JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATEPILLAR CHEVROLET met with the media to discuss racing at Phoenix, the challenges of racing injured, drivers expressing their opinions, and much more. HOW IS THE HOUR EARLIER START TIME AND TRANSITION FROM DAY TO...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATEPILLAR CHEVROLET met with the media to discuss racing at Phoenix, the challenges of racing injured, drivers expressing their opinions, and much more.
HOW IS THE HOUR EARLIER START TIME AND TRANSITION FROM DAY TO NIGHT, AND THE ADDED DISTANCE GOING TO AFFECT THE RACE? "The transition from day to night is not as big of a deal as it is at some race tracks. It certainly is an issue but it seems like if your car is good here, it's good in the day and the night. I'm not so concerned about that. The added distance will have an impact, but we just don't know how it will yet. There is just no way of knowing. Any time in the race where you tell people that there is a certain amount of distance, the longer that distance is the more stuff that happens. There is no question that it will have an impact, but to be quite honest, no one knows what that impact will be."
DO YOU FEEL ANY REASON TO HAVE ANY CONCERN RUNNING AROUND DENNY HAMLIN, ESPECIALLY IF IT GETS TO BE LATE IN THE RACE? "I don't have any concern. I think that Denny will know his limitations and I'm not concerned about it in the least. It's a part of the sport--driving injured is just a part of the sport. There have probably been a lot of times that people have been injured and no one ever knew about it. In this case, it was one of those things where he had to go public with it. I don't have any concerns with it. He'll find a way to make it happen, and if he can't, then he'll get out."
ALL THE INFORMATION POINTS TO THIS TRACK BEING A DRIVER'S TRACK, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT AND WHO THAT MIGHT FAVOR? "What I've learned about that is that the drivers that run well at a particular track always say that it's a driver's track. The drivers that don't [run well] tell you that it's all about the car. I believe that at every track there is a ratio for the driver and the capability of the car. From track to track, that ratio moves around a little bit for sure. The driver has a huge impact at every race track, and the car has a huge impact. The key here from a driver's perspective is understanding what your car needs to do and where it needs to do it at, what sacrifices you need to make. Racing a car is all about making sacrifices, you can't drive turn one like you drive turn three, and you can't drive the middle of one and two the way you drive the middle of three and four. Understanding what your car can't do--that's the part that I'm talking about with sacrifices. You have to give something up in order to get something later, but we have to do that in every corner. From a driver's standpoint, that's really important at every track, but the smaller the track the more important it is because there is less room to make up for that error."
GOING BACK TO DENNY'S SITUATION, HAVE YOU EVER BEEN SO BANGED UP THAT YOU DEBATED AS IT IF YOU SHOULD BE IN THE CAR OR NOT? JUST HOW DIFFICULT OF A DECISION IS THAT TO MAKE? "Yeah, I've been in that situation several times. Like I said before, driving injured is a part of the sport. Drivers don't particularly like people to know, the same way professional athletes don't want people to know how there injured or where they're injured because they don't want to be viewed as having a weakness. A lot of times people are hurt and the doctors will know about it, but no one else will. We've all been in that situation and we've all had to make that decision. I had to make the decision years ago, but I just couldn't do it. I had severe vertigo, and I just couldn't drive. I could do it for a little while, but over a period of time it just got worse, and worse, and worse and I finally just had to get out. There were more times than that that I wondered what the impact would be of trying to drive with a broken leg, broken ribs; I actually got in a racecar one time with a broken back when I was trying to win a championship on a local level. The majority of the time, you are able to do it and you are able to compensate. There are a few times, and we saw it last year with Kyle Busch when he was really ill, that you just can't do it. It's a tough decision, and you tend to do it a lot of times when you probably shouldn't from a performance standpoint because someone that was healthy could perform better. Being the guy that's running for points, and driving the car, and having your name on the roof of the car, you want to finish it out even if you're not 100%. Sometimes it's a character builder; sometimes you're trying to learn something about yourself."
WHEN DID YOU HAVE VERTIGO? "I'm awful with years. I was driving for Jack [Roush], and it was probably 10 years ago. It was awhile ago."
CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE RACE AT MARTINSVILLE THAT YOU HAD WITH DENNY, WHAT HAPPENED AT THE END? IF THAT HAD NOT OCCURRED, DID YOU FEEL THAT YOU WERE IN A PRETTY GOOD POSITION TO PICK UP A VICTORY? "Well I don't view that as a bad day. We had a bad finish, but we had a great day. Essentially what happened was that we had a hole in the tire, but there was nothing we could have done to prevent that. We ran well, we led a bunch of laps, and we were in a great position to win the race. We were better than he [Denny Hamlin] was right then when we were racing; he was having trouble getting off the corner. My car had gotten better, and I think his car had gotten a little worse. It was a bad finish, but it was good day. From a competitor's standpoint, you have to separate the things that you can control and the things you can't. I worry and stress a great deal about the things I can control and the things my team can control, and I've learned to not worry at all about the things I can't control. You have to define those things. I think some people make the mistake of blaming everything on luck, but truly that was just bad luck. There is nothing we can do about that. We ran well, we put ourselves in a position to win the race, and I feel confident that we had a better car there at the end of the race than the 11 did. They won the race, we had a bad break, and now we go to the next race."
WHERE YOU ARE AS AN ORGANIZATION RIGHT NOW, DO YOU THINK THAT YOU GUYS ARE ABLE TO CHALLENGE FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP? "I think we're ready to challenge for a championship, but I have to tell you that we haven't challenged for the championship. I've told you guys several times before, and I certainly didn't coin the phrase, but you are what your record says you are. We haven't capitalized. I think we have the speed to contend for the championship, I think we have the team, and I think we have the fundamental basics to contend and win a championship. We have to start executing better than we have. Like I said before, at Martinsville that's what happened to everybody, I lost us spots at the end of the race at Atlanta, we lost spots at Bristol that we shouldn't have lost; we lost spots at the end of a lot of races that was of our own doing. We have to stop doing that. We were in a great position to win the race at California and didn't pull it off. After California everybody said Jimmie was lucky, and yeah he had a lucky break, but they executed and that's what we haven't done as well as we need to do. Hopefully in the future we can execute on our opportunities, and that has been our weak point. Our weak point has not been putting ourselves in the position to succeed; our weak point has been making the final success happen in the last 10% of the race. That's what we need to improve on if we want to win a championship. The great thing about this system is that as long as you're in the top 12, we're able to learn how to do that. We're a young team, and we're still learning how to work together. I wish it was coming quicker. A lot of things have come quicker than I thought it would, and some things have come slower--the execution has come a little slower than I thought it would. That's the thing that we're focusing on right now to try to improve."
HOW DO YOU THINK THE REAR SPOILER WILL AFFECT THE RACING HERE AT PIR?
"I think it will impact the race for sure. We have an escalation on the amount of impact, I think. Last week at Martinsville it didn't have much impact, this week because of the size of the track and the speeds it will have a little more impact, and next week it will have a great deal more impact. I say that it will have an impact, but I don't know how. I know how the cars drive by themselves, but what I don't know and no one else out here knows, it how it will drive when it's behind other cars. Phoenix is a place where you don't hear a lot about an aero push, but it happens here. You have to ask me after the race what impact it had, because I really don't know, but I do know that it will have some kind of impact."
I KNOW YOU'VE WON A COUPLE RACES HERE, BUT THE 48 HAS WON FOUR OF THE LAST FIVE AND HENDRICK CARS HAVE WON THE LAST SIX. IT SEEMS LIKE VICTORY LANE IS THROUGH THEM, WHAT DO YOU THINK? "Well Victory Lane has gone through them, but that Victory Lane is not occupied right now. Because of the success they've had, they certainly would be the favorite going into the race, but they were the favorite going into Martinsville too. I thought Mark had a chance at contending for the win, but none of the others seemed to have what it takes. You have to go earn it every week. Past success doesn't guarantee future success, but there is no doubt that the Hendrick cars will be teams you have to deal with."
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT SO MANY DRIVERS AND YOUR COLLEAGUES ARE RELUCTANT TO SPEAK OUT ABOUT ANY KIND OF PUBLIC ISSUE, OR ABOUT ANY THING THAT MAY BE THE LEAST BIT CONTROVERSIAL? IS IT ALL SPONSOR DRIVEN?
"I think that has something to do with it. There are many factors there. Certainly I don't want to categorize everyone into one reason. The reality of it is, when you choose as a stance on something; you put yourselves out there to be criticized--to get letters, and phone calls, and comments made to you. Whereas if you don't say anything, you don't have to expose yourself to [all the criticism]. I've never had my sponsors come talk to me about something, but it's clear to me that I represent all of my sponsors and when I take a personal stance about something, I expose them to my opinions. The customers often view my opinion as their opinion and that's not necessarily fair, so there are some things that I don't like to get involved in because I don't want to express and opinion that may be taken as my sponsors opinion. Some people don't care. Some people just don't want to be involved in it, or have no interest in being involved in it. Having a public voice is an interesting thing because it gives you the ability to voice your opinion and to express your opinion and to try to influence other people, but with that comes responsibility and the scrutinizing of your opinion."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHY YOU'RE SO GOOD ON FLAT, SHORT TRACKS--NEW HAMPSHIRE, MARTINSVILLE, HERE--IT JUST REALLY SEEMS TO BE IN YOUR WHEEL HOUSE. "We certainly had a lot of success on this kind of race track, but I have to be honest in the last recent future, I haven't had the success that we had had, and to the point where I felt like my teammates were running better than I was on the one-mile tracks. When we were our best on the one-mile tracks, the way you went about doing it was a lot different. The center of the corner speed wasn't nearly as important as it is today, and it took me a little while to transition into that. I felt like I was behind a little bit, but I feel like I'm caught up now and that I'm back to where I need to be. It's funny because we won a lot of races on short-tracks and then we started to win a lot on big tracks, and I don't know why. I know why I wasn't running as well, it was because I wasn't running the center of the corner the way that we needed to. Why I've had success, I honestly don't know."
HOW DO YOU THINK THE "END OF THE RACE" DYNAMIC MAY CHANGE WITH HAVING THREE ATTEMPTS AT THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKER FINISH? "I think the double-file restart has had a huge impact on that. If you go back and watch what happened last week, without a double-file restart, I don't think Denny Hamlin would have won the race. The double-file restart put people in a position to be side-by-side at Martinsville, when they never would have been side-by-side before. I think that has had a major impact on the kind of end of races that we have seen. The green-white-checkered is the best thing to do for the race fans, it is extremely frustrating for the teams at times, but it is the best thing to do for the fans. Restarts in our sport are more aggressive than they've ever been. Our restarts in a 500-mile race are more aggressive than a 50-lap shootout at a short track--it just is. Then you add on that that the race is getting ready to end and the intensity goes through the roof."
SPEAKING OF CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS, I HAVE TO GET YOUR REACTION TO THE DUKE VS. BUTLER GAME. I KNOW WHERE YOUR ALLEGIANCES LIE, BUT WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THAT GAME? "Only a Carolina fan could put any point of controversy into that. I don't know what the controversy part of the Duke win was--they won. I know the Carolina fans will say that it was the refs or that the Earth spun on its access the wrong way, but the trophy is in Durham."
-source: gm racing