JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, met with members of the media to discuss racing at Chicagoland Speedway, fatherhood in NASCAR, changes to the Chase, and more. TALK ABOUT HOW THE RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING ORGANIZATION HAS REALLY TURNED...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, met with members of the media to discuss racing at Chicagoland Speedway, fatherhood in NASCAR, changes to the Chase, and more.
TALK ABOUT HOW THE RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING ORGANIZATION HAS REALLY TURNED AROUND THIS YEAR TO BECOME A MAJOR COMPETITOR WEEK AFTER WEEK... "Obviously last year was extremely disappointing. We came in it this year with a completely different mindset than we did last year. It's been really good. One of us has been competitive almost every week, the 31 in particular I feel like has exceptionally well. We've been a contender an awful lot throughout the year. It's disappointing that we haven't found a way to win, but I'm extremely encouraged by the things that we have going on. It's time to make it happen. It's eight races to go and time is getting away. I think everybody at RCR is committed to doing whatever we have to do to win more races and continue to put ourselves in position. This is the time of year where the grind really started about a month or a month and a half ago, and a lot of people are looking forward to the Chase, some people are looking back trying to figure out how to make the Chase. It's just a really interesting time of year. We're in a position to certainly not be locked in by any means. We could have a few bad races and find ourselves in position to be in some trouble. We have to try to go out and get wins, get enough bonus points so that when we do--if we do transfer--we'll be in a good spot. At the same time, we can't throw caution to the wind because we got people behind us that want the spot we're in. It's an interesting dilemma, but it's something--I'd love to be where Harvick is, but if we can't be where he is then I'm pretty comfortable with where we are."
YOU'VE RUN WELL BUT HAVEN'T WON, SAME WITH GORDON. THE EARNHARDT-GANASSI CARS HAVE BEEN REALLY GOOD, BUT ALSO HAVEN'T GOTTEN THE FINISHES. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT KIND OF QUALITY VERSUS LACK OF PRODUCTION IN THE END? DO YOU TALK ABOUT IT AS A TEAM? OR JUST HOPE IT WORKS ITSELF OUT? "Well I think you have to deal with the facts and I think you have to look at each situation and what the situation was. I think that we tend to oversimplify things and bunch everything up, and say well the 31 team is going to run fast, but they aren't going to win because they don't know how. We don't have that luxury. What we have to do is look at every incident, every race when we were in position and understand why we were in position and then understand what happened in each race and why we didn't capitalize. When you start to do the analysis it's been an array of things. So we focus on trying to make those things better. When you don't do the analysis like that, then I think it does get in your head. It does start to bother you. It's very clear to us where we missed it, it's very clear to us the mistakes we made, it's also clear to us that there has been some occasions where we didn't do anything wrong; it just that something happened. So we have addressed the things that we felt like we needed to address, while at the same time we're addressing the things that we're doing well. We're doing a whole lot more good than we're doing wrong, and we have to continue to do those things good and we have to do them better. We're trying not to just focus on the things that we haven't done well, and we're trying to focus on all of it so that we can improve."
YOU'RE PRETTY MUCH THE BIG PICTURE GUY WHO LOOKS AT THE BETTERMENT OF THE SPORT. YOU WERE CRITICAL OF THE ACCIDENT AT SONOMA, WHAT IS YOUR ASSESSMENT OF WHAT WE SAW AT DAYTONA? "I think I told you all on Thursday down there, we were going to have some green-flag runs and it was going to get spread out and it was going to get single-file, then with 40 to go or so, we were going to start getting cautions and then we were going to get another one, and another one, and another one. It wasn't a surprise at all. I mean, it seems like every race that's what happens down there, well heck, that's what happens everywhere now. I thought it feel right the way I believed it would. It seemed like a normal Daytona race to me. The wreck there are the end, Kurt and I caused that wreck. In retrospect, I don't know what I would have done different; in retrospect, I'm not sure that he should have done anything differently either. I think we just went for the same hole at the same time and it just happened. I watched the video 100 times trying to analyze it, but the racing prior to all those cautions I thought was awesome. It was a lot of fun.When you're in a restrictor plate race and you get those cautions late in the race, it's game on. It's crazy. It just is. I didn't think this Daytona race was any different than any other Daytona race."
YOU MENTIONED THE CHASE EARLIER--HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT WHEN YOU CAME INTO RACING THE WAY YOU WON CHAMPIONSHIP WAS ONE WAY, THEN THE CHASE ARRIVED AND IT WAS ANOTHER WAY, THEN A COUPLE YEAR AFTER THAT THEY CHANGED THE CHASE, AND NOW THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT MAKING EVEN MORE CHANGES TO IT? "Well, I believe that whatever NASCAR says, this is the points system [we're utilizing], I believe the guy that wins the championship in the points system that NASCAR says is what determines the championship, then that's the champion. If NASCAR came here today and said the way we're going to determine this is that whoever wins the last race of the year is the champion; I would think that is insane, but whoever won the last race of the year would be the champion. My focus is on understanding what the rules are and trying to capitalize on them. I think our sport is better today than it was because of the Chase. I love the history of our sport, but I think that it's more exciting than it was. I'm a sports fan; I love to watch sports. Right now, today, the intensity level and the pressure that is on us with eight races to go, and then there is another 10 after that, is more than it has ever been because of the Chase. The more pressure there is on the competitors, the more fun it is for the fans to watch. So if NASCAR does determine to make a change, I hope they keep in mind that the body of work that you have done should count. The way our system works, I don't think you're going to have a Superbowl-scenario where you have two teams, one race, and winner-take-all. I don't think that's appropriate for our sport. It is and endurance race, and I think the body of work should count. Whatever change they make, I figure a rule is a rule so we need to find a way to make it work. I'd love if whatever change is made--I just think it needs to have balance about your body of work and your ability to win and compete at a high level when the pressure is on. If they do those things, and they enhance the Chase, and make it more meaningful then I think it will be great for the sport. If they move away from the thought of your body of work doesn't count, then that wouldn't feel good to me. Again, whatever they say, that's what the rule is and that's what I have to go try to make happen."
WHEN BRIAN FRANCE KIND OF FLOATED THIS IDEA LAST WEEK ABOUT HAVING MORE GAME 7 MOMENTS, TO IMPLY THAT THERE IS A NEED FOR SOMETHING TO KIND OF JUICE THE INTEREST UP IN THE SPORT--THE ATTENDANCE, THE RATINGS--WITH ALL THE CHANGES THEY'VE MADE OVER THE LAST YEAR--BOYS HAVE AT IT, DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS--DOES THAT MEAN THAT STUFF ISN'T WORKING? "I think, well keep in mind my perspective is different than other people's perspective; my perspective is that I'm a racecar driver and I care about the sport and the wellbeing of the sport, but I don't view it from the same eyes as the fans. I have to be careful. When I say that something is better for the sport, a lot of times I'm thinking about it from a competitors' standpoint because I'm not sitting in the stands. I think by far, from a quality of race standpoint the double-file restarts, all the things you mentioned, have enhanced the sport. I think it has made it better. I think it is wrong at any point, any business, any sport, personal life, whatever, to not always trying to be better, trying to make it improved. The fact that it is better because of enhancing the competitiveness and enhancing the aggressiveness, all those things that racing has always been; the fact that it has made it better, I think NASCAR will want to look and try to figure out how to do more. I think that's why they're looking at reshuffling the Chase. I think that all the other changes they feel like have had a positive effect. When I'm with the fans, I think they believe it has a positive effect. NASCAR, in my opinion, this winter with all these changes they made this winter weren't because you guys thought or because I thought, it's because the fans are telling them this is what we want to see. If the fans are telling them we want to see a more exciting Chase, then I think NASCAR is going to do whatever they have to do to make it exciting. The fans get these votes. I'm ok with that. I think the fan will drive this as well."
WHEN YOU HAVEN'T WON IN A WHILE BUT YOU'RE RUNNING WELL EVERY WEEK, DOES IT MAKE IT HARDER LATE IN THE RACE TO KEEP THE BIG PICTURE IN MIND AND THINK POINTS AND TOP-FIVES? "I think what you have to do is, in our case, our magic number has been like 20--20 laps to go it seems like things go downhill for us. I think what you have to do is to work hard, to quit waiting for something to happen. You've got to quit feeling like a victim, you've got to take accountability for what's going on, you've got to love the opportunity for that 20th lap to get here because this is a race so we're going to make it that it works. It is what it is. Addressing it and paying attention to it is really all it's about. I've said this before. It's been disappointing; last week was disappointing. I thought after Kyle went out and I thought we were as good as Kyle, I thought that we were the best car and we didn't win. At New Hampshire, we were the best car; we didn't win. One didn't have anything to do with the other. We didn't not win Daytona because we didn't win New Hampshire; they had nothing to do with each other. Each one was a separate incident and each one had a separate cause. We just have to focus on what we're doing and look at how to be better. That's all there is to it."
CAN YOU PUT INTO PERSPECTIVE WHAT YOU THOUGHT DALE JR'S WIN IN THE NATIONWIDE RACE MEANT LAST WEEKEND? "I thought it was cool. Anytime you see a three car with an Earnhardt in it at Daytona, I think that has a special meaning. To a lot of fans it meant a great deal to see the three car win at Daytona with an Earnhardt driving it. That to me was it. It's no question that he is the most popular driver, and there is no question that people are looking for him to have success. The buzz that goes around him is incredible. It's unbelievable. I don't envy his position at all. I think he handles it pretty well. Anytime the most popular driver wins a race I think it's a positive thing for those people that are fans of his."
IF YOU LOOK AROUND AND SEE BOBBY LABONTE, A PAST CHAMPION WITH COUNTLESS STARTS ABOUT TO BE UNEMPLOYED. IS THAT A WAKEUP CALL OR A REMINDER ABOUT HOW CRUEL THIS SPORT CAN BE? AS ANOTHER 40-SOMETHING, DO YOU HAVE SOME COMPASSION THERE? "Bobby and I have spoken a lot about it. I have a great deal of compassion for what Bobby has gone through and what he is continuing to go through. I've been there. I can't say that I've been in a position he's in, but I've looked at it pretty closely. I've been close to where he is. It's incredible that he's in that position, it's hard to understand, it's hard to figure that he's in that position. Honestly, Mark Martin and I talked about it too and you'd love to try to find a way to help him, but you just don't know how. It's tough seeing a guy like that. I mean he was a champion that he's won about the same number of races that I've won, sat on a lot of poles, led a lot of laps; and now he's in the position that he's in. It's really hard to understand to be quite honest. I think about it all the time."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CHALLENGES OF NEW FATHERHOOD AND RACING AT THIS LEVEL DURING THE SAME TIME? "I'm surprised Jimmie is still running well because I thought when you had children you weren't supposed to run well anymore. I mean Jeff [Gordon] has one coming, so he can't do it because he has another kid coming. We've got a lot of people that they're going to have to find drivers for because they've got kids coming. Wasn't that it, last year or two years ago? Gordon had a baby so he couldn't run anymore because of that? I can only tell you what being a father to me means. I wouldn't dare speak for someone else. I told you guys a couple years ago that y'all were insane when you said that Jeff Gordon wasn't running well because he had a baby. It's ridiculous. It's a life-changing experience; there is no question about that. It's, we all over use the word 'awesome,' but that is an awesome thing. I will tell you from my perspective that I see in my children's eyes when I do well and what that means to them, and that means more to me than anything else. I see the disappointment in their eyes when I don't do well and that--and by the way, I see them emulate me. They watch me and pay attention to what I do and the way I respond to things through adversity; they're always in the back of my head with the way I conduct myself. It's an incredible experience. After New Hampshire we got on a golf cart leaving there--my kids, my wife and I--obviously we're all disappointed. I get on the golf cart and I say, 'Well guys, it happened again, but it's going to be ok. We made a mistake, but we've done a lot of great things.' And my son looked at me and said, 'You've got a great attitude.' I mean, what the hell is better than that? It made me want to go win the next race. To me, being a father has been an extremely inspiring thing, especially as they have gotten older and it damn sure hasn't done anything to slow me down; if anything it has only sped me up."
-source: gm racing