Richmond II: Ford - Burton/Andrews press conference, part II

This Week in Ford Racing September 2, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 CITGO Taurus, goes into this weekend's NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway 13th in the point standings. Burton, who...

This Week in Ford Racing
September 2, 2003

NASCAR Winston Cup

Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 CITGO Taurus, goes into this weekend's NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway 13th in the point standings. Burton, who has one NWC victory at the D-shaped oval, was this week's guest on the NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference, along with crew chief Paul Andrews.

Part 2 of 2

JEFF BURTON - No. 99 CITGO Taurus:

HOW HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH PAUL EVOLVED AND HOW HAS IT HELPED BRINGING BRAD PARROTT ABOARD?

"I worked with Frank (Stoddard) for a long time. I knew Frank. I knew his demeanor. I could look in his eyes and tell when he was frustrated or when he felt good about things. I could hear it in his voice. I've had to learn that with Paul. We have a very good working relationship together. I trust his opinion. I believe he trusts mine. We're both very open-minded to making changes to our team and to our equipment to be as competitive as we can possibly be. I made it very clear to everyone when we made the crew chief change and at the beginning of this year as well that this was a learning process and that Paul and I were gonna be better in 2004 than we were gonna be in 2003. I feel from Paul that he believes I can drive a car and that if we get the stuff right, that we will win. I also feel from Paul that he is doing everything in his power to make sure that the stuff is right and that he knows too that I believe that he can do it. Paul is a very, very intelligent person and this is all he thinks about. He doesn't go water skiing. He doesn't play golf. This is the only thing that he does and it's on his mind 24/7 and those things will pay off for us."

IS THAT WHY YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO HOLD YOUR COMPOSURE SO WELL?

"I've been able to hold my composure this year because I see the improvements. I see us building. If you were just an outsider looking in without watching the races and truly understanding what was going on and you just looked at the finish, you would say, 'Boy, they're no better than they were,' but I know that we are. I know that we've made huge improvements and I know that we have put ourselves in contention to win this year more than we did last year and I believe we'll do that more next year than we've done this year. I understand. I've watched sports. I've been around racing my whole life. I understand that we are in a building process. I knew that this year would be a struggle at times and I knew it would be really good at times and that's exactly the way it's gone."

CAN YOU TELL FROM PAUL IN THE WAY HE SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT HOW HE'S FEELING?

"The thing about Paul is it never changes. Paul is very calm. He's a calming force in our team and we needed that, so because I've worked with him long enough now, I do understand the gravity of the situation based on the way he says it but only because I've been around him a long time. Paul has a very calming voice. When things are going bad, he sounds just like he does when things are going good. I like that. I don't like the highs and lows. I think that to be successful in this sport long-term, you have to know how to get your butt kicked and be willing to accept it and go on to the next deal and learn from it. You also can't relish the great moments. You've got to take those as they come and you've got to enjoy them when they're there, but when it's over, man, it's over. I think that even tone is the best way to be successful long-term in this sport and Paul has that."

WHAT KIND OF MOOD DEVELOPS IN THE SHOP WHEN ONE TEAM IS DOING WELL AND THE OTHER IS TRYING TO DO AS WELL?

"It can take a lot of different turns, to be quite honest. The mood can be very negative. If you're not careful, people start saying, 'Well, they're getting more than we're getting,' and things like that. What we do at our company is we don't let that happen. The way that our company is run, if somebody has something that you don't have, that's your own fault. Certainly, when one team is having a lot of success and there's no sign of success at the other teams, then changes are in order. When you're in a situation like we've been in this year where we see what they're doing, we're able to do some of it and some of it we're not able to do but we're able to see daylight and we're able to see growth in the team. We're able to see the deal get better and that's what you do. You look at that and say, 'Man, it's only a matter of time. We can't sit still. We can't just think we're gonna be better tomorrow without continuing to work.' You have to truly analyze each race and if you truly analyze each race and you're not running well and you're not improving, then you've got to make changes. But if you are running well in races and you are showing improvement and you are showing some signs of life, then you have to look and say, 'OK, how do we make that a little better and what can we learn that the other teams are doing that we can take advantage of.' That's the way we do it. They all know how it works. They all know that if one team has it, it's available to everybody. If one team is doing a good job, then shame on us for not doing a good job. It's not their fault that they're doing a good job, it's our fault. That's the way we run it and that's the way we make it happen."

PAUL ANDREWS , Crew Chief - No. 99 CITGO Taurus:

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT RICHMOND.

"It's a great place to race and it has been for a long time. You're able to race two-wide there. I think the night race makes a little bit better racing and it's a little more comfortable for the drivers, of course, and the crews also. That's what's neat about that place, though, is that you can race two-wide most of the time. There are some situations you get into where it's a little tough, but it's just like any other place. You've got to have good track positions, you've got to qualify pretty good and you've got to be able to race and stay up in that top 10 all night. The car has got to turn because of the longer front straightaway. With it being a D-shaped track and the short straightaway, your motor has to be a pretty wide range. You've got to be able to pull lots of gear for the back straightaway so you can get off turn two down the back straightaway. That's usually kind of a handicap, but we've got a lot of good situations worked out on that too. We're pretty excited about going there. I thought we ran well there last time and we're really excited about going there."

WHAT TRACKS ARE THE HARDEST AND EASIEST TO SET UP FOR?

"I think as far as just the setup goes, user-friendly is Daytona and Talladega because you pretty much put in four springs. NASCAR gives you the rear shocks and almost gives you the rear springs. They tell you what to put in and it's really easy to make a car handle there. It's hard to make it run fast as far as in a qualifying situation, but as far as actual setup for the race car, Daytona and Talladega are probably the easiest for a race situation. I think the harder setups now are at tracks that are very aero dependent. For us it's the Michigans, the Fontanas and places where aero does more of a job than your mechanical setup, which is your shocks and springs. Those are the tough ones, I believe. You go to the Darlingtons and Rockinghams and even Charlotte. Charlotte is a little rough, but you've got to have more of a mechanical setup there, which is more of a shock and spring setup than depending on your aero setup for those other places."

HAS AERO COME INTO MORE PLAY THAN MECHANICAL THE LAST FIVE YEARS?

"Oh yeah, no doubt. It's been coming for some time and the people who hit up on it early - three, four or five years ago - they're the ones that really dominated races. Now everybody has kind of noticed what we've got to do and that's why you're seeing everything so close and the competition so close because everybody knows what it takes to make the thing work. Sometimes a lot of people can really hit on it and sometimes only a few people hit on it."

ARE PROVISIONALS NEEDED IN WINSTON CUP?

"I think they're needed. I think it's a good thing. I guess we kind of see it getting abused by the guys who are using them all the time. You hate to see the same guys use them all the time, but on the same hand, you don't want to see the Jeff Burtons and Jeff Gordons going home just because they have a problem in qualifying. Whether they spin out or whether it rains and they wreck. Jimmie Johnson, I believe at Charlotte or a race earlier in the year, had an engine problem. You don't want to see that happen to the regular guys. We definitely have to take care of the teams that are there every week. I also don't think we have to franchise. I think we've got to keep it open competition for the new teams that want to come along and try to make it into the sport. I think it's good when we have 50 cars show up at a race. I think that's the right thing to do. I like the provisionals. I think it's the right thing to do."

DO YOU AGREE WITH THE PAST CHAMPION'S PROVISIONAL?

"I do. I also feel like that was one that was probably abused over the years, but I don't think any of our drivers are in that stage where they're trying to abuse them. It kind of seemed like Darrell (Waltrip) kind of abused them a little bit, but I don't think we're seeing that now and I don't think we'll see that anymore. I think everybody saw what Darrell went through and I don't think he liked that himself, so I don't think you'll see that gain. But I think it's good to have it. I really do."

IF NASCAR ASKED YOU WHAT TO DO ABOUT PROVISIONALS. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

"I don't know. I don't know what I'd tell them. I think what they've got going is pretty good. It's worked for a long time. I'm open for changes for sure, but we've got to take care of the teams and take care of the guys that are there week in and week out. I almost think that if I was gonna change something, I think if there's a guy that was racing there and was at every race, and there was a guy that showed up one or two times - I hate to see guys go home like Foyt's car. I hate to see him go home and Morgan Shepherd make it in. To me, that's not fair, so I would try to address that. Even though he's used the provisionals, he's still there every week and that's what we've got to take care of."

WITH YOUR GROUP IS THERE RELUCTANCE TO ASK ANOTHER CREW CHIEF WHAT THEY'RE DOING OR IS IT REALLY AN OPEN BOOK?

"It's definitely and open book. There's no doubt about it, it is an open book but I think anybody hates to go and ask for help. It doesn't matter if they're a crew chief or a driver or a fabricator or whatever it is, but that's what we've done. We've gone to Jimmy Fennig and we've gone to Robbie Reiser and said, 'Hey, what are you doing here? Why are you doing it this way?' Not only what are doing, but why are you doing it and that's what has made a difference. It's definitely and open book and we go do it. Sometimes you don't want to go and do it. That's more of an ego thing or maybe you don't agree with their reasoning on doing it, but sometimes you've just got to do it because that's what they're doing and they're winning races with it."

DO YOU AGREE WITH JEFF THAT THERE IS LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL?

"Absolutely. Our team has shown lots of progress and we show progress week in and week out. Occasionally, I feel like this weekend we relapsed because we had a really good car at the beginning of the race and this was one of the first races in a long time where we have not made our car better. We actually made our car worse as the race went on and I think that's more of a component of we had such a good car at the beginning that we tried to get back there and never could. We're making lots of progress and I feel like our deal is really getting good and getting close to winning. I think it's gonna take days like Sunday to make us that much madder and get that much better, too, because you've got to lose them before you can win them."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE LENGTH OF PRACTICE TIME AT THE TRACK?

"We've definitely lost a little practice time, but, on the other hand, I think we've got our two 45-minute race practice sessions and that seems to be pretty adequate. That's going pretty well. I'm really happy with that. When everybody gets real concerned is when the weather is threatening and we've had threatening weather this year more than I can remember for years. This has been a terrible weather year as far as rain goes, but the guys that are doing race trim only seem to be pretty good qualifiers anyway, so they feel they can afford to lose their qualifying practice time and do some race runs. Sometimes that helps them, but I think it's more of a per team situation. When the weather is threatening, everybody kind of jumps to qualifying trim to begin with and then goes to race trim and then back to qualifying. It's such an ordeal to change these cars over from race to qualifying, it takes a lot of time and it's not an easy task to do. Time is money and time is something we don't have that first two hours of practice on Friday, but I think the amount of time we have is pretty good. I'm pretty happy with that really."

WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO MAKE PIT CALLS ON SUNDAY?

"I don't know. You kind of get in a routine where you get used to doing it. You'll make a call where it's just like, 'I'm gonna take my kid to school today versus letting him ride the bus.' It's a thing you're used to doing all the time. It didn't used to be that way. Sometimes you'll make a call and after you've done it and it's all over, you wished you hadn't done that, but it's not a big deal. It's something I've done for a long time and I think the longer you do it, the more comfortable you are with it. You're always worried about whether it's gonna be the right thing or not, but it's just another part of making the decision really."

Part I

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Morgan Shepherd