JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed starting the Chase at New Hampshire, the point gap coming into the Chase, the two tracks in the Chase that the COT has...
JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed starting the Chase at New Hampshire, the point gap coming into the Chase, the two tracks in the Chase that the COT has not been raced on and much more.
ON HIS THOUGHTS OF STARTING THE CHASE AT A RACE TRACK THAT HAS BEEN GOOD TO HIM. "Well we're excited about being here obviously. Being part of the Chase is our biggest goal for the year, well not our biggest goal of the year but our first goal of the year and this starts it for us. It's a track that I really like. It's a really tough race track, very demanding, hard to pass. Hard to get your car driving the way you want it to drive, but for us it's a good place to come. Obviously the past success has been good, but we haven't had a whole lot of recent success here and we've got to try to find a way to turn that around."
THE 07 CAR GOT ITS FIRST VICTORY HERE LAST YEAR, DID YOU NOTICE IF IT IMPROVED THE EMOTIONS ON THE TEAM? DID IT GIVE THEM A BIG KICK NOT ONLY FOR THE REST OF THE CHASE, BUT FOR CLINT'S (BOWYER) CAREER? "Obviously winning the first race is a big deal. You've worked your whole life to try to get to this level. When you can win your first race, that's a great thing. I disagree with the whole momentum case. I believe that momentum isn't created by fast race cars and good results. I believe fast race cars and good results create momentum. It wasn't a surprise when they won the race. They didn't just pop up out of nowhere and win the race. They had been performing at a high level for quite a while. The reason they had a good last ten races wasn't because they won here, it was because they were performing well in all ten races. You can will your way in taking a seventh-place car and turning it into a fourth-place car, but you can't will your way in taking a fifteenth-place car and winning with it. It just doesn't happen. Desire matters don't get me wrong and attitude matters. I'm not saying it doesn't, but it doesn't create a euphoric situation where you can all of a sudden start winning races because you feel good in the morning. That's my opinion."
ON IF TAKING STEROIDS COULD REALLY HELP A DRIVER. "I think it depends. I think if you're training exceptionally hard and you're a big fitness guy, I don't know a whole lot about steroids other than what I've read and it appears that if you're heavily into training and you are working hard to gain a physical advantage which could in the right situation be a competitive advantage then yes, it possibly could be. In the right situation on a hot day when you're pushed to your max physically then if you're able to stay up in the seat then potentially it could help. In Ron's (Hornaday) situation, I know some of you remember Ron looked horrible, he looked sick, there was something wrong with him and he was just trying to get healthy. It's one of the bad things about a drug policy is that you have to view every situation case-per-case. That's what the marijuana smokers say too. Honestly if you really think about what was going on there, it wasn't uncommon for people to be prescribing HGH for people that were aging.
"I believe I read an article where Sylvester Stallone was saying hey I take it, it's good for you. So I think you've got to be careful when you set a drug policy, the policy needs to be so you can look at each individual case and understand why the person was doing it, how they were doing it. In this case it sure seems innocent to me. It sure seems like he was just trying to start feeling better and obviously wasn't illegal. Me racing against him, although I wasn't at that point, I wouldn't have felt like I was disadvantaged because of what was going on there by any means."
HALF THE CHASE RACES ARE THE 1.5-MILE TRACKS, CAN YOU TALK JUST A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT IT IS THAT MAKES THE SWEET SPOT ON THE COT THAT MUCH MORE DIFFICULT ON THE 1.5-MILE TRACKS? "I think one thing that we've seen especially in the summer as the tracks get slicker, I think it becomes even harder to make these cars do what you want them to do. I think that the variance will narrow a little bit as the track temps come down. Why they're so finicky and why they're so picky I don't know but they are. One run from the next is different but we saw that at Richmond on Sunday as well. I'm not real sure, these cars are challenging. They make you question yourself at night but I'm not real sure why they are so touchy."
THERE ARE TWO TRACKS IN THE CHASE COMING UP THE NEW CAR HAS NOT BEEN RUN ON THE FIRST ONE BEING KANSAS, CAN TALK ABOUT THE KANSAS RACE WHAT YOU MIGHT EXPECT THERE? "Well you know it's really interesting. We live in an era that data is really important and information to work on is really important so none of the teams have Kansas data with the Car of Tomorrow. I believe some will have it for Homestead because I believe we had a test there last year and some people had the COT there. Data is really important. Track information is really important and I'm not sure really anybody will have it for Kansas so that's a huge point to pay attention to. Kansas is a tough race track. Its slick, it's hard to get a hold of so I think Kansas will be really interesting to watch. I think you could see some people really struggle at Kansas that have run well at other places."
WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE 70-POINT GAP RIGHT NOW GOING INTO THE CHASE BETWEEN YOURSELF AND KYLE (BUSCH), YOU PRORATE THAT OVER TEN RACES IT DOESN'T SEEM LIKE A BIG DEAL. IS IT A BIG DEAL? "I wish I had them. I'd rather have them than not. I know you guys are tired of hearing me say this, but these ten races last forever. We have to find a way to go get those 71 points that we've got to get. Not only off of him (Kyle Busch), but we've got to get however many we've got to get off the ninety-nine, we've got to take some from the forty-eight so we have our work cut out for us. We can't run third every week and Kyle run second every week, we've got to beat them. You guys have been doing this as long as I have, one race game on. You have one race that things don't go well, one bad pit stop, one tire down at the wrong time, one incident with ten to go, its game on. A lot is going to happen in these ten races. By the way nobody knows. There's no crystal ball how to win the Chase nobody knows.
"Last year to win the Chase, Jeff Gordon I think the average finish was 5.1 and he finished second. If it's that kind of race this year it would be really, really hard for us to win it because some of those guys that are ahead of us in points. They're going to be finishing fifth and third and fourth too. You don't have any idea what it's going to take to win it and those six you know we're a blown engine, we're a blown tire away from winning the championship in a year where being able to be consistent is really important. What we have to do is not worry about the 70 points, not worry about the 30 points that we're behind somebody else. Not worry about the 10 points we're ahead of somebody else, we just have to worry about us. We go out and pay attention to what we're doing and race our race, do what we do well, try to improve the things that we're not doing well and that's all we can do. We're going to lay that effort out there and I'm just telling you now we're going to have fun. Last week at Richmond, I had a blast last week. Team had a good time. It was relaxed. It was just a hell of a lot more fun than what we've been doing the last two months and that's how we're approaching this. We're going to go in and we're going to have fun. We're going to throw one hundred percent at it, see what happens. I'm not going to count points. Well that's stupid to say, obviously we're going to be looking at points but I'm not going to be racing my race car worried about points. When the race is over I'm going to look at the points and it is what it is. That's what our approach is going to be. We're going to gamble a little bit. We're going to try to make some stuff happen and that's just how it's going to be."
WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE CHASE WITH THE POINTS RESET, DO YOU STILL THINK FROM THE FIRST TWENTY-SIX RACES THAT KYLE (BUSCH), CARL (EDWARDS) AND JIMMIE (JOHNOSN) ARE "FAVORITES" IN THE CHASE OR BECAUSE IT DOES RESET DO YOU LOOK AT IT AS BEING COMPLETELY WIDE OPEN FOR ALL TWELVE? "We like to pick favorites, we like to set odds. That's just what we do. If you watch an NFL pre-game thing part of the deal is who is going to win. We like doing that. When put in that position what do you do? How do you not pick the eighteen, how do you not pick the ninety-nine, how do you not pick the forty-eight, and you're crazy if you don't. The way I look at it is those guys have done a really good job and for us to do our job the way we need to we have to do it better than them. I'm a whole lot closer today than I was before Richmond to leading the thing. That's how I look at it. It is reset. Its start over and there's going to be a lot of stuff happen. There's going to be a whole lot of stuff that happens and we hope it happens good for us."
WITH YOUR PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE IN THE CHASE, WHAT MISTAKES HAVE YOU OR YOUR TEAM MADE AND LESSONS THAT YOU GUYS HAVE LEARNED THAT YOU CAN APPLY TO THIS? "Well I'm going to try not to expedite the learning of other people by explaining what I've done wrong to be perfectly honest."
HOW MUCH HAS YOUR LEARNING EVOLVED THEN OVER THE COUPLE OF YEARS? HAS IT BEEN THAT MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE? "People talk about me being around for a long time and I have, I've been here for fifteen years. Three of them have been being involved in the Chase. Percentage wise there is a whole lot of learning to do there. There's twenty percent of my time that I'm learning and if I didn't learn something from the last two years and if my team didn't learn something from the last two years then shame on us. That's what experience is all about is understanding the things you did wrong, paying attention to them, realizing them, admitting them then moving forward. I think we've had a really good approach coming into all three of them. I can't look back and say we did anything wrong really going into them but there are some things I think we can do better this year than we did last year. By the way, I think there's things that we did better last year than we did the year before."
WITH THE RESPONSIBILITIES YOU GUYS HAVE REPRESENTING 20 MILLION- DOLLAR-A-YEAR SPONSORS, IS IT POSSIBLE FOR THERE TO BE A BAD GUY ANYMORE IN NASCAR? ALSO, IS THIS SO CALLED RIVALRY BETWEEN BUSCH AND EDWARDS MORE WISHFUL THINKING THAN REALITY? "Well it's clear we can have a bad guy (laughing). It's pretty clear that we have one. I think that stuff is good for our sport. I almost get the sense that some people relish it, enjoy it. They think it's cool. And I've been able to see it from my side of it I don't evoke passion from people. People don't throw stuff at me but they don't throw stuff to me either. Kyle Busch, there are some people who want to throw some stuff at him and there's people who want to throw stuff at Tony (Stewart) and there's people who want to throw stuff at Jeff Gordon but they have that many people who want to throw stuff to them too. That's what our sport is all about. I think that's what makes sports work period, not just our sport. What's cool about going to a Duke-Carolina game? What's cool about going to a Red Sox-Yankee game? Part of the passion is just really not liking the other team. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. It needs to be done respectfully. We don't need to have fans that do stuff that are out of the realm of responsible but its okay to boo somebody. It's okay to not like somebody. That's part of what sports are all about. Think about the poor guy that got set loose in the coliseum with a tiger chasing after him. They were pulling for the tiger (laughter). If you won you were a hero. If you escaped you were a hero. It's still like that today. The fans love somebody and they love to hate somebody. That's what makes sports work period. That's what makes politics work too. It's part of the culture that we've created. It's who we are.
"As far as a rivalry thing, yes I think that's been blown out of proportion. People want to be part of it that's their choice but I don't think it's as big as what people have made it out to be."
DO YOU FEEL THAT WITH THE FOURTH ADDITION OF THIS CHASE THAT IT'S BECOME A DISTINCT POINT WHERE THE 26TH RACE IS THE END OF THE "REGULAR" SEASON AND NOW WE'RE INTO THE PLAYOFFS? DO YOU FEEL LIKE THAT HAS TAKEN ROOT IN THIS SPORT? "I think it's still early. I think the casual fan is still sorting that out, you know what I mean? But internally in the garage that's exactly what it feels like. I mean this feels to me like we're starting the playoffs. That's what we are. That's what needs to happen for this thing to work. We need all the fans to understand that now is the money time. It's real clear in the NFL. It's an exciting time. It's our best time in the year. It's the most exciting part of what we've got going on. The Chase starting, the playoff's starting that's awesome man. People having the stress of not getting in or getting in, that's what makes sports fun to watch. The more stressful it is for the competitors the more fun it is to watch. Now we move on to our playoffs. It's not an elimination deal. It's not like you know you're going to go home if you have a bad race, but it sure feels like it. Obviously Jimmie (Johnson) last year I think he was twelfth leaving this race in points or something and they won it or the year before that. But that is the way it feels to me."
-credit: gm racing