JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET met with media and discussed parity in the sport, Brian Vickers, honoring Dale Earnhardt next week, and more. HOW HARD IS IT TO CLOSE THE DEAL AND WIN THESE RACES? "Well, it is hard because you can't...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET met with media and discussed parity in the sport, Brian Vickers, honoring Dale Earnhardt next week, and more.
HOW HARD IS IT TO CLOSE THE DEAL AND WIN THESE RACES?
"Well, it is hard because you can't make any mistakes and you've got other people who are trying not to make mistakes as well. Typically there are a lot of fast cars, not just one or two fast cars, and it's really competitive. There's a lot of good teams and good pit crews and a lot of drivers and everything. You put that much talent in one place, and if anybody makes a mistake, then that one person ain't going to make it happen."
DOES IT ALMOST SEEM LIKE THE GUYS WHO ARE RUNNING WELL THIS SEASON, AND SHOULD WIN, AREN'T WINNING? IS THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED A FACTOR?
"I think the green-white-checkered certainly shook up some stuff, no question. But you go back and watch the last four or five races, the fast cars have won them; maybe not the absolute fastest car. But cars that weren't running well didn't win the race. No matter what, you've still got to be able to run fast. But there are certainly some cases where the guy who led the most laps didn't win the race. But we see that a lot. This sport's been about that for a long time. I don't know that it's a whole lot different."
RCR AND JGR HAVE HAD PRETTY STRONG PERFORMANCES. IS IT GOOD FOR THE SPORT NOW TO SEE HENDRICK NOT DOMINATING?
"It's good for us (laughs). I think that parity is a great thing. On the same token, I believe that having someone to knock off is a good thing with the sport too. Someone needs to be the top good guy and someone needs to be the one that everybody is shooting for. When you have too much parity, then it almost makes it hard to know who to pull for and who to pull against. So part of our sport is as much about pulling against somebody as it is pulling for somebody."
ON THE ALL-STAR RACE, DO YOU HAVE A MINDSET OR A STRATEGY GOING INTO THE 40-LAP SPRINT SHOWDOWN?
"We'll we're not planning on being in the 40-lap Sprint Showdown. So you'll have to ask me that next week."
WELL, EVEN THOUGH YOU PROBABLY WON'T BE IN IT, DO YOU THINK THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST COMPETITIVE DEALS FOR THE SHOWDOWN?
"Well, I certainly think that if you look at who is in that race, it's a lot of good teams and a lot of good drivers and none of those guys that are in it are proud to be in it. They don't want to be in it. They want to be in the other race. Every one of those drivers and teams, as we are, are embarrassed about being in that race. But the rules are the rules and somebody's going to go out and find a way to win that race and move in."
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE NEW RULES THIS YEAR?
"I don't even know what the rules are, to be quite honest. I haven't even looked at the rules. I don't even know what they are."
ON BRIAN VICKERS AND HIS MEDICAL CONDITION
"When you're in this sport, you believe that the only thing that matters is this sport. But the reality of it is that there are things that are more important. And I don't know what Brian's situation is but we certainly wish him the best and it is most important for him to do what he has to do to be healthy and to be safe. And sitting out a race, or two, three, four, five or ten, ain't going to ruin his career. And it's not going to make it to where he can't be competitive. So, it's certainly not what he wants and to him I'm sure it feels like the worst thing that can possibly happen. But the main thing is that he's healthy. I've had to be out and it's not a pleasant experience but he'll be okay."
BACK TO THE PARITY ISSUE, DO YOU GET A SENSE THAT EVERYBODY ELSE IS CATCHING UP TO THE HENDRICK GUYS WITH THEIR HARD WORK? OR, HAS THE NO. 48 (JIMMIE JOHNSON) JUST SLIPPED A LITTLE?
"Well, I think that this sport is always about people catching up to the people that are doing best. We've never seen a guy on a team be the best as long as they have. Obviously they've broken a record on the number of championships in a row. But you know, setting the bar is what this sport, or any sport is all about. People make their deal better if they go catch the best one. And then when they get there, they try to make their deal where nobody can catch them. So this game is always about being able to gain a leg up on somebody. They've been really good and they're going to continue to be good. I've seen, over the last four years, times in the season where they've done just what they've done right now and been strong when it counted. So, I wouldn't count them out just yet. I do believe they're still second in points; I may be wrong about that. But it's not like they're 23rd. They're still a really, really good race team."
THERE WAS QUITE A ROAR FROM THE CROWD WHEN JIMMIE JOHNSON FELL OUT LAST WEEK AT DARLINGTON. DID YOU HEAR THAT? DID IT SURPRISE YOU?
"I heard that. My wife told me that the place went crazy when he wrecked. It was a hard wreck. And she was like golly; most people don't realize how hard that wreck was. And it surprised her that people were cheering. I don't care what sport you're in. People love to see the big dog go down. And the people that love him don't. He's one of those guys, because of their success, that no one sits on the fence for long. You don't kinda like Jimmie Johnson. You either really like him or you don't like him at all because of the success he's had. He hasn't done anything wrong. He hasn't done anything to incite people to not what him to do well. His success has done that. So when he does badly, there's a group of people who are going to cheer and when he does great there are people who are going to cheer."
ON HONORING DALE EARNHARDT ON YOUR CAR NEXT WEEK, WHAT MEMORY DO YOU OHAVE F HIM AND OF BEING PART OF HIS CAREER?
"Racing with Dale was a great honor for me. He taught me a lot both on and off the race track. He was unbelievable. He was really underrated at controlling a room. And when he walked in a room, he was the center of attention. And he did that really well. That helped our sport. He was able to engage people in a way that the biggest CEO's in the world, the biggest executives in the world, when they came in the room with him, he was the man. And he controlled the pace and he controlled the tempo and he controlled the conversation. And he had a side of him, you know the rough-and-tough and all that that you saw, he was very professional. You had to pay attention to what he was saying. He had a lot of influence on our sport in that way that no one ever understood unless you were with him, you didn't really understand it. So, he was a great influence on me, not necessarily in his driving style because we had completely different driving styles, but in the way he held himself and handled himself. If you go back and think about it, all the stuff that he was in, he hardly ever said anything bad about another driver. He would just say, 'That's racing,' and go on. Now you got the hell knocked out of you the next week! But he wasn't talking about it. He was on to the next thing. And I think that was one of the coolest things about him. You never heard him say anything, well hardly ever. He let his racing do his talking."
PARITY ASIDE, YOU'VE HAD VERY STRONG CARS AND THE TEAM HAS BEEN STRONG. DO YOU START THINKING I'M IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP HUNT AND CAN WIN THIS THING?
"I believe wholeheartedly we're a championship team. I believed that going into this year. We haven't acted like a championship team in some cases. But there is no question that this team is fast enough and there's no question that this team is capable of winning this championship."
-source: gm racing