JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed this weekend's race, Jeff Gordon as one of the sports greats, if he feels like he has had a successful year and more. ON THIS...
JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed this weekend's race, Jeff Gordon as one of the sports greats, if he feels like he has had a successful year and more.
ON THIS WEEKEND'S RACE. "This has been a good race track for me. It's also been a track where we've run really poorly. We've done both here. Ran pretty well here in the spring and of course lots different between now and then with our cars. That helps us out. Hopefully we can come here and have a good day. The last two weeks haven't gone really well. Ran really bad last week and I thought we were going to get lucky there for a little bit. We got our lap back late and ended up getting in a wreck. We just want to get back on our game. The last two weeks, late in both races we had things not go our way and we're a little disappointed about those things but we'll go again this week and see what we can make happen."
THE NO. 48 HAS A 183-POINT LEAD, WHY NOT COAST IF YOU'RE THEM? "Maybe they will. I'm not sure there has been a bigger point lead in the Chase format. Maybe they're now able after Atlanta to look at where they are in points and worry more about finishing than winning the race. I'm sure that Jimmie (Johnson) will be in mode to not do anything stupid. He doesn't have to force the issue. I heard Greg (Biffle) say there is a philosophy of not getting off your game and I think that's fair but you can be on your game but also just make sure you do the smart things. I'm sure they're in the position where they've had to look at that and I'm sure they're looking at what can they do differently to make sure they do protect. The best offense that I've ever seen played was prevent defense. When teams go to prevent defense it seems like a lot of points gets scored. We'll see what happens but I think they are in the position to be able to look at things differently."
LAST WEEK JEFF GORDON SAID HE WOULDN'T MIND GOING WINLESS IF IT MEANT IT WAS BUILDING TOWARD NEXT YEAR, ARE WE TO BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN JUST SAY THAT? "I do think it's important to be looking at where your team is and where it's heading. This sport, every sport, every business it's real important to be paying attention to where you're going. Unfortunately you can't ignore where you are. I think what Jeff is trying to say is it would be a whole lot worse if I continue to not be able to win verses building a team and building a structure that enables them to win. You have to understand that when you're in the midst of not having the success that you're used to how you handle that has a great deal to do with the success that you will have in the future. So I think Jeff is saying the right things and doing the right things in saying look we're not where we need to be, not winning is not good. So where they are they have to be looking into the future. They have to be trying to make improvements and I'm sure that's where all his focus is. The fact of the matter is when you start having to make changes and rebuild that isn't an acknowledgement that you aren't getting done what you need to get done. Jeff's not dumb and the facts are the facts. They haven't been able to win. That doesn't mean he's happy with it by any means but it does meant that it requires him to do some things differently."
LAST WEEK AFTER THE RACE JACK ROUSH WAS SAYING THAT THERE SHOULD BE A MULLIGAN AND YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO DROP YOUR WORST FINISH IN THE CHASE . . . "He didn't say that when Matt Kenseth won a championship."
SO I GUESS IT'S YOUR OPINION THAT SHOULDN'T BE? "We all want to change the rules when the rules don't work for us. When Matt Kenseth won the championship everybody said it was a boring championship race and I don't remember Jack saying well it was and it wasn't very good. The other team should have been allowed a mulligan because the No. 17 did better than everybody else. The rules are the rules and you have to make them work for you. I think there's always ways to look at our sport to make improvements. I just think we have to be careful. Every time we have a point championship that's not as compelling as one of the greatest, I think we have to caution against making changes. This World Series was just won in five games. It was a seven-game series or nine-game series, whatever the heck they do in baseball. It was so boring I couldn't watch it. Not every championship is going to be a five-point swing or a five-point difference, it's just not. And by the way this one is not over. I mean I understand it looks like it's an undoable thing for everybody. I mean how long have ya'll been hanging around this thing? Anything can happen. So let's don't write it off just yet."
EVERYBODY IS TALKING ABOUT THE CHASE ALL THE TIME, HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE CHASE DURING THE WEEK WHEN YOU'RE NOT AT THE RACE TRACK? "As long as we race for a championship, that's where the talk is going to be about. We determine who the best driver, best team, best organization is by who the champion is. That's what we do. By the way that's what they happen to do in football, baseball, basketball and everything else too. It is the dominating topic of conversation because it's how we determine who the best is. You constantly think about the Chase. You constantly think about making sure you're in the Chase, if you're not in one of those cars how to get there. If you are how to stay there once you get into it. It feels like a whole new year. Honestly the year is broken down into two segments -- regular season and post season. That's the way I feel about it. If you're goal is to win the championship and be the best team out there then you're constantly thinking about the Chase."
WOULD YOU GIVE US YOUR PERSPECTIVE OF WHAT JEFF GORDON HAS BEEN ABLE TO DO IN THIS SPORT OVER THE YEARS? "I told Jeff that he and I were the same with the exception of four championships, 50 wins and 70 poles other than that we've done everything the same (laughter). I think Jeff and this is going to sound silly, I think Jeff is one of the most underrated driver's out sport has ever seen. When we talk about the greats of our sport, his name doesn't seem to come up and I think that's because he didn't do it in the way that Dale Earnhardt did it. Dale just got him a handful of wheel and whatever happened to be around him got knocked out of the way. He just was real aggressive and won championships like that. Jeff's won championships much more finessed. But I think the facts are the facts and Jeff's ability to be successful in this sport for a long time, I think it kind of speaks for itself. I think that drivers that are in the era of another driver don't give that driver much respect. It's easy for me to sit here and say how great Richard Petty was because I never had to race against him and I think driver's have a hard time saying you know what that guy might be better than me. So people that are in an era they don't give the credit due. That's human nature but Jeff Gordon is one of the best that our sport has ever seen. Poles, laps led, what category is he not one of the best and I think that speaks for itself."
WHEN YOU HEAR PEOPLE DURING DRIVER INTRODUCTIONS BOOING JIMMIE JOHNSON, JUST KNOW ING HIM AROUND THE GARAGE AND THE WAY HE RACES ON THE RACE TRACK, DO YOU THINK IF PEOPLE REALLY KNEW HIM THEY WOULDN'T BOO HIM AS MUCH OR WOULD THEY BOO HIM MORE THAN EVER? ALSO IS HE THERE YET WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THE GREATS OF THE SPORT? "If he's able to win more championships and win more races and those kinds of things you certainly have to say that he is.
"One of the great things about sports is that you don't have to know somebody to cheer against them. The more good things I hear about teams that I don't like the most frustrating it becomes. I don't want to hear the good things about them because it's a whole lot more fun to pull against them. That's part of what sports is all about. If we don't have fans in the stands willing to boo people, then we have nothing. It takes passion and if you're a Mark Martin fan, well Jimmie Johnson is standing in the way of Mark Martin winning so if you're a Mark Martin fan why pull for Jimmie Johnson? That's what makes it work. That's why people buy t-shirts and that's why they come to the race because they want to see their man win. When somebody is preventing their man from winning, boo the hell out of them. That's what makes it work. I think Jimmie would say the same thing. When people boo you most of the time it's not a personal you didn't treat my mother correctly kind of a thing, it's I don't like you because I like that guy. That's really what it's about and that works."
HAS THIS BEEN A SUCCESSFUL SEASON FOR YOU? "I think it's been a successful season. We had two primary goals and these are really vague goals going into the year. First goal was to make the Chase and the second goal was obviously to win the championship, more importantly be in position going into Homestead with a chance to win the championship. Those were the two goals that we set out for us. The year is not over yet so I can't tell you how successful of a year it is. But I can tell you that I'm not disappointed in the year. I'm disappointed about some things in the year but I'm not disappointed at this point in what we've been able to do.
"Clearly winning the championship means it's a whole lot more successful and finishing third means it's a whole lot more successful than finishing ninth. I know we're all trying to get over the year here but we still have a lot of work to do. There's still three races left to go and a lot of stuff happens in three races. So I can't tell you how successful it is, it's not done yet. I really judge our deal as long as we're putting the effort in and we've got the right dedication and we're doing all those things correctly, then it turns into what are the results."
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT FOR A DRIVER TO COME INTO A NEW TEAM? RIGHT NOW WE'RE SEEING MORE DRIVERS WHO ARE SIGNING CONTRACT EXTENSIONS AS OPPOSED TO MOVEMENT, IS THAT THE ECONOMY OR IS THERE MORE TO IT? "I think a couple of things are happening. I think the economy has an impact on what the drivers are able to do and what car owners and other teams are offering. I believe the drivers can have an impact on teams fairly quickly assuming that the team they're going to they're welcomed. I know that sounds silly but there's some situations where a driver is named and the team doesn't embrace them. The driver has to embrace the team and the team has to embrace the driver, you have to be willing to go to battle together immediately. If you do then you can have an impact fairly quickly. Drivers are looking I think more so today than they were 10 years ago understanding there's a small window. It's much harder to build something up today than it was 15 years ago because if you're going to go do it better at Hendrick (Motorsports) you have to beat all four of those cars. Fifteen years ago if you were going to do it better than Robert Yates, they had one car. So it's a much bigger hill to climb today and I think drivers are looking more closely at what organization do I want to be with. That has a huge bearing on the decisions that are being made without a doubt."
BACK ON THE MULLIGAN SUBJECT, WHEN GREG (BIFFLE) WAS IN HERE BEFORE HE SAID LETS MAKE IT FAIR FOR EVERYBODY AND GET TALLADEGA OUT OF THE CHASE AND EVERYBODY GET A MULLIGAN, ANY AGREEMENT AT ALL? "I'm not sure I quite understood the Talladega mulligan, I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be rude I'm just trying to understand."
GET THAT RACE OUT OF THE CHASE SO IT'S FAIR FOR EVERYBODY BECAUSE THAT'S THE ONE UNKNOWN THAT ANYBODY CAN GET CAUGHT UP IN ANYTHING, THAT WAS GREG'S THINKING AT LEAST. "I don't by that theory. It is without a doubt the most volatile race in the Chase but so what. Some of it is luck there's no question about it. Some of Talladega has nothing to do with skill and a great deal to do with luck, there's no getting around that. It is what it is. I understand how you could have that feeling but it is the same for everybody."
IS YOUR BIG FEAR THAT THERE MAY BE A KNEE JERK REACTION TO CHANGE THE CHASE BECAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE THEY'VE MADE A CHANGE WITH THIS THING EVERY YEAR OR EVERY TWO YEARS? "I'm not concerned that's going to happen but I do understand there is a huge push for that to happen. The call the media was making was to reward the people who were winning races and doing the best and the argument was the old point system didn't do that. Well who could stand up and say that if the No. 48 goes on and wins the championship that the best team didn't win the championship? Who could stand up and make that argument? There's no one in here that could make that argument. I understand that there's some people who wear the No. 88 hat that might make that argument but the reality of it is if the No. 48 car wins this championship it's because they did it better than everybody else. Now, if we want to make a championship so that every single year you have a point battle that means the last race of the year is going to be a knock-down drag out the only way to do that is to eliminate teams. The same way you do the Super Bowl, the same way you do other things, there's two teams that have the same amount of points going into the last race of the year. That's the only way to do it. I think that's not the right thing to do but the only reason every year there is a Super Bowl that you know that one game means everything, the NCAA tournament that one game means everything is to have two teams, same amount of points playing for the last game. That's not to me how we judge a champion here. The media, the drivers, the car owners, sponsors, we can't every time something doesn't work for us turn around and say the system is wrong. This system rewards winning which is what all you guys wanted. All you guys said winning doesn't mean as much as it should. Well you got it. It rewards winning, it rewards running up front, it rewards leading laps, it does everything that you guys all thought was really cool. When somebody does it better than everybody else don't talk about how the point system is messed up, talk about how good they're doing. That's what the focus ought to be. That's my opinion. I think whatever the rules are the people who do the best job at it, that's the deserving champion. This whole thing about the point thing being wrong is ridiculous. It rewards winning, it reward finishing third over sixth, it does all those things but guess what when somebody does it better than everybody else it's going to be not as exciting as it could be if we did something like the NCAA tournament. I personally don't think that we want to do a system like that because I think that our system rewards consistency. We've narrowed that up to a 10-race session rather than 36. Listen man, if they go on to win this thing, then they've done it better than everybody else. That's the end of the story. That's what the story ought to be."
-credit: gm racing