JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo Taurus (Qualified 3rd) "If you put the best road course driver in the world in these cars, then it becomes an equalizer because we understand these cars much more than they do. So, it's a tough comparison to make.
JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo Taurus (Qualified 3rd)
"If you put the best road course driver in the world in these cars, then it becomes an equalizer because we understand these cars much more than they do. So, it's a tough comparison to make. Because NASCAR Winston Cup racing has been on road courses for such a long time now, I think we certainly have made a lot of headway and we can hold our own. But I don't think Michael Schumacher could go to Rockingham and perform at the same level that he could perform here based on his skill level of road course racing."
WHAT ABOUT THE 43 DRIVERS HERE. ARE THEY ALL PRETTY CLOSE TOGETHER? "There's a bigger difference in the amount of ability on road courses than it is on ovals because of the experience. Most people don't have the experience, so a different amount of experience means a different amount of talent. That makes the gap larger."
ARE THERE MORE PLACES TO MAKE MISTAKES HERE? "There are certainly more opportunities to make mistakes here. It's just totally different. When you've been doing something for a long time and then you throw yourself on a road course, you do a lot of things different. I think a lot of times people think about it too much. What's made me a better road course driver is just driving the damn thing -- just forgetting about all the technical stuff and forgetting about hitting the apex right, doing this right, studying and all that. Just go drive. Drive like you were a teenager with a car and your parents aren't watching. That's made me a better road course driver, it really has. And then, on top of that, I went to Watkins Glen a few years ago and tested with Mark. Mark really helped me, and then this year the 97 and the 17 came out and tested. We used a lot of information from their test and then Matt hit on something right there at the end of practice, so we tried it and thought we saw some improvement too. So there is a lot of teamwork right now, which has helped us as well."
IS IT A FEEL MORE THAN ANYTHING? "I think that's why I'm not a good qualifier is because I try to think too much about it. What makes me, even though I haven't shown it lately, but what I think makes me a good race car driver is I can analyze the lap and then make my change to the next lap. But in qualifying, you don't get a chance to do that. I think that's why I'm not a good qualifier because I think too much about it. I need to just drive the thing. That's why we've seen more results from me coming at road courses because I quit worrying about all the stuff and just drive it. Sometimes, I think we try to think too much and try to make it too technical when, in fact, what got us to Winston Cup racing was just driving -- just driving hard."
DO THINGS LIKE AERO PUSH COMPLICATE THINGS FOR YOU? "Let me make it clear, there is nothing that has changed to make aerodynamics more important today than it was 20 years ago. The deal is we understand much more today than we used to. A lot of people want to talk about NASCAR's rules and all those kinds of things, there is a hunger to be smarter around the aero role, so the things that used to work don't work anymore because we weren't taking advantage of the aero platform, I like to call it, that we try to take advantage of today. So a lot of drivers, a lot of crew chiefs, a lot of crew members, struggle trying to figure out how to used the aero package -- how to use air to make the car go down the race track rather than just using the shocks and springs like we used to. So, yes, the more technical our sports comes, the more seat of the pants thinking goes out the window."
SOME PEOPLE THINK DRIVERS FROM YEARS AGO WOULD STRUGGLE IN TODAY'S ENVIRONMENT. "How do I say this without offending anyone of the previous generation, but I think I would have made a great driver in the previous generation because I have a real feel for a car. When it comes to basic springs and shocks and all those kind of things, I'm pretty good at that. That's what's won us a bunch of races, and this new age of using the body to make the car go down the race track, I've struggled with it."
THEY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT YOU'VE LEARNED, BUT YOU KNOW WHAT THEY USED. "That's right. And the experience of understanding what shocks and springs you need to run at Charlotte, the reason the young guys are running better isn't because they're all of a sudden better drivers and Rusty Wallace forgot how to drive and Bobby Labonte forgot how to drive. You don't take Bobby Labonte and Rusty Wallace and me and go win a lot of races and then say, 'OK, you can't think like that anymore.' It's not that easy. Aerodynamics today mean more than anything else. I don't know if they do here, but I will say this, we went and tested at Virginia International Raceway and went home and cut the body off the car."
WHY DID YOU DO THAT? "We thought we could build a better car. We thought we could build a better body based on what we knew. We thought that we could produce a car that made better downforce than what we had. This car is three years old and we knew we'd made some gains, so we went home and tested and then cut the body off of it and came back. That's how much we believe in aero."
WHERE DOES AERO HELP YOU HERE? "Everywhere. I think the thing everybody has to remember is a lot of wind tunnels only blow at 90 miles an hour. If you can make a significant amount of downforce where you want it, then that should be a positive thing for you if you know how to do that. We felt like we knew how to do it, so we wanted to do it. You can't give up anything and to come here making less downforce than someone else would be wrong. You've got to get all you can get."