JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Pocono Raceway and discussed the tire test at Indianapolis, the double-file restarts, Tony Stewart's success, rain at Pocono and other topics. TALK ABOUT HOW THE RAIN...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Pocono Raceway and discussed the tire test at Indianapolis, the double-file restarts, Tony Stewart's success, rain at Pocono and other topics.
TALK ABOUT HOW THE RAIN WILL AFFECT EVERYTHING THIS WEEKEND AT POCONO: "It Is obviously going to be a long day. We have that here from time to time. I think everybody would love to get some practice in. This is one of those race tracks that it is pretty important to get some practice in. One of the great questions of this weekend is which line are you going to use In turn three. Last year with the new pavement there was that strip that people were running on. It wasn't as big of an advantage at the second race. So, with it sitting all winter long, I think there is a big question as to whether you are going to run on that strip or run back on the bottom. It would be cool to have that answered today but that is probably not going to happen. Honestly, we have tested three days this week and I am kind of tired so I am ok with today being slow."
CAN YOU TELL US HOW THE TIRE TEST WENT AT INDY? "The tire test was phenomenal. I was really really happy with what went on there. I went there very skeptical. Nervous about it. I don't like doing tire tests in places you know you have tire problems. Kind of feel like Chuck Yeager. It is not always the best feeling. But, from the first lap on the track, I really liked the way the tire felt. We literally never saw one issue with the tires. They ended up putting those tires on everybody's car for a day and a half. To my knowledge, there was not a blister, not a cord, there was nothing. We'd run the car completely out of fuel, not be done doing something. Put fuel in the car and go run again. So that was a great test. Goodyear created a tire specifically for that track and the grinding of that track. It seems they did an incredible job. It still could be an issue as the track loses some of the room, they just had the 500 there, but this tire appears to rubber the track up itself. It appears to lay rubber down on the track rather than that powder. I think that will be a great thing. So, I was really impressed with the tire. I was very impressed."
HAS TONY STEWART'S SUCCESS AS AN OWNER/DRIVER MADE YOU THINK ABOUT GETTING IN ON THE OWNERSHIP SIDE OF THE SPORT? "I think it has made other people think about it. It hasn't made me think about it. I have interest in being an owner, but I don't have interest in being an owner and a driver at this point in my life. The key to ownership whether you drive the car and own it or not is people. One thing that Tony has done is affiliated himself with Hendrick Motorsports, they already had that affiliation, but I think he has solidified that affiliation. He brought in Newman who is obviously a really good driver. Tony is obviously a really good driver. They have brought in crew chiefs that were having success or were with successful programs. Bobby Hutchens has been a big help to them. They have good people. They started with a structure that worked well, that being the Hendrick chassis platform, the Hendrick engine platform. That was a smart move for them to continue that. Then they surrounded it with good people and that is why they are having success."
HOW IS THE DOUBLE FILE RESTART GOING TO CHANGE THE COMPLEXTION OF A RACE? "For the fans, I think the double file restart is great. For us, I think it is going to increase the workload quite a bit. A lot of guys complain about having to race the lapped cars but there is an advantage of doing that too. If you aren't quite as good as you need to be the first part of a run and you have the lapped cars next to you, you can kind of hold up the cars behind you a little bit until you car gets going. That's not going to be an option any more. It is going to put, as hectic as restarts are now, it is going to increase that two-fold because the people you are going to be racing are faster. The reason the cars are a lap down is generally because they were too slow to stay on the lead lap. Now you are going to be racing people that are fast and it is going to make it a lot harder. It is going to make it way more`competitive. It is just going to make it a lot harder. You are going to see bigger shifts late in the race from a guy running fifth to finishing 12th or a guy running 12th and finishing fifth. You are going to see with that I think because restarts are going to be really really aggressive. We double file start with everybody on the lead lap when we first start the race and 95% of the drivers understand that is the first lap of the race. You put all those same people in a situation where it is the last 10% of the race and it is going to change. It is going to be a lot more intense. For us it is going to be a lot harder. It is going to change strategy. Track position is going to be even more important. It is going to change a lot of things. It is certainly not going to make anything easier, I can tell you that."
WITH QUALIFYING RAINED OUT AND PROBABLY PRACTICE RAINED OUT, HOW DOES THAT AFFECT YOUR PREPARATION FOR SUNDAY? "Matt (Kenseth) has actually been qualifying pretty well for the last two years here. Historically, I would say we are pretty happy when it rains out qualifying. Again, like I said earlier, on the practice one of the big things this weekend is what line do you run in turn three? Do you run the bottom? Do you run the outside? The only way we are going to find out is to go find out. It would be nice to know that today rather than tomorrow because how you set your car up is going to have a lot to do with where you can run there. I don't know. It is the same for everybody. The teams that are the most prepared, the teams that are the most ready with have an advantage whenever there is rain."
ARE YOU SURPRISED AT HOW QUICKLY NASCAR MOVED TO MAKE THE RESTART RULE CHANGE? "I'm shocked that we are doing this this year. I have become very used to the shipliner analogy about how it is hard to turn a ship real quick. (LAUGHS) I have become pretty used to hearing that. I told someone at Charlotte that there was no way ever that we would do double file restarts in 2009 and believed that we would do it in the Nationwide and Truck Series and do it in Cup Series in 2010, I'm shocked that they made the decision and are doing It this year. I don't normally see them make big procedural changes like this in the middle of the year. I am not saying it is wrong, but it is very surprising."
DO YOU THINK NASCAR CONSIDERED DRIVER OPINIONS ON THIS CHANGE? "I think they considered opinions. I think the ultimately understand that they have to make the decisions but I think they considered opinions on this. The big thing about this rule, everything has a negative, everything has a positive, the question is, what is looming out there that we don't understand? Until you put it in action, it is hard to really know what is going to truly happen. Somewhere, somehow, there is going to be something that happens that everybody will go 'wow, we didn't expect that.' It always does. I think that thinking it through, maybe we have been thinking it through for 15 years, I don't know. But, thinking it through is the right thing to do. The whole wave around thing, the way I understand it, I don't think it is going to have that big of an impact but I may understand it incorrectly. People that stay out and get in front of the leaders are going to get the way around but if all the leaders have to pit, I don't understand why those people aren't going to have to pit too, You can stay out with 15-laps left of fuel and make that gamble and try and get the wave around, I don't know how much we are going to see that because if that person has to pit 15 laps later, he is in a bigger hole than he was before. So I am interested how to see how the wave around thing works. I will be honest, I don't know how it is going to change strategies. I just don't know. But you are going to certainly see some people willing to gamble to try and get the wave around but you can't pit after you get the wave around, so you wave around with 10 laps of fuel left in your car, I don't know how smart that is going to be. It is going to be a lot of strategy, to me it is going to be pretty interesting because none of us know what is going to happen."
IS NASCAR BEING FORCED TO LISTEN STRICTLY TO THE FANS NOW? "The fan's vote counts more than ours does. They didn't make double-file restarts because all the drivers said 'hey make double file restarts, they made double file restarts because all the drivers said 'yea, if the fans want to do it, do it.' You know what I mean? We don't get a vote, nor should we get a vote. This is strictly for the fans to make the race more exciting. As long as we understand it and there's not some crazy way you are sitting there running second having a chance to win and because of this procedure you no longer have that. As long as that doesn't happen, I think all the drivers will deal with it. It is truly for the fans, not for us."
DO YOU THINK WE ARE GOING TO SEE MORE CHANGES COMING MORE QUICKLY THAN NASCAR HAS TRADITIONALLY DONE? "I think you will see changes coming. I think that NASCAR is looking real hard at the entire sport, mainly the Cup Series. Looking at it saying how can we make it better. This economy, so there are so many options for people out there today for people to be entertained in a lot of different ways and when the economy is bad, the less people do of everything they do do less of. It has given NASCAR really an opportunity to look at themselves and say how can we do it better and what does that mean doing it better. Do the cars need to drive better? Do we need to have different procedures? What is it? What does doing it better mean? So I think you are going to see more changes coming because right now they are very open to trying to make improvements. And that is a good thing. We should always do that. We should always be willing to look at ourselves and figure out how to do it better. I don't think you will see something this big for a while, but I think you are going to see a lot of little things that impact the way the cars drive.
"I will tell you though, and I am not defending or trying to take a side or whatever, but the last seven weeks of racing have been pretty good. I've been pretty surprised about how much better the racing has been and how exciting it has been. Goodyear has brought a much better tire to those races or the races have been at night in the cooler air, we have had more grip and we have had better tires and the races have been pretty good. I don't that there is this major need as the perception that we have got to have better racing, if it is going to be the way it has been the last seven weeks. If it is going to be like it was in California, we have improvements to make. If it is going to be the way it has been the last seven weeks, we are pretty close. That is my opinion."
-credit: gm racing