JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at Bristol, veterans and the Saturday Night Special, the progress of Clint Bowyer's newly-formed team, his guest appearance on General Hospital, and more. ON DEFENDING...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at Bristol, veterans and the Saturday Night Special, the progress of Clint Bowyer's newly-formed team, his guest appearance on General Hospital, and more.
ON DEFENDING HIS TITLE AT BRISTOL "This is a track where we've been real comfortable at and we've run real well here. It's one of those tracks too where it's real easy to get a poor finish. Everybody knows that. A lot happens here. We're excited about being here. It's always a fun race and we're looking forward to it."
HOW HAS CLINT BOWYER MADE HIS NEW TEAM MADE THING HAPPEN SO QUICKLY? "They've done a great job. It's been fun to watch. We insisted that (crew chief) Shane Wilson because we believe a great deal in his ability. Obviously Clint is extremely talented and they've come out of the gate with a point to prove and I think a lot of people thought they were going to be in trouble and weren't going to be able to be successful. I think that motivated them some. Shane's done a really nice job of understanding these cars pretty quickly, which is a difficult thing to do. These cars will push you and challenge you. Sometimes a fresh approach is a good idea too. It's been good for Shane because he's been able to pick the good and the bad out of each of the other teams. If you watch them during the weekend, they steadily get better all during the weekend and that's the sign of a good race team. I'm not surprised that they are being successful. They are two talented guys. And that team has a lot of talented people on it too. It's a new team but it's a lot of people that have a lot of experience. There are a lot of people that don't have a lot of Cup experience. But a lot of people there understand how RCR works and it was well put together from the beginning."
F1 DECIDED THEY ARE GOING TO DETERMINE THEIR CHAMPION BASED ON RACE WINNERS ONLY. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT AND WOULD IT WORK IN NASCAR? "Well, anything will work. However the sanctioning body determines that's the champion, then that's the champion. I'm not a real big fan of that because I think if you won seven races and fell out of seven races, perhaps you're not the best team. I'm not 100 percent sure what I think about that. It's a notion that's been kicked around here for a long time. This guy won the most races but he didn't win the championship. I like the fact that you have to show consistency. You have to be a consistent front-runner. You do those things on a consistent basis, especially in a series where you run 36 or 38 races. The more races you run, the more important that becomes. If you have a 10-race schedule, then I think that changes things. When you look at how that series is, it's a marathon. The races are marathons. There are lot of things that are different between our form of racing. As the sport goes, we run some of the longest races in the longest year compared to other forms of Motorsports. So that means you need a different type of points system. I believe consistency matters."
WHAT'S YOUR MINDSET GOING INTO THE FIRST SHORT TRACK RACE OF THE SEASON? "I think it's important to put yourself in this mentality quickly. It's a point to remember that you're now going to be door-to-door. You're going to be bumper-to-bumper. You're going to have to race differently here than you've been racing. I think it's very important to recognize that and to understand that this is the first short track of the year. It's going to be run differently. It's fun. You go into it looking to have fun and knowing you're going to be full of emotion and knowing you're going to be upset with somebody and knowing you're going to have people upset with you and you have to understand that going in. I like to say that if no one every causes the wrecks, the wrecks never happen. The first order of business is to run well and the second is to just not cause a wreck. That goes a long way to being successful here."
ON THE SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL WITH THE LEGENDS, WOULD A SENIOR TOUR WORK WITH NASCAR AND IF SO, WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN IT? "I'm only 41 years old (laughter). You're trying to retire me here! I think it's awesome to see the people that help make the sport what it is today, out there doing what I assume they still would like to do. Whether that could be something that's successful on a weekly basis or every three months or something, I don't know. I do know I think there is something really special about doing it every now and then. If you did it all the time it wouldn't have the impact versus doing it occasionally. I think it's really cool. When I first heard about it, I was real interested to see who was in it. Jack Ingram is in it and to me, that's the coolest thing in the world. I'm real excited to watch it and I think it's really good for the sport. I told somebody Jack Ingram was in it and he said, 'the country music singer?' (laughter). And disappointing that somebody I consider to be a major race fan when I said Jack Ingram, he didn't immediately know who I was talking about. I think that by them doing what they're doing on Saturday, it will introduce people to someone that they didn't know who it was. It's unbelievable what he did in the Busch Series, now the Nationwide Series. He's a huge part of making that program what it is. There are a lot of people who don't know who he is. They will know who he is after Saturday and I think that's cool."
IN THE WAY DISTANT FUTURE, WOULD YOU CONSIDER PARTICIPATING? "I've learned not to talk about my way distant future cause you'll hold me to that in the way distant future (laughter)."
AFTER YOUR GENERAL HOSPITAL PERFORMANCE ON WEDNESDAY, HAS THE PHONE BEEN RINGING OFF THE HOOK? "Oh, you know, I can't beat them off with a stick. I didn't see it."
IN REAL LIFE, HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU BEEN TOLD IN A BAR THAT YOU DON'T KNOW A DAMN THING ABOUT RACING? "I've been told that a lot of times in my life, believe it or not. Actually, I got a text last night that said you don't know a damn thing about racing. I said, I know that. The cool thing about it is how many people watch soap operas that maybe don't watch racing. I've done a lot of interviews with people we have never done interviews with before, I can assure you of that. And it was cool because it exposes our sport to people who have not been exposed to it before. For that, I think it was a lot of fun and I'm glad I did it, even if I wasn't good, which seems to be what you're indicating (laughter)."
WELL, THE GUY IN THE SCENE WAS DISRESPECTFUL OF YOU "Yes, when you go into a bar in the middle of the day, you can expect that someone might disrespect you (laughter). It just comes with the territory. It's part of the deal."
THIS IS THE FOURTH TIME BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY HAS BEEN RECONFIGURED. HOW HAS THE STRATEGY CHANGED COMPARED TO WHAT IT WAS IN THE PAST? "I don't think the strategy has changed. It's still extremely difficult to pass here. It's still a track position game. When I think of the new surface, it's different, but I don't think of it as being completely different. For the drivers, we have some options we didn't have before. You see some people running a little different line. You see people running higher. I think that will continue to get even higher and higher as the track gets age on it. But what it takes to win here hasn't changed. The center of the corner and the exit of the corner, there's so much speed there, that's where you have to be good. You have to have track position. Unless something odd happens, with 20 laps to go and running 12th, you're not going to win this race. Track position is huge. It's hard to pass. Pit stops are hugely important. It's easy to cause a wreck. It's easy to get into a wreck. All that's Bristol. What is appears to me, and I'm sure people will disagree with me on this, but the racing is better at Bristol than it used to be. The wrecking isn't. If you like racing, this is a better facility. If you like wrecking, then the old facility is probably better. I watched the spring race from this race track this morning, actually, and it was a great race. I'm a bit fan of it. I think it's way better than it was. But the strategy hasn't changed."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE AIG BONUSES? "Are you serious? Well I think that Congress screwed up. And it sure would be nice to have somebody stand up and say you know what, 'I screwed up. I supported sending tax dollars to a company to bail them out and didn't put any stipulations in there'. It sure would be nice if somebody would stand up and say that. And the people at AIG ought to have enough sense not to take the bonus. But the people that gave the money to them should have enough sense not to do that. Congress is ripping all the lenders for screwing the country up. Guess what they are? They're a lender that screwed that up. So how are they any different? It sure would be nice to have one of them stand up and say, 'You know what, we should have done something differently,' rather than just point the finger at each another. There. I feel better now (laughter)."
THE OBVIOUS GOAL FOR TEAMS EVERY WEEK IS TO CONTINUE TO GET BETTER. EVEN IF YOU'RE WINNING, YOU WANT TO IMPROVE. FROM A PERSONAL STANDPOINT, DO YOU TRY TO CONTINUE TO IMPROVE ON YOUR ABILITIES BEHIND THE WHEEL? "Obviously, anybody you're going to ask that question to is going to say yes. You have to be analytical. You have to look at yourself and say how can I be better. Every driver that's in the garage will tell you they're better today than they were two years ago. And they're not better because they didn't try to be better; you have to put effort into it. Everybody finds a different way to do that. I think it's important. Things change. When you have to adjust your driving style to things and when you do that, you're trying to improve. So there is no question you're always trying to improve. If you come into a sport or any kind of job or any kind of hobby or whatever you're doing, if you don't improve from the time you start to the time you finish, then you didn't put much effort into it; or, you just weren't capable of improving. If you're going to compete at this level; if you can't improve over your career, and over a year, you will not have long-term success, I can guarantee you that."
CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED FINISH OF LAST YEAR'S RACE? "I felt like we had a reasonable chance because we had put on tires and that has proved to be a pretty good move here. I had Harvick in front of me with tires as well and I knew that I was going to have to get around Harvick and I knew it wasn't going to be easy. And then the floodgates opened. And I've lost races like that (when) you think you've got everything in hand and it falls apart. And on that weekend, we won it. So, the lesson from that is put yourself in position. You guys watch these races every week. There's an awful lot of these races that where the best car didn't win. If you continually put yourself in position to win races, that's how you win them. So, we had some fortunate events happen for us, there is no question.
"But we ran well all day and we had good strategy and we put ourselves in position and things went our way. It's cool to win races like that. It's way cool to lead every lap and everything like that, but it's cool to kind of get a surprise, you know what I mean? There it is and it happens quickly. That's a real special feeling."
COULD YOU RECOUNT A RUN-IN YOU HAD WITH JACK INGRAM EARLIER IN YOUR CAREER? "I've had a few of them (laughter). Jack was a hard-core racer. And his son, Robbie helped him tow his cars and they traveled all over in that pickup truck. I had to, I don't want to say I had the wisdom, but I had the arrogance one night to go confront Jack about something that had happened at a race track and I think he was going to kill me (laughter), which I probably deserved it. And his son intervened, thank God. To me that was a real valuable lesson for me. Jack deserved respect, even if I didn't agree with what had happened at the track, and I didn't give it to him; I didn't go talk to him in a way that I should have. And he let me know right then that that's not how it was going to work. From that moment on I understood much better about having to show those guys respect. But that era of race car drivers, that's who I looked up to. When I was 12 years old, I didn't want to be Richard Petty. I wanted to be Tommy Ellis and Jack Ingram and that's who I looked up to and said wow, if I could ever get far, I'd have it licked. So anyway, it's just cool to see somebody like Jack out here this weekend."
-credit: gm racing