JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Kansas Speedway and discussed TV ratings, the No. 33 team and other topics. DO YOU THINK DRIVERS THAT ARE 100 OR MORE POINTS OUT ARE OUT OF CONTENTION FOR THE...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Kansas Speedway and discussed TV ratings, the No. 33 team and other topics.
DO YOU THINK DRIVERS THAT ARE 100 OR MORE POINTS OUT ARE OUT OF CONTENTION FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "I think a lot of things can still happen. Certainly as the thing goes on, more people are going to get eliminated. The problem is that you start getting enough points behind and a lot of people between you and the leader then you have to go through all of them. That makes it more difficult. Obviously, some people's chances are lower than they were when the thing started. I think there are a few teams that are teetering on not being able to be afforded another bad race. I don't want to say anybody's eliminated, but certainly people are getting really close."
DID YOU KNOW THE FIRST TWO CHASE RATINGS ON TV WERE DOWN 20 PERCENT AND WHAT DO YOU THINK? "I didn't know that. I don't really make it part of my day to look at TV ratings. I do think it's important, but I think some of it is confusing to me. I really believe and you all feel free to disagree with me, but I really feel like the racing has been better. I think the racing has been good, I think the double-file restart thing has been good. We've had some green flag runs in those races, but at the same time, people kind of tuning in at the start of the race, if they're not tuning in at the start of the race then that's a concerning factor. I don't have the answer for it -- I just don't. I feel like the racing is good, I feel like we've had 10 races and 10 winners -- the last 10 races have had 10 different winners I think. Is that right? It's not like there's not parity, it's not like there's not -- when Jimmie (Johnson) won four championship, everybody thought that was so bad for the sport, well now we have 10 people that have won 10 races, is that bad for the sport? I don't have the answers for it. I just believe our sport has to continue to grow, continue to improve and if we do continue to improve, the people are going to watch. Why they're not watching now, I just don't have an answer for that."
WHAT IS THE ETIQUETTE FOR DRIVERS TO RESOLVE DIFFERENCES LIKE KEVIN HARVICK AND DENNY HAMLIN DID LAST WEEK?: "It's a person to person thing. Honestly, you deal with everybody and every situation differently. There's not a script that came with an owner's manual that tells you how to handle that situation. You just have to kind of feel your way through it. I think it depends on the personalities, it depends on what the history is. The willingness of the participants to move forward. Sometimes you just don't want to hear it and you don't want to move forward. You've had your opinion set and you're not willing to change it. Sometimes there's a willingness to agree to disagree and sometimes there's a willingness just to forget it and move on and a lot of it is the incident and the personalities involved. It is clear though that once that wound is open, it's real easy to reopen and any little thing opens it back up pretty quickly."
COULD YOU TELL THE 33 TEAM WAS A LITTLE OFF AT DOVER? "The thing I tried to impress to Clint (Bowyer) or impress on Clint is that we live in a moment and we think that in that moment everything revolves around that. In two weeks, there's going to be another conversation about some other controversy. I told him that at Dover and it took about 10 minutes. Maybe that was part of the plan. It's really difficult to go from the emotion, think about it, they make the Chase, close, but made the Chase. We all at RCR (Richard Childress Racing) feel like each individual team is capable of winning a championship. They go to New Hampshire, win the race, second in points and thinking this thing is laid out really well. Two days later, you're in this process of being called a cheater, you're in the process of all this stuff and that's a lot, it's a lot. There's no way that it's not a distraction. There's no way that you can just shut it off and say it's not happening. Who's my crew chief next week? Who's going to be my car chief? It's a big, big, big distraction -- there's no way around it. In some ways, having the appeal process over, almost over, it's not over, but that part of the appeal process over, even though it wasn't the result they were looking for, you are now able to move on. It's hard to forget that a year from now, that's not going to be, right now it's the center of the world, that's what everybody wants to talk about. It's going to move and it's going to be okay. That's what I tried to impress on him. I've lived it. I got my rookie of the year win thrown out of the race. They caught us at Richmond and said, you can't race tonight. You go home. I thought my world was coming to an end. But I look on it now and it's just a blip. It was a blip on the radar. I don't forget it, but it's a blip on the radar and that's what this will be. It will be a learning experience, it will be something that the whole company is stronger for, he's stronger for, wiser. At the end of the day, it will make the company better and make him better."
WHAT HAS THE REACTION BEEN FROM SPONSORS THIS YEAR WITH ALL THREE RCR CARS IN THE CHASE? "I don't want to diminish our poor year last year, but our sponsors weren't calling and saying, 'What the hell is going on?' We are really up front with our sponsors and tell them what's going on and tell them the truth and try to be really honest with them. They were all disappointed. Caterpillar came into a situation that it made the Chase three years in a row and had honestly felt that they contended for two of those championships and then we're not even in the Chase. Obviously, everyone was disappointed, but nobody was calling demanding, screaming and yelling, everybody was disappointed, but we try to be really honest and up front with them and our sponsors are wise to the sport. They understand that this isn't easy. There's other teams out there that have drivers and have crew chiefs and have engineers too. They're trying to beat us. Certainly everybody is more upbeat than last year, but I don't want it to feel like they would be more this year. I don't want it to feel that last year they were in a panic because I never got the sense of any of our sponsors being in a panic."
WHAT CAN CLINT BOWYER DO TO HELP THE OTHER TWO RCR TEAMS WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "The same thing that we can do to help him and that is when you learn something, explain here's what I learned. Clint's (Bowyer) really good about every race weekend, Clint comes and seeks me out, 'Hey man, I did this and it helped my car. I drove the corner differently here.' Just that communication and that communication is what makes us better. The cool thing about our program is that we're all three fairly equal talent levels, but we all go about it a different way. I think that makes us all better. Clint being able to just continue to be able to push us. That's what's important. In the same way that we can help him. They have a really, really tall mountain to climb, obviously and it would be historic for them to win the championship at this point. They don't need to quit. They need to go about it as if they have a chance to win the championship and if they do that, it will help us too. We have to do the same for them. To be clear, it's not about them changing what they're doing. They need to continue what they're doing, which is what got us in this position."
BECAUSE YOU RACE KANSAS ONCE A YEAR, IS IT MORE DIFFICULT TO GET WHAT YOU NEED FRIDAY FOR SUNDAY'S RACE? "I think it is and the problem that I have and I'm not afraid to admit it, like last week I had an engineer come to me and want to talk about Kansas. What I deal with in the car and I'm like, wait a minute dude, I don't even know what the track looks like. This track is nine or 10 years old, but it's not really new, but in my eyes, I don't even remember the race track. Darlington and Rockingham, Charlotte, Martinsville and those tracks, here, I had to literally sit down yesterday for hours and watch video to remind myself about the race track. I've just had a hard time getting this one stuck in my head about how to drive this track. So yeah, I think it is a challenge. I think it's hard to come here once a year. It's hard to not necessarily get up to speed quickly, but remember all the little small things that make the big difference. Really that's what the race is all about is doing the small things better. When you can start fine tuning little things, that's when you get optimal. It's hard to do that at a track that you don't go to as much as other places."
HOW HAS JIMMIE JOHNSON'S PERFORMANCE GIVEN HOPE TO OTHER DRIVERS ABOUT WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "Listen, you got part of your facts wrong. They started the championship off with a 24th or 25th. At this time last week, we were talking about them not being able to win, remember? You guys are really reactionary. You all react really quickly. Anybody that believed that the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) wasn't at the ready coming to this championship has blinders on. Now I was the first one to say that I didn't know who the favorite was and I still don't today. If you look at the 11 (Denny Hamlin), obviously they looked really good at New Hampshire, didn't look so great last week, which is exactly what happened to the 48, only opposite with the race tracks. I don't know who the favorite is, but I do know that the 48 is capable of turning it up. One race doesn't win a championship, it takes 10. there's no question that they're going to be a factor. Anyone that believed that they weren't going to be a factor hadn't been watching because we tend to change history. They didn't go into the last four Chases winning all the races and on a hot streak every time, they didn't. We tend to think that they just dominated the last four years and that's not the way that it's been. They dominated the Chases. They've done a better job during the Chase. They have come into several of these Chases not being the hot team. There's no question that they know how to turn it up and I believe that they were a threat to begin with. I think if you start chasing them, you are making a major mistake. I think you have to chase yourself. Of course, here's a guy that has never won a championship, but I know that if we do our job and we do the best we can do then that's all we can do. We have to optimize who we are and we have to be the best that we can be and I can't worry about whether the 48 or the 11 or the 17 (Matt Kenseth), whether they're going to be the best they can be or not. I can't control that. All I can try to do is try to control being the best that we can be."
HOW DO YOU THINK THE LAST TWO WEEKS OF PENALTIES HAVE AFFECTED THE SPORT?: "I think the more we can keep the action on the track, the better we are. I think that drivers going at each other, racing hard, disputes about their racing -- I think all of that is cool and that is part of the sport. I think the more that we can keep the business things and conflict post-race, pre-race, the more we can keep that to a minimum, the better. People want to see the action in racing and practice -- the on-track stuff is I think what the fans want to see. I think that anytime that the authority has to make a decision, it opens the door for people to question because people always question authority, right? Everybody always thinks the 'man's' trying to get you. The more that NASCAR doesn't have to do that, I think the better the sport is."
-source: gm racing