JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET met with media and discussed RCR's progress this year, night racing and the track at Atlanta, making the Chase, and more. ON THE STRENGTH OF RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING IN 2010 "It's obviously been a good...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET met with media and discussed RCR's progress this year, night racing and the track at Atlanta, making the Chase, and more.
ON THE STRENGTH OF RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING IN 2010 "It's obviously been a good year for us. Kevin (Harvick) has capitalized and done a little better job than the other two teams. We've all run really well. So our goal is hopefully we can get out of there this weekend and move ourselves into the Chase and be able to go to Richmond and just go out there and race and have a good time. We were in that position a couple of years ago and that race at Richmond was so much fun. I was hoping to be able to come here (Atlanta) in that position and we missed it by a little bit at Bristol. But nonetheless, it's been a good year for us and hopefully we can leave here with that thing locked up and have a good race here. It's important for us to try to get back on our rhythm. We haven't run as well the last month as we did the prior (month) and it's important for us to get back on a rhythm."
THERE HAVE BEEN A NUMBER OF DRIVERS OVER THE YEARS THAT HAVE COME CLOSE TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP BUT HAVEN'T GOTTEN THERE. ULTIMATELY, WHAT IS THAT REASON? IS IT THE TALENT LEVEL OR WHAT'S GOING ON? "Man, it's early for that (laughter). Well, you are what your record says you are. And I believe there is a story behind your record. For me, I feel like there's been four years where I really had an honest shot and each one of those years is different circumstances where we weren't able to capitalize. Certainly I was involved in one of those years. I made some mistakes. It's different reasons. It's hard to look at a guy like Jimmie Johnson and say well he won four in a row because he's lucky. That's certainly not the case. He's exceptionally talented and with a talented group of people.
"When you can't have success, certainly your talent and the group of people you're with has an impact on that as well. It's hard to put your finger on it unless there are specific races and I think that's what it breaks down to is specifically what mistakes were made and specifically what happened. When I go back and look at my career to this point, I feel like I can pinpoint those things. Certainly there is a reason that some quarterbacks win big games and other ones don't. I haven't found a way to do that yet. It's been the biggest disappointment of my career not to be able to win a championship yet and it's the one thing that's out there looming that means a great deal to me to me to try to get done. It would be disappointing; it wouldn't ruin my life, but it would be disappointing for me to walk away from this without ever having won a championship."
YOU AND TEAMMATES KEVIN HARVICK AND CLINT BOWYER, HAVE SHARED A LOT OF INFORMATION TO GET EVERYTHING TURNED AROUND. IF ALL THREE OF YOU ARE IN THE CHASE, HOW DOES THAT FLOW OF INFORMATION CHANGE? "Luckily we have some experience at it. The three years that I've been in the Chase at RCR, in two of those all three of us were in it and in one of those it was Kevin and me. So, our company, our drivers, our crew chiefs all has experience with that situation. Honestly, nothing changes. If we're in that situation, the reason is because of working together and sharing information and being open and up front with each other and that would have to continue. If it didn't continue then in all honesty, whoever that didn't continue with would probably need to go work someplace else. If we can't bring the same level of cooperation and willingness to work together when the chips are down, that shows the quality of the person we're dealing with and that person needs to go somewhere else. We don't have that problem. We really don't have that problem. I'm not concerned about it in the least which is why I can make that statement. It was very clear to all our people that if we were going to beat Hendrick or Gibbs or Penske or all those teams, we have to be a team to do that. Now that's not to say that the No. 31 wants to be the team that brings the championship back to RCR in the worst way; we want that. But we're not going to do that by being destructive to the No. 29 (Harvick) and the No. 33 Bowyer). We're going to do that by trying to do a better job with the same information that they have. Any mindset other than that I think would be incorrect."
ON RACING AT NIGHT VERSUS IN THE DAYLIGHT "Typically what happens at night is that the track gains more grip. Historically in NASCAR, when the track gained more grip, the cars tended to be tighter. They didn't turn as well. I can't really say that's the case today. As the speed elevates with this car, a lot of times at night the car actually gets freer. So, the grip level goes up; speeds go up; you drive the car harder, but it does that for everybody. And honestly the biggest impact is waiting around all day to race. I think the fans like the night racing. I think the fans are more enthusiastic of night racing. For the drivers, I just don't think it's that's big of a deal other than you wait around an additional five or six hours waiting to go do it."
THERE SEEMS TO BE AN IMPRESSION OUT THERE THAT JIMMIE JOHNSON'S TEAM IS STRUGGLING RIGHT NOW IN A WAY THEY HAVEN'T STRUGGLED IN THE PAST FOUR SEASONS. DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT AND DO YOU THINK IT'S GOOD FOR THE SPORT? "I don't agree with that. We have a way of forgetting the way history really was. The No. 48 (Johnson) team hasn't come into the Chase; I can remember a few years ago we were talking about around Indy time; the No. 48 team might not make the Chase. The 48 team hasn't been the team that just dominated from the Daytona 500 to Homestead. They've had periods where we all, the media, the other teams, looked at it had said hey, they're not doing a very good job. So I don't believe it's any different. They've struggled more so in some years than others, for sure. They are a tough race team and they're going to be hard to beat. But I just think we tend to forget that great teams still go through struggles. And I've seen that team struggle but then still find a way to come out on top.
"I think if the No. 48 team wins the championship again this year, the one thing that we'll talk about is how the No. 48 is dominating the sport. We won't talk about that the No. 48 struggled in August, you know what I mean? So, end results are what matter and I think that's what the fans focus on."
ON THE TRACK SURFACE, IT'S BEEN 13 YEARS SINCE IT'S BEEN REPAVED. "Man, I made a comment here last year racing (while) in the race car during the race, 'Are you sure we're not in Rockingham?' The place was so slick. The speed fell off so much, which is why it's fun. The cars move around a lot here. There's a lot of rear movement in the car. It's a very, very difficult race track. This race track has a bigger personality split from qualifying to racing than anywhere we go. Qualifying is so fast, crazy fast. And then you get 20 laps into the race and you're like my god, you cannot believe how slow it gets. To me, that's what's fun about it. That's why you see, at this race track more than anywhere else, you'll see a car that was really running well and all of a sudden he's not running well anymore. And you'll see a car that wasn't running well and all of a sudden he is running well. Because the track is so slick, small changes make a big difference in how the car drives. But I think it's fun like that."
DENNY HAMLIN SAID THERE IS NOT NEARLY THE INCENTIVE TO WIN AT THESE LAST FEW RACES LIKE BRISTOL, ATLANTA, AND RICHMOND FOR THE GUYS WHO ARE ALREADY LOCKED INTO THE CHASE, OR PRETTY MUCH LOCKED IN, BECAUSE ALL THE POINTS GO BACK TO ZERO IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS ANYWAY. DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT? "Well, I agree with him that the most important thing at that point is winning. And if you can't win, then you don't go home feeling like okay, we didn't have a good day but we still finished eighth and we got points. You're more focused on that we didn't win. So I don't think the races don't mean anything; I think they actually mean a lot because 10 bonus points is a great thing to have. But certainly, you're more racing for the win. The way the points thing works, a lot of people think well, we go out and we try to finish eight to get eighth-place points. We try to finish first, and we're happy that we got eighth place points versus 20th place points. So when it no longer matters that you finished eighth versus winning, then you don't appreciate what eighth was. But I still think running well is very important. I think our game is a game of Lego. You just keep potting Lego block on top of the next one and you keep learning and learning and learning. The better you're running, the more you're applying what you're learning. And I think that makes it easier to run better the next week."
YOU HAVE ROOTS IN VIRGINIA. HEADING TO RICHMOND NEXT WEEK, DO YOU STILL GET THE SAME FEELING WHEN YOU WERE A ROOKIE RACING IN YOUR HOME STATE? IS RICHMOND A TOUGHER ANIMAL TO RUN THAN MAYBE MOST OF US REALIZE? "Well for me, Richmond and Martinsville are big races and my hometown races and I think they're two of the coolest races on the circuit. I raced Richmond in Late Models. I ran there in Nationwide cars and Cup cars. To me, it's a special race to go there and run well. Denny (Hamlin) grew up closer to Richmond than I did so it is truly a hometown race for him.
"But yeah, it is special to be able to race there in front of people that know you, not just as a race car driver but as a person. I think it's a cool race. It's a really difficult race track. It's a fun race track. It's a blast to run on.
"The thing about Richmond is that you never know is it going to be a multiple-groove track, or is it not? It's hard to figure out where to go. That's the biggest challenge about Richmond is corners are tight and it's a small short track, well it's a big short track but for our cars it's a small short track and it's really hard to get your car to turn there. It's hard to make forward grip. It's a challenging race track."
ON THE DAY TO NIGHT RACE QUESTION, GOING FORWARD THE ONLY RACE AT ATLANTA WILL BE A NIGHT RACE. DOES THAT CHANGE PAST NOTES FROM THIS TRACK? DO YOU HAVE TO ADJUST THAT NOW? "I think that any time there's a night race, anytime we practice during the day and race at night, we look really, really hard at what was different in practice versus what we had in the race. We try to apply that to the next race. When you go somewhere and you've never raced there at night and you have practiced during the day, that's a big challenge because you really don't know what's going to happen. The one thing we do know is the track is going to gain more grip. But what affect that has on your car you really don't know until you experience it. We can computer-model it and do all those things, but honestly, until you experience it you really don't know. So, it will be important for us to understand the difference between day and night and we will hopefully apply that well next year."
WHEN THIS SEASON IS SAID AND DONE, HAVING WORKED WITH SCOTT MILLER AND KNOWING THE AMOUNT OF CONTRIBUTION HE MADE TO YOU AS A CREW CHIEF, AND NOW IN HIS NEW ROLE, HOW MUCH WILL THAT HAVE AFFECTED THE THREE TEAMS BEING WHERE THEY NEED TO BE TO BE CONTENDERS FOR THE CHASE THIS SEASON? "Well, Scott's been an integral part of our new RCR. We're a different company than we were at this point last year. Scott has taken an upper management position and has done a good job with that and he'll guide the company in some directions we needed to go in. He's a great listener. One of the keys to Scott, and this was when we first started talking about this, one of the things I said to Richard is what Scott is is intelligent, he's smart, he's quick on his feet to think, and he's willing to listen to everybody. But on top of all that, he's an RCR guy. He has a true passion for RCR being at a high level. And that's a great attribute when you put that with his ability, those are great things. So, it's not surprised me that Scott's biggest advocate to this position, it hasn't surprised me he's done well. We set in motion a plan that we believed would have effects in 2011 and 2012 and 2013 much more than it had an effect in 2010. I think it's fair to say we had immediate effect and that's a good thing because I think our new program will benefit us more next year and the year after than it necessarily did this year. And Scott's foresight in a lot of that has been real important."
-source: gm racing