Loudon II: Burton - GM Top-10 interview

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS: ON LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE COMING IN TO NHIS: "We have been trying to win. It isn't like we haven't been trying to win (chuckles). We didn't come in to this year...


ON LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE COMING IN TO NHIS: "We have been trying to win. It isn't like we haven't been trying to win (chuckles). We didn't come in to this year saying hey, we need to get a bunch of top-10s. We came in saying, 'Hey, we need to lead races and put ourselves in position to win races.' By doing that, you have to be in the top-five and consistently run in the front. I think we have done that, but there have been some occasions where we let some races slip away from us, but the effort is every single week to go out and win races and put ourselves in position to do so. I think we have done a nice job of putting ourselves in position, but we haven't done a nice job of finishing it off. Our confidence level coming in is reasonable, but by no means do we will like we can continue to do exactly what we have been doing and win the championship. We have to find a way to step it up a little bit. Our speed has been there; we just haven't been able to find a way to be consistently fast throughout a whole race. We know we have to improve a little bit. We feel really strongly we have made some big gains in areas to improve. I am confident in our effort and dedication. I think all but two or three teams have got to find a way to step it up too and we are one of them. I feel pretty good about it. We are just going to go race. Last week at Richmond was pretty interesting. It was a pretty stressful night. I didn't think it was going to be stressful, but it was and I was glad to get that over with. I kind of like coming in here (NHIS) we just get to go back racing for a little while. After six or seven weeks, we will get to feel the stress and the pressure again, but for us right now, it is kind of like a restart, it is the start of the year and I am looking forward to it."

ON NOT BEING PICKED AS ONE OF THE FAVORITES TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP: "I certainly understand why people aren't picking us to win it. I am good with that. I will say, we haven't called this year a success. We haven't run the flag up the pole and said no matter from happens from now on, it's good. I don't believe that. Our team doesn't believe that. We have done a nice job up to this point of positioning ourselves to be able to say this is a successful year. The way we run these next 10 races will determine if it was a successful year. Certainly we have made some huge strides. But our mindset isn't 'Hey, whatever happens from here on it, it is all good.' Our mindset is we need to go out and do good things. So, are we playing with 'house' money? In some ways, we are flying under the radar a little bit, in other ways, our aspirations and our goals are pretty high. That means that no matter what other people think, wee think we need to turn it on and give ourselves a good showing."

ON FEELING LIKE MORE OF A MEMBER OF TOP-10 CROWD: "I never felt like I wasn't part of the "crowd" or that I didn't belong here. It means a great deal of what my peers think of me, how they look at me as a race car driver and as a human being. There is no question, when you aren't running as well you feel a little bit detached. I guess that is the only way to say it. I can't give you a specific example of anyone ever treating me differently. it is more internal. No one ever treated me differently, but when you aren't running well, you are probably looked at as a less formidable opponent. That is what I want people to look at me as, as a driver for a team that when they unload in the garage the others know they are going to have to deal with us this week. In no way, was I trying to say that people treated me differently or I felt disrespected in any form or fashion. It is more of am internal thing. That is what I was trying to express."

ON WHICH IS HARDER - TO NEVER HAVE SUCCESS OR TO HAVE SUCCESS THEN GO IN A SLUMP: "There is an old saying about the big guys fall real hard. I think that when you have a level of success and then you don't have it, I think that probably it is harder, than if you've never really had success. Although, I am sure someone who has never really had success would disagree with me. When you are used to being a guy that people say this team can win a championship or this guy can win on any given weekend, then all of a sudden, you don't have a snowball's chance in hell, that is a difficult thing to do. It has made me very aware that it can happen to anybody and that you have to stay on your toes in this game. It is a moving target. You have to work exceptionally hard to stay on top. I never reached the pinnacle. I have never been the top guy. I have been one of the people that could be the top guy. I have never been where Gordon or Stewart has been. You look at Jeff (Gordon) and Tony (Stewart) last year and this year, it can happen to the very best. I saw it with (Dale) Earnhardt. I have told this story before, I left Pocono one day going to the airport and saw a car where someone had written the window - "Earnhardt, Time to Cash in the 401k". This was a seven-time champion who was struggling, and then the next year he finished second in points and here was a fan saying that. It happens to everybody, but it is no fun."

ON STRATEGY FOR ROUND ONE OF CHASE: "We came here to try to win. The thing about how I race and about how my team prepares everything, we don't have to change anything. We go in to every race trying to do the very best we can. We also understand that if we get in to wrecks and have no chance of getting a reasonable finish, we won't go in to the race changing anything. I am who I am; I drive the way I drive. I have driven this way since I was six years old and I am not going to change. So if we get in trouble this week, we will get in to trouble doing something I would have always done. My team and I can all sleep at night with that. We didn't prepare our cars any differently to come here. We have worked harder to be better, we brought a brand new car here, and we have a couple of more new cars in the shop. We have prepared ourselves exceptionally well for these last 10 races. We have built new cars we believe are better than we have been able to run the last three or four weeks. Hopefully that is going to help us. We have prepared differently in some ways because we are trying to step it up. But we are not going to change our mindset. We are not going to change how we race because of the position we are in."

ON HOW NON-CHASE DRIVERS VIEW CHASE DRIVERS IN LAST 10 RACES: "I think it is different. First of all if you are not in the Chase, you have every right to go out and run the very best you can. I think the guys that aren't in the Chase, give the Chase guys respect, but at the same time, if they are faster than you, they should go past you. If they can win the race, they need to go win the race. If they can run third and that means they put a Chase guy back to fourth, then that is what they need to do, They have every right to race like we do and that is how I feel about it. I also didn't want to be the one who wrecked Jimmie Johnson in the second race of the Chase; I didn't want to do that. But, I didn't want to do that anyway. We do wreck a lot, but for the most part, I think they are accidents. I do think people are a little more careful around the guys who are in the Chase. But I don't think it is a lot different. Once the race starts, you have to remember, all the stuff that has gone on this week, all the media that has happened this week, we watch that stuff too. So all the guys who are out of the top-10 have been watching it and had to deal with it all week, but when the race starts, it is just a race. Now it is just a race. So those guys go in and try to win the race, or if they can't win, they are going to try to run second. So guys like Tony (Stewart), Carl (Edwards) and Greg (Biffle) and those other guys who are used to winning races are going to go in and try to win races. Their whole focus in on winning. They might gamble a little more; they might stay out and try to make things happen. When I wasn't in it, I came to the races trying to do the best I could and also starting preparing for the next year. That is one thing we are working very hard at Richard Childress Racing is to make sure we don't loose track of next year. With 2/3 of our teams are in the Chase, there is a lot of focus on this but we ca n't lose track of next season. We can't lose focus with all the changes coming next year. It is a little bit of an advantage not to be in. We will just have to answer that call."

ON QUALIFYING SO WELL BUT NOT HAVING FINISHES: "We have talked about and continue to discuss what to change and the degree of changes. To digress a little bit, at Michigan we started on the pole. We started on the race on a radically different setup trying to not be so good early, but try to be better letter. But because we broke the engine we got backed in to a corner and had to get back to what we were doing to get back in the Chase. We really needed that result, where it took us. After that we didn't have that happened, we just couldn't gamble on it. We went in to California trying to do the same things we had done. Track positioning is really important. There are times when the track looks is better than it really is and you look better than you really are. I haven't complained enough about the cars; I am going to whine a whole lot more. This week, I am going to complain a whole lot more. I am going to be very demanding, more so than I have been. Scott is going to be more aggressive changes that we make. We have lost track position, with issues in the pits and it is very hard to get them back. We have gotten blocked in our pits that really hurt us. Stuff kind of piles up on you. I think there have been times that we just haven't been as good as we looked. We have got to get to the point where we run as well in traffic as we do in clean air, which is almost impossible to do. Maybe we don't need to be as good in clean air."

ON DRIVERS WHO MISS THE CHASE CHANGING THEIR ATTITUDES: "If you don't make the Chase, what else can you do? You can't just quit, you have got to find reasons to wake up in the morning, you have got to find a reason to come to the race track. You can't demoralize your team or yourself. There are still 10 races to go. You re-focus; you reset your goals. For example, that is what Tony is doing. This is his team's situation, how do they adapt to it. In his mind or other drivers, he was rolling through, now what is the goal. Well, it is to win not to points. Chase drivers pay attention to points, but pay attention to them after the race. Then you think about it all damn week, then another race weekend starts again, you race, you think about it again all week and then on it goes. That is what points racing is. Why does Jimmie Johnson need to change what has gotten him in this position. They aren't going to change a lot because they are pretty darn good. The ones who are going to change a lot are the teams who aren't in the Chase and have been struggling. When you are running well, you are way less prone to want to change something because you are afraid you are going to run 30th. The hardest thing about what we do is knowing when it is time to do something different. And then after you decide, how do you do it. But the decision to make a major change is the hardest part of what we do. You are so scared because you just are afraid it isn't going to work. You can run 30th, I know you all think it is easy to run top-10, but it isn't. It is very hard to finish well in these races and if you aren't right, you can run 30th."

ON THIS BEING AN EMOTIONAL RACE: "It is late in the year, people are tired. Emotions get built up during the year. The racing here is very competitive, it is very easy to cause a wreck, it is very easy to get wrecked. When that happens to you, it gets you pretty mad. This is a track where everybody tries to protect their position. When you try to pass them, even if you are better, it is going to take 30 more laps to get by them. There is a lot of defending here and there is a lot of offense because you have to be aggressive to pass someone. When you get a guy playing offense and another guy playing defense, there is a big chance for a wreck. This just isn't a track where you can just get out of the way. You can't just hide for a little while here. There is no place to hide; t is just so frustrating because it is hard to pass. I know I am in a huge minority but I actually think the old race track was better because at least, if you got beside someone, the spot was yours. Not true now. On the old track, it was harder to get there, but once you got there, it was yours. It is an emotional race track because it is so difficult to pass. You have a competitive race track and get a big group of competitive teams and it is frustrating."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson
Teams Richard Childress Racing