JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Lowe's Motor Speedway and discussed the Coca-Cola 600, Humpy Wheeler and what he has done for the sport, next week's race at Dover and much more. JEFF, GIVE US YOUR THOUGHTS ON...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Lowe's Motor Speedway and discussed the Coca-Cola 600, Humpy Wheeler and what he has done for the sport, next week's race at Dover and much more.
JEFF, GIVE US YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE UNIQUENESS OF THE COCA-COLA 600: "I think honestly, the extra one hundred miles is in some ways a big deal and in other ways it's not. Most of our durability stuff is based on 500 miles, then adding the practice schedule in to that. Of course this weekend, we add another one hundred miles to that, so we need to really be prudent on how we do our test portion of the weekend and not run too many laps. That is the biggest variable that the 100 miles adds. Of course, it continues to cool down, the track continues to cool down as it gets later so that is something that matters. But the extra 100 miles to me is just more opportunity to make something happen. We do see a lot of times that people do start breaking in those last 100 miles, the same way it seems likes that happens at Atlanta. That is the biggest variable with the extra miles is the mechanical side of it and the fact the track cools down more."
HAVE THE TEAMS AT RCR REALIZED WHY ALL THREE OF YOUR WEREN'T THAT COMPETITIVE IN THE ALL STAR AND MADE CHANGES? "I can't speak for the other two teams, we know, I can't go in to great detail what happened with the No. 31, but we definitely understand what happened to the No. 31 car. We had a mechanical issue we weren't able to sort through until Monday. The disappointing thing about that is that we came here after our test, we thought we had a good test. We were pretty good in practice on Friday. I thought we had a shot with the right strategy, to win the thing. If the races had been 40-lap races, we would have gotten lapped. I am not so concerned about that because we did a mechanical issue. The biggest thing is we threw away a good opportunity to learn something."
IS THE NEW REQUIREMENT ABOUT THE REARENDS OF THE CARS GOING TO AFFECT YOUR TEAM AT ALL? "We were all over the place to be quite honest. It doesn't have a major impact on us. As far as what I think about the rule, I don't care either way. I think that in some respects making the rule makes it a little easier. Whenever you start doing that, you get in to issues of starting to break axels and all of those kinds of things. We weren't way out there like some people were because we were afraid of breaking axels and some people have broken axels. It won't affect us much I don't believe."
THE TALK AROUND THE TRACK HAS BEEN ABOUT THE RETIREMENT OF HUMPY WHEELER, IF YOU COULD JUST TALK ABOUT HUMPY AND YOUR THOUGHTS ON HIM AND WHAT HE'S MEANT TO THIS SPORT. "Humpy, he obviously has a keen eye for putting on a show which I think is really important. I think it's important that we don't lose that. What makes our sport work is that it's fun for the fans and exciting for the fans. Humpy's had a great impact on that. I think a large impact that Humpy's had too is the 600 racing and if you think about all the people that said they love to race cars and really never had a chance to, there's how many racing out here on Tuesday night's and on Saturday's and all around the country now in the legend cars and bandeleros. That idea has brought affordable racing to a lot of people. I think that's had a big impact on racing as well. I think Humpy has had a major impact. He deserves, if he's ready, he deserves some time off and he's earned it."
WHAT IS HUMPY'S GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT OR CONTRIBUTION? "I hate to use the word circus atmosphere, but that's really it. When you come here you never know what you're going to see and that idea of the pre-race stuff -- look at that picture on the wall right there that's got Humpy written all over it. Fire and cars flipped upside down and fans excited, that's kind of it. To me, when I think of his impact its more about the entertainment side of things. Making it fun for the fans and giving fans more than just the race. That's what I think about."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CREW AND YOUR CREW CHIEF? IS IT IMPORTANT TO TAKE THAT AWAY FROM THE TRACK TOO? "I think it depends on the team. I don't think there's always a right way to do things. I don't want to say I'm anti-social but I do very little socially with my team. There's several reasons for that. A lot of people on my team have kids and families and when we're off they need to be doing that. It's more important for them to be with their kids than to be with me somewhere. When I'm off that's what I want to be doing. I need to spend time with my kids and my family and catch up and I think they need to do the same thing. I see a lot of young drivers really migrate toward a tremendous amount of social interaction with their team because they've moved from somewhere else. That's the people they know, that's their friends. I also see them get their feelings hurt because people decide they need to go work somewhere else and you've been hanging out with this guy, having a couple of beers at night and then he walks up one day and says hey I'm going to work for Hendrick, I'm leaving. Everybody gets their feelings hurt. There's a fine line of getting too involved and not being involved enough and I think it depends on the team. My team and I we don't have to have each other, hug each other to make us feel good. We come here to race and it's more professional than personal. We care about each other but we don't have to socially be doing stuff with each other to feel good about each other. I want them with their family. I'll be perfectly honest, on Monday when everybody's out of school I don't want them at my house I want them at their own house. I don't want to be at their house, I want to be with my own kids. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I think that's how it should be."
IT'S LOOKING LIKE BRUTON HAS PURCHASED KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY, DOES THAT RACE TRACK NEED A CUP RACE? HOW DO YOU THINK BRUTON MAY PLAY THIS OUT? "Does that race track need a race? I'm sure they would say they do. Does NASCAR need to be there, that's a whole other conversation. I don't know. I don't think that we need, and this is not because of my personal wants to not have another off weekend or not to have an off weekend, I don't think we need to add a race. I think that we race plenty. I think there's potential for oversaturation. I think we see it in major league baseball and I think we see it in the NBA. Too many games I think is a bad thing, because it takes away from some of the special atmosphere of it. In my eyes, the question becomes, if we're gonna go to Kentucky where are we gonna leave and is the gain of Kentucky a net gain when you consider the loss of wherever we're going away from. I would have to have all that information in front of me to answer that question correctly. I have said and I do believe that it's our best interest as a sport to be in as many places as possible. Kind of had Wyoming and Canada and Washington in my mind when I say that, I really didn't have another race in the Southeast. I'm from the Southeast, but I just think we have to be in as many places as possible and expose it to as many people as possible. I don't know how many new people have the opportunity to be exposed to our level of racing by going to Kentucky and the answers to all those questions would let me answer the question better but on the surface of it I don't know where we would leave and be better because we're at Kentucky."
IS THIS 600 MILE RACE THE MOST GRUELING TYPE OF RACE FOR DRIVERS OR IS THERE SOMETHING ELSE YOU WOULD SAY IS TOUGHER? "I don't think it's the most grueling. I think that the temperature has a lot to do with what makes a long race. Typically it's not real hot. To me this is always the weekend that it starts to get hot but the race transitions into night and it cools down so typically I don't consider this to be the hardest race. I think the hardest race is, you catch that Bristol race in August when it's real hot, the Martinsville race sometimes it gets really hot. To me the tracks that are physically demanding, the Bristol's, the Martinsville those kind of race tracks, if you catch those and they're on a really hot day, that's way harder than here."
NEXT WEEK IS DOVER, LOOKS LIKE A REALLY BIG BRISTOL DOES IT DRIVE LIKE A REALLY BIG BRISTOL? "In some ways it does. The cool thing about Dover is you do have that opportunity to run in more places than just on the very bottom of the race track. It is a tough race track. It is physically demanding. A hot day a Dover is a long day. The speed that you generate entering the corners at Dover, the sensation of speed for the driver is real high at Dover. Some places don't feel fast, but that place feels real fast. Obviously you don't have any small wrecks there, there always big. They always tear a lot of stuff up when you hit something so the opportunity for big impacts is always there and then the fact that the sensation of speed is there makes it a tough place."
WE'VE SEEN DALE JARRETT'S LAST RIDE, HAVE YOU STARTED PUTTING PLANS TOGETHER FOR WHEN YOU'RE GOING TO DECIDE TO GET OUT OF THE CAR? "What I try to do is financially plan to be out of the car but emotionally I'm nowhere near wanting to be out of the car. I believe that drivers should make the decision when they're gonna get out of the car really quickly. I think that thinking about it for a long time is probably not the right thing to do. I believe I'll know when it's time. Emotionally I'm nowhere near wanting to not do this. I, just like everybody else, have to plan financially for retirement and when you do this for a living, you're gonna retire at 46 if you're lucky, you're not going to retire at 65 so you have to do some planning. To be honest I don't know what the hell I would do that is more enjoyable than this. When I look around and I look at what other people are doing, there's nothing that I look at that interests me more than this. It's very time consuming and as my kids get older that obviously is an issue for me but this is what I do. I don't want to say this is who I am because I hope I'm a bit more than that, but it is who I am and I like it. Matter of fact, I love it. There's nothing else I want to do."
WITH DRIVERS GETTING INTO THE SERIES AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE, WHEN IS THE PRIME OF A DRIVER'S CAREER NOW? "I think the prime of a career is determined when the career is over. I don't think that you can look at a race car driver and say he's gonna be his best at 39. I think each situation is different. I find it interesting, is Mark Martin not as good today as he was 10 years ago? I think he is, I really do. I think if Mark Martin was racing every week, he'd be a guy that could win a championship. There's some other drivers at his age that can't say that. They weren't in their prime of their career. The difficult thing for our sport is understanding when a driver is not having success why he's not having success. So it's easy to say as a guy gets older, he's not as good as he used to be because he's not having success but is he in a situation that he can have success in. It's hard to know. People that know the business they can kind of watch a quarterback and determine whether he knows when to get rid of the ball, how to get rid of the ball, if he knows the game plan, how he works out, how he does all those things Monday through Friday then how he plays on Sunday. You can't do that with us. The only thing you guys see is the race car going around the race track. You can't see all the other things that go around it, so I think it's very difficult to define it. I personally, and I'm sure everybody would say this because what else can you say, but I honestly believe this, I think I'm a better driver today than I've ever been. I think that I get it more. I've never been an overly aggressive driver so I haven't backed off of that any. I'm actually more aggressive today than I was 10 years ago believe it or not. I can remember Ward (Burton) looking at me and saying what the hell, drive harder. I'm like this is how I drive, this is who I am so I've never changed that. I think I'm better today than I was the years that I won five races and all that stuff. I think if I had that same equipment today as compared to my competition, I'd win eight. I really believe that. I think I'm smarter. I wouldn't win eight because it's more competition, but you get my point. I think I'm smarter. I think I'm a better driver, when the race is over I know how to handle it better. I know how to handle it better when the race is starting. I think I'm a much more complete package than I was when I was 32 years old and I think the same about Mark Martin. I see that, I just do. I don't think that Matt Kenseth, the fact that he hasn't had a good start to the year this year isn't because that Kyle Busch is 21 years old and Matt Kenseth is however old Matt Kenseth is, it's because they collectively, he and the team together haven't done as good of a job. He didn't forget how to drive because he's a year older. There comes a time when you don't want to do it anymore. When you get to the point where you want to be doing other things, then you can't be as good at it. But in this sport, Earnhardt he finished second the year before he got killed, he was approaching 50 years old. Harry Gant, how old was he so you can do it into your late 40s if you want to but if you don't have the same want to that an 18-year-old has, he'll whip your ass because if he wants it more than you do he's gonna get more than you do so you got to have that same desire at 50 that he has at 18. It's hard to sustain that from seven years old to 50 years old. That's what you have to sustain. It's not the 15 years that you're at cup it's the 40 years that you're racing. You have to sustain that for that amount of time. If you can do that then you can be successful."
IS IT A BIG DEAL THAT THIS IS SO CLOSE TO HOME? "I think it's cool, especially last weekend. You see a lot of family members in the garage area. That kind of tails off this weekend because this gets a little more serious. There's some bragging rights involved in that, there's some bragging rights in winning here because this is your back yard. Honestly, the only thing it does is let you celebrate more. If you win Sunday night's race you're, given traffic, 30 minutes from home otherwise you're three hours from home and so it enables you to celebrate a little more and enjoy it a little more. One of the things we don't do in our sport is enjoy the wins as much because as soon as it happens we're on to pictures and we're on to this and the team's got to take the car to inspection. The next thing you know you don't even see them anymore. When you win here, you're able to gather somewhere and enjoy it as a team and I think that's special if you like hanging out with your guys, if you don't like hanging out with them then."
-credit: gm racing