NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Bank of America 500
Topics: Bank of America 500
October 11, 2008
CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA
KERRY THARP: We will roll into our post race press conference, our winning driver, Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet. Jeff, your thoughts on this victory here tonight.
JEFF BURTON: Well, obviously it's a big night for us. Scott Miller did a great job, made that call there at the end. That's what won the race. More importantly, they got the car, the last two runs, the best it was all night. We went up and passed Biffle for the lead, and never gave it back.
Came on pit road, the guys did a great job with fuel. We picked up spots on pit road pretty much all night tonight. Had the car right at the right time. It all worked out for us.
We're real, real happy with that. Again, Scott made just a great call. I'm sure everybody was questioning it. Hell, I was questioning it. I was thinking, I don't know if this will work or not (laughter). But it did. You know, it was a great call.
KERRY THARP: Scott, you did make some good calls out there tonight, some gutsy calls. Talk about them.
SCOTT MILLER: Well, it wasn't without a lot of research. That has actually worked at this race for some other teams, most notably the one that finished second. So if we hadn't have done it, they would likely have pulled off that same thing again.
You just go back and look at the history of these races, what's worked for people down the stretch. You know, fortunately our car liked that set of tires that it had on it. It seemed like it was about as happy as it had been all night. So that gave us the option to do that. Had we had a set of tires on for that short run that wasn't really what the car wanted, then we wouldn't have had that option. But fortunately we had the right tires on at the right time, track conditions were right, made the right call. That's what it takes to win these races today with the competitiveness throughout the field.
KERRY THARP: We'll start with questions.
Q. Scott, do you have any idea how much was left? I know you were worried about a 'green-white-checkered'. You cut it a hair close there, you said?
SCOTT MILLER: Yeah, I think I got a little bit anxious trying to get him out of the box, not lose the lead there. The numbers showed, you know, we had enough to make it with the laps we had remaining.
But I would have been really nervous on a 'green-white-checkered' deal. I was trying to give ourselves that flexibility. But I got a little quick on the trigger there sending him.
I won't know how much it actually took till I get back over to the garage.
Q. Jeff, in Victory Lane you were saying all the other guys have a tremendous amount to lose, you have nothing to lose. Two years ago you left here with the points lead, then obviously whatever happened at Martinsville happened. Are you almost maybe in better position now than you were two years ago, being the hunter instead of the hunted?
JEFF BURTON: I'd rather have the lead. The only reason you wouldn't want the lead is because you're messing yourself up in your head. If somebody give us a hundred points a day, I'd take 'em. Having a hundred points ain't going to make us run poorly at Martinsville. That's not going to determine our level of success. We're going to do that.
There's going to be some things that happen to every team that you can't control. But the things that we can control, we set that destiny, not the points that we have.
So, you know, we've come into this things very relaxed, committed to having a good time, committed to having fun. We may have gotten a little too tight the first year because, you know, we never done it before. I didn't think we were last year, but we got off to a slow start. This year we just said, You know what, we're going to go, have a good time, race hard, we're going to do the best we can, and it will be what it will be.
I truly believe that those guys that won all the races and were the guys that everybody picked, you know, those teams are in the position anything less than a championship and their year's not going to be successful, it's just that simple. We're not in that case. Our deal is we're just going to go have fun. Nobody's picked us. You know, I don't blame them. You should have picked Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards. You still should. Why wouldn't you?
We're just having fun. We're paying attention to us. We're not going to get caught up in the point thing. We're paying attention to it, but we're not going to get caught up in it. If we don't win the championship, our year's not a failure. We weren't one of the teams that set the bar up there. We're just laying it out there, having a good time.
Whatever happens, we look at each other at the end of the race, we all know we put a lot of effort into it. If we don't do well, we'll go back and try to do better next time. That's how we're going to approach it. That's how we've done it up to this point. That's how we're going to do it till the end of it.
Q. Jeff, in Victory Lane you said you were hanging it out. As one of the older drivers, how do you enjoy being able to hang it out, to go for wins?
JEFF BURTON: No one's ever proven to me why you can't do at 41 what you could do at 23. If you convince yourself you can't, then you can't. Mark Martin in a (indiscernible) and see what that 21-year-old thinks when he gets back out of it. It is what it is.
We're lucky to be in a sport that you can be successful in your 40s. You know, you can convince yourself you're too old to do it. Trust me, a lot of people will try to convince you you're too old to do it. But with age comes a lot of advantages, too. And we'll try to take those advantages every chance we get.
KERRY THARP: We'll take some comments from team owner Richard Childress. Richard, have to feel good about this victory tonight?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: It was a great run. I stayed up at the condo and watched it there because I was a little under the weather.
Jeff, he just kept digging and digging. That race team just kept making the car a little better, a little better. When the time came, Scott made a great call at the end to take nothing but fuel.
It's just a great night. It was one of the things, to win a championship you've got to win races. So I'm proud of these guys, everything they did, that whole race team.
JEFF BURTON: Scott's not that young either, by the way. He's a helluva lot older than I am (laughter).
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Someone asked me a while ago about age, why I pick drivers not in their golden years but in their good years, I call 'em. But Dale Earnhardt in 2000, we finished second. I think he was 49, 48. We were going to win the championship the following year.
So age, like Jeff said, is just only in your mind. If you take care of your body like Jeff does physically, your mind will be good.
KERRY THARP: We'll continue with questions.
Q. Jeff, we've written about four or five times this year about who's peaking. You have run strong in the Chase, you pop through and win. Do you sense your team peaking a little bit now? When you were going at it with the 48, with the 9 coming after you, were you prepared to do what you had to do? Would maybe the never-rough-driving Jeff Burton have done what he had to do in those situations?
JEFF BURTON: I don't change the way I drive because of the situation I'm in. I'm going to drive hard, but I'm going to race clean. That's what I'm gonna do. I've tried to stick with that my whole life. I'm not going to intentionally change it now.
So, you know, I was prepared to do what I had to do to win the race and drive as hard as I could drive. But I'm not prepared to lay a fender to somebody and knock 'em out to win the race. By the way, doing that means that they probably won't do that to you, too. So, you know, it was a two-way street.
I've won plenty of races because I had that consideration returned to me. You know, tonight, Jimmie was on the inside of me. He could have easily -- I could have easily got pointed in the wrong direction. You know, that's how I try to race. I make mistakes. But I try to race like that.
You know, as far as peaking, you guys have heard me say this before, you know, momentum I think is a highly overused word. Momentum doesn't create success. Success creates momentum. It's the other way around. You know, a lot of people think there's this magical swirling ball above their head. If it's swirling in the right direction, they're going to win races. It doesn't work like that.
A good effort, dedication, skill level, all those things are what make you win races, and doing that at the right time. People that have momentum have momentum because they're doing a good job. They don't have momentum because, you know, the great ball above their head says, Okay, now you can win. You create that. It doesn't just happen.
Q. Jeff, the last two years Jimmie said it's been consistency, wins, top fives. Tonight you showed that if you gamble and win you can also challenge the guy who is No. 1. For the last five races, is gambling for yourself or other drivers going to be a major factor that we may not have seen the last couple years?
JEFF BURTON: No, we're going to race like we've always raced. We're going to make the calls that are smart. Scott did a great job tonight. He did research and made a decision based on what he believed was the right thing to do to win the race. I guess you can call that gambling. I don't know. To me gambling is doing something where you have no idea what the end result's going to be. That's not Scott's personality. That's not my personality. That's a little bit of his personality (smiling).
But, you know, Scott and I are very conservative in the way we work together. Our gambling is probably a different level than some other people's.
Q. Would you elaborate a little bit more, you said you were concerned when Scott made the call. You weren't sure it would work?
JEFF BURTON: Well, if we would have put four on, I wouldn't have been sure that would have worked either (laughter).
You know, these races are funny, man. Everybody tonight, when they made the last stop, thought they were doing the right thing. You know, nobody did something they thought was wrong. They all definitely thought it was the right thing to do. You don't know what the result's going to be.
If we put four on, I'd have been really nervous because we were never good on four tires. We were never good on new tires. I would have been really nervous about that. I thought we were going to put two on is what I thought was going to be happen. To be perfectly honest, we hadn't had two on all night long. Who knows what would have happen.
At the end of the days, doing none, as silly as that sounds, may have been the least gamble of all. I don't think about those calls. That's this man's job. I drive the racecar and tell him what it's doing, what it's not doing. They make those calls. I don't get in the way of it.
Q. Jeff, real simple: how important was clean air?
JEFF BURTON: It's really big. I mean, it's important for everybody. I mean, you could see whoever got out front, you know, they ran the best. Being at the back of the pack's really difficult. It's real hard to pass back there. It's really weird. In the old cars, you'd get tight behind people. These cars you actually get loose behind them. I do. I get looser behind people than I do -- kind of crazy, I get loose behind people.
We want clean air every chance we get. But a slow car in clean air is still not going to win the race. The reason we won the race tonight is because Scott did a great job of getting the car fast. Before we did no tires, we went up there and we passed the leader for the lead. We took the lead, came on pit road with the lead, left pit road with the lead, and obviously won the race.
All that hinges on is having a fast racecar. It wasn't a 10-lap dash to the end, 30 laps or whatever. It was quite a bit of racing.
Q. Jeff, at any point when Jimmie was alongside of you, did you just kind of have the feeling his car didn't have it to get by you at that point? I know you're focused on what you guys do, but it seems like the 48 hasn't had its Mulligan yet where everybody else in the Chase has. Is that still yet to come for them?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I'd have to put us in that category, too. I mean, honestly, Clint, the 48, the 31 are probably the three teams that haven't had the bad day yet. So, you know, we've had some good fortune, too. We certainly can't argue about that. We've had good fortune.
So what I thought was going on with the 48 is he was too loose underneath me. I thought he'd keep running and get tighter, get tightened back up, be able to make a run back at me again. I kind of found that middle groove. I don't know if he got slower, but we actually got faster as the run went on. We started going faster. But I thought he would make another run at us.
Q. Jeff, you said that you're more relaxed this time than you were in '06 when you were leading. What was '06 like for you? Of your whole career, do you feel that's the year that it slipped away more than any other year?
JEFF BURTON: No, not really. There's been a couple years. That's certainly one of them. That's one of the three years that I thought I really had an honest shot to win a championship, and didn't get it done.
I don't know. I mean, there was a lot going on that year. It was our first year in the Chase. We had worked really hard. It was Scott's first year, our first year together. It was my second year at Childress. We had been through a lot of changes, a lot of stuff going on at the shop, trying to make things better. Being a small part of Richard Childress Racing, we had both teams in the Chase. Just a lot going on, you know what I mean? It was kind of like our first shot at it.
It had been a while since I had been in the mix. So we were getting accustomed to all that again. As relaxed as we wanted to be, you know, I wasn't as relaxed as I thought I could be. You know what I mean? I was saying all the right things, I was doing all the right things, I thought. But at the end of the day, I was still kind of tensed up about it.
So lesson learned and we won't do that again.
Q. The other two years?
JEFF BURTON: The other two years were years at Roush. One we finished third. On the last lap of the last race of the year, Earnhardt passing people, got by 'em, put us to third instead of second. Whatever year that was. Then there was one year, I don't even remember the year, but there was one year that, I don't know, we just broke a lot of motors, had a lot of mechanical problems. We won a bunch of races. We had consistently the fastest car, but we didn't have the reliability to get it done.
So those two years in particular stand out.
Q. Scott, being such a big fan of this Car of Tomorrow, there was some talk about this being sort of a next generation or a new kind of chassis, some stuff you have done lighter. How much work went into this car? Was it a car you worked specifically on for this race?
SCOTT MILLER: Well, not specifically for this race, per se. Every time we build another car, we just try to do a better job at it. I mean, that's how you improve your product, is just evaluate everything you're doing and just do all those little things that you can do to build a better mousetrap, so to speak, just trying to make things -- any piece that goes on the car you can make a little bit lighter to help the CG, all the other technical aspects of the car, every time we build a new one we try to do a little bit better job at all that fine detail work.
This car tonight, it was its first race. First run on the track was the other night here at the test. So, you know, it's worked out pretty good. Hopefully it will serve us well a couple more times down the stretch here.
Q. Jeff, on Thursday you noted Jimmie Johnson's two best racetracks were this one and Martinsville. The strategy would be that you had to beat him, make him earn it. You did that exactly that tonight. Does it mean more to do it that way, to beat a guy dominating here? Can you do it again at Martinsville?
JEFF BURTON: Let's enjoy this one first (laughter).
They've been incredible at Martinsville. I mean, Hendrick in general, between Jeff and Jimmie, they've been -- I mean, give them the clock. It seems like they've been unbelievably fast.
It is rewarding. We didn't come here to race Jimmie Johnson. We came here to try to beat 42 other guys. Jimmie Johnson and that team are the point leaders, and they certainly set the bar pretty high. But we didn't come here to focus on them. We didn't come here to focus on the 18 or anybody. We just focus on us.
We understand that we've got to beat them. But the only way we can beat them is for us to pay attention what we're doing. You know, it's really rewarding when you can do that because these don't happen a whole lot.
So it is rewarding because they've done a great job. But it's more rewarding internally for what we've accomplished rather than the feeling we get for knocking them off their perch.
Q. Scott, Jeff Burton last night in the Nationwide race decided to take four tires. You found he wasn't able to get back through the pack in time. Did that enter in your decision?
SCOTT MILLER: I mean, a little bit I would say. But mostly just history, you know, here at this track, on mile-and-a-half's in general. The strategy that we did tonight has worked for others. Like I said, the car was happy on that set of tires. So it made sense to play it that way, leave a set of tires on that the car seemed to be happy with there at the end.
Q. Scott, you and Greg Biffle were the only two cars that ran in the top 10 for the entire race. How did you keep the car ahead of the pack that much and how many changes did you have to make throughout the night to be able to stay on top of it that well?
SCOTT MILLER: We didn't have to make big adjustments tonight fortunately. We started off a little bit on the tight side. We got it free there in the middle of the race. We were really just working with air pressure and stagger in the tires.
Fortunately the track conditions came to what our racecar liked there toward the end of the event. We've been on the other side of that at times where we've been pretty good early and haven't been able to put the pieces together at the end when it's time to win. So fortunately tonight the shoe was on the other foot and we were good when we needed to be good.
Q. Jeff, this will be your first multiple-win season since 2001. When you look back, do you think you've had more opportunities to be in Victory Lane this season compared to others or did you have as many other opportunities in recent seasons?
JEFF BURTON: You have to excuse me, I have to think about that a minute. I don't remember earlier in the year feeling like one got away from us. I mean, I don't think so. We hadn't been a team that's led a tremendous amount of laps. I feel like when we've had the opportunity, we've pretty much been able to take advantage of it.
What our anxiety has been about is not having enough opportunities, 'cause you're going to not succeed more than you do. We've been working hard to try to give ourselves more opportunities. But the opportunity's presented itself a couple times, maybe three or four times this year, and we've done it twice. So I think we've done a good job of executing.
Q. Richard, how do you handle Jeff's success and the other two guys in the Chase, keeping them all together going into Martinsville and the rest of the season?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I'm a fortunate owner to have three drivers that work so close together and work good together. They're as happy for Jeff as I am tonight because, sure, they would have wanted to win. But we can all talk about things and talk through it. So I think they're happy, too.
Q. Jeff, you're 69 back, Biffle is 86 back. Nobody else is in a position to lead. As this thing gets deeper, there are fewer guys at the front, how much easier does it make you having to race two or three guys for a championship versus five or eight or ten?
JEFF BURTON: I guess it makes it easier. Obviously it's less people to race. But they're not going to race you any less hard. You know what I mean? Matt Kenseth obviously has had some bad luck, but he's not gonna go to Martinsville and not try to win because he's not in the Chase. So we still have to race him. That's how it should be. The guys that aren't in the Chase or that have had trouble and aren't going to be able to win, or doesn't look like they're going to be able to win, they still have the same right to the racetrack that everybody else does. So you still got to go race 'em.
Again, we just aren't going to get caught up in watching the 48 and watching the 07. There's a lot that's going to happen between now and then. I mean, I know everybody keeps saying this, everybody wants to give somebody a trophy right now. Just hold on for a little while. We're halfway through this thing. Anything can happen. And, by the way, it probably will happen.
Q. You were talking about how hard it is and how rare these wins are. 10 years ago you were going to be the guy, right? You were winning a lot, having a ton of success. I wonder if winning now feels any different for you? How does it feel different? How much more do you respect and appreciate it?
JEFF BURTON: I appreciated it then because Mark Martin was my teammate and he taught me to appreciate it. Mark Martin helped raise me as a racecar driver at this level. He emphasized to me, over and over and over, that you never know when you're going to win another race. You win a race, it might be your last. I used to laugh at him. Not about me winning, but I used to laugh at him thinking he might not ever win again. I thought that was hilarious.
But it's hard. Ryan Newman and I had this conversation before the race. He and I were -- obviously they're not having a great year. They're struggling. I said, Man, I know it's been hard, but keep digging. He made the point saying, You know, when you come in, and things go well, you just take for granted that's how it is. Not until it gets taken away do you realize, Wow, this is hard.
So they're all special. I definitely have a greater appreciation for it.
The thing that stands out in my mind is we left Pocono one day, and Earnhardt was struggling in '99 I guess it would have been. There was a sticker on the back of somebody's van going down the interstate. It said, Earnhardt, time to cash in the 401(k). Now, here is a seven-time champion that had won however many races they'd won. The next year went and almost won a championship.
So I hear today about Gordon. Jeff Gordon, he can't drive any more. Guess what? Jeff Gordon can drive. I said in here the other day, it's ludicrous to think he had a baby so now he don't want to win any more. I mean, it's insane.
It means a lot to me Richard believing in me, asking me to be a part of his corporate company. You know, that means a lot to me. I drive every lap with that appreciation. There was a time in my career where everybody wanted me. Then it wasn't long after that there weren't many people that wanted me. So that's a humbling experience to go through. I guess we'll all go through it at some point in our life. But it's a humbling experience.
Part of the reason when I win a race I don't get cocky and think everything is going to be great in the world, I know there's a lot of challenges ahead of us. But I appreciate this win for what it is today. Come Monday, we'll start getting ready for Martinsville.
Q. Richard, you've seen a lot of these championships won. How does Burton look? Does he look like he's in championship form right now?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I think they're definitely going to be a contender. I know the work that they're putting into it, everybody's putting into it. So I really truly feel this could be the year that he's a contender up for the championship.
Q. It's cool you guys are having fun, but as you get closer and closer to being realistically in the Chase, is it hard, don't you start strategizing more, looking at points?
JEFF BURTON: I've thought a lot about this over the last two years. What the hell's not to have fun about? Honestly. We're not curing cancer here. We're not trying to solve world hunger. We're racing. You know what I mean? I mean, when I was seven years old I wanted to drive a racecar. I'm 41 and I do this for a living. Why shouldn't this be fun? We're going to argue and fight and disagree. But at the end of the day, the reason we got into this thing was to have fun. That's why we got in it.
It's really easy to start focusing on the business side of things, focusing on points, all that stuff. I went this morning with my son, he's seven years old, sorry, just turned eight years old. We went and raced quarter midgets. We did that for fun, that's why we did it. That's what we're going to do here. We're adults. We have a job that we love. What do we have to be afraid of? We're not going to be afraid of not succeeding. We're just going to have fun, go race hard, enjoy ourselves, learn from our mistakes.
I'm not saying we're not going to hold ourselves accountable. We're going to do that. But we're going to do it in a way that's constructive and we're going to do it in a way that's enjoyable.
If we can't do this, we ought to be doing something else. We live blessed lives. There's no reason not to have fun. I'm not worried about it. I'm telling you the God's honest truth. I'm not worried about it. My wife is sitting right there. She can tell you, we've had no conversations about points. We're just going to go race and have a good time.
Q. You said earlier you couldn't remember a race like you felt you gave away. Martinsville in the spring, you finished third, led within the last hundred laps. Is Martinsville the one? Can you talk about how you feel like you have run there the last year and a half?
JEFF BURTON: That race, I thought that was last year (laughter). I don't remember the spring race at Martinsville. I don't remember it. I go back and watch videos this week. But right now I know we finished third because somebody told me that the other day. I don't remember where we qualified. I remember nothing about Martinsville right now. So I can't really answer.
I thought, the comment, was in the fall of last year. You're saying it was this year. That shows you what I know.
I do remember, because of that, if that was the spring race, not the fall race, that we were good, we had a fast car. We were in position to win a race. But a couple people got better than we did late. I do remember that. But, I'm sorry, I thought that was last year.
Q. You talk about the fun atmosphere you're having. How much do you not see that in the garage area?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I mean, I don't think everybody has forgotten that. This is a great place to be, honestly. There's a lot of great people in here. Y'all do the same thing. Y'all complain about your job, too. We all do that from time to time. It's human nature.
But for the most part I think that everybody kind of enjoys themselves. But the stress level can get turned up pretty high. If your whole world revolves around this, it doesn't go well, what's gonna happen? This isn't my whole world. It's not Richard's whole world. I don't want it to be my team's whole world. When they're doing this, I want it to be the most important thing in their life. But when they're not doing this, I don't want it to be in their life. I want them to have freedom to spend time with their family, Richard to spend time with his grandchildren. That's what life's all about. But when you're doing this, you've got to be doing this, nothing else. You can't mix the two while you're trying to do it.
You know, I think this is a good place to be. I mean, a lot of people have fun dealing with it.
Q. Jeff, in Victory Lane you made a special point to thank the fans that came out with everything that's happened with the stock market. Do you wish they had as much fun watching you fight off Kasey Kahne as you had fighting him off?
JEFF BURTON: I hope so. In the economic times we have now, families are making a real sacrifice to come to the races. Honestly we probably all have taken that for granted, too, because we've had so many great years of stands full and all that. This is a hard time for people. People have to make real decisions about -- God, I sound like a politician (laughter). I'm not sure which I sound like. They all sound the same.
But it's hard for 'em. To be able to come and bring a family to the race is expensive. So if we can't put on a great show for 'em, then that would be a disappointing thing.
Q. With clean air being so vitally important, are you surprised more people didn't just take fuel to try to get track position or would it just work with your car?
JEFF BURTON: I think some people put two on. I mean, I think some people just did two thinking that was going to be -- they didn't do four because they were going to lose track position. They did two to try to gain the track position or not lose what they had.
We had run 30 laps. I'm guessing. You know better than I do. We had run about 30 laps on that set of tires. It was a lot of laps to not be putting tires on, honestly. When he said, Fuel only, I thought, Wow, we've run a lot. So I think the track position game for most people was doing two rather than gas.
The 9 car, I'm not sure what he did. I think he only did fuel 'cause he came -- I never saw the 9 car all night. Next thing I know we're racing for the win. So I think most people probably had the same opinion I had when he called for no tires. I thought, That probably won't work.
Q. Richard, in light of the economy, are you anticipating any changes in the way you do business? Do you see any changes coming next year in terms of how all the owners will be running things?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Well, I think we all, no matter what business you're in today, you have to look at running a smarter business. We won't cut anything to cut our competition. But, yeah, we'll have to look at other ways to save the money, put the money where it's going to be the most effective, and that's in the competition side.
KERRY THARP: Gentlemen, congratulations.
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