JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed racing at Phoenix, the on-track competition, similarities between Roush Racing and Richard Childress Racing and other ...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed racing at Phoenix, the on-track competition, similarities between Roush Racing and Richard Childress Racing and other topics.
HOW WAS YOUR PRACTICE SESSION? "We only got to make one qualifying run and that one wasn't so good, but I think we can be better here in a little bit after I get a chance to talk about the car and what we can do. We're pretty optimistic about it. We need to get a little better, but I'm pretty optimistic that we can race well."
WHY DO THE CHEVROLETS RUN SO WELL HERE AT PHOENIX? "I think it's more if you look at the teams -- Jimmie Johnson is always real strong at these kind of race tracks, (Kevin) Harvick's real good at these race tracks. I think its more that its catered to the team rather than anything else to be quite honest. Chevy spends a lot of time and effort trying to help the teams and make us better at all the race tracks. Everything I know about it, there's no particular effort for this race track versus any other. I think its more the circumstances of the teams taking that information and using it better than others."
WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING THAT TWO TEAMS HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH SO MANY RACES COMPLETED? "One of Richard's (Childress) mandates is to not break and he works diligently to make sure that everything we're doing is reliable, but we're not getting a gain or a risk versus reward -- the real gain is being calculated there. It starts with him -- he's really very much in tune with what's going on from the reliability point. When you break something you're going to be sitting in front of him and I think that has a lot to do with it. Our teams have worked hard, really hard at making sure that everything in the car is reliable and when we do have a problem in the race they never quit -- they work real hard and do everything they can to get the cars back on the race track. It's a big effort -- it means a lot to us and honestly. If you look at the laps we've led versus some other teams and those type of things that puts over the edge of being good. It's something that's really helped us."
DID YOU KNOW IT WAS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE JEFF GORDON WON A RACE THIS YEAR? "I want to go to that school -- the Jeff Gordon driving school that he went to this winter because our last conversation was that he had a baby and he was more worried about his family than his racing and I'm just glad that he got over that. There are a few times in my life when I'm right and when I am you will hear about it and this is one of them. I think if you look at how they've run all year they've positioned themselves to go out and win a bunch of races and be a team that when the year is over has won the most races. They're that strong and they are better this year then they were last year up to this point -- they're definitely better. Anytime a team improves themselves, especially that team, they can go off and knock a bunch of wins off.
"There's no question. I don't think it's all them to be quite honest. I don't think you can focus on any one team, I am just trying to pay attention to what we're doing and they are without a doubt a threat -- there's no question about it."
WHY ARE GANASSI-EARNHARDT TEAMS HAVING ISSUES WHEN THE RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING TEAMS ARE NOT? "I know that a couple of them were when one of them, for whatever reason, over-heated. I think it was some sort of a radiator problem and there was another one that had a pressure tank on the pressure side of the radiator -- I think they had a valve that malfunctioned on that so there's some things that happened that may have caused them problems that weren't the engine. We had some engine problems at Daytona -- we broke one in practice and I think one of the other teams broke one as well. We've had some issues, but I think, I really shouldn't have said what I said, but we thought the Ganassi problems were with parts that got bolted on near the engine rather than the engines, I think. You need to go ask someone that knows more about it than me, but I'm sure that was the case."
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BE ON THE LAST LAP? "It depends on the kind of race. Talladega has the potential of being a 20-car pack and potentially 23 others in the garage or the potential to be a 35-car pack. The bigger the pack the more danger of being in the front. If something happens with three to go and the first four break away then being in the front is not as dangerous. Being in the front is dangerous when the guys in front can get momentum and come get you. It really depends on the kind of race. I do believe the old car you were more protected up front than you are in the new car. The new car you seem to be a little more of a sitting duck than you were in the old car."
WHAT WILL THE MAJOR REPROCUTIONS BE FOR YOUR TEAM AND NASCAR IF THE BIG THREE AUTO MANUFACTURERS SCALE BACK THEIR INVOLVEMENT? "We can survive if the manufacturers pull out -- it would be very detrimental to our team in particular. I can't speak in great detail about what Chevrolet does for Hendrick or what they do for other teams, but I know what they do for us. Chevrolet is a very important part of our program from an engineering standpoint, from a lot of different areas. It would be a big blow. It would hamper things that we are able to do now. Having said that it would probably be the same for everybody else too. I know what I hear over the radios and I don't know that they're having the same troubles -- I don't know. We've seen that the race tracks have had a lot of funding pulled from them and that doesn't affect the race, you know what I mean? When we start having less funding and the ability to do less things and the lack of ability to do things -- that can impact the competition. Teams that have more funding then there becomes the potential for a bigger discrepancy between the first-place car and the third-place car. The potential exists that if the manufactures were to completely go away -- it wouldn't be good for the sport because it wouldn't be good for the teams."
WHY DOESN'T RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING WIN AS MUCH AS HENDRICK OR JOE GIBBS RACING? "No, it's really not. I will tell you that may have been the case in the past. I would stack our team up against anybody. I feel really, really good about the way our cars go down the straights, I think we make a lot of power. What we have struggled with for the last 10 years is deep speed. If you go back and look at most of the races that we've won, they've been long-run races, they've been races that had adverse conditions, slick tracks and those kind of things. The 48 (Jimmie Johnson), the 24 (Jeff Gordon), the 99 (Carl Edwards), the 18 (Kyle Busch) they just go grab it and can make faster lap time. That's because of what they can do in the corners. They can driver their cars harder. We struggle on restarts, our cars don't make the grip that other people's make. We're not terrible, but we're not great -- we're good, we're really good and like you said we're in some really good company, but we're not winning. For us to achieve all the goals that we want to achieve, we've got to find a way to win races no matter what the conditions are, no matter what. We haven't done that as well as some other teams. That's where our effort is -- all of our effort is in trying to make our cars so we can drive them off the corner. What we complain about as drivers is that we want to be able to drive them harder and when we ask more of our car then our car doesn't respond to us. That's where the effort is. I will tell you that I believe that we will get there, but we haven't gotten there. Clint (Bowyer), when he won New Hampshire, we just frickin' dominated, you know. He was just the fastest car. When we won Charlotte we went and took the lead so we have won races like that -- Kevin's (Harvick) won some races like that, but we've also had to win a lot with two to go and those kind of things."
DO YOU NOT PUT A LOT OF EMPHASIS ON QUALIFYING? "I just try harder every five years. It's too hard to try hard every year. I wish I could tell you. One of the things that has bothered me most about my career is being able to qualify. I don't know why. I will tell you that if you look at RCR's qualifying percentages, we're all pretty close. I don't know why we're not good at it. That probably tells me that we're not good at what we just had a conversation about. I think it's fair to say that I do it worse than my teammates. I'm at a loss and I don't know what else to do. Now we're not testing. Every year we say that we're going to work harder on it and then honestly its hard to work harder on it. You get paid and get trophies based on when you win, not on how we qualify. I struggle at trying to find a way to get better at it."
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TALLADEGA AND DAYTONA? "Daytona has no grip in comparison to Talladega. Talladega has a lot of grip and everybody's car handles well, everybody's car will be able to run wide open every single lap, every single corner. The only reason you won't run wide open is if you're going to run into somebody. At Daytona very few people can run wide open through the corners, there's a lot of throttle input and the car just doesn't make any grip. Talladega is much more aggressive, even with restrictor plate racing at a two-and-a-half mile race tracks they are completely different and it's night and day. It's as different as Martinsville and Bristol."
ARE THERE MAJOR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ROUSH RACING AND RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING? "There are differences and a lot of similarities. Jack (Roush) is extremely motivated, driven person. Richard (Childress) is an extremely motivated, driven person. Their personalities are completely different, but they both want to win and will do everything in their power to win. They both have a lot of self-control. Neither one of them get in over their head and they don't want their employees getting in over their head either. They create situations where there's a boundary system -- if you cross the border then you're in trouble. They both have a lot of discipline, a great work ethic and that's really where it starts. The belief that this is going to make our team better -- some of those things are different, but the glaring similarities are the effort and the ethic and they are completely different personalities and the company they run in a lot of ways completely different and in some ways exactly the same. Jack's (Roush) program -- he's here every weekend, but he's not there every week and everyday. He's there every week, he's not there everyday. Richard's (Childress) office is there so he's there all the time. Richard (Childress) is a little more wanting to know every small thing that's going on and Jack (Roush) kind of looks at the over all and then both of them will pick and choose what they don't want to be involved in or what they do want to be involved in, but as RCR has grown and as the sport has changed Richard's changed more into having to take care of a lot of things other than just what's the right-front fender look like and in the same way Jack's had to do that too. The bigger the sport gets, the more RCR and Richard has had to move sort of in that direction. He can't, nor can a driver understand every single thing that's going on with the competition because there's so many other things going on. That's been hard for Richard because Richard has always been hands-on, he built his cars and when he started with (Dale) Earnhardt, it was him and two other guys and then six and then eight. He was very much hands-on and when Jack came in he never was hands-on on the car. You have two different backgrounds in the Cup program. Jack was very hands-on in his drag racing program and very hands-on in his road racing program, but not in his Cup program. Some similarities, but some differences as well."
-credit: gm racing