JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS met with members of the media at Dover International Speedway and discussed racing at Dover, the crew chief change at Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR's town hall meeting and other topics. WHAT ARE YOUR ...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS met with members of the media at Dover International Speedway and discussed racing at Dover, the crew chief change at Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR's town hall meeting and other topics.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE COMPETITION THIS WEEKEND?: "Obviously last weekend was really disappointing for us and our entire company -- we really struggled. The two weeks at Charlotte were pretty miserable for all of us so it's pretty important, I think, to have a good race here and show we can compete. This is a really hard race track. It's one of the biggest challenges that we do all year. This track is a real test. We need to get our solid footing back underneath us and hopefully we can do that this week."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE CREW CHIEF CHANGE FOR DALE EARNHARDT JR.?: "I don't have any way of making projections on a team that I don't know anything about. I have a lot of respect for Tony Eury, Jr. I've seen him be part of making an awful lot of race cars go fast, including the cars that (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. was driving, if you go back just two years ago there were an awful lot of races that (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. had a chance to win and competed at a very high level and had problems. I think the fans have been excessively hard on (Tony) Eury, Jr. He is a capable crew chief with a list of accomplishments that a lot of people would be proud to have and at the same time (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. is a capable driver with a list of accomplishments that a lot of people would like to have. Sometimes its time to make a change and I have no way of knowing nor does anyone else what's going to happen. I think that Tony Eury, Jr. -- I just hold him in high regard. I have seen what he's been able to do. I think the fans have been way hard on him and I feel bad for him about that. At the same time, (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. can get it done too. For whatever reason it wasn't working and sometimes you just have to make a change."
WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE COME OUT OF THE NASCAR TOWN HALL MEETING?: "I think that dialogue is always a good thing. I'll be honest, I feel like I have always had a dialogue with NASCAR. I'm proactive though, I'm not a guy that likes to sit around and watch things happen -- I like to participate in them. Whenever I have something on my mind I go to NASCAR and talk directly to them. For me personally, I didn't feel that a forum was necessary, but I do think it was a good thing to do. Not everybody is comfortable with one-on-one, not everybody is comfortable going and being proactive. Letting people know that they're willing to listen, letting people know that they have their voices heard is always good. At the end of the day there are a lot of topics in our sport to talk about and I think having an open dialogue with a lot of different opinions is not a bad way to go. We're at a really interesting time in our sport with TV ratings not being as strong as we would like them to be, with the economy where it is, there's been a lot of talk about the drug testing, there's been a lot of talk about a lot of things and it's a good time to have a conversation. I've always felt like I could have that conversation. I didn't necessarily need to have a big forum, but again if it creates some conversation that results in something that benefits racing or NASCAR in general then it's a good thing."
DO YOU THINK BETTING ON RACING IN DELAWARE COULD INFLUENCE DRIVERS BECAUSE OF THE CLOSE PROXIMITY TO THE CASINO?: "I don't know a whole lot about this conversation. I find it hard to believe that location really has anything to do with it. Shady characters can come from Las Vegas as well as they can come from Delaware. If sports betting is legal period then there will always be the opportunity for shady characters and for people to make poor decisions. I don't think that the location has a whole lot of merit. I don't know a whole lot about it, but anything is possible. I think its best to stay away from it. I don't even know if there is a policy in place about it -- I don't know, but I think its best to stay away from it. Shady people will always do shady things. At the end of the day you have to have the integrity that makes you make the right decision."
DO DRIVER AND CREW CHIEFS MESH QUICKLY?: "I think we always try to figure out what's going to happen before it happens and that's human nature. I can tell you that what matters is the level of success. I've been in situations before where I immediately felt comfortable. I've been in situations before where I made the assessment really early that I wasn't comfortable. I can also tell you that in the situations where I wasn't comfortable, if the success had of come then I would have gotten comfortable real quick. Some people, everybody's different. My approach isn't that I have to be best buddies and have to hang out at the lake and do barbeques and all that kind of stuff. There are some people that if they don't do that then they don't feel like they're part of it. If they can't socially interact with their crew chief of the people around them that they are not comfortable. I'm not that way. All I really care about is that we respect each other, that we all work very hard together, that we challenge each other and that we get results. The whole social aspect -- I don't get in to. Some people that is really important to. Everybody's different, but ultimately what will make it work or not work is the success level. No matter what happens this weekend -- a last place finish or a first-place finish, it doesn't indicate what will happen in the future. This is such a short time that it's hard to make an assessment real early. That's my opinion."
WHAT ARE THE ONE OR TWO BIG ISSUES THAT NEED TO BE ADDRESSED THAT CAME FROM THE NASCAR TOWN HALL MEETING?: "The thing about the quality of the racing is interesting to me. I understand the 'good 'ol days' theory and I understand that we all fantasize and romanticize the way things used to be. The quality of racing is not bad here and there has become this stigma that the races are no good. I don't get it. If you look at number of passes, if you look at number of people on the lead lap, if you look at real stats -- the thought that the racing's not good isn't supported. So there's a perception that has come the last two years that the quality of racing has gone down. That's the key issue. If people believe this isn't -- without even doing a fair assessment that it isn't fun to watch or it isn't fun to do -- that's a major problem. What I find interesting about it, now understand that not every race this year has been a barn-burner, but you know what -- not every race five years ago was a barn-burner either. I really believe if you look at where we are today, I've been doing this long enough to tell you that the competition is harder today then it's ever been.
"We have some people in the sport that talk about how great it used to be in the '80s, well go on back and look at how many cars finished on the lead lap and how many people led laps. It's clear that the quality of competition is better today. Could it be better? It can always be better. There is no question it can always be better. Should we do things to make it better? There's no question we should do things to make it better. We should always be looking to do things to make it better. I think that's the main topic. I think the main topic is what is it that we've been doing that is what our normal is -- what can we change that will make it better? Double-file restarts have been talked about for a long time and it is interesting that every year at this time we talk about it because the All-Star race just happened. Other forms of racing are doing double-file restarts, maybe its something we should look at. Should we look at things we can do to the car that will make it so the racing is better? That to me is the key issue. Anything we can do to create more competition, to create more exciting racing is ultimately in the best interest of the sport.
"That's the key thing and the key conversation that happened last week -- what can we change? And I'm not sure this was talked about -- is there a format with the points that could be looked at to make the point race better? Is there a format on restarts? Is there a format -- what can we do to the cars, with the procedures? Just because we've always done it a certain way doesn't mean we always have to do it that way. I think we'll see some changes in the near future and I think in the distant future trying to elevate it and trying to make it better. But the perception that the quality of racing has gone down -- I don't buy that. I will tell you that people point to the spring race at California -- okay, it wasn't a great race.
"The last race at Darlington was as good as any race we've ever had at Darlington. The Phoenix race, the Richmond race, the Talladega race -- all those races were as good as its going to get. A lot of it is perception, but perception is reality and we have to work hard to always try to be making it better."
DO YOU THINK THE 'CHASE' HAS BEEN A BENEFIT TO THE SPORT?: "I think it's been a huge benefit. I think it's created a conversation with 15 weeks left to go in the year that we wouldn't have had before. I think its created a conversation where we've had six or seven races to go in the 'Chase' we've still been able to talk about whose going to win it. It hasn't always created -- I think the first year, the year that Kurt Busch won it -- is that the first year? That was a great year. Not every year has been as great as that, but it has created a situation where there's been good point races. I think it's the right thing to do. Is there a way to do it better under that format? There may be. From a competitor's standpoint, I really don't care what the rules are -- it's the same for everybody and I have to figure out how to make it work. Could we look at a better way of doing it to create more excitement? I'm all up for that. The one thing that other sports have that is a distinct advantage over us is that it comes down to two teams every year regardless. Not every year does it go to game seven, but it always comes down to two teams that is zero to zero in the last game or the last series of the year. Our deal gives us 12 and then it starts to dwindle off because people have problems or are not succeeding and we don't always have the two or three car battle at Homestead that would be cool. If we can find a way to minimize the damage by having bad races and keep it closer, I would be a supporter of that."
WHAT HAS RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING STRUGGLED WITH THIS SEASON?: "I'm not trying to be a smart guy here when I say this, but if we knew what the problem was we wouldn't have it. I believe that one of the things that hurt us is not testing. We tested a lot. The 29 (Kevin Harvick) and the 31 spent a lot of time testing and I think that we got a lot of benefit out of that. We may not have been as prepared as a lot of teams without being able to test. I don't believe we're behind in one area. I think we've gotten a little behind in a lot of areas. One of the things that was clear to us coming into this year and last year and I openly talked about it is we were on the verge of not being good enough last year. We had one of two ways to go -- we could either improve or we couldn't improve. We worked very hard to improve, but we started the year out and the changes that we made we haven't improved. We were able to take that assessment really early and now we're trying to do things differently and we're trying to get better during the year where some people got better during the winter. We just made some decisions that weren't ultimately the correct decisions. Wasn't because we weren't working, it wasn't because we weren't trying, but we just made some decisions that didn't work. Now we have to look at every department and try to figure out how to do every category better. That's the only way we're going to get better."
WHAT SUGGESTIONS DID YOU MAKE IN THE NASCAR TOWN HALL MEETING ABOUT THE AERODYNAMIC ISSUES OF THE CAR?: "I'm going to be a simplistic guy here -- if you put a vehicle on a race track and you go 190 MPH with it, it's going to create a wake or whatever you want to call it. There is a fine line between making enough down force, side-force, combination of those things, drag to be able to drive the car, but then not have the wake that's created because you've created those things and the cars behind you don't drive as well. It is a problem that is inherent with racing. It's not something you just make go away. We've all driven down the road and pulled behind a truck and felt that wake. In order to improve that situation the only remedy is to try to find more mechanical grip and try to find a way to create down force, side-force whatever the factors are that make the car drive well and doing it in an efficient way so it doesn't create such a wake. That's a very complicated thing to do. If you watch an F1 race, the most technologically advanced vehicles in the world, they have a bigger problem with it then we do. If you watch every form of racing you go to -- it's a problem. The slower you go, the less problem. When we go to California, when we go to Michigan, when we go to fast race tracks the problem becomes worse. But you have to be able to drive a car and you can't drive the car if aerodynamically it won't do the things you need it to do so it's a very complicated issue. A lot of people want to say it's a Car of Tomorrow problem -- it is a Car of Tomorrow problem, but it was also a car before the Car of Tomorrow problem. We complained about it before the Car of Tomorrow.
"The reason the wing was put on the car was to try to create a situation where the air could go underneath the wing and make it so there is air. I don't know if that's worked or not. If you put a spoiler back on the car then you're going to have turbulence and you're going to have a wake. It's a very, very complicated issue. We've got to be able to drive these cars. The better the cars drive, the better the racing is going to be. If you pull down force away from them they're going to drive worse. You may not get as much aerodynamic problem behind a guy, but if your car is already driving bad and you loose that well then you have the same problem. It is a real fine balance between mechanical grip and aero-grip. The only way to try to improve that is in our underbody stuff, maybe there's some stuff we can do. We all want more down force, that's not true -- some want more down force, some want more side-force and some want less. I think we all agree that more mechanical grip would be a good issue. That percentage of mechanical grip to aero-grip, none of us truly understand what it needs to be. It is a problem that will always be in Motorsports and it's a problem that gets exaggerated with speed. Its' not going to go away nor did it just get created. It's always been here with us and it's a very complicated issue to look at, but I do believe that we have the capacity to look at it and try to improve it. It's not going to be something that happens in a week, its going to be something that happens in years or lots of months because it's a complicated issue."
WOULD SOFTER COMPOUNDS HELP THE SITUATION?: "There is a lot talked about softer compounds and everybody thinks if you just put softer rubber on a tire then that will fix the problem. That's not it -- there's a whole lot more to tires than just softness. The construction of the tire has a whole lot more to do with it then the rubber that's on the tire. Goodyear in my opinion has made huge advances in the tire for this year. We have seen a much better tire. The only place we didn't really see an improvement or seen by me was Atlanta. Atlanta was still an issue, but every other place Goodyear has brought a much better tire. And by the way if you look at the races that I pointed out as being really good -- they had tires that were really good. That's a mechanical grip thing. The more we can do to create mechanical grip, the better we're going to be. I will tell you, I believe Goodyear has done the best job that I have ever seen them do in bringing us a tire that creates more grip. They've made huge improvements and they've come a long way over the last eight months and that has helped the cars."
-credit: gm racing