JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Watkins Glen International and discussed improvements at Watkins Glen International, safety at race tracks and other topics. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS WITH FIVES RACES ...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Watkins Glen International and discussed improvements at Watkins Glen International, safety at race tracks and other topics.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS WITH FIVES RACES REMAINING BEFORE THE CHASE? "Obviously, we need to avoid bad events and let the math do the work. We have to put ourselves in position so the math can work out. We also need to continue to improve. We've been real solid all year. The last three races we haven't run quite as well as we had run before. We've run well, but we haven't run quite as well. The good thing about those races is that we got what we deserved at every race, which has been kind of our weak point for our year. Even though we hadn't performed the last three races that we had been accustomed to, we still ran in the top-eight pretty much the whole race. Anywhere from third to eighth we would run, but we would need to run a little better than that to assure that we're able to capitalize on those and get the finishes we deserved. That's good for us because that's where we haven't been as good as we needed to be. If we can couple that and get our speed back then I feel real good about our chances of transferring."
IS THE RACING ON SUNDAY GOING TO BE SIMILAR TO SONOMA WHERE DRIVERS DON'T SHOW MUCH COURTESY? "In respect to the guys that aren't racing for points or just everybody in general? I expect this race to be like every other race. I think that we've seen a lot of action happen on restarts. I think we'll see that again at this race. I think people have been courteous at times and not courteous at other times. I just expect every position to be fought and every position to be fought hard. It's clear on road courses that restarts are very important. You can get by somebody on a restart, it's hard for them to get back by you. I expect restarts to be real aggressive and even though we're at a road course, I don't think this race will be any different than any race we've had this year. I expect restarts to be real aggressive and much of the same to be quite honest."
ON ATLANTA LOSING A DATE IN 2011 AND GOING TO KENTUCKY FOR A SPRINT CUP RACE: "It appears to me that there are going to be some big changes, not only in venues, but in race dates. It looks like a lot of stuff is going to get shuffled up and I think as long as shuffled correctly, I think it's a good thing. I'm not a big believer that change is always good, I'm a believer that good change is good. We've seen in Atlanta some good racing, but we haven't really seen the crowds there. You always think of Atlanta being a real strong traditional, southern race track with a lot of race fans there, but the fact is that we haven't seen that. I think the Labor Day race was really well attended last year, but we just haven't seen the crowds that we're used to seeing there. That's my perspective of it. I think it's a sign of the times. If race tracks aren't supported by the fans then we're going to see those races moved somewhere else where the fans are going to support it. I always hate to see a race track lose a date because I know there's a lot of fans that do make both of those races and love that race track and love the area where the race track is. At the same time, it's capitalism. If there's another venue where more people can come in and more people can enjoy it then that's where you can expect the show to be going."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THROWING THE CARS AROUND AT WATKINS GLEN AND KEEPING THE FINESSE AT OTHER RACE TRACKS? "For me I found that I still have to be who I am, I have to drive the car the way I need to drive it to be consistent with who I am. If I try to do something different, that doesn't work for me. The hard part is understanding the limits. That's the hardest thing for any driver coming into a strange situation is trying to find the limits. When you're racing for a championship and you're racing for points, it's difficult to stay in the limits because typically when you're found the limit, you typically find them because you crossed it. That's what's hard about road course racing for people that aren't or weren't raised in it or hasn't been their background. For me, that's the biggest thing. I know the best way to get into one, I feel like I know the best way to roll the middle and get off of one, the question is, where is the limit? To me, that's always the parameters. Understanding the limits to your car, understanding the limits to this race track and understanding your limits. Once you do that, I think it's no different here than it is at Bristol. Although it's a different race track, it's the same kind of car, the same driver. I just think it's trying to understand the limits and the guy who can understand the limits quickest, they are the ones that typically do the best."
DO YOU KEEP YOUR EYE ON TONY STEWART AT WATKINS GLEN AND DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING FOR HIM ON SUNDAY? "No disrespect to Tony (Stewart) at all because Tony is good everywhere, but we never know who is going to be good this weekend. Part of our at-track analysis is trying to figure out who is good and who is the best and where they're the best and then of course we have a goal to shoot for. Are they beating us in turn one? Where are they beating us? Certainly Tony will be on our immediate list of people to look at, but who will immerge is if there's somebody that's better than everybody else and we'll go try to pay attention to where they're beating us. Tony is a great race car driver and he'll run well at any kind of race track. I assume he will here. Nobody is giving him the trophy. You have to go earn it every week, what you did here last year counts, but it doesn't count for this year. Success and failure. You can run awful here last year and come here and win this race or you can win this race and come here and run awful. It's what you do this year that matters."
ON RACING AT MICHIGAN: "I think honestly Michigan has been probably our worst race track. And I don't know why. I like going there, it's a fun race track. It gets pretty slick and there's a lot of options and those are the places I tend to run well on. We took a step forward in the spring and we ran well, we didn't run great, but we ran well. That was a step forward from what I've been doing there. Hope to be able to improve on that. Michigan has really been one of our weak points."
ON THE COMPETITIVE NATURE OF BRISTOL: "Bristol, that's a great debate, I've heard fans say that they like the old Bristol better. Most competitors say they like the new Bristol better. My take on that is for us now, I'm a race fan, I'm a race car driver, I like to participate in a race and I like to watch a race. I like to watch a competitive race, I don't like to watch a blow out, and I like to watch a race. I get no joy out of watching a wreck fest. This Bristol is more of a racey race track. It's not as much of a wrecking race track. It's not to say that we're not going to have wrecks because we are, but it's just options for the drivers of places to go or a place to get away -- a place to leave the groove. So when you have that, you're not all bumper to bumper and that prevents a lot of wrecks. That's why the drivers like it and for us in the seats, it isn't that the racing is less competitive, it's just less wrecks. That's why most drivers like it."
AFTER LAST WEEK'S ACCIDENT AT POCONO, DO YOU FEEL THERE ARE SAFETY CONCERNS DRIVERS ARE MISSING WHEN TOURING THESE RACE TRACKS? "I already caught it. I told several people four or five years ago that race track had to be fixed. I had a conversation with the race track and every time they had the conversation it was, 'this is the first time anybody has every brought it to us.' I heard that on many occasions. The new group there is very committed to changing the race track and to making it better to try to make it safer. My calls to improving the back straightaway at Pocono fell on deaf ears, it's just that simple. The race track has to change it and all I could do is bring it to their attention. I brought it to their attention on numerous occasions and nothing happened. So I had some people that didn't like me talking about it and I talked about it to the media one time years ago and some people didn't like that. Nothing fell through the crack as far as I was concerned other than the race track delaying fixing it. The race track is committed to fixing it and to their credit, they are committed to fixing it. They were committed to fixing it prior to this incident. We shouldn't learn the same lesson over and over and over. We saw a fatality at California Speedway years ago, Greg Moore, hit the inside wall of a wall opening. We didn't see a fatality this past week. We saw a severe impact on the inside wall opening how many years later. That is something that we as the drivers, the race tracks, we all collectively need to always been looking to be better. It's what I talk about all the time when I talk about safety. If we think we're good enough, we're going to fall back to where we were. NASCAR has become the leader in the industry when it comes to safety and it's because they've been very, very, very proactive in order to make it better. They are looking for ways to make it better. We have to have everybody. We have to have the track operator. We have to have the car owners, we have to have everybody involved and everybody willing. In the track's defense, they have spent an absorbent amount of money putting up SAFER barriers with no return on that investment. There's no return on that investment. When they put up grandstands, concession stands, improve restrooms -- there's a return on that investment. When you put up softer walls, there is no return on investment, that's clear. I'm not sitting here saying that Pocono or any race track for that matter is not doing anything because that's not fair. In Pocono's case, they had not done enough and it's clear to the new management that they had not done enough based on their actions. They said prior to the race that they were going to fix it. It was just one race too long. We shouldn't learn lessons over and over and over, but we've got to have the drivers willing to participate, we should be willing to go look at race tracks, pay attention to them. There was an opening on the back straightaway at Charlotte Motor Speedway and I had never seen it before until a year and a half ago. Humpy (Wheeler) was still there and he promised me that it was going to get fixed and they made improvements to it. I raced there for 17 years and never noticed it. I need to do better than that, I need to be looking a little harder than that. We have to have everybody willing to go do their part."
CAN YOU COMMENT ON KEVIN HARVICK'S ATTITUDE FROM LAST YEAR TO THIS YEAR? "I felt Kevin (Harvick) handled last year pretty well. Obviously he had expressed his displeasure and that he may be wanting to leave if RCR (Richard Childress Racing) couldn't turn it around. Like I told you all then, Kevin was just committed to trying to be with a race team that could win races and championships and Richard (Childress, team owner) was committed to trying to build a race team that could win races and championships. But I felt Kevin, the last 18 months, he has been very mature, very proactive and very productive in the way he's worked with the company. I think that owning a team the way that he's owned a team could be a big distraction, it would be for me, but I think it's been a really good thing for him. I think he enjoys doing it and it's given him a perspective, an owner's perspective. Kevin's in a lot of ways, the catalyst for what we do. He really pushes very hard when things aren't going well, Kevin is very to the point and very direct, doesn't delay, just gets right after it and demands stuff to get better and that's a good thing for us. Kevin, I really don't think Kevin is much different this year. His overall outlook about what's going on is better because what's going on is better. Kevin wasn't saying anything that was wrong last year, he was just upset about what was going on. Kevin has been a really good teammate to work with and I think his attitude has been spot on for quite a while."
ON THE SAND TRAPS BEING REMOVED FROM WATKINS GLEN IN THE INNER LOOP: "We did a tire test here and I was really impressed at what they did with the race track as far as giving us a run off area in the inner loop. The sand traps are great ideas in the event of brake failures or something like that, but where the inner loop was, it's much more appropriate to have a run off with SAFER barriers. There was two big wrecks here last year coming off the carousel, they changed that area of the race track to try to make it so if something did happen there it wouldn't be as severe. They put soft walls here in turn 11. They made a lot of improvements trying to make the race track safer and to prevent what happened last year as well as look at areas of the race track that could improve the quality of racing and be productive for safety. I think what they've don't is really good. The thing about the inner loop and this always has a big factor at this race track -- there is going to be less cautions here because every race we're having to pull somebody out of the sand trap there. That's going to play a big factor in this race because fuel mileage is so important. They've done a lot and they've done a really good job of trying to make the race track safer and they've also done some things that will enhance the racing here. That's a win, win for everybody."
DO YOU FEEL THE ACCIDENT AT POCONO HAS PUSHED NASCAR BACK TO BEING REACTIVE RATHER THAN PROACTIVE ON SAFETY? "No. NASCAR doesn't own the race tracks. The race tracks are responsible for making the race track safe. NASCAR, the drivers have a responsibility to bring things to the attention of the race tracks. NASCAR, I would imagine, has the ability to put them in a head lock and make them do some things, but at the same time, it's the overriding responsibility of the race tracks to fix the issues. Like I said, most race tracks, even Pocono, made a step forward, but they didn't make enough steps forward soon enough. The attitude about safety is so far from where it was, I have no fear that we're being reactive consistently. We're never going to be in a position where we're never reactive because sometimes we only learn from things going wrong. The smartest people in the world can't be ahead of everything. Reaction is always going to be a part of the safety response, but for the most part I just feel like NASCAR is way more proactive than they are reactive."
-source: gm racing