Richmond II: Burton - GM Top-10 interview

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS: ON HOW CALM HE AND TEAM ARE HEADING IN TO RICHMOND: "Obviously this is a very important race for a bunch of people and we are one of them. We can't do anything...


ON HOW CALM HE AND TEAM ARE HEADING IN TO RICHMOND: "Obviously this is a very important race for a bunch of people and we are one of them. We can't do anything different because of it. At the end of the day, what we are here to do is race like we always do and the team that does the best job tomorrow night will have things go well for them. We feel good about our car, it drove well in practice. We have prepared all we know how to prepare and now it is time to go racing."

ON RICHMOND BEING ONE OF FAVORITE TRACKS FOR MANY OF THE CHASE CONTENDERS: "We talk about it every week in our debriefing meetings about how well other people are running. It is the same cast of characters; it seems like, every week. You can look up at any given race and there they are. There are the top 10 or 12 running near the front every race. This weekend will be no different than that, Again, I think the key for some people it is going to be staying out of trouble, for other people is going to be running really well, It is going to be interesting to see how the race unfolds, with different people in different situations. There is no question, on a short track like Richmond, stuff is going to happen. I watched the race here from the spring and there was a lot of people who had trouble who are currently in the top-11 in points. I hope the thing comes down to racing. I hope it doesn't come down to somebody having trouble or getting caught up in somebody else's wreck or having something go bad. I hope it comes down to the racing and again, the team that does the best job will come out ahead."

ON ANY DIFFERENT STRATEGY FOR THIS RACE: "No we really don't. Certainly we have to be aware of where we are in points when it comes down to pay points. We may get caught in a situation where we may have to change our strategy late in the race. But going in to the race, my job is the same this week as it is every other week and that is to go out and do the best job I can. Again, we get down to the late part of the race, we may have to play some strategy to try and beat one car, but we don't know what those things are yet, we just have to go in the race and run the best we can. We know one thing, if we go out and get a top-three finish, we transfer in to the Chase. We know that no matter what. That is what our goal is. So our goal is to put ourselves in a position that nobody can do anything to hurt us. If we go do out job and do that, it is inconsequential what other people do."

ON EMOTIONS AND TENSIONS GOING IN TO THIS RACE: "Certainly there is a bit of tension going in to this race, you can feel it in the garage. I think that everybody is a little bit on edge. There are very few people that are safe in this deal. There are a lot of people right on the cusp of being in and there are a lot of people who have a chance of falling out. I think the tension is pretty high, but that is how it should be. I will be honest, this team is pretty relaxed. We feel good about what we have done so far this year. We feel good about our ¾ and one-mile flat track program. We will just see what happens."

ON ANY CHANGES TO DRIVING STYLE FOR THIS RACE: "Listen, I am not going to change the way I drive, I race the way I race and I drive the way I drive. That is just how it is. For me to change who I am I think would be a huge mistake. If I get in to trouble Saturday night, it will be doing something I would do in any situation. I don't go in to the race thinking about that, I go in to the race concentrating on me being me, not trying to change me and that is what we are going to do."

ON IMPORTANCE OF QUALIFYING WELL FOR THIS RACE: "Certainly it would. Being able to start in the front would help us getting out and leading a lap and getting those five bonus points early. Unfortunately, we drew an early number (in qualifying order) so we have to go out there and make it work. We drew second at New Hampshire and qualified second so we go out 11th here but we have a good car and we just have to go out there and make it work. Going out later is better here, we just have to go out there and make things happen. I feel good about it, I think our car is good. I was really happy with it in both qualifying and race trim. I think we were 10th fastest. It is close but if we can make our car just a little be better, we will have a chance at another pole."

ON THOUGHTS ABOUT TONY (STEWART) CRASHING IN PRACTICE: "Again, as I said earlier, I hope this thing comes down to the racing. I hope it comes down to everybody having the opportunity to do their job. When ever you see a guy wrecking in practice, you know they are going to run good in the race. The No. 20 crowd has great equipment, Tony is a world-class driver, he is incredible at this race track. Certainly that set them back some, but certainly not in any form or fashion does that put them in a position to not to be successful. That team will run and they will run well."

ON CHANGES AT RCR TO PUT IN POSITION TO BE IN CHASE: "I believe based on our off-season testing and our late fall testing last year that we were definitely going to run better than we ran the year before. But until a season gets going, you really don't know where you stack up, but I thought we had a chance to be quite a bit better than we were. But, again, every team out here was trying to make their team better too. You don't know how much everybody else is going to improve. But I felt good about our chances to be better."

ON COMING DOWN TO A TWO-CAR BATTLE BETWEEN HIM AND KASEY KAHNE: "It could come to that, but I think it is more than that. Mark Martin and I are two points away from each other. Kasey and I are 30 points apart. I think it is 15 points or something like that from Stewart. We can't focus on any one team. Obviously if we out run the No. 9, no matter what we are doing, we are in. That goes without saying. Our first priority is to get in the show. But while we are talking about that, we are close enough to a lot of people to be further up in the order and to get as many points as we can. You think five or 10 points isn't a lot of points, but right now 20 points feels like a lot and if we could start the Chase being seventh in points rather than 10th in points, that is 15 or 20 points. That is what we are looking at. We came here trying to improve our position in points, not just maintain."

ON DRIVER WITH MOST WINS NOT MAKING THE CHASE: "I think it has been like that forever. Bill Elliott and Darrell Waltrip had a championship battle where Bill had won 11 races, I think, and Darrell won the championship. The points are the points, it has been like this for a long time, I am comfortable with it because I think it rewards consistency. At the same time, I understand the point that if you win five races like the No. 9 car has and you have the possibility of not transferring in, that is difficult to take. At the same time, whatever the point system is, the team that does the best job within that system is a deserving champion. The teams that do whatever they have to do to get in it deserve it as well. I understand the concern about having five wins and maybe not get in but the rules are the rules and you have to play the game."

ON IF THERE SHOULD BE A RULE CHANGE: "I don't know, I honestly don't know. There is something to be said about the negative of finishing 40th. In racing, it is different than other sports. In other sports, for the exception of this and golf, there is a winner and a loser. There are people who have won, there are people who did really really well but didn't win. There people that did really really poorly. So the cost for doing poorly is large here. That is the other way to look at this thing. I know that some people say the reward for winning isn't high enough, on the other hand, the penalty for doing poor is very big. That is something nobody really puts any emphasis on is the penalty for doing poorly. If you have a terrible terrible race, that is a huge penalty that you pay. All you have to do is go look at what happened to us at Michigan. We had a terrible day and that one bad day, coupled with a lot of other stuff, put us in a position that we now have a whole lot of work to do. The thought that you can run really really well and win races means you can transfer in or you should be a deserving champion. That doesn't hold merit because if you do poorly and you also do well, you get penalized for that poor. I think that is what happens in this sport. You get penalized more for doing badly than you get rewarded for doing great. I think it conteracts itself."

ON LEVEL OF ACCOMPLISHMENT IF TEAMMATE KEVIN HARVICK WINS BOTH BUSCH AND CUP CHAMPIONSHIPS: "I think what they have done has been incredible. The lead they have in the Busch things is incredible. They have done a hell of a job. It is a tremendous amount of work. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Kevin (Harvick), Clint (Bowyer), Kyle Busch running both series. I wouldn't do it, it is too much for me. So to do it and also do both of them really well, speaks highly for all of them."

ON MIX OF RACE TRACKS IN CHASE: "I think the last 10 races should be a fair cross section of what we run the rest of the year. If we run 38% on mile race tracks, then 38% of the last 10 should be one mile races. That is fair to do it. I am comfortable with the mix. When I look at it, I think it is fair. I think it is good."

ON MULTI-CAR TEAM PRESENCE IN THE CHASE: "Multi-car teams are just the way of it right now. It is hard to be successful not being a part of a multi-car team. It is just the way the system works right now. It is very difficult for a single car teams to have the resources, to have the help and the people. There are just more resources in having a multi-car team. When run properly a multi-car team is an advantage. When run wrong, the multi-car team can be a big disadvantage. You have more money, but you aren't spending it correctly. Having multi-car team doesn't guarantee you success should give you a better chance for success."

MOST OF THE DRIVERS ON THE BUBBLE FOR MAKING THE CHASE SAY THEY AREN'T STRESSED AND YOU SAY GIVE ME THE BALL. WOULD ANY DRIVER ADMIT IT IF THEY WERE STRESSED ABOUT THE CHASE? "No, nobody would admit it. They'd all say everything is fine and that it's all good. That's the face that everybody puts on. I'll be perfectly honest. I do want the ball. I relish the opportunity that we're in but at the same time you can't help but think about it. There's just no way around it. I saw Jamie McMurray this morning and he's been through it two years in a row. He said it just drove him crazy. I'm not to that point but you can't go into this race tomorrow night without thinking.

"The thing that I think is important to note and I keep saying is this is one of 26. The stuff that would happen in the 25 races prior do does matter. Everybody says that I broke an engine at Michigan and that really messed you up and we had a wreck in Daytona and missed pit road at Richmond. There's a lot of things that have happened to us that put us in this spot. It all does fall down to this one race. They take 26 of the races and add up points and that's where you end up so the work that you've done to this point makes it a whole lot of different."

ON THE CREW CHIEFS LOOKING STRESSED ABOUT THE CHASE: "I've not been feeling well this week but the best I feel is when I'm in my race car. When I'm in my race car I can do something. I have something to do. During the race, a crew chief obviously has his brain working and it's the same during practice but he doesn't have the physical outlet. The crew chiefs and engineers, they're in a position where they are working their minds but they don't have a physical outlet. Those poor guys have to go up there and watch us crazy people drive the car around there wondering when we're going to screw up. It's different for them. They have a lot of pressure on them to try to make the cars go fast and they have zero opportunity to affect the driver screwing up or something like that. It's more difficult to watch something like than it is to be part of it. I don't envy their position at all."

ON HIM NOT FEELING WELL RECENTLY: "Where do you want me to start? I got a sinus infection in California and that's turned into something. I don't know what it is. I'm on lots of medication. I'll be better eventually."

HOW DO YOU RELATE THIS CHAMPIONSHIP TO OTHER CHAMPIONSHIPS? "That's a really good question. For me I've been in the championship battle but I've never been in the championship battle where it came down to one race. I've raced for second in the championship coming down to one race. I've race for third and fourth in a championship coming down to one race. Really those are the things I compare it to. I know that it's hard for people to understand but when you're racing for fifth, we're racing for 12th. When it comes down to one race, the pressure and intensity of that is the same as if you were racing for the championship because whatever goal is ahead of you is the important thing. For me I relate this to when I was racing (Dale) Earnhardt for second. I relate this to when four of us were racing for third one year. I relate it to all of those things and it just doesn't feel that different to me. The only difference being is when tomorrow night is over it all starts again. In the past for me when Atlanta was over it was over. You go to next year. This deal, it all starts again and somebody is going to go to New Hampshire not feeling good, not all excited about being at the race track. That's the only negative. Everyone of these teams, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, all 11 of the teams right now that are racing (for the Chase) are teams that have earned the right to be in the Chase and it will be very disappointing for one to not make it. There's not a single team that anybody could look at and say they don't deserve it. That's a tough thing but you know what, that's what sports are all about. Somebody isn't going to be happy. A lot of people will be happy Saturday night and one person probably isn't going to be."

ON THE BALANCE BETWEEN HOLDING YOUR POSITION ON THE TRACK TOMORROW NIGHT AND HAVING SOMEONE BEHIND HIM ON THE TRACK WHO MAY BE FASTER THAN HIM: "It's the same balance every week. It's situational awareness. It's understanding the situation and being aware of the situation you are in so you can do the right thing. I don't think it's any different tomorrow night than it is two weeks ago. If there's a guy behind you that is faster than you and if you can, then you need to move over and let him go. But there might be a time where you just got to race him. It's understanding the situation you are in and then doing the right thing."

DO YOU HAVE TO GIVE HIM YOUR SPOT MORE BECAUSE OF YOUR SITUATION BECAUSE YOU CAN'T AFFORD FINISHING 35th? "I'm going to race tomorrow night the way I race every week. I'm not going to change who I am and what I do. That's just how it's going to be. When we start this race tomorrow night, Jeff Burton is going to be Jeff Burton. Jeff Burton is not going to try to be Tony Stewart, Mark Martin or Dale Earnhardt. I'm going to be me. I'm going to do what I think is best and that's what I do every week. Whatever the situation is I'm going to make a decision and then act on it. That's how we're going to do it."

HOW MUCH MORE WILL YOU WATCH THE OTHER DRIVERS COMPETING FOR THE CHASE? "I won't make it a point to watch them although I'm not a rock. When I say a rock, I'm not dumb as a rock. It's not like you can't notice what is going on. For me, Scott (Miller, crew chief) and the guys up on the box, they're going to have to be looking at strategy stuff. I got to drive the car. They will keep me aware of what the situation is when it's the appropriate time. I don't need to know that at 200, 300 laps into the race. I just need to drive the car. As we get closer to the end of the race then there may be something I need to know and they'll relay that to me. But for the majority of the race it's just another race."

HOW EXCITING IS HAVING THE LAST RACE BEFORE THE CHASE HERE AT RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY? "I think it's awesome. I think this race track is the fitting place for it. I can't imagine a better place to have the last race before the Chase. This is a classic NASCAR race with short-track action, side-by-side racing. To me this is as good as racing gets. One of two things should happen here. The championship should end here or this Chase should end here because it's such a high drama place with a lot of energy and a lot of excitement. I think it's a cool place to go. I really do. I think it's the best race track that we go to."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Darrell Waltrip , Tony Stewart , Jamie McMurray , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin