Continued from part 1 Q: As NASCAR looks at making more dramatic changes in the off-season, what sort of things would you like to see? JEFF BURTON: I've been asked that question a lot and I surely doesn't have an honest answer. I love sports,...
Continued from part 1
Q: As NASCAR looks at making more dramatic changes in the off-season, what sort of things would you like to see?
JEFF BURTON: I've been asked that question a lot and I surely doesn't have an honest answer. I love sports, and I enjoy my off time. I enjoy the end of the year. I think it's the coolest part of the year, and anything we can do to create more excitement and more drama throughout the year, I think is very good. And certainly, there's more attention going into this race with 11 races to go in the season than perhaps we had three years ago. I think that's fair to say. If there's a way to heighten that and there's a way to make that even better, I'm a proponent of it.
Q: A lot of talk especially around Matt Kenseth, the whole thing of when are you peaking, when is a team peaking, people look at Robby and Matt, but look going all the way back to what Buddy Parish used to say about you when you were very young; he's around wins, he keeps getting around wins and boom that happened for you. Certainly there's been times this year where you have been around wins, Indy and before I Bristol being the two latest examples. Do you allow yourself to think this might be one of those occasions, we might be the sleeper team that is about to make peak and all of this being around wins could start to translate to wins for us at just the right time?
JEFF BURTON: It's funny you mention that. I liken our team to the first year that I worked with Buddy Parish's. The first year worked with Buddy, we ended up with 14th in points or something, maybe 12th, I don't remember. But we put ourselves in position, we were consistent, we made mistakes, we would find ways not to win races when we put ourselves in position. And then the next year we matured and had a fabulous year. That's kind of where we are today. And the difference being that I'm much more mature. The difference being that we are even though we were with Roush Racing we were kind of on an island. We were kind of out there by ourselves which was the way Jacques wanted the team to be. Today we have much more of a better support system because I'm part of a three car team where back then it was really a one car team, that's the way it was structured. So I think the chance for us to learn about the mistakes that we're making, I think we have the position to learn quicker now than we did then. So, yeah, I think that yeah, I thought that Saturday. I know it's difficult to say because we finished 6th, but there was a portion of that race, the middle portion of that race, we didn't run very well. We were running 15, 16 we were not running very well at all. By the end of that race, we had a car that was fast enough to run. We couldn't run with Kasey Kahne by any means, but we were fast enough to run for third, fourth, fifth, sixth. We just had gotten so far off in the middle portion of the race. So what I look at us as right now is that we can go fast. We haven't found a way to go fast the whole race. There will be a day that we can do and a day that we can do that consistently. We need that to be right now and that's what we're focusing on and working on. I think that we understand why it got away from us at Bristol. I know why it got away from us at Indy. Yeah, I think this team, and myself as a driver, I think that we can. I think that we could be a team that could turn on and find a way to take it to the next level, which, by the, way we'll need to do. You know, when I look up and see where we're running, we're running well, but we're not running good enough. We're not two months ago I thought that we were without a doubt a championship contending team. We've digressed just a touch and we've got to step it back up and we're working very hard to do that.I think that going into Richmond and New Hampshire and those next races, I feel like we can do that. But we worked very hard at it, but yeah, I think this team, I think we can turn the corner and I think that we have a good opportunity to do it.
Q: In your experience, is it more likely even if you can't get it turned this year, given an off season without a lot of significant well, I guess you are going to have a Car of Tomorrow, but hard as you're working at it now, is it more likely that you would need an off season to really turn that corner?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I can tell you that we're a whole lot smarter today than we were at this point last year and we're way further ahead in the game. But, I can also tell you that the 16 and the 99, and there are a lot of teams right now that are in the same exact spot we were last year and they are busting their butts to be better. We can't status quo our way into next year. We've got to find a way to step it up, yet again, because I'm telling you, every other company is going to. Do we have the opportunity to be better next year than this year? Yeah, we do. Are we going to be better? I don't know. I think a lot of that hinges on the way we prepare the next four months and what we do the next four months, you know, before we get into January, that's going to be the key. We talk about that every week. We're working very hard on the Car of Tomorrow program.But, we have a lot of these races with these kind of cars running next year, too, so we have to improve this program as well as develop the Car of Tomorrow program. It's a full plate. Someone will do it better than others, and I hope that we'll be the one that does it better than others.
Q: You're talking about looking at the standings and how close it is between and you Mark and Tony Stewart and Hamlin, but the fact of the matter is you're in 10th place, is there a stigma about being the guy on the bubble?
JEFF BURTON: We're in. I don't know. I think the stigma is on the guy at 11th because he isn't. I'm not being cocky and saying we're definitely in because we are not. It's not done yet by any means. Certainly being on the bubble is not where you want to be. I would be a whole lot more comfortable if I was where Harvick is, but, I don't know, I think that for the fans maybe there's a stigma, hey, he's on the bubble. For me, I knew we were 10th in points because someone told me after the race but I didn't know how many points until an hour ago. We have a job to do and we've just got to go do it. I don't care where we are in points. Only thing I care I care where we are, as long as we're in the Top 10. But I mean, I don't view it as a stigma by any means. I think we've done a nice job of positioning ourselves.Here is the way I look at it to sum it up really quickly. We hold the spot. It's ours. They have got to take it from me. And it's our job to go take it from the people that are ahead of us. So is it a stigma that we're 10th, I don't know. The only thing I know is that we've done a really nice job of positioning ourselves to accomplish our first goal, which is to get in the Chase. Now it all falls on one race, and you know, everybody is looking at it as this last race is everything, I'm smart enough to know that where we finish in the Daytona 500 the first race of the year, is every bit as important as this race. This race, all the pressure and all the math falls on the one place and everybody will look at Richmond and say, well, this happened at Richmond and he got in and he didn't get in. Hey, there's a way all 11 of us get in. Think about this. I'm only 59 points away from being 400 points within the leader. You have no idea what's going to happen in this race. So when it's all said and done, everybody is going to say, well, whatever happened at Richmond, that was the deciding factor. That's not true. It is part of the deciding factor. It is one race within 26 races, and the work that we've done to get us to this point is why we're in this situation and the things that we didn't do well up to this point is why we're in this situation. So there's a lot of focus on this race, but as it should be, but when you add points up for the 25 before. We're 10th in points, which is our goal, we have a better goal the goals we haven't met is we haven't won the races we set ourselves 20 do and we are not in the Top 10 in points yet. Those are the two goals that we haven't met. Every other goal we've exceeded. They are two big ones, two really big ones. They are focusing on making it happen. The thing that drives me crazy more than the 10th in points, 200 laps to go, they should be showing where everybody is in points, that's ridiculous to me that drives me crazy, but the real thing is where is it when the race is over.
Q: Eight Chevrolets in the Top 10, any reason for that?
JEFF BURTON: I honestly don't know. Chevrolet has worked very hard on their program; they have really good race teams. Obviously Hendrick is a mainstay. Every year they bring it. The Childers organization has stepped up their program this year without a doubt and the Gibbs program without a doubt. We do this we do this with very old technology. The engine technology we have prepared for Dodge and Ford and soon to be Toyota is insufficient. We make good power but we have to spends a whole lot more time and energy to do it because of the design of the engine. Hopefully we can remedy that soon. But you know, it's good race teams. It's really good race teams. You know, this thing moves every year. Last year, Roush had five cars; they made up half the field for the Chase. They made up half the field. And this year they have one that's in for sure and one with a really good chance. This is a moving target. And again, I'm going to go back to what I said about the teams and Toyota. The teams utilizing the energy, utilizing the effort, utilizing the technology that the manufacturers provide, it's up to the teams to do that. The manufacturers can't make the teams do it. So Chevy does a great job of working with us to provide us with the things that we need. But they did last year, too, and we didn't have a car in the Chase. So again, if I was on the team's shoulders, you know, the Chevy teams have done a really good job this year.
Q: What's the feeling, how do you feel now at this point in the season, that you have a shot to get in the Chase, as compared to maybe like last year or the year before?
JEFF BURTON: That's a great question, just because everybody talks about the pressure of the situation that we're in, I can tell you, I feel a whole lot less pressure today than I did last year or the year before, where we didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting in. It's a whole lot different, and it's the kind of pressure that I like. You know, we received a tremendous amount of media this year because we have turned RCR program around in the right direction. But at the end of the day, we're still not where we need to be yet and what we're focusing on is making sure we are where we need to be. And it feels good; it feels really good to be in the situation where we feel like we have a chance. We go into Richmond with a chance to get in last year, we were mathematically possible to get in, but it was pretty much impossible for it to happen for us. You know, this year we have a real chance.
Q: You talked before about staying fast throughout the whole entire race. That's something, like you said, you couldn't quite figure it out but you have been fast at the right times, like at Dover earlier in June, where you actually just came from nowhere and then you got fourth.
JEFF BURTON: Actually that was a race where we led early and we fell off some at the end.
Q: So do you feel like you've kind of fixed that?
JEFF BURTON: I'm going to say yes, but the proof's in the pudding. Two weeks ago we led half the race at Bristol, and we finished ninth. So it's very difficult for me to say, hey, we fixed it. You know, one thing I'm always going to try to be is honest, and that is, I can't honestly say that we have fixed that problem. I can't honestly say that we have evaluated it, we have studied it, we've looked at it with not only us as a team but we've asked our other teammates to look at it and, you know, give us their honest opinion about the things that we did wrong in those situations. But really, I think it's just learning curve. I think we've had a few things happen to us that kind of snowballed and made it seem worse than it really was, but at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding. Saturday night, hopefully we can run fast enough all night Saturday night and make the right changes at the right time and then communicate what we need to communicate. I'm not worried about it to be quite honest. It's not something that I lose sleep over. I think that it's if it were not accepting that we have a problem, we were not working to make it better, I would be losing sleep about it, but I haven't lost any sleep about it at all really.
Q: You mentioned about the resurgence of RCR and the resurgence seems to have come about from just looking from the outside when you came over to the program itself, and was working with them and talking to them about what you were looking at for a race program. A lot of people pointed to you being the one to help get not just Kevin Harvick but the entire team moving forward, even with the third car being driven by Clint Bowyer. What do you think when people look at you as the person that helped bring RCR out of the funk that they were in for awhile?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I appreciate, you know, I appreciate the praise. You know, I will tell you that when I was hired by Richard, it wasn't just to be the driver of the 31. It was to come in and do the things that I enjoy doing, which is participating on a company wide way. I have tried to fulfill my responsibilities, which by the way, I have a great time doing, I enjoy it. But at the same time, in no means or in any way should people believe that I was the reason this we are running better. I am part of the reason that we are running better, but I play a role along with, you know, 360 other people. In no way could we be successful without everybody stepping up, and I think the biggest thing that we have seen is everybody at RCR looking at themselves in the mirror and saying, how could I do my deal better, what do I need to do, what does my superior need to know that that I need to know, what do I need to know about myself that I need to be better. We have a tremendous amount of personal accountability at RCR. So, you know, I appreciate the praise and I appreciate the honor. But the real, the real winners in this thing and the people that really made it happen are the employees, because they brought with them into last fall and into this season a renewed sense of hope, a renewed sense of enthusiasm, a renewed sense of responsibility. They are the ones that have made it better. And, you know, I can tell you, we've had a lot of people at RCR step up and try to do more and try to bring more and try to demand more, and, you know, there's a long list. I happen to think we have three of the brightest, smartest crew chiefs in the business, and I happen to think that our engineering staff is working well. We have a lot of departments that are really working well that did not work so well last year, and you know, I give them that praise, not me.
Q: Everybody has been alluding to and you mentioned yourself how tight the race is and what could happen at Richmond and there will be beating and banging during the race. Do you think NASCAR might wind up getting involved where someone puts a fender to another competitor?
JEFF BURTON: I think NASCAR is consistent in the way they call these races and I think they will be consistent Saturday night. When you're dealing with Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin, and you know, Tony Stewart, and you're dealing with people that certainly will go race you as hard as they know how, but you're not dealing with people that are going to do things that are unethical. I understand why people, you know, look at it and say, man, all this could happen, and it could. But I think that the chances for that are pretty small. I mean, certainly as close as it is, we could get into a situation where it's ten laps to go and you've got to pass that guy in front of you. But at the end of the day, at the end of the day, you know, this is one race and there's not one person, with the exception of Mark, that's not one person that isn't going to go do it again next year. I think most people have a grasp of the situation as well as the understanding of the consequences when things don't go well and when you do what you shouldn't do. So the possibilities for people acting out of the ordinary, the possibility is there, but for the most part, you've seen a tremendous amount of respect amongst the front leaders this year and I think that will continue.
-credit: gm racing