven't really paid much attention to how the spoiler has affected it. I've just tried to pay attention to how the car needs to be better and how I need to drive it better. I think that potentially Bristol is a track, like we talked about Phoenix, having less impact that it would when we went to Texas. I think Bristol is similar to that. I think it is small enough where aerodynamics matter but it is not going to matter as much as it does here. I don't think the spoiler is going to have a major impact.
"But, man, the points race is just crazy. It is just so tight. Even us, we are sitting third in points and look how close we are to 10th. I mean, it is crazy. I think that is going to have a huge impact. Some people are trying to protect positions. Some people are trying to go get bonus points. Some people are trying to earn their way in. The guys that are in 14th, 15th, they don't believe they are out of it. You know what I mean? They still have a shot. So, Bristol is going to be really interesting because that is one of the wild-card races. To me, when you go to Bristol, trying to race your way into the Chase; it's like going to a restrictor plate race, anything can happen. It's going to be an interesting race. I feel really good about going to Bristol. We've led a lot of laps there. We've run in the front a lot there. We've put ourselves in position to win a lot there. It is one of those race tracks that I really look at and say 'that is bonus point opportunity for us'. Assuming we get ourselves in the Chase, which we have to do first, it would be nice to have a few bonus points."
WE'VE SEEN THAT FOUR-CAR TEAMS DON'T WORK, IN FACT, WE'VE SEEN A FOURTH TEAM DRAG DOWN THE THIRD TEAM AS IT SEEMS AT HENDRICK, WHY SHOULD THE RCR SITUATION BE ANY DIFFERENT? "Well, the fourth team didn't drag down the third team last year at Hendrick. Here is the deal with four teams and here is the deal with two teams. You have to put a program together that can be successful with four teams. You have to have the proper people. You have to have the proper funding. You have the proper organization. If you do not have those things, a fourth team will be a detriment, end of story. But that doesn't mean that a fourth team is a detriment. What is a detriment, if you have a fourth team, is the supporting structure around the entire company and each individual team. So, for me, I have been a proponent for, ever since I have been at RCR, to expand to four teams. And even last year, when we had the fourth team and we weren't running well, It wasn't the fault of the fourth team. Now, I will tell you when we went from four to three, we got strong because we took the very best people and made three. So what that means is, when we do four, we have got to go get the very best people to create four. We can't take from the three that we have to make four, we have to expand to four."
HOW MANY DO YOU HAVE TO EXPAND? "I don't know, I don't have that answer. It can't be an expansion to create a fourth team. If you are going to have more funding and you are going to have more stuff, you have to build a team that is stronger. You have to build a company that is stronger. There has to be a benefit of having a fourth team. If you have a fourth team, just to employ the people that work on the fourth team and you don't expand engineering; you don't expand aerodynamics; you don't expand engine R & D; you don't expand all the things that are required to be fast in this sport today, they you have done yourself a disservice because you take the services that you had and divide by four and you get whatever that equation is. To be equal, you have to add the services that you have and divide by four and get the same number for four teams as you had for three teams. So it can't be an expansion of the people that have to run a fourth team, it has to be an expansion of the company. It has to be an expansion of the services and the parts of the company that serve the teams individually. If you don't do that, it will be a detriment.
"So, we learned by having four teams, how not to do it. Now, we have to do four teams right. We didn't do four teams right. We did four teams wrong. This time it is a clear picture of what we did wrong and we've got to make sure we learned that and that is what Richard is committed to. I would not have supported a fourth team, if we were doing it just to hire enough people to run the fourth team. We have to do it to make our company stronger; not just to add a fourth team. If we do that, the fourth team will be a benefit to us."
RICK HENDRICK SAID ON TELEVISION, TALKING ABOUT THE CHASE THAT THERE WERE GOING TO BE SOME HURT FEELINGS SINCE THE CHAMPIONSHIP COULD BE DECIDED BY A RESTART, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT? "I hope so. I mean, we are here to race. I think at the end of the day; that is what we all come here to do. We all come here to race. I hope that we can come down to Homestead-I hope we can be in the midst of it and it comes down to late in the race. That's what we do. Would it be cool to go to Homestead with a point lead that nobody could beat you on, hell yes. Give me that choice, I'll take it. But the reality of it is, that is probably not going to be the case and you are going to have to go out and win it. If you don't relish that moment, then you need to go find something else to do. Would it be stressful? Would it be all those things? Of course it would but that is why we do what we do; is to have an opportunity to compete; to have an opportunity for it all to come down to that. It would be a hurtful way to lose it but it would be a real exciting way to win it. I prefer to look at it how exciting it would be to win it versus paying attention to how disappointing it would be to lose it. As much as I respect Rick Hendrick, no one has a crystal ball. This sport is full of surprises. There are 14 races left to run. As we all know, when a 10-race schedule starts, 10 races is an eternity in this sport. A lot of stuff happens. I wouldn't dare sit here today and tell you that is going to come down to a restart. I don't have any idea what is going to happen. Me and Kyle (Busch) will have a good restart and we'll be going at it. (LAUGHS)
-source: gm racing