JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Texas Motor Speedway, Kasey Kahne's contract with Hendrick Motorsports and other topics. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS COMING INTO...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Texas Motor Speedway, Kasey Kahne's contract with Hendrick Motorsports and other topics.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS COMING INTO THIS WEEKEND'S RACE AT TEXAS? "This has been a pretty good track for us. We've had some good races here. Had some pretty bad ones too, it seems like we never hit middle ground. Excited to get back to the race track -- we had a disappointing week last week and ready to move on from that and go to work."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE SPOILER FOR THIS WEEKEND AT TEXAS AND MOVING ON TO OTHER SIMILAR RACE TRACKS? "I think no matter what happens here, there's going to be a verdict on the spoiler. I just think that again, we don't know what's going to happen number one, but number two, we almost just have to take all the facts, really listen to what the drivers say, listen to what the drivers are dealing with and make a determination from there. I think that no matter what happens from here, if we have a great race, if we have a poor race, there's going to be a determination that the spoiler was really good or the spoiler was really bad. The fact is, it's really going to take us a little while, for all the teams to get tuned into it. If we have a good race here, I think that's a good sign, honestly. If we have a bad race here, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's bad because any race that we go to, people can just get hooked up and beat your brains out. I don't know, we kind of just need to run the race and see how the race goes and then make a determination after that. You almost have to look past the results and look at the facts, if that makes sense."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE PEOPLE WILL OVERREACT TO THE SPOILER IN SOME WAY RATHER THIS IS A GOOD RACE OR A BAD RACE? "I think the racing this year has been good and I thought it was good midway on last year. You guys know why I think that is -- I think the tires are a lot better and that's making the racing better. If this race is good then it will be status-quo. If this race is exceptional then it will be because of the spoiler. If this race is boring it will be because of the spoiler when in fact it may not be because of the spoiler. It's really going to be hard to make a determination in this one race, but we'll have a good idea. I will tell you that I believe the drivers will understand what we're dealing with more after this race than we do going into it. I think we'll have an understanding of what this will have on the quality of races in the future."
WOULD YOU STILL SEE THE RACING AS COMPETITIVE IF YOUR TEAM WAS STRUGGLING? "Certainly it's hard from a competitor to step back and look at it from a fans perspective, it really is. It's our job to make the race boring, right? I mean it's our job, we led every lap at New Hampshire and you guys said it sucked, but I thought it was cool. That's our job, our job is to make the race boring. At the end of the day, I feel like I'm pretty good at stepping back and kind of looking at the overall scheme of things. We weren't running well last year and I thought the racing halfway on, through the year got better. And I think that's continued. I honestly think the quality of racing has stepped up. I'm not saying that to sell tickets or get people to watch it, I was saying that early last year or midway through last year and I believe it's true."
IF IT IS SO COMPETITIVE NOW, WHY IS THERE ONLY ONE TEAM IN THE TOP-12 THAT HAS WON A RACE AFTER SEVEN RACES? "I think that proves the point or does it not, I guess there's two different ways to look at it. My view of that is that the teams that are in the top-12 in points are good teams. I haven't looked at it, but I know where we are in points and I look behind me at how close the people are behind me. It would be interesting to see where everybody is in points -- where is 20th in points this year from 12th compared to last year? It seems like to me it's an exceptionally close battle for 12th right now. I think that is because it's more competitive."
IS IT HARD WHEN A DRIVER IS IN THE POSITION THAT KASEY KAHNE IS IN RIGHT NOW, KNOWING THAT HE IS NOT COMING BACK WITH THE SAME TEAM NEXT SEASON? "I think Kasey's (Kahne) in a little different situation. The group that's with Kasey has been with Kasey for a long time. If you look at the people on that team, the crew members on that team, obviously Kenny (Francis, crew chief), but a lot of guys on that team are familiar faces that have worked with Kasey for a long time. I think that they respect Kasey and they understand the situation that Kasey is in. I just don't view that group as being a group that's going to be bitter or upset about it. I may be wrong about that, but I believe that. What happens, I think, is that Kasey is going to continue to work hard, his car owner's going to continue to work hard, but you also have to be looking at the future. Kasey's not going to be driving that car in the future so they've got to be looking at their other options and they've got to be looking at other opportunities. Kasey's got to be paying attention to not only what he's doing now, but what he's going to be doing in the future. I just think as hard as you try and as hard as you say you're going to be as good, I just think it's hard because it's a distraction. I do believe that Kenny Francis being there, I think they have a good rapport with each other, the team has a good rapport with the both of them and I think that's going to help him in this situation."
HOW UNSETTLING HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM IN THE CLOSING LAPS OF RECENT RACES TO DECIDE BETWEEN TRACK POSITION, FOUR TIRES OR TWO TIRES? "Double-file restarts have changed the game and you're going to see people more apt to get track position than they are to get four tires. The tires are better so they last longer. Track position with the double-file restarts make it harder, on some race tracks. If you had that scenario last week that you had and you had it here, Kyle Busch is going to make it three-wide on the outside going into turn one when you drop the green flag and he might be able to make something happen. At the smaller tracks, track position is just huge. From a driver's standpoint, what you have to be willing to do is you have to be willing when your crew chief says we're going to do two or we're going to do four, whatever that decision is, you can't second guess it. You just have to go work and go make it happen. That's really all you can do because those late cautions right now, we've had a lot of them. I don't think we're going to continue to have this many of them. We've had a lot of them in a small amount of time. It's been very apparent that track position is huge."
DOES IT WORRY YOU THAT TOO MUCH POWER IS GETTING CONCENTRATED TO HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? "A little bit. If I'm going to sit here and try to tell you that I don't think that Hendrick has done the best job and that Hendrick has done better than everybody else then I'm lying. The facts are the facts. If you look at the last 15 years or so, I would be willing to bet that the Hendrick numbers look better than everybody else's. When they brought Mark Martin in, that was a big deal. Mark's an incredibly gifted driver. Nothing at all against Kasey (Kahne), but it's hard to be better than Mark so in the future what they've been able to do is maintain an exceptional level. For the immediate future, I don't know what's going to happen with the team that Kasey's driving for so it's hard to know the impact. You can see the commitment that Rick Hendrick has to continuing the success. No one should be surprised by that, but there's no let down. There's no letting go of the clutch that he's had on it. He's wanted to keep it. Adding Kasey to the mix sends a clear signal to everyone in the sport that he, moving into the future, intends on winning championships. It is an eye opener. I know that every team in the garage wanted Kasey and Hendrick ended up with him and it is what it is. It's the same reason that Jeff Gordon went there, the same reason that Mark Martin went there, same reason that Jimmie Johnson went there, same reason Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) went there because people believe that right now, he gives them the best chance to win championships."
DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT MARK MARTIN'S SITUATION IS AT THIS POINT? "I'm not going to speak for Mark (Martin), I know Mark's having a great time. The only thing I'll say about it is that Mark is really happy with his situation. He's really enjoying being at the race track, being with the competitive team. He really respects the situation that he's in. Short of that, that's all that I really need to say about it."
IS KASEY KAHNE SIGNING THIS EARLY A UNIQUE CIRCUMSTANCE OR DO YOU FEEL IT MAY HAPPEN MORE? "It's not unique in the sense that you're signing a year ahead or a year and a half ahead. What's unique in this situation is that you've signed for a year and a half ahead not knowing what you're going to do next year and that's unprecedented. As long as I've been in the sport it's unprecedented, maybe it happened a long time ago and I'm not aware of it. That's a big vote of confidence, in my opinion, that Kasey (Kahne) gave to the Hendrick organization that said, look, put me in a good situation, I'm willing to take the risk for the future. That to me is an unprecedented case. When I look at it, I wonder if I would have had the nerve to do that. Would I have had the nerve to make that call. I have a lot of respect for Kasey for making that call because that had to be a hard decision to make."
DO YOU THINK THIS COULD HAPPEN AGAIN? "Nothing should surprise us. This sport and the money that's in this sport today and the competition that's in this sport today and the exposure that the sport gets today -- people will do a lot of things to get themselves or to get the right person that they need in order to go win championships and win races. We shouldn't be surprised by almost anything."
HOW DO YOU MEASURE SUCCESS OF YOURSELF PERSONALLY AND DO YOU THINK THE MEASURE BY FANS IS DIFFERENT FROM THE DRIVERS'? "That's a good question and it's a hard one to answer. I measure success a lap at a time. There's days that I finish 12th, 15th, 18th -- and feel like I did an exceptional job. On those days, you're the only one that knows that. It's not like football where you can watch a quarterback take four steps back, throw the ball and watch a guy catch it. You can analyze that, it's hard to analyze a driver because there's a car component. The driver has to be willing to analyze himself, good and bad. I measure success a lap at a time, to be perfectly honest and then when the race is going on, I measure success on where we're running. Mainly, what you really have to focus on is what are you doing in order to run the best and the only way you can do that is to break it down into one corner at a time and ultimately one lap at a time. I'll tell you that we're seventh in points right now and I don't consider what we've done to be a success, I consider what we've done this year to be disappointing because we have squandered opportunities, collectively. To have a chance to win more races and have a chance to be well, well, well up in the points. From the outside people look in and they say, 'You're seventh in points, last year you weren't running this well, you've led more laps this year and all that looks good.' We squandered a lot of great opportunities away. I consider it to be disappointing. I'll tell you that career-wise, I want to win a championship in the worst way. Success has to be quantified and there's no denying that someone that has a championship is more successful than someone that doesn't. I'm not saying that they're better or that they're more gifted, but they are indeed more successful. What are we here to do? This is competition, we're here to win races and we're here to win championships. If you can't do those things then you aren't as successful as the people that are doing them. That doesn't mean you're a failure, it's not a black line -- successful and failure. There's levels of success and winning races and winning championships, to me, is certainly the gauge you have to monitor yourself by. I have won races, but I haven't won a championship, I don't consider my career to be a failure, but I don't consider it to be as successful as it can be and I don't consider it to be as successful as other have been."
-source: gm racing