Phoenix: Ford Racing - Jeff Burton interview

Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Citgo Taurus, will be looking for his third straight NASCAR Winston Cup win at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend. Burton, who has 17 career series victories, joined Davey Allison as the only multiple NWC...

Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Citgo Taurus, will be looking for his third straight NASCAR Winston Cup win at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend. Burton, who has 17 career series victories, joined Davey Allison as the only multiple NWC winners at the facility.

JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo Taurus

YOU'VE HAD GREAT SUCCESS OF LATE AT PHOENIX.

"Yeah, I do like the race track. We've had a lot of success there with the Busch car and the Cup car. We didn't use to run very well there and then a couple of years ago I changed the way I drove the track and once I found that it really helped us a lot. I really struggled in qualifying, especially there, and I found something as far as driving the track for me and it really seemed to help."

IS IT SOMETHING SPECIFIC YOU CAN TALK ABOUT?

"Whenever we have something that works we don't talk much about it, but a lot of things have changed. I think that's the important thing to remember. A lot of things that worked last year don't necessarily work this year anymore, so we've got to go to Phoenix looking at it and saying, 'OK, we have to be willing to change.' Just because we've won there the last two races doesn't mean that's gonna get it this time. Actually, the setups that we ran there from the first win to the second win are quite a bit different, so you have to adjust to the track. There's a new tire this time and that will make a difference as well."

HOW DO YOU FEEL PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY AT THIS POINT IN THE YEAR?

"Every year I get tired late in the year, but every year it gets later. This year, we had a pretty big change within our team so emotionally I was tired. But I feel pretty good right now. It's kind of funny because I like working out, but for the last 10 percent of the year I've stopped doing that because I'd rather sleep. I did that last year, too, and it seems to help me. I like working out, but it seems like just getting that extra 50 minutes of sleep is better for me than working out. Physically, I feel really good but I feel bad that I'm not working out like I used to. Emotionally, I'm pretty charged up. I'm excited that the year is coming to an end because that means there's a beginning. I'm real excited about getting ready for next year. I don't want to give the wrong impression, we're not throwing this year away by any means, but I'm really excited about next year. I know the things that we're doing and they all seem to make an awful lot of sense. At the same time that we're racing for this year, we're also racing for next year. This is as early as we've really ever started on next year. NASCAR did a nice job of getting us the rules quicker and all those kind of things. By the end of next week, we'll have two 2003 cars done and the third one started. By the time the year ends, we'll have three bodies hung for 2003 and we've never had that before. In addition to that, we're building a lot of new cars and a lot of new stuff and, at the same time, I see improvement with our team. As Jack says, we haven't tripped the light fantastic yet, but we're making gains on it. I see improvement in areas and that's how it starts."

YOU'VE STRUGGLED EACH OF THE LAST TWO YEARS. WHAT'S DIFFERENT ABOUT WHERE YOU WERE LAST YEAR VERSUS THIS YEAR?

"Last year we were all not performing very well and this year we're the only ones that haven't performed very well. Our teams are working great together. I said it last year and I'll say it again this year -- never before have we had the unity that we have in our team. Randy Goss coming in will be fun and exciting. Paul coming in has been fun and exciting. It brings new looks and I can't tell you how well everybody is working together. They were all really excited when Paul came in. They welcomed him and that's led into other things that we're doing. We've all been huddled up together for so long that we know what each other is thinking, but Paul has come in with some new ideas and that's been good. I just can't get over it. We can never forget that we do compete against each other. Even though we race with each other, we compete against each other and it takes special people to spend time helping someone else beat them, and I see that going on right now."

TWO FLAT TRACKS ARE LEFT. DO YOU FEEL YOU CAN GET A WIN AT ONE OF THOSE PLACES?

"Yeah. I said this about a month ago, but the last part of the season is really where we ought to excel. Unfortunately, we didn't get what we deserved at Martinsville. We ran a whole lot better than we finished and the other tracks are tracks we've had success on, including Rockingham. These are the kind of tracks we feel good about. On the other hand, if you look at our program, we have struggled on those kinds of tracks, too. We won Phoenix last year and we won the year before, but the last few years we haven't run very well at New Hampshire. We've really struggled everywhere, unfortunately. So we go to Phoenix with our eyes wide open looking to understand that we have to make ourselves better. We haven't had our short-track program where it needed to be this year, so Phoenix is certainly a short track. Even though we've had success in the past, that doesn't guarantee us success in the future. We have to do better there than we've done at Richmond and Loudon. We haven't run as well as we need to at those places, so even though we've won the last two races there, I'm not chomping at the bit to get there because we haven't performed very well at those kind of race tracks this year. That used to be our strength, but it's gotten away from us."

NOTING FORD AT PHOENIX
* Ford swept all three races at Phoenix last season. Greg Biffle won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck and Busch Series races while Jeff Burton captured the Winston Cup event.

* Ford has won 10 of the 14 NWC races at Phoenix.

* There have been 12 different winners in 14 NWC races at Phoenix with eight of those being Ford drivers.

* Davey Allison and Jeff Burton are the only multiple NWC winners at Phoenix.

* Jeff Burton has four straight top-five finishes at Phoenix.

* Rusty Wallace, who is still looking to win and extend his streak of having at least one victory to 17 straight seasons, went into the 1998 Phoenix race winless but dominated the rain-shortened event for his only triumph of the year.

* Alan Kulwicki won the first of his five NWC races in the inaugural series event at Phoenix on Nov. 6, 1988.

* Ford has had at least three top-five finishers four straight years and 10 times overall at Phoenix.

* Ford owners Robert Yates and Jack Roush lead all car owners with three wins each at Phoenix.

* Rusty Wallace leads all drivers with three poles at Phoenix.

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Rusty Wallace , Greg Biffle , Jack Roush , Robert Yates , Alan Kulwicki , Davey Allison