Phoenix II: Burton - GM Top-10 interview

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS ON THE RACE AT PHOENIX "Well, this is certainly one of my favorite race tracks. I think that these one-mile and three-quarter mile race tracks that we run on are...


ON THE RACE AT PHOENIX "Well, this is certainly one of my favorite race tracks. I think that these one-mile and three-quarter mile race tracks that we run on are a tremendous amount of fun, and they put on great races for the fans and for the competitors. We certainly look to rebound from last week, and try and build some momentum for the next two weeks, but it is certainly one of my favorite race tracks and I enjoy coming out here."

ON VULNERABILITY OF NO. 48 AND NO. 17 TEAMS TO HAVING BACK LUCK: "I think they are vulnerable. We have seen it throughout the Chase that there is no team that is safe from having things happen. This is a high-action race track where a lot of things can go on. Neither one of them can afford to finish 12th or 15th and still win the Championship. I think they both have to go and try to run very well, as does everyone else. Every team is vulnerable.

I speak from experience; just because you are leading the points, you are not protected from bad things happening to you. It can happen here, as well at Miami, so that is part of the sport that is perhaps the most frustrating; is that there is always danger lurking and stuff that can happen to you. So, without a doubt, you are not protected by that by any means."

ON NO. 31 AND RCR'S PERFORMANCE REVIEW AFTER 2006 SEASON IS OVER: "It is. I won't lie to you; this has been a down week for us. I thought that we have done a really nice job in the Championship. I thought we prepared very well, and still are prepared. I think we came in with the right attitude; we had some things that we needed to do a better job of controlling, and there were some things that we couldn't control that got us. This has been kind of a hard week, to try and get over last week. I look at this race and this year as kind of a character-building year. It has been a year that we have put ourselves in a position; it has been a year that we have proven to ourselves, which is really what counts. We can do this, and we do deserve to be here, and we have to go take advantage of it.

When I came to the No. 31, we built a three-year plan, and we have executed on that three-year plan very well, but the tale of our plan will come next year. But I feel really good about the position that we have put ourselves in, but unfortunately we haven't been able to take advantage of it, but we are here to fight for third or fourth and you never know what can happen. One of the other guys can have trouble and you can end up second, so that is what we are here to try and get done, and what we are trying to do. We have done a nice job, and we shouldn't forget that. At the same time, we are so focused on winning this Championship that when it became very difficult to do this late in the game. It is hard to move onto the next thing right now."

ON HOW GOOD CAN BE BAD, AND VICE VERSA (IN THE CHASE): "I am apposed to the separate points system. I think that it is fundamentally incorrect. Lets paint a scenario of what could happen this weekend; lets say that Matt Kenseth wins the race, and Jimmie Johnson is the second best Chase car, does Jimmie deserve to get the second best points when there were thirteen cars separating those two. I think he doesn't. I think that we are judged based on how we finish, in relationship to the 42 teams that you are racing against, not the nine that you are racing against. It is fundamentally what we do. We are racing these other ten for the Championship, but to win races you have to beat 42, not just ten.

I think that to have a points system that eliminates the other 32 cars does not reward you, nor does it penalize you, based on how you did in the race. You should not be judged on just the other guys you are racing against for the Championship; you should be judged against the whole field. I think it is fundamentally wrong, but I see the point as to why some people would be enamored with the ten-race points system. I understand the theory behind it, but the way you get home-field advantage is by beating teams that didn't make the playoffs, if that makes sense. If you are playing a four and eleven team, you still have to beat them. If you don't, that still goes in the loss record, so that is the way this deal should work too; when you are racing a team that is thirty-fifth in points, but they beat you on that particular day, then they beat you and I think your points should be received accordingly. I think you are still racing 42 cars, not nine, and that is my opinion. If bad hurts more than good helps, then you can't do bad. That is the rule; that is the points system.

The team that takes advantage of the points system and does the best job in the points system, whatever that may be, and then they are the deserving champion. So, you can't lose the Championship, and say, well maybe if the points were different; it doesn't work like that. If they give me a mulligan every time I had a bad shot, I might could shoot a seventy-two. But, they don't do that, so for me, I just don't believe that if Tony Stewart is in the Chase and is beating me by six positions, that he shouldn't be rewarded for beating me by those six positions. I just don't think that is fair to the team that is doing a good job. It penalizes the team that is doing a good job, that is my opinion."

ON WHAT THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF BEING IN THE CHASE MEANS: "That scenario certainly gets painted. The Buffalo Bills went to however many Super Bowls they went to and never won; some people say they were losers, and some people look at it more realistic standpoint and say, hey they were able to put themselves in position, they just weren't able to capitalize. When you set the bar high, then the expectations are high. And that is what you want in your life and what you want in sports is to be a part of a team that sets the standard really, really high. When you don't have that, people look at that and are disappointed. And if Jimmie (Johnson) for whatever reason, was not to win the Championship this year, certainly the conversation would be, well they haven't been able to close it out, but not by any means take away from the accomplishments that they have had over the last four years.

It is hard, I finished in the top-ten in points six years in a row, and I look back on that and that is a heck of an accomplishment, and we never won a Championship, and for that I am disappointed. We just never got it done. It is the same with Jimmie; I never looked at it as being losers, I saw it as we were still learning and still trying to get it done, and circumstances and mistakes just never let us get it done. The same way I look at what we have done this year, circumstances and mistakes on our part is what took us out of contention, but the positives shouldn't be forgotten."

ON JUDGING THE CHASE AND THE SUCCESS OF IT SO FAR: "I think it has been around long enough to make that judgment. I think that whatever the rule is, I think there will be disagreement about if it is the right thing to do or not, but my personal feeling is that it is a positive thing and that it is good for our sport, and I am a proponent of it. I think that it is clear that it has been good for our sport, and I understand that there are some traditionalists that would probably disagree, but I am not sure there are many more traditionalist that what I am, but I really like the era before I came in. I think that it has taken us to a different level, I think it has brought a tremendous amount of attention to our sport, and for that, it is a positive thing."

ON NUMBER OF POLES ACHIEVED THIS YEAR (4) AND FEELING ON POINTS BEING REWARDED FOR POLES: "I've never thought rewarding points for poles was a good thing. I think that our races are long enough that we shouldn't be forced to spend an hour and a half on Friday just working on qualifying, and if points were rewarded just for qualifying, then you would have to spend more time focusing on it.

Let's be honest, how many people watch it; at the end of the day, not that many people watch it. It is not as exciting as the race, and I think the more time we spend in race practice, the better the race is. So my problem with paying points for qualifying is that the focus should remain on the race. The race is what people come to see, and ticket sales and television viewership shows that. The more time we have to spend on race set-up, the better the race. The reason why, is that the car that unloads good today is not going to get a whole lot better, but the guy that is not so good, has three practices to get better. It closes the gap, and makes the competition better. The lower amount of practice that we get, the worse the races are, and so that is why I don't want to see points paid. I think it takes focus away from what people are coming there to see."

ON WHERE THE FOCUS SHOULD BE AT DURING THE CHASE: "If the Chase leaders are in the front, then it turns into the Chase picture. The huge advantage we have against any other sport is that our playoff system works, is because every week the best teams play each other. Every week, the fourth and fifth place team plays each other and that doesn't happen in other sports, except for golf. We get a tremendous advantage when the people that are pulling against me, because they like Jeff Gordon, they get to watch the guy they don't like race against the guy they do like. It is Duke/Carolina every week, and when you get this far into the Chase, and Duke and Carolina are racing each other for the Championship, and for the race win, it doesn't get a whole lot better than that.

So, the race should be about the story for television should be about the Chase, because that is the biggest thing going on, and how the race affects that Chase. But Sunday's race is the most important thing that we are doing; what the race becomes about is up to the individual fan, although his exposure to the race is through the media. You guys (media) have a tough job. You shouldn't go into the race thinking we should talk about this, the story should be told as it develops. You can't take focus away from the Championship hunt, because that is what we are doing, it seems like we have run for three years to get to this point, with two left. You can't ignore the Chase because it is in your face, as it should be."

ON FEELING ABOUT THE PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY, AND ALSO ABOUT BEING FINISHED WITH 1.5-MILE TRACKS FOR THE SEASON: "I think that the thing I like most about our sport, and our series in general, is that the diversity of race tracks that we run on is great. I know we talk about the mile-and-a-half tracks and there is no coincidence that the No. 9 always runs good at the bigger tracks, but every mile-and-a-half is different to us. They all have their own personalities. This style race track and these types of race tracks I think are the best. I think Richmond and here are great because the action is close. There is always something going on, and the racing is better. To us, Texas and Atlanta are completely different; they are not similar at all. If you run well at Texas, you should be able to take that car to Atlanta and have similar results, but it is not necessarily true that you could bring that car here and have the same results.

ON THE HARDEST THING ABOUT PIR: "The hardest thing about here is it is so tough to pass. You will get multiple grooves and you will get guys that run the top, and guys that run the bottom. It is hard to run side-by-side with those multiple grooves, so completing a pass here is really difficult. If you catch a car and you are just a touch faster that he is, it is hard to finish that pass off."

ON SUGGESTIONS FOR REWARDING WINNERS MORE IN 2007 SEASON: "The only way that you can do that is by paying more money or paying more points. There is no other way to do that. I still think that what we ought to do, is I think you should have to lead a lap under the green flag. I think pay the winner more points, but not a ridiculous amount of points, leading a lap bonus has to be under the green flag, and the other thing I would like to see is thirty fifth on down, pay the same amount of points. There are a couple of reasons for that; I think it makes for a better points race, and the second reason is, if you are running thirty fifth, the only reason you aren't running thirty eighth is you got the wreck out quicker than the other guys. You got in a wreck or had an engine problem early enough in the race that you had time to fix it, versus later in the race where the guys don't have time to fix it.

I just think that the points race would be better, and I think that at the end of the day, the minimum speed rule is a good rule, but it has created a situation where things aren't as safe as if you were able to put the thing in the trailer. What does finishing thirty-sixth add to the quality of the race? A lap car riding around just trying to stay out of everyone's way does not add to the quality of the race, I would like to see it just pay the same amount of points. How can you argue that paying more points for winning a race is wrong, I don't think you can argue that point."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson