JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Richmond International Raceway to discuss racing in the Chase, a champion's mindset and more. YOU'RE LOCKED INTO THE CHASE. WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET FOR TOMORROW? "Well I...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Richmond International Raceway to discuss racing in the Chase, a champion's mindset and more.
YOU'RE LOCKED INTO THE CHASE. WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET FOR TOMORROW? "Well I think it's going to be a fun race. We come here with kind of a championship-mode. Two weeks ago we got together and said 'ok, our championship needs to start here.' When I say here I mean the race that we were at that week, not this week. I view this race as a continuation of the next ten. I think that we've got to go into this race with championship-mode in mind. We'll try to win the race and get into that mindset. I don't believe that it is in your best interest to turn it off this weekend because in theory [this race] doesn't count. I believe it is in our best interest to turn it up and be on kill when this race starts and when practice starts today so we can try to continue that into the next ten weeks. So that's our mindset. It is a fun race because you're racing for one thing, but at the same time we need to leave here feeling good about it. I think if you look at the way the races lay down, you've got New Hampshire, Phoenix and Martinsville--you've got three races that at this track, you can learn a lot to apply. It's an important race from that factor and again I think it's important to start off the playoffs with the right mindset and the right speed."
WHAT IS CLINT BOWYER'S MINDSET THIS WEEK? AND HOW HAVE YOU HELPED HIM PREPARE FOR RICHMOND? "Well I spent some time with Clint this week. He is very relaxed and very looking forward to this weekend. I think he certainly feels like he is in good position. I thought about it the other day and he is really the only person at the racetrack with something to lose this week. He has to understand the situation that he is in and they've got to essentially avoid disaster. If they avoid disaster they're going to be just fine. You've got to watch the positions you get yourself in, you've got to control yourself; things can happen that you can't control, but everything that you can control then you got to make sure that you do. Clint is really good at doing that; in the racecar he is very focused on what he needs to do. I just don't think it's going to be a problem. Anything can happen in this sport, but I think the opportunity for Clint to be the reason they don't make the Chase--I think it could happen, but I'd be surprised if it did."
WOULD RCR BE AS STRONG AS IT IS IF SCOTT MILLER HAD STAYED ON YOUR PIT BOX? IS HE THAT IMPORTANT TO THE TURNAROUND? "Well I think that that position had to be filled. I think someone else could have filled it and Scott could have stayed on my pit box, but I think Scott was the right guy. I think the decision to fill that position and to do in the way we did it was the first step of it. The second step was putting the right guy in there, with Scott being the right guy, certainly was evident and is evident today. I think as good of a crew as Scott was; I think he's better at what he does now. I think this position suits him more than the crew chief did. A lot of things happened when Scott did that. We also brought in one of the sports best crew chiefs into my deal, so we strengthened both areas. That's not to say that Todd is better than Scott; Todd is really good at he does and Scott is really good at what he does. We were able to consolidate the people that we had and put them in positions that they both can be very successful in, so two things happened there. Both of those positions have been filled with top-notch people."
YOU'VE GOT A FEW 'BAD' RACES COMING UP IN THE CHASE? DO YOU AND TODD LOOK AT THOSE RACES AND DECIDE THAT YOU'LL FOCUS ON THEM OR DO YOU JUST KIND OF HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR THOSE? "The whole premise that you can focus differently from one race to the next, I don't understand that. Every race pays the same points. Every race you have to race the racetrack. Every race you have to go faster than everybody else. We have to put a great effort into every race. We can put lesser efforts into a racetrack that we do really well at and expect to have success on it. My way of thinking, and hear me that I've never won a championship, but my way of thinking is that every track has to have the same effort put into it and that effort has to be a 100% effort and anything less than that won't be enough whether you're good there or not. Now the type of effort that you put in and your preparation changes for every racetrack, but the effort has to be 100% no matter what. When I look at the Chase and I think everybody obviously has got Talladega on their mind, I mean that's for obvious reasons; I have no doubt that we'll go there and be fast enough to win that race because every restrictor place we've been in this year we've been fast enough to win. I feel good about that, but getting it done is a whole 'nother deal. I feel good about Phoenix; I feel good about New Hampshire; I feel good about Dover; I feel good about Martinsville; I feel good about Texas. When I go down and look at the racetracks that we're getting ready to go to, I like them. I think it works well for us, but we don't look at any one racetrack and say, 'that's the one we've gotta do good on' because it pays the same points as the other tracks. So we've got to put the right effort on every racetrack and we've got to do well at every racetrack. There is not one that we say, 'Oh my god!' including Talladega. We've just got to go do our business."
IS IT BETTER TO GET OFF ON A GOOD FOOT AT NEW HAMPSHIRE, OR IF YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE A BAD RACE YOU HAVE IT EARLY AND THEN YOU'VE GOT NINE RACES TO MAKE IT UP? "It doesn't matter. It's the points that you accumulate over 10 weeks. It doesn't matter when the points come. We try to tie this mental thing into numbers, but the fact of the matter is you take all the numbers and add them up at the end of 10 and the guy with the most points at the end of ten wins. So it doesn't matter."
WHAT ARE THE UNCERTAINTIES THAT COME TO MIND ABOUT THIS CHASE AND THIS GROUP BASED UPON WHAT YOU SAW THE FIRST 25 RACES? "We've just got to step it up. I think that's a looming question. Who's going to step it up? What team is going to falter? We've seen, especially with Roush and with Tony Stewart's deal, they've stepped it up right here at the right time. Can they continue that? Who is going to step it up? It's go time. And what teams are going to do it over the next 10 weeks, that's a question none of us know. I'll tell you that the 12 people who walk in here are all going to tell you that it's them--they're the one that is going to step it up. I think all 12 of those people could make a valid argument that they are the one that can step it up. That's a looming question. Who is going to be able to go fast enough? Who consistently is going to be able to fast? Every team is going to have problems. Okay? Every team is going to have to deal with adversity, but who deals with it best? Who has to deal with the most adversity? Who goes the fastest? Those are the questions that everybody is wondering. It is not something that I spent a lot of time on because I know that all I can do is control us. I can't control what the 48 does. The only thing I can do is try to make them to have to respond to what we are doing. The only way we can do that is to outrun them."
IN TERMS OF WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL, HOW DO YOU SEIZE UPON MOMENTUM AND SUSTAINABILITY? YOU'VE DONE THAT BEFORE IN THE CHASE, BUT I THINK IT WOULD BE A DIFFICULT THING TO SUSTAIN. DOES THAT PLAY INTO THE ACCUMULATION OF POINTS TOO? "Well a lot of the people in here have heard me say this, I don't believe in momentum. I believe that the reason that we talk about momentum is because the team is doing all the right things and that makes their finishes good. They don't finish third this week and second next week because they finished third this week. They finish second next week and third this week because they got a good program going and they're taking advantage of that. I think momentum is an overused word; it's being good at the right time. We have yet to put the ten races together obviously that goes without saying. I believe that every time that we've done something wrong that was an opportunity to learn. I believe that it is an opportunity to experience something that you wouldn't be able to experience had you not been in that situation. I feel like we're prepared to know how to put ten races together. I feel like we're prepared to know that when one of those ten races go well we need to move on. Proof will be in the pudding whether we do that or not. It is about being mentally prepared for this time of year; it is about being physically prepared; it is about having the right speed. You have to have all the things working and you also have to understand that even though you need that not everything is going to be working and you're going to have to make adjustments throughout this 10 races. Ten races is an eternity and it is a long time; a lot of stuff happens in 10 races. We're going to have to keep our eye on the ball to be able to move the ball and change our strategy, change what we're doing on any given lap, any given week, for any given race. We tend to think well the 48 has won the last four championships just because they're really, really good and that is true, but the reason that why are they good, that's what matters. What do they do over that 10 races that allows them to go compete at Kansas, as well as Talladega, as well as Martinsville, as well as--you know they can kind of couple all those race tracks together. It's because of what they do, and that's what we've got to focus on. We've got to be as good as we can be every single week, every single racetrack, and every single lap. When we're not we have to be willing to address it and fix it right now because everything is not going to go right; it's just not. We've got to be able to address it and fix it."
YOU TALKED A LITTLE BIT ABOUT NEEDING TO STEP UP. WHO DO YOU SEE AS A POSSIBLE SLEEPER? DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THAT ROLE? "I'm not going to stand here today and tell you that we're going to win the championship, but I have a lot of confidence that we can win the championship. Like I told you, I believe the 12 people that come through this door today are all in that same position. I don't know who is going to step it up. I wish I did. My thing is that I just can't worry about what other people are doing because I can't control that. I've got to worry about what we're doing."
IN THE PAST THE 48 HAS PUT TOGETHER A SPECIFIC ARSENAL OF CARS THAT THEY WORK ON ALL YEAR AND JUST BRING THEM OUT FOR THE CHASE. HAVE YOU DONE SOMETHING LIKE THAT WITH THE 31 CAR? ALSO, HAVE YOU GUYS LOOKED AT AN AVERAGE NUMBER, WHAT THE AVERAGE FINISH WOULD NEED TO BE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "Well that number changes. The year that we led it for a fair amount, that was one of lower averages that it took to win it because a lot of people had trouble. If you look at last year it's like 5-point-something; it's really low. Here is the thing. We can't make that number. In 10 minutes I can tell you what that number is, but I can't make that number happen. To set a goal to say that we have to finish an average of 5.2 every week, no kidding. Whatever that number is, we already know it. If we finish first every week, we have a really good chance of winning it. If we can't finish first we're going to try to finish second, if we can't finish second we're going to try to finish third. We've got to just bring a winning attitude, a winning mindset and a winning effort every week; and some days that might be 14th. You might be ok with a 14th as long as you follow it up with some really good ones. We have an understanding of what that number is, but just because that number exists I can't just magically say well this is what we're going to do. It's the effort and the success that we have will determine it. I can't get caught up in that number because I can't control it."
I NOTICED A HIGHER INTENSITY IN YOU LAST WEEK, I WONDERED IF YOU'RE DOING ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY FOR THE CHASE? IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU'RE STRUCTURING DIFFERENT AT HOME? "First of all, this is the most fun 10 weeks of the year. This is what you live for. Every time I get in the Chase, I tell myself I waited my whole life to be in this position, so that's a hell of a cool thing. It really is. We tend to get caught up in the pressure of it, but man, we're playing a game and it's supposed to be fun. My deal is that I'm going to go race as hard as I know how to race. I'm going to ask my team to work as hard as they know how to work. We're going to work together and try to defeat problems, but we're going to have fun at it. It's going to be intense. When you waited your whole life for something and it's in front of you, it's going to be intense, it's going to be full of emotion, and as it should be. There is going to be disappointment, there is going to be happiness, all those things and hell that's life. That's what we're doing. I can't really say I've changed a lot other than my family knows that it's go time. Racing is going to come first here for the next few months. My team members understand if we've got to build a car in a week-and-a-half, we're going to build a car in a week-and-a-half. Whatever we've got to do, we're going to have to do. I can't really say that I've changed a whole lot. We ask that of everybody every week."
DO YOU SEE THAT 'HAVE AT IT' BOYS MENTALITY CONTINUING INTO THE CHASE? DO YOU THINK SOME OF THESE REVENGES THAT WERE PROMISED DURING THE REGULAR SEASON WILL ACTUALLY BE PLAYED OUT DURING THE CHASE? "I can't imagine why the 'have at it boys' won't continue, but you know if you really start looking into it with the top-12 guys there is not a whole lot of problems in that group. Honestly, if you think about it, I think everybody expects [others to race them hard]. I expect people to race me hard. I expect every position to be challenged; that's what everybody is supposed to do. I think for the most part that the top-12 are all guys that race hard, but they race clean and they race smart. It's going to be pressure-filled, something is going to happen. People are going to be made at each other for a little while. I think for the most part, the people that are in that top 12 are people that are highly respected and don't have much problems on the racetrack. It's going to be intense, as it should be. I just think it's going to be good hard racing and no deeper than that."
DO YOU SEE THE 48 TEAM AS BEING AT ALL VULNERABLE HEADING INTO THE CHASE THIS YEAR OR DO YOU STILL SEE THEM AS THE TEAM TO BEAT? "I think they were vulnerable in all the four years that they won. They didn't get the championship until after the last race and they went and did a good job. No one is free; no one gets a free pass. They earned those championships. They were vulnerable in those championships; they were one mistake away from not winning the championship. They didn't have that mistake, but they are capable of making the mistake, as well as the other teams are capable of stepping it up and beating them. It's hard to say a four-time champion is not the favorite. I think it's fair to say that he is the favorite based on their reputation and what they've been able to do. Don't forget they've won a lot of races this year too. But they are vulnerable as everybody is vulnerable. There is no team in any situation that is not vulnerable. Tiger Woods is vulnerable; the Lakers are vulnerable; the Yankees are vulnerable; everybody is. Duke's not, but everybody else is."
-source: gm racing