JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed what he expects this weekend in the race, fuel mileage, taking gambles to gain bonus points and much more. GIVE US A...
JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed what he expects this weekend in the race, fuel mileage, taking gambles to gain bonus points and much more.
GIVE US A QUICK IDEA ON WHAT YOU'RE EXPECTING AT THIS RACE TRACK AND THIS WEEKEND. "This track has been probably our biggest thorn in our side. We just haven't run well here in several years. We ran poorly here in the spring. For whatever reason we just haven't run very well here so we come here hoping to improve on that. We've worked very hard. It's time to get going. Four races to go in this deal so the first thing we've got to do is get ourselves established in the Chase but it's time to be making better lap times and hopefully we can improve on our performance here in the spring because it wasn't very good. We've worked really hard. We've got a lot of new stuff, a lot of different stuff and testing a lot. Everybody's kind of tired so hopefully we can get some results."
THREE WEEKS OFF THE BRICKYARD RACE, WHAT'S THE SITUATION WITH THE TIRES? "We really hadn't had the issues anywhere other than at Indy. Indy was the place where just nothing worked very well. In an effort to fix that Goodyear is doing some testing at Indy. I know they did a tire test this week at Charlotte. Early in the year we had some trouble in Atlanta with the grip of the tire but for the most part tires haven't been as big of an issue certainly as they were at Indy. Indy was a huge issue but the tire that Goodyear has designed for almost every other race track hasn't been an issue. It was much more of an Indy isolated problem than an overall problem."
ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH THE TERM HYPER-MILING? "Hyper-miling?"
YEAH IT'S SOME KIND OF WAY THAT PEOPLE ON THE INTERSTATE SAVE GAS WITH CERTAIN DRIVING TECHNIQUES. "I'm very unfamiliar with that, but I'm willing to learn."
WHEN WE RACE HERE IT SEEMS LIKE IT'S ALWAYS A FUEL MILEAGE SITUATION, IF YOUR CREW CHIEF COMES ON THE RADIO AND SAYS SAVE FUEL WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND? "The first thing I need to know is how much fuel do we need to save. You can't tell the driver to save fuel with five laps to go in the race. The information has to be fed to a driver as soon as that run starts. Look we're on the edge here, we might need to save fuel so you need that information early. The only way to save fuel is to go slower. You de-accelerate sooner. You're off the throttle sooner. You're on the throttle later and you're on the throttle less aggressively.
"By the way you still have to make reasonable lap times in most cases. I'm either going to save fuel or I'm not. If you're gonna run hard and make lap time you can't worry about fuel. If you're gonna save fuel you just have to slow down. That's where the information is important. If Scott (Miller, crew chief) comes on and says we have half a lap to gain over fifty laps, I can handle that. If he comes and says you have five laps you have to gain that means all we can do is slow down a great deal. You really just have to know all the information in order to make the right decision. If it works out to where you're on a forty-lap run or a thirty-eight lap run lets' say and people are starting to pit and you're trying to stretch it, then the information about how far the guy behind you is becomes important. Now how much can I slow down if we're trying to make it to the end of the race? Can I slow down four seconds and not lose anything? That's where the driver just has to have information but the earlier he has that information the better he can do of saving fuel."
WOULD YOU SAY THIS TRACK AND CALIFORNIA ARE GOOD DRESS REHEARSALS FOR THE FIVE 1.5-MILE TRACKS THAT ARE IN THE CHASE? "I think these tracks are a great deal different than Charlotte, Atlanta, Texas, Homestead certainly. Here and California for the size have the lowest grip of all race tracks. Texas has a tremendous amount of grip, Charlotte has a tremendous amount of grip, Homestead has a tremendous amount of grip, Atlanta not so much. It does but it goes away in the race. So these race tracks are in my opinion unique to themselves and this race track unique from California because the grip level here is so low compared to those race tracks. We see people routinely that run very well here that struggle at almost every other race track.
"Then we see people that run well at almost every other race track that struggle here. This is for whatever reason a very unique animal and I think it's just because of the grip level. It's really low grip. I don't necessarily think that if you run poorly here you're going to run poorly at Texas nor if you run positive here you're going to run positive at Texas because I think they are just completely different. These are real long radius corners. The radius of these corners is greater than the radius at Texas. The banking is different. The transitions into the corners are different. These are real sweeping, real slow entry into the corners. When I say slow I mean steering wheel input. You stay against the wall. You make a big late slow arc.
"Texas is much more aggressive with the wheel, off the throttle, completely different. This is a much smoother transition which means the way the car approaches the corner from a physics stand point is quite a bit different than it is at a place like Texas. They're tremendously different which means I don't think it's so much a dress rehearsal."
A YEAR OR SO AGO YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT CONCERNS ABOUT TOO MANY SPONSORS WIH TOO MANY CARS WITH NO GUARANTEES OF MAKING THE FIELD, FOR THE THIRD TIME THIS SEASON FORTY-FOUR CARS ARE ENTERED HERE. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT? COULD THE FORTY-FOUR CARS WE SEE BE A FUNCTION OF SPONSORS GETTING SCARED OFF? "I don't think there is any question that it is a function of sponsor involvement. Now the sponsor involvement has a great deal to do with the economy. A company has to be one hundred percent committed to motorsports in this kind of economy to be able to spend the money that it takes which goes back to part of the reason that I believe it's not in our best interest to have forty-eight, forty-nine teams. If you look at what's going on with employees right now. How many cars did we have at Daytona? Fifty or so. We're having teams shut down. Every time a team shuts down there is somebody who is unemployed. We put ourselves in a position where with this change of car count, over a three-year, four-year period you go from forty-nine full-time teams to maybe forty-four full-time teams, that's a five team switch. If you put sixty people on a team, that three hundred people whose jobs are impacted by that. Our sport would be so much more secure, our employees would be so much more secure, our sponsors would be so much more secure if we had forty-three teams. In the modern era I'm not sure if we've ever been in the position where we didn't have forty-three sponsored race cars. I don't remember that. Maybe we have but I don't remember that. We don't need forty-five teams. There's no benefit in having forty-five teams. It only creates insecurity for sponsors, for car owners, for crew members. We have very few advantages in having forty-five, forty-eight, forty-nine teams. We need forty-three teams to put on a race. If we have forty-three teams that knew they were going to be in the race then the sponsor's investment is much more secure and at a time when the economy is iffy, the sponsor's that want to be involved in the sport they want to know that they're going to be in the race.
"The philosophy of having forty-eight cars all vying for forty-three spots, I know that's cool and everything or if you're not good enough you just go home you don't deserve to be in the race, that's not economically sound. This is a time when you start seeing a negative side of having a bunch of teams. The sponsorship is being spread out over more cars. The cost of sponsorship is being de-valued because they have more choices. The employees are losing opportunities. There's really no advantage in all that and our sport is less secure."
FORTY-THREE FRANCHISED TEAMS IS WHAT YOU ARE SAYING? "I'm not saying the f-word (laughter)."
FORTY-THREE CARS THAT ARE ASSURED OF BEING IN THE FIELD. "Forty-three cars that are assured of being in the field is the best scenario for our sport. Professional golf being the exception, we are the only major sport that has to make the investment that we make and you don't know one hundred percent you're in the field. Now, the top thirty-five rule is a tremendous step in the right direction. Its way better than it used to be but it ought to be a forty-three rule. I don't know how you go about determining whose going to get the car owners and all. I don't know how you do that. I'm a driver so I get to point at somebody else and say figure it out, but it's in our best interest to have forty-three sure well-funded teams and sponsors that are secure in what they're doing. That's in our sport's best interest. That's my opinion."
THIS WEEK KANSAS SAID THEY ARE GOING TO ASK NASCAR FOR A SECOND DATE, WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A SECOND DATE AT KANSAS AND IF SO WHAT ISC TRACK SHOULD LOOSE ONE? "I haven't heard that so I have to think for just a minute. I don't think it's in our sport's best interest to run more races. That's not because I don't want to do it. When I'm not racing here I'm racing with my seven-year-old. I'd rather race but we have to be careful to not have too many races. I think major league baseball suffers from that. I think the National Basketball Association suffers from that. We have to have a limited number of races so they mean something. So if you have thirty-six point-paying races, where are we best served serving the fans. Where are the fans best served having us, where do we need to be? I'm not intelligent enough to say that we ought to be in Kansas verses being somewhere else. I don't know. I haven't looked at statistics enough to make that comment. But I believe it is in our best interest to be in as many places as possible. In some cases I don't know where adding a second race somewhere puts us in as many places as possible. We'd be better off going somewhere else that we don't go currently. On the surface of it that's the way I feel about it but again I haven't looked at stats so I hate to say yes or no."
WITH THE RACES WINDING DOWN AND KYLE BUSH ALREADY HAVING EIGHT WINS, DO YOU TAKE A GAMBLE OVER THE NEXT FEW RACES IF YOU CAN GET THAT WIN TO GET THOSE TEN BONUS POINTS? "I think you have to look at. I think it depends on your situation. If you're second or third in points and you look really good at being locked in I think that puts you in that position to do that. If you're ninth in points, eighth in points the gamble to win the race may not be worth it. Every gamble has a loss and the loss of that could put you in a position where you don't make the Chase. So it's a tough time to gamble for a lot of people and it's an easy time to gamble for a few. If we could lay down a good race this weekend then we could be in a position to probably gamble some going into the next three but we're not there right now. We're not in the deal. We look good but we're not in it. We've got to first build a little more cushion before we could think like that. That's my opinion.
"If this gamble has a negative consequence of finishing twelfth, then yes. But most gambles in this sport have a negative consequence of finishing thirty-eighth and you can't do that."
BEING IN THE BACK YARD OF THE BIG THREE HERE AND THE STRUGGLES OF THE AUTOMOTIVE MANUFACTURERS, DO YOU THINK THERE IS A DANGER THAT THE MANUFACTURERS SOMETIME IN THE NEAR FUTURE OR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS MIGHT PULL AWAY FROM SUPPORTING MOTORSPORTS LIKE NASCAR AND IF SO HOW WOULD NASCAR MOVE ON? "I thought the big three was State, Carolina and Duke (laughter). The auto manufacturers are no different than all of our sponsors. They have to look at the bottom line. They have to be able to afford to do this. The manufacturers have played a tremendously positive role for our sport. They've moved the sport forward in a great deal of ways but it is clear the manufacturers are struggling economically. You're going to find out how committed they are. I can't speak for Ford or Dodge obviously. I can speak for General Motors in saying that Chevrolet has been extremely committed even through very tough times of keeping their program moving forward. I think there was a time in our country where you looked at the auto manufacturers as an empire that could never go away and I think today we can't look at it in that fashion which is sad. If you think about how big the American manufacturers are to the economy of America it's huge. The amount of employment, the things that they do is unbelievable and it's hard to see them struggling because it should be a source of pride for our country. The exports, the things that the American manufacturers are able to do it should be a sense of pride for our country and they're struggling really hard. I don't think you can take that for granted anymore. There was a time that you just, you know Chevy is going to be involved, you know Ford is going to be involved, they always have they always will but I don't think as committed as Chevrolet is they still have to be able to write the checks."
-credit: gm racing