The inside track with Jeff Burton

The 2001 Winston Cup Championship: We have to perform more consistently than we did the past two years. We don't have to do it a whole lot better but we do have to improve in a couple of areas. We have to eliminate the poor finishes. We've won...

The 2001 Winston Cup Championship: We have to perform more consistently than we did the past two years. We don't have to do it a whole lot better but we do have to improve in a couple of areas. We have to eliminate the poor finishes. We've won 10 races over the last two seasons. The wins, top-5s and top-10s are there. The point system really doesn't reward a team for a great finish but it will punish you for a bad finish. If I go out and finish second in the Daytona 500 we're only going to lose five points to the first place car and the third place car will only lose five points to us. It's much more difficult and nearly impossible to win the championship if you have four or five really poor finishes."

The Daytona 500: "Daytona is a really big race. However, it's not the biggest deal of the season for us. We are racing for a championship so our perspective on the Daytona 500 is that it pays 185 points just like winning the race the following week at Rockingham. The more races we can win the better off we'll be in our championship chase. We approach the Daytona 500 like it is another race on the schedule. If we win the Daytona 500 and finish 10th in the championship standings it will not be a successful season. For us to have a successful year we have to perform better than we did last year. Winning one particular race is not how we are going to measure our success for the 2001 season."

Racing at Daytona: "If one guy makes a mistake in the draft it can result into a major 15-car wreck. One wreck can take out half the field. It's hard to run wide open at Daytona so you have to concentrate more on making the car handle. Restrictor plate races are exciting to watch for the fans but they are a little terrifying for the drivers. These tracks are made for us to run two-wide but with restrictor plates the playing field is a little more even so we can run three and four-wide."

Safety: "Racing doesn't have to be any more dangerous than it has to be. If we can make racing safer than it is today and still maintain our same speeds then that is what I want to happen. I'm not afraid of speed and I'm not afraid to get hurt. If I were afraid I couldn't race for a living. But, we have an opportunity to make NASCAR safer and that's what I'm working toward. We're working on a new cockpit structure to absorb energy in a controlled fashion. The process of the design has been well-engineered, thought-out, meticulous program. It is been crash tested many times and we still have a lot more crash tests to do. We're doing all of the product testing at Wayne State University. We're gonna do this once and we want to ensure it has been done right."

The Roush Racing Stable: "The Roush Racing teams may or may not all be equal. We all have access to the same information and resources. In the past the teams have performed on different levels. The most difficult part of racing is to have the right group of people in place. The no. 99 team has been able to place people in positions that allow us to benefit. Just because we beat the other Roush teams on a given Sunday doesn't mean I'm a better driver or Frank is a better crew chief. It does mean that our people are working well together and our results are proving it."

One round of Qualifying: "I think the goal for one round of qualifying is to eliminate one day from the weekend schedule. It is a good thing if NASCAR can give the crews an extra day to be at home with their families during the week. If NASCAR gives me an opportunity to race I am going to do it. I can take my family with me to the track and I generally spend more time with my family at the track than I do at home. The crew guys can't take their family. The more they are home the happier they will be. Racing is important but it is not the most important thing in the world. We need to allow the team members in our sport to enjoy a life outside of racing. One round of qualifying is a step in the right direction to make a two-day race weekend a reality."

Rivals: "The guy that is hot is the guy I want to focus on beating. If I go out and have a rival with a driver or a team and my goal is to beat that team then I'm not going to benefit as a driver. If I can beat the guy and he's running 15th it isn't doing me a bit of good. I want to be the guy to beat and in order for that to happen I want to finish up front every week. In the beginning of the 2001 season Bobby Labonte will be the driver to beat. After three or four races that could change so I keep my standards high and I do that by going out and beating the hottest driver on the circuit."

His Favorite Track: "I enjoy several different tracks. I try not to have a favorite racetrack. If you look at our team's statistics and our performance you may think there are some tracks that we really like or some tracks that we really hate. In actuality, some of the tracks that we've been bad on are places where I really like the racetrack. There are a couple of places that are not as forgiving for the drivers. Take Bristol and the restrictor plate tracks for example. When something happens there it is almost impossible for the driver's reaction time to make a difference. It is very easy to be a victim of the circumstances at those places."

Rain Shortened Races: "Rain is an opportunity for teams to find another way to win the race. Many people look at a rain-shortened race as the guy that wins gets lucky. Every race that we've won in the rain, with one exception, we led the most laps. We were in position to win the race and it was because we were the fastest car. Frank does a great job of understanding the circumstances. Rain coming and ending the race is the same as the checkered flag falling."

Savoring the moment: "I'm not that great at stepping out of a racecar in victory lane and stamping the image and memories of the win. Five minutes after the win I'm already focusing and thinking about the next race. I hope my greatest moment in racing is yet to come and I hope when I stop and reflect back on my career that I'll have many great memories. For now, I'm focused on today and the present. The past is behind me and I do everything I can to make sure we learn from the past. My goal is to keep moving forward and keep making adjustments to make the No. 99 team a better race team."

Personnel: "If you have a pitching staff on a baseball team that can't win games then you need to make some changes. If the staff is being productive then it is better to refine the personnel rather than replace. In our situation, we are simply making something better that was already good. We've been fortunate and successful in the off-season. We are returning all of our people for the 2001 season and that is a huge accomplishment. When you run as good as we've run teams are generally after the personnel on the good teams because they want to get on top. We've kept everyone in place and that is the biggest accomplishment a successful team can have during the off-season."

Fans in the Midwest: "Because NASCAR racing hasn't been in the Midwest for a long time I think the fans there are more excited than the fans in the southeast. The fans in the southeast have been exposed to our sport for a long time and we have a great, loyal following in the south. I think there is generally more excitement and enthusiasm when we visit new race tracks and new markets throughout the U.S. The limited amount of supply of NASCAR racing to the Midwest will be well attended and well received by the fans."

Measuring Success: "We measure success by winning races, contending to win races. It is possible to have a better year and be lower in the point standings. The point structure is a very unique system. We had an incredible season in 2000. We led more laps and more races than Bobby Labonte, but he won the championship. The reason he won it is because we had more poor finishes than he did. Three of our poor finishes were bizarre. We cut tires, had equipment fail and other things that were out of our control. We need a couple more things to go our way. I was pleased with our 2000 season and if we'd kept all of our good luck and changed some of the bad luck we could have won the championship."

-Doug Cox

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Bobby Labonte