This Week's Caterpillar Chevrolet at Watkins Glen International ... Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 245 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built new in 2009 as a No. 07 racer, this machine was put through two...
This Week's Caterpillar Chevrolet at Watkins Glen International ... Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 245 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built new in 2009 as a No. 07 racer, this machine was put through two short track tests and then shelved before being converted to a road course No. 31 racer. It was put through its first competition at Infineon Raceway in June where the South Boston, Va., native finished 27th after being spun off course with less than five laps remaining.
Watkins Glen Details ... In 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at The Glen, Burton has posted two top-five and three top-10 finishes. His best finish of second came in August 2001. He has a 20.1 average starting position to go along with a 22.1 average finish and has led three different races for a total of 54 laps.
Last Time Around ... Burton found himself in an unfortunate racing incident just past the halfway mark in last year's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at Watkins Glen International that resulted in a 38th-place showing for the Cat Racing team. After returning to the race course following the final pit stop of the day in 30th, the veteran driver worked his way up to 24th with 28 laps remaining. But, while the Nos. 9 and 77 machines engaged in a spirited battle exiting the carousel turn, contact was made between the two cars that sent the No. 77 into the tire barrier before ricocheting back on course. Unfortunately, the spinning car landed in front of Burton and the No. 24 entry and, with no where to go, both slammed into the already battered machine. The No. 31 Chevy sustained heavy front-end damage and could not return to competition.
Five to Go ... The 21-time Sprint Cup Series winner currently sits fifth in the championship point standings with five races remaining in NASCAR's "Race to the Chase." The 12 Chase contenders are determined once the checkered flag waves at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday, September 11. Despite sitting 323 markers behind current point leader Kevin Harvick, Burton is 227 points forward of the Chase cutoff spot. Additionally, he is 46 markers in arrears to Jimmie Johnson in fourth and 63 points on the cuff of the top three.
Can you translate your driving style at Sonoma over to Watkins Glen?
"The tracks at Watkins Glen and Sonoma are comparable in the same way as Pocono and Indy are comparable. The tracks are different but the same. For people like me who don't have road course experience, I think there are similarities because the driving style is very similar. In some ways, technically, there is not a lot of information we use from one race to the other but from a driving standpoint it's the same."
Are there more passing zones at Watkins Glen than there are at Sonoma?
"I think there are more passing zones at The Glen. You have the front straightaway, the back straightaway and then you have the straightaway after the long chicane. So, I think there are three real passing zones and more opportunity for passing at the Glen than at Sonoma."
How do drivers, such as yourself that grew up learning to race on ovals, learn to drive a road course?
"When I first started, we had a Nationwide (Series) race at Watkins Glen. It was the first time they ever ran a Nationwide (Series) race there. We were getting prepared for that by going to Bondurant and went to school to try to learn how to heel-toe, which I never used. But, I learned the idea of it. After that, I went to two or three other things. But, the biggest thing that helped me though was when I went to Roush (Racing) and had a chance to go to Watkins Glen to test with Mark (Martin). That was the biggest thing I ever did because I was there on the same day and I was able to look at his data, talk to him and follow him around on the race track. That did more for me than anything, just practical experience."
Was your first road course race a big eye opener?
"It was a little bit, but it was fun and we ran pretty well. I thought 'wow, I did pretty well at this.' It was fun going to Watkins Glen for that matter. What is cool about our series is we have a variety of race tracks. And, even though a mile-and-a-half, as some people say, is a mile-and-a-half, every race track is different. There is no debating that road courses are different than ovals, but it is fun to mix things up and have a little variety and I think that why most people look forward to coming to road courses."
What did you think of the changes at Watkins Glen when you participated in the tire test earlier this year?
"I thought it was really cool. They did a really nice job. The only changes that will really make a difference in the racing is off that long right-hander, off turn five. The exit off that has been changed quite a bit. Because we had two big wrecks there last year, one of which I was in, I was glad to see them change that. They installed SAFER barriers and spent a lot of money and effort trying to make the racing safer. They should be applauded for that. That change doesn't put a single person in the grandstand - they don't get a dime back for that investment - and all those changes were made for one reason and that was safety. I think they made improvements for sure. The other change they made was they took the gravel traps out of the inner loop and that will have an impact on the race because that's less cautions. Every race, you're having to pull people out of and, this year, you're not going to have that so that's potential for less cautions, which impacts the race because of fuel mileage. At Watkins Glen, everyone tries to guess how many caution laps there's going to be and then work the race backwards. People try to get on pit road early so that's going to have a pretty major impact on the way the race is run, I think."
What has been the biggest turn around for RCR and how do you go about getting momentum for the Chase?
"For me, momentum is about how you run every single week. Momentum isn't something that comes from some force. Momentum comes because you are running well every week. You don't well this week just because you run last week. You might run well this week because of all the things you are doing to make your car go fast, the way you are driving it and the calls that are being made. So, for me, what I want us to get into is to really get into the rhythm of performing at a high level going into these last 15 races because for us to make the Chase, we have to do that. And, for us to win the championship, we have to do that. We have four months of racing left. That is an eternity in our sport. For the guys that travel every week and do this every week, it's a long time. There's a lot of stuff that goes on in four months. For us, it's a building process. We're at point A and we've run really well, but we need to be at point B, so how are we going to get there? That starts, in my eyes, this weekend."