Dover: Jeff Burton - GM Top-10 interview

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR MONTE CARLO SS, WEEKLY TOP-10 BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT Q. You broke a tail pipe on the Car of Tomorrow. What is the deal on that? "It's part of growing things, running the pipes through the frame rails created some...

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR MONTE CARLO SS, WEEKLY TOP-10 BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT

Q. You broke a tail pipe on the Car of Tomorrow. What is the deal on that?

"It's part of growing things, running the pipes through the frame rails created some issues that we didn't know about. I don't think it's a problem we can't fix. We broke some brackets. A bunch of people broke some brackets off exhaust pipes. It's just part of why we need to be at the track as much as we can learning all that we can with the car before we start trying to run it."

Q. Will you be at the next Car of Tomorrow test in Michigan?

"We will be there. I'm not sure if I'm planning to drive it or if Kevin (Harvick) or Clint (Bowyer) will. I don't know but we will be there."

Q. Tony Stewart will start Sunday's race injured. It brings up the age-old question of why NASCAR forces an injured driver to start in the car. What are your thoughts?

"There is an out. He can start the car and get out and he and his team still get all the points. It's not like they don't have a provision in there to take care of an injured driver. Keep in mind there are driver points and owner points. If an owner decides that he wants to put another driver in the car like we see at road courses to improve his owner points, he has the ability to do that but the driver doesn't get his points. The owner has flexibility. If you really think about it, the driver gets his points for not doing a whole lot. I think that provision actually works pretty well if you really think about it. In everything that we do owner points is really the most important thing and the owner is protected no matter who drives it. If you really analyze it, it's a very fair system that takes care of the owner more so than it takes care of the driver. It actually creates situations and we've seen it in the past. We saw with Jimmy Spencer at Watkins Glen where the owner was more concerned about his position than he was in the driver's position. The driver went home and the owner raced. The owner is taken care of which is how it should be. The driver is enabled in this system to get his points by getting out of the car early. I think the system works fine. I really do. If you didn't have that system, then you'd have to go solely by owner points. There should be no driver points if you just let anybody drive. What's to prevent you from winning the driver championship and the owner championship with four different drivers? I don't think that's fair."

Q. Didn't your car owner do that in the Busch Series?

"Yeah, well no. He won the owners championship but he didn't win the drivers championship."

Q. But didn't he win the owners championship with more than one driver?

"And you can do that today in Cup. But we can't put the drivers in a situation where maybe Ricky Rudd is really good at Martinsville so maybe he ought to drive somebody's car at Martinsville and that guy could sit out but that driver still gets the points. It's pretty complicated. I've taken advantage of the system. I had to get out of the car once. I got all the points and the team got all the points. I think it's really fair in all honesty"

Q. On this being one of the worst places for an injured driver:

"This is one of the places where if you're hurt, you don't want to have to come to. Tony (Stewart) will figure out two things. He'll confirm that he can't do it or he'll figure that he can. It's amazing what happens when you get over in the thing and it's not as bad as you think it was or it's worse. It's a system that I think works pretty well in all honesty."

Q. On people outside the sport thinking NASCAR is crazy for having an injured driver start the race. If a quarterback is injured they just put another quarterback in. They don't have to worry about points for the quarterback and points for the team.

"We can do that if we wanted to but this sport has always been about the driver and about the team and they stand there equal. In other sports it's more of an overall team concept. In this sport it is the driver and the team and I think that's worked really well. The difference in this sport and a football team is you have, depending on the team, 10 starts or 3 or 4 starts out there playing the game. I'm not diminishing what the team does because obviously the team is more important than the driver but the marketing plans and all that stuff revolves around the driver. It's just a little more complicated then it is when you have a sport like football or basketball where you can substitute people. In golf if you hurt, you don't get to play and the caddy doesn't get to play either. In bowling you don't get to drink beer if you're hurt. I guess that's what they do. I think the system works fine the way it is and if Joe Gibbs Racing or if Tony (Stewart) decides that it's not in his best interest to get in the car at all, Gibbs Racing isn't penalized any other than the way most system works is the driver gets the points well he won't get any points. This way he is still allowed to get his points. You've just got to understand the system to really understand that it does make sense."

Q. On Kyle Busch throwing his HANS device during the race last weekend:

"It wasn't a very good throw, was it?"

Q. Did the penalty fit the crime?

"I don't know. We have an ever-increasing fine penalty enforcement in this sport, which I am in favor of. I think the penalization of points is large and that's the biggest thing you can do to hurt a team and a driver and that's the biggest thing you can do to get people's attention. I don't know. That's not for me to make the decision. All I know is precedence has been set and you don't want to do that again. I would imagine that NASCAR sent a message obviously to Kyle (Busch) but they sent a message to everybody. I'm OK with that. I don't know if the penalty should be that big or not but it's not my place to make that call. I'm OK with it. The great thing about this sport is you can express your displeasure in so many ways. There's so much opportunity. We have so much media. We have so much access to the fans. There are ways to explain in a very, very demonstrative way what you feel without having to cross the line. By NASCAR's rules, he crossed the line. I feel bad for him because I hate when people get penalized points but at the same time you've got to understand that NASCAR is quick on the trigger today to penalize you and you've got to conduct yourself in a certain way. He was five minutes away from being in front of millions of people to explain his displeasure. You have so much opportunity to tell your story in this sport that you really do need to catch your breath in the right way. You can do it however you want but there is a right way and a wrong way and by NASCAR's judgment, throwing things at other drivers is wrong."

Q. I know your brother Ward has but have you ever thrown anything at another driver?

"Ward threw the heel protectors which was a much better throw than Kyle's by the way. The Burtons can throw better than the Buschs. We've seen that on the baseball field too. I don't think I've ever thrown (something). Joe Nemechek and I got into it at Orange County Speedway when we were Busch racing years ago. It was a caution and my car was the caution. I walked back up on the race track to put my finger in his window net while the car was moving under caution so I've been stupid before. The hard thing about the young guys today is they don't have the chance to grown up. They make their mistakes in front of millions of people. I had the advantage of making my mistake in front of 10,000 people. That's the hard thing about it for those guys today. The great thing is they drive great equipment. Kyle just turned 21 and he's driving for Hendrick Motorsports. It's hard to feel bad for him. The hard thing is there is a tremendous amount of pressure on them to succeed and succeed right now because they're driving good equipment. That's hard on them and they grown up in front of everybody. People grow up at different rates. That's just how it is. This is an emotional sport. It's hard. It's typical. It's everything it should be and emotions come out. Maturity enables you to show those emotions differently and still tell your side of the story. They don't get that chance. They grow up in front of everybody."

Q. Is 25 points a lot of points?

"Hell yeah it's a lot of points. Hell yeah. Twenty-five points is a whole lot of points. It's a race man. If you look right now, we're eighth (in points). We're one point out of seventh. If you look from six to 12, it's a dogfight and you've got people 13, 14, 15 in points that are coming. Twenty-five points halfway through the first segment of the 26 races, that's a lot of points. That's a big penalty. You could very possibly look back and that 25 points put you in a position to not do the things you need to do."

Q. Is there more tension on the track now because the stakes are higher?

"I think there's more tension on the track because everybody is running better. It's clear that there are four cars that seem to be on a consistent basis the best cars. If you get a chance, watch the race for 20th this weekend. Watch the race for 23rd. Watch the race for 18th. It is so freakin' competitive. There are so many good teams. It's so much harder to run well than it used to be and there's so many more teams running well that that creates a situation where there is more tension. There's more tension in the NCAA Final Four than there is at the first round. That's the nature of sports. That's how it ought to be. The great thing about our sport is that we all race each other every week. We don't have to wait. We don't play each other two times a year. We play each other every week. There are just so many good teams and our sponsors want us to run well. We want to run well. The competitive level is just so high that it's hard for it not to be tension filled. But that's how it ought to be. If it wasn't like that, we wouldn't have all these people watching. It's what makes sports. It's the essence of sports. If you watch Tiger Woods win by eight, you might watch it the first two or three times because you are enamored with the fact that he's so darn good but you won't watch it long because it's boring. You want to see some stuff going on. The action and competition is why people come. It's what sports are about and right now it's at an all time high."

Q. What are your favorite three tracks?

"My favorite three tracks are Richmond, Phoenix and Phoenix."

Q. What is your favorite?

"Richmond is my favorite because I think Richmond is the best mix of a short track and a big track. It's just fun to race there. There's a lot of action. It's what racing ought to be. It's good side-by-side action. Bristol is a lot of action but it's a lot of wrecking. Richmond doesn't have near the wrecks and not near the causalities of other people's problems although it does have that. It's just the best mix of a race track for the fans and the teams." Q. What about Pocono?

"Pocono is just so different. That race is too long in my opinion. It should be shortened. It'd be a way better race if it were 400 miles. It'd make a better race if it were 350 miles. In all honesty, Pocono would be way better if it was shorter but it's just so different than what we do every other week and I think it's fun because of that."

Q. Do you have a fitness routine?

"Oh yeah. I spend four days a week weight training. Depending on my schedule with the Busch car, I spend two days a week doing cardio training. If I'm running the Busch car, I just spend one day a week on cardio training. My weight training isn't lift 200 pounds and sit for 30 minutes and then go lift it again. We do our weight training in about an hour and then we spend about 25 more minutes doing martial arts, hand-eye coordination stuff, stuff that really is a cardio workout after we've done weight training. Once or two times a week, I work specifically on cardio."

Q. On why a NASCAR driver would need a fitness routine:

"Obviously we have drivers that aren't in great shape that succeed and do very well. As the summer comes and it starts to get hot, on the days that your car is not handling well or the days you're at a physically demanding race track, physical fitness means a lot. It's very hot in the cars. It's upwards of 140 degrees, sometimes 150 degrees in the car. It's a slow breakdown. It's not like running a 150-yard dash where you run and stop. It's a marathon and you've got to train like that. You break down because of the heat so the better physical shape you are in the better you will be able to be at the end of the race. Also, the better shape you are in the better chance of lack of injury during instances."

Q. On the Pocono track:

"Where we are today is you can't have success at any race track without everything. Pocono is so unique because the corners are so different. The straightaways are so long. It's rough. It's a challenge in every way. There's no where on that race track that isn't unique to other race tracks. It's a lot of fun because it is so unique and it is such a challenge because the uniqueness of it. I think that's why it is so enjoyable."

Q. Do you think the sport of NASCAR has the ability to continue growing like it has in the last five or 10 years?

"The economy has a tremendous amount to do with how our sport is doing. If the economy is good, our sport will continue to flourish. It will continue to grow. If the economy doesn't continue to grow and it goes down for any reason, then our sport tends to slow down. The great thing that our sport has is participation from our sponsors. The sponsors are the sports greatest marketing tool. You can't turn the TV on today without a commercial about motorsports. You can't turn TV on today without someone promoting motorsports that isn't NASCAR. The more money that our sponsors are willing to spend, the more that the story gets told and therefore the more fans come. Once you come, you'll come back. There's very few people that come and don't like it. So the more that we can market and involve and sponsors, then the more fans are aware of it and more people come. Although we continued to grow the sport after 9/11, we saw a decrease in sponsor spending and I don't think the sport grew two or years after as it will after those first two or three years. The economy has a great deal to do with it and quite simply the ability for fans to buy the tickets. It's expensive to come to a race. When the economy is not good, that's one more thing that is harder for them to do. We have potential to continue to grow. We have parts of the country that still don't get it. We have parts of the country that it hasn't been exposed to as much as it could be. As we get to them, it will continue to grow."

Q. Is NASCAR trying to reach the younger and more diverse audience?

"Certainly we need to grow more hard-core fans. To get them to be hard-core, we got to start them. The whole deal is about exposure. It's giving them the chance to see it. Once people start watching it, they love it. So we got to put people in a position where they can see it. I don't know what the demographic is but when I look at the fans I don't see one segment. We're trying hard but we still aren't reaching as many minorities as we need to be reaching for whatever reason. When you look at ages or you look at gender, it's just not a clear picture from what I see of young people, old people. I just don't see it."

Q. On walking through a lap at Pocono:

"The front straightway is really long. It goes forever. When you're going down the front straightaway, you have a lot of time to think. You're actually looking at the face of the wall going into turn one. It's a very intimidating corner. As you drive into one, it's real rough. It's rough in the sense that you have big holes that you run through. You've got to get the car really slowed down. You get to the middle of one, the car is loose, it's pushing, it does everything there. It's just never perfectly balanced. As you throttle off there, it's real rough again on the exit which makes the car real hard to drive. Again, the Long Pond straightaway is real long. When you get to the tunnel turn there's a hole. It's a huge, gaping hole that you run through. It's unbelievable how big of a bump that is. You accelerate real hard off of that corner, very tight corner. You've got to get slowed down a lot. Then turn three is real long corner that seems to last forever. That's a much slower corner than turn one. It's smoother than turn one but it has bumps as well. The key is accelerate off the corner. If you get the gas early and keep that gas off the corners, that's where your speed is."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Tony Stewart , Jimmy Spencer , Joe Nemechek , Kyle Busch
Teams Hendrick Motorsports