Fontana II: Burton - GM Top-10 interview

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS: ON DEFINING MOMENT THUS FAR IN 2006: "What I feel is our defining moment was our off season testing. Coming in to the season, I had confidence that our team...


ON DEFINING MOMENT THUS FAR IN 2006: "What I feel is our defining moment was our off season testing. Coming in to the season, I had confidence that our team could perform at a very high level because the testing we did in the off-season was very successful. I felt very good about the things we had done. That was really the most important moment up to this point. The absolute defining moment for this season we will figure that definition when the year is over. We can't do that right now because hopefully when the year is over, we will have a better understanding of that. For us, what we did last year and the off-season was really what made us a really good race team in my opinion."

ON ANY CONCERNS ABOUT ENGINE WEAR AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY: "It is a long race, 500 miles on a two-mile race track is a lot of wear and tear on an engine. You are in the RPMs for a great deal of time. Yes, we do have to understand that it is an issue, but at the same time, we have to get our car driving well. We have to work the right amount of time to do that. Hopefully you can do that in a shorter period of time. The biggest issue we have ahead of us this week is the practice schedule is bizarre. At no point this weekend do we practice in the conditions that we will race under. So understanding how it is going to be different at one o'clock in the afternoon versus how it is going to be at seven o'clock at night is our biggest challenge. The practice schedule is laid out very odd and to me that is our biggest challenge right now. I have a lot of confidence in our engine program. Although you never know what is going to happen, I am not worried about it."

ON CHANGES OF TRACK CHANGES AND CONDITIONS AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY: "It definitely changes. It obviously is hot out here. But the sun is what makes the difference. The more sun you have on these race tracks, the more slick they get and the harder it is to get the handle of them. It is going to change a lot from daytime to night, there is no question about it, the key is how is it going to change. To be honest, we didn't really run well enough last year to base an opinion on it, so we are having to pay attention to what happened to others and try and get a grasp on it. It is going to be a change, no question about it."

ON TALK OF POSSIBLE CHANGES TO CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY: "I am a big opponent to changing race tracks. I have seen few incidents where they have made race tracks better and a lot of incidents where they made them worse. I am just not a proponent of changing race tracks. There is no evidence that has been presented to me that anybody knows what they are doing when they go to build a race track, much less change it. I don't want to see them change the race track at all. This race track is the opportunity for multiple groove racing. It is a slick race track, but that is what makes the racing good is the fact that it is a slick race track. I can't imagine how they could change the race track. If you chose to build a two-mile race track, you are not going to have as close of competition as you do on a ¾-mile race track. It is simple engineering. If you are 1% off at 200 mph, that is very different than being 1% off at 100 mph. The bigger the race track, for the exception of the restrictor plate tracks, the more spread out things are going to get. That is what we had when the track was originally built. To change it, no one has presented me with any evidence that says you can take a good race track and make better. Certainly, you can take a race track that is terrible and make it better, but in very few cases have we seen tracks be improved by a small amount. Homestead was improved but a group of kindergartners could have got together and built Homestead when it was first built. I mean kids in a sandbox could have done a better job. So you are not comparing a good race track to a despicable race track that became ok. Homestead is still no better than anywhere else we go, it is just a lot better than it was because it was so messed up. I am concerned that they haven't done a good job at Vegas; nobody has shown me that it is better by changing it. Maybe they can, I don't know. I am much more prone to leave it alone."

ON CAR OF TOMORROW IMPROVING RACING AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY: "I think the jury is still out on that. There is some potential that the COT could help something. But first of all, Help What? I guess I need to understand what is the problem. That is the thing I am confused about is when people talk about race tracks, what is wrong with it? That is the thing I don't understand. Sometimes I think we are guilty of thinking every lap of every race is going to three wide and the last lap is going to be two wide with smoke flying. I think we are guilty of that. That is not reality. I watched the tape of the race here from last year and that was a really good race. I haven't watched this years' spring race yet, but the night race last year was a really good race. It was very competitive. You never knew who was going to win until the very end. I just don't see what was wrong with that race. So again, there are times when we get all wound up about racing needing to be better when in fact, we need to really appreciate how good it actually is."

ON MENTALITY HEADING IN TO CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY EVENT: "My mentality is to go out and do the very best I can. Me and this team are having a really good time with this. I said last week, if it is fourth quarter with two minutes to go and you don't want the ball, then get the heck off the court. That is where we are. It is time to get it done. This is what professional sports is all about. It is supposed to be close, it is supposed to be intense. It is supposed to be pressure filled and that is what it is. Anything less than that isn't what people pay to watch. By the way, if we aren't man enough to deal with it, then we need to go do something else. I mean, it is what we do. Do I wish that we were definitely locked in the points for the Chase? Without a doubt. Do I wish we didn't have to worry about it the next two races? I definitely wish we didn't have to worry about it. At the same time, it is a heck of a lot of fun being part of it. I enjoy the opportunity we have to try to get in the Chase. I enjoy the opportunity to come to the race track and compare ourselves against our competitors. That is what we do. We are not going to change anything we have been doing. We are going to focus on what we have been doing. Anything less than that would be a mistake. If we get down to the end of it, and it doesn't work out for us, it won't be because we changed something and tried to do something different. We are a good enough race team that if we do out jobs then we can get in the Chase. If we don't do our jobs, then we won't. That is just as simple as it gets."

ON PINPOINTING A SPECIFIC TIME THIS SEASON REGARDING IN OR OUT OF THE CHASE: "It is going to be different for every team. Without a doubt, I can go back and look that we got wrecked at Bristol; we got wrecked at Martinsville and I wrecked us a Daytona. Those three things were not beneficial to us. We had a tire problem at Atlanta; we had an engine problem at Michigan. Those five races added together have put us in a position to be in the fight we are in. Then along the way, there are little things like 20 points here, five points there, four points that we missed there. I go back after every race and look at where we left points on the table. I have left points on the table by not making the right move at the end of a race. I have left points on the table by not being on pit road at the right speed. All this little stuff adds up when this thing is as close as it is. We have had too many bad finishes in my opinion, at the same token, we have had a lot less bad finishes than a lot of other people. Those are the things that have put us in this position."

ON LUCK FACTOR OF MAKING/NOT MAKING THE CHASE: "Luck is a factor in anything you do. Sometimes you put yourself in a position to have either bad luck or good luck. I don't lose any sleep over bad luck or good luck. When you start worrying about luck, you are just missing opportunity. Luck is a factor in anything you do, there is no question about it. But you can't wish for it or wish against it. It is just out there. I am much more concerned about the things that I can control and this team can control. That is where our focus is."

ON PRESSURE OF THOSE FIGHTING FOR LAST BERTHS IN CHASE AFFECTING RACING AT CALIFORNIA AND RICHMOND: "I think it is going to be like it has been. There is a tremendous amount of respect in this garage from team to team and driver to driver. Everybody is racing hard; everybody is trying to get what they can get. I think the respect level is really high and I don't think people are going to be driving over their head. There are some people who are in desperation mode. But there are way more people that are in their do their thing mode. You can't get in that panic mode because you can't be effective when you are in a panic. You never know what is going to happen, but I don't see the racing being any different. Trying too hard might bring on some mistakes. I think when people have pressure, what tends to be the mistake is trying to hard. You see it in every sport. You can see it in the best athletes in the world. Watching Brett Favre last season; you watch the best coaches in the world and again, desperation puts you in position of trying to hard. That is how mistakes are made, getting off your game. If you get off your game and get off of what you know, then that is when you make mistakes. If you try to change who you are3, that is when you make mistakes, at least that is when I make mistakes. The only reason we are talking about this is because you all brought it up. I think this is fun. This is what it is all about. Again, if you don't want it like this, then don't be in this deal. This is what racing is about. This is what racing for championships is about. You know what, it will start all over in two weeks. It is how it is and how it should be. I relish the opportunity. I think it is a heck of a lot of fun to be part of it.

ON BRISTOL BEING A CALM RACE: "Bristol was a calm race, relatively speaking. I don't know why. I had the luxury most of the night of being toward the front and really didn't get a sense of what was going on for 15th but if you look at Bristol, it was probably one of the calmest Bristol races we have had in a long. We just got tight and we lost some track position there but we just got really tight, that is the biggest thing. At the end, a bunch of people put on new tires and we were too tight to get back by them. We had one change that didn't work and it happened to be the next to the last one, which started the whole chain of events. It was enjoyable for me, I am not going to complain about it. I don't know why it seemed calmer at Bristol. There are a lot of people that can't afford to make mistakes right now, but at the same time, there are a lot of people that are trying to make stuff happen. Sometimes, the stars line up and things work out and I suspect that is more the reason than anything else."

ON AWARENESS OF WHERE COMPETITORS ARE IN CHASE: "I think everyone is aware of where they are in points and who they are racing. I think everyone is aware of situations and of who they are racing, when they are racing them and where they are in points. Matter of fact, I watched the replay of Michigan and during the race Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) during the race was complaining about the point thing. What we are doing is worrying about ourselves. If we go out and do our job, it won't matter what our competitors do. I don't pay attention lap for lap. I do toward the end of the race, look around and notice where are our competitors are. I have been around long enough to know that if you start looking on lap 200 with 300 to go, it is going to look difference 30 of 500 so I don't pay a lot of attention until it gets down to crunch time."

ON NOT MAKING THE CHASE: "It wouldn't be a lost season for us because we have done some really good things and we have learned a lot. We have made ourselves a better team. We have improved in a lot of areas. We have learned a lot about ourselves so it certainly wouldn't be lost, but it would be disappointing. "

ON DRIVERS WHO MADE THE CHASE LAST YEAR WHO ARE NOT GOING TO THIS YEAR: "The biggest thing is competition. When people step up and do well, it makes everybody around them have to do that as well. The biggest thing is the level of competition. When teams are really good, then everyone around them has to step up and start doing well. I think the teams that weren't doing good enough they have to make their deal better. A lot of teams have improved and some people have worse luck than they did last year. Sometimes luck is a factor. If you go back at last year, there were more people with a chance of making the Chase going in to this race than there are this year. I don't know what that means, but at the end of the day, the good teams made everyone else step up."

ON FEELING GOOD TO LEAD AND CONTROL BRISTOL RACE FOR SO LONG: "It does feel good. At the same time, we haven't got all our business done just yet. We are still working on it. We have a lot to go do that we haven't gotten done. That is really the thing that we are focusing on because we haven't figured out how to do that yet." Right now, I do have a high level of confidence that this team can be successful, but I also know we need to be better. We are not where we need to be just yet."

ON IMPROVEMENTS AT RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING: "I am one part of an organization committed to getting better. I haven't done anything more than anybody else. I try to do my part. I try to help where I can help but I am not doing anything that nobody else is doing. I have received a lot of credit for where we are. Some of it deserved, but most of it isn't. I am working really hard to do my part but so is Kevin (Harvick) so is Cling (Bowyer) so is everybody at RCR. I haven't done one thing that made us better; I am part of a group that is making us better. I honestly believe it."

ON ANY CHANGES TO THE CHASE: "NASCAR needs to do what they think will make it better for the fans and what is in the best interest of the people watching the sport. Whatever they think they need to do, I am good with it. It works pretty good the way it is right now, but maybe it could be better. But what they do with that. That is for them to decide, not me. I am not focused on that.

ON CHANGES TO PEOPLE AND TEAMS IN THE CHASE: "The intensity picks up and peoples mistakes show bigger. It is just a higher intensity level. What used to be at stake for a guy running ninth in points isn't even close to what is at stake now for the guy in ninth. It is the intensity level that is higher. I think it is good for our sport, I think it has made it a whole lot more fun to watch. You have to be right when it is the right time. When it comes time to go, you have to be your best. The Steelers are a perfect example, they were right when the time was right."

ON NOT HAVING CHASE EXPERIENCE: " I think having experience matters, but I think I have the experience. I have been in a championship hunt after championship hunt, I don't think having Chase experience matters."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt