JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed racing at the two-mile track, this week's NASCAR meeting, on-track incidents and other topics. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed racing at the two-mile track, this week's NASCAR meeting, on-track incidents and other topics.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR MINDSET COMING INTO MICHIGAN? "Well, it's pretty much been the same as it's been all year. We feel really good about the way we've been running. This is a track that we kind of struggled on the last few years, and haven't performed the way we've wanted to. This is a big challenge for us to try and run well and be competitive here, and this has been, for whatever reason, one of our weaker tracks, which is kind of surprising to me, but it has been. So, we're looking to come in and step that up and run the way we've been running everywhere else, and I feel like we can."
WITH SO MANY DRIVERS RUNNING FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP, WHY AREN'T YOU TRYING TO MAKE AS MANY FRIENDS AS YOU CAN? COME SEPTEMBER, ALL OF THESE GUYS WHO ARE GETTING TICKED OFF MIGHT COME LOOKING FOR EVERYBODY. "I wasn't aware that I was making any enemies."
NOT NECESSARILY YOU, BUT LIKE KEVIN HARVICK AND SOME OF THESE OTHER GUYS. "I can't speak for Kevin, and I wouldn't begin to, but to speak for myself, I don't feel like I've done anything on the race track to create enemies. I've had some things on the race track that I've been part of that I thought were partially my fault, and I've been involved in some things that I thought were partially other people's fault. But I haven't gone into any race or any restart and said, 'Well, the hell with what everybody else thinks, I'm going to do whatever I want to do.' I've been consistent in the way I drive, and I'm going to continue to do that. But it is aggressive. I mean the racing has been very aggressive. The restarts are just crazy. It's really wild, the restarts, and here it's going to be insane. And that's where you're seeing a lot of the stuff happen in the races and in restarts. But it is what it is. You can't just go in there and no run hard; you've got to go and try to get all you can, and when you do that, mistakes are going to happen. I got into Reutimann last week, late in the race I got put three-wide and just had to chase the back of the car up the track and got into him. Those things you regret. I don't think it hurt his day, but it could've hurt his day and it could've hurt ours. But, part of it is just racing."
NASCAR HAD MORE MEETINGS THIS WEEK AT THE R&D CENTER. DID YOU GO? "I did."
CAN YOU GIVE US AN IDEA WHAT'S TALKED ABOUT? LAST YEAR THEY HAD A MEETING AND THEN THERE WERE DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS A FEW WEEKS LATER. ARE THEY LOOKING AT MAKING IMMEDIATE CHANGES? "I don't think that there's anything that's immediate that's going to come. I think they're pretty comfortable with where the sport's moved in the last 12 months to where it is today. They're certainly looking at the future and talking about, what about testing? What do we feel about how the championship battle works? How do we feel about different things? They're trying to eliminate some costs, trying to make sure that if we spend money, to make sure that it's effective. You know, those kind of things. It wasn't really procedural rule conversations, it was more big-picture outlook, perspective of the teams as to where we think the sport can be better. Not in small things, but in big things." SUCH AS? Every conversation I've ever been in with NASCAR, once a year there's a conversation about the Chase. Does it work? Could it be better? That's almost an annual conversation. The money is a weekly conversation. Things like the money's always involved in trying to figure out how to make it so more money can go further, so the team owners can be more viable. Nothing really like, in my opinion, there was a specific 'this is what we're attacking.' It was more just a big picture look at everything."
THE FIRST ROAD-COURSE RACE IS COMING UP. A NUMBER OF DRIVERS CALL IT A TECHNICAL TRACK. CAN YOU DESCRIBE RACING AT SONOMA, AND WHAT IS A TECHNICAL RACE TRACK? "Sonoma is really small. If you look at our cars, that weight as much as they do, and make as much power as they do, Sonoma is a really, really small race track -- not in length, but in the way the corners are built. When people talk about it being technical, it's about being precise. And when you're not precise and you don't hit your marks exactly, you lose a lot of time. The reality of it is almost every race track is technical; some are more technical than others. The restarts there, again, are kind of crazy. I will tell you, I think the double-file restarts made the restarts more tame there. It put people going up the hill more at a constant speed. It seemed like it actually calmed the restarts down, believe it or not. It did there and at Watkins Glen. For us, in particular, we've run well on the road courses, but our finishes have been horrible. We've got to find a way to have much better finishes going into Sonoma next weekend. That's something that we've certainly been thinking about since last year. Because we did well the previous years, we got out of there with good finishes and ran well, we didn't run well and we finished 40th last year. So, we've worked really hard on our road-course program. I think every team has. We feel really good going there that we'll have a good shot, but we've got to avoid the really bad day."
YOU MENTIONED GETTING INTO REUTIMANN LAST WEEK. WHEN SOMETHING LIKE HAPPENS, DO YOU CALL HIM AND EXPLAIN SO THERE'S NOTHING THAT COME DOWN THE PIKE THAT CAN BE MISCONSTRUED? "The answer is yes, but the reality of it is I didn't call David this week. I've got to go find him this morning. But if Matt Kenseth gets into me, he doesn't need to call me. You know what I mean? Because I know that was a situation that, you know. I should've called him. To be quite honest, I went fishing with my son on Monday, and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I was really busy working and I never did, but I should've."
DO WANT TO CLEAR THINGS UP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE? "I want to clear it up immediately. But again, with a guy like David, who I've raced with a lot, it's less important for me to call a guy like that because he knows if something happened, it was... Ryan Newman and I got together during the race. He got real loose off the tunnel turn, and I was behind him and we got together. I saw him directly after the race just to say, 'Hey, man.' But, again, a guy like that, he knew the whole story, he knew that it wasn't just like I didn't run into him, and so it's a little less important. But I probably dropped the ball and I didn't call David."
IT SEEMS THAT ALMOST EVERY WEEK THERE'S BEEN A DUST-UP BETWEEN TWO DRIVERS. PEOPLE WONDER, IS IT GOING TO CONTINUE INTO THE NEXT ONE? MUCH HAS BEEN SAID ABOUT HOW RIVALRIES MADE THIS SPORT, BUT THOSE WERE USUALLY RIVALRIES THAT LASTED A WHILE. ARE THOSE DAYS GONE? "I think part of it is we race more. It sounds silly, but the difference between racing 32 races and 38 races you wouldn't think is a lot, but it really is. You almost have to get over things more. The other thing is, 20 years ago the number of teams that could be rivals was a much less number. Today, you're much more apt to have an issue with someone and then have another issue with someone else the next week. So, I think there are a lot of circumstances. It's just more competitive than it's ever been and more opportunity to be more involved with more people, so I don't think there's much of a continuation for a couple of reasons. The first reason is you kind of have to get over it, you kind of have to move along. And the price, it seems to me, that the price for having poor finishes is larger today than it's ever been. I know that we put 12 people with the opportunity to win the championship with 10 to go, we've never had that before, but it's turned into a 26-race schedule, and it's hard to make up points. And I think people realize when you get in those scuff ups that you have the potential for having those bad days. And I just think that it's a bigger price to pay. If you look at 15, 20 years ago, to win the championship, people were averaging, like 12th-, 15th-place finishes. So it was more acceptable to have a bad day. And I think today everybody's scared to death to have a bad day, and I think that has a lot to do with that. You have to think about what the long-term good for you is. And the other thing is, there are more people that you to pay attention to. You're racing Kyle Busch this week, and you've got something going on, well next week you've got Jimmie Johnson and the next week you've got, you know, Kevin Harvick you've got to race. The competition is so high. And I think those two are the biggest reasons why you don't see this continued thing that happens. Sometimes when we talk about rivalries, I'm not sure that's the right word. Rivalries are two guys at any time who beat each other. A lot of times these rivalries, there's a guy that typically does a lot better than the other guy, and the other guy's wanting to knock him off, but he hadn't found out a way to do it. It's a little different than a true rivalry, I think."
DO YOU FIND THAT WITH DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS, MORE DRIVERS ARE TRYING TO MAKE UP MORE POSITIONS IN LESS TIME THAN EVER BEFORE? BEFORE, YOU WOULD HAVE A HANDFUL OF PEOPLE YOU WOULD RACE AT THE END. NOW, THERE'S A DRIVER IN 22ND THINKING, "I CAN GET A TOP-10." "The difference in the double-file restart is that it used to be that 'I've got to clear the lap car, and then deal with the guy behind me.' And the guy behind me is in the same lap that you're in racing for that position. Today, when they drop the green, you've got the guy on the inside, the guy behind you, everybody in that pack is doing this as an opportunity to improve their position. And people know, if you can get by somebody, it's going to take a while to get back by them. And so everybody's trying to get those spots on restarts. And you put all the lap cars, all the fast cars in one wad, it's crazy. These restarts, it's just unbelievable how aggressive they are. And it's made much better racing. It's by far the right thing to do. It's just puts all the good cars in a wad, and everybody views that as an opportunity to pick up positions."
DRIVERS TALK ABOUT DRIVING WIDE-OPEN AT MICHIGAN. THAT MEANS TWO FACTORS: TIRE WEAR AND FUEL MILEAGE. WHICH DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR ON SUNDAY? "Our cars, you can't even come close to running wide open all of the way around the race track -- not even close to that here. Matter of fact, with our cars, almost nowhere can you, really -- except for Daytona and Talladega, there's nowhere you can ride wide open. This track is a very low grip two-mile race track and its handling is huge. Goodyear has done a great job this year of bringing a much more aggressive tire that makes more grip, but we've seen people stay out and use track position to get better finishes, so until we really start running, we really don't know. But the one thing we do know that there will be one time in the race where you have to make a decision of are more tires going to make my situation better or am I better off staying out? Fuel mileage is always an issue, and it will be an issue this week."
KYLE BUSCH WAS ASKED EARLIER TODAY WHETHER JOEY LOGANO GOING UP TO KEVIN HARVICK AFTER LAST WEEK'S RACE SHOWED ANYTHING. AND BUSCH'S ANSWER WAS IT DIDN'T SHOW A LOT; WHAT SHOWS IS IF HE RETALIATES, THAT RUNNING UP TO SOMEONE ON PIT ROAD AND RUNNING YOUR MOUTH DOESN'T SHOW A LOT. IF A DRIVER FEELS HE HAS BEEN DISRESPECTED ON THE TRACK, IS THE ONLY WAY TO GET THAT PERCEIVED RESPECT TO RETALIATE ON THE TRACK? OR, CAN YOU GET THAT RESPECT BY SPEAKING YOUR MIND OFF THE TRACK? "Depends on who you are and who you're dealing with. There are some people that you could talk to 'em until you're blue in the face and they're tired of hearing you, and there's nothing good that can come from that. And there's other people that you can have conversations with make headway. Some guys are just really hard-headed, and the only way to make them understand is to make them pay the price. But the majority of the people, conversation can be had and a lot can be gained from that."
-source: gm racing