JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and discussed disappointing finish at California, racing at Las Vegas, Matt Kenseth and other topics. YOUR THOUGHTS AS WE GET STARTED HERE AT...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and discussed disappointing finish at California, racing at Las Vegas, Matt Kenseth and other topics.
YOUR THOUGHTS AS WE GET STARTED HERE AT LAS VEGAS: "Obviously, last week was really bad for us so hoping to come this week and be able to perform a lot better than we did last week. Going in to the race last week, we were really struggling in practice, I wouldn't say really struggling, but I would say we were 15th, 20th place car. We made a bunch of changes on Sunday and quickly became a 40th place car. We need to recover from that. That was a bad day. We feel good about this race track. We have run well a lot. If there is anywhere we should be able to come and perform at a high level, this is kind of the track. It is a good place for us to come after a bad weekend and we are looking forward to hopefully turning the corner a little bit."
IF YOU HAD TESTING AT CALIFORNIA, WOULD IT HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE? "Gawd, I hope. One of the things that the testing ban has done, we are now testing things at the race track. That is out of character for the No. 31. We typically are pretty conservative about what we do at the race track on race weekend. When we test, we try a lot of different stuff. We weren't good enough last year to go out and lead laps and win races, as many races as we would like to win. We came last week with some completely different stuff in a lot of different areas. Once we got there and weren't where we needed to be, then we weren't real sure where to go because everything was so different and we hadn't really had a chance to test it out. Obviously we wouldn't have gone there with it if we didn't think it was going to work. Obviously it didn't work. Now we have to stop and regroup and take a different approach for this weekend. I can tell you if we would have tested at California, we would have gone back with different stuff than we went there to race with. Whether ultimately that would have yielded better results, I can't answer that questions but I would certainly hope so."
IS IT CRITICAL THIS EARLY IN THE SEASON TO COME BACK AFTER A RACE LIKE THAT? DOES IT CREATE A SENSE OF URGENCY? "I think there is a sense of urgency. I think if it not, you are not in full understanding of the situation that you are in. We know that good race teams run bad from time to time. I feel like we are a good race team. But, there certainly is a sense of urgency. We ran well at Daytona, we just got caught up in a bad deal at the end. Then last week we ran terrible. This is a result oriented business and we need to put some results down. You are right, I wouldn't call it a sense of panic, but I definitely would think that a sense of urgency is a good way to describe it."
TALK ABOUT THE BALANCE OF MAKING THOSE CHANGES IN SOME WAYS YOU ARE RACING TO MAKE THE TOP-12 AND MAKE THE CHASE AND IN ANOTHER WAY YOU ARE ALSO TRYING TO BE FIRST OR SECOND. "We believe strongly that in order for us to be in the Chase, we need to be able to perform at a high level. I think the competition this year is going to be higher than it was last year. I think you are going to have to be able to perform better this year than you did last year. Last year, the first year with the COT that we ran everywhere, I think there was a little bit of wiggle room for not being great, but being really consistent. I don't think you are going to have that much wiggle room this year. You have to be consistent, there is no question about it. You can't do what we have done the first two weeks, finish 28th and 33rd or whatever it was, and expect to make the Chase. We also know that we have plenty of time to recover at this point in the year. There is plenty of time to catch it back up. Several teams have had a history of getting back and having to make it up. There is no question you can do it, but you have to run well to do. We had two bad finishes two races in to the year so we aren't afforded as many as somebody that may have had two good finishes at the first two races of the year."
DO YOU STILL FEEL THE TESTING BAN IS GOOD OVERALL FOR THE SPORT? "I said from day one that I believe in desperate times, you did desperate things. I also said, I am a fan of testing. Myself, my team, we collectively get a lot out of testing. We use testing a great deal. I was disappointed about the testing band, I said months ago my concern was that if somebody was off, how do you catch back up? I watched last year's race here and the champion ran terrible. The way they got better was they went and they worked and they worked and they worked. We don't have that option to us. If we don't run well, it is not the fault of the testing band, because some people will run well without the testing. But, it will be a factor. It is up to us to find a way to be successful with the testing band because some people will be."
YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR WITH THE TIRES AT ATLANTA AND WHAT YOU EXPECT THIS YEAR. "Last year the tire didn't make the kind of grip we were looking to make, but we didn't have tire failures. Went back the next race and it was a little better but not a lot. I don't remember having tire failures. When given the option of having grip and cutting the risk of having tire failures to essentially zero, I think that is a good trade off. Now, having said that, the quality of the racing isn't what it should be, there are a lot of things going on. With COT going to Atlanta, a track we have historically had tire problems with, I wasn't on Goodyear very hard about bringing a tire that was durable. We have gone to Atlanta for years and had tire problems. I know they worked really hard to make a tire that is durable and makes more grip. I know they have a much better understanding of what kind of tire the COT needs. I'm very optimistic based on the testing results that I have been told that we will have a much better tire there. Do remember, we had tire problems, but we didn't have failures. I'll take that at a track where we have had issues."
HOW IMPRESSIVE IS IT TO YOU THAT LAS VEGAS REACTED IMMEDIATELY WITH INSTALLATION OF SOFT WALLS FOLLOWING JEFF GORDON'S BAD ACCIDENT HERE LAST YEAR? "I hate that we keep re-learning lessons. People have been encroaching in pit wall openings for a long time. We need to do better as drivers when we see places at race track of bringing that to the attention of the race tracks. The race tracks need to be proactive. Vegas jumped right on it and fixed the problem. I haven't seen it, I guess they fixed the problem. I have been told that they did. There are other tracks that have issues. The back straightaway at Lowe's has an issue that needs to be fixed. There are some race tracks that still have that issue. We have to look really hard at where and how we can hit walls and the soft wall is a huge part of it. But the angles at which we hit walls is huge too and we just can't have openings that you can get in to. That is just something at this point, we should have none of them. We should have learned that lesson and have not had that problem ever again."
DO YOU TRUST DATA YOU LEARN AT THE TRACK DURING A RACE WEEKEND AND AS WE GO FORWARD WITHOUT TESTING IS IT HARD TO BE COMFORTABLE GOING TO THE RACE TRACK? "I can't speak for other race teams. Every race team approaches racing in a different fashion and approaches weekends in a different fashion. When you come off a really bad weekend, it is hard to look your engineers and everybody in the eye and say I believe 100% in what you are doing. It is hard for them to look you in the eye and say the same thing. I think the worst thing you can do is ignore and issue. Last week the No. 31 was the worst Childress car that was there. Maybe the worst car at the track. Our best car was Harvick which was maybe going to finish 8th to 12th. For us to look at last week and think that was a successful week and that we are doing everything right is a huge mistake. We have to aggressively go after it and figure out what we are looking at and how we are looking at data and how we are looking at information so that we can be successful. I can tell you there have been a lot of times that we have gone to test Pocono stands out really clear to me, when we were as bad at a Pocono test as we were when we went and raced California this past weekend. When we went back, we had re-looked at date. Re-looked at how we understand the data and went back and were tremendously more competitive. Not because we learned what springs and shocks to run while we were running bad, but because we learned how to understand the data we are looking at. Data is a great thing, but how you use it and how you understand it is very important. As long as we have been working on simulation programs, as long as we have been working on data acquisition, we still don't know a lot, we still have a lot to learn. When you couple wind tunnel and you couple springs and bump stops and chassis flex and driver style, you have all these big things, it is not always going to give you the right answer. So, you still have to feel your way through it so to speak. But it is real important when things aren't going well, you gotta address them right now. You can't sit and just wait and hope it is going to get better."
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO DO WHAT MATT KENSETH HAS ALREADY DONE THIS SEASON AND HOW IMPRESSIVE WOULD IT BE TO WIN THE FIRST THREE RACES? "He can do it. This is a track he has always been strong on. This Is a track, regardless of what Jenna (Fryer) thinks of him, this is a track that he can be very successful on. He could do it. He honestly would be a race favorite. To have everything lined up to win the Daytona 500 in itself is very very difficult. There has been a lot of talk he won in the rain and all. Everybody knew it was going to rain. He was leading when it counted. That win is as valuable as if it would have gone 500 miles. The rain just didn't pop up. Everybody wanted to be leading that race because they knew the rain was coming. He won it. Last week, they did an incredible job. They were fast all day, they had good pit stops. That is what that team has been about for years. Put themselves in position, pit crew does a great job. Matt drives the wheels off of it. They put themselves in position to win a lot of races. It is hard to win, we won two races last year, he didn't win any races last year. He has won two in a row. That tells you how difficult it is. They could do it. It could be an incredible feat if they do it. I believe that they can. I am not saying that they will, but I believe they certainly can."
WHEN YOU ARE GOING FOR THE THIRD ONE IN A ROW OR AT A TRACK, IS THERE MORE PRESSURE? "Knowing Matt, he is the same. Honestly. People that are consistently successful I think understand that every race is a new race. Success last week doesn't guarantee success this week. He has to go earn it. You certainly have confidence when you have been successful somewhere you feel like you have a basis on which to work on. But, you are also very understanding that if you aren't as good as you need to be that basis has got to go away. You just never know. When the track is a year older. It is a different tire. It is the third race of the year. There are a lot of things moving right now. I think Matt and his team all understand that. I don't want to speak for him, but I would imagine they aren't approaching this race any differently than they approached it last year."
TALK ABOUT THE CHALLENGES ABOUT RACING THREE THOUSAND MILES AWAY FROM HOME BASE AND HOW INTERESTING THAT IS: "It requires you to be prepared for sure. When you think about it, when you go to Daytona, we had to have three cars ready to go to the Daytona 500. Prepared to race, ready to go. In addition to that, we had to assume we were going to need four cars to run the next two races. So you are sitting there having to have seven cars before you ever even leave to go to Daytona. And by the way, all those cars have to be the very best you know how to build. And, you aren't going to get home quick enough, well you can, but it is a lot to ask to get home and run this same car at Atlanta too. It is very difficult. The other thing is, what happened to us this past weekend, the same stuff that we had in the trailer ready to go to Vegas is the same stuff we raced in California, well guess what, we ain't doing that. We had to punt. We had to work.
"Our guys had to jump through the hoops to be able to bring a different package to Vegas. It is a stressful thing because the car you were going to race here, it was gone before you raced at California. So now, it is already shipped. If you didn't do well at California, you have to drop back and punt. Which is what we did. It required a great deal of effort for us to bring something different and that was made a great deal harder because of when the car had to leave being ready to go to Vegas. But it is the same for everybody. All the teams go home. I think a lot of people think the teams stay out here and work in parking lots. Everybody goes home, they go to work on Tuesday and then they come out here on Thursday, or Wednesday in some cases. It is hard, it makes the schedule really hard."
-credit: gm racing