JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 LENOX INDUSTRIAL TOOLS CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, aggressive driving in NASCAR, the learning curve Danica Patrick faces and ...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 LENOX INDUSTRIAL TOOLS CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, aggressive driving in NASCAR, the learning curve Danica Patrick faces and more.
ON THE LENOX HEROS PROGRAM AND RUNNING A SPECIAL DECAL THIS WEEKEND... "We've been an association with Lenox Industrial Tools for several years and it's been really good for us and I think it's been good for them. To come here in the last year we were here we awarded the Lenox Heroes Program Winner to Pete Dingerman. He had done a lot of cool things and he won $31,000 and his charity, the Children's Tumor Foundation won $31,000. He turned right around and donated his money, so they got $62,000. He just passed away; he fought cancer for a long time. Since the race he passed away, so in his memory and all the Lenox Heroes memories we're going to run a decal with Pete's name on it and I think Lenox is going to give the foundation another $10,000. It was really cool to have all those guys here last year, especially Pete, and it is really sad that he passed away. He was a great example of people going through a lot of adversity. For all the adversity he went through, he was always trying to help other people. It's cool to be able to remember that."
YOU'RE ALWAYS ONE OF THE FAVORITE COMING IN TO LOUDON. IS THERE A TRICK TO RUNNING FAST AROUND NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAY THAT OTHER PEOPLE TAKE AWHILE TO FIGURE OUT? "I don't like to point out my shortcomings, but it's been nine years since we've won here. We haven't done the job that we needed to do recently. We've run well, but haven't won well enough to win. I've had to adjust to this race track and the lower groove not really being there has made it that I've really had to adjust. The first few races I really didn't adjust very well on that. Since then, I feel like we have. I feel like we've run competitively and had a chance; we just haven't been good enough. Early on, the race track was that you just had to be real precise--you had to hit your marks every lap, you had to be really, really precise in the way that you drove the car. Now that you can use the center of the corner a little bit more, it's taking some of that away, so with that some of my advantage went away. The big thing here is having a car that rolls the center really well and turns the exit without being too loose. If you do those two things, you can put a hurtin' on the field."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO MARCOS AMBROSE AT ALL ABOUT THE LAST LAP LAST WEEK? DO YOU KEEP ANY SORT OF MENTAL SCORECARD OF WHO MIGHT HATE WHO THIS WEEK AND WHAT MIGHT BE HAPPENING IN FRONT OF YOU? "To Marcos' credit, he called me Sunday evening. I got the message when I was on the ground refueling and didn't talk to him this week. I'll see him this week. He was frustrated; I'm sure he was frustrated. He had a great chance to win the race and didn't. He made a mistake and we paid the price for that. He recognizes that and I'm sure it won't happen again. I'm not one of those guys that every time something happens to me I store it away and try to go get them back--I think that's a terrible way to live. He needs to give me the respect that I give him, and he recognizes that he made a mistake."
LOOKING AHEAD TO INDIANAPOLIS, HAS THE BRICKYARD BECOME A BIGGER RACE THAN YOU ANTICIPATED? WHAT WOULD A TROPHY FROM THAT TRACK MEAN TO YOU? "Well I don't think it became bigger than I thought it would because I thought it would be a huge deal for us to be there. I think being at the Brickyard with NASCAR is an unbelievable experience. Certainly, twenty years ago if I had mentioned that we might be going to the Brickyard, I think everybody would have believed that that would never happen. I've been fortunate enough to run every race there and it's a hell of an experience to be quite honest. To be able to go there and see everything that goes on--it's just a whole different world. It's a big race--it's a really big race. The things that are in front of me that really mean a lot to me are winning a championship, winning the Daytona 500, and certainly the Brickyard is on that list as well."
WE SAW A LOT OF BUMPER CARS LAST WEEK AND OBVIOUSLY THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE UPSET WITH OTHERS THIS WEEKEND. WE SAW JEFF GORDON KNOCKING AROUND A LOT OF GUYS--ARE THERE CERTAIN PEOPLE IN THIS GARAGE AREA THAT GET A LITTLE BIT OF A LONGER LEASH THAN OTHERS BASED ON THEIR ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND HOW LONG THEY'VE BEEN AROUND? "Well I thought last week was horrendous. I thought the behavior shown last week from driver to driver was completely unacceptable. If our sport is going to become that, then we need to change it from racing to demolition cars because that wasn't racing last week. The track is very difficult. Now that we do double file restarts, it's not a bad idea to start thinking about changing turn seven and how much we have to slow down for turn seven to try to separate the field a little bit before we get to that corner. Ultimately, it's the drivers' responsibility to have some respect for each other. The last ten laps of that race didn't look like we were the best drivers in this country--it looked like we were some of the worst drivers in this country. Again, it's just ridiculous. Some people without a doubt, I ran all over Mark Martin one time, I got in the corner and somebody made it three wide. I didn't know they were going to make it three wide, they just popped up in there and I had to slow down to keep from running over Mark. The guy behind me knew that, made it three wide and I ended up running all over Mark. There are two guys that hardly ever hit anybody, and here I am running into him. When I contacted Mark after the race, he was like, "Don't worry about it. No big deal, I understand." That's because he knows that if I hit him it's because something happened. So the length of the leash depends on your relationship with the driver that you had the incident with. It's just that simple. I think Jeff [Gordon] will readily admit that he hit way too many people last week; but I know exactly why he did it. The reason why he did it was if he slowed down as much as he really needed to slow down, he was terrified that the guy behind him was going to run over him because history says that's what is going to happen. That race has just turned into a demolition derby."
WITH ROAD COURSE EXPERIENCE AND YOU GUYS ONLY RUNNING TWO A YEAR; DOES THAT PLAY INTO IT? "That has nothing to do with it road course racing experience; it has to do with respect. Everybody in this garage knows how to use the brake pedal and use the throttle and use the steering wheel. Yet people chose not to do use it correctly because it was either in their best interest to run over the guy in front of them, or they were trying really hard to keep from getting run over from behind. On Saturday afternoon I watched the Nationwide [Series] race, and they had all those wrecks at the end of the race and I said, "Boy that's awful. That's terrible racing." Then we turned right around and did it again on Sunday. It's just not acceptable. There is nothing wrong with hard racing; I don't want to get letters from fans saying, "Oh you don't want to race hard." I don't want to hear it. I race as hard as anybody wants to race. It takes skill to race and not wreck somebody. It takes zero skill to run over top of anybody. It takes no ability whatsoever to do that. On a restart on a road course, it takes no ability to wreck somebody, and what we saw last week wasn't about ability. It was about a lack of willingness to do the right thing."
WHAT DO YOU OWE THE LACK OF RESPECT TO? "It's situational. If you look at the people that got into incidences and then start looking at where everybody is in points, it's not a coincidence. A lot of the people that are racing to get in the Chase were involved in those incidents--it's not a coincidence. It's an extremely competitive sport; there is a lot at stake. There is opportunity presented at a road course when you're running sixty miles an hour and the guy in front of you is running thirty because there's a corner that he's got to make. There is an opportunity to make a move there. I don't think that it was just a genuine 'I don't' care about the guy in front of me.' I think it was more of, 'I'm willing to stick my nose in here even though I'm not real sure what the outcome is going to be.' I think it boils down to the fact that this is a self-serving sport and everybody is trying to go get what they can get."
A LOT OF PEOPLE WERE SAYING HOW WILD THE RESTARTS WERE, AND NASCAR SAID AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON THAT THEY WERE GOING TO LET YOU HANDLE ALL THE POLICING ON THE RACE TRACK. ACCORDING TO ONE OF YOUR EARLIER STATEMENTS, WE PROBABLY DIDN'T SEE THAT. DO YOU AGREE? "Oh we saw it. It was in the drivers' hands. The question is just now what are the drivers going to do about it? That's the negative to the 'Have at it, boys' philosophy. Everything that we do has a positive and a negative. The negative is the second half of it, and the people that decide that the way they will make a stand is to make them see it. That's the negative of it. I agree; I don't want NASCAR policing--and by the way I can count on one hand the number of times that drivers have been penalized for rough driving. Matter of fact, I challenge all of you in here to give me five in the last fifteen years; it would be pretty hard for just rough driving. This sport doesn't have a long history of penalizing driving. Matter of fact, Ricky Rudd spinning out at Sonoma when he spun out Fellows--maybe, was that who it was--a long, long time ago for the win on the last lap. That was the last time I remember it. I'm not talking about some blatant, under caution stuff; I'm talking about racing. In my eyes, it has always kind of been 'have at it, boys.' I don't know that it's a whole lot different."
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT GOING BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CARS LIKE DANICA IS DOING BETWEEN INDYCAR AND NASCAR? "I think Danica's challenge is big. To go from the car she is used to driving to go to these cars, I think is a monumental task. She has been driving very high grip race cars that are very, very light race cars and make a tremendous amount of downforce, to cars that are very low on downforce, very high center of gravity, don't have nearly the tire or width of tire that we need to make maximum grip. I think that's a really, really hard road; and it will be a big challenge for her to continue to make that adjustment back and forth, and back and forth. I think that ultimately, she will have to make a decision. That decision doesn't have to come now. It's perfectly fine for her to be exploring her options and looking around to see what she things. Ultimately she'll have to make a decision--can she do both? It would be very, very difficult. It would be easier for one of our drivers to go drive one of their cars because of the grip level. You would be going from a low grip vehicle, to a high grip vehicle, and there is a margin for error in that. Now I'm not saying that what they do is easier--I'm not saying that. I'm just saying that it's different. So for her to have long-term success, she has got to get in a seat for miles and miles and miles, and learn all the little things--all the buttons that you have to push to make these cars go fast. It's going to be hard for her to do that with a limited testing schedule available to her with her IRL schedule. It's really going to be difficult for her just to pop over here and have success. I do want to say that I admire her for trying. It takes a lot of guts to expose yourself in front of millions of people, in front of all the media, in front of all your peers; it takes a lot of guts to expose yourself to not maybe being as successful as you want to be. The only way to know is to go try it. If somebody came to me and said, 'Hey you want to run Texas in an IRL car?' I'd say, 'Hell no! I don't want to get embarrassed!' She's doing that. I have a lot of respect for that."
ARE WE LIKELY TO SEE MORE OF THE SAME ROUGH DRIVING AT A TRACK LIKE NEW HAMPSHIRE, OR IS WHAT WE SAW LAST WEEK MOSTLY BECAUSE IT WAS A ROAD RACE AND IT SET UP CERTAIN SITUATIONS? "Well the situations are worse there because you've got the guys that are on the straights are going a whole lot faster than the guys that are making the 180-degree turns, or the 120-degree turns. So you get a situation where the speed difference is greater and that causes a lot of the issues. Like I said before, the race for seventh through twentieth, if the drivers can show any more respect for each other than that; it doesn't matter what racetrack you're on. You're going to see incidents. The challenge here is the restarts--I think restarts here are extremely difficult. You'll see incidents on restarts--you mentioned double-file restarts a little bit ago, and at Sonoma double-file restarts have actually made Sonoma better getting up on top of the hill. It has made it calmer. What it has done is move the madness to turn seven. This is aggressive racing, it's hard racing, and I think you'll see some of that this weekend."
-source: gm racing