JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed the importance of the Coke 600, the effect of rivalry between teammates and Kevin Harvick's return to RCR. ON RUNNING THE COKE 600...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed the importance of the Coke 600, the effect of rivalry between teammates and Kevin Harvick's return to RCR.
ON RUNNING THE COKE 600 AT CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY ON SUNDAY... "Certainly this has been a race that has been good for us. We've run well in this race, and I feel like we've had a good year with strong cars every week. I feel really good about it. Today is going to be difficult because it's really hot and slippery; of course, we're going to qualify tonight so the track is going to be a lot different. I'm looking at the weather and the weather is going to be a whole lot different on Sunday and of course we're going to race then at night too. It's going to be a real challenge to understand today and Saturday what the car needs to be like for Sunday, but that's pretty typical for this weekend."
IS THERE A PROTOCOL FOR RACING A TEAMMATE EITHER EARLY OR LATE, OR DOES IT CHANGE THROUGHOUT THE RACE? "Well, I certainly think that you have to be more careful with your teammates than you do with anybody else. Although, I do believe that you drive everybody the way that you would expect to be driven. It's easier to make a teammate mad than it is somebody else. What Denny did Saturday night was completely expected from the field, but when it's your teammate it hurts your feelings. I guess that's the best way--of course I was at home watching it, which wasn't a good thing--I think that if the roles were reversed the same thing would have happened. It's just that when it happens with a teammate you expect more and it's easier to get your feelings hurt. At the end of the day, you need to go out and try to win the race for you and your team as well. It's your sponsor, and your guys work hard to make your deal work, but you do have to be a little more careful. I think teammates get mad at each other more often than your competition does because I think the expectation is that they're going to cut you some more slack and when they don't it makes you mad. You see that at Daytona and Talladega a lot. I think immediately you're wanting more than perhaps you're willing to give."
THE COKE 600 HAS BEEN PRETTY GOOD TO FIRST-TIME WINNERS OVER THE PAST DECADE-AND-A-HALF. WITH THIS BEING THE LONGEST AND MOST GRUELING RACE, WHY IS THAT? "That's a good question. I do think that the longer the race, the more opportunity for different situations to come up. It changes the way things happen--if you race for two hours versus four hours, more stuff is going to happen in four hours. Sometimes that opens the door for first-time winners, and sometimes that change in rhythm and that opportunity for odd things to happen--like when I got my first win at Texas, it was kind of a different race. It was a unique race track and a lot of people have problems with it, it was a special circumstance that helped us win the race. I think the extra 100 miles kind of lends itself to that."
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE PRESTIGE OF THIS EVENT? "It's pretty high. I think all the drivers have different thoughts on what the big races are, but I do believe that the Coke 600 comes in everybody's conversation. Obviously you hear Daytona, you hear Indy, you hear the Coke 600 and then for some people it's Darlington, for some people it's the hometown track; it depends on what you are and what you personally feel. I think the Coke 600 is a really big race. It's so unique because it is 600 miles and when you go back and look at who's won this race, it's pretty cool. I think it's pretty far up there."
FROM THE TIME THAT YOU STARTED IN THIS SPORT AND THINGS WERE REALLY ROLLING ECONOMICALLY TO NOW WHERE SOME TEAMS SEEM TO HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF TROUBLE HOLDING ON TO SPONSORS. HAVE YOU NOTICED A DIFFERENCE IN THE WAY THAT DRIVERS AND TEAMS TREAT THEIR SPONSORS? ARE THEY DOING MORE FOR THEM THESE DAYS? "Every organization is different. Some organizations under all circumstances treat their sponsors the best way they know how and try to go the extra mile all the time. Other corporations, companies and teams are very business-like--this is your role, this is our role, and they don't cross the line. I think it really comes from the top-down. I think the way the car owner behaves around the sponsors and treats the sponsors I think really determines the tone. I can't say that the teams are really doing a whole lot more. It's clear that in times like this everyone is trying to make sure they're doing the right thing. Maybe it's good for us. It's painful, but maybe in some ways it makes us walk a little taller and makes us look a little harder at the things we are doing. The sponsors demand that anyway because they should, but maybe this will make us a little better at it."
YOU SAID THAT IF THE SITUATION WAS REVERSED WITH DENNY AND KYLE, YOU THINK KYLE WOULD HAVE DONE THE SAME THING. KYLE SAYS THAT HE WOULDN'T HAVE DONE THE SAME THING AND THAT HE RACES WITH RESPECT NOW. YOU SAW THE KYLE BACK WHEN HE WAS A ROOKIE AND PEOPLE SAID THAT HE WAS GOING TO KILL SOMEBODY. IS THERE A DIFFERENT KYLE OUT THERE NOW? DOES HE DRIVE WITH MORE RESPECT NOW? "Kyle is an aggressive driver and he runs hard every lap. Kyle, in my view, has never been a guy that wrecks other people. Honestly, he puts himself in some situations where you're thinking, 'I don't know if he's going to come out of that.' On restarts he's real aggressive, but I've never felt that Kyle was a guy that I looked at and said, 'that dude takes a lot of people out.' There's been a lot of guys that came in trying to be aggressive that have been taking more people out than Kyle ever did in my opinion. I really like racing with Kyle. We've had some really good knock down drag out races, and when it's over typically we're all cool with it. I really like racing with him. He's really aggressive, but he typically does it in a way that puts himself at harm. Now, obviously if you're behind him and he gets in trouble, you're going to get in it with him. I like racing with Kyle; I really do. I know he's going to be aggressive and I know he's going to come at me, but I'm good with that."
YEARS AGO, TEAMS USED TO PLAY HEAD GAMES WITH EACH OTHER. WHEN YOU GOT A SITUATION THAT A TEAM THAT YOU'RE DIRECTLY CONTENDING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP WITH LIKE JOE GIBBS, AND THEY HAVE THEIR TWO STAR DRIVERS REALLY MAD AT EACH OTHER. DOES THAT GIVE YOU ANY ADVANTAGE IN ANY WAY? "I don't know. I honestly don't know. Actually, I'll confess on Saturday night I was watching all that and I wonder what effect will that have. My concern was that it would just make them both want it more, and that may not be in our best interest. They're both very good racecar drivers; obviously, their equipment is very good and it might piss them off and put them in a position where they're trying even harder. I'm not sure that that would be a good thing for us. We always try to make a determination on how people are going to respond to certain situations, but everybody is different. Everybody responds to things differently; you just don't know. We'll be talking about something else in a couple weeks most likely and they'll move on from it and there will be another conversation."
WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO KEVIN HARVICK COMING BACK TO RCR, AND ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT OVER NINE MONTHS SO MUCH CAN CHANGE? "I'm sure I said then that Kevin was looking for a situation that he thought gave him the best chance to contend for championships and Richard was doing the same thing. I'm pretty sure I told you guys then that if Kevin looked around and determined that RCR was the place that was going to give him the best chance in the future that he would stay. That's exactly what has happened. Kevin's good for our company. If you start thinking about replacing Kevin Harvick, who are you going to replace him with that is better than him? He's an extremely gifted racecar driver and he's been a really good teammate to me. The first year or so it took us a little while to learn each other, but Kevin's been a great teammate for me. He's a very talented racecar driver; he pushes our company to be better. I'm glad. I'm really, really glad that they worked that out. It's my intention to be at RCR for a long, long time, and to be as good as I can be I need good teammates. I need teammates that are going to push me and I know that Kevin Harvick will push me, so I'm ecstatic that he's coming back."
AT THE HALL OF FAME A LOT OF PEOPLE TALKED ABOUT HOW RESPECTED BIG BILL FRANCE AND BILL FRANCE, JR., WERE. THEY WERE HERE WEEK-IN AND WEEK-OUT AND WERE VERY HANDS-ON. WITH HOW BRIAN HAS RUN NASCAR, DO YOU THINK THAT HE GARNERS THE SAME RESPECT FROM THE COMPETITORS AND GORDON JUST SAID THAT QUALIFYING TODAY WILL BE A WHITE-KNUCKLE EXPERIENCE. WOULD YOU ECHO THAT AND CAN YOU TALK THROUGH QUALIFYING? "I don't think there's any question about that. I think it's going to be really interesting. I was really surprised at the level of grip that we had from the test into the race last week. I thought the grip level was pretty far off. We made a q-run here at the test and we ran a good half-second faster than we did last week. We were in the hooligan race when we were second, but we ran a respectable speed. The question is, will it be worse today? Although, I will tell you sometimes when the track is worse it's less I don't want to say scary-feeling, but when you have a lot of grip you're just up in the gas and when you have less grip it turns into some finesse. It just depends. I thought that the lap we made in testing here was more of an eye opening lap than we made in the race last week just because of the less grip. It's going to be tough. It's going to be 90 degrees today and a late draw is going to be very important. I can assure you that everybody is wanting a late draw."
-source: gm racing