JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed Chase contenders, racing at Texas Motor Speedway and other topics. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT RACING AT TEXAS MOTOR...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed Chase contenders, racing at Texas Motor Speedway and other topics.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT RACING AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY?: "It's a fun race track. This is a really difficult race track -- the way the banking changes going into the corners here is really odd. It's a very unique race track and obviously you have the bumps at both ends of the race track that make a huge difference. There's a lot of challenges here, which is what makes it fun -- the fact that it is hard is what makes it fun in my opinion."
WOULD IT BE GOOD FOR THE SPORT IF SOMEONE OTHER THAN JIMMIE JOHNSON WINS THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR?: "I think most people want to see a different champion and I think that's just based on the fact that no one driver has all the fans. If Jimmie (Johnson) has 20 percent of the fans, that's an incredible stat considering all the other drivers, but that means there's 80 percent that don't want to see him win. So I think from that standpoint, I think that's what people are talking about is that the majority of the fans want to see someone else win. With the exception of maybe Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), I think the majority of the fans want to see anybody else win because it's not their guy. I think that's really what it boils down to.
"I think what Jimmie's done is incredible. It should be respected; it should be a lot of reverence for it to be honest because it's an incredible feat what they've been able to do and to be in the hunt again. I think I told you all last week, when Tiger (Woods) beats the field by 18, everybody watches. When he's down by four, nobody watches. It's an interesting phenomenon, but at the end of the day it's the majority of people who aren't a fan of anyone and they want to see somebody else win."
HOW DO YOU SEE THE FINAL THREE RACES PLAYING OUT FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP?: "I see the real possibility of it staying this close. For racing with all of them, you start looking and now you have three people that are really close and now you start to dissect how good they are at every race track. You can make a case that all three of them are really good at all three of the next three race tracks. They've all performed very, very well. We have three different style race tracks coming up that they've all performed well in all three styles. I think it could be really close. I don't know who you would pick, honestly looking at it. If I was an odds maker, I don't know who I would pick. I think it is truly an equal race."
WHAT DO YOU WORK ON THE FINAL THREE RACES?: "I think for us, this has been a fun year and it's been a really discouraging year all at the same time. For us, I want to see us be able to execute. We've run well, we're fifth or sixth in laps led, we were in that same area in number of races led. Our performance has been good -- not been great, but it's been good. Our average finish and running position is much higher than our average finishing position. That's why we're in the spot that we're in. For us, I want to see us continue to run well. That race, we led early in the year, we had a really fast car at Phoenix early in the year and last year we led a lot at Homestead. These are three races that we perform very well in last time we were at the race track. I want to see us be able to do that, but I want to see us get the finishes that we weren't able to get. For us, that's what the next three races are about."
HOW MUCH DO TEAMMATES HELP IN THESE FINAL THREE RACES?: "I think if you start letting people win, I think that's the extreme integrity issue. I think that for years people have let people lead laps and those kinds of things and those things will happen when possible. I hope we don't get to the point where people let people win races. I really hope we don't get there. I have a major problem with that.
"Let me tell you something, if I was second in points and I had a teammate win the race and had I won the race, I would have won the championship, honestly I wouldn't' want to win the championship in that regard. No matter what you think, you're always going to know that you probably shouldn't have won the championship. I just think there's a huge, huge integrity issue with that kind of thing."
DO YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE TO BE WITHIN 30 POINTS OF THE LEADER TO HAVE A CHANCE IN THE FINAL RACE OF THE YEAR?: "It improves your odds, there's no question about it. You guys have been around racing long enough to know that anything can happen. A guy can cut a tire, a guy can break a motor, a guy can make a mistake, could have a wrong pit stop at the wrong time -- all those things can happen and take a guy that had a 25 or 30 point lead or even a 70 point lead and now he doesn't have it. If someone goes out and maxes out with points with laps led and wins the race, that's a big swing in points right there compared to a guy that runs 12th. It certainly makes the odds better, but it's not inconceivable that a guy could go into Homestead 45, 50, 55 point back and still win the championship."
WOULD A TEAMMATE NOT RACE A CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDING TEAMMATE AS HARD FOR A RACE WIN?: "Kevin (Harvick) and I at Martinsville is a great example and I don't want to bring up a bad subject, but since then Kevin and I had a great chance to talk and Kevin in no way expected me to not race him for the win. He wasn't looking for me to let him go. He wasn't looking for me to not race him for the win. He wasn't looking for any of those things. I think there's a fine line -- I think that you will cut them a little bit of slack to make sure you don't cause them an incident. I think that you will see that, but I don't think you're going to see a lot of pulling over late in the race and giving a guy a spot because again, I just think there's an integrity issue. I think people will cut them slack and that's acceptable."
WHAT MAKES YOU SAY DENNY HAMLIN AND KEVIN HARVICK HAVE AS GOOD OF A CHANCE AT THE CHAMPIONSHIP AT JIMMIE JOHNSON?: "Because Jimmie (Johnson) winning the last four championships doesn't win him this one. His results over the last seven races and the upcoming three races will determine whether he wins or loses. The results of the other people are going to determine that. If past success guaranteed you future success then the same people would always win. You have to go out and earn it. You have to go out and do a better job than your competitors. Jimmie doesn't start this race with bonus points because he had four championships and the guys he's racing don't have any. This championship is going to be won based on what happened in the last seven races and the upcoming three races. Certainly he has a statistical advantage because he has four championships, but perhaps he doesn't have a realistic advantage is that makes any sense. I'm probably not saying that well, but again past success doesn't guarantee future success."
WHAT WOULD CONCERN YOU IF YOU WERE A CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER IN THE FINAL THREE RACES?: "The first thing is speed and that's an obvious statement. But with speed you are afforded mistakes. If you're not fast enough then every mistake that you make and some of them aren't big glaring mistakes and only the driver knows he made them. Every mistake is very, very hard to overcome. With speed, you can withstand a bad pit stop a little better because you can make it up. You can withstand a mistake by the driver on a restart. You can overcome things easier. So the very first thing that you have to have over the next three races for everybody is speed. Then from there, it's doing the right thing at the right time and that goes into the thousands of opportunities to do the right thing. From a driver's standpoint, it's making the right decisions and having the ability to follow through on those decisions and for the crew, it's the same thing. It's hard to pinpoint every little thing, but it all hinges on how fast your car can go. If you don't have the speed that you need then it's very difficult to mount a challenge to do all the things that you need to do."
DOES EXPERIENCE HELP THAT PROCESS?: "I want to think it helped and I want to believe that experience -- when you experience things, you learn from them and then you're able to apply what you learned. That's what I want to believe. If not, I'm in trouble. There's no question that Jimmie (Johnson) has the most success from a championship standpoint, race win standpoint and almost every parameter you can measure -- he has the most success of the three. But the other two are very confident people -- they believe in what they're doing, they have conviction in what they're doing. They're not the kind of people that you're going to easily push over. I think that's important. They have the mindset that's required. Kevin (Harvick) is very relaxed and I haven't been around Denny (Hamlin) much, but Kevin is very relaxed and enjoying the situation. Experience is a good thing, but a lot of it is attitude about where you think you are and where you think your team is."
IS IT HARD FOR CLINT BOWYER TO THINK ABOUT WHAT HE COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT THE PENALTY?: "I don't really think that he's (Clint Bowyer) raced differently. Clint's an aggressive racer and I think that was a heavy burden on their shoulders. Obviously at the end of the day, if you add 150 (points) to what Clint has now, that's where he would be. That's easy to say. I think that thing was a really difficult deal and it's hard to imagine and know what would have been the what-ifs and all of that. I think that from their standpoint, again it was an opportunity to learn something; it was an opportunity to be better going into next year. There's no question, I definitely think that Clint wanted to prove to everyone that they could win without cheating and I think that means a lot to Clint. Clint wants people to respect him, he doesn't want to be viewed as somebody that was cheating to win a race. That really offends him. I don't know if he's been racing differently or not, but I do know that it means a great deal to him that the people in this room and the people in that garage and the people in the stands don't believe that he's a cheater. To be able to win a race after all that and go through tech -- I think that means a lot to Clint."
DO THE DRIVERS LOOK FORWARD TO COMING TO TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY?: "There's a lot of energy to this race -- the fans really come out and support this race a great deal. From day one this has been a highly attended race. I think the drivers appreciate that and understand that it's a special thing. Every driver is different -- some drivers like some race tracks and some drivers don't like that same race track. It really depends on the individual and it depends on the situation they're in. This is a really odd time of year. There's people that just can't wait to get it over, there's people that don't want it to end, there's everything in between -- this is a really interesting time of year. I think all in all this is an enjoyable race track."
-source: gm racing