FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES Pepsi Southern 500 Advance September 3, 1999 Darlington Raceway Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Taurus, has finished second in the Pepsi Southern 500 each of...
FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES Pepsi Southern 500 Advance September 3, 1999 Darlington Raceway
Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Taurus, has finished second in the Pepsi Southern 500 each of the last two years and is coming off a win here earlier this season in the rain-shortened TranSouth 400. He spoke about returning to Darlington as well as his impressions on how last week's race at Bristol ended.
JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus -- WILL TIRES MAKE A DIFFERENCE HERE? "I suspect it'll be the same old Darlington. The people that can get hooked up are gonna run well. Generally, Darlington has been a race where there have been three, maybe four people that really get hooked up, and those guys tend to dominate the race. I don't see that being any different. I don't see it really changing anything." DOES THE WAY THE TIRE IS CONSTRUCTED TEND TO LESSEN THE TRACK? "I don't think so. The problem at Darlington is almost a problem that you can't fix as far as tires. The track is so abrasive that it eats the rubber off the tire. If you build a tire so hard that it doesn't eat the rubber off of it, you can't drive the car, so it's kind of a darned if you do, darned if you don't deal. You have to build a tire so you can drive on it and when you do that you make it where it eats the rubber off of it. I don't know that you could ever build a tire that wouldn't do that at Darlington." IS ANY VICTORY AT DARLINGTON SPECIAL OR IS THE SOUTHERN 500 A LEVEL UP? "The Southern 500 is the next level up. I don't want to downplay the win in the spring at all because that was a big deal to us, but the Southern 500 is history. Darlington is like playing at Fenway Park. It's like playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium. It's like playing at Soldier Field. It's history. It's part of what's made Winston Cup racing what it is today. It doesn't have all the things that a lot of other race tracks have -- luxury suites and real nice accommodations -- but what it does have is a personal group of people that run the place. Most people like coming to Darlington. Even though it's one of the hardest races we run, you get treated well and it's history. This is an historic event, no matter whether it's the 50th year or the 23rd year or the 48th year, the Southern 500 is an historic event." WHY HAVE YOU BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL AT DARLINGTON? "I think that Darlington kind of plays in our hands. We seem to be really good on race tracks that get real slippery and that are abusive on tires. If you go back and look at where we run well, it's Rockingham and Darlington and Martinsville, Richmond, those kind of race tracks seem to be our strength. I think Darlington plays into that strength. We have real nice race cars and I think it just plays into our hands a little bit." DID YOU EVER COME TO THIS TRACK AS A KID? "I came down as a kid and caught the woods on fire. I guess we were camping outside of what's now turn four and we decided we were gonna build a fire. My father was inside cooking dinner and we literally caught the woods on fire. He had to come and put it out." WHO WERE YOU WITH? "My two brothers and our friends. There were about eight of us. My poor father, I don't know what he was thinking. He put us all in the motorhome and brought us down here. As a matter of fact, I've got videotapes of me and my brothers standing up on top of the motorhome at the Southern 500, so this is one of the races that I did come to. We didn't go to many, but we came here and Rockingham." WHEN DID YOU COME HERE? "I can tell you Cale Yarborough was leading and he blew an engine, but I don't know what year it was. I think Buddy Baker might have won." WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO COME TO THIS TRACK WITH THE SUCCESS YOU'VE HAD IN THE PAST, PARTICULARLY WITH THE WAY THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS HAVE GONE? "We're excited to go to a race track that we feel we can run up front at. However, we felt we could run up front at Michigan and we felt we could run up front at Bristol. We ran up front at Michigan, but we got into trouble, and we never ran up front at Bristol. We can't make up what we lost in one race. We have to approach this race as you have to approach Darlington -- you have to respect it. You have to go into it understanding that it's gonna be a long, hard race and you have to race the race track. I think the minute we start saying, 'We've gotta win this race because we've had a bad two months,' we're gonna get ourselves in trouble. What we're looking to do is get ourselves back on track -- get ourselves back where we need to be. Darlington is a good place to get that done. We've had good success here, but if we start thinking about that too much, then it will get in the way of what we need to do." WHAT'S IT BEEN LIKE LATELY? "It's been really frustrating. We've run well, that's the savior in all of it. We've been very competitive. We haven't led as many laps as we would have liked to in the summer, but there are some reasons for that other than just not running fast enough. The mechanical problems have been real depressing because we pride ourselves in having no mechanical problems. And the fact that we haven't really contended for a lot of wins has been frustrating because we contended to win so many races the first part of the year. Again, I don't think we're really doing anything wrong, we're just not finishing off a lot of the little things. Our pit stops fell off a little bit. Our qualifying fell off a little bit. Our reliability fell off...our performance fell off a little bit. We lost a little bit in a lot of areas and those little things add up to be big things. That's what has gotten us in the position that we're in. We went to Watkins Glen and didn't run that great, but got the best finish we've ever had there. We didn't run well at Bristol, but we didn't have any luck this time at Bristol. We've had luck there in the past by catching the cautions when we needed to catch them. This time everytime you wanted a caution you didn't get it, and when you didn't want it you got it. We just haven't executed like we need to and that's frustrating because I know we can." YOU'VE BEEN SECOND TO GORDON IN THIS RACE THE LAST TWO YEARS. HAS IT BEEN FRUSTRATING? "No, not really. We look at our program and if we haven't beaten those guys that's our fault. We consider it a challenge...when a guy has won five races that if you can go there and beat him that's a great thing. The 88 car, the 24 car and the 99 car have been the three dominant cars here and that's good company to be in. We enjoy being in that company and we hope to be there again." CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT FINISH TWO YEARS AGO? "When Jeff came down on me, I tried to avoid hitting him (on the last lap). Then he came again and I said, 'OK, we're gonna hit.' So I tried to initiate the contact to knock him back up the race track. By the time we got to turn one, I was convinced that I could beat him, that I didn't have to get in to him. I thought we'd go into one and I'd drive right under him and off I'd go. What I didn't take into account was that I had gotten so low on the race track that it built up all the rubber on the tires and then I couldn't go. I was frustrated because I felt like he had blocked me badly on the straightaway and I was frustrated because we didn't win a race I thought we should have won. Looking back on it, I still think I did the right thing. What happened last week I totally disagree with. I think that's the wrong way to race. I think it would have been wrong for me to wreck the 24. Now, if I had position on him and, really, if anything would have happened it would have been his fault most likely, but I try not to hit people. That's just the way I race." IN YOUR OPINION SHOULD NASCAR HAVE TAKEN THE WIN AWAY OR NOT LET EARNHARDT GO TO VICTORY LANE UNTIL IT WAS REVIEWED? "Well, I don't think Victory Lane means anything is official. We've seen two people in Victory Lane before. I personally think NASCAR should have...you couldn't give Terry Labonte the win...you couldn't do that. I think that Jimmy Spencer should have won that race. If we don't prevent people from doing what happened Saturday night, then it will happen a lot, and I don't want to be leading a race and get knocked out of the way to win it. And I don't want to run second and have my car owner tell me, 'Why didn't you knock him out of the way to win?' I don't want that. If I can pass a guy and beat him fair and square, I want to win like that. I don't want to knock a guy out of the way to win and I don't want to get knocked of the way to win. I think that's the wrong way to race." YOU'RE REALLY IN A TOUGH POSITION FIRST OR SECOND IN THAT SCENARIO. "Either way, if we were to race like that, it's a bad spot to be in. If you don't do it you're gonna be criticized, if they allow it. And if you do do it, you're gonna be criticized...you couldn't win in that situation." YOU AND GORDON HAVE HAD SOME LAST LAP DUELS (DARLINGTON '97 AND RICHMOND '98) WITHOUT ANY INCIDENT. THAT'S OBVIOUSLY THE WAY YOU PREFER IT. "That's the way it oughta be. As far as I'm concerned, NASCAR oughta step out of it at this point and it's between Terry Labonte and Dale Earnhardt. If a guy is gonna drive you like that and they don't do anything about it, then you have the right to drive him like that. The problem with that theory is that you're going 160 miles an hour and people forget that. When you hit, it hurts. We just don't need to race like that. I think you drive people the way they drive you. You treat people with respect the way they treat you just like in everyday ordinary life and that's what it boils down to. I think now you've got a lot of drivers that look at what happened Saturday night with not a lot of respect, and I think we'll have some problems because of it. What do you tell a kid that is playing baseball? Hey, it's OK to throw the ball at their best hitter and hit him and put him on base, but don't let him get the home run? That's OK to do that? Even if you hurt the guy, at least we win? That's not what I want to teach my child and I don't think that's what anybody else wants to teach their children." EVEN THOUGH CONTROVERSY SELLS RACE TICKETS? "If the controversy hadn't happened Saturday night, that would have been a hell of a race. That would have been a hell of a race with two guys going at it. Terry Labonte coming from...I watched the race on replay and I knew he had a chance to win and I didn't think he had a chance to win. That was gonna be a great race regardless. This sport can stand on its own by having good racing, by having clean racing, by having competition, not by having wrecking. If we've gotta wreck people to sell tickets, then we just don't need to sell tickets."
Darlington Raceway is celebrating its 50th anniversary and one man who has been to the race track each season is Junie Donlavey, owner of the No. 90 Nestle Taurus. He spoke about what this track means to him and how it has changed from his first trip here in 1950.
JUNIE DONLAVEY, Car Owner --90-- Nestle Taurus -- "You know, you look back on 50 years and realize it's gone by so fast that you can't believe it. You look at this place and there have been some slight changes to it down through the years -- from a mile-and-a-quarter to what it is now -- but it's just unbelievable that 50 years ago we were here. You would never dream or give it a thought that you'd be here 50 years from that time." DO YOU REMEMBER THAT FIRST TRIP LIKE IT WAS YESTERDAY? "I can remember that like it was yesterday. We came down like a week or 10 days before to have the cars inspected. We went up the road here to a little garage and they checked 'em over and then we went home. Then we came back...it was just something because we had never experienced anything like this. We were running modifieds where you'd go in, line up and race. That was it. But to come down here with all the things that were going on and to see a track this size, which we had never run on, and here we were gonna run a 500-mile race. It was a happening and when I look back it was the start of big-time racing, basically. That happened in '50 and it was '59 before Daytona opened up and '60 before Charlotte and Atlanta opened up, so this thing was here for quite a while before the rest of it got started." A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE TALKED ABOUT THE HISTORY OF DARLINGTON AND THE SOUTHERN 500. HOW SPECIAL IS IT TO YOU? "This wasn't really a Nestle-sponsored race that we had and I had thought that maybe I wouldn't participate. Then, all of a sudden, I realized that this was the 50th year and I thought, 'What do you mean I'm not going? I'll never get this opportunity again to do anything like that.' So whether it's meant anything to anybody else, it meant a lot to me to be able to come down here for the 50th because do you have any idea what you'll be doing 40 or 50 years from now? It was a happening and when I think back to 75 cars on this track, three abreast, it was a sight to behold. Of course, the thing that was real dangerous was that we pitted right there on that race track. That was a pretty dangerous thing and I'm thankful the good Lord was looking out for us. There's a lot of tradition here and, next to Indianapolis, it's one of the biggest happenings going on in the country." WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS COMING THROUGH THE GATES TODAY? DID YOU LOOK AT IT DIFFERENTLY WITH IT BEING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY? "Yeah, because as the years roll by, even though you don't think about it, all of a sudden you hit an anniversary and you say, 'Whoa here.' You're still here 50 years later." IS THIS SOMETHING YOU'RE MOST PROUD OF? "I'm mighty proud that I can still get around to these race tracks because I really enjoy racing. I love the competitors, I love the fans and I love Ford for the way they've supported us. They all have been mighty good to us."