Daytona 500: Burton - Meida Day visit

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA met with media and discussed self-policing, bump-drafting, what the race fans want to see, and more. JEFF BURTON: I honestly don't know what it means. And we won't know what it means until the incident ...

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA met with media and discussed self-policing, bump-drafting, what the race fans want to see, and more.

JEFF BURTON: I honestly don't know what it means. And we won't know what it means until the incident happens, right? I think what they're saying is they're going to police Daytona and Talladega the same way they police Charlotte. That's the way I understand it. Which means rarely does NASCAR penalize a driver for rough driving. Typically those things are when they're blatantly obvious. A lot of those things are post race infractions. So I think what NASCAR is looking at is just taking that same approach for Daytona and Talladega.

I think that's how it should be. I think that we should be allowed to race here the same way we race at Charlotte. The bump-drafting rule, all that, I was never a big believer. I have never really cared, to be quite honest. Most of the wrecks didn't happen because of bump-drafting. Most of the wrecks happened because of poor judgment. By the way, that's the way most wrecks happen, whether it's Martinsville, Charlotte or here. Most of it is because of poor judgment.

So, you know, I think the bump-drafting rule is good. I don't think there should be a bump-drafting rule. I think that needs to be in our hands. I'm perfectly comfortable with that. I'm glad they kept the yellow line rule. I think the yellow line rule is all but a necessity. A lot of people that talked about wanting to get rid of the yellow line rule weren't around when there was not a yellow line rule. And, you know, I don't like rules. I think the yellow line rule is a necessity. And, by the way, we've had great racing at Talladega and Daytona with the yellow line rule. So, you know, I think it warrants being kept.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: Well, it's difficult because it's difficult to be successful in this sport. There's a lot of competition. There's a lot of people that want to win. There's a lot of teams that are capable of winning. I told y'all before, I'm not a big believer in momentum. I think that success creates momentum, momentum doesn't create success. When we make the first lap on the racetrack, the way the car drives, it will be determined from that point. How good we make the car till race day, that's going to determine how much momentum we have.

I think we got off to a great start together. The relationship went really well right off the bat. Success was obviously there. But we didn't win any of 'em. And, you know, that's what we're here to do, we're here to win races. It was a good start, but we didn't get our business done because we didn't come home with any of the trophies.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: You know, I don't know the answer to that. I always think it's good in a sport to have teams that always are successful because no matter -- I'll use a college basketball analogy. If you don't like Duke because Duke has been successful, I came to watch UNLV, watch us playing Duke, you pull for that team. So I think it's the same in racing. I think if you're a Tony Stewart fan and you don't like Jimmie Johnson because of the success he's had, and Jeff Gordon is races Jimmie Johnson you're pulling for Jeff Gordon.

I can't tell you the number of people that walk up to me, I get to know them for one reason or another, they weren't race fans or they were race fans, they tell me how more interesting the race is now they have somebody to pull for. I think the same thing goes for having somebody to pull against.

It depends on how they dominate. If Jimmie Johnson wins four championships and he does it -- comes to the last race of the year, the point battle is close, he wins four races during the year, other people win three, two, four, then that's okay. But if you have a team that wins the most races every year, leads the most laps every year, the points race is boring every year, that kind of thing I don't think is ultimately good for the sport. I also think it's short-lived, like the Dallas Cowboys, like the Los Angeles Lakers, like every sport, every business. I mean, what feels like an eternity in history won't be. It will be a short span.

When we talk about -- when we talk about Jeff Gordon kicking everybody's butt for as long as he did, when I look back on it now, it doesn't feel like he did it for that many years in a row. When you're in it, it's like, oh, my God, it will never quit. I'm not saying that Jimmie Johnson and them are going to win the championship. I'm not saying that. It's just that things don't always continue the way they continue.

That didn't make a lot of sense. Things don't always continue the way they're going is what I meant to say.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: I think the fans want to see results. I think the fans have been speaking for the last three or four years, saying we want to see different results, we want to see this different, we want to see that different. I think if we get it to them and it's different and ultimately the racing doesn't improve from it, then, yeah, I think it will be a critical year.

You know, when you make changes because you're making it better, it better be better. And so, yeah, I think it is a critical year.

I told you guys toward the end of last year, I thought the racing was going to be a lot better this year because I think Goodyear has done such a better job with the tires. You really start paying attention to the races in the last third of the year, the races got way better because, you know, the tires got better. And so, you know, I think this year is going to be a good year. I think the tires are going to be a lot better.

I don't know what's going to happen with the spoiler. If anybody tells you they do, it's crazy. I think it's going to be interesting. I think it's going shake things up a little bit. But I think the racing is going to be better for sure.

The spoiler is a big change. I think it's a big change. We'll see. But I would imagine it's going to be a big change.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: I haven't spoken to Goodyear about the spoiler so I can't comment on that.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: I have tested with the spoiler early in. We were probably the first, in Rockingham for three days testing. At the very leading edge of the spoiler conversation. We spent a good portion of that with the spoiler. That's at Rockingham. Not necessarily a Rockingham tire. It's hard to bring a lot of judgment from that. But I haven't done any tire tests.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: Couple different ways to thinking about that. If the car is turning better, it may over the long run make less heat on the right front tire. When the car gets really tight, you could actually have more tire heat.

So if you make more front downforce on the car, it naturally turns better, it may naturally take heat away from the right front tire.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: The 29 has done some testing and the 31 has done some testing.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: Yeah, we haven't been a big fan of the way the tire testing was doled out. We believe that's going to change. NASCAR has been looking at that. I believe that's going to change. You know, I don't want it to be an advantage. Well, I do want it to be an advantage to us. The reality of it is it just needs to be fair for everybody. With the way the teams have relationships with other teams now, it's different than it's ever been, so the tire testing needs to be different. It just needs to go to individual teams in a rotation, or individual companies in a rotation so that everybody gets their fair share. Those tire tests have turned into pretty valuable tools. NASCAR is addressing that. They've told us they're addressing it. I believe they are.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: Yeah, you know, I don't have an opinion on the starts. Obviously I want our sport to not have a lot of parking starts. I certainly don't hold it against anybody that wants to prevent people from trying to get started. In today's environment, that may be a way to have a team here that wouldn't have been here. That team may turn into something in the future.

I have no problem with it at all. I think points, top 35 points, that protection that we have should be limited to people that run all the races. I believe that. I believe if you're going to have top 35 point allotment guaranteed starting spots, you should have to be committed to running the whole year. I do firmly believe that, because that's the intent of that rule. I just think there should be some sort of contractual obligation if you're in that top 35 that you are committed to running the full year.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: I want to win a championship. That's it. It's that simple. You know, there's a lot of things that go into that. But I need to win a championship.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: We'll know in a few days. Yeah, I was in a car a lot. I spent the better part of the end of November and middle part, latter part of December, we did quite a bit of testing. I've only been in the car once in January. But when the year stopped, we kept digging, kept working, and then we started again up in the middle of January. We wanted to try to do some more, but the weather prevented it. I've been in the car a lot more this year than last year.

It's weird with off-season testing. It's still an adjustment. Last year I came down here, I'll be honest, I really felt odd. We were at Daytona, hadn't been in a racecar. After doing it for a year, adjusting to it, it feels normal now.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: Well, certainly we're injured less. I believe we're injured less.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: I'm not going to say we were tougher, but I don't think we were less tough. No, here is what I think. I think that the previous generation always thinks they're tougher than the current generation. I don't care if it's football, basketball, business, swimming club, chess, Army, military. Wow, when we did it, we had to... . My wife does it. She's 41. These young guys come, they don't have to do this, they don't have to do that. Yeah, but they have to do other things.

I don't think we're any tougher than the generation before. But I don't think they were any tougher than that. We have guys in our sport that are tougher than others, and so did they.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: First of all, you race the competition more today than you used to have to because there's more cars that can compete. Saying this the other day, having this conversation about quality of racing, how it compares to the past. And, you know, 20 years ago if I would have said to you, okay, we're going to have this many guys win races, this many guys lead laps, this many people on the lead lap, what would you think? Everybody would think, wow, that would be awesome. That's what we got, and everybody says the racing is not good. I get confused (laughter).

But the way it works today with double file restarts, so many cars on the lead laps, so many competitive car owners, we've always had a fairly full field of capable drivers, but we haven't always had a fairly full field of capable car owners. With limited cars, car owners, rather, the quality of competition has stepped up. So we race more cars than they raced. Now, our cars drive better than their cars drove. They raced the racetrack a lot more. We have to race the racetrack and the competition. But we have the power steering, carbon monoxide scrubbers, we got stuff they didn't have. There's a lot of things that they did that made it harder for them. But there's certainly things we do that are harder than what they did. Certainly we travel a lot better than they did, I mean, no question. You know, I remember having Terry Labonte (indiscernible) he looked at me and said, You never drove, did you? That's the different perspective. You know, so those guys, they were exceptionally tough.

Q. (Question regarding Danica Patrick.)

JEFF BURTON: I don't know. You know, that question could be asked of any new, upcoming driver. Until you see 'em in competition, in a good car, it's hard to make that judgment.

I will tell you that I was impressed with Danica, watching her race last year in cars that weren't as competitive as, you know -- struggle with competitive racecars. Compared to her teammates, she did well. So, you know, I thought last year, even though it wasn't a great year for her, I thought it gained her a lot of respect inside racing where people understand, okay, the team is kind of struggling, and she's besting her teammates in a lot of situations.

So we don't know. I mean, some people adapt to stock cars. Some people don't. Some people adapt to IndyCars, IRL cars, some people don't. It may be a different skill set where she excels at it or doesn't. I mean, until I see her and watch her race, I can't answer that question.

I do want to say that her ability to be successful or not successful doesn't depend on her being a her. There's no reason that a woman cannot be successful in this sport. There is no reason in the world. And, you know, she by my eyes has brought the most talent to the table so far.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: As far as a female. As far as a female. So, you know, I believe that women can be as successful as men in this sport, I really do.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JEFF BURTON: How bad the cars drove. I had been running Nationwide races down here for three or four years. Ran wide open, no big deal. Like Talladega for these cars. And my first Daytona 500, I could not believe what happened. My first Daytona 500 was also the Hoosier year where Hoosier pulled out. We ran the 125s then. On Friday we were on Goodyears. There was a lot going on. I can remember, oh, my God, number one, a lot of competitive cars. Number two, I could not believe how bad they drove. It was incredible the difference in how bad a Nationwide -- how good a Nationwide car drove compared to a Cup car.

Q. Do you have any message for our military?

JEFF BURTON: Oh, yeah. You know, our country appreciates what you're doing. There's a lot of support in the NASCAR community, fans, car owners, drivers, sponsors. We watch with great envy what the military does, the commitment they make, what their families make. Very inspirational.

Q. What's the most common question you get from fans?

JEFF BURTON: What do you do when you have to pee? I get two. Why do you talk differently and what do you do when you have to pee?

-source: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Danica Patrick