Fontana: Burton - Friday media visit

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Auto Club Speedway and discussed being on General Hospital, the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and other topics. WERE THEY INTERESTED IN RACING ON THE SET OF GENERAL...

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Auto Club Speedway and discussed being on General Hospital, the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and other topics.

WERE THEY INTERESTED IN RACING ON THE SET OF GENERAL HOSPITAL? "They were -- they were really interested in it. There was a lot of race fans there, a lot of guys that had die-casts that they wanted signed and pictures they wanted signed. A lot of people had kids and cousins and nephews and stuff like that who wanted autographs. There was actually a lot of interest. A lot of questions, 'How does this work? How does that work?' Some people were coming out to the races -- a lot of guys on the set told me they had tickets every year and they were coming out to the race. There were a lot of race fans."

DID THEY ASK YOU ANYTHING ABOUT THE DAYTONA 500? "There was a couple people that wanted to ask me, but I think they were afraid to. They asked Christine (Brownlow, PR) quite a few questions."

WHEN WILL THE GENERAL HOSPITAL EPISODE AIR? "March 18."

DID THEY PROVIDE YOU WITH WARDROBE? "No, I was me -- I played me so I dressed like me. I don't walk around everyday with my fire suit on believe it or not."

WHAT WAS JEFF BURTON DOING IN PORT CHARLES IN THE SCRIPT? "Drinking. I don't know why I was there. That wasn't part of the script, but I was there. I wandered into a bar. I don't know why, but I was there."

WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE TOLD THEM ABOUT THE DAYTONA 500 IF THEY HAD ASKED? "Which part of it? My Daytona 500? Honestly, I thought that obviously for us we were disappointed with our finish. We thought we did a good job all night. I honestly thought I had a car that was fast enough to win the thing. I thought we were good enough to win it and sitting there fourth, restarting fourth and don't know when it's going to rain. I thought I put myself in position to win the Daytona 500 and then I ended up getting called in the middle, which was ultimately my fault -- I should have never let somebody get under me. Once we got in the middle, we just got in trouble and I wrecked and took some other people with me. It was a disappointing finish to a solid day. We had good pit stops, I thought we did a lot of things right -- I was real proud of that, but was extremely disappointed with the race. I thought the race was good. I know there's been a lot of comments about the race ending under rain and that wasn't the right thing to do, but as long as I've been doing this that's the rules and it is what it is. I thought the race was really good and the reason the competitors haven't complained about the race ending under caution or under red or however you want to say it -- under rain is because we all knew the rain was coming. It's now like it just popped up and it was raining. We all knew it was coming -- we didn't know what lap it was going to rain, but we all knew it was coming and we were all fighting to get the best position we could. I understand why the fans want to see the race end under green -- I understand that, but at the end of the day the rules are the rules and we have to abide by the rules."

WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE ACCIDENT BETWEEN BRIAN VICKERS AND DALE EARNHARDT, JR.? "I thought it was a typical Daytona, Talladega wreck where one guy tries to protect his spot and the other guy needs that spot and you misjudge by six inches and there's a wreck. Take out who the participants were and at the end of the day that's what happened. (Brian) Vickers put a big block on him (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) and (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. had to come back across to get above the yellow line, he couldn't go under him and when he did he caught him. You can say that (Brian) Vickers shouldn't have done that, you can say that (Dale) Earnhardt (Jr.) shouldn't have hit him, but at the end of the day I don't think either one of them meant to cause a wreck. (Brian) Vickers was protecting his spot, blocking is part of speedway racing, its been part of speedway racing ever since restrictor plates, even before restrictor plates were in -- its been part of it. I think that's all there is to it. It's the same kind of wreck you see at a lot of restrictor plate races."

HOW WOULD YOU HAVE HANDLED IT IF YOU WERE IN THE 88'S (DALE EARNHARDT JR.) POSITION? "The No, 88 (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) didn't mean to wreck. The 88 (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) didn't, 'All right I'm going to wreck him because he blocked me.' He just misjudged it and he just made a mistake. He got blocked and he was trying to get back in line and it happened so quickly. That's the one thing that's hard to explain -- it happened so quickly. On TV, it's like, 'Well that was easy because I wouldn't have done that if I was driving the car.' You have to understand that in real life behind the wheel, those things happen at a really high rate. It was a wreck that was avoidable, but it wasn't an intentional wreck."

WHAT DOES IT SAY WHEN DALE EARNHARDT, JR.'S FANS ARE ACTUALLY MAD AT HIM FOR THE ACCIDENT? "We all make mistakes. There's not a driver in this garage that hasn't caused a wreck, that hasn't been in a wreck that they were responsible for. If anybody thinks that there is any driver in here that is immune to that -- they're wrong. We are people, we make mistakes, we are trying exceptionally hard to succeed in the sport. When you put a lot of effort and a lot of desire and a lot of dedication, you're going to have accidents. That's what happens. I don't think people ought to be critical of him. I think it is what it is -- it's not like (Dale Earnhardt) Jr.'s a constant problem. It's not like (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. causes a bunch of wrecks or like he doesn't have respect. He's one of the most respectful race car drivers out there.

"He and I had an incident in the (Daytona) 500, I was upset about it, he and I had a great conversation because I respect him and he respects me. (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. has a lot of respect for the history of the sport, has a lot of respect for the other driver, but he's going to make mistakes. The same way that Jimmie Johnson it, the same way Tony Stewart is, the same way I am -- we make mistakes and the question is how many do you make? (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. doesn't make a lot of them."

WAS MATT KENSETH'S WIN OF THE DAYTONA 500 OVER-SHADOWED? "Listen, it's not over-shadowed to me and I don't think you'll hear a single competitor say that it has an asterisk beside it because every competitor knew the rain was coming. Every competitor knew they had to be leading that race and he was the one that was leading it when it ended. The competitors don't have an asterisk beside it -- anymore than I have an asterisk beside, I won Vegas in the rain, I won Darlington in the rain -- I happened to be leading the races when it rained. That's what we do -- it's going to rain and you need to be leading. Not everybody can do that. He did what he had to do -- his team did a great job, they had a great pit stop there at the end and he won the Daytona 500. There's no asterisk beside it."

HAS RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING LEARNED ANYTHING TO BE ABLE TO KEEP UP WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? "I don't think we had the Speedweeks that we were 100 percent hoping for, but it shows something because Kevin (Harvick) won the Shootout and ran second (in the Daytona 500) and two top-fives in the (Daytona) 500, but I don't think we were quite as competitive as we wanted to be. But I don't think that's a reflection of how we're going to run in Vegas or California or Michigan or Richmond -- its just two completely different programs. I think every team in here still has a lot of questions. A lot of people say that the real season starts today -- I don't believe that. The real season started two weeks ago at the (Daytona) 500, but the way you succeed at Daytona is not the same way you succeed here."

IS THERE ANXIETY COMING INTO THIS RACE? "The whole garage is anxious about it. If they're not, they're foolish. You have no idea what you have until this race is over. Even today -- you could run terrible today and run well on Sunday. You could run great today and run terrible on Sunday. You don't know where you stack up against your competition until you get to compare yourself against your competition -- we haven't done that yet."

IS THERE TOO MUCH EMPHASIS ON THE RESULTS FROM CALIFORNIA HEADING INTO LAS VEGAS AND ATLANTA? "Success here doesn't guarantee success in the future. Nor does failure guarantee failure in the future. We are always responding to the issues that we have and trying to be better. There's going to be some teams that leave here and don't run well and run very well at Vegas and vice versa. This is a very unique race track, it's different than any race track we run on as far as I'm concerned. It's real low grip, very flat corners, very long, a lot of speed -- it's completely different than Atlanta, it's completely different than Vegas. Vegas is high-grip, completely different race track than here. We have three very distinct mile-and-a-halves, two-mile race tracks over the next three weeks. You could perform well at one and not well at the others. I think when you get done with this three-race stretch, you can clump them up and say, 'Okay, this is where we're strong or this is where we're weak.' I don't think you can leave here on Sunday and say, 'Okay this is where we are in reference to the rest of the field.' It starts to paint the picture, but it doesn't paint the whole picture."

HOW DO YOU COME INTO THIS RACE? "I'm excited. Again, we were disappointed with last week's race, but I was really happy with the way we raced. I was happy with myself, I was happy with my team. I thought we did a nice job. We didn't execute when it counted -- I didn't execute when it counted and that's on my shoulders. I take a lot of positives from the (Daytona) 500 -- it didn't get us off to the finish that we wanted, but it got us off to a real competitive race like we wanted and so we'll go this weekend and we'll do the same thing we always do. Just go out and we're here to try to win this race and do the best we can."

SHOULD THERE BE SPECIAL RULES TO NOT SHORTEN THE DAYTONA 500 IN THE CASE OF RAIN? "I don't think so -- I don't think it should be. I understand why some people say that. Its worth talking about I guess, but I don't think the rules ought to be different for one race to the other from a procedure standpoint. Tracks are different, there's no question, there's no yellow line rule here and those kinds of things, but I don't think the premise of what we do should change just because it's the (Daytona) 500. If you did that then what happens if we go to Richmond and it rains and people don't make the 'Chase' because it rained and they weren't in position when it rained. Do you change the rules there? Do you make a different rule for the last race of the year that it can't end under yellow? At what point do you stop making special rules? That's the problem with special rules is what is the definition of a special rule and why isn't one race a special rule over the other. Every one of those races pays the same amount of points and every one of those races helps ultimately determine who the champion is going to be. I don't think you can make rules because it's a particular race. Indy would stand up and say, 'Hey, we ought to have a special rule.' The Southern 500 would stand up and say, 'We should have a special rule.' The 600 would say, 'We're the longest race of the year so we ought to have a special rule.' So it never stops and that's why I don't like special rules for a particular race."

HAVE YOU EVER HAD TO WALK BACK INTO A GARAGE AFTER WRECKING EIGHT OR NINE OTHER CARS AND HOW DO YOU GET THROUGH THAT MENTALLY? "All you can do is be honest with yourself and be honest with the people that you were involved in. I find it to be very productive to go and have a conversation. People and drivers, not at the moment, emotion is a bad thing and you don't want to have a conversation in the midst of emotion. It doesn't do anything productive, but when you're willing to go to another driver and say, 'Look man, I screwed up and it was my fault, here's what happened, here's why I did what I did, I'm sorry.' And you're not a habitual offender then people are very responsive to that. They understand because they've been there too. There is not a driver in here that can't look at himself in the mirror and say, 'I've never screwed up.' Drivers are responsive to communication and all you can do is be honest with them and straight forward with them and that's all you can do. It is a bad feeling, we've all done it, we've all been there and it's part of the sport and its just part of it."

DID DALE EARNHARDT, JR. APPROACH YOU OR DID YOU APPROACH HIM? "I have a lot of respect for (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. and Jr. and I never once had cross words. I had something I wanted to say to him because I knew I could talk to him and he came back and talked to me and we had a great conversation. I like that -- I like being able to discuss things with people. When I left the (Daytona) 500, I had a much more clear picture than I did before I had a conversation with him. He didn't do anything wrong, I got my feelings hurt like everybody does on restrictor plate races, but he didn't do anything wrong. It rests on me, not on him."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson