Indianapolis: Pole winning team press conference

2006 ALLSTATE 400 AT THE BRICKYARD PRESS CONFERENCE Jeff Burton, Richard Childress Saturday, Aug. 5, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway MODERATOR: We're pleased to be joined by our pole sitter, driver of the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet,...

Jeff Burton, Richard Childress
Saturday, Aug. 5, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

MODERATOR: We're pleased to be joined by our pole sitter, driver of the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet, Jeff Burton. Fast time of 182.778 miles per hour, 49.240 seconds. Also joined by his team owner, Mr. Richard Childress.

This is Jeff's fifth career Bud Pole, his third of the season. I'm told it's also the first time that a driver has ever sat on the pole of the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard all in the same year. It's also the first time that a car owner has swept the front row here at Indianapolis. So congratulations to you both on that.

We're on a short time frame, so let's get started quickly with Jeff in an opening comment. Just talk about your lap out there today and your qualifying.

JEFF BURTON: Well, first of all, I want to say I'm sorry for not being here, you know, right when the qualifying was over. We're doing both races tonight and certainly wasn't dodging you guys, I just was working. But it was a really good lap for us. Obviously, we had benefit with the draw; on the same token, we had a fast car and we were able to take advantage of it. So proud of the effort with the Team Cingular, proud of the effort with all of RCR to have all three of us in the top 10. That's a heck of a feat. If we can do that tomorrow, that will be even better.

MODERATOR: Richard, talk to us about how your guys out there performed today. It was a tremendous qualifying for your team.

RICHARD CHILDRESS: Yeah, we came up here and tested, and I felt really good. I didn't know how fast we'd be in qualifying, but in race trim Jeff was really good. Neither one of the cars made a run, to my knowledge, in qualifying trim when we were up here at the test. We all went back and felt good and went back and done some homework. These guys just done it all, you know, him, Clint (Bowyer) and the whole group just did great.

MODERATOR: If you have a question, raise your hand.

Q: Richard, can you sum up what it means to come here with two guys in the top five in the points and then sweep the front row?

CHILDRESS: It feels great. I feel good for everybody at RCR that's put in so much hard work over the winter and the summer and the communication between the drivers and crew chiefs and engineers. It's just a great group of guys and ladies at RCR that's putting out an effort that's showing now, the efforts, the hard work they put out is showing.

Q: Jeff, you said at one point when you left the 99, and that was the race where they were going to start the new engines and how much you were looking forward to that moment. When you look back to that point then and look at where you are now, do you feel like you're having a second opportunity to race again?

BURTON: Well, you know, I've said this before. I didn't go join Richard Childress Racing because I was trying to wrap up my career. I went to Richard Childress Racing because I was trying to restart my career. When I looked at the opportunity that Richard was putting in front of us, when I looked at the resources that would be available to us, when Richard gave me the commitment that he would do whatever it took to build a world-class racing operation, that's why I left. And I didn't leave -- a lot of athletes, if you look at their careers, late in their careers they make a move, and that's the end of it. That wasn't my intention. My intention was to get it stepped back up. So, you know, Richard has done a hell of a job. He's done everything he told me he would do and more. We are working exceptionally well together. At the same token, there's a whole lot for us to do. You know, this doesn't pay us any points; this doesn't get us in the Chase. We have always got to be looking what the next thing ahead of us is. Quite honestly, we've won one race this year, the 29 has. No other team's won. Richard, before the year, you know, wanted us to win three, the 29 and 31, to win three races each. We thought we could do that. We still think we can do that. So we're short of our goals at the moment. We aren't where we planned to be. You know, I know everybody's like, 'Hey, everything is great; you guys are running good.' The way we're looking at it, we're not doing enough yet. That's the attitude of everyone, but it feels damn good to be where we are, but still not good enough.

Q: Richard, if Jeff or Clint wins this race tomorrow, you'll be the first car owner to have three wins here with three different drivers. Can you maybe expand on what that would say about RCR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, how you guys seem to have figured this place out?

CHILDRESS: It would be great to win with either one of them. I just think Indianapolis is special, you know, with all the tradition and history and everything that's went on here for many years. To win a race here is great, but to win three races here would even be better. So we're looking forward for a good day and excited. All the cars are running good. I think we've got a real good shot.

Q: Could each of you mention what you think the No. 1 thing is that has turned around at Richard Childress Racing to make you guys successful and moving toward that direction?

CHILDRESS: Well, kind of like Jeff said, it's about people, a lot of people and dedication. I think, you know, everybody working together, and I couldn't put my finger on one thing. But I do know there's a lot of people there that want to win, want to be a contender every week. We know we've got a lot of work ahead of us to get where we want to be and we're going to keep working until we get there.

BURTON: And I don't think there's one thing, Claire, I don't think we can -- you know, when I first walked into Richard Childress Racing, like I said, everything's there to succeed. We haven't done one thing, we've changed everything. I mean, Richard has changed every department. I mean, I'm talking about even merchandising and marketing. Everything has been changed. Fortunately, you know, Richard deserves a tremendous amount of credit; the things that were changed were changed correctly. It's easy to change stuff, damn hard to change it right. Richard has done a phenomenal job of taking what was a company last year that really couldn't put a team in the top 10 to honestly having a shot for having two and with that, with some good luck, Clint would have a shot, too. That 07 car has run, and they have just had some miserable luck. So we feel really good about the changes that were made, but there's not one thing. I mean, you just can't, it's impossible to say it's one thing.

Q: You've told us before, Jeff, that just because a guy has a down year, a few down years, he hasn't forgotten how to drive and just because a guy is up, it doesn't mean he's a better driver. Are you a different driver at all? Are you a better driver?

BURTON: I'm smarter today than I was five years ago. I think I'm a better driver than I was five years ago. I know I'm a smarter person. I know I'm more mature. I know that I know how to handle things better, and I'm much more calm. I think I'm a better driver than I was five years ago. The fact of the matter is, though, five years ago I was winning five races a year, and I'm not doing that right now. So until we can get doing that, then I'm not. So I challenge myself every day to be better, and I know I need to be better. But, you know, I think that not only does that go for drivers, it goes for car owners, too. When Richard Childress has won six championships, he didn't forget how to do that, you know. Richard's down time about matched my down time, if you look at it. And Richard, you don't fall into six championships. I'm sorry, you just don't do it. You don't fall into winning 17 races, you just don't do it. So the talent is there, we just got to put it together.

Q: Jeff, as well as things have gone for you today, what are your primary concerns for tomorrow? What do you need to do yourself and for your team to do for you?

BURTON: Well, there's obviously concern over tires. Obviously, you know, we had some left fronts go down today. The right front tire wear is an issue that will improve. That's the thing that's in front of me right now that I'm concerned about. This racetrack has a way of -- weird things happen here. I want to have a normal race. If we have a normal race here and we don't have things bite us, then we'll be in good shape. That's my biggest concern, is having something strange happen that takes us out of contention. Because this race always, people get wrecked on restarts, weird things happen at this racetrack, and that's the tire issue and then, you know, the ancillary things that you can't control. The main thing I'm concerned about is making sure our car drives well. The faster you go, the more margin you have when things don't go well. We are fast, but I don't think we're right where we need to be just yet. We're close, but we've got to find some stuff tonight to make the car just a touch better.

Q: Richard, does Clint have standing orders to let Jeff lead the first lap to get the five bonus points?

BURTON: Yes. (Laughter)

CHILDRESS: Just don't wreck, that's the orders. I remember when Dale was up here and he was on the outside pole, he told me, 'I'm going to lead that first lap.' He did lead, he got over to (Turn) 4 and then hit the wall. So I will remind Clint of that tomorrow. (Laughter)

BURTON: The one thing we've got going on now is that Richard doesn't have to talk to the drivers about -- we're all on the same page. You know, we really are. So whoever beats who, you know, around will lead the lap. I mean, that's how it should be. But it will be clean, I can guarantee you that. He better let me lead the first lap. (Laughter)

Q: Qualifying was obviously good across the team, kind of looked like practice was, as well. Is that the case, fast, consistent throughout the sessions, throughout the team?

BURTON: I think so. I think that, of course, I have a skewed point of view because I don't have a chance to really look at what the other two guys are doing until later. But, yeah, I think that we're all competitive. It's a matter of who takes what they have now and find a way to make it a little better and then who takes that and finds a way to make it even better tomorrow. I think that we're all in that category of being able to do that. I think that's a fair assessment.


Q: Jeff, you said you're a faster, better driver now than you were five years ago, but you're winning less. Do you think the level of competition has raised that much?

BURTON: Well, you know what? Being perfectly honest here, there's no question the level has raised and is more competitive than it's ever been ever. But when you win a lot, you continue to win a lot because you have put yourself in that position over and over and over, and you know how to deal with things better. I went through a period where I couldn't put myself in position to win, so I got a little rusty at finishing things off. So I think some of us not being able to finish it off is my rustiness, to be quite honest. But I don't know, I mean I'm driving fast race cars, Richard is giving me fast race cars, and Scott is doing a really, really nice job.

Where we are, my assessment of where we are is when we are at our best, somebody can still be a little better. We've got to get to the point when we're at our best, nobody can be better. So we keep putting ourselves in position, we've put ourselves in position a lot this year, we just haven't found a way that when we're our best, we're our best at the right time in the race, number one; and number two, nobody can be better. We're there, but we're not all the way there.

Q: Jeff, you touched on this a little bit, but you had a chance to do some longer green-flag runs in conditions that are going to be a lot like tomorrow. What did you see when you got the tires off and were you happy?

BURTON: We definitely got more laps on tires today than we did yesterday. We got more laps on tires in the second practice versus the first practice. So the tire wear will continue to improve, but it's not fixed just yet.

MODERATOR: They're on a tight schedule; we're going to take one more question.

Q: Jeff, you have three poles this year and if Kerry was right, only two the rest of your career. What's going on there?

BURTON: That's odd, isn't it? Damn if I know. The first qualifying attempt we made this year at a, you know, normal racetrack, not counting Daytona, was California. We qualified well, and I went, 'Hmm,' and went to Vegas and qualified well and thought that's odd; then went to Atlanta and qualified well, and I said, 'Well, that's a miracle.'

I don't know. I mean, you know, I've worked mentally on qualifying quite a bit and feel good about the things I've done to get myself prepared to qualify. But, you know, Scott Miller and my guys are giving me stuff that will go around the racetrack. You know, that qualifying thing is a lot like racing. When you're doing it poorly, it's hard to improve it because it's hard -- you don't make gains. You know, I went through that for a long time. But, really, when I first came over here, we've been qualifying pretty decent. Like when I came here, I said: 'Richard, I'm going to tell you, I can't qualify. I'm terrible at it.' He was used to that because Dale sucked at it, too. (Laughter) So we figured, hell, it will be all right.

But I don't know, I mean it's -- obviously, the cars drive great, and I've worked on myself to be ready when I get in the car. I think all those things have come together at the same time.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Guys have a safe trip tonight, good race and great race tomorrow.


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton
Teams Richard Childress Racing