Jeff Burton, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Monte Carlo SS NASCAR Weekly Teleconference Transcript Dickies 500, Texas Motor Speedway MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to this week's NASCAR teleconference in advance of Sunday's Dickies...
Jeff Burton, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Monte Carlo SS
NASCAR Weekly Teleconference Transcript
Dickies 500, Texas Motor Speedway
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to this week's NASCAR teleconference in advance of Sunday's Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. This is the eighth race in the 2006 chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. The last 10 races of the season that determine the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion. Today, our teleconference guest is Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet. Jeff is fifth in the chase standings coming into Texas.Jeff, you have got three races remaining in the chase, what's the outlook for your team going into these last three crucial races?
JEFF BURTON: I think it's obvious we have a little ground to make up. Martinsville certainly didn't help us, and last week didn't kill us but we're not in the position we truly want to be in. Again, the things that have happened to us over the last three weeks can happen to anybody else too. We're one race away or one poor finish away from one of the top two guys from being right back in it. It's our job to execute. We feel good about the position we're in. We also understand that we are probably going to have to have a little help, but in today's environment a little bit of help is not out of the realm of possibilities. For us, it's a matter of focusing on the job at hand, knocking off three good finishes, worrying about this one this weekend first and then we'll see what happens.
Q: I have to bring up the obvious controversial question again off of Atlanta Sunday night. Have you or anybody on the team calculated any sort of ballpark about how many positions and/or points you lost due to the controversial call?
JEFF BURTON: Well, it's impossible to figure that. There's so many variables in play. Without that caution, maybe there's not the multi car wreck in turn one. Without that caution there's a lot of things that maybe don't happen. We ended up 13th, two laps down, and at one point being on the lead lap you're sitting there running 17. I think it's in impossibility to truly give some sort of an estimate.We have no way of knowing what the outcome would have been had that caution not come out. There's no question about that. So it's something that you know, when I look at it, we were five seconds away from being one lap down versus two laps down, and with then the distinct possibility of being in the position to get the lucky dog. And then that puts you in the position of being in the lead lap, which gives you a much better opportunity to get a better finish. We have no way of knowing what would happen. We can't read the future or the past, but overall it didn't seem like a positive thing for us.
Q: Are you able to file something like this away under the "that's racing" category, like getting hit or getting caught up in a wreck or something, or would it be harder to take if you were to fall, you know, 15, 25 points short of a championship, would it be harder to take knowing that some amount was lost through something like this rather than the classic "that's racing" kind of thing?
JEFF BURTON: Well, yes, it is. To be quite honest, a couple of things, the reason that we were two laps down had nothing to do with someone throwing roll bar padding out or NASCAR throwing a caution, it had to do with me making a mistake. Had I not made the mistake to begin with, we wouldn't have been in a position to be hurt by any legal action. The first thing we have to do is step back and I have to take responsibility of putting us in the position of being two laps down. That's very obvious to me. At the same time, things happen in the course of a race that affect everyone on the race track. Any time a caution comes out, that creates everybody bunched up, and that has a way of rolling into the next event. You just don't ever know what's going to happen. Everything that happens on the race track affects someone else, and that's part of, as you said, the "just racing" category. When someone intentionally manipulates the rules...well, not manipulate, breaks the rules and then NASCAR is put in the position to react to that, then that is filed in a different category. It is filed in a different...it is looked at upon in a different light, because that's not just a racing incident. What happened to Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett, they were all racing and an event happened. In my case, someone broke the rules and possibly got by with it, and that negatively affected us, as well as other people too. By the way, it helps some people, so at the end of the day, it is a different situation.I certainly will continue to ask NASCAR, and I know NASCAR is trying to deal with it. NASCAR has decided I know they're looking into it. It's nothing against Robby Gordon or anyone in particular; I just think we've got to be careful not to let the competitors break the rules. And when they do, NASCAR has got to enforce it.It puts NASCAR in the position, if they don't know what it is; they have to throw up the caution. I want them to err on the side of caution. But when we put them in that position intentionally, the penalty should be large enough to where the next guy doesn't want to do it. If someone does get by with it, then the next guy is more prone to want to try to do it. Told me 20 years ago, if you don't make drivers do the right thing, they never will. I think this is the case of that.
Q: One quick follow up on that. Does this, in your mind, state any extra case for a separate point system?
JEFF BURTON: No, not at all. I am totally opposed to a separate point system, because if Mark Martin wins the race and he finishes six positions ahead of me, then he did six positions ahead of me a better job, and he should be awarded six positions ahead of me better points. If I blow an engine at Martinsville and finish 42 and Jimmy Johnson wins the race, he gets ten points and I get one. That's completely unfair. I think he did a much better job than we did. He deserves to get first place points and we deserve to get 42nd place points. The variables that are thrown in, like what we had on Sunday night, unfortunately, unfortunately, falls back on NASCAR to deal with the problem right then and there, if they can. If they can't, you know, again, the only thing you can do is wish they would have done the right thing. NASCAR had no choice, because they didn't know what it was, but to throw the caution. They did what they had to do. If that means I get hurt by it, so be it, that's how it has to be. I don't have a problem with NASCAR erring on the side of caution, but I have a problem if all the evidence says this guy, whoever it happens to be, did something that was illegal, then I would fully expect that group to be punished accordingly. This has nothing to do with me. I'm not upset at Robby Gordon, okay. I'm not mad at Robby Gordon. I have no problem with Robby Gordon. This is not something Robby Gordon did. If he did it to hurt me or my team or our sponsors, if he did what everyone gas accused him of doing, and I haven't seen the video so I can't comment, he was doing it for myself. He wasn't doing it out of malice. I want to be clear on that.
Q: On the same issue, I'm wondering, in all the years you came up through short tracks or other forms of racing, how common are antics like that, you know, whether it's throwing a water bottle or throwing random stuff out of the car? I imagine it has some sort of tradition in racing.
JEFF BURTON: Certainly the person that did it at Atlanta wasn't the first person to ever do it. But what we need to do is make sure he is the last. There is a tradition in doing whatever you have to do to get a caution, there is a long time tradition, long time I hate to use the word tradition. But if you have a problem on the race track, it's nothing to go to a Saturday night short track and see a guy stop on the race track and make them throw a caution. If you need a caution, you need a caution. And NASCAR has, over the years, when people have intentionally stopped on the race track to throw a caution, they have penalized him for not only what they gave up but for some more also.Michael Waltrip, during the truck commentary at Martinsville, was talking on TV about intentionally spinning out if you had a problem. So that's not the first time it's ever happened, by any means. This is a self-serving sport. If you think you can get by with something that's going to benefit you, we'll tend to do that. So yes, this isn't the first time it's ever happened.
Q: Lastly, are you or can you tell yet whether this whole matter has been resolved to your satisfaction? You had a very specific proposed remedy for what ought to happen to the person if it was possible to determine what person did this. Do you have any faith or any degree of faith that something like that
JEFF BURTON: I have a tremendous amount of faith that NASCAR does not want their race impacted by an illegal action. And I have a tremendous amount of faith that NASCAR, with the proper amount of time and proper amount of evidence, will deem someone either not guilty or guilty and then punish them accordingly. I have not actively gone out and pursued the footage to make the determination upon myself if Robby was guilty or not, because it's irrelevant to me. It doesn't matter to me who did it, but it is relevant to NASCAR. I have a tremendous amount of faith that they will look at it and if the evidence is there that someone, whoever it happens to be, should be penalized, that person will be penalized. Will that help me at the end of the day? It won't do a thing for me. Whatever points we lost or whatever points we gained based on that incident can't be given back and can't be given away. It is what it is and that's gone. There's no remedy for that. So it's not going to affect me either way. My anger about it Sunday night was certainly directed toward how it affected me and my team and our sponsors. No question about it. But in retrospect, where we are today is to make sure it doesn't happen again. And where we are today is NASCAR's place to make sure that if this...that people won't do that kind of thing, and if they do, make sure they wish they hadn't. There is no remedy. To me, it's over. I don't have hard feelings about it. I'm not mad about it. It happened. Again, I go back I put it on my own shoulders. I'm the one that got a tire down. I'm the one that caused that problem. I'm the root of the problem. I allowed a half a second lapse of thinking put us in the position for something bad to happen. And by the way, it happened. That's how close this championship is. You just can't afford any mistakes. I did it. It's my fault. I put us in the position. And beyond that, it's whatever NASCAR decides to do, that's what they'll do.
Q: I have a slightly different track. I'm doing a feature on Jimmie Johnson. As a guy who has been around for a long time the way you have, you have seen Jimmie Johnson get close repeatedly, but something has happened. Do you see him as a different driver because of those experiences, maybe more mature, more grateful, or do you see him as the young gun he was in his rookie year and rising maybe a little beyond his years?
JEFF BURTON: Jimmie came in with a high maturity level. He came in with a tremendous amount of talent. That goes without saying. But also his brain was meshed up to his ability. In many cases of young drivers, they're not meshed up just yet. And in some cases, older drivers like me still haven't meshed up. But Jimmie's maturity level was high when he got here. He's very are respectful, very courteous, very genuine person, and he drives accordingly. I don't see a different Jimmie Johnson today than I saw him when he first came in, because I think he came in with his head on straight. And I don't think he had this curve that he had to get through.I'm sure Jimmie feels like he is a different driver. I'm sure that Jimmie has gone through things that we all go through as drivers. You mature and you become better. And sometimes you don't even understand where you've matured and where you've gotten better. But the funny thing about putting yourself in position to win championships and it not happening, as long as you win one then it was equity. And if you don't win one, then it was just a lot of missed chances. At some point you'll be in one of the two categories. Jimmie is a championship driver and that is a championship team. They're capable of winning the championship on any given year. There's no doubt about that. At some point they'll most likely put it together. You know, I have a lot of respect for Jimmie, I have a lot of respect for Chad, and without a doubt, Hendrick Motorsports. But Jimmie is extremely mature and I think Jimmie has got things in perspective. I think he understands that there is a lot of things in the world going on and I think Jimmie's perspective is right on.
Q: Does he remind you of anybody, any young driver that came up in your years of racing? Maybe a Jeff Gordon type? I know he doesn't have the championships, but he's close.
JEFF BURTON: I think Jeff came in more aggressive than Jimmie. I may be wrong about that. Jimmie reminds me a lot of Mark Martin, the driving style and the pursuit of excellence. If you really think about it, how many mistakes does Mark Martin make? How many mistakes does Jimmie Johnson make? They're both level headed. If I had to compare Jimmie to somebody, that's who it would be it.
Q: That says a lot, but do you think it's a coincidence that both are Hendrick guys for a long time?
JEFF BURTON: No. Mark never drove for Hendrick.
Q: Jeff. You kind of answered this question already, I wanted to ask if you've seen the replay. You haven't seen the replay. Since the moment the caution came out during the race on Sunday that the debris was thrown by someone, where does that belief come from, that there definitely was a crime committed? Did you witness it happening? Was there a throwing motion from a car?
JEFF BURTON: I've been racing cars now for 23 years, and I've yet to see a piece of roll bar padding fly out of the car by itself. I don't want to say it's an impossibility, but I don't see many things come out of a race car, the way aerodynamics work. There's only one place for something to get in and out, and that's in front of the window net right by the A post. I'm going to say, I've never seen a piece of roll bar padding just fall out of a race car. If you ask anyone that's been around for any period of time at all, if they see a piece of roll bar padding on the race track, someone threw it out. There's no question about that. Roll bar padding, No. 1, it just doesn't fall out. And No. 2, if it does, there's no way for it it's pretty heavy. There's no way for it to fall out of the A post. That just can't happen.
Q: You said you wanted to examine every car, stop every car on pit road. I know they checked out Robby Gordon's car, and they may have checked out a few others, but they definitely stopped short of stopping everyone on pit road. Given this is the third time this has happened this year, are you satisfied with that kind of response? When they have that kind of situation, should they now do that? Should they stop every car after the race?
JEFF BURTON: I think they should. I think every car should be inspected. The question is, some people put roll bar padding where other people don't. The only problem with my theory is that someone could not have a piece of roll bar padding somewhere that someone else does have it. And there is a possibility of someone saying, I never had a piece of roll bar padding there and they were telling the truth. That's the only problem that I have with that. And I'll say this, too. With television coverage the way it is today, if you throw a piece of roll bar padding out and you don't get caught, you need to be in Vegas the next day because something happened that you got really, really lucky not to get caught, because there are cameras everywhere.And in NASCAR's defense, I'm sure they were probably sure they would be able to find some footage somewhere of whoever did this. But I believe when there is a blatant infraction of the rules, it is NASCAR's charge to aggressively figure out who did it, because they're running the show and we look to them for guidance. They are the governing body. They are our policeman. They are our judge, our jurors, everything. That's who runs the show. I want as most drivers, we want to know the rules and we want to abide by them and we want everyone to abide by the same rules.I want to be clear; I'm not upset at the way NASCAR has handled this either. I think there are some things that NASCAR could do to make it a little better. I think maybe we could locate more spotters around the race track. We could have better vision tools so that they could really turn in on it and make sure it is what it is.But having said all of that, when there is something on the race track and they wait ten seconds to figure out what it is before throwing a caution and someone runs over it and they have a big problem, then now they have got that on their shoulders too. They are in a tough spot a nd I respect that.
Q: Are you going to see the video? Are you going to try to look for the video this week?
JEFF BURTON: I won't actively look for it. I'm sure I'll be watching something and it will come up, but I'm not actively looking for it. I have no reason I'm serious, I don't care who threw it out. It doesn't matter to me. It really doesn't. It doesn't have anything to do with any particular driver, as far as I'm concerned. By the way it doesn't have anything to do with Atlanta at this point. It gives us a chance as a sport to dive into something so we can do it better next time. I think that's where we are. It's a learning opportunity and we need to take advantage of it.
Continued in part 2