Continued from part 1 Q: At one point in your career you were busy every week. How much would it mean to get back to that level? JEFF BURTON: Well, I knew it was gonna take a while to do that. This is a hard sport. We had gotten to...
Continued from part 1
Q: At one point in your career you were busy every week. How much would it mean to get back to that level?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I knew it was gonna take a while to do that. This is a hard sport. We had gotten to the point where we weren't being very competitive at all. The last three years we finished in the top 10 in points, won the Chase, feel really good about that all those years. But what we're looking for is championships, multiple-win seasons. We haven't achieved that. We have multiple-wins in a season, but we haven't achieved winning five championships, that kind of thing. I believe I can do it. I believe this team with do it. We have to build a little stronger foundation. We do a really nice job, but we don't do a great job. For us to do the things we want to do, we got to find greatness. How we do that is very complicated. There's a lot of work, a lot of effort. People are working hard every day. We just got to work a little smarter. I got to be smarter on the racetrack.
I believe the foundation is there, but we just got to find a way to do it a little better.
Q: Various people say we'll know what the various teams are looking at when we get to the All-Star Race or Charlotte. Some say coming out of this off weekend is really key. What do you think about coming out of this weekend and what you can tell about the teams so far?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I think the off weekend has little consequence, to be quite honest. We are where we are, which has been everything from having a chance to win races to being the slowest car on the racetrack. We went to California. We were the worst car there. We went to Vegas, led 60 some laps, had a chance to win. Two-week difference.
Since then, we've been eighth to a 12th place team, that's what we've been. We ground our way back up into 12th this points, but we haven't shown on a consistent basis the ability to go out and lead a lot of laps, do the things I talked about this winter that we needed to do. So that's where we are.
I think where we are in points is about where we are. I said it before. You are what your record says you are. We're a 10th or 15th place team right now. Can we be better than that? I don't think there's any question we can be better than that. Early on in the year we made the decision that we were willing to run bad at a few races to understand exactly what we had. Not that we went there thinking we were going to run bad. We were willing to gamble, to try different stuff, to learn as quickly as we can to apply that. We could have gone to California and done the exact same thing we did last year, maybe run 15th or 12th. We went there trying a whole different thing, completely different, ran terrible. We learned something from that. It's really important in a year where you don't have testing to learn and then to be able to apply it.
So that's what we're doing. We're learning. We're having to learn on race weekends. I wish we didn't have to, but that's what we have to do. So we're a little bit behind. There's no denying it. But I believe we ultimately can get where we need to be.
Q: What about you as a company? You've had a good start to the season, but some of the other Childress teams have struggled a bit more. Have you been able to isolate the particular areas that they're struggling in and help them?
JEFF BURTON: Well, after the first two weeks of the year, no one said we were having a good start of the season. We finished 28th in Daytona, 33rd at California. Now we're sitting 12th this points. We've made a nice comeback. The 33 team has been good with Clint. Run well most weekends. On average, they've been our best performing team. The 07 has been our worst performing team on average. What we have to do is we have to elevate our entire program. We got to find a way -- every one of our teams to go faster. That's through programs that impact every team, aerodynamics, engineering, engines, bump stoppage packages. None of our teams have been good enough. None of our teams have been able to match what Jeff Gordon has done. None of our teams have been able to match what some of the other teams have done. We've got to collectively get better so individually we can get better.
Q: About the rookies this season, they've struggled a lot. Probably can attribute a lot of that to testing. Do you think this is kind of what we're going to see from now on, that it's going to be that much tougher for these young guys to come in and get their footing in the series?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I think what we're seeing now is actually normal. I think what we've seen in the past, Tony Stewart, what he came in and did was pretty phenomenal. What Denny Hamlin came in and did was pretty phenomenal. We've had some young drivers come in and have remarkable success in their first year.
Those aren't normal things. The struggles that we're seeing happen now are normal. Joey Logano's case, I've been racing longer than he's been alive. Think about that. I mean, that's a lot for someone his age to take on. He's gonna be a better racecar driver because of the struggles he's had at this point. But there's gonna be struggles. The thing that interests me is if you're gonna hire a young guy with limited experience, you have to understand that you're gonna have days that are horrible. By the way, you're going to have great days, too. But you're going to have more bad days than great days for a period of time.
We've seen teams nurture a driver, raise a driver up, let him go through all those experiences, then get rid of him. Now you've taken all that investment you've made and thrown it away. It makes no sense to me. You've got to be willing to stick it out, be willing to give a guy a chance. Once you give him a chance, you have to give him a real chance, real opportunity. If you're not going to do that, don't hire a young guy. Don't do it. Hire a guy that you know exactly what you're gonna get from him. If you hired me, you know what you're going to get. If you hire a 17-year-old, you don't know what you're gonna get. That's the chance you took. When you take it, it's your responsibility to see it through. We've seen teams give up way too early.
Q: Can you talk about the challenges as an organization it takes from going from three to four teams, some of the things you had to deal with expanding to four teams.
JEFF BURTON: Well, I tell you, we were very fortunate to expand when we expanded. General Mills came into the picture real early. We knew we were going to grow a company. With knew we were going to have a fourth team very early last year. That gave us the opportunity to do some infrastructure planning, get ahead of the ball so to speak. We had people in place. We had a lot of good mechanics, engineers, a lot of good people in place. We were able to take from in-house and promote, put in different positions a lot of guys on the 33 team now we brought up through the Nationwide program, which has been very beneficial to us, helping bring people up. We were very lucky, very lucky, to have Shane as a crew chief. So we had a really good situation in which to grow into.
Having said all that, it's been very difficult. We have to build 25% more cars. We have more employees. We have issues that we have to deal with that we didn't have to deal with before now that we have four teams. Ultimately it will make us stronger. I will tell you, I don't believe it's made us any weaker. From what I'm seeing, been able to experience, we are no weaker because we have a fourth team. I think that a short team deal thing, that's a great accomplishment. To be no weaker is a great accomplishment at this point in the deal with a new team. That means there's a lot of upside, a lot of room to grow, and a lot of benefits in having a fourth team. But starting out in the position we're in now, without it being a drain on the company, I think is a remarkable success.
Q: Since the new car has been introduced, it seems like Phoenix is one of those places where the cars run pretty well. Am I right? What are some of the attributes about the car and track that go together?
JEFF BURTON: The main thing is the track. You put whatever kind of car you want to put on Phoenix, you're going to have a good race. The shape of the racetrack, the size of the racetrack is gonna put on good races. Two different corners, entrances, means one car is going to be good in this car, the next one in that corner. That means they're going to have a lot of cars that are competitive. That size racetrack puts on competitive races.
I think it's a good fit. It's not necessarily a good fit just for the Car of Tomorrow, it's a good fit for racing, period. That's the start of anything, is having a racetrack that puts on good races. Now you have the structure that it takes and the foundation it takes to have a successful race. A successful race is something fun to watch. That racetrack is gonna put on races that are fun to watch.
Q: With your long history in racing cars, do your trophies get invisible after a while? If so, how does it affect your drive to win?
JEFF BURTON: I can tell you that my trophies mean a great deal to me. I have all my Nationwide trophies, the ones that I was able to keep throughout the years, I have them prominently displayed. My Cup trophies are prominently displayed. They mean the world to me. I wouldn't trade -- people say, would you want to win the Daytona 500? Yeah, I'd like to win the Daytona 500. But I wouldn't trade any win I've had for another win, a bigger win, whatever else. They've all been special to me. They've all had their own personality.
I haven't won so many that they don't mean something. Not that Jeff Gordon feels this way. Think about how many races Jeff Gordon has won. This incredible number. Maybe he's a little more numb to it than I am. But every one of those trophies means a great deal to me.
Q: Do you think racecar drivers have to ignite the fire in the belly or does it burn constantly for you and others?
JEFF BURTON: Listen, we're humans. I don't care, I'd love to tell you that every day of my life I wake up thinking, I'm going to go kick everybody's butt this weekend, do that. The reality of it is it doesn't always work like that, the same way that not everybody comes to work motivated, not everybody goes into the gym on a Tuesday morning as motivated as they were the last Tuesday morning. There's different times in your life or in your day even where you're not as motivated as others. I think it's important to stay focused. I think it's important to understand it's okay to have a life outside of racing.
One thing that I found, I've always been concerned as I get older, what does that mean to my competitive drive, because I've had people tell me all my life when you get older, you're not as competitive, you can't have the success. I find the exact opposite. When I look at my career, it's very clear to me that I have way less ahead of me than I had behind me. I don't know how many times I'm going to go to Phoenix. I may only go to Phoenix for three or four more years. I don't know. I want to go for 10 more years, but I don't know if I'll be able to.
At this point in my career I hold it in much higher regard than I did when I was younger because I understand after not having success that I was used to having how important it is to you, how it makes you feel when you're successful. It's hard to explain. I'm more motivated today than I was when I was 18 because I understand how special it is. I've lost it, and now I have it back. I want to make sure that I don't lose it again.
Q: We look at Phoenix this weekend, Jimmie has won the last three, you have a couple of wins, Dale Jr. has a couple of wins, what is most important, past history or recent history of the track based on the schedule in general?
JEFF BURTON: I think recent history on the schedule is more important. I can tell you that if teams are running well, there's a reason. It's because they've got things figured out, they're working well together. They understand what they're doing. Some people call that momentum. I disagree with that. Momentum doesn't create success, success creates momentum. You can't have momentum without success. There's not some mystical power out there saying, It's their turn to be successful. It's work. It's effort. It's desire. It's ability. You harness all those things together at the right time and you have success. When you have success, you had it for a period of time because you understand what you need to be doing. So recent history to me is very important. Prime example. We were having these conversations last year about Jeff Gordon. I kept telling everybody, just 'cause Jeff Gordon has a baby, just because he's the age he is, 'cause he's won what he's won doesn't mean he can't drive any more, that he doesn't want. There's this great belief, Jeff Gordon can't win any more, ta-da, ta-da. Give me a break. You have to be synced up. You and the team have to be working together. The team has to understand what you're doing, you have to understand what you're doing. If it's not synced up, you can't have success, no matter how talented all of you are. You can have the best crew chief in the business, the best engineer in the business, the best driver in the business and not have any success because you have to be working well together. You have to understand what each other is doing. You have to be working on the same thing at the right time at the right place. Very difficult to sync all that up. When it gets synced up, you can have success and you have it for an extended period of time. When you don't have it, you see teams - we're a good example of that - we don't lead a lot of laps, win five races in a year. We haven't been able to do that because we haven't been as good as a team that could win five races a year. It's more important to have success now than it is 'cause that will give you a chance to have success tomorrow versus having success five years ago.
Q: You mentioned you have been kind of hit or miss this year. Where is it you think RCR needs to improve?
JEFF BURTON: I'm not going to specifically tell you where I think we need to improve because I'm not going to expose our weaknesses our strengths to our competition. We've got to do a better job. I've got to do a better job driving, giving information to the team they need. My team has to do a better job of bringing racecars to the racetrack that are a little better. Our company has to do a better job of empowering us, giving us better information to work with.
This isn't a thing where one group is messed up, one person messed up. This is a thing where our company is a little bit behind. We aren't miles behind. We are a little behind. We have to catch up in all areas. We have to be a little better in all areas.
We went from a company where we were putting no teams in the Chase to being a company that's been putting all our teams in the Chase. We did that by improving every single area of our company. There was no one thing we were doing wrong. We isolated, defined, made accountable people in every department. When we did that, guess what happened? So we're having to redo that again. It's constant. We've always been doing it. But we've just got to be a little better in all areas.
HERB BRANHAM: Once again, appreciate Jeff Burton's time today. Good luck this weekend.
JEFF BURTON: Thanks, everybody, for tuning in.