Atlanta II: Burton - GM Top-10 interview

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS: ON WHAT TEAM NEEDS TO DO THIS WEEKEND TO MAKEUP POINTS LOST AT MARTINSVILLE: "We feel good coming to Atlanta. Obviously, last week (Martinsville) didn't work out...

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS:

ON WHAT TEAM NEEDS TO DO THIS WEEKEND TO MAKEUP POINTS LOST AT MARTINSVILLE: "We feel good coming to Atlanta. Obviously, last week (Martinsville) didn't work out the way we wanted it to. I think everyone has had trouble in the Chase, more so than anybody would have wanted to have probably. Last week was certainly disappointing and not what we were looking for. That is what happens in racing, nobody wanted it to happen but it did. We ran really well here (Atlanta Motor Speedway) in the spring, thought we had a top-five car all day. We had problems late and ended up not finishing where we should have. Nevertheless, our mile and a half program has been really good and we feel good about it."

ON PRESSURE INCREASING WITH TIGHT POINTS IN CHASE AND JUST FOUR RACES LEFT: "I think the pressure has affected more people, because more people have a chance to win a championship. I don't just any one single team is affected because more people have a chance but I think if there are seven or eight or nine teams that have a chance, everyone of those teams is feeling the pressure. If you 10th in points and you don't think you have a chance of winning, then your pressure level is different than a team that does think they have. For me personally, I haven't felt an increase in pressure just yet. I am sure if we can stay in the Chase, it will get there, but right now, I am pretty proud of myself, I still believe you race this thing one race at a time and you put every effort you can in to that race. Spending time, effort and energy about things you can't control is a complete waste of time. I feel pretty good about things, but as this sport goes, you have a lot of time to sit around and wait.

There is a week between each race and you have a lot of time to sit around and think about things you probably shouldn't be thinking about. The key is finding a way to get yourself back to thinking about what you should be thinking about, or, completely get away from it. That is not a bad option either."

ON RCR RESURGANCE: "Things are going really well. We are aggressively working right now to make sure they continue to go well. We did an awful lot of work to get to this point and we understand that our competition is doing a lot of work to take us from this point. We are working exceptionally hard on making sure we are prepared for next year. It feels good to be a part of it now. We have fought a lot of things that I feel good we have been able to overcome, but there is still a lot to fight. Where we go from here is a great reflection on what we did two months ago. In my opinion how we run next year will be a great reflection on what we do today."

HOW NARROW OF A MARGIN IS THE CHASE GOING TO COME DOWN TO? WHAT ARE THE KEY FACTORS FOR THE NEXT MONTH?: "I think the one key factor is running well. I just don't think you can win this championship without running well. We now have a four race championship with a lot of teams and chances are that one of those teams will find a way to go through these next four races without a major problem. It's my opinion to win this championship you're going to have to run well and put yourself in position to win races. You're going to have to gain points.

Where we are right now today, I don't think it's going to come down to a lot of people of having problems. I think the quality of these teams, several teams will put together a four race strategy with no major problems. It's my opinion to win it you're going to have to run well in these four races."

HOW DO YOU GET TO THAT POINT OF WHO RUNS THE BEST? ARE YOU HAVING TO DO THINGS THAT YOU WOULDN'T NORMALLY DO BECAUSE IT'S NOW A FOUR RACE CHASE?: "We're not in the position yet to change anything. That's not to say we're not in the position where we need to improve because it is, but we aren't in the position where we need to go try to push and make something happen nor are we in the position that we can just ride around and finish 20th and win this championship. So what we have to do is just focus on doing our job. At the end of the day, that's what I think it will come down to. I will look back on this championship and in my opinion this championship is going to be won or lost in these next four races.

Obviously every race pays the same amount of points. But it's really odd if you look at the top three in points right now; this was the same top three in points before the Chase started. They're in a little different order but it's still the three guys. Then the spread amongst the guys, we entered the point race 40 points back well now we're 40 some points back so it's almost like we wiped the slate clean. That's my feeling. We kind of wiped the slate clean and now we're starting over again. It's not zero to zero because 40 points is hard to make up but it's kind of like a zero-zero deal and the fourth quarter is getting ready to start. That's the way I feel about it."

DOES IT SURPRISE YOU AT ALL THAT AFTER CHARLOTTE YOU WERE UP 45 POINTS AND PEOPLE ASKED HOW CAN YOU LOSE THIS AND NOW YOU'RE DOWN 45 POINTS AND NOBODY IS REALLY TALKING ABOUT YOUR TEAM? "When I sat in the media center at Dover after winning the race and told you guys that this was a long race and 10 races is an eternity in this sport, that's what I was talking about. You can think you have everything going your way and then one race all that changed. I'm not surprised. I do find it humorous. In the same way with Jimmie Johnson, c'mon raise your hand, who didn't write Jimmie Johnson and those guys off? I read enough and listen enough to know that some of you guys are like 'It ain't going to happen. He can't get it done.' And Kasey Kahne too. Well guess what. This is a fast moving target. To be honest the only reason I know how far we are behind in points was because we were listening to the end of the race going home and they did a point run down. That's the only reason I know it. At the end of the day I just think you've got to go do your job but it is a moving target and that's what's fun about it.for you (laughs)."

ON MATT KENNSETH'S COMMENT ABOUT CHASE BEING SLOPPY AND MARK MARTIN RESPONSE: "I don't think like that, I try to be a realistic person. But I haven't spent my days thinking we have something bad coming to us. I have spent my days, trying to focus on the good things we can do. I don't believe the Racing Gods - If you are out there, Sorry - you have to cover your butt, right? (LAUGHS) That was kind of funny.

I don't believe in a lot of that stuff. You just have to race every race, you know what I mean and I know you guys get tired of me saying that. In retrospect, like I said a little while ago, I feel like because we blew an engine, the slate was wiped clean. Like I told you after Charlotte, the reason our engine blowing up last weekend (Martinsville), the reason that wiped the slate clean was because other people had had more problems than we have had.

So, they opened the door for us, we didn't slam it on them. It was a missed opportunity and for that I am truly upset about as is everyone at RCR. At the same time, that is racing and stuff happens. By no means did I go in to Martinsville nor did I go in to Charlotte thinking 'Oh, my gawd, we have a bad one coming.' By no means did I think that.

As far as the Chase, there is no question the closer it is the more exciting it is for the fans, I mean, there is not question about that. And also, there is no question this has been a sloppy five or six races. No one team has taken this thing and grabbed, it is mine. We were doing a pretty good job of that but no we are not, now we didn't. It is not that the teams haven't run well enough - if you look how the No. 48 has run, if you look at how the No. 24 has run, if you look at how we have run, I mean, the No. 9 car. Teams have done their best to grab it, but circumstances haven't allowed them to do that and keep it. So, I agree with both of them. I think that Matt is right, it has been sloppy, no one has put together a run like the previous two champions in this format have put together. No one has done that. That is why I believe the championship is going to be won over the next four races. Someone will. Someone will."

ON HAVING UP TO 51 POSSIBLE SPONSORED TEAMS AND IF THERE'S ANYTHING THAT CAN BE DONE TO MAKE THINGS MORE AMENABLE TO THESE PEOPLE OR IF IT IS SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST: "I'm nervous about this. I'm nervous about having manufacturers, sponsors, millions and millions of dollars put into this program for marketing reasons without the product on the race track and that's going to happen to major teams and major corporations. In the long run, I don't think that's good for our sport. I do believe that there is a survival of the fittest mentality in this sport that has worked for a long time. In today's economy and today's competitive nature, I believe there needs to be some changes. I don't believe that it is in our sport's best interest, being that without corporate involvement we are nothing. We can't even come close to running our programs on the purse. It's not even a thought. It's NASCAR's charge to find a way to make that work for everybody. In today's economy and today's marketing situation that we have, the current program with locking in the top 35 is the best we've ever had but it's time to find a way to do it better yet again.

This is what I honestly believe in my heart. I believe that a franchise system, and I hate to use the word franchise but some sort of a franchise system, is the right thing to do for the investment of the car owners and primarily the investment of the sponsors. On the same token, if you pull a Florida Marlins you win the World Series and then you dump everybody, there ought to be a way you can lose your franchise. You shouldn't be able to operate with a continuing losing record. You should not be able to keep your franchise without putting a competitive team on the court. You should not be able to do that. There should be some sort of if you can't do this for a certain amount of time your franchise becomes available for sale. But I believe that we are to the point where our car owners have so much invested and our sponsors have so much invested that we've got to find a way to protect them. Again the top 35 thing works exceptionally well but in next year's environment it's not good enough.

Well I don't know. It may be my problem in the future but I don't have to have the answer to fix it and I haven't spent a whole lot of time thinking about it. I think it should be a moving target. I think the amount of cars you lock in on points should be dependent on how many full time sponsors and (how many) well equipped teams do we have in this sport. It shouldn't always be 35. If the economy takes a down hill spiral and we end up with a different situation and you want a more competitive nature, fine back it down. But what we've got going on for next year is an extremely, extremely scary situation for car owners and sponsors. I know you guys think if you're not in the top 35 in points you don't deserve to be the in race. Think about this for a minute. How many good teams go to the eighth race of the year 39th in points because of having problems that other sports aren't exposed to. Other sports aren't exposed to the variables that we have that allow you to be knocked down to 39th in points. That to me that is the biggest impact that Toyota coming in has brought upon us, is that when they came in they didn't take old race teams and convert them. Essentially with the exception of Davis, it's all new race teams. We're going to have more cars than we have spots by a large numbers and all those teams are going to be well funded and well equipped and it's not in the best interest of our sport."

ON THE DIAGNOSTIC ON YOUR ENGINE FROM LAST WEEKEND AND THE STATISTICS SHOWING THAT WE COULD LIKELY SEE THE SAME THING FROM SOMEBODY IN ATLANTA: "There was a continuing evaluation going on with the engine program as far as what happened to our engine at Martinsville. It appears that we broke a valve spring and then it went downhill from there. We believe we know why that engine broke a valve spring and the other three didn't. I honestly don't know what I'm supposed to say and what I'm not supposed to say about that so I'm just going to say nothing. Other than to tell you I'm not lying. I'm just telling you I don't know what to tell you so I'm not going to tell you anything. Richard (Childress) is in my trailer right now. You're welcome to go over there and ask him because I know he loves talking to y'all especially after an engine breaks. We think it broke it a valve spring and why it did that is up to conversation.

Engines in Atlanta are obviously an issue and have been an issue for a long time. We don't come here with a different package than what we had. At Charlotte we did have a different package. At Martinsville, because Martinsville is different than Charlotte, we had four engines in the race and one of them broke and it happened to be ours. But we don't come here changing anything that we're doing based on what happened in Martinsville because we believe what happened there is a Martinsville specific problem, not an Atlanta problem. That's not to say we won't break an engine here but we don't anticipate any problems. Of course we didn't anticipate problems in Martinsville either. That's the really difficult business of trying to develop every horsepower you can and also make it reliable and I have all the confidence in the world that my guys did the very best they could and we just pushed it a little harder than we should of and it just didn't work out for us."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne