JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Watkins Glen International and discussed racing in the rain, racing the COT at Watkins Glen this year versus last year, effects of the economy on the sport and ...
JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Watkins Glen International and discussed racing in the rain, racing the COT at Watkins Glen this year versus last year, effects of the economy on the sport and more.
ASSESS YOUR PERFORMANCE THROUGH THE YEAR, GIVE YOURSELF A GRADE AND THEN TELL US WHY YOU GAVE THAT GRADE. "We've had a good year so far. It's been real productive in some ways and not as productive as you want it to be in others. I'd have to give us a B- or I don't know. I hate giving grades. We're fifth in points so I don't know. I think we've done a nice job."
ON THE ONE RACE THAT GOT AWAY. "Randy LaJoie passed me on the last lap at Darlington at a Nationwide Series race years ago and that one has haunted me forever. The pain goes away but you never forget it. When you have a chance to win, that's as a driver what you want to have a chance to win and when you're in that chance and you don't execute you let everybody down. You let yourself down. Those disappointments they don't go away."
ON RACING THE NEW CAR THIS YEAR VERSES LAST YEAR'S RACE. "I think we're a whole lot smarter about the car of tomorrow than we were last year. We've run it a lot more obviously than at the point we were last year. We've all learned a lot. We're still in the learning curve though. It's still new, it's still a tremendous amount to learn but we have a much more clear picture about where we need to go with the car than as of this point last year."
WHAT WERE YOU'RE THOUGHTS OF SEEING THE NATIONWIDE SERIES RUN IN THE RAIN LAST WEEK, AND COULD YOU EVER ENVISION THE DAY THAT THE CUP SERIES WILL EVER RUN IN THE RAIN? "I don't know. I don't understand why the Nationwide Series runs in the rain and the Cup Series doesn't today. I've never asked why that is and to understand that I need to go ask the question. If the Nationwide Series is running in the rain, then I think there will be a chance that the Cup Series will one day run in the rain. I don't know if it's good or bad, I really don't know. It was interesting to watch as a spectator. I don't know if it's the right thing to do considering that people are racing for championships. I don't know. I'm good with it either way but I think if you're going to do it there has to be a way to practice it. You need to be able to let people have a chance to try it out. Under that scenario, I'm good with it."
IN REGARDS TO THE CHASE, IF YOU WIN A RACE YOU GET THOSE BONUS POINTS, HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT? "Honestly priority number one is to get in it. That's the first thing you've got to get done. If you're in it, the better shape you are with the number of wins the better shot you have. Kyle's (Busch) jumped out there and won a bunch of races. He goes into the Chase with a pretty substantial lead over the guy that's in twelfth. That's a big advantage. You want the best of both worlds but going number one is to make the thing. That has to be what you do first. With the races that Kyle has won he has a real advantage right now."
IF IT LOOKS LIKE YOU'RE IN THE CHASE IS THERE GOING TO COME A POINT WHERE YOU GOT TO START THINKING ABOUT RACING FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "We're preparing now for New Hampshire which is the first race in the Chase whether we're in it or not. I mean we don't change our effort based on our situation. We put our effort in the same every week. We have to be situational where we have to understand the situation we're in and take advantage of it but that goes every week. I think depending on what situation you're in determines a lot about the risks that you're willing to take and those kind of things. Once a team gets into the Chase, its game on then. I don't think you'll win the championship by finishing fifteenth every week. You got to win the championship by getting top-fives and leading laps. Whatever you've got to do to be like that when the Chase starts is what you've got to do. The goal number one is to make it."
ON THE FRUSTRATION OF THE INABILITY TO PASS WITH THE NEW CAR: "I think the reason that it's so hard to pass and the reason the drivers are so critical about the thing is because it is so competitive. If you're running tenth and it's easy to pass the guy in ninth, then to you you're a lot better. But the reason you can't pass the guy in ninth when you're running tenth is because it's so competitive. That's why it is so hard, the competition level is so high that it's so hard to pass because there's so many good teams on the race track. I know that people watch the races and they say it looked like Carl Edwards won last week, the guy running fifteenth wasn't very competitive but he was. If you look at lap times, the guy running fifteenth was very competitive. It is hard to pass, it is hard to get track position but I think it's more about the competition than it is actually saying it's the car. That's my opinion."
SO DO YOU NOT PUT ANY BLAME ON THE CAR? "Well I think the car deserves some criticism and I think if we're not willing to be critical of the car we might not ever make improvements, but on the other hand I think there are a lot of cases where people just say it's the car and they forget what it was like four years ago. You have a way over time of forgetting the bad stuff and thinking about how good you ran and how easy it was to pass. You forget about the days where you ran fifteenth and couldn't pass. I think it's a little bit of both. It's a little bit of underestimating what you used to have and then because this car is so different doubting it to begin with."
ARE YOU PRETTY SET AT RCR FOR THE NEXT SEVEN OR EIGHT YEARS? "I don't know if I'm set for seven or eight years but I'm set for my future. I'm 41 years old and everybody wants to ask me when I want to retire. I think I'm a better driver today than I was when I was 31 years old. I have a passion for what I do. I have a commitment to Richard (Childress) to be here for an extended period of time and he's committed to me to have me here. It would take some very, very odd circumstances for me to be somewhere else. This is where I want to be. I'm very comfortable with where I am. I love the intensity that we have. This is where I'll be."
DOES IT SURPRISE YOU HOW LONG THIS FOURTH TEAM HAS TAKEN TO MATERIALIZE? "It has taken way longer than I would have ever anticipated. In retrospect it's kind of the name of the game right now because limited sponsors, limited teams, that means less opportunity. We've struggled in nailing down a fourth driver. That's been our biggest struggle is that we've just haven't been able to get that done as quickly as I thought we would have. There's a lot of reasons for that. I'm really proud of what we're doing at RCR and I think when people come to see what we're doing I think the drivers are excited about it too. But we haven't been able to nail that down and that's been a surprise to me that we couldn't get that done quicker than we've been able to get it done. It's kind of a mystery to me why we haven't been able to."
WITH HIGH GAS PRICES WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT NASCAR LOOKING INTO ALTERNATE FUEL? "I think every single person in this country needs to be looking at better ways to live their life every single day. Whether it's recycling or driving less or whatever it is and I think we need to be doing the same thing. Whatever we can do to help move the ball that's what we need to be doing. We are leaders in the automotive industry. Right here in this garage you have representation of Dodge, Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford. We have the ability to take technology move it into mainstream and I think we need to take advantage of that. I'm not an expert on it and have no idea what even I'm talking about but in a utopian society these cars would be as green as possible but I think the only way to get there is to try to get there. I think we need to be putting a lot of effort into it to try to find a way to be greener."
WOULD RUNNING IN THE RAIN BE APPEALING TO SOME DRIVERS SIMPLY BECAUSE OF THE GRIND OF THIS SERIES VERSES RUNNING ON MONDAY OR TUESDAY? "Being able to get the event done on a Sunday verses a Monday is a very big thing not only for the teams but for the fans. We need to do everything we can so that the fans that show up on a Sunday to watch a race, we can give them a race. I think that's extremely important. I wouldn't vote to run rain tires just so I can be home on Sunday night but if we could have the fans here on Sunday and not have to have them here on Monday I certainly vote for that."
HOW DO YOU SEE THE ECONOMY SHAPING OUR SPORT IN THE NEXT SIX MONTHS TO A YEAR? "It's already having an impact on our sport. If you look at the number of teams that are fully funded before the '09 season it's less than it was at this point in '08. Marketing budgets get tight when the economy goes down so you're gonna see a major impact throughout the garage in the number of teams I think that are fully funded. What that does, that puts a lot of people's jobs in jeopardy. This motorsport industry employs a great deal of people but the less teams that you have the less people you have employed. My biggest concern isn't for the well-being of the sport but it is for the well-being of the employees. There are going to be some employees throughout the garage that were working for a team that isn't in existence next year and that's a scary thing."
-credit: gm racing