JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, MET WITH MEDIA MEMBERS AT THE ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY and talked about his busy week, going for three in a row in the Nationwide race, safety issues resulting from Jeff Gordon's accident last week and...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, MET WITH MEDIA MEMBERS AT THE ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY and talked about his busy week, going for three in a row in the Nationwide race, safety issues resulting from Jeff Gordon's accident last week and more.
ON GOING FROM VEGAS TO THE PHOENIX TEST THEN TO ATLANTA. "It has been a long week. Honestly it's been a long year. This is only the fourth race but with the testing schedule this winter then all the stuff we have been doing, it's been really hectic. I'm a little glad to get back to the race track. The weeks are pretty busy right now so I'm looking forward to this weekend. I thought Phoenix went okay, not great but okay. I thought we ran well last weekend. Looking forward to getting back on another 1.5-mile track. I think this is where every team has got to run well. There's so many of these races that if you don't run well you're in trouble and I'm looking forward to being able to test ourselves again."
ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT THE OIL TANK LID COMING OFF THE NO. 99 AT VEGAS AND IF HE BELIEVES IT CAUSED AN ADVANTAGE. "Taking the oil tank lid off of the oil tank is not something new. That's something that has gone on for a long time particularly at Daytona and Talladega qualifying. You know people used to take the shifter boots off; they take the oil tank cover off, that's not new. I can't tell you by any means exactly what happens when you take the oil tank off, oil tank lid off rather from a down force or drag perspective. In the past we do know that it added down force and it decreased drag. Those are two things that typically don't go together. Typically when you decrease drag, you decrease down force or when you increase down force you increase drag. Having said that, in no way do I believe is the 99 not going to run well this weekend because they have their oil tank lid taped down. It probably is an advantage.
"Is that why they won the race? I don't know. I honestly don't know. One thing that I have learned about these race cars is typically things don't fall off of cars that hurt the cars. That's one thing I've learned. Crew members don't typically leave a-frames loose, they typically don't leave brakes loose, gauges don't fall out of them. We have highly trained mechanics that have checklists but mistakes do happen. Mistakes do happen. I certainly don't know if they did it on purpose or not, or nor would I claim to. It did happen and I guess that's the end of the story."
ON HIS CONFIDENCE LEVEL OF GOING FOR HIS THIRD WIN IN A ROW IN THE NATIONWIDE RACE WITH HAVING TO RUN THE SPACER THIS YEAR. "It opens a lot of questions honestly. The spacer is, all it is essentially is a little restrictor plate, or a bigger restrictor plate. It definitely decreases straightaway speed but the corner speeds get much higher.
"We don't know what to expect, we're learning a lot now that we've run California and Vegas we're learning a lot with it. It has created some interesting racing. It's a lot different than it has been in the past with the way you have to drive the car. We can't use the set-up we've used here the last two years, we are going to have to be innovative and find a way to do it differently than the way we've been doing it hopefully with the same result. It has been a challenge. We didn't run very well at California, of course I got into the wall and that didn't help us any. At Vegas I thought we had the fastest car, but we had mechanical problems. It's a challenge, but our Nationwide team I've already paid in advance. Our Nationwide team is really strong and I feel pretty confident about what we can do."
DO YOU FEEL VETERANS HAVE AN ADVANTAGE OVER INEXPERIENCED DRIVERS WHEN IT COMES TO RUNNING FLAT OUT IN THE CORNERS IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES? "I don't know. It's difficult because I honestly don't know. I think what it favors is people who can adapt quickly; teams that can adapt quickly and teams that have used our testing the best. I drove straight into the wall at California, Kyle Busch drove straight into the wall at California, just because we were trying to find that edge. When you run so close to wide open, the edge you're way closer to it because in many cases when you have to come off the throttle and go back to the throttle, more than you do in a Nationwide car, it talks to you more. With the Nationwide car sometimes you're pointed in the wrong direction before you knew it because you have to be in the throttle so long.
"The best way I know how to describe it is it takes full commitment. When I say full commitment, in qualifying you have to drive into the corner expecting to run wide open which means when the car moves you haven't slowed it down any, so now the opportunity to catch the car is much less. Some people make the case and the claim the more wide open you can run the more it benefits the younger driver, the more it benefits the inexperienced driver. That might be the case if you can truly run wide open but we have not been anywhere yet that you can run wide open every lap. It's just you're on the throttle so long that the opportunity to catch the car is much less."
ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT THE EFFECTS OF HAVING YOUR CREW CHIEF SUSPENDED FROM COMPETITION AT THE RACE TRACK, DOES IT HURT A TEAM? "I think that depends on the team. It depends on what the crew chief's involvement is with the team. There is no prototype on this is the way a crew chief operates within a team, nor is it with coaches or anything else. The more involved the crew chief is with making decisions on a minute-to-minute basis from a technical stand point the more it impacts the team. In the 99's case, they are going to bring in two guys that are extremely experienced to help.
"Robbie Reiser can call a race as well as anybody in the business obviously and Chris Andrews has a tremendous amount of experience from a technical standpoint. The end result you never know, but it just depends. It depends on how the team is set up and what the structure is. Ultimately it probably doesn't help but in today's world with the technology we have access to, it's not the same penalty it was 10 years ago."
ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT JEFF GORDON'S ACCIDENT AT VEGAS AND IF THERE ARE ANY CONCERNS WITH A SIMILAR INCIDENT POTENTIALLY HAPPENING AT ATLANTA. "Without mincing words, last week's incident and how Jeff hit the wall in a word is inexcusable. I will give, and the race tracks deserve, a tremendous amount of credit to the investment they put into development of and installation of the safer barriers. They have worked extremely hard at making things safer for the fans, for the drivers, for pit crew members. There has been a tremendous effort to make things better. The thing that I've been saying for seven years, six years is that we can never be as safe as we can be. If we ever get to the point where we quit looking to be better we're going to quit being better and the wall last week is a good example of that. We know that a wall that is shaped like that is wrong. We know that. But yet it was still there. Our sport, NASCAR, our tracks have looked at things to make them better and the drivers and the teams have too. That's an example of all of us dropping the ball. We as drivers need to be willing to look at the walls and say that's potentially a problem. The race tracks need to do it and NASCAR needs to do it. So we had three groups that in my opinion drop the ball. That includes me. I put myself in that category and that's an inexcusable mistake. As seen by me, we had a fatality at California, you have to excuse me on the dates, 10, 11, nine years ago with Greg Moore hitting a wall that was shaped similar to the wall we had in Vegas and we have to be willing as a sport to change things immediately and never repeat the problem.
"When we don't let history teach us, then we're being hard-headed and that's what happened last week. The implementation of soft walls on the interior wall is something we have to move toward and the continued study of the shape and design and the impact angle of the wall is something we have to move forward with. This is something that is inexcusable to me. I can't tell you if there is a wall here at Atlanta that is wrong. One doesn't jump out, but I haven't looked. That's my fault. I should look. There are places that need work. There's a back straightaway at Charlotte, the inside wall needs work. Pocono is inexcusable with guardrails backed up by the state of Pennsylvania and also grass on the back straightaway that's inexcusable and it's been like that for years. Pocono has got to step up and fix that. We have to push to make ourselves better and again, I'm not blaming that wall on NASCAR, I'm not blaming it on Las Vegas Motor Speedway, I'm not blaming in on the drivers, I'm blaming it on all of us. We all three dropped the ball and that's the way I view it. I know some people will disagree with that.
"Some people will say the drivers shouldn't have to worry about it and I guess in a perfect world maybe that's the case, but if we're not going to take interest in our own safety then why should we expect anyone else to take interest as well. So I believe that we are part of the issue and we should be willing to help with that."
THE TRACK SAID THAT THEY GET THEIR DIRECTIONS FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA AND NASCAR, THEY DON'T MAKE THOSE DECISIONS. SO I GUESS THEY WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT THEIR OWN WALL, THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR INSTRUCTIONS FROM SOMEONE AS TO WHAT TO DO, DOES THAT MAKE ANY SENSE? "No. Honestly no. I think that when you own a facility, I don't care if it's a baseball field or a race track, you have to be willing to get information from the highest trained, smartest people in whatever you are doing without a doubt, but that doesn't give you a break from taking accountability. You have to be willing to look at your own race track and the property you own in order to make it as safe as possible if you want to own a race track. Is it logical to ask for advice -- there's no question. Is it a good idea to try to push yourself to make yourself better by getting educated advice -- there's no question. Does that mean you are able to say well that's his fault it's not my fault - that's passing the buck. That's not willing to stand up and say we own it; we take accountability. It's our responsibility to make it as safe as possible.
"That's my point when we're talking about making things better. We have to be willing to be accountable. We have to be willing to not let things get back not being safe. The answer, and I didn't hear that answer, but if an answer was well we didn't know, well then look. Did anybody watch the race from Kentucky last year with Jeff Fuller -- did anybody watch that race from the race track. Did anybody look at that and say can that happen at our race track. If it didn't, then that's inexcusable. And again, it goes to me too. I watched that race at Kentucky. I watched Greg Moore hit the wall at California. I've seen those things. That falls on my shoulders too. They own it; ultimately it's their responsibility. We as a community need to work together to make it the best we can. At the end of the day, it's their responsibility. If I build a race car to NASCAR's standards and I get hurt, do I blame that on NASCAR or do I look at it and say maybe I need to do better. How do you want to do this, do you want to do it 100% the right way or do you want to do it 80% the right way."
SHOULD THERE BE GRASS ADJACENT TO ANY RACING SURFACE? "We should never have grass in an area that's near a wall. I'm not opposed to grass in some places on the race track. We have not seen many cases where grass is a bad thing on the front straightaway like here. The grass on the back straightaway at Pocono is inexcusable. How many years ago did they pave off of turn four at Daytona. Remember how Daytona used to be, it had all that grass.
"How many years ago did Daytona pave and how many people has that prevented from hitting that wall. So there should never be grass adjacent to a wall, never. I'd assume there would be no grass on the front straightaway anywhere on a race track, in this case at least you have grass then asphalt. Given my choice, I don't think there should be any grass. I think there should be no grass because grass doesn't slow the cars down the way that asphalt does. I'm not sure that had an impact last week, as a matter of fact that was all asphalt but grass at a race track is not a good thing."
ON THE EQUALITY BETWEEN THE FOUR MANUFACTURERS IN THE CUP SERIES. b^0x001cI think that we're closer today with all of us having to run similar technology than we have ever been which means we will be closer today and how we can perform. I still believe at restrictor plate races that Chevy and Ford are not playing on the same level that the other two makes are. I believe that wholeheartedly, but I believe NASCAR has done a tremendous amount to make it fair. For the most part I think we've seen a great deal, it's hard to argue with the success level of different teams. I think it's pretty fair."
-credit: gm racing