JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Richmond International Raceway and discussed his strategy for Saturday night, racing at his home track, the Carl Edwards/Kyle Busch rivalry and much more. ON WHAT...
JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Richmond International Raceway and discussed his strategy for Saturday night, racing at his home track, the Carl Edwards/Kyle Busch rivalry and much more.
ON WHAT HIS STRATEGY SATURDAY NIGHT WILL BE. "We have the luxury of being able to come here and I don't want to call it a test but it gives us a chance to try some stuff that we would normally be afraid to try and that's what we're going to do. We've got some ideas and some stuff that we've been testing and trying and I have a little bit of faith in it not a whole lot of faith but a little bit. We're just going to be trying some stuff. This race track isn't the same as New Hampshire by any means. It isn't the same as Phoenix but it has some similarities to those two tracks. We're here to number one try to win the race and number two to try to make it so we can run better at those race tracks coming up in the Chase. That's a luxury that we have. Thank goodness. I came here two years ago in the situation that Clint's (Bowyer) in and that's tough. That's a lot of stress. It's fun but it's a lot of stress and it's nice to not be in that position. So we're here just to try to win the race and try to learn and be better for the future."
IS THERE ANYTHING BEING FROM VIRGINIA, HAVING A HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE? "I don't know if there's a physical home field advantage. You don't get to practice here more or anything like that but it's certainly an emotional advantage. There's something special about racing at your home town track. There's racing in front of the fans that have watched you since you were 10 years old. I think that's really cool. I was able to come here as a kid and watch races and seeing the track change. Never raced on the old race track, well I did race a late model race here once but I've never raced a cup car on the old track. To see the track evolve and become what it is now. I think this is the best race track on the circuit. I'm not saying that because we're here, I really believe that. Its good racing. You never have a boring race here. The fans all have good seats. I think it's the best combination of the track being big enough to race on but being small enough to put on great races. The fact that it is that kind of race track and the fact that I am from Virginia, those two things it does mean more."
WHAT IS CLINT (BOWYER) GOING THROUGH TODAY AND TONIGHT? "Everybody deals with things differently so I don't want to say what Clint is going through. What is important to remember that the reason you are in this position is because you and your team are pretty good. It's important to remember that if you go out and do your job and it doesn't yield a result then you didn't choke, you didn't screw up, it just didn't work out for you. You can't worry your way into a championship. You can't stretch your way into a championship but you can sure worry yourself and stretch yourself out of one. I think it's important to kind of relax about it. Don't look at is as the world coming to an end if you don't make it, look at it more in the frame of mind that if you do make it how great of a thing that will be. There's a huge difference in those two attitudes. Clint is really upbeat. I talked to Clint earlier this week a couple of times. He's really upbeat. If there's any race track that you were coming to in a situation like he's in, this is the race track that they would want to be coming to. He's upbeat, he's excited. He feels good about it. Those are the things I'm hearing from Clint. I believe him. He loves this race track and he believes this is the strongest part of his team, this kind of race track. He feels like there couldn't be a better place for him."
RICHMOND HAS BECOME SUCH A FOCAL POINT WITH ALL OF THE TENSION WITH TEAMS TRYING TO GET IN THE CHASE, DO YOU THINK RICHMOND SITS IN A WORLD OF ITS OWN AND THAT THE OTHER RACES IN THE CHASE DON'T HAVE NEAR AS MUCH TENSION AS THIS ONE RACE? "This is the same, we're in the political season, this is the primaries. This is the last weekend of the playoffs. That's what this is. This is your last opportunity to get yourself in the championship hunt. There's a lot riding on it. The focus all comes to this race because it's the last one. It will be the final determining factor of who gets in and who doesn't. The reality is that it's one of twenty-six. That's the reality of it. It's hard to look at it like that because this one race, you know all those other races are done and this one race means everything. I know earlier as we wound down the regular season there was talk about the racing not being as good because you had people that were afraid to race. If you really focus on what this race is I think we have seven of the top twelve that are pretty much in and things have to go really badly for one or two more. The majority of the field by far is in the position to just go race and win. We are benefited a great deal more by winning the race than we are finishing third this week as is the guy whose sixteenth in points. I think the racing actually picks up a little bit."
AS YOUR ADJUSTMENT CONTINUES WITH THE COT TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR COMFORT LEVEL WITH THE SET-UPS AND MORE SPECIFICALLY THE INTEGRITY OF THE TIRES ON A FLAT TRACK LIKE THIS. "Tires have really not been an issue on the flat tracks. We haven't really seen much tire problems. The COT thing, it's difficult. Last week is a good example. In the first race practice last week, I thought we were the best car on the race track. We ran sixteenth in the race. In a little more than twenty-four hours we went from having the best car on the track to being lucky to finish in the top twenty. That's what the Car of Tomorrow gives you. It's really easy to find your way off center. It's really easy to get off track. I raced Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart all night last week for fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, that's pretty tough company. In a nutshell that's the Car of Tomorrow. It's difficult, it's hard but it's the same for everybody. The forty-eight did a better job, but it is a challenge."
WE'VE HAD A COUPLE OF YEARS IN THE CHASE AND A COUPLE OF TWEAKS IN THE SYSTEM ARE YOU HAPPY WITH IT, WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE CHANGES, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE BONUS POINTS FOR THE WINS? "The whole win bonus point thing is really interesting to me. I think we ought to reward teams for winning. I'm a proponent of that. The only trouble with that is you do create a situation where in a year like this you've got a guy 80 out of some other people, that's a long way. If you compare our sport to some other sports, I'm not sure that's not a bigger bonus than a home field advantage. If you think about a Super Bowl a NCAA championship, they are going to play the final game on a neutral field typically. I just think we have to make sure there's not too big of an award. I know that's counter intuitive to what everybody in here believes. If the ultimate goal is to make the racing as competitive as it can be and to create a playoff system as close and as compelling as it can be the smaller variance in points that we have the better championship race we have. We can talk about how great it is to reward more points for winning but if you or somebody wins eight or nine more races in twenty-six races over somebody else, they earned it don't get me wrong they earned it, that creates a situation where the championship may not be as close as it would have been. And to be clear I'm not calling for less bonus points. I'm not saying its wrong or right, for years I've heard we ought to have more points paid for winning and all that stuff we just got to remember there is a negative side to it."
HOW DO YOU COMPARE THE CARL EDWARDS/KYLE BUSH THING TO OTHER RIVALRIES THAT YOU'VE WATCHED, NOT JUST THAT YOU'VE RACED AGAINST BUT THAT YOU'VE SEEN AND WHY ARE RIVALRIES IMPORTANT IN NASCAR? "The interesting about our sport is that rivalries change. Really when I think about it who was Dale Earnhardt's rival, who was the one guy that you looked at and say he was always, I don't have a person. It changes. Our sport is so unlike every other sport. All the main players are here every week. Duke and Carolina play twice or three times a year, we race each other thirty-eight times a year. That's a whole other world than what a rivalry is. In college football a rivalry is one hundred years old. In racing it's six weeks old. It's a big difference in what the definition of a rivalry is. The Kyle Busch/Carl Edwards, to me you can call it a rivalry if you want to. It hasn't been all that exciting to me (laughs), I'm sorry. If it wasn't for Bristol what would be so great about it? That's my opinion."
AS YOU MOVE FORWARD INTO THE CHASE CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO GET BACK ON TRACK? "Well that's a good question. Like I said last week I really believed going into the race that we had a really good car and we didn't perform. I will tell you that we ran better in Bristol here in the last race than we ran in the race we won. We ended up getting in a wreck. Pocono we ran better in the second race than we did in the first race and we had the penalty on pit road that messed us up. In Michigan we ran way better in the second race than we did the first race and late in the race we had a problem that prevented us from having a good finish. Honestly what I have to do as the driver, I have to objectively look at where we are and my look of it is that we're a step off of where we need to be in comparison to the very best car. Our results don't indicate it and the results are the only thing that matters, but I do believe that we are better than we were six months ago or four months ago. What we have to do is much the same thing that we did in 2006, we have to step it up right now. Well that's not necessarily true; we have to step it up next week. Going into 2006 we were our best in the Chase. We put ourselves in position to win so that's what we have to do. We just have to perform a little better and we have to execute. We did a great job of executing the first half of the year or the first half of the regular season. The last third of the regular season we haven't executed. We have actually run better with the exception of California in the last six or seven races but we haven't executed as well as we did early. So the first thing we have to do is start executing again and then we have to improve a little bit on our speed as well."
THE BLUNT FACT IS THAT UNLESS KYLE BUSCH AND CARL EDWARDS ONE OF THOSE GUYS DOESN'T WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP, ITS GOING TO BE A FLUKE. JIMMIE JOHNSON MIGHT BE ABLE TO PULL IT OFF BUT I DON'T REALY SEE THOSE OTHER NINE GUYS MAKING A LEAP AHEAD. "It's the same thing people said about the New England Patriots last year. You know the New England Patriots were undefeated and nobody could beat them. The Giants couldn't play and Eli Manning sucked and the coach was terrible, let's face it that's what they said right? I mean the coach needs to go, the quarterback is no good. They kicked their ass when it counted. The way I look at it, ten races is an eternity. You guys do it every week; you guys know what happens in ten races. Go back and think about any ten-race stretch we had this year, Kyle Busch and those guys they stood above the crowd there's no question. But one race where they don't do that, one race and any of the ten it's on. You look at the twenty-nine car and what they've been able to do the last four or five weeks, they've knocked down top-fives and run really, really well. It's all about being hot now. It's all about getting it done now. The reason that they don't write the check before it's over is because it ain't over until it's over. Those people are not invincible. Kyle Busch, he isn't never going to make a mistake. Carl Edwards is not never going to make a mistake. These teams are not ever not going to make a mistake. You have to execute on those mistakes but the first thing you have to do is just put pressure on them. You got to show them that you can beat them. Once you show that whoever it is the hot dog at that moment, once you show them that you can deal with them then that changes their mindset and now its game on. I wouldn't consider it a fluke if someone else won."
WITH TONY (STEWART) GETTING READY TO MAKE AN ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT HIS CREW CHIEF, FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE WHAT ARE THE INGREDIENTS TO A GOOD DRIVER/CREW CHIEF RELATIONSHIP? "That's a difficult answer because I think it's different for everybody. The crew chief that is good for Tony Stewart may not be a crew chief that's good for Jeff Gordon. Some drivers want the crew chief to give them information that they believe is useful other drivers don't. It's really a match. It's the two of them finding a way to lean on each other, to depend on each other, to support each other, but the definition of all that is different for everybody. It's just completely different. I see it every day the way that the three crew chiefs at our company work with the three drivers, it's different in every case. So there is no stereotypical this is how you need to do it, it just depends on the driver and the crew chief. Personalities are a lot different between person to person as we all know especially in this room. That's the whole deal is getting the two people together that know how to help each other. Tony may not work with this new crew chief the same way he's worked with (Greg) Zippadeli. It may be different because this new crew chief his personality may be completely different. There's no stereotypical way. It's just making it work for those two guys."
YOU SAID TEN RACES IS AN ETERNITY, WHAT'S IT LIKE IF YOU'RE NOT IN THE CHASE? WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AND WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS? "You feel left out. You don't feel like you're part of the group. You feel like something is going on and you're not included in it, that the best way I know how to describe it. It's impossible for you not to feel like that. All the attention and rightfully so goes to the Chase. I remember, it would have been 2006 I think, this race I was on the pole at the time or second or something and I pulled in and there wasn't one member of the media that was standing there. We didn't sit on the pole but at the time I think we were on the pole and it was pretty late in qualifying and there wasn't one person standing there. That explains it in a nutshell. If you're not part of the playoffs, if you're not part of the championship hunt you feel like you're left out. Your mindset is okay we're building for next year and now we can go do things for next year but it's hard to take it and put a positive spin on it."
DO YOU THINK THAT YOU MAY VERY WELL BE THE CAUSE OF THE WHOLE KYLE BUSCH/CARL EDWARDS THING? IT WAS PERFECTLY OKAY TO MOVE SOMEBODY AT BRISTOL TO WIN A RACE AND THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN GENTLEMAN JEFF (BURTON) COMES A LONG AND REFUSES TO MOVE KYLE AT BRISTOL IN THE FIRST COT RACE AND ALL OF A SUDDEN IT'S NOT OKAY. DO YOU THINK YOU BROKE THE PRECEDENCE AND ACTUALLY PUT SOME MANNERS BACK IN THEREFORE CREATING THIS FEUD? "My mother would be so proud. Listen, the rules that I live by is that I give the other driver, he makes the rules. If you listen to Carl's explanation of what happened at Bristol it is that Kyle had made the rules. If I was in Carl's situation and Kyle had made the rules in a previous race then I would have done the same thing Carl did. In my situation in Bristol Kyle had never done that. Kyle had always raced me and to this point even at Watkins Glen, at Watkins Glen we had a disagreement on the race track in the Nationwide race, but I went back and made it even and it was over. Kyle and I sat down and talked it over and now the slate's clean. My view of Bristol was that Carl believes Kyle made the rule and Carl says hey Kyle knocked me out of the way somewhere so that's what I was doing to him. I don't know if that happened or not, that's what Carl said and Kyle doesn't remember it. So now Carl's made the rule for Kyle and the snowball just gets bigger."
-credit: gm racing