JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T TEAM USA IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Pocono Raceway and talked about preparing for the Chase, the tire situation at Indy, his thoughts on multiple tire manufacturers and much more. SIX RACES...
JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T TEAM USA IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Pocono Raceway and talked about preparing for the Chase, the tire situation at Indy, his thoughts on multiple tire manufacturers and much more.
SIX RACES LEFT UNTIL THE CHASE, YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT YOUR PERFORMANCE SO FAR AND WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO TRY TO BE DOING IN THE NEXT SIX RACES. "Our goals were and still are number one to make the Chase, do whatever we have to do to make the Chase. Assuming we were able to meet that goal, number two to be able to be our strongest when the last 10 races start. We've positioned ourselves very well up to this point. It's going to be important for us to finish up strong so that we can put focus on trying to do the things we need to do to be as good as we can be in the Chase. We go into this race with the understanding that in our world there is a six-race schedule, six-race season and we're focusing on that first and foremost and then we kicked off our pre-championship run testing schedule this past week. We're in the midst of getting ready to be very busy doing a lot of testing, trying to get better as a team and also trying to take care of business to make sure we have a shot to be able to be in the Chase."
THE TESTING THAT YOU'RE GOING TO DO TO GET READY FOR THE CHASE, WHERE ARE THE PLACES THAT YOU'RE GOING TO TEST AND WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THE TESTING? "We're trying to just build speed. We're trying to prove out some theories. We'll be going back to a lot of race tracks the second time with a lot more information with the COT so it gives every team a little bit of a head start the next time that you go to those race tracks. As many questions have been answered new ones have been asked as we go to race tracks the first time with the COT. It lets you leave there one hundred percent happy, you just ask yourself more questions. So we need to find a way to answer those questions. The only way to do that is through technology away from the race track with however different teams do that, whether its seven post or simulation or whatever it happens to be. Ultimately you've got to go to race tracks. We were at Road Atlanta this past week, there's a Charlotte test scheduled for all teams and then the other tracks that we're going to we don't really announce where we're going before we go."
NOW THAT YOU'VE HAD A WEEK TO DIGEST INDY, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT WHAT OCCURRED? "In retrospect obviously the tire was obviously not good enough. There's no other way to say it. I've heard some people, different groups blaming different people. My view of it is that ultimately NASCAR has dedicated Goodyear the tire that we're going to run so that means NASCAR has some responsibility but ultimately the responsibility of the tire rests with Goodyear. There's been times this year where the tire hasn't been what we wanted, we all remember Atlanta and of course Indy. I think they also deserve some credit. This car is a completely different animal and for the most part this year, by far for the most part this year tires haven't been the issue. It certainly wasn't what anybody wanted, it wasn't what Goodyear wanted. You have to remember what made this a little more difficult, I know the surface of it people said hey their tires are wearing out during practice so you knew you had a major problem, you've got to remember it's like that every year. Every year we go to Indy with the way the surface is. I also heard Indy stand up and say they had no blame in it whatsoever, that's not true. Indy does have blame. It's the only race track that we go to all year long that you can only run four, five or six laps of practice before the tires are completely worn out. That means that the surface is a factor. Indy doesn't deserve a bye to be able to say they had nothing to do with it because they had something to do with it. It is a difficult tire to build. It's Goodyear's responsibility to try to do it. Ultimately it falls on Goodyear's shoulders. Again, I think that under the circumstances, NASCAR did one hundred percent the right thing. The only thing that could have been done better is to have cautions earlier in the race than what we had to try to prevent the issues that we had but we didn't know that we were going to have them that early. As soon as they figured that out they started having those cautions earlier and earlier and I support that one hundred percent. I know there's been some conversations that they should have just let the race go and leave it up to the teams, that's ludicrous. That thought process would get people hurt and we can't in one finger point at NASCAR and say you guys don't care about safety and the next finger point at them and say well you shouldn't be concerned about safety. You can't have it both ways. I thought they did a commendable job of dealing with the situation.
Goodyear has to find a way to build a tire that we don't have to go through that process of having to lay rubber down on that particular race track to get where we can race on it. They have to find a way to build a tire that will not wear out but when they do that what's going to happen is the complaints are going to start coming about the grip level of the tire. That's what we had a Charlotte, that's what we had at Atlanta. If you go back and think about the last race in Atlanta where everybody complained so loudly about the tire was the first time we haven't had a tire problem in Atlanta in a long time but everybody crawled up Goodyear's butt because the tires drove bad. Again, it's a difficult situation. If you ask me if they're going to error I rather them error on the side that the car is driving bad than error on the side of wearing them out but that's my opinion."
ON IF THERE ARE AMY MORE BIG GAINS TO BE MADE ON THE ROAD COURSES. "I think it's definitely possible. I think the Car of Tomorrow opened that up a little bit. Think about the road course, not that I compare Pocono to a road course but I've heard people do, you go back and think about people who have dominated this race track. Last year nobody could think about running with Denny Hamlin, so this year nobody could think about running with Kasey Kahne. That right there is an example of how there is always a big gain to make. There's always a way to be better so I think there's still big gains to be made."
ON HIS OPINION OF HAVING MULTIPLE TIRE MANUFACTURERS IN THE SPORT. "I think it's a huge mistake. I think multiple tires the negatives far outweigh the positives. I believe that for racing to be as good as it can be that every team should have access to the same tire and I don't think that having different tires in any form or fashion does that make the racing better. If the race turns into a battle of tires, how does that make better racing? I don't think it does. In the case that we had at Indy last week you could make the case. If another tire manufacturer was there maybe they would have had something that wouldn't have those problems, but the problem with that would have been that half the field would have had those problems and the other half wouldn't. I don't believe that dueling tire manufacturers is in the best interest of what we try to do here as a sport. What we try to do here as a sport is to put on the best races for the fans. It's not about trying to build the most technology. The process is to put the best race on for the fans. So in our type of racing a two tire situation is in my opinion mostly a negative."
WHEN GOODYEAR GOES TO TEST A TIRE AND INVITES THEAMS THERE WHAT SHOULD IT LOOK LIKE? "I think that every situation is different. We did a test last December; I was part of a test that went to Vegas. A tire test was conducted at Vegas that produced a phenomenal tire. That test produced a tire that everybody, well not everybody is always happy but that most people liked. That same process and procedures produced a tire that we had Indy. What we have to do is we have to find a way for Indy to build a tire that we don't have to rely on the track rubbering up to keep from having a problem. The problem with that is what I said earlier it's not going to drive good. I don't know that the actual track testing is where the emphasis needs to be put on. The emphasis needs to put on the testing that is done away from the track. You can do so much more away from the track than at the track. The technology that Goodyear has access to and the technology that Goodyear needs to develop needs to be more concentrated in my opinion on what they can do from a simulation standpoint, from a away of the race track standpoint because you can get so much more done there. Again, the test procedure that they have I'm not opposed to because I've seen it work but when you do a test and they bring three or four sets of tires, that's really all you have to pick from but none of those work then you don't have a solution. Finding a way to build the tires correctly before they ever come to a test, to me that's where the technology needs to be invested and that's where if we're going to talk about doing tire testing that's more important than the actual testing itself as seen by me."
BY 1994 YOU WERE HEAVILY INVOLVED WITH THE TIRE WAR, I THINK YOU AND WARD FINISHED SECOND AND THIRD? "We finished toward the front."
IT WAS HOOSIER TIRES AND THE RESULT WAS I GUESS WE WENT TO EXCLUSIVITY WITH GOODYEAR, COULD YOU TALK A LITTLE ABOUT WHAT IT WAS LIKE, WHAT WERE SOME THINGS THAT HAPPENED THAT YOU REMEMBER IN DURING THAT PERIOD OF TIME? "There was inequality because Goodyear had the majority of the teams. Hoosier had four or five teams. We tested every week. The Hoosier teams, we tested all the time. We had way more information than the Goodyear teams had because we had less teams. Whenever Hoosier wanted to test there were only three, four or five teams to pick from so you tested a lot. The Goodyear guys didn't get a chance to test a lot. The tire failure rates went up. As seen by me, my memory, my recollection is the tire failure rates went up. We had more catastrophic tire failures. We had people that had contracts with one tire manufacturer or the other. Hoosier lapped the field at North Wilkesboro for gosh sakes. I mean lapped the field at North Wilkesboro. I almost won Atlanta in my fourth race as a cup driver because the tires were so much better. The Hoosier tires when they were better and you were one of the few that had them, boy they let you shine. At the end of the day for the sport I didn't see where it was a good thing at all. It cut our cost because I believe we had a pretty good tire deal with Hoosier but ultimately I'm just not a proponent of that. I don't think that two tire manufacturers is the way to go. I just don't believe it's the right thing to do."
CAN YOU GIVE A REPORT CARD FOR RCR AT THIS POINT OF THE YEAR? "I think we're behind a little bit. I don't think that we're grossly behind but if you look at the speed that Jimmie (Johnson) and his guys produce from time to time, the speed that Kyle (Busch) and his guys have been able to produce, we haven't been able to do that. I think we do really good in a lot of areas but we've got to find a way to create some speed. We're a solid company. We do a lot of things really well. We're always striving to do it better. I'm really, really proud to be part of RCR. We've been very competitive over the last three years but I think it's fair to say numbers don't lie and if you look Jimmie (Johnson), what they've been able to do, they set a really high standard that's hard to keep up with. We're a little behind them, but again I believe we can get there but it's going to be a lot of work and a lot of effort. Right now we're a touch behind."
-credit: gm racing