JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Atlanta, new spoilers, success of Jimmie Johnson and other topics. WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND COMPETITION-WISE THIS ...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Atlanta, new spoilers, success of Jimmie Johnson and other topics.
WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND COMPETITION-WISE THIS WEEKEND?
"That's a good question. This has been a really, really slick race track for a long time. Goodyear has brought a new tire. I think that's the big question for everybody. Is this tire going to be as much as an improvement as we had in Vegas and California? I think that's the big question. We really can't answer that until we get out there. That's the competition thing that's looming is how much more grip, if more grip; and what's the durability going to be like because this track has really gotten tough. That's the thing I've got on my mind."
THERE IS TALK ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THERE IS GOING TO BE A MARCH RACE IN THE NEXT YEAR OR TWO HERE IN ATLANTA. WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE MEMORIES ABOUT THIS TRACK, PARTICULARLY IN THE SPRING?
"(Kevin) Harvick winning right after Dale's (Earnhardt) death was a pretty dramatic moment. That was certainly an incredible thing through a bad situation to have that come around was probably one of the biggest things I've ever seen here. My worst memory is coming here second in points and missing the race. That was on the back straightaway, what's now the back straightaway and those garage areas and I can remember Saturday morning having to go out and try to qualify and lay a lap time down knowing that the track is always slow on the second day and it was going to be almost impossible to do. And every time I come through the tunnel I think of that. This track has always reminded me of that; not that it's a bad thing. It's a good grounder. But those two moments to me are pretty big."
AS A DRIVER, WHAT DO YOU WANT THE TIRES TO DO WHEN GOODYEAR MAKES A CHANGE? WHAT DO YOU HOPE THEY'LL ACCOMPLISH?
"That's a great question. Goodyear's hardest job to do is to figure out what makes the best racing. And when you have 40 drivers, you have 40 opinions. And so that's a really, really tough thing. For me, I like a tire that makes good grip, doesn't make crazy grip, but it keeps a fair amount of grip during the run. What I've seen is that the racing is better when the tire makes more grip. I told all you guys (the media) last year that the racing was going to be better this year because of the new tire that was coming. And I was right; just for the record (laughter). And so personally, that's really what it's about. I'd love to have a tire that falls off a great deal and we could use that as our advantage because every team and every driver says that worse the tires are then we're going to be better because we're better than everybody else. That's what you want to believe. But the reality of it is, the tires have to make reasonable grip. They have to keep a reasonable about of grip as the grip falls off, if you want to see a good race. So when I do a tire test, that's what I look for. I look for a tire that is durable and that makes good grip and a tire that will keep reasonable grip. It needs to fall off. It's going to have to fall off. But that falloff can't be huge. That's my opinion. But you'll have a lot of opinions on that."
HOW MUCH INFORMATION FROM PREVIOUS YEARS ARE YOU ABLE TO USE WITH NO TESTING? "Everybody is using simulation to setup cars now. Everybody is using and trying to combine good experience with technology and the technology today has the ability to change the grip level of the tire. I'm not telling any secrets, every team has it. Teams are trying to figure out the amount of grip the tire has, what is the amount of grip the track is going to have. In all fairness, it's a guess, it's a scientific guess, but it's a guess."
DO YOU EXPECT THE SPOILER TO REACT THE SAME WITH THE NEW CAR AS IT DID WITH THE OLD CAR? "The thing that this car has and I don't know how this impacts it, but the quarter panels are going to be longer, which is going to help keep side force. The greenhouse is a little bit bigger, I'm not real sure if that helps or hurts the side force. Those are things that when you're underneath a car and lose side force and lose down force. The wing in theory is more efficient in that area. I'm trying to tell you I don't know. I guess I could have just said that. Until we start racing them, we don't know. They're doing some things to try to help it by making the quarter panels longer, but I just don't know. I see people today, not to the same extent, but I see people today that can run up behind people and get the car lose, get the car out of the race track -- the wing has been pretty good about being underneath another guy. It's not as bad as I remember it being with the spoiler. The spoiler has some positives and it has some negatives. At the end of the day, what's the net going to end up being and I will just be frank, until we get out racing, I don't know."
DOES JIMMIE JOHNSON WINNING TWO RACES THUS FAR HURT THE HOPES IN THE GARAGE OF OTHER TEAMS BEATING HIM? "Well listen, here's the way I view it -- the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) car and has been the team to beat which makes them the team to beat. Their history, their success, speaks for itself. No one in the garage area is surprised that they have done what they've done at the beginning of the year. The question is who is going to knock them off. My approach to it and it hasn't been as successful as I would like it to be, but my approach to it is that I need to focus on the 48 just from the sense of learning, but the only way we can beat them is for us to do our job better. I can't control the way they do their job. I can control the way I do my job. The focus that I put to it, I'm around a lot of people, not just my team, but I'm around a lot of people that the last two weeks have just flipped out. 'How did he win that race, he's lucky, pisses me off.' I'm not that way, I'm honestly not. I look and it and I say they got a lucky break at Vegas and they took advantage of it. They made the right call and you can really look back and see that they didn't really have the best cars in those two races when it looked like they needed to have the best cars and they still found a way to win. I don't think that's luck, I think that's skill and they've done a hell of a job doing it. We just have to be better. My motivation isn't knocking them off; my motivation is us doing better. I think that's the only focus you can have. I don't race Jimmie with animosity; I don't race him with jealousy. I'm envious of him, no question, who wouldn't be? The only way I can do it is to go out and do it. To do that, we just have to focus on all the things that we have to focus on. The 48 isn't it, that's not what we have to focus on."
CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE FACT THAT JIMMIE JOHNSON'S NEXT WIN WILL BE HIS 50TH IN ONLY 300 CUP STARTS?: "(Jeff) Gordon is the first fastest so you've got two teammates that drive for Hendrick Motorsports that are the two fastest to get there -- that's a remarkable feat for the drivers, but it's, I don't know what a bigger word than remarkable, but it's more than that for Hendrick Motorsports. They have been the leaders, end of story. I respect them a great deal. I know there's probably a belief in here that the garage area has this animosity or negative energy about the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and Hendrick Motorsports in general. I just don't have that. I want it to be me and don't get me wrong, I'm not cheering for them, but I also respect a great deal of what they've done. It's unbelievable what they've been able to do when it's at a time where it's the most competitive that it's ever been. It truly is. He makes it look like its not. The 48 has made it look like its not the most competitive that it has ever been, but I've been here for a long time and it is the most competitive that it has ever been. That makes me hold them in even higher regard. The way they've been able to do it is extremely impressive."
DID YOU PURPOSELY SAY JIMMIE JOHNSON MAKES IT COMPETITIVE VERSUS THE 48 TEAM LATER IN YOUR COMMENTS?: "Yeah, because if we go win the race this weekend, I don't win the race, we win the race. It's a team effort. Race car drivers always try to put the little, it's always on the tip of their tongue, 'Well if I was driving that car, I'd be doing that too.' I'm not there and I'm not going there. I don't believe that. I believe that it's a team effort. Whether they have success this weekend or don't. Whether I have success this weekend or don't. It's because of us as a team and everybody has to pull their weight. I don't want to disparage the team's effort, Hendrick Motorsports effort, Chad Knaus' (48 crew chief) effort nor would I want to disparage Jimmie Johnson's. They have done it together and it's fair to say that I don't think they would have been as successful no being together. That also is not a disparaging remark. They're a great combination and they've done a great job."
-source: gm racing