JEFF BURTON IS GOING TO THE CMT 300 AT NEW HAMPSHIRE IN A POSITIVE FRAME OF MIND. AFTER ALL, HE HAS WON TWICE AT THE MAGIC MILE IN HIS LAST THREE VISITS, INCLUDING A VICTORY EARLIER THIS YEAR IN THE JIFFY LUBE 300. HE SPOKE ABOUT RETURNING TO ...
JEFF BURTON IS GOING TO THE CMT 300 AT NEW HAMPSHIRE IN A POSITIVE FRAME OF MIND. AFTER ALL, HE HAS WON TWICE AT THE MAGIC MILE IN HIS LAST THREE VISITS, INCLUDING A VICTORY EARLIER THIS YEAR IN THE JIFFY LUBE 300. HE SPOKE ABOUT RETURNING TO LOUDON AND VARIOUS TOPICS....
JEFF BURTON, -99- Exide Batteries Ford Taurus -- YOU'VE WON TWICE AT LOUDON, WHAT IS IT YOU LIKE ABOUT THAT TRACK? "You like wherever you run well and we always seem to run well there, whether it was in a Busch car or a Winston Cup car. I'm just comfortable at that race track. I like the environment. I like the people. I like everything about it. It's a tough race track. The rubber gets built up on the track and you've gotta figure out a way of running around that. There are just a lot of challenges that go along with New Hampshire and I think that's what's fun about racing."
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KEYS AND CHALLENGES TO THAT TRACK? "Really the challenges are the track changes during the day because of the rubber build-up. Qualifying setup and race setup are two totally separate issues. You've gotta have everything. You've gotta handle well, you've gotta run down the straightaway. It takes a little bit of everything to run well at New Hampshire, so that makes it exceptionally tough."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING THE FIRST THREE-TIME WINNER THERE POSSIBLY? "I'll tell you Sunday morning how I feel about those chances. Our success there last race doesn't guarantee success this race. It means that we have a real good place to start from and the race setup that we had this time that won the race was totally different than the one we had the time before. The track changes, it's gonna be hotter when we go there this time I think. A lot of things change from year to year and race to race and adapting to those changes will be imperative if you're gonna run well."
EVEN THOUGH YOUR CHANCE FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP HAS DWINDLED THIS YEAR, YOUR TEAMMATE MARK MARTIN IS RIGHT IN THE THICK OF THE BATTLE. HOW DO YOU VIEW YOUR ROLE DOWN THE STRETCH AND CAN YOU HELP HIM WIN IT? "My role hasn't changed since the beginning of the year. My role is to do the very best thing for the 99 car. His role is to do the very best thing for the 6 car and, in the process, help each other, so my role doesn't change at all. "There's certainly a huge focus in our shop on winning that championship and, if coming down the stretch, they need to have some resources and pull from my team, then we'll certainly make that available to them. However we can help, we'll help short of doing something unethical on the race track. My role is to just continue doing the best thing for the 99 because the better I run, the more it will help the 6 in that we can share information and can provide input for each other. "Mark's got a lot going on too with what just happened to his father. Maybe I can step in and help him do some day to day things that take a little pressure off him, things that he and I had talked about. If I can help him see that some things get done, whether it be in his Busch program or in his Winston Cup program to take a little bit off of him, then that's what we'll do."
ARE THERE ANY TRACKS COMING UP DOWN THE STRETCH WHERE YOU SEE YOURSELF BEING ABLE TO PROVIDE A LITTLE MORE HELP TO MARK? "There are three of them for sure -- there's Richmond, Darlington and Rockingham that he doesn't have very much confidence at. We're going next week to test at Darlington together, so those three tracks are tracks that he feels like we can help him. I'm a little less confident that we can help him than he is, but we're gonna certainly try to help him, and really, he's run better there this year than he has in the past, so I think we have provided some help to him in those races already. By the same token, he's sure helped me at Charlotte, Atlanta and places like that, so it's been a good trade off of information, a good trade off of driving styles. I think we both have learned something this year and I'd like to believe that's part of the reason that he's in contention for the championship."
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON? "Our goal is just to qualify better. Our goal is to keep running as well as we've been running, but then to step it up and have a little better finishes than we've been having. Obviously, we want to continue to be in the top 10 in points and we'd like to climb higher than where we are. We've conceded the championship. I think at Indy we pretty much gave it up there. I thought going into Indy that if we got on a roll, we could knock some wins off and have some great finishes and then, if a there were a couple of blunders on some other teams, then we could get ourselves close enough to be a threat. When you get close enough, anything can happen. After Indy and finishing 36th, that pretty much was the icing on the cake. We were borderline anyway of being able to say we were ever gonna be in contention and then that pushed us over the border. We're disappointed we're out of it at this point, but we still have a great race team. We're not gonna panic. We know why we're out of it and our goal is to fix those problems."
MARK MARTIN HAS FIVE TOP-FIVE FINISHES IN SEVEN CAREER NEW HAMPSHIRE RACES AND WAS SECOND TO TEAMMATE JEFF BURTON IN THE JIFFY LUBE 300 EARLIER THIS YEAR. THIS IS ONE OF ONLY FOUR ACTIVE TRACKS MARTIN HAS NOT WON AT. THE OTHERS ARE INDIANAPOLIS, DAYTONA AND POCONO.
MARK MARTIN, -6- Valvoline Cummins Ford Taurus -- YOU'VE HAD GOOD SUCCESS AT LOUDON, DO YOU LIKE RACING THERE? "I used to, but they put some kind of black stuff on the track and it's not much fun to race on anymore. I liked it until they did that, but they had a lot of problems keeping the asphalt down. They put some kind of sealer on it and it's been real difficult to race on, but the last race up there we had a real good car. We were able to pass a lot of cars and do real well."
YOU FINISHED SECOND IN THAT RACE AND IF YOU HAD TO FINISH SECOND AT LEAST IT WAS TO YOUR TEAMMATE JEFF BURTON. "Second is second, but I was glad that he finally got a win. He'd run good enough to win a lot this year so it was good that he won."
ARE THERE ANY TRACKS YOU'VE STRUGGLED AT IN WHICH YOU CAN LEAN ON JEFF TO TRY AND HELP? "There are, but we've already done that. We've already been to all of them with the Taurus and we've already done that. He's doing everything he can at the tracks we're not strong at. Of course, we've done everything we can at the tracks we are strong at for them, so 100 percent effort is 100 percent effort."
DALE JARRETT HEADS TO THE CMT 300 NEEDING TO STRING TOGETHER SEVERAL EXCELLENT FINISHES TO REMAIN IN CONTENTION FOR THE 1998 WINSTON CUP CHAMPIONSHIP. HE AND THE QUALITY CARE SERVICE/ FORD CREDIT TEAM WOUND UP SEVENTH IN THE JIFFY LUBE 300 AT NEW HAMPSHIRE INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY IN JULY. RECENTLY, HE TALKED ABOUT LOUDON.
DALE JARRETT, -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- JEFF BURTON HAD THE FIELD COVERED IN JULY. YOU MUST BE LOOKING FOR A BETTER COMBINATION FOR THIS WEEKEND. "I think that we learned some things that should make us more competitive than what we were. We knew we had a good race car. But we ran out of gas and that got us behind. We just had a fuel pick-up problem and, therefore, we couldn't go as far as the other guys so we had to make an extra pit stop versus those guys who were able to stay on the race track. We had to come from the back then. We did a pretty good job getting back to seventh, so it ended up being a pretty good day for us. But what we want to do is race for the win there. We've had good cars there in the past, so we feel like we there were some things that we can do a little bit different just in watching some of the competitors that were a little better than us and watching our car."
YOU AND YOUR TEAM HAVE HAD SEVERAL EXCELLENT RUNS AT LOUDON. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THAT TRACK OR THAT TYPE OF TRACK? "Flat race tracks we seem to do pretty well at and that certainly is the case at Loudon where there very little banking in the corners. Todd (PARROTT, crew chief) excels at getting the car to handle in the corners and that's what it's all about is getting it to roll through the corners and hooked up off [the corners]. Todd's really good at that."
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO PASS AT LOUDON? It's very difficult to pass. On fresh tires, a lot of people are pretty equal. When it comes into play, and when you can make the pass, is after you've run a few laps on the tires and the handling starts going away on some of the cars. Track position is very, very important. You might see a lot of the guys at times take on only two tires or a lot of times opt to stay out even with fifty and sixty laps to go, they decide they're going to stay out and make the most of what they have for track position.
IT'S A SHORTER RACE DISTANCE-WISE. DOES THAT HELP YOU AS A DRIVER? Well, it is (a shorter race). It doesn' seem that way when you get into racing because you're talking about 300 miles on a flat race track that still takes close to 30-seconds to go around. So it still takes a while to race. It's a tough race track to pass on and negotiate traffic. To us, in the race car, it still seems like a longer day even though it's only 300 miles. Fatigue is still a factor. You work awful hard at Loudon. The track surface changes during the race. You get some rubber build-up and you have to change your line and you as a driver have to work extremely hard.