JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Infineon Raceway and discussed the struggles of RCR as a whole, using the double-file restart this week, what style of braking he uses and much more. IN REGARDS TO KEVIN...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Infineon Raceway and discussed the struggles of RCR as a whole, using the double-file restart this week, what style of braking he uses and much more.
IN REGARDS TO KEVIN (HARVICK) AND HIS STRUGGLES WHAT IS GOING ON? "Kevin (Harvick) is concerned about where we are the same way we're all concerned about where we are. I think Kevin is focused on not so much concentrating on not so much how we've gotten here verses how do we get out of this hole and how do we make sure we don't get ourselves back in this hole. Kevin is frustrated. He's used to contending for wins and being fairly secure in the Chase. This year none of us have been able to do that. He's had a year to this point he would rather forget. He's concerned about it. I wouldn't say he's freaking out about it. I think early in the year when we were going through it he was real calm about it and handled it really well. As the year has gone on for all of us we've not turned the corner in the way we want to turn the corner. I think the tension has been raised for all of us. Everybody is on pins and needles and it's uncomfortable to be quite honest because we all know that we should be doing better. Sponsors know that we should be doing better and our employees know we should be doing better. Richard (Childress) knows we should be doing better and we're capable of doing better than what we're doing right now. So it's been disappointing. On the other hand Kevin as well as all of us have accepted the position that we're in and I honestly believe we will make it better. It's not going to be wave the magic wand and everything flips and it's going to be perfectly okay. Kevin realizes that but as long as we all see the effort and the dedication then typically we're okay. We're all smart enough to know there's ups and downs in this sport but we're responsible for the ups and downs. It doesn't just happen, we're responsible for it. Kevin knows that too so he wants to hold people accountable. He's wanting to make sure that everybody is doing what they need to do to turn it around but I don't think he's handled it in a poor way at all. I think he's handled it fairly positively.
DO YOU KNOW NOW WHAT YOU NEED TO DO? "Well we think we know. I can tell you that we didn't do anything knowing it was wrong. So for us to sit up here and tell you we know exactly what was wrong and we're going to go fix it would not be right. I'm confident that we know what we need to do but I was confident that we knew what we were doing this winter and we obviously didn't. I feel like we have a lot going on right now. And in not panic mode I think it's important that when you get in this situation that you don't panic, that you immediately address it and you immediately get on it and we've done that but we've done it in a methodical way and in a way that makes since rather than just play pin the tail on the donkey. So I'm optimistic."
HOW MUCH COULD CHILDRESS AND GM SAVE BY COMBINING THE CHILDRESS ENGINE PROGRAM WITH HENDRICK? "I'm not dodging the question but I don't know the answer. I'm very isolated from the engine program and know very little about it. I'm not the one that should make that comments. I just don't know enough about it to make a comment about it. We get benefit from adding different looks at it. Not always is everything better if more people are doing it. In some cases it is. We get benefit by having a lot of different companies look at different ways of making power and reliability. I would have no way of putting a percentage or a dollar figure on that. I don't even know what our engine budget is. I'm isolated from the engine things so I'm not the one that can answer that question."
WITH CHEVY HAVING MET WITH THE TEAMS THIS WEEK IN SPRINT CUP, WHAT DIRECT EFFECTS DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE ON THE TEAM AND DO YOU EXPECT IT TO AFFECT YOUR PERFORMANCE ON THE RACE TRACK AT ALL? "Again, I'm not dodging the question. I think Richard (Childress) is going to be here this afternoon and either talk to you guys or put something out. Richard and I haven't had a chance to talk. We've been playing phone tag. There was a meeting this week obviously. The details of those meetings I know the fringes of it not the details of it so there's not a whole lot I can comment on. The only thing I will say is Chevy has been a great partner of ours and will continue to be. This is a difficult time for them therefore it's going to be a difficult time for us too because we are partners. They are committed to doing everything they can to do the best they can in a bad situation."
WHAT WERE YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF MARK MARTIN IN COMING BACK FULL-TIME? "Exactly what you're seeing. You never know how something is going to happen. You never know, Darrell Waltrip put the dream team together and it didn't work. From the outside looking in I thought Mark Martin in a Hendrick car that's potential magic. I've raced with Mark and seen Mark and he has an extreme amount of talent. His dedication is something that people don't understand. He is the most dedicated driver in the garage. I try to be real dedicated but that man he lives, breathes, sleeps it. So when I looked at that from the outside I thought that could be magic. I see zero and saw zero decrease in his talent based on his age. I've seen nothing and didn't see it last year and didn't see it the year before. The question was did he want to do it every week. When he looked me in the eye last year and said I really miss this, I really want to be here every week I believed right then it would be a real, real successful deal."
IS THE PROBLEM WITH THE TEAM'S SPEED, HANDLING OR BOTH AND DOES IT APPLY TO ALL FOUR CARS OR DO ALL FOUR CARS HAVE DIFFERENT PROBLEMS? "We all have different problems because we're different teams but we all have the same problem too. You can take four teams and give them the exact same stuff and they're going to have different problems with that same stuff because there's different driving styles, there's different crew chief styles. We operate as one but we are four individual teams at the same time. The fundamental problem is when you look at the speed charts on a Friday afternoon or a Saturday afternoon in practice we're not in the top-10. We're not able to go lay a lap time down that our competition is able to lay a laps time down. The No. 33 the last two or three weeks has been able to do it better than the others and we think we understand why that is. I'm not going to go into great detail why that is but there's a reason for that and we're confident that we understand it. The blunt of it is we didn't do a good job this past fall and this winter. It is what it is. The record shows it. We didn't prepare properly and so we're behind. The engine thing is really good right now. We make enough power to win races. We don't go through the corner fast enough to win races. You can win races with less power but you can't win races with less handling. That's our deal right now is we don't go through the corners as well as the competition."
HOW WILL THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTART IS GOING TO WORK HERE AT THE ROAD COURSE? WHAT DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN AND WHAT WILL BE YOUR STRATEGY? "My strategy is going to be survive to be quite honest. I've got to tell you the hardest restarts we do all year, this one is probably the hardest. Going up the hill and getting to the top of the hill and having to make a 90 degree turn, the speed different between the guys still going up the hill and the guys on top of the hill having to make the turn is huge. Every year we see people get run over because the closer rate is so high. It's hard to anticipate two guys in the front get bottled up more than you anticipating and it's just like a freeway. The cars behind them get slowed down but the cars behind them don't get slowed down quite as much and it just keeps going. It's just bumper-car tag up there. The positive to it is we've seen a lot of moves made up there because everybody tries to get to the bottom and a lot of people try to dig something out by trying to go to the outside so you end up in a real awkward position on top of the hill because someone tried to make a move to go from eighth to third and that gets real awkward. We're not going to have as much of that because there's not going to be anywhere to go. I'm as curious as you are to know how that's going to work. It works okay on the start of the race but it's a different mentality when it's a 100 laps to go verses when its 10 laps to go. With the fuel mileage game and all that stuff going on man I don't know what's going to happen. I'd watch closely because I think it's going to be pretty interesting. My strategy is to survive it to be quite honest."
YOU MENTIONED HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO GET A GOOD POINTS DAY OUT OF HERE, WITH 10 RACES LEFT TO THE CHASE IS IT MORE IMPORTANT OR ARE YOU LOOKING MORE AT STAYING IN THE TOP-12 RATHER THAN TRYING TO WIN RACES AT THIS POINT? "We're not going to approach this weekend or next weekend or a weekend after any different than we've been approaching it. The way we approach it is we come in every week with intentions of giving ourselves a shot to win the race. There is no lying about it. It is what it is. You have to also measure your risk. When you point race and you're racing for a championship you have to measure your risk. You have to decide is this what I need to be doing? If I have a chance to win the race I'm going to go for the chance to win a race. Where we are 10 points could be the difference so we need to get all the points we can and the way to get all the points that we can is to win the race. But we do have to measure the risk. I said earlier that there's some people here this week that have no risk measurement, its one thing period end of story. That's what makes this race really interesting. You have to really watch that because those guys don't have the same respect for you as you wish they would because they don't race with you every week. They're here for one reason and one reason only and they don't really sympathize with the issue that you're in. So you've really got to be careful with that. We're not going to try to change our strategy because our strategy has been effective. What we're not being effective on now is making a lap time we need to make. The strategy that we've used or that I've used through my whole career has been effective for me and I drive the way I drive because that's how I believe I can be the most effective and I'm not going to change that because of the position we're in. I think that would be a mistake."
(JEFF) GORDON AND (TPNY) STEWART HAVE 15 WINS ON ROAD COURSE'S BETWEEN THEM, FROM YOU'RE PERSPECTIVE WHAT SEPARATES THEM? "I don't know. I can tell you that when I first went to Roush I was real inquisitive why Mark (Martin) is so good on the road courses and we went to Watkins Glen to test. Comparing data and comparing all those things he didn't do anything different but he was three or four tenths quicker than me. I'm like alright I'm spotting the field some and I started working and I got better and better. When I went to Childress (Kevin) Harvick and I did the same thing. I put (Kevin) Harvick in my car to test and I would get in his car to test and compared each other and I learned some more. I guess what I'm trying to say there is I've had to work at it and I guess it's come a little more natural to those guys. It's not that they brake better, it's not that they accelerate better, it's not that there's just one place on the race track that they have figured out that you don't have figured out. It's putting all of it together and being a little better kind of everywhere. That's the way I view it. That's just based on me trying to get better and trying to do an examination of where I need to be better. I think its small things, I don't think its big things but ultimately it comes natural to them. It's something that when they first did it. I remember when Stewart came here as a rookie. He had a really successful rookie year coming to this race and I can remember flying out here thinking we're going to see what he's made of now he isn't going to be able to bring that. And he did. I thought alright it just comes natural to him, same with Mark (Martin). I talk to Mark a lot about what do you do here and what do you do there. They don't think about it. A really race car driver at a particular kind of race track doesn't really have to think about it, they just do it. Then they refine their skills but it just comes natural to them."
CONSIDERING WHERE YOU AND KEVIN (HARVICK) ARE AT IN POINTS, DO YOU GO TO HIM AND SAY CAN YOU TRY THIS BECAUSE WE'RE NOT SURE ITS GOING TO WORK AND WE CAN'T BE THAT FAR OFF? "No, we're not at that point. We are collectively looking at stuff to be better. But we aren't in the position nor do we feel like that would gain us value. When we go to New Hampshire next week, we're not all going to have the same stuff. We're all going to have a derivative of something but it isn't all going to be the same stuff. We learn through that. The best team in points won't driver the worst team in points options for the weekend because we just don't think we'd get benefit from that. The only time we would do that is if a team was really struggling within themselves to figure out what they wanted to run then we could say try this and they could tell us try this but we won't drive that ship."
SO YOUR DERIVATIVE ISN'T THAT MORE CONSERVATIVE THAN THEIR DERIVATIVE? "Well we rolled the dice last week and lost. We got out of character last week and made some real aggressive changes on Sunday morning and ran 26th. We don't want to do that and we didn't want to do it then. We were in the position of having a 12th to 15th-place car in practice and that's just not good enough so we rolled the dice and it just didn't work for us. So we're not going to ask a teammate to do that for us. Every team has to do it for themselves."
IN TERMS IN YOUR FOOT WORK THIS WEEKEND DO YOU USE A CLUTCH AND IS THERE ANYBODY DOING THE HEEL-TOE THING ANYMORE? "I think some people still heel-toe but I think its people who grew up heel-toeing. If you grew up racing a car that you had to heel-toe and that's the way you did it then you probably still do it like that but I don't. I started out driving road courses heel-toe deal and I quickly learned I didn't have to do that and so I don't do it. I use the clutch on up shifts just because I think it might help the engine, transmission and clutch a little bit but other than that leaving the pits is the only time I use the clutch. There's people that are successful both ways but I don't use the clutch."
IS IT HARD TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO BRAKE WITH YOUR LEFT FOOT THEN? "I've always been a left-foot braker. I've never been a right-foot braker. When I first started road course racing I came here and went to road course driving school and they taught me how to heel-toe and that was where I learned to do that. I grew up racing go-karts so I always left-foot braked. So for me it's actually very natural to left-foot brake and it's very natural not to use the clutch. Using the clutch heel-toeing was very unnatural for me. I did it one race and during that race we were running fourth or fifth at Watkins Glen the first Nationwide race there and I started thinking why do I need to use the clutch? I know I had to out here when I was driving the car that I had to learn how to drive but I didn't figure I needed to use the clutch anymore and I just quit using it and I've never used it sense."
-credit: gm racing