JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed his position in the Chase, the Hall of Fame class, TV ratings, wild card races and other topics. TALK ABOUT YOUR MINDSET HEADING...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed his position in the Chase, the Hall of Fame class, TV ratings, wild card races and other topics.
TALK ABOUT YOUR MINDSET HEADING INTO CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY: "Obviously, we've got our work cut out for us. We're not out of it, but we are approaching there if we don't get something turned around really quickly. Last week was horrendous is the best way to describe it. We never quite got where we needed to be. It only got worse as the weekend went. It was a real disappointing weekend. Everybody worked real hard; it wasn't from a lack of effort. We just couldn't put it together. Hopefully we can put that behind us. If we are going to make a charge, it has to start now. There is not enough time left to keep waiting for the charge to come. It's got to come now. This is not the position I thought we would be in, but it's the position we're in. We've got to deal with it."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE HALL OF FAME VOTE YESTERDAY? I DON'T THINK ANYONE WOULD BEGRUDGE THE FIVE WHO GOT IN, BUT THERE IS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT WHO DIDN'T GET IN AS WELL. "I think it is good that there is a lot of talk about who didn't get in because if we get to the point where we are only talking about who is in and who didn't get in, then maybe we are putting too many people in. Which we are not doing right now, I am not saying that. But, the fact that there is a lot of candidates is a good thing. I really don't think we should, I guess it is human nature, to try to pull the negatives out of it, but the reality of it is that it is a great thing that the five people that got inducted, got inducted.
"Every one of them is a rightful member of the Hall of Fame. Every one of them has made a contribution that has made an impact on the sport and they did their craft very very well. There's many people that haven't been nominated yet in the same position. So, time will sort all of those things out. You shouldn't lose sleep over when. If you're honored enough to get into the Hall of Fame, you shouldn't lose sleep about when you got into the Hall of Fame. The third class in no less important that the second class.
"And, the 10th class will be no less important that the third class. So, for those who didn't get into it that expressed disappointment, I guess I understand that in some ways, it is a hell of an honor to be considered to be in the Hall of Fame. I think the emphasis should be placed on the people who did get in it because there is no one that got in it that didn't deserve to be in it."
KEVIN HARVICK SAID EARLIER THAT IF YOU AREN'T IN FIFTH PLACE, YOU PROBABLY DON'T HAVE A LEGITIMATE SHOT AT WINNING THE WHOLE THING, DO YOU AGREE? WHAT KINDS OF THINGS CAN YOU AND CLINT DO THE REST OF THE WAY TO HELP KEVIN OUT? "We haven't run the white flag up just yet. This is an interesting sport. As I said, we are certainly not a position that we want to be in, we're certainly not is a position that I thought we would be in, but we're in the position that we are in.
"For there to be a great comeback, at some point, you have to be behind and that is where we are right now. Our focus is on trying to mount the comeback without the faith you can do it; it never happens. Certainly the odds are against us but our focus is on still trying to go out and perform so we can win the championship. We have to have some help to do that. If those top-three or four guys go finish top-five, even top-10s the rest of the year, it is probably not going to work out for us. There are a lot of events that are going to happen between now and then. Kevin is right. If you look at history and it states we are in a hole that maybe you can't overcome, the reason that record books change is because people do things that you didn't think could be done. That is our view of it. We haven't quit. We believe we're capable but we've got to...We haven't shown it, we haven't done it but we still believe that we can. That is our emphasis."
EVERYONE DISCUSSES TALLADEGA BEING THE WILD CARD THAT IT IS, DO YOU APPROACH RACING AT TALLADEGA LIKE YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE RATHER THAN IF YOU WERE IN THE HUNT MORE, YOU MIGHT BE A LITTLE DEFENSIVE? "Well, we're not there yet and we don't know what position we are going to be in when we get there. Obviously we are not going to be leading the points when we get there but, we don't know what position we are going to be in. No matter what, finishing the best you can finish is all you can do. My emphasis every time I go to Talladega is to try to win the race; miss the wreck; don't cause the wreck. The thing about the wild card races is who would have thought California? You had engine failures and all the things going on. You had a lot of people breaking engines, you had all this stuff. The No. 99 car (Carl Edwards) stopping on the track...you never know when that stuff is going to happen. Every race is potentially a wild card race. Talladega without a doubt, evidence suggests it is potentially the biggest. But, you go into that race and approach it like you do every other race I think."
WHAT ARE YOUR THEORIES ON WHY THE TV RATINGS HAVE DROPPED IN THE CHASE AND ANY THOUGHT THAT PEOPLE ARE BORED WITH ANOTHER JIMMIE (JOHNSON) RUN? "I don't know. I honestly don't know. I don't proclaim to be someone that can analyze why people watch what they watch when they watch it. I don't understand it. You know there was a period of time when we really questioned the quality of the racing; I'm going to have a hard timing saying I that I don't think the quality of the racing is good right now. I don't know. I wish I had an answer for you and I'm sure that NASCAR wishes I had an answer for them. I don't have the answer. I don't know why it is. The racing has been good. It is not a run-away Chase. I mean, my Gawd, anybody that thinks this is a run-away Chase isn't paying attention. I don't know. When other teams go on runs and start reeling off; when Tiger Woods is winning a lot of tournaments, more people watch. If you argued that Jimmie having success is bad for the sport then why was golf so good when Tiger was so good? Doesn't make sense to me and I don't proclaim to understand it."
THERE WAS A LOT OF MOTIVATION FOR YOU COMING INTO THIS SEASON TO IMPROVE WHICH YOU HAVE DONE, BUT TO HIT THE NEXT LEVEL, MORE TOP-FIVES, MORE CONTENTIONS FOR WINS, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU GUYS NEED TO DO? "Our glaring issue has been, there have been several things. The quality of our pit stops has got to improve. We've not been as strong as we needed to be on pit road. I'm not busting on anybody. Everybody is working really hard, but we are consistently losing spots on pit road, that hurts us. We consistently don't qualify as well as we need to, that hurts us. And, during the race, we could be sitting here today, we could be, we're not, okay, but we could be sitting here today having won six or seven races this year. Had we had the right pit stops; had I made the right move; if if if, right? If doesn't pay the bills. We were in position to do that and didn't do it. So our weaknesses are execution, we need to execute better. Strategy with me making the right move at the right time. We were in position and have been in position to win plenty of our share of races and we haven't executed on any of them. So, we've got to tighten up all those things in addition to continuing to find speed. We haven't had the speed the last eight weeks that we had prior to that. So we have got to get our speed back and figure out why we are not quite as quick. So, it is never one thing. It is many things and that is what our focus is on right now in getting ready for next year is figuring out a way to step up all those areas. We're working really hard, we haven't given up on this year by any means, but we are working really hard on being prepared for next year. We're going make some changes and do some things we need to do to get better."
DO YOU AS A DRIVER WISH THAT THERE WERE MORE SHORT TRACKS ON THE SCHEDULE? DO YOU THINK THAT WOULD FIX SOME OF WHAT AILS NASCAR? "Well again, I don't really understand the deals. It's just not real clear to me. I think short tracks have a real place in our sport--I think part of the history of our sport and what has made our sport great was the short tracks. I don't care what you say, there is no way you can have as exciting of a race on a two-mile racetrack as you can on a three-quarter-mile racetrack. It's lap for lap. You can have the last lap, but lap-for-lap you're going to have more action on a short track than you do on a big track. I think that the tendency to want to build better racetracks there for awhile, everything built was big. I think it would have been really cool to build some smaller racetracks. That's what our sport has grown up on. That's where the racing action is much more intense--the smaller the track gets. I like the small tracks, I really think they have a major place in the sport and I think they enhance the racing, which ultimately people want to see.
"Well you know, I've always thought that the drivers that are really good at Michigan think that you need to be a really good driver at Michigan to do well, the drivers that are real good at Watkins Glen think you got to be a really good driver to do good at Watkins Glen. I think that it's really hard to say that any kind of track is more of a driver's track than anything else. It's a skill that is required to run Martinsville; many of those same skill sets you do here, but there are some that you don't. The very best can do it all, and some people are really good at some things and not at others. Then there are some that are good at less things. I don't to say that you need to be a better driver, but it is a different skill set."
KEVIN WAS JUST IN HERE AND SAID YOU CANNOT LOSE THIS CHAMPIONSHIP IN ONE WEEK, BUT YOU CAN LOSE IT IN ONE WEEK. HOW DOES THE COMPETITIVENESS ON THE TRACK AFFECT YOU--KNOWING THAT EVERY WEEK IT CAN CHANGE SO MUCH? "The Chase is intense; it's a great experience. When they drop that green flag at Loudon, it's a feeling that is really hard to describe--the intensity level goes up, the consequences of bad days that is felt much more, the advantage of having good days is felt much more. It's just intense. I think Kevin is right; I think you've seen it. Those guys, the top three guys have been the most consistent. They've run well and they've been consistent. So that's why they are where they are. I believe Kevin is right. I believe that in a race that is really, really close, you pay a big price for mistakes. I will say though, you just don't know what mistakes are going to be made and you don't know, like the deal with Kyle Busch and David a couple weeks ago, I mean who would have thought of that. You just don't know what is coming, so certainly the tighter it is the more mistakes are felt but it's not always a mistake that you make, sometimes something else happens that you can't control and that can have a huge bearing on the point race as well."
JIMMIE JOHNSON CAME IN HERE LAST YEAR AND SAID THAT HE AND CHAD TALKED AND DECIDED THAT THEY WANTED TO LEAD EVERY PRACTICE, LEAD THE MOST LAPS IN THE RACE, QUALIFY ON THE POLE AND WIN THE RACE--AND HE WENT OUT AND DID ALL THOSE THINGS. WE HEAR DRIVERS COME IN ALL THE TIME AND SAY THAT THEY NEED TO FOCUS ON WHAT THEY'RE DOING, BUT WHEN SOMEBODY DOES SOMETHING LIKE THAT HOW MUCH DOES IT PSYCHOLOGICALLY AFFECT THE OTHER TEAMS? "It's interesting because whenever I hear Denny Hamlin talk, he talks about Jimmie Johnson. If you think about post-race, pre-race, and what I read he is always comparing himself to the 48. I'm not saying that's wrong; I'm not saying that's right. I think they've looked at the 48 and evidence suggests that they probably should do this and said, 'That's who we've got to go beat and we've got to compare ourselves to them and when they do something we've got to do it better.' He constantly is talking about the 48. That is that team's way of getting pumped up of addressing where they need to be better, of doing the things that they need to do and it's worked very well for them.
"There is other teams that really don't pay any attention to the 48 at all and just focus on what they are doing. Which by the way, I'm sure that's what the 48 is doing. I'm sure the 48 is not looking at the whatever team and saying, 'Hey, we've got to go do this.' You got to do what you got to do to be the best you can be. Whatever that is, whatever motivation that is, whatever psychological poise that is, then you just got to go do it. It's different for everybody. I don't think that teams and drivers are intimidated by words, I think that results are what gets people's attention. Somebody can talk all they want to talk; there is a fine line between arrogance and confidence and sometimes the more you talk the bigger hole you dig yourself. I think results are what people pay attention to, not necessarily words."
RELATED TO THAT, LOOKING AT MARTINSVILLE DENNY AND JIMMIE HAVE WON THE LAST EIGHT RACES, THREE TIMES THEY'VE GONE ONE-TWO. CERTAINLY WE'VE SEEN TIMES WHEN ONE GUY HAS BEEN DOMINATE AT A TRACK, BUT HERE ARE TWO GUYS THAT HAVE JUST GOTTEN IT DONE. HOW DOES THAT IMPACT THE GARAGE? DO YOU NEED TO WATCH THOSE GUYS, OR CAN AVOIDING WATCHING THOSE GUYS HELP TOO? "If we were here practicing and we were the only ones here, we wouldn't know how well we were doing. Now I could come in and say, 'The car drives good, the car feels good, whatever. It runs a 31-flat.' The minute that everybody else gets here, now you have something to shoot for. Now the evidence is there. This is point-blank how you're doing. If you aren't willing to look at where you are in reference to your competition then you can't improve. If you aren't willing to say well the 48 has won the last four championships, and those two teams have won the last eight races at Martinsville, if you're not willing to look at that and accept that they are doing a better job than you, then you'll destine to fail. You can take several approaches, you can say 'We can't win because they're really, really good.' Or you can say, 'If everything falls our way, maybe we can win.' Or you can go to work. I think the majority of the garage goes to work. I really believe there is a big misconception with the media that when you see the 48, there is some sort of intimidation factor. There is a lot of respect for them, as it should be. I don't think it's an intimidation factor, I think it's that they're really good at what they do. You have got to be on your A-game to beat them. That's how you gauge yourself. You have got to--like I talked about with Denny, I think they've looked at that and they know who they have to shoot for and who they have to beat, and that is how they're gauging themselves and rightfully so. I think when you go to a race track and you see a team that has been very, very successful you know that you are going to have to beat them, but you don't go into that race knowing that you're beaten, you go into that race knowing that you're going to have to step it up to match their results or to better their results. Respecting someone and paying attention to what they're doing with admiration is not being intimidated; it's being smart. Now, Earnhardt was a different deal because he would wreck your ass. When you saw him coming, it was not that it was necessarily intimidation, but you knew well I got something different that I got to deal with.
"Jimmie is not that kind of driver. Jimmie is very, very, very fast and he is very, very, very smart and he doesn't take anything from anybody, but he's not the kind of guy that you have got to deal with from that standpoint. You have got to deal with him because he is really, really fast and he is really, really good at what he does. I don't know. When I think of being intimidated and those things, I think about if I played football and Lawrence Taylor was coming at me I'd be intimidated. But I don't get intimidated because I know someone is faster than me, I just know that I've got to go off and try to get faster. That is the best way, and that is a long answer, but that is the best way that I know how to answer it. You can respect your enemy. You really can respect your enemy. You have to appreciate what they're doing to respect them."
-source: gm racing