BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS IMPALA SS JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS IMPALA SS HAULER CHAT TELL US ABOUT COMING TO PHOENIX AND RACING IN THE NEW CAR: "I think there's a lot of questions to be...
BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS IMPALA SS
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS IMPALA SS HAULER CHAT
TELL US ABOUT COMING TO PHOENIX AND RACING IN THE NEW CAR: "I think there's a lot of questions to be answered this weekend. This is the first time we'll have the Impala SS on a track this big with this kind of speeds and also on a track that is conducive to side-by-side racing. Martinsville is not one of those tracks where you see a lot of that, nor is Bristol. I think this weekend we will answer a lot of questions. As we have in the previous two weekends with the new car, we're going to leave here a whole lot smarter or a whole lot more confused; we'll see which one. Either way we'll leave with a whole lot more information that what we had when we got here. A lot of that has to do with the track itself, being conducive to two grooves. I don't know. I think it's going to be really interesting.
"I think the Richmond test was a big challenge to get the cars to drive the way we wanted them to drive and I think it will be the same here this weekend. But I think that what we did see at Richmond was speeds that were pretty equal amongst the field and I think we'll see that here as well."
BEING FROM VIRGINIA, DID YOU KNOW ANYONE THAT ATTENDS VIRGINA TECH AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT HAPPENED THERE THIS WEEK? "Being from South Boston, Virginia, Virginia Tech has a lot of people that go there from the South Boston area. There are some people that I do know that are going to school there; more so I'm friends with their parents or my parents or my in-laws are friends with their parents and that kind of a thing. I don't believe I know anyone that was killed or injured. It's hard to get your hands around something like that; to think that something like that could happen.
"Blacksburg is just a stereotypical sleepy town that is just a nice place to live and a nice place to raise kids. It's kind of scary, really. It could happen anywhere at anytime. I just don't know what there is to say. it's awful. It's an awful deal, no question and hopefully they can start the healing process."
WHEN IS IT OKAY TO GET INTO SOMEONE ELSE'S RACE CAR? DO YOU HAVE STANDARDS FOR THAT? "Historically, in old-school racing, when someone needed some help, you help them. I've had drivers help me before; I've helped other drivers when they were injured or sick. I've had drivers - always teammates, if I remember - drive my car to give me their opinion on what my car is doing in an effort to help me. I've done the same for people. I know that last week has brought up a lot of discussion on whether (Dale) Junior should have driven that car (No. 5) or not based on the points. I believe he did the right thing. I believe that when a team asks you if you can help them, it would have been completely out of the box to say no. For Junior to say 'no, I can't do that' would have been way more unusual than for him to say yes. I do understand that by him driving that, there's three points there. I do understand some of the fans and some of the media's thought process on 'that's three points you gave him that you shouldn't have given him'. I understand that as well.
'But there is such a thing as professional respect and I think that Junior extended professional respect to Rick Hendrick; to the Hendrick (Motorsports) organization and I would have done the exact same thing. Had I been asked to do that. trust me, I would have rather got in my airplane, gone home and beaten the crowd, but if a competitor asks you to do that it would be really hard to say no with our previous history of people helping. This is a cutthroat business from time to time but also a very compassionate garage area.
"I don't think Junior did anything different from what everybody would have done, to be quite honest. There are some conflicts you can get in - there have been times at Busch tests where I had some drivers ask me to drive their car and I couldn't because of contractual issues. Short of something like that, if you can help someone I think you should."
ARE YOU SURPRISED MARK MARTIN IS STILL RUNNING A PARTIAL SEASON DESPITE HIS SUCCESS? "Well, at Daytona I believed he was going to run the full season. I believed he would be in the top 15 in points and it would be very difficult for him. I thought he would get a lot of pressure from a lot of people surrounding him to continue to run. Knowing Mark, trying to make people happy around him he would fold under that pressure. But I'm proud of him for not doing that. Don't forget why Mark is doing what he's doing - he's doing what he's doing because that's what he wants to do. Someone gave him the opportunity to do exactly what he wanted to do. So I'm proud of him for sticking to his guns and I'm proud of them for not putting a lot of undue pressure on him, making him feel like he needed to do it. They didn't do that. They deserve some credit for that as well."
HOW HARD IS IT TO MAINTAIN YOUR COMPOSURE OR SELF-CONTROL WHILE RACING? "I haven't always had self control and I haven't always had the discipline that I need and I still don't today. There's a time in almost every race that my team does a good job of getting me re-centered and refocused. Sunday was a great example. I was extremely frustrated with the car I was racing. I thought they could cut me some slack and I became frustrated about it and my frustration led to slower lap times and my team saw that and got me back centered. I still lose it and lose focus and get away from the things I need to be concentrating on."
WHAT KIND OF RACING WILL WE SEE THIS WEEKEND AND HOW WILL THE NEW CAR AFFECT IT? "It's more of a question mark to me going into this race then it was at the other two races. I believe going into Bristol and Martinsville that we were going to see Bristol and Martinsville races because, like I told you then, I didn't care if we raced Pintos there, you were going to have a good race. This race is different. I honestly don't know what to expect. What I believe you will see is five to 10 cars that really figure it out. I think there is a possibility that you'll see the last 10 cars in the field not as competitive as you saw at Bristol and Martinsville because we're on such a learning curve. There are so many things we don't know about. I also believe that at Martinsville that we'd see a greater difference between the fastest car and the last-place car than what we ultimately saw. If you looked at lap times, it was closer than we've ever seen. I looked at lap times after Saturday's practice and the times were remarkably close. What I'm telling you what I think we're going to see, I could be proven wrong. I just don't have enough information in front of me to give a good answer."
DO YOU THINK THIS WILL BE THE TRACK WHERE WE SEE WHAT THE NEW CAR WILL BE LIKE AT THE LARGER TRACKS? "In comparison to the other tracks, yes. This track, to the point of showing us what it will be like will pale in comparison to Dover. But this track will give us more of an indication than what we've seen at the prior race tracks."
WHY DO YOU THINK MARK MARTIN HAS BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL DESPITE HIS AGE? MANY DRIVERS HIS AGE START TO STRUGGLE AT THIS POINT IN THEIR CAREERS. "Well, first of all, as a guy that's been written off as someone who's not able to drive any longer, I don't believe that Dale Jarrett or Bobby Labonte or anyone else you want to add to that has forgotten how to drive. I believe that they're not in a situation that allows them to run as fast as they can run. That's not a knock on their race teams or anything else; that's what I believe. I don't believe for a minute that Bobby Labonte can't go around this race track faster than me or Jimmie Johnson or anyone else. Mark Martin has exceptional talent. I've said this before. He is one of the best drivers that this sport has ever seen. The fact that he's never won a championship has never changed that. He is one of the very best, ever. He has the ability to that, I'm telling you right now.
"So does Bobby Labonte. But you have to be in the situation that allows you to achieve. The driver takes responsibility for that too; I'm not saying that we don't. The driver has a tremendous amount of input into what's going on. But if everything's not right I don't care if you're 25. and we see it today. We see drivers today that two years ago were really successful and are struggling right now. They didn't forget how to drive either. So the whole age thing, I believe, is really blown out of proportion. Jeff Gordon has been doing this a long time. And if it's really age that matters - is it really age or experience that makes you worse? Why would you be worse at 44 than you are at 34 or 24? After being a person that's getting ready to turn 40, I feel better today than I did when I was 30. I think I'm better prepared. I think I'm a better driver at what soon will be 40 than I was at 30. I don't understand how that can deteriorate over the next five years. Ask me five years from now and I may say 'hey, you know what, you're right'. But I don't understand it. One of the great things about this sport is that is doesn't rely on the same kind of athletic skills that you have to excel at to play basketball. It's why you don't have a 40-year-old playing basketball. But with the skills that are required of us from an athletic standpoint, I don't believe you can't be successful in. Dale Earnhardt finished second in points the year before he was killed and he was what, 49? Harry Gant had his best years in his mid-40s. I just don't see it."
DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT THE FOAM ISSUE AND HOW MUCH OF A WORK IN PROGRESS IS THIS CAR? "I think it's a huge work in progress and we come to this track basing what we're going to do off of a test at Richmond as opposed to the previous six races that we've run here. I believe this is a huge work in progress. We're only two races into a completely new car. We don't have enough tires to go anywhere else and test. We're learning on the fly. We just don't have near the amount of information that we have as opposed to when we go to Vegas or California so we're definitely learning on the fly. As far as the foam in the right side, I'm really concerned about that. The foam that was in my car at Martinsville was melted away and had a big void in the bottom of it where it had deteriorated. Mine could have been the one to catch on fire as opposed to someone else's. It has been addressed. There's been a great deal of that near the exhaust pipe removed in an effort to help the problem. But until I see evidence that it can no longer be a problem I have to believe that it could still be a problem. It's one of the things that concerns every team about the new car is that there's so many things that we don't have control of. The foam, the battery system. there's several things that they said we have to run. Whenever someone takes control away from us, we think that they're not as smart as we are and we're going to have problems with it. So we're concerned about the things that we can control but we're also concerned about the decisions that have been made for us. And those things have made an impact in the races and will continue to be an impact on the races. NASCAR is on a learning curve too; we're all on a learning curve. It's not all going to be right, right off the bat. This is only the third race; there's a hell of a lot to learn."
HOW MUCH LESS RELEVANT WILL RUNNING IN THE BUSCH SERIES BE NOW WITH THE NEW CAR AND WILL THAT AFFECT YOUR DECISION TO RUN IN BOTH SERIES? "That's a really good question and my answer is I'll tell you this afternoon. I don't know. There is enough difference in the cars today - without the new car, in what we've been racing - that I don't run over to the Busch car and say 'here's the setup from the Cup car' or vice versa. It doesn't work like that. The teams are together; they do understand what each other are doing and there is much less that applies from the Cup car to the Busch car today than opposed to say, last week. The interesting thing, from a Busch standpoint, I think, is what involvement are the car owners going to want to have in it? What is the benefit for Richard Childress to be running an Impala SS on Sunday and a current car on Saturday when there is way less crossover? What is the benefit in doing that? The reason we do it today is because our engineering support, a lot of it helps the other. There are things that we can cross over. The fewer amount of things we can cross over, the less willingness there will be for the car owners to be involved.
Contrary to a lot of belief, it's very difficult to make financial ends meet with the Busch programs. The Cup car owners are pushed to the very limit with the amount of sponsorship dollars that you can get for a Busch program and the amount of money it takes to run it effectively, it's difficult to make money doing that. The reason to make money is to buy new technology so you can do all those things. If you can't do all those things, then why be involved? At some point it will become a distraction. If I can't get benefit from running the Busch car and the Busch car becomes apparent that it isn't helping the Cup team then I will be much more reluctant to run the Busch car. I love to race but there is no question that I do it because that gives me five more tests and it gives me the opportunity to try things on Saturday that I won't have the chance to try on Sunday. There's no doubt about that. If I can't get benefit and I'm not helping. the main goal is to win the NASCAR championship. That's goal number one.
If running the Busch program steps in the way in any form or fashion and it's no longer a help to do it, then I don't want to be involved in it. Because if it gets in the way - if anything gets in the way - of me winning the Cup championship, then it's out of my life. The Busch program would be the same way. I don't know yet how that's going to end. I haven't run both cars on the same weekend. I will tell you this, I went to Richmond to test both cars and it's the least amount of back-and-forth information that we've been involved with to date. At any Busch test that we've gone to with the Cup car with the same test, it's been the least amount of information traded back and forth."
-credit: gm racing