JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and talked about what he likes about Michigan, the heat in the new car, teams taking on investment partners and much more. TALK ...
JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and talked about what he likes about Michigan, the heat in the new car, teams taking on investment partners and much more.
TALK ABOUT RACING AT MICHIGAN, WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT IT? "The thing I really like about Michigan is the multiple grooves. I think it's cool that you can run the very bottom and you can run the very top. To me, that's what I like about it the most. It's a really smooth race track. It doesn't have a lot of grip, it gets pretty slippery. Pretty slick, to me that's what racing is supposed to be. But the fact that you can run a lot of different places on the race track, I really like that."
A LOT OF REALLY GOOD DRIVERS HAVE NEVER WON HERE YOURSELF INCLUDED IS THIS TRACK ANY HARDER TO FIGURE OUT THAN ANY OTHER TRACK? "I don't know that it's harder. It is a unique track. We don't have many tracks that are like this. It looks like California but it's not. It's not like Charlotte, It's not like Atlanta. This is a pretty unique race track. I think when you hit up on something here it probably lasts for a long time. I think that's why you have seen a lot of drivers not win here."
WHEN YOU GOT OUT OF THE CAR LAST WEEK YOU LOOKED BETTER THAN MOST, HOW BAD WAS THE HEAT? "You thought I looked better than most and I'm 41? Okay, just wanted to make sure I was right about that. These cars are hot and the insulating materials and the things we've done in the past in the old car are not adequate for this car. This car is going to require more stuff to cool the inside of the car down. I heard a comment, someone in the media said they didn't feel sorry for drivers that are making millions of dollars, if they're hot who cares and I guess that's a good point but at the same time it's to the point of being ridiculous. It's really hot and each team's out looking now trying to figure a way to do it better. It is a problem. It hadn't got hot yet, it's not August at Indy. You catch a hot day at Watkins Glen, you catch a hot day at New Hampshire, you catch a hot day somewhere like that I'm telling you they're gonna get really hot. We haven't had the hottest day ahead of us just yet. Pocono is a long race and that adds to it but the worst is yet to come."
IS IT DANGEROUS? "I wouldn't use the word dangerous but I guess in the right situation it could be dangerous. It needs some additions made to it."
YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN SO CONSISTENT THIS YEAR AND YET YOU HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO TAKE THAT NEXT STEP. HOWEVER THE LAST COUPLE OF RACES YOU SEEM TO HAVE FOUND SOMETHING, WHAT'S GOING ON WITH THE TEAM THAT YOU FEEL IS TAKING YOU TO THAT POINT? "I've said all year long that we're a really good race team. I think we're really solid but we have some room to improve in. I believe that's the case today. I think we're making honest tries. I think our best is yet to come. We run well every week. We haven't run great every week and by the way very few teams have. So we are a real solid race team that has some ground to make up in some areas. We do a lot of things better than some in some areas and we're focusing hard on where we need to be better. I think we can be. I really believe that our best is ahead of us and I'm real comfortable with where we are."
YOU'VE HAD STRETCHES LIKE THIS BEFORE, WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO KEEP DOING THIS AS WE GET TO THE CHASE? "You just got to run well. You just got to have good performance. If you have good performance than typically things will go your way. We've obviously had some fortune. We've had some things go our way this year. We've caught some breaks here and there without a doubt. The first thing you have to have is good race cars and good decisions being made, so far to this point we've done that. But for us to continue we got to continue to improve. The level of competition will get harder as the year goes on. People will get better, people will improve and we have to improve more than they do if we want to have a chance to number one make the Chase and number two contend for a championship."
WHAT DOES IT SAY IN YOUR OPINION THAT SO MANY TEAMS HAVE TO GET OUTSIDE MONEY AND INVESTMENT PARTNERS TO STAY ALIVE? "This sport has become a multi-team ownership, really high dollar game. The Petty's have had their multi-car team but they're only two. They haven't had the funding that certainly a Hendrick (Motorsports) has had. It's really hard to compete. You've got to have the funding to compete. The interesting thing about the investor thing that I still haven't quite figured out is bringing money in from the outside is great, but if you're an investor you invest because you believe it's going to be profitable. At some point that has to work out. Not just at Petty's we have an investment firm too. What you have to make sure you do is that you have to make sure that having a partnership gives you the ability to bring in more funds long term, not temporarily. If it's not long-term than it does you no good, it's a short-term burst. But the key is being able to build a team that has the funding that a Hendrick has, that has the funding that a Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing) has or that has the funding that a RCR has. If you don't have that you can't compete. So the partnership thing works only if the new partner can bring relationships to the table that will enable you to generate more funds."
HOW DO YOU MAKE YOURSELF THAT ENTICING? "I don't know. What sponsors want is to be part of is a winning organization. They want to be part of an organization that does things right. They want to be part of a professional organization that puts all the effort in. When you do all those things then the sponsorship game becomes easier. The recruitment of employees becomes easier. The recruitment of top drivers becomes easier but it's hard to do those things without the right funding. You got to have it to create that environment that can succeed. That is the beginning and the end of it. If you don't have that successful environment then there is no long-term success. There is no long-term business plan that will let you sustain a business."
HOW DO YOU ANTICIPATE RUNNING THIS WEEKEND? "I anticipate running well but this is a highly competitive garage area. There's a lot of great teams in the garage and great drivers. You never know. When you unload you never know what you have until you start running. We have high expectations. I can't make those decisions on where I think we are until we get to Sunday."
ON THE LAWSUIT THAT WAS FILED AGAINST NASCAR THIS WEEK, IF THE ALLEGATIONS TURN OUT TO BE TRUE WHAT DO YOU THINK THE DAMAGE WILL BE? "Honestly before I comment on that, the only thing I've seen is what I've read in the media. I have not actually read the entire lawsuit so I don't really want to make comment on it because I'm not as educated about the thing as I should be. I'm best not making a comment because I don't want to say something without understanding all the facts as they are currently. Ya'll know me well enough, I don't mind commenting but I'm only going to comment on something that I know something about and I don't know enough about this to make a comment about it."
DO YOU THINK THE SPORT HAS MADE STRIDES AS FAR AS DIVERSITY OVER THE PAST FIVE OR TEN YEARS? "I know that Brian France is committed to this being a diverse garage and a welcoming garage and a welcoming sport. I know that Brian France is committed to this being a diverse garage and welcoming to anybody and everybody. I do know that. Whether we've had enough success at it or not, I don't know, but I have had conversations with Brian in the past and I know he's committed to it and that I know. I know that I want this to be a garage that is diverse and is a cross section of America. I can honestly tell you that I've never spoken to anybody that doesn't believe the same thing. I can honestly tell you that."
IT SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF THE PROGRESS THAT NASCAR HAS MADE IS AT THE EXECUTIVE LEVEL AND THE PROFESSIONAL LEVEL, THE GENERAL PUBLIC DOESN'T SEE THAT ON T.V. WOULD YOU AGREE WITH THAT? "I don't know. I know how I want it to be and I shouldn't comment about anybody else. I did comment about Brian because Brian and I had a conversation about it several years ago. I do know that Brian is committed to making this garage and this sport diverse. I know that for a fact. I know I support that. I shouldn't have spoke for Brian but the only reason that I did is because I have had the conversation with him. That's really all I should say I guess."
ON EXECUTIVES FROM OTHER MANUFACTURERS SAYING YOU'RE THE GUY THEY'RE KIND OF WATCHING IN REGARDS TO YOUR CONSISTENT RUNS. NO MATTER WHERE YOU QUALIFY YOU ALWAYS FIND YOUR WAY TO THE TOP OF THE PACK. "Well that's good (laughs). That's what we want. This is a tough sport and people get on rolls, good and bad. We've been on a good roll for sure. We have to continue to improve. We have some areas that we definitely need to improve in. I feel like we are improving in those areas and that's what I'm focused on. I'm not focused on any one team in here other than us. It's nice when you're competition and your peers respect what you've been able to do and what you may be able to do. That's a good feeling but there's a lot of work ahead of us."
WHEN YOU'VE BEEN RUNNING LIKE YOU ARE, IS THERE A DIFFERENT FEELING WHEN YOU CLIMB INTO A RACE CAR THAN WHEN YOU CLIMB INTO IT WHEN YOU'RE STRUGGLING? "I've learned a lot over my tenure in this sport. The thing that's clear to me is what you did last week really doesn't affect what you do this week. What you do this week has to do with the preparation, the effort, the desire, the dedication that you put in. If we had failure last week that doesn't guarantee failure this week. Definitely when you're having success you tend to have more success because you're doing the things that are requiring you to have success. When you're not having success it because you're not doing those things. People call that momentum. They call it you got your mojo, there's a thousand different phrases for it. At the end of the day you're doing the things that you need to do to be successful and that puts you in the position to be successful. It really has nothing to do with momentum. I don't believe in momentum. I think that's a way overused phrase. I don't think there is such a thing as momentum. I think there is such a thing as preparation and doing the right things, coming together at the right time to allow you to be successful and you are doing the right things at the right time and that allows you to continue to be successful. I think momentum, I don't believe there's such a thing. That's my opinion."
DO YOU BELIEVE IN MOMENTUM? "I believe you control your destiny. I believe that in the sports world there are some things that happen that you're out of control of, there's no question but by far the majority of things are within our control and if we want to throw it up to momentum then what we'll do is we'll just play pin the tail on the donkey. We'll put on a blind fold and we'll just stick something up on the wall and hope it sticks. That's not how we choose to do it. We choose to try to take control and take accountability for our actions, that's how you have success. I just don't believe there's some invisible force out there that's says okay we're tired of Kurt Busch running well so we're going to not let him run well for a couple of years. It doesn't work like that. It's all about preparation; it's about having the right group of people together and the right time. All those things matter much more than playing pin the tail on the donkey."
LAST WEEK AFTER THE RACE BOTH BRIAN VICKERS AND DENNY HAMLIM COMPLAINED ABOUT THE HEAT INSIDE THE COCKPIT, SEEMS LIKE THE NEW CAR IS A LOT HOTTER, DOES NASCAR NEED TO DO SOMETHING TO FIX IT? "NASCAR needs to participate with it. Ultimately it's up to the teams as it always falls on the teams to figure these things out. NASCAR does have a dog in the fight because they created the environment. They created the car with little input from the teams. They created the car so they helped create that problem so they do have a dog in the fight. As with the old car, we had had that type of car for so long it had fallen on our shoulders. This car is really new and it's more of their creation so they have a dog in the fight. That's the way I view it."
WHY IS IT THAT MUCH HOTTER? "The only thing I can figure is there is less air under the car. The only thing I can figure is it all has to do with air and the splitter's doing something with the air underneath the car. The body shape is doing something to the air underneath the car and it's not blowing air so everything is hotter. The steering wheel on my car last week was just smoking hot. When the race was over I took my gloves off, I could hardly hold the wheel. The steering wheel was so hot. I could not put my hand on the shifter without my glove on. I couldn't touch it. That's a new thing. Same engines, same exhaust system, the pipes are bigger than they used to be so it has to be an air thing."
I THINK VICKERS WAS SAYING THAT IT'S THE WAY THEY RUN THE EXHAUST UNDERNEATH THE CAR THAT SEEMS TO MAKE IT A LOT HOTTER. "The first generation of the car the exhaust pipe ran through the frame rail. It's not like that anymore. The floor plan is actually further from the exhaust pipe than it's ever been. Both pipes run out of the right which we've done for a long time. He might have a point, but there's actually more area underneath the car than we used to have. I think it has to do with air that's underneath the car, that's my opinion. I'm no aerodynamicist but."
HAVE YOU WATCHED ANY OF THE NBA PLAYOFFS? "I tuned in enough just to see whose winning and generally wake up in the morning and saw who won. The games are too late. I mean who starts a game at 9:30 at night, it's ridiculous. The games are all so late. I can't stay up until midnight watching a ballgame so I don't ever see the end of them."
I KNOW YOU'RE NOT AN EXPERT ON THE INTERIOR OF THE CAR, BUT SOMEBODY MIGHT SAY IF YOU PUT AN EXTRA HOSE IN DO YOU THINK THAT MIGHT HELP? "One of the things that I think that we found with the car too, if you look at where we're picking the air up. If you look at the 18 car and you go to the 31 car, we've got the naca ducts in the right side window and that's where we're picking the air up. I think there's less air there than the old car. If you move those naca ducts further back then you're starting to pick the exhaust up and you don't want to blow the exhaust fumes in the car. So where we're able to get air there tends to be less air there in this car than the old car. We really can't put it in that right rear quarter panel window, because that will pick up the exhaust. We can't move them further back in the right side window because then you couldn't get out of it. That would be in the way. There may be a way, but the cars are in yaw all the time. If you put something on the left side you don't get any air. You got to do it on the right side but you got to do it forward right behind the a-post but there's not much air there either."
SO ITS NOT SOMETHING YOU CAN SOLVE BY JUST RUNNING AN EXTRA HOSE? "We've made ours bigger. We have a summer cooling package and a spring and fall cooling package. We were on the summer package last weekend and I didn't see much difference at all."
YOU DON'T EXPECT IT TO BE AS BAD THIS WEEKEND WITH 100 LESS MILES? "The race is shorter. The temperatures should be cooler. When it's 75 degrees outside and something gets hot it's hotter than it used to be but it's not to the point where it's a problem. When you reach those hot days, there is a lot of braking in Pocono, those are the days it gets hot."
CHEVROLET HASN'T WON HERE SINCE 2000, IS THERE A FOCUS FOR YOU TO FIX THAT. "I think it's more of the teams haven't done as good of a job. I think the Roush cars have been really good here in that period of time. I think its more the teams haven't done a good job than say it's a Chevrolet problem."
DOES FATHER'S DAY HAVE A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE FOR YOU? "Now that I am a father it's definitely a different perspective. We have a little tradition at the track. We do a Father's Day Olympics every year and that's always pretty interesting. Watching some of the older drivers in the past, some of which are no longer here act like 12 year olds that's pretty interesting. I have those things in my head. They won't go away.
-credit: gm rcing