JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Pocono Raceway and discussed what it will take to get his first win at Pocono, recent comments made about racing at Pocono, what he would do to make the new car...
JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Pocono Raceway and discussed what it will take to get his first win at Pocono, recent comments made about racing at Pocono, what he would do to make the new car pass better and much more.
ON WHAT IT WILL TAKE TO GET HIS FIRST VICTORY AT POCONO. "It's one of those places where I always feel like we run well here, we certainly have never run well enough to get a win. There was a couple of times early in my career I thought we had a good chance and then I broke parts real late in the race. This is a really challenging race track, obviously everybody is going to come here and say the same things. The three corners are completely different from each other. It's a tremendous challenge to get your car to drive well in all three corners. With the car of tomorrow in particular, the bumps are more of an issue. We have a new grove in turn three because of some new pavement down there that's really changed the way that we run turn three. That's really made it really interesting. I think that's going to have a huge factor in the race because the fast grove is four or five lanes up from the bottom of the race track which means the bottom is always going to be open. The top seems to be the fastest so that's going to be interesting. That's a lot different. It's never been like that before. I think that's really going to have an impact on the race."
MARK MARTIN HAS BEEN SECOND HERE SIX TIMES, IS THERE MORE PAIN TO SOMETHING LIKE THAT THAN NOT WINNING AT ALL? "It's better than being third six times. It's one of those things that if you keep putting yourself in position to win the race you'll win them. You go back and look at Dale Earnhardt's Daytona 500 win it took him forever to do it but he kept putting himself in position over and over and over and if you keep finishing second, third, fourth you're gonna eventually get your wins. I don't know, I can't speak for Mark but I can speak for myself and when I come to Pocono I don't look at it and say well this is a place we almost have won a bunch of times. I look at it as what it Is, a place we haven't won and that means we need to find a way to do something better. I'm sure Mark would say the same thing."
THERE'S BEEN SOME NEGATIVE STUFF SAID LATELY ABOUT POCONO, DO YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS ON SOME OF THE RECENT COMMENTS MADE ABOUT COMING TO RACE HERE IN POCONO? "What were the comments? I don't want to comment on a comment unless I know the comment."
ON THE 500 MILE RACE AND POCONO HAVING TWO RACE DATES: "I don't know if a comment that is asking for a change is a negative comment. I've never said that we shouldn't be here twice and whoever has said that they must have a reason for saying that but I've never said that. I do support the fact that I think the quality of racing potentially could be better at 400 miles. What the heck, it would be worth trying it. We have two races here it would be worth making one of the races the 400-mile race and see what happened. We could always go back to 500. It helped the Rockingham race; it helped the Dover races. You know Darlington cut back. The 500-mile thing was almost a status symbol in the day. It was a track that had a 500-mile race. People have gone so far to call their races 500 but they're 500k's. I don't get the number, I think what matters is that the quality of racing is the best that is can possibly be and this is a track that has the potential to put on a better show at 400 miles. I think it would be worth a shot. I don't think the fans would be disappointed about that. It really doesn't matter what the teams think, it's really what the fans think. I think it would be worth a shot. If the fans didn't like it we could always go back to 500. I don't care if it's 800 I just want the race to be something that the fans have the most fun and the most excitement. When you have a track this big you tend to get the fields spread out a little more because the track is so big. I think it would be worth trying something different."
LOTS OF TALK AGAIN LAST WEEK ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO PASS. WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU COULD TO MAKE THIS CAR RACE BETTER? "Well it's interesting because the talk about not being able to pass, the aero-push term is not a new term. We've been hearing this for a long time. It is very difficult to pass with this car. It was very difficult to pass with the last car as well. Some of it is physics. Some of it is quite simply any time you're going the speed that you're going, there's less air so it's quite simple you're gonna have less air for your car to drive well on so it's harder to pass. My son at seven years old races quarter midgets and they race on a 1/20th-mile race track and the car in second will go faster than the car in first if they're equal and they're only going 35, 40 miles per hour. So some of it is just physics and what can we do to make it so we have less impact. From an aerodynamic standpoint, the only thing we can do is try to make the cars drive better overall so you have less of an impact when you lose down force. To do that there's a hundred ways to skin a cat, you could probably raise the splitter up a little bit, might help some. I think you could flatten the deck lid out, actually let some air get under the wing, I think that could help some. I don't know that it's a whole lot harder to pass today than it was two years ago. It is hard, but I'm not sure it's much harder."
WHAT KIND OF AN AFFECT DO YOU THINK THE ECONOMY IS HAVING ON NASCAR AND DO YOU THINK THE ECONOMY AFFECTS NASCAR MORE THAN IT DOES OTHER SPORTS? "I think every sport is impacted by it. At the end of the day sports are sports. When you have a sport that's created so fans can watch it and the economy is down it's going to impact it. Fuel prices are up, people are feeling pain at the pumps. People are feeling pain making their mortgage payment. People have to make choices and the more choices they have to make the less entertainment stuff they're able to do. The impact that we see has a great deal to do with what the fans can do. If our seats aren't full I don't think it's because the quality of show, I think it is just because of the cost of the whole weekend. I think next year we're going to see a reduction in the car count. We had a similar economic issue back in 2001, 2002, my dates are probably wrong but sometime in that time frame.
"We went to Daytona and there were only 43 cars, maybe 44, because you have less sponsors that are willing to write the check when the economy is down. So I think we're going to see the car count down next year, which doesn't concern me so much. The health of our sport isn't judged by the number of cars, it's really judged by the number of people watching it. We'll have less teams next year. I'm not aware of any really new sponsors coming in; that's an economic issue. The fans certainly, with the addition of the fuel price, ticket prices, food prices, lodging prices, it makes it harder for them to come to the events."
EVERYBODY SAYS 400 MILES WOULD BE A MORE COMPETITIVE RACE HERE, WHAT MAKES YOU SAY THAT ABOUT THIS TRACK? "That's a good question and a lot of people do say that, why do you say that. Because the track is so big and it takes so long to get around the track, if you're 2% off of somebody at a 50-second pace, how far are you off in time? If you're 2% off of somebody at a 20-second pace you're much closer in time. It's really simple, the bigger the track is, non-restrictor plate, the more variance you are going to see in speed from top to finish. If you put a 300-mile race you raise the intensity level up. The race gets the most intense at the end. The sooner you can start that intensity level up, the better the action. The more chances people take. The more things happen, not that I advocate wrecks, but cautions do create exciting racing. The more we can do to compact those things on a bigger race track the better opportunity for a high-quality race. Now we've seen some really good races here and we've seen some that are not so good as we have every race track. I just think that when you start looking at how big the track is, the bigger the track is the better opportunity for exciting racing with the shorter amount of racing. That's my opinion. I could be 100 percent wrong, which is why I said I think we ought to try it. If it were my show I'd say we're running a 350. What the heck you can always go back. Once you make a decision it's not like you can't back it up. It would be neat to see what would happen."
ON ADVANTAGES VERSES DISADVANTAGES OF BEING A VETERAN DRIVER VERSES A NEW DRIVER WHEN IT COMES TO SETTING THE CAR UP. "I think in some cases it's advantageous to be really ignorant and naive about your thought process. In other ways it's a huge disadvantage. Sometimes if you just don't know any better, there are times that a car can be doing stuff that a driver just can't get through although it still might make good lap time. I think the best drivers don't really care what it feels like as long as it will make grip. The only thing I can tell you is I have been at a point in my career where we had a lot of teams coming in and they were doing stuff that I wasn't able to be successful with, but the reason I wasn't able to be successful with it was because the way we were doing it wasn't working. When we learned how to do it then I had no problem doing it. So the question is were we not being able to do it because I had in my head what a car was supposed to feel like or was it because we didn't have it doing the right thing, that's tough to answer.
"What I try to do, this is something that teammates have changed the scope of what we do, I'll just go get one of my teammates and put them in my car. It's nothing for me to go to (Kevin) Harvick and say hey, come drive this thing because honestly the easiest thing to change on the car is the driver. If we're struggling and I can't get a handle on it and I have access to a really, really good race car driver that can roll over in my stuff and give me input, it's pretty stupid not to do that. Whenever I've done that, whether it be with Matt Kenseth or Mark Martin or with Kevin Harvick the results always come back the same. So at the end of the day I don't think it matters, it doesn't matter to me necessarily how the cars feels as long as it's fast, as long as it makes grip. I do know in messing with young drivers, my son at seven, my nephew whose 15 racing, they don't know any better. You can give them something that's completely screwed up and they just go try to make it work and there's something good about that. What's bad about that is sometimes you can't make it work. Sometimes they're trying to work on themselves to make themselves do something when in fact you got to be able to make the car do it. The best drivers can raise their hand and say look I've got to work on me or they got to raise their hand and say you got to fix the car. It's hard to say that's an advantage or disadvantage. I think it's a disadvantage when you let it be a disadvantage and it's an advantage when you make it an advantage."
HOW OFTEN IS IT THE DRIVER WHO CAN'T SAY I GOT TO WORK ON ME AND TOO OFTEN YOU SEE IT PUSHED BACK ON THE TEAM TRYING TO MAKE IT BETTER? "Drivers complain a lot. That's what we do. Immediately it always comes to the car. A lot of the conversations that go on in the trailers and go on face to face aren't as exposed as the driver coming on the radio saying the car won't do this and the car won't do that. When I come to a race track I think I know what to do. Until I prove myself wrong I'm pretty damn sure what to do. There are times that I prove myself wrong and now I got to go back and say I got to work on me. I can tell you that Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer are really good at saying I need to work on me. I'm not good at this track, I need to work on this and I need to work on that. But at the same time we still complain about the cars too. I don't know. It's a tough answer. I think it's very individual and I think its very case per case. That was a long answer for no answer."
HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO INSPECT THE PATCH AND DO ANY RESEARCH ON THAT AND WHAT DO YOU EXPECT OUT OF IT THIS WEEKEND? "It was here when we tested. That black asphalt has 15 to 20 percent more grip than what's on the bottom. It's really interesting. There's a lot of speed running in that new asphalt verses running on the bottom. I don't know what happened it looks like maybe somebody had fuel coming out of a blower truck or something and they had to go repair that. I don't know what happened but it looks like something like that. From what I saw in the test you're gonna be running up there in that grove which means that the bottom is going to be open all day long, but it is one-grove wide. It's like being at Darlington. There's no wall on the outside of it, it's like being at Darlington.
"If you try to run the bottom you are a good four or five tenths slower than if you run up there in that new asphalt. It's real smooth, but it's kind of like being at Darlington. You have to hit your marks perfectly. It's way faster than not being in it. It changes lanes, it's hard to stay in that black asphalt all the way around that corner and if you get out of it and if you get out of that asphalt on the outside of it is where all the tire buildup is. So getting off of Turn 3 you're on it and then when you transition off the corner to go out to the wall you have all this grip in your car and then when you get on the old asphalt you don't have that grip anymore."
-credit: gm racing