JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed the crew changes at Richard Childress Racing, racing at Talladega, Darlington, the All-Star race and other topics. WHAT ARE YOUR ...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed the crew changes at Richard Childress Racing, racing at Talladega, Darlington, the All-Star race and other topics.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND OUTLOOK ABOUT RACING HERE AT TALLADEGA: "We put a lot of effort in to our superspeedway program. For a long time we were behind and our guys have really been working hard. Our engine, our chassis guys, our body guys, everybody has put a lot of effort in to it. This weekend they have done that again. We came home from Daytona after qualifying; we weren't real excited about what we had. So, everybody went to work again and built a lot of new stuff. We're trying again. This is a weekend that we hope to have good result because the effort has been unbelievable. All those guys that have worked so hard, I just want to have a result for them because they have put so much effort in. That is what we are looking forward to."
IS THERE ANY REASON YOU CAN THINK OF MARK MARTIN CAN'T WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "No reason at all. There is no reason that I can see that Mark is disadvantaged because of the age he is. I know there are people that would disagree with that. What matters if you are physically able, and he obviously is, and remember, he is probably more physically able than he has ever been. You guys don't know the agony he went through with his back for all those years. He's probably more fit and able to do this than he was 10 years ago, especially with his back problems. I think too that his perspective on things has helped him. I think that taking a step back and thinking that he didn't want to do it as badly as he really wanted to do it has really re-vitalized him and made him appreciate the opportunity he has. I don't see any reason that he couldn't win and win a lot."
WHAT IS WRONG AT RCR RIGHT NOW THAT FORCED THE CREW SWAP AND HOW WILL THE PROBLEMS ON THOSE TWO TEAMS AFFECT THE OTHER TWO TEAMS? "It has been my experience and I believe that it is the same thing today. We don't have one thing that we are really doing wrong. We have really smart crew chiefs. I believe that. I am not saying that because I am sitting in front of you. I believe that we have really smart crew chiefs. I believe that we have very smart people in our engineering department. We have very capable and smart people in every department that we have. We are not getting the most out of those departments for one or many reason. It is not from a lack of effort. It is not from a lack of knowledge or lack of desire or a lack of funding. It is a little bit in all areas. When you get a little behind, it is hard to catch up. I have been saying this for three years. We are a really really good race team, but we aren't a great race team. In an effort to propel ourselves to greatness, we have trying a lot of things. We have been experimenting with a lot of things. We have been willing to come to the race track and if something didn't work at least we were trying to be better and we haven't found the magic button. Why this is? If we knew why it was, we would have fixed it. It is not a lack of effort. It is not a lack of funding. It is not a lack of talent. It is not a lack of skill, desire. We aren't pushing the right buttons.
"You see it with every organization from time to time. Some less than others. But specifically, what is wrong. I can honestly look at you and tell you I don't believe that we have one glaring thing that is fundamentally incorrect. But, we need to get better in every single area that touches our race cars."
DOES THE FIRST RACE TALLADEGA COME AT A GOOD TIME IN THE SEASON? "I think this is a cool three weeks. I think at when you look at Phoenix, Talladega, Richmond, that is a cool three weeks. You are going to see good racing. You are going to see excitement. You are going to see stuff going on. I think it is a better three weeks than the first three weeks of our year just because of the race tracks. Mark (Martin) winning last week, those kinds of things are cool and get people fired up and want to pay attention. Being here, like I said, I just think these three weeks of racing are good weeks because you are going to see really good racing."
WHY WAS THIS CREW SHOP SO NECESSARY? "Well, it is certainly performance. You heard Richard (Childress) say what he said this morning, I wasn't here this morning so I don't know exactly what he said. His marriage analogy I think is pretty interesting, can't wait to see the letters he gets for that. It is about success. It is about having success. I'll tell you this. I wasn't part of this decision at all. I'm not saying I don't support it. But I wasn't part of this decision. There comes a time when you have to do something different. When you look around and say ok, what are we going to do different? Then you start trying to understand what is wrong first. You really need to understand what's wrong first. Unless you just want to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey and hope you hit something.
"Richard's view of it is we have talented crew chiefs. We have crew chiefs that are capable. We have shock people that are capable. We have team engineers that are capable, but we're not getting it done. So. He believes in his drivers. He believes in his people on the teams. So instead of cleaning house and bringing people in from the outside, why don't we try to mix it up on the inside first because in a weird sort of way, it really shows his belief in the people that he has. That he is willing to move people around in the company to make it better.
"From my perspective from the No. 31 team and looking at it from a selfish No. 31 team, I am excited about it because Kevin (Harvick) is going to be having a conversation with Gil (Martin) and he hasn't had a conversation with Gil in a long time as far as specifics as to what a car is doing. So that means we are going to have a different perspective than we have had because when Kevin and Todd (Berrier) are talking, there is this perspective. When Kevin and Gil are talking it is going to be a different perspective. Same with Casey (Mears). Now Todd is going to be listening to a different voice. He is going to have a different perspective. So those different perspectives may lead us where we need to be. Again, having said that, that only works if you have the right people and you have capable people. I will tell you that firmly believe that we have capable people.
"Gil Martin is a championship-caliber crew chief. Todd Berrier is a championship-caliber crew chief. I believe that in my heart. But, we're not having championship-caliber results so we need to mix things ups. It is all about performance.
HOW BIG IS THE ALL-STAR WEEK? "I'll tell you what, that is a big week for us from being the guy that goes to the shop and seeing all the people. There are a lot of people that come and hang out at the shop. Want to see what is going on. The more we can do around that week, the better. That works for a couple of reasons. As intense as it is, it is more of a relaxed weekend than it will be for the Coke 600 so drivers have more time to do things. The teams have more time to do things. It is a good week for us to celebrate the fans. That is why we have that race. That is a fan-driven race. It is what our sport is. Every sport needs an All-Star event. Our All-Star event I think is the best All-Star event period. End of story. Every other All-Star event the intensity goes down. Our All-Star event the intensity goes up. It is a complete opposite of what you see when you watch another sport's All-Star event. I think it is the best one going and I am not saying that just because I am in this sport. If you watch it then go watch an NBA event, it is a lot better. The intensity level is just so high, that is what makes it special."
ARE THERE DIFFERENCE IN THE ACTUAL RACING HERE AT TALLADEGA WITH THE CAR NOW VERSUS THE OLD CAR? "It is the same, but it is different. If that makes any difference. There are a lot of things that are so much the same. In the first race here with the Car of Tomorrow, it was crazy because everybody just got in the high line and just rode around for ¾ of the race. In every race since then, it has been three wide, four wide. You get big runs with the cars. In a lot of ways, the car isn't really all that different than the old car. But then you get yourself in some situations and it completely different.
"Watching the race may look the same, to me, when you watch them. But in the car, how you pull things off and how you try to pass somebody, the ability to bump draft has changed a lot. This is why we see it all the way around the race track now. Some of the things are different but honestly, for me, when I watch the race, they don't look much different at all."
WHAT IS THE HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE OF DARLINGTON? "No disrespect intended to any other race track, Daytona is the centerpiece of our sport. But Darlington is the most, to me, has the most historic meaning of anywhere we go. Darlington has changed. It is not the way it was 40 years-ago, thank God. But, it is the way it was 30 years ago. It still has that character. It still requires you as a driver to push hard, but penalizes you when you push too hard. You have to be precise. It is a track that people that like to drive race cars like to go to. Some of the race tracks we race on, you are a rider more than a driver. This track I don't care if you have the best car on the race track or the worse car on the race track, you can make a difference in the car.
"When I go there, I look at it as a huge challenge because I know that if I operate at 100% of my capability and my car's capability, we'll get the best we can, whatever that is. If I am at 97%, then we're not. That extra 3% at that place gets you something. By the way, it did for Cale Yarborough and it did for Richard Petty and it did for Bobby Allison and that generation that made it so we could do this. It is the same race track. I know the suites and all that is cool stuff, but to me going there is like stepping back in time and you don't have all that stuff, it is just a race track that was built around a pond that is the same way it was then. I think that has some special meaning to it."
-credit: gm racing