NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES WEEKLY TOP 10 Behind the Hauler Chat with Jeff Burton JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS: What is your opinion of the level of competition this year? "There are a lot of good cars and it is...
NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES WEEKLY TOP 10
Behind the Hauler Chat with Jeff Burton
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS:
What is your opinion of the level of competition this year? "There are a lot of good cars and it is highly competitive. There is probably eight or ten cars that have a chance of winning, and qualifying is going to be really important with only 30 laps to get it done, and we are just on the edge of being close with fuel."
Which one, tires or the new track surface, would you says is your biggest challenge? "sThat is a tough question; I think that collectively, they are both a challenge. These tires are very difficult to get a hold of; they are a huge challenge. Although I think Goodyear did the right thing by bringing them here, the track is really smooth. I think that if we came here with a normal tire, we would definitely have problems. I am a huge proponent of this tire and even though it doesn't feel great, I think it is the right thing to do for safety."
With the smaller fuel cells, are you using this as kind of a test? "This and the 125's at Daytona are really the only chance that we can race before the next week. I think that we are able to do things that we wouldn't normally try, and it is important to come here and learn a lot. If you gave me a choice to win the All-Star Race or the 600, I am going to pick the 600 every time. We are here to do the very best that we can, but at the same time test new things and see if they can help us."
Do you think the smaller fuels cells are a good idea for a 600 mile race? "I think the smaller cells are a bit of an overreaction, but at the same time, if we are going to err, let's do it on the side of caution. With the new tires, as hard as they are, to get them to live on new asphalt has been tough, this fuel cell is the right thing to do. We have never had a tire of this compound before but I support NASCAR 100 percent on their decision. Had we gone in this direction in Atlanta or some of the other places that there were problems, we possiblly may have not had these problems."
How much has the track changed with all the activity that has been going on? "I think we will be able to answer that question much better after tomorrow night. The track has been very slick, very hot, but the more rubber that gets on the track, it tends to lose grip, so it will be interesting to see how this track will react."
Are the drivers that are in the Busch Series more sponsor driven than they have been in the past? "I think that the drivers want to do it, the sponsors can't make you do anything, I think that they have the desire to do it. I have heard every reason as to why drivers want to race in the Busch Series, such as, for the money, experience. I do it because I like to race, and I love how competitive everything is and it puts me in the rhythm for the year. Certainly you have to have sponsors to race, but having the driver and the owner raise their hand and say that they want to race, that's the first step."
Do you see more sponsors saying 'we want a cup guy' because it gives them more exposure? "Well, I think you're seeing that, I think you've seen it for years. I don't think that's a new thing. There are a lot of sponsors that enjoy the opportunity to work with a Cup driver on Saturday as well as on Sunday. It enables them to market their product with a Cup driver and a recognize name. Certainly that is a draw for the sponsors."
Will it make it tougher for Busch guys to break through? "I think it's tougher for Busch car owners. It's kind of hard to separate them but I don't have a lot of sympathy for the Busch drivers. Because if you look through the Cup field, the Cup field is littered with Busch drivers who have had the chance to run in the Cup Series because of the opportunity given to them for racing the Cup guys in the Busch races. For the Busch drivers it's a great thing. For the Busch car owners, I think there has to be some sort of concession given to them so they can be more competitive. Currently the Cup-oriented teams are dominating that series. I really think that NASCAR can look at some procedural thing to make it so that the Busch car owners have a way to be more competitive. One of the ideas I have is to give them an extra set of tires and if you're a Cup driver that's in the top 30 in points, bill us for it. Just take it out of our purse and give that set of tires to the Busch regulars and let them have another set of tires to practice on. With the tire rule - which I'm a huge proponent of - the negative of it is that you don't get a lot of practice. You really only get one set of tires to practice on. I think the Busch car owner teams would be much benefited by having another set of tires to work with, another set of tires to practice with as opposed to us who would only have one. That could help close the gap from a competition standpoint."
Kurt Busch gave a million dollars to Kyle Petty's camp today. How far could that go in changing some people's opinion of him or softening his image? "If Kurt's giving money to enhance his image he'll be sorely disappointed in the result. That's not a negative connotation on Kurt, that's just the reality. I respect Kurt a great deal for stepping up to the plate and doing something for any charity. You do those things because it's the right thing to do, not because it may benefit you in the public. I don't think Kurt's motivation was to improve his image. I think Kurt's motivation was to be able to look at himself and say 'hey, I'm doing a good thing. That's way more important than what your image is."
Is the Coca-Cola 600 too long? "We have a place for a 600-mile race. It is a tradition that is rich in heritage and rich in history; it carries with it a great deal of prestige to win it. I think it's important for a sport to have a longest race of the year and I think it's a great think. I think it's a bad thing to have a competition of how many race tracks can have long races. I think that's a bad thing. If you occasionally have a race that's too long it's a very unique situation. I think that adds to the schedule. I think that winning the Coca-Cola 600, being the longest race of the year, adds something that otherwise you wouldn't have. I'm a huge proponent of it and I do think that Pocono is too long and I think that the quality of the race would be benefited by cutting that back. I think that the fans would see a better race. There's always the fear of feeling like you're shorting the fans something. I don't think the fans care if it's a five-hour race or a four-hour race. I think what they want to see is a good race. I think that the quality of the race at Pocono would be much better if it were shorter. It's too long. As far as Martinsville, I think it is what it is and if you look at the amount of time that Martinsville takes I don't think it's excessive but Pocono is too long."
How was practicing on this tire? "It's not the best feeling tire in the world but I think NASCAR and Goodyear did the safest thing in bringing this tire. It's the safest bet that whenever you have a new surface, especially on a race track like this, whenever you bring a tire that's real aggressive you're going to have tire problems. With what we had going on at Atlanta earlier in the year and what we had going on at other race tracks and what we had here last year, to bring a tire that's very, very tough, it's no doubt the right thing to do."
Can you compare this to any other tire? "Well, you can, but the end result is that you have a situation that's much like when you go to a race track and it's old. There's not a lot of grip out there. If you threw away - if you didn't know it was new, and you weren't expecting all that grip, then it wouldn't be a big deal. The big difference, though, is you got to scrub your tires, stickers don't feel good, that is the big difference. As long as we have time to scuff our tires there's no big issue. The end result is really all that matters and I think the end result is that we'll see a better race, more cars in the race, more cars that can be competitive because of this tire."
What kind of race do you think we'll see tomorrow night? "You'll see a wild race just like you always did. I think the All-Star race has always been and always will be wild. Whatever tire you put on it and whatever track you run it at, that's the way it's going to be. It'll be the same tomorrow night."
How will you set up the car? "It's really hard - a lot of times we go places and we're really loose when we start. We want the car to be sideways, really loose. Because later on that's going to pay off. Here, you can't drive them loose. When you're real loose, with these tires, you can't make any time at all. With the small fuel cell, you'll have to pit pretty soon and you can't make it up. That strategy is different. I think you've got to be tight with this tire than a different one. It's going to be really interesting to see who puts on tires when. It will be really, really interesting. There's no evidence that to a certain point, new tires aren't better. And then you get to a certain point and new tires are better. That strategy I think will be very interesting and it's not clear to me which strategy is best right now. I think we'll learn an awful lot tomorrow night."
Is this just like any other weekend? "I think there's more question marks than normal. You can't simulate race conditions in practice. I think there's a lot of question marks going into the race and qualifying too. I think there's a lot of question marks about when you put tires on. I think there's more to figure out this week than normal. Most of that centers around the tires."
Is it all about the tires? "There's a point - if you had 40 laps on a set of tires and you let them sit overnight, they'd be faster than anything with 10 laps on them. But if you had 10 laps on a set and went and ran them to 40 laps, and you had 30 laps on a set and you ran them to 40 laps, the 10 lappers are going to run better. There's a trade-off with when you put tires on based on how many laps you had. I don't know that putting tires on with 10 laps to go is going to be the way to go; there's no way anyone is going to run the race on one set of tires."
I take it there's going to be a lot of thinking tomorrow night. "I think there's going to be a lot of guessing. You can call that thinking, but the guy that figures it out, the guy that does the best, we'll say he's thinking. Everybody else will be just guessing. But the reality of it is that there's an opinion on what's best based on our test and what we've seen today, some people will have guessed right and some people won't. When we start pitting tomorrow night, there's going to be a huge question then, 'am I doing the right thing."