NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Food City 500
Topics: Food City 500
March 16, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thanks a lot. Good race.
We're pleased to be joined in here today by our race winner, crew chief and team owner of the Food City 500, that's Jeff Burton. He drives the No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet. First time a 1-2-3 sweep for Richard Childress Racing. A great accomplishment, as much success as you've had over the years.
Jeff, your first victory here at Bristol Motor Speedway. Scott called a great race. Let's here from the champions. Jeff, start out.
JEFF BURTON: It was a good day for us. We put ourselves in position, and that's how you win these races. We're not going to stand in here today and say we had the fastest car all day. We had good pit stops. We had good strategy. We did all the little things well. When you do all the little things well, a lot of times the big things take care of themselves.
That's what happened for us today. We had some breaks, but we put ourselves in position to take advantage of the breaks. That's how you win these races. Rarely do you see a team who doesn't run very well win races. You have to put yourself in position over and over and over. That's how you win 'em. Proud to say we did that today.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, your thoughts. Winning crew chief. What did you see from up top pit box?
SCOTT MILLER: Well, it was obviously -- we ran in the top five, six most of the day. We weren't the best car. At times we were really close but didn't have the track position. And then, you know, there at the end the opportunity presented itself for us to try to make something happen.
Where we were running right there, it turned out to be a pretty easy call for us. I mean, we weren't going to win from where we were whether we stayed out or whether we didn't. Our best chance to make something happen was to do what we did.
Then circumstances in those last five laps worked out to our benefit, which was really nice.
THE MODERATOR: Richard, your thoughts? You had a big weekend here, Clint winning yesterday and Jeff today. Your thoughts about this weekend.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: It was a great weekend for RCR. But really proud of all three teams. Like Scott was saying, we were in a position to win today with Jeff, and he drove a great, smart race all day.
You know, Bristol is a tough place sometimes to even finish. To have all three cars up 1-2-3 was great.
I'm really proud of everybody at RCR for everything they've done, AT&T for sponsoring our car. It's just a great time for RCR. Hopefully we can win more of 'em.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions now for any of the three champions here today.
Q. Jeff, you led two laps out of 506, but you led the money ones. In a race like this where you put yourself in a position to win, you won a race that you weren't the dominating car. Is it more satisfying to win a race like this, less satisfying, or is it all the same? A victory is a victory?
JEFF BURTON: Every win's different and unique. You always remember the ones -- what I'm proud of today, like I said, we did the little things right. And that's the sign of a team that's mature. That's the sign of a team that's ready to take advantage of situations. That's what I'm proud of.
The ones that you win that you really might not have deserved to win, everybody said, You didn't really deserve to win that. But they always forget the ones that you deserved to win but didn't win. I can assure you, there's as many we looked back on and said, Golly, we should have won that and didn't, as it is like what happened to us today.
I won't lose sleep tonight because somebody says, We have a faster car. All I know is we got the trophy. That's what we came here to do. We did what it took to get it.
Q. Jeff, you've had a couple seconds here. You led 263 laps a year and a half ago. Do you think it kind of figures you win a race like that just leading the last two laps when you've had other chances before?
JEFF BURTON: Well, we've run really well here. I mean, honestly, Scott has done a really good job of getting good racecars here. We've put ourselves in position several times. You know, a lot of people questioned my move last year, not taking out Kyle to win the race. You know, I still believe I did the right thing. That's who I am. I'm not going to change who I am.
Those things come back to you. Mark Martin taught me years ago if you give, you'll get more back than you ever have to give. That's what happened.
I could have had a trophy in my case last year by knocking Kyle out of the way. I chose not to do that. Richard and Scott had to live with my decision (smiling). You know, but those things come back. They have a way of coming back.
I feel like that's what happened to us today.
Q. I think points now, Harvick in third, Burton in fourth, Boyer in ninth. It's more than just this one race for Richard Childress Racing. Never before in the history of your organization have your teams finished 1-2-3. What does that mean to you in the perspective of the history of this track, where your teams are going now?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: You know, a lot of times just to have three cars finish Bristol is amazing (smiling). But, you know, to have them 1-2-3, like I said, Jeff win this race, all three of them. They were all three really good and I felt good how they ran in practice and the things we had going on. You know, there's a lot of hard work and dedication going back on at the shop. So many people need to be thanked back there, ECR engine program for just good solid engines. Just proud of all the effort that everybody's putting out. Couldn't be prouder.
Q. Jeff, when you look up and you see Harvick and Stewart getting into it, it's not like you just were able to magically drive through there, you had to actually drive the racecar through there yourself. Take us through your view of that situation. Then when Denny's car stopped going, you also could have hit him, too.
JEFF BURTON: With Carolina winning today, I had to bring some peace to the world (laughter).
Q. Who did Duke play today (laughter)?
JEFF BURTON: You know, I saw the thing. This is the hardest racetrack that we go to to drive in underneath somebody. Kevin and Tony got together. When that happened, I viewed that as the opportunity. That was the door that opened that if we had any shot at all to win, we had to jump through.
We were fortunate enough to jump through it, and fortunate not for Kevin and I to wreck. We hit. He was trying to regain control and I was trying to get by him. You know, we banged doors. So we're fortunate for both of us to come through that.
Then when Denny had his problem, I mean, the restart was perfect. It worked out exactly the way I wanted it. I wanted space between me and Kevin getting into turn one 'cause I thought that would give us our best chance to win. I thought our tires would make up for the corner, for me losing a little bit. The restart worked out perfect.
I throttled up and I saw I was catching him big time. I almost did run into him. It was pretty close. But, you know, it worked out. We had a couple close calls today. I got to thank Biffle. I hung a left on Biffle late in the race. He was on two. I was on four. I jumped on the outside of him. I kind of sort of had him cleared and hung a left. He cut me some slack.
Then Jimmie and I off turn two, that was pretty big. He and I both didn't wreck. That was pretty big. So those were the three key moments for us.
Q. Richard, can you talk about the improvements that have been made by RCR in general. Jeff Gordon pointed out Friday you guys led the pack with the seven-post shaker rig. There's been some comments about some of your cars using bump-stops and other staying with field springs. Talk about all the different advances.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: You know, I think Scott Miller, Todd Berrier, Gil Martin, all these guys working hard, our engineering department, we put a bunch of good guys in there. I just think we sat down as a group, or these guys do, I attend some of them, they try to keep me out most of those meetings, we have Mike and Will. We're looking for all the areas we need to improve in, us as a team.
Couldn't be prouder of Scott Miller, for everything he's accomplished. His knowledge, the engineers that come to the track. We got a lot of new young engineers. A while back it was hard to get enough guys on a seven post, now we got to have a schedule to use it.
It's really worked out well. It's a tool that we're using. A lot of things that these guys have got going on for the future.
It's the little things in these cars that's going to make the difference. I think it's some great racing today. I think back when we went from the 115 to 110-inch wheel base. Everybody said, This is going to kill racing. But it took us a while to adjust to that. And the teams that adjusted quick went out and won races.
Same here. I think you're going to see other teams, they'll get on the deal. It will get faster and faster and better racing with this Car of Tomorrow. Just proud of our Chevy Impala.
Q. Jeff, I think Jimmie Johnson said Friday this car is a little more forgiving than other ones. It's ironic you and him made contact, and neither spun. Can you talk about that near disaster?
JEFF BURTON: I think Jimmie is right. I think they are a little more forgiving. If we would have hit like that with the old car, I'm sure I would have been going around backwards because the way the bumpers line up and the fenders and the quarter panels. I think they are a little more forgiving.
They're harder to drive. But it seems like when you get into trouble, you got a little bit better shot of coming back out of it. It's a bigger challenge to get them to drive well, but it is a little more forgiving when you're in save mode.
Q. Can you talk about how close you came.
JEFF BURTON: I wasn't going around. I was going flat side to right side. I had to throw a lot of wheel to it. When I did, I stabbed the throttle pretty much wide open. The spotter was actually saying, Good save, good save, and I was still wrecking. I was going right quicker than I wanted to go. I had to throttle back out. When it kind of slowed down, I throttled down again to try to make it go left.
It was never really a big issue of going around. It was overcorrecting and getting into the wall. Fortunately, it worked out to finally get laid of over. Laid over on the right side rather than the left side to get it going the other way.
Q. Scott, when you get in a situation late in the race where he's backing up, you're losing spots, you get that caution, you were going to come in for four, but did it make it an easier call to make or a simpler decision to make when so many guys came in, only three guys stayed out, or was it a no-brainer for you guys?
SCOTT MILLER: Well, the thing that made it an easy call for me was the fact we weren't going to win the race had we stayed out there. Our only chance of making anything happen or having at least some potential to win the race was to have four tires and then let the chips fall where they may.
It wasn't a hard call for me at all. You know, I think the 29 was running second, I believe, at the time. I talked to Todd a little while ago. It wasn't a hard call for him either 'cause he really felt like -- the only way that could have backfired on us is if everybody behind us had stayed out and we lost all the track position. But the way it worked out, I figured everybody would come in and put tires on. It was really a no-lose situation for us.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, we'll release you for post-race inspection. We'll continue with questions for Richard or Jeff.
Q. People always talk about now the level of competition's higher than it's ever been in this series. Do you think there are more legitimate championship-capable cars now? We've seen through five races a lot of different guys run good and step up at different times. Is this the most wide open the championship's ever been in the time you've been around?
JEFF BURTON: I mean, I think it is. The 99 car has probably been the car that you'd point to and say -- not counting Daytona, but for the other four races, they've probably been the best on average. They've made all of us have to step up a little bit because they've been really fast.
But there's no question, multi-car teams, you have less car owners, but you have more high-quality teams. If Richard Childress owns three teams, you might have three really good teams. If Rick Hendrick owns four, you have four really good teams. The quantity of quality teams is higher than it's ever been.
The championship, we're still about 20 weeks away from the championship starting to take shape, but it will start to take shape. Every car owner will be well-represented in the Chase. That's the way it feels to me.
Q. One of the stated goals of your team in the pre-season was catching Hendrick Motorsports. I know it's early. After a 1-2-3 finish today, three guys in the top nine in points, are you ready to say right now you seem to have supplanted them as the top Chevrolet team this season?
JEFF BURTON: I'll answer it.
We'll talk about that in December, you know. I can assure you that the 24 didn't run the way today that you normally see them run here. You wake the sleeping giant, they're going to be hard to beat. There's no getting around that.
We can answer that question in late November. We can't answer it today.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I think that's a good answer. You know, I think they're a top-caliber team, top-caliber drivers. But, you know, they were strong last year, and everybody shoots at who is the best. Last year they were the best, and we had to put our sights on them.
Q. It seems like for years, not decades, the only way to pass here was the bump-n-run. Now two lines with the new surface. How much does that help a patient driver like yourself, a guy who doesn't go overboard for contact?
JEFF BURTON: I'm a huge fan of this facility. I think it's so much better. I will give you that if you want to come watch wrecks, you're probably happier at the old racetrack. If you want to watch racing, this racetrack's better.
I gave a lot of spots up today. When somebody got behind me, was faster than me, I just moved out of the way and let them go. But this racetrack lets you do that because you're not as clogged up. On the old racetrack, you could never do that because the whole line was coming. This racetrack lets you breathe a little more. If you catch a guy, you're faster, you don't have to just follow him. You can try to go around him rather than go through him. That prevents the bumper car wreck. The third place guy hitting the second place guy and the seventh place guy wrecking. It helps prevent that because you have a place to go.
It's so much better than it used to be. The racing, from my standpoint, is just incredible. It's hard racing. It's every bit as hard racing as it might have been, it's just you have a little more room to breathe.
Q. There's a lot of times when you see a race, and I realize Bristol is not exactly the place for cool and patient thought, you see a guy running third or fourth, it looks like he maybe hangs back a little and says, These guys are running so hard, if I just sit here, maybe they'll wreck and I'll win this thing. Did you have any perception of that at all as you watched the accident in front of you?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I've watched a lot of races here where the guy that is running fifth wins it, the guy that is running fourth wins it, especially you get that late caution like we had today. It happens a lot.
You know, I don't race thinking that the guys in front of me are going to wreck. I just try to put myself what I think is in the best position to be successful. Today that was late in the race, it was obviously time to go.
But with even a hundred to go, Jimmie Johnson caught me there one point. I just pulled over and let him go because I thought that was in my best interest. By the way, when I ran him back down, he pulled over and let me go. That's just how I like to race.
But I wasn't looking at any point thinking, Wow, those guys are going to wreck, except when they did start to wreck. Kevin and Tony got tangled up there. Obviously that opened the door for me.
But before they drove in there, I wasn't thinking about that.
Q. How much does it mean to you to win a race at Bristol? This is fairly close to home, one of those tracks drivers like having on their resumés.
JEFF BURTON: Yeah, it's important. This is a special facility, real special facility. It's hard to explain it. This is a track that you have to be smart, you have to be aggressive, you have to do everything well here. You don't have any fluke winners at Bristol. It's one of those tracks that just requires so much from the equipment, requires a lot from the team, the driver, everybody. You can't have a real weak area and be successful here.
I've watched Kevin win here and I've watched Mark Martin win here, I've watched Matt win here, those guys that I had so much respect for. It means a lot to be in that group.
Q. Richard, they've always said when you go into the off weekend, it provides the team momentum with a win. All your teams kind of are going into it with that momentum. What do you do to celebrate? You're getting calls from everyone, aren't you?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: That AT&T phone just keeps ringing. I'm proud of it (laughter).
You know, I'm sure nobody at RCR is going to rest on this. We'll have meetings Monday, have plans 'cause we know everybody else is working hard to come after whoever won this race, you know. Now we have to concentrate on the next race, and that's next week.
I'm going to let all these guys worry about that while I'm in Mongolia.
Q. When do you leave?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Wednesday.
Q. For Mongolia?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Yeah. They can handle it. I have a satellite phone. I can call them up and talk for them there.
Q. Are you going for barbecue?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Yeah, sheep.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys. Thank you.
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