JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with media members at Bristol Motor Speedway and talked about his thoughts on this weekend's race, Dale Jarrett, tires and much more. ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT RETURNING TO BRISTOL AND THE RACE...
JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with media members at Bristol Motor Speedway and talked about his thoughts on this weekend's race, Dale Jarrett, tires and much more.
ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT RETURNING TO BRISTOL AND THE RACE THIS WEEKEND. "The big thing still for us coming here is understanding the race track. Obviously the first race on this race track was the fall of last year and was quite a bit different than the original Bristol. Getting a handle on that, I heard Ryan (Newman) talking about the amount of time we had in the car. I'd like to believe that we are smarter with the car than we were when we were here last year but the big unknown is still the race track and how the race track has changed from sitting over the winter and those kind of things. Pretty excited about this weekend and trying to figure out the high line, the bottom which is the best. We saw here in the fall race, you know Kasey Kahne kind of dominated the first part of the race, he was running in the middle of the track. Some guys were fast on the bottom and some guys were fast way up on the top. I think there is a lot of potential of being an exciting race."
ON HIS BATTLE WITH KYLE BUSCH IN LAST YEAR'S RACE. "I remember it was close. That I had a shot on what would have been the white flag lap. Coming out of two he gave up the bottom and I had a shot at him but I was really loose on the bottom. Whenever I would get into that, there used to be bump off the bottom of two, and whenever I'd run into that bump my car would get really loose. The hole was there and I went in there but I couldn't save it and that was the race for us just not being able to get in there and stay there. It was fun. I thought it was a race that Kyle and I had got to know each other a little bit better. There's a little bit of a generation gap there. I think that Kyle probably looked at me as a little bit an old codger and I looked at him as a young driver that was full of himself and I think after that race we gained a lot of respect for each other. It started at Vegas with the Nationwide race, and I think that was good for him and I and our professional relationship."
ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT DALE JARRETT'S CAREER. "I'm much closer to that generation than I am the younger generation because that's who I worked really hard to immolate and to try to find a way to beat when I was coming into the thing. I think Dale is one of the under appreciated drivers in this sport, honestly. If you look at the number of wins he had, championship, poles all those kinds of things. When somebody says who's the best 20 drivers you never hear his name and I don't think that's fair. It took Dale longer to have success for one reason or another. If it was equipment, if it was Dale learning how to, I don't know what it was but for a while Dale didn't pop onto the scene. He didn't pop onto the scene and everybody say that guy can drive. He had to go earn it. You think about when he went to drive for Yates, you know people were saying he can't do it, he can't do it. Well come to find out he could do it and he persevered through that and I have a lot of respect for him for that.
"It's not easy when people around you are questioning what you really want to do if you can do it. You might believe in yourself, but if everybody else doesn't then it's hard to make it in. He's been strong, he's been tough, he's won a lot of races, and a championship and he's done it the right way. Dale's done it on the race track; he's been wonderful to race against. He races hard but he races fair. He's done it the right way. He's one of those guys like Mark Martin that you can look back and say that guy put a lot into it and it's hard to say a lot bad."
ON HIS THOUGHTS OF HOW WELL DALE JARRETT HAS ADAPTED TO HIS TELEVISION ROLE. "I think Dale does a really good job. I think that Dale mainly is comfortable. He is very familiar with what's going on on the race track, what's going on in the race car. He has a lifetime of knowledge and he articulates it well. He speaks in terms that are very easy to understand and he's himself. I think that's the main thing. We've seen over the last four or five years a great deal of drama being portrayed on television and Dale doesn't have to raise his voice, he doesn't have to change who he is to try to create, you know his job is to provide clarity of the situation, provide information to the viewer of the situation and he does a really good job about it. He reminds me a lot of what Troy Aikman does for FOX in football. Troy is really well versed in football, obviously he's been there, done that and he explains it in a way that the avid football fan doesn't get offended by and the casual fan can understand and I think that is exactly what Dale does. He speaks to everybody and I think that's really hard to do. Mainly he's himself and he's very good in front of people and he's seems real comfortable with it. He doesn't try to be something he's not."
ON WHETHER HE THINKS RCR HAS CAUGHT UP AND PASSED HENDRICK BASED ON THE FIRST FOUR RACES. "I don't think that we've passed Hendrick and I don't think, and by the way Hendrick has been the benchmark. But if we finished 12th in points and Hendrick finished 13th we are not happy with that. We've got to find a way to be better than everybody. We haven't tried to focus on Hendrick Motorsports, we haven't tried to focus on Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon or anybody in particular on that team, but they have been the benchmark. Our goal was to look internally to be better than who the best has been but also we have to be better than everybody if we want to reach our goals. I think some of it is situational. We try really early to draw conclusions about how well people are running, based on four races. There's a lot of racing left to go. There's gonna be teams that learn a lot and apply that better than others. There's gonna be teams, there's teams now that are over-achieving. We don't really know who they are. I feel like that we've gotten for the most part, what we've deserved. You know at Daytona we had a shot to win, obviously we didn't have the best car but we had put ourselves in position. California, you know we ran top seven, finished 12th because I got in the wall. Vegas I thought we got exactly what we deserved and I thought last weekend we got right at what we deserved. We haven't had a catastrophic day, we've gotten what we deserved and that hadn't been good enough. There's been four or five teams that have been better than that and we've got to find a way to be better."
ON HOW HE FEELS ABOUT HAVING AN OFF WEEK AFTER THE FIRST FIVE WEEKS, IS IT GOOD FOR HIM AFTER COMPILING A PRETTY GOOD START TO THE SEASON. "It's always a good time for an off weekend. I love what I do but I also like to step away from it. I like the way that this schedule does now. I didn't like when you run two races, a weekend off, two races, a weekend off. I always thought that was ridiculous. I'm much more comfortable with having five races. It gives the teams a little more chance to get into a flow, to understand a little more. I think the five week thing with a weekend off really works well for the beginning of the year. We've had three different style race tracks instead of five different style race tracks which I think helps the teams in preparations. I'm ready for an off weekend, not because I'm tired or anything just because I'm thinking it lets us step back and look at what we've done to asses where we need to be. The only thing better would be if we raced every five weeks and had a weekend off. Ya'll can work on that, start lobbying."
ON IF THERE IS AN INCREASED EMPHASIS ON PHYSICAL FITNESS WITH THE WAY IT APPEARS DRIVERS HAVE TO WRESTLE THE NEW CAR VERSES THE OLD CAR AND IF HE HAS HAD TO CHANGE HIS FITNESS ROUTINE. "I think it is true. I think that these cars to require more tension. You can't let your guard down, mentally. What happened to me at California, I was running the high line and I missed my mark by a foot and hit the wall. You've got to mentally be on it, you've got to physically be on it. I haven't changed my fitness program based on the COT. I changed my fitness program a couple of years ago based on needing to be better. But I haven't changed any particular for the COT. But I do believe that those that aren't physically fit, it will be a bigger deal this year. It's not hot yet. We've had cool weather, we've had good conditions as far weather goes. If we would have been in Atlanta and it July imagine how different that would have been. Fitness is going to be really important as the summer gets here with the car, there's no question."
ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT HAVING TWO TIRE COMPANIES IN THE SPORT AGAIN. "I heard Tony (Stewart) today comment about Goodyear having no competition and that is a fair point. When Goodyear doesn't have competition, and by the way this is something that I support, their emphasis turns to making safe tires, making tires that are reliable, making tires that are consistent. That's their emphasis. It's not how they drive and by the way that's okay. Last weekend was a bit too far to the extreme. It wasn't Goodyear's finest outing, there's no question. I have lived through the tire war and there was nothing positive that I could see from that. The only positive is that if one tire manufacturer has some sort of major financial issue or if they couldn't provide product, if you had a strike or something like that you would have something to fall back on.
"That as seen by me, was the only positive. When we had two manufacturers here we saw four cars on the lead lap at North Wilkesboro, I believe it was four cars on the lead lap at North Wilkesboro, we saw track records being broken, we really didn't see better racing. We saw more tire failures because the manufacturers were forced to put more emphasis on making the cars drive a certain way. I drove on Hoosiers. By no means is it my opinion that we would make Goodyear step up and do a better job if we had two manufacturers here. I'm in complete opposition of that. In order for Goodyear to do a better job, we have to find a way to integrate with the teams more. We have to find a way to let the people that do it every day, that spend their whole life on these race cars become more a part of the process. We don't know how to build tires, we have not a clue how to build tires. Goodyear does a really good job of that. Goodyear could benefit from using the teams more than we are actually able to do now. That's my opinion.
"Goodyear's done a lot of great things for our sport and moved this sport forward. They have a tough charge to have a 3500-pound race car going 200 mile an hour. It's tough; it's hard. It's not an easy thing to do. Do they do it right all the time, no they don't. By the way, we don't set them up right all the time either. So they have a tough challenge, it's very difficult. We need to find a way to integrate the teams, integrate the drivers more in an effort to make it better. The problem with that is now if they integrate Hendrick, then Hendrick has an advantage, if they integrate Roush, Roush has an advantage. We have to find a way to utilize tire testing better than we do now to ultimately have a tire that is number one, safer, that's the main thing and number two is a better driving car. But I'm the driver that goes to Goodyear every three or four weeks and says I don't care how they drive make them where they won't blow out. At the end of the day if I have to make a choice that's the one I'm going to choose every time. Can we do both, I don't know. But I do know that the teams are ones that can help move the ball forward and it's important for us to integrate that in an effort move forward."
-credit: gm racing