Richmond II: Jeff Burton - Friday media visit

Jeff Burton, No. 31 RCR Impala SS, met with members of the media and discussed racing at Richmond and New Hampshire, his approach for this race, on keeping competitive when locked into the Chase, negatives on being locked in, the impact of Toyota...

Jeff Burton, No. 31 RCR Impala SS, met with members of the media and discussed racing at Richmond and New Hampshire, his approach for this race, on keeping competitive when locked into the Chase, negatives on being locked in, the impact of Toyota in NASCAR, his approach for New Hampshire, how expects the race here to go, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s situation, Mark Martin driving the No. 8 next year, Clint Bowyer, racing the new car in the Chase, Talladega with the new car, the best number of drivers for the Chase, on drivers from different series coming to NASCAR, being in shape and whether or not NASCAR champions have common traits.

ON RACING AT RICHMOND AND NEW HAMPSHIRE: "We have a pretty good track record here. We're always excited about coming to Richmond and then obviously New Hampshire has been a place where we've been real successful also. This is, in some ways, our strong points, in some ways it's been our weak points so this race for us is real important. We've worked real hard to get our CoT program better and hopefully we can apply that here."

HOW DO YOU APPROACH THIS RACE AS YOU ARE LOCKED INTO THE CHASE? "We don't want to approach it differently than we would have approached it. Obviously the stress level is lower than it could have been, and that's a nice thing. As I said, going into last week's race, that's the last time I can remember in forever going to a race and not having the pressure of points. It's very nice but this race is for us, about learning and trying to go in. If we can't win we'll try to finish second and so forth so the pressure is a lot different but the effort is no different."

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO KEEP COMPETITIVE WHEN YOU ARE ALREADY LOCKED IN? "Jeff (Gordon's) situation is a difficult situation. We see it in all forms of sports. We see football teams decide whether they want to play their starters or not. As much of a same situation they've been in, it's easy to get knocked off your rhythm with that kind of situation. It's a situation that everybody wants to be in but it has its negatives. The other teams have had to stay aggressive and had to continue to work to be better and stay race-focused. Those guys have had a different ballgame. It may not be an advantage. I'd take it, I'd like to figure out if it is an advantage or not but it has its challenges."

WHAT ARE THOSE NEGATIVES? "The negatives are just rhythm. Honestly, when you're in the hunt every week, trying to get in the Chase, you're in the trenches, so to speak and at battle every week. That's a different mental thought process than if you are not. I think mentally I think it's easier to get - not complacent, but it's easier to get relaxed than if you are in the middle of it. There are some advantages in both but given the choice, I would take what Jeff Gordon has been dealing with any day. But it's not without its challenges."

ON THE IMPACT OF TOYOTA: "I think Toyota has made a huge impact in a lot of areas that haven't necessarily been seen with success on the race track. They've had a major impact on jobs in the sport; they've had a major impact on the cost of racing. They've forced the cost of racing up and they've put more teams in the field that have sent more people home on weekends. It's been a major impact on our sport. Competitive-wise certainly, they haven't been the first year what they could have been but those teams will continue to improve and they are getting a team right now that's ready to win championships. At Joe Gibbs Racing, they've got three of the best drivers in the business. All of them very young, all of them with a lot of future ahead of them. Very good operation. They've stepped up the ballgame quite a bit this week."

YOU'VE HAD A LOT OF SUCCESS A WHILE BACK AT NEW HAMPSHIRE. HOW DO YOU APPROACH IT NOW? "The track is a lot different and by the way, competition is a lot different too. If you look at the way it is today versus eight years ago, it's way more competitive today. More good teams, more teams capable of winning races. The competition has gotten tougher. Jeff Gordon has not had the success he's had in the past there, nor have we. I think that's more of a show of the competition than anything else. We ran very well there at this race last year. Harvick won and we finished fifth, I think. But we ran better than that and I feel good about it. It is different because the groove has changed a lot. But I think the biggest difference is competition."

DO YOU EXPECT THE RACING TOMORROW TO BE DIFFERENT SINCE MOST OF THE CHASE CONTENDERS ARE LOCKED IN? "A lot is made about the type of racing that we do depending on where we are in the points. I think that's grossly overrated. The one thing that happens in our sport is that we have to race each other every week. We have to race each other with respect, and I just don't see things being different because of where people are in the points. The goal is to win this race no question about it, and the negative consequences for not having a good race are certainly aren't as big as they would have been for guys who are already in the Chase. But nonetheless, you still have to race each other with respect. You can't just throw that out the window. If you do, you're destined to not have a successful last 10 races."

CAN YOU COMPARE TO OTHER SPORTS WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO TRY AND MAKE UP 128 POINTS IN ONE RACE? "You're referring to Junior, and I don't know the number of points, but Junior is in a situation where it's fourth quarter in a football game and they're down by 21 points. They've got to have the other team contribute to their success. They can't just go out and gain up that many points without one of the other two teams contributing to their success. So not only do they have to do great, the other team has to have some bad luck or make a mistake that allows them to step in the door that's open."

ON MARK MARTIN DRIVING THE NO. 8: "The whole number thing has been of great fascination to me. I used to drive the No. 8 and Billy Savola owned it. It's very clear in our sport that the car owner is the number. That is the identity of the car owner. I understand and have a great deal of respect for why Junior wants to run the No. 8. Listen, I ran the No. 12 because that was my dad's number that he played football and baseball with and that was what my brothers ran. That's my family number and it means as much to me as that No. 8 does to Junior. But that number doesn't belong to me, it belongs to Roger Penske and I'm not entitled to that number because it belongs to Roger Penske. It's just that simple. I appreciate the history of the Earnhardt family a great deal and I have a great deal of appreciation of why Junior wants that No. 8. But he doesn't want that No. 8 any more than I want the No. 12. When Mark Martin left the No. 6, he didn't say 'well, I'm the No. 6, I'm taking that with me'. When I left the No. 99, I didn't say 'well, I'm the No. 99, I'm taking that with me'. That is the identity of the car owner and that's just how it is. I understand why the fans want Junior to be No. 8 but the No. 8 is DEI, it's not Dale Jr. The same way the No. 24 is Hendrick Motorsports and not Jeff Gordon. There are occasions where the car owner and the driver become one and the number reflects the two of them, there's no question. And the No. 8 is a great example of that. The identity of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is certainly the No. 8, there's no question about that. But history out rules everything prior to it and says 'hey, the No. 8 is DEI and that's just where we are'. But I do understand why he wants to run it."

ON CLINT BOWYER: "Clint is a remarkable young man. He obviously has a great deal of driving talent. A very smart racer and very limited experience. If you think about the experience he has on asphalt, it's very limited. What he's been able to do in really only four years of asphalt experience has impressed the hell out of me. He's just a lot of talent. He's going to be somebody I have to deal with well into the future. He's just full of talent."

ON RACING THE NEW CAR IN THE CHASE: "We better be comfortable with it. Half the races have been with the new car. Half the races in the Chase are too. If we're not comfortable with it by now, then we've got a problem. We knew in February that half of the races in the Chase were CoT races and we need to be prepared for that."

IS TALLADEGA THE BIGGEST VARIABLE? "There are a lot of variables but Talladega is the one where we have no idea what's going to happen. I honestly have no idea what to expect at Talladega. It's really interesting going there next week to test. I have no idea what to expect. I have no idea what to look for. It's going to be really interesting."

DID YOU THINK 10 DRIVERS WAS ENOUGH FOR THE CHASE? "I'm okay with the number 12. If you look at the number 10 in comparison to all the other major forms of sports, the percentage of teams that made the playoffs was smaller. So I was in favor of making it a little bit bigger. We don't have the point race or the pressure coming into this race as we did last year. But that's not because we have 12 teams, that's just the way it worked out. We came into this race last year seventh in points in the midst of a battle with eight other teams to make it. We now are seventh in points and if they only took the top 10 we'd still be in it. It's just the way it worked out that the number game isn't as exciting today as it was last year. But if you look at it, it's three teams battling for the top 12 and if it was a top 10, I think it would be four teams. So not a big difference."

YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE LEAD UP TO THE CHASE THIS YEAR COMPARED TO YEARS PAST? "Every year is going to be different and this year we just had more teams be more consistent than we were able to be last year. So that put more people locked in sooner. It really had nothing to do with the number 12, it had more to do with just the consistency on the race track. There would be fewer teams if there were only 10 teams - there would be less teams battling for that spot than we had here last year. And it's just the way it worked out. Next year no matter what the position is, if you made it 20th, the top 20 cars, you're still going to have a hell of a battle for who the 18th, 19, 20th and 21st teams are. Some years it's going to be closer than others; this year it's not as close as it was last year. But it's not because of the points system, it's just because of the way things worked out."

ON DRIVERS FROM DIFFERENT SERIES COMING TO NASCAR: "I'm sure they all have different ideas on why they want to be here. Opportunity is certainly one of the things that has opened the door for them. This is a fun type of racing. It's more actual racing than the form of racing that they've come from - I think that's appealing to them. Obviously the opportunity - there's more teams which means there's more opportunity. That's made the availability. So a lot of factors. I don't think there's one overriding thing that everybody came for. I think everybody's different."

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIG ADJUSMENTS THAT THOSE GUYS HAVE TO MAKE TO GET USED TO THE NASCAR STYLE? "I think that the biggest thing is the cars. The cars that they're accustomed to are much more race cars. They're designed for high aerodynamics. They're light cars. The horsepower to weight ratio is much different. They brake much better and they handle much better. These cars are perhaps the worst-handling race cars in major forms of motorsports and that's the biggest adjustment."

HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO BE IN SHAPE IN THE HEAT OF CALIFORNIA? "I'm going to say it is because we ran in the front. But I think the majority of the drivers are in really good shape and at this point in the year, I don't think that the heat... we're acclimated to it. I will tell you that it gets harder as the year goes on. This is a grueling schedule. You can get run down pretty quickly and the more hot days you have, the harder it is. We haven't had - leading up to the last few weeks - we haven't had a lot of hot races. If you go back and think about it, we've dodged, even though most of the country has been exceptionally hot this summer, we've dodged a lot of that. That helps. The more nice days you can have, the easier it makes it later in the year."

WHAT IS YOUR WORKOUT ROUTINE? "It changes, but this time of year there's quite a bit of cardio work. Certainly weight training is still in the program but starting here in about a month, it switches to much more weight training as the temperature comes down and the cardio stays the same. This time of year it's much more cardio in addition to weight training and as the winter comes I'll cut down on some cardio and hit more race stuff."

DO NASCAR CHAMPIONS HAVE COMMOM TRAITS? "They're all persistent people and they're all people that are mentally pretty tough, that are confident, that are obviously talented race car drivers. That goes without saying. Persistent is something you have to be. You have to have a no-give-up attitude. This is a tough way to make a living and to have success at it, you have to be fairly tough."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Clint Bowyer , Roger Penske , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing