Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Taurus, won last year's NASCAR Winston Cup event at Las Vegas after a runner-up finish to teammate Mark Martin in 1998. YOU'RE OUT IN LAS VEGAS ALREADY, AREN'T YOU? "I got here last...
Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Taurus, won last year's NASCAR Winston Cup event at Las Vegas after a runner-up finish to teammate Mark Martin in 1998.
YOU'RE OUT IN LAS VEGAS ALREADY, AREN'T YOU?
"I got here last night (Monday) and I'm actually here for some appearances today and for my winner's circle appearance tomorrow, so I'm kind of breaking myself in on Las Vegas time. I woke up at 4 o'clock this morning (laughing) and I'm just hanging out."
WILL THIS BE A RACE WHERE WE'LL GET AN INDICATION OF HOW GOOD THE THREE MAKES OF CARS ARE?
"The Ford teams said the same thing. After Rockingham the Pontiac teams said it. If the Chevrolet's win on Sunday, then the Chevrolet teams will be saying it. I think Rockingham or Las Vegas, either one, is a really good indicator of aero and it's also a good indicator of handling package. It takes a great handling package, it takes everything to win at Rockingham -- it takes aero, it takes handling, it takes driver, it takes pit stops. I don't think that Bobby Labonte won the race just because he has a better body -- and I'm not talking about him personally, I'm talking about his car. I think that they did a great job of setting that car up. They did a good job of pit strategy. Pontiac is obviously a good car, they've had a lot of success with it and I think it takes everything. To say they won because they've got a Pontiac, I think, takes away from the effort that they put in and I'm not about to do that. I do believe that the Pontiacs are a very, very good race car. I don't know if they're the best race, I don't know if they're the worst race car, but I do know they're very capable of winning races."
HOW WOULD YOU FEEL TO BE THE ONE TO WIN FORD'S 500TH RACE?
"It would be an honor to be the guy that could win the 500th race for Ford. Ford is a big part of what we do at Roush Racing. Jack Roush has been involved with Ford well before I got involved with Jack or even before Mark got involved with Jack, so to be the driver that could win the 500th race and the team that could win the 500th race would really mean a lot. We were able to clinch the manufacturer's championship for Ford a couple years ago at Martinsville and that was a really special deal because we were the team that did it. That made us feel good and made us feel like we paid Ford back for some of the effort they had given us."
IF YOU MADE IT TO VICTORY LANE WOULD THAT KIND OF BE AN IN-YOUR-FACE FOR THE MONTE CARLO? YOU GUYS HAVE BASICALLY BEEN STRONGER THAN RENT MONEY EVERY TIME YOU'VE BEEN ON THE TRACK WITH THE NEW TAURUS AND THE MONTE CARLO HASN'T BEEN UP TO YOUR STANDARDS.
"You didn't watch last week's race did you? I think the best-finishing Ford was fifth in Sunday's race, so to say Chevrolet hasn't been up to our standard is definitely not true. They've got great race cars. They weren't up to our standard at Daytona and that's because they built too much drag in their car. That's the same thing we did down there about three years ago. We're coming here to race and win and I don't really worry about the Ford-Chevrolet-Pontiac issue a whole lot other than I think a lot of people don't look at the facts. I think if people are gonna get involved in a situation, they need to understand all the facts about it and not try to make presumptions on just one or two races. I think a lot of people have done that this year. The Chevys really complained at Daytona and probably rightfully so, they were slow at Daytona. At the same time, we knew going to Rockingham they'd be awfully tough and that's the same exact thing we had three years ago and that's what they're dealing with now."
ANY REASON WHY LAS VEGAS IS CONDUCIVE TO LONG GREEN FLAG RUNS?
"I personally think it's one of the best race tracks we go to. It is a race track, and we saw last year with myself and Ward racing, it is a race track that will provide an opportunity for some great side-by-side racing. When you have a race track like that, there's really no excuse in having cautions. We oughta be able to race and race each other really clean. There is enough room to do it, there are enough different grooves to run on the track to do it. Really, it takes a mistake by somebody to be in an accident. At some race tracks, like Rockingham, you can be running along there and doing everything fine and do the same thing on the next lap and you actually cause an accident. So, I think the race track is just designed so you can run side-by-side, it's enough room for cars to race and I personally think it's one of the best race tracks we go to."
IS LAS VEGAS KIND OF A RELIEF TO HAVE SOMETHING TO DO OTHER THAN THINK ABOUT YOUR CAR?
"I think it's a lot of fun for the teams to come out. Most of the teams stay at the casinos and some of them get to go to shows that they otherwise wouldn't get to do. I think for the teams themselves its a great opportunity to come out. Everybody looks forward to coming to Las Vegas. You can find something to do. When you get home from the race track, you take a shower and there's something to go and do. In most cities we go to it's really not like that, so I think everybody enjoys coming. Most of the drivers, because Las Vegas is so big and there are so many things going on our time is filled up with commitments with sponsors, so we don't have a whole lot of time to do a great deal, but I really believe the sponsors enjoy coming out, the fans enjoy coming out, and the competitors do too because there are so many things to do other than just go to the race."
IS IT A DISTRACTION FOR YOU?
"It's not a distraction for me. I actually stay in my coach. I stay in a casino the first couple nights I'm here this week because my coach isn't out here, but I'll stay at the race track on Wednesday night and I'll never leave the race track other than doing things sponsor related. I'll just stay over there. For me, running the Busch car and the Winston Cup car on the same weekend, it requires focus and requires staying at the race track. If you come in and out of town and doing all that stuff, to me it kind of takes away a little bit from your focus."
WILL YOU LEARN ANYTHING FROM THE BUSCH RACE ON SATURDAY THAT WILL HELP SUNDAY?
"I really believe a lot of people blow that out of proportion. I can show you the setups from each car and a Winston Cup car and a Busch car takes totally different setups. It's not that we're trying to learn setups, what we're trying to learn when we run on Saturday is you're just on the race track. I'll go to the race track Thursday to practice and qualify the Busch car, so when I get in the Cup car on Friday I've got a full day at the race track already. So, for us it's more about me. It's more about me spending more time at the race track, behind the steering wheel and that's why we do it."
HOW DIFFERENT WILL THE BUSCH AND CUP CARS DRIVE AT VEGAS?
"They drive totally different. The Busch car, because they don't have a whole lot of power, you can drive in the corner a lot deeper, you can get in the gas a lot quicker. You just drive a Busch car a whole lot harder than you can drive a Cup car. A Cup car is more finesse, it requires patience and understanding that if you drive in the corner too deep you're actually gonna run slower. Picking up that throttle really quick is really important. With the Busch car you've gotta drive it hard every single lap if you're ever gonna run fast, so it takes two totally different driving styles to run good in both series."
IN THE PAST YOU SAID YOU WERE TOO SKINNY AND PERHAPS TOO HOT-HEADED. CAN YOU UPDATE US ON WHATEVER IMPROVEMENT YOU'VE MADE IN THOSE AREAS?
"I've been hitting my fitness program pretty hard. I consider myself to be genetically challenged and it's hard for me to bulk up, but I've actually been working out. I got up this morning really early and went and worked out. I've been working out about four or five days a week, so I've actually started to get bigger -- not much but a little bit. I think that's important not for performance issues, but more so for injury issues. I can't remember a race with the exception of maybe Martinsville where it was so hot, where I felt like my body wouldn't let me do what I needed to do. But I do believe that if I were stronger, then it may help in situations like that Martinsville situation. The other thing as far as being hot-heated, I think I'm a little more understanding about the whole big picture. At Rockingham last week we were running third and broke an engine. I was upset, but I understand that we broke an engine and it's gonna happen. I mean, it's not because we don't try hard, it's not because we're not doing the right thing, we just had a problem. I think understanding that being mad about some things really doesn't help anything. It's more about what did we do wrong, how do we fix it and then going on and try to fix it. That's kind of what I try to do is just understand that there are 34 races, there are 34 opportunities to get done what we need to do. You can afford only so many mistakes and just try as hard as you can try and work as hard as you can work and learn from your mistakes. That's about all you can do."
DO YOU WORK OUT AS HARD AS MARK?
"No, there's no way I could work out as hard as Mark does. He's crazy about it."
HOW WAS IT RACING YOUR BROTHER LAST YEAR EMOTIONALLY AND CAN YOU ENJOY A WIN AS MUCH?
"Well, you can certainly enjoy it. It does have a negative sense to it as well. I don't think I enjoy winning races when I beat Ward as much as I do when we beat somebody else, but the emotions...that was an early win for us. That was the earliest we had ever won a race since I had been at Roush Racing with my team. It felt good to get that behind us. We had run well at Rockingham before and then we came here and won, it was just a really good start of the year for us after a terrible Daytona start. Then having to beat Ward, you felt great that you won the race but you felt bad that you beat your brother. That's really the only way I know how to describe it. I take a lot of pride in being able to say that even though it is Ward I still tried as hard as I could try. I didn't try any harder because it was Ward or didn't try and less because it was Ward. At that point it was another car, but it is difficult when you have to do that."
HAVE YOU PULLED A SLOT MACHINE OR ANYTHING YET?
"As a matter of fact I haven't. I might play a little bit this afternoon after I get done, but I'm not a big gambler. I like to spend my money on other things because I guarantee you I'm gonna lose."
WHAT HAS IT MEANT TO HAVE THE ASSOCIATION WITH ROUSH RACING AND MARK MARTIN?
"Mark has taught me a lot about racing. A lot of it is off-track stuff. He has experienced things sooner than I experienced them. He's dealt with the pressures of performing at a high level and making sure you can bring it all to the race track every single week. There are a lot of things that he's dealt with that I haven't dealt with and as we started having more success, he really helped me understand what we needed to do and how we needed to do it. Mark is a great race car driver. If you ask anybody in the garage area who one of the best drivers is Mark's name always comes up. To me, he's a smart race car driver. He's smart about chassis. He understands the racing concept and not everybody understands the racing concept but he does. I think that he's helped me a great deal a places like Michigan and California and Las Vegas and those kind of race tracks and I'd like to believe that we've been able to help them at places like Richmond and Martinsville and Rockingham and Darlington. It's just a really good mix because his strengths are some of my weaknesses and vice versa, so I've been able to look at what he does and what his team does and compare that to what we do and we've been able to improve some things because of that."
IS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT HIS DRIVING STYLE YOU TRY TO EMULATE?
"The biggest thing when it comes to driving that I try to emulate with Mark is his effort and his smartness. Mark's not the flashiest driver out there. Dale Earnhardt will race you hard every single lap of every single race and sometimes he'll actually run slower by doing that. Mark calculates things a little more. If a guy is faster than he is, he's gonna actually run slower trying to hold the guy behind him than he would if he just let him go. The bottom line is how fast can you go around the race track at any given time and I think he has an understanding of that and I think I've learned from that and tried to emulate that."
WORKING OUT IS A LOT DIFFERENT TODAY FOR DRIVERS THAN IT WAS YEARS AGO. DOES IT HELP YOU MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY?
"I think the thing that's harder about what we do than what it was when they did it is that every single race we go to now is a big race. There's more competition now than it used to be. Now, there's no question that our cars drive better than their cars did, there's no question about that, but I think the level of competition is so high that any single thing you can do to help your chances you better be doing it. I think that's one of the major differences is if you have an off day in the car, now with as competitive as it is, Bobby Labonte and Dale Jarrett and Mark and Tony Stewart and Ward, those guys are gonna beat your butt because they're not gonna have off days. A majority of those guys aren't having a bad day in the car, they didn't have a late night, they worked out for the last four years. I think it's kind of one of those deals when somebody raises the bar, then you have to go right there with them and if you don't you'll get left behind. My program consists of, I actually do a program that Bill Phillips with EAS designed. It's a six-day program, it's four days of cardio and two days of weight training one week and then its backwards of that the next week. That's what I'm doing, but a lot of it is low-weight, a lot of reps and trying to do cardio stuff as you're doing weight training. For the cardio stuff it's treadmill, it's bike, it's swimming, whatever it happens to be. The weight training is just you work your whole body in only 40 minutes but you do it really fast. You do a lot of stuff and you just roll through it. You're tired when you're done, not just your muscles but your heart is beating. It's quite a workout."
DO YOU FEEL A DIFFERENCE BEHIND THE WHEEL?
"I haven't yet, to be quite honest. I'd like to believe that about September or October when the year really starts to get to the end and it's a really grueling time, I'd like to believe that I'll be stronger than I've ever been. That's what my hope is."