Watkins Glen: Burton - GM Top-10 interview

AMD AT THE GLEN - Weekly Top 10 BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS: Q. KNOWING WHERE YOU ARE AND WHAT'S AT STAKE, IS THERE A FINE LINE BETWEEN CAUTIOUS AND AGGRESSIVENESS? JEFF BURTON: There's...

AMD AT THE GLEN - Weekly Top 10

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS:

Q. KNOWING WHERE YOU ARE AND WHAT'S AT STAKE, IS THERE A FINE LINE BETWEEN CAUTIOUS AND AGGRESSIVENESS?

JEFF BURTON: There's a fine line between cautious and aggressiveness every week. When you're racing for points, which is what we do, whether you're leading the points or you're 15th in points, there's a real fine line. And the reason that we don't wreck more than we do is we understand that when you're wrecked, you're sitting there without a chance to finish the best possible finish you can get. It's no different this weekend than any other weekend. I do believe that more people will have trouble this weekend just because that's the nature of road courses. Overall the best way to gain points is to finish well and the only way to finish well is to be aggressive.

Q. THIS HAS PROVEN TO BE A REALLY GOOD WEEK FOR YOU. WE TALKED TO YOU LAST YEAR WHEN YOU ANNOUNCED YOU WERE GOING TO CHANGE THE CHANGE. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE IN THIS ORGANIZATION?

JEFF BURTON: Well, I think right now, we just are all working together really well. There's a tremendous amount of commitment to go from where we are today to make the next step. There's no one in the company that believes that we're hundred 100% where we need to be and we're working really hard to make sure we do get to where we do need to be. There's a lot of unity and there's a lot of commitment. Richard when I came here told me he would do everything he could to turn this program around and get it to prominence, and that's where we're heading. We're not there by any means, but we're certainly heading in that direction.

Q. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS TRACK?

JEFF BURTON: This is a great racetrack. This is a lot of fun and it's so different than Sears Point. It's like a Super Speedway of road courses, it is a challenging racetrack, obviously there's a big elevation change on the back straightaway, there's fast corners, there's slow corners, there's long straightaways, there's short straightaways.

It's a lot of fun. Typically we run very well here. We have gone some years here without some good finishes but feel good about being able to come here and run well.

Q. WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A ROAD COURSE RACE IN THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP?

JEFF BURTON: No. It makes sense for a road course race to be in the Chase because if you look at the percentage of race that is we run, I think they should be represented - I think it should be equally represented in the Chase. And if you look at the percentage of road courses, two races out of 36, it just would not make sense to have a road course race in the final ten.

Q. THIS IS A COURSE THAT HAS DEMANDING TURNS, BRUTAL ON BRAKES, THAT'S ONE THING. EVERYBODY SAYS, WELL, THE ONLY THING YOU CAN DO IS STAY BETWEEN THE LINES. THAT'S EASIER SAID THAN DO. WHAT KIND OF SETUP DO YOU NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL HERE AT WATKINS GLEN?

JEFF BURTON: You can go out there and stay between the lines all day long. You just have to understand you might run 35th. When you come out here and you look at the quality of these teams and the quality of the drivers, you can't go out there and ride around and run good. You've got to run and you've got to be on the edge of not having a good day, and that's the only way you can succeed in this sport. And what you've got to do here is you've got to have a car that's fast, and you've got to have the track position at the right time of the race. And if you do that, then you could succeed. But it all hinges, as it does every week, on having the driver and the car signal each other so you can make good lap time.

Q. I BELIEVE IT WAS TWO YEARS AGO HERE THIS WEEKEND WHEN YOU LEFT ROUSH, AND NOW LOOK WHERE YOU ARE NOW, I MEAN, DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT, HOW FAR YOU'VE COME AND WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW, ACTUALLY CHALLENGING?

JEFF BURTON: Well, when I left Roush, I left Roush thinking that for me, coming to Childeress would be a positive thing. You never 100% know what's going to happen for sure but to this date it feels like a positive move to me. Although last year if you were interviewing me, I think I would have said it wasn't a good move. So, things take time. This sport, it's a fickle business. You can be on top one day and on the bottom the next. We have to continue to work hard and by no means have I decided that, you know, everything is great in the world and from now, we have a lot of racing to go, you know, this year and the years ahead of us. So this isn't a sport in my opinion that you judge your success year by year. I think you judge your success when you look back on your career. You judge it by this is what I was able to do, and I believe that right now, we can have the success we need to have at Childress, but we have to continue to work hard and have to be committed if we're going to be able to look back on my career and say, hey, this was 100% the right thing to do.

Q. IS IT A COINCIDENCE THAT YOU AND KEVIN HARVICK ARE SO CLOSE, OR IS IT THAT YOU GUYS KIND OF BROUGHT EACH OTHER UP TO THIS POINT?

JEFF BURTON: Oh, it's definitely not a coincidence. There's no coincidence that all three teams are running better than they did last year. That's not a coincidence. That's because our stuff is better and we've been able to take advantage of it. There are times in this sport where things don't add up, but this year, for sure, I can tell you that our cars are better, our engines are better, we've improved a lot of things in our business. We've been able to take advantage of those things up to this date.

Q. GOING TO MICHIGAN NEXT WEEK, TALK ABOUT THAT PLACE.

JEFF BURTON: Well, Michigan is a lot of fun. It's a lot of different grooves, four-wide racing sometimes. To me it's one of the most run race tracks we go to. Most race drivers really like Michigan and I'm one of them. It will be a fun race. It's getting four races to go is where we're going to be at that point, and there will be a lot of pressure and a lot of intensity. That's going to be a really fun race.

Q. DID YOU INVESTIGATE WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR CAR LAST WEEK, ANYTHING UNUSUAL?

JEFF BURTON: Well, I think at the end of the day a couple things compounded on us. The first thing is that we were not able to run practice the way we normally run practice, and I wasn't able to do a good evaluation of the car, because it was times (ph) were so excessive in practice, we just couldn't run that many laps and that led us down a path which was eventually the wrong way to go. When we with were in practice, the changes we were making were positive changes but we were not able to evaluate that, we were not able to put a set of tires on and go out and make a 15-lap run and understand what the long-term consequences of those setups were. So we just made a wrong move on the setup. We did that together as a team. That wasn't just Scott or our engineer or me. We all collectively decided what we wanted to do but we just didn't have enough information to make the right decision.

Q. YOU SAID THAT THINGS GOT SO BAD AT THE END, SPRING COLLAPSE OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, WAS IT REALLY - WHATEVER - WASN'T HELPING IT RIGHT?

JEFF BURTON: We got way off. I think that at that racetrack, you know, a car that's really tight can get matched at front. It can hide that a little bit. And had we had a race that turned into where we had a lot of cautions or whatever, we could have won a race with that set up but once we got those green flag runs, we were in trouble. Then we started kind of not panicking, but we started making huge changes trying to get it back and we just never caught back spares up. At the end of the day, all of the trouble started on Saturday as it normally does.

Q. IS YOUR TEAM MAYBE GETTING A LITTLE ANXIOUS TO TRY TO CLOSE THE DEAL?

JEFF BURTON: You know, I don't know. I think that - I think that we're all smart enough and we don't have really people on this team that haven't been here before. We're a really mature team and I think we all understand that if we continue to run well that we'll get our wins and certainly when we - when you we put ourselves in position an awful lot this year and certainly there's a sense of frustration about that. But at the same time, we're also mature enough and smart enough to understand that, hey, we still put ourselves in position. You know, it's okay. I'm more concerned that we finish 15th versus finding a way to get backup there and finish 8th or 10th with a struggling car at the end. At the end of the day, this is a mature team and they understand that we've just got to keep doing what we're doing.

Q. YOU MENTIONED ADDING ROAD COURSES TO THE CHASE --

JEFF BURTON: No, I think if you look at the percentage of races that we run on road courses; that would make no sense to run a road course in the Chase. It's two races that we run out of 36, doesn't add up to a percentage that matches the Top-10, the final ten races. So I wouldn't be in favor of that.

Q. WHAT ABOUT AS FAR AS THE CHASE FORMAT IN EITHER THE TRUCK OR THE BUSCH SERIES?

JEFF BURTON: I'm a proponent of the Chase format. I'd like to see it in all the NASCAR series. I think it puts on the best show. I think it makes the most excitement. Without a doubt, I think that in the Busch Series and in the Truck Series both, it would be beneficial to those two series.

Q. THERE'S SO MANY CUP GUYS THAT RUN IN THE BUSCH SERIES NOW, IF THAT SHOULD HAPPEN, DO YOU THINK THAT MAYBE THERE SHOULD BE SOME SORT OF RULE STATING THAT THE REGULARS MAYBE GET MORE POINTS?

JEFF BURTON: No, I think that you just have to run every race. I think that you know, a driver - a driver winning the championship, he ought to have to attempt to run every race. And a car owner ought to be allowed to win a championship with three or four din drivers if he chooses, but a driver should have to attempt to make every race to win the championship and I think that eliminates any issue. Because, you know, most likely, a Cup regular is going to win the championship this year, and you know, he shouldn't be eliminated - if he runs every race, he should not be eliminated from having the possibility to do that at this point. But certainly you should not be able to run - you should not be able to run 15 races, somebody else running another 10 for you and then you run the last ten and win the championship solely. I don't think that would be fair.

Q. JUST A QUICK COMMENT ON FORMER TEAMMATE MARK MARTIN AND THE SEASON HE'S BEEN HAVING, HIS LAST SEASON AGAIN.

JEFF BURTON: Ya think? (Laughter). Well, we're still - we're still yet to be decided it's his last season. I'm less convinced it's his last season than the rest of the world. He says it is, but we'll see. Proof's in the pudding. I keep waiting for him to return all the gifts from last year and he hasn't done it yet. Mark is one of the best drivers in this sport. The only thing he misses from being able to say that he is, you know, it would be a championship, but every driver in here know that is Mark Martin is capable. He is as capable today as he was ten years ago. He is more mature, he is smarter, he's wiser and his driving ability is as good as it's ever been. So you know, if Mark decides he isn't going to race again next year, it isn't because he can't do it. It's because he just doesn't want the stress of all the stuff of run this full schedule. But as far as capable, capability, it's there.

Q. I'M COMING DOWN FROM MONTREAL AND UP THERE THERE'S RUMORS ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE FORMER F?1 CHAMP JACQUES VILLENUEVE MIGHT JOIN THE NASCAR CIRCUIT. I WOULD BE INTERESTED TO KNOW IF YOU HAVE AN OPINION ON THAT?

JEFF BURTON: I would love to see - I think it's good for our sport for people like Jacques and people like Juan that want to come in and experience this. I think it would be good. Those two guys are both world-class drivers. There's no question about it. It would be a transition for both of them because these cars are - they are heavy, they make a lot of downforce - I mean they make a little bit of downforce, maybe a tremendous amount of horsepower. When they drive - when they are driving good, they are driving bad. They don't drive very good at any point, and I think that would be a - that's going to be the biggest transition.

But you know, a racer is a racer, and world-class drivers like can come here and have success, but there will be a time of adjustment for them, no doubt.

Q. WHAT WOULD BE THE BEST ADVICE TO GIVE TO F-1 DRIVERS WHO WANT TO SWITCH?

JEFF BURTON: I think the biggest thing is to understand - I think that the environment here is so much different. And the accessibility of the fans, the accessibility of the media, the openness of the way we do things here is radically different than what's done there; the sponsors, they require it, and the fans require it, and it's a great thing, because it's what makes our sport great. But at the same time, the racing part of it, you know, what I learned is racing's racing. I don't care if you're racing quarter midgets with a five year old or if you're racing for a NASCAR championship or an F-1 championship. It all boils down to the same kind of thing, and that's having the right equipment, the right driver and taking advantage of it. Those, you know, an F-1 driver when he comes here, has to understand that there is going to be an adjustment and he's going to have to be patient, and the people around him are going to have to be patient as well.

Q. HOW MUCH DO YOU WORK OUT?

JEFF BURTON: Right now, four days a week.

Q. FOUR DAYS A WEEK? HAVE YOU EVER HAD YOUR HEART MONITORED?

JEFF BURTON: Not during a race.

Q. During practice, or behind the wheel?

JEFF BURTON: Yeah, I have done it once years ago. I messed with a heart monitor, but it's been a long time.

Q. AFTER RACING MARTINSVILLE, WHAT DO YOU FEEL LIKE, THAT'S PROBABLY ONE OF THE TOUGHEST TRACKS IF IT'S HOT?

JEFF BURTON: When it's hot, Martinsville is really hard.

Q. DOES THE PUBLIC APPRECIATE WHAT YOU GUYS GO THROUGH, YOU REALLY CAN'T, CAN YOU?

JEFF BURTON: I don't think anybody can appreciate with a anybody goes through. You know, the old saying, you've got to walk in somebody's shoes to really understand what they are doing. You know, when you watch -- I think we've become immune to things. I think when I watch a basketball player and he's shooting a 25-footer, you're like, why didn't he make that. And then you realize, go and try to shoot that, you realize it's hard. I think the professional athletes make things look easier than they really are, and I think it's hard for any fan to truly appreciate what they are watching.

Q. HOW HARD IS MARTINSVILLE RACING IN THE HOT SUN?

JEFF BURTON: It's a difficult thing. There's no question that the heat is a tough thing. The physical -- you know, you go to Bristol and run 500 laps there, there's a hard days work. At the same token, that's what we do. And if we can't, if we can't do it, then we shouldn't be doing it. You know, by no means am I claiming that you have to be in the shape of a wide receiver in the NFL to be a highly-successful driver. But you do have to be tough. And you do have to -- you know, there's drivers here that don't work out at all. We have drivers that could indeed be a wide receiver but both are able to be successful. So I don't think you have to be -- I don't think you necessarily have to be a world-class athlete to compete at this level. But you certainly have to -- you certainly have to be able to do things that many world-class athlete couldn't do.

Q. DO YOU SEE A LOT OF GUYS TAKING CHANCES, IN POSITIONS 3 THROUGH 11?

JEFF BURTON: I think everybody's approach is different. I think some guys will take chances and some guys feel like they can't take chances. I just don't see the racing that different on the racetrack. I think as we get toward two or three to go, I think that's where you might start to see it. But right now if you look at those Top-12, you know, they all believe, hey, if we just have good races, we can be in the Top-10. And they are probably right. I mean, if Greg Biffle or Kasey Kahne, either one of those guys have the next five races they run well and finish well, they can find their way in. So I think right now, that no one is really in panic mode. The people that are 15th, 14th, they are a little bit in panic mode trying to make something happen probably. But I think that 12th and forward, you know, the approach would be, hey, let's finish well, let's run competitively and if we do those things, we'll get ourselves in.

Q. YOU RAN GREAT LAST WEEK, THREE POLES THIS YEAR, YOUR TEAM IS REALLY COMING TOGETHER. YOU'VE GOT TO GET A WIN RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER, DON'T YOU THINK?

JEFF BURTON: Well, we'd like to think if we keep putting ourselves in position, those things will happen for us. It's not a given that we're going to win races. We've got to go earn it and we've got to go make it happen. This team is capable of winning. We've just got to keep putting ourselves in position.

Q. YOU'VE BEEN WITH THE TEAM NOW A LITTLE OVER A YEAR AND A HALF. WITH ALL OF THE TEAMS THAT ARE DUMPING THEIR DRIVERS AFTER A FEW MONTHS IF THEY ARE NOT PERFORMING, YOU GUYS HAVE DONE IT THE WAY THAT PEOPLE USED TO UNDERSTAND IT TOOK A YEAR AND A HALF OR TWO YEARS TO TRULY GEL. DO YOU THINK THAT'S STILL THE WAY IT SHOULD BE?

JEFF BURTON: I think every situation's different. You know, I believe that if you look around and you see no chance of success, whether you're a car owner or a driver, then little patience is given anymore. At the same token, you have to look at the situation. You have to understand, what's affected the outcome of the races to truly give a fair assessment. All I can do is worry about what we're doing. I can't worry a whole lot about what other people are doing. At the end of the day, this sport has been -- there have been a lot of changes in it, it's nothing new, and it will be like that two years from now.

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Greg Biffle , Kasey Kahne , Mark Martin