NASCAR Weekly Teleconference Transcript with Jeff Burton, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Monte Carlo SS Q: What is it going to take for you to hang on to this tenth position? JEFF BURTON: If you look at Richmond, really, if you think about Stewart...
NASCAR Weekly Teleconference Transcript with Jeff Burton, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Monte Carlo SS
Q: What is it going to take for you to hang on to this tenth position?
JEFF BURTON: If you look at Richmond, really, if you think about Stewart or Mark, myself or Kahne, it's a matter of going out and running well. None of us will have a chance of being in the Chase if we don't run well, unless someone were to have trouble. But we can't control what other people do. The only thing we can do is control what we do. Certainly having the opportunity, you know, at Richmond is really exciting and it's what it ought to be. For us, we're just focusing ongoing there and putting forth our best effort we can, and that's really all we can do.
Q: Is there any way that your almost race on dominance of Bristol translates to a three quarter mile track, or is that all out the window, the difference between the setups and all for the two tracks?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I think the tracks are a great deal different. There's very little it's very little similar between Bristol and Richmond. What we have to do is look at how is our 3 4 one mile program been this year and we ran very well at New Hampshire. We got caught speeding on pit road, Richmond we were running third, late in the race and the spotter and I had a miscommunication and with the guy on pit road and pit road was closed. We went to Milwaukee last week and spent two days testing trying to take our short track program to the next level. So I feel really good going to Richmond. I'll tell you that you never know what's going to happen and that racing is a humbling business. But if you said to me in February, hey, you can go to Richmond with a chance of transferring in, but you've got to run well, that would be the track I would pick to be in the scenario. I feel good about Richmond. I enjoy the track. I enjoy the closeness of it. I tend to run well there and we work exceptionally hard on that program, as other teams have, too. But again, what we have to do is focus on what we need to do and we have worked very hard on that program and we're taking a brand new car that we feel really good about. Again, we spent two days in Milwaukee last week and we've done all we can do.
Q: It's almost a home track for you, too, and a lot of you guys call it one of their favorites, if not the favorite. Could you kind of evaluate, could there be any better place for this to be, a, from the driver's standpoint that y'all seem to like it as a place to race, and also, might be there for a race of this magnitude, might be a glitzier place they could have it for the good of the sport overall, or is it better to have at a place everybody likes like this where you race well or might it be better to be at a more glitzy name like a Las Vegas or a Chicagoland or California, something like that?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I think that the last concern should be what the drivers think to be quite honest. Really, it's what the fans think and what do they want to see. I can't imagine a better racetrack for putting on good races. If you looked around and said, you know, what racetrack puts on great races, certainly Richmond has to be one that you put in there. So I don't think the fans care if it's at Las Vegas or Richmond or Martinsville or Daytona. I think what the fans want to see is a really good, hard race. I can't imagine a better pick for the last race to transfer in, because imagine how much closer the action is going to be than what we had this past weekend. Imagine the action and, you know, I happen to have the points right in front of me, it's so freaking close, it's unbelievable. None of us can catch our breath, even all the way up to, you know, Junior and Kyle Busch. Richmond is the kind of place that or even Jeff Gordon for that matter. Richmond is the kind of place, it's easy to finish 35th. It's easy to get in a wreck. There's so much side-by-side action, the restarts are wild. I just can't imagine a race that you could have any more drama and any more build up to than the Richmond racetrack.
Q: Is it possible anybody would be admitting any stress going into Richmond? The guys who seem stressed are the crew chiefs of say, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson who really wanted to go into it even better, even though they were sold into the deal already. What do you think that the stress level will be?
JEFF BURTON: I think that stress is part of our sport and certainly there's a level of stress that all of us are dealing with, and, by the way, there's a level of stress that, you know, Carl Edwards is dealing with that he's not in it. Given the choice, I'm going to take this stress over the stress he's had to deal with this week. I think that, again, and I've said it before, when the teams and the drivers and everybody involved on this end of the sport is under a tremendous amount of stress, that means the fans are watching one hell of a show. And that's how it should be. So some people will deal with stress differently than others. Some people will, you know, can wipe things off quicker than others. At the end of the day, there's no one in this deal that had been there before, with the exception of maybe Denny Hamlin. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, those two guys are the two guys that really haven't been dealing with this before. But, you know, a champion like Jeff Gordon, a champion like Tony Stewart, a guy like Mark Martin, you know, they have been around. They know how this deal works. They will go there and do the best they can. You know, Kasey Kahne and his group, you know, they have got momentum on their side. They are feeling good about themselves. There's a way to focus on what you need to be focused on, but certainly stress is part of it. But that's part of life, and especially if you're going to be a professional athlete.
Q: And do you plan to do anything different this week heading into Richmond, look things over twice, do anything extra, anything different yourself?
JEFF BURTON: Well, if I'm not doing it already, then shame on me. You know, I prepare the same way every week. I've been sick; I'll be glad to get rid of that, I'll tell you that. I felt really bad at California, and yesterday I felt bad, feel like I'm starting to turn the corner today. Short of trying to get feeling better, there's really nothing I'm going to do different. Every race I go to is the most important race that we've got. And I prepare for every race the same way. So when you do get yourself in a situation like we're in this week where there is an important race, to me, the race five weeks ago was just as important, and they all pay the same amount of points. So we're in the situation we're in because as a team, we've done a good job, and as a team, we haven't done a good job in some areas. So what do you do about that, when you go to the next race, you focus, you prepare, go there 100%committed with that race and only that race in mind. So because of the way I prepare and the way my team prepares for a race, I don't think we have to do anything different going into this one.
Q: I was surprised; Kasey, he has five wins now, the most in the series, I asked him if that was a flaw in the system and he said, no, that you have to put a full season together, you can't be hit and miss. What do you think? Should the driver who has the most wins out of 26 races automatically make the Chase or not?
JEFF BURTON: I don't think so. I think that our points system is based on consistency. I think our points system you have to remember, we run long races and reliability is an issue. You know, we go back, and you think about the year Bill Elliot the won all those races and Darryl won the championship, consistency is important. You can't I mean, we're tenth in points and we have 14 Top 10 finishes, okay. That's tied for third. So if you look at that, should a 31 be in even though we haven't won the race; it's just all what the points are. And whatever NASCAR decides the points system should be, it's up to the teams to take that and use it to their advantage. So really, as far as I'm concerned, the number of wins that you have is obviously very important, but what really matters is how many points do you have. And I'm okay with that. I think that that's been the nature of our sport for years. That's how it's always been, and I think that's how it should be. That's easy for me to say because I haven't won a race this year, but in the year that I did win five or six races, I still felt the same way. I think that the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl last year, but they didn't have the best regular season. They found a way to do it and put themselves in the playoffs to find a way to win the Super Bowl. You know, nobody stands up and says, hey, the Indianapolis Colts should have been the Super Bowl champions because they had the best regular season. It's utilizing the system, it's taking advantage of the system, it's understanding it and whoever does the best job within the system is a deserving champion.
Q: You mentioned Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch had not been in the Chase pressure situation before, are they hanging in there because they show maturity that you don't expect from their lack of experience, or are they just lucky or what?
JEFF BURTON: I don't think either one of them is lucky. They are exceptionally talented and they have very good teams behind them. I certainly in no I wasn't in any way trying to say anything bad about them at all. I was just, again, the first time I looked at the points was 30 minutes ago, I pulled it up because I was going through this teleconference and I didn't even prepare. I just saw where they are and saw their names stuck out and started thinking about Mark Martin and Tony Stewart. I think that in Hamlin and in Busch's case, they are both very talented. They are both obviously gifted drivers, and they have really good race teams. And, they also have people behind them that have been there, done that. And I think that's important. I think the fact that the 20 car has won two championships and Job Gibbs is such a good leader, the fact that (audio drop.)
Q: Is the racing strategy for focus for the race the same, or when you good on Saturday, is there something in you that's a bit more mathematical thinking; I have to do this and that or can you really just go out there and sort of race as hard as you can?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I think the thing that is important to understand is that we go out every week to try to do the very best we can. We don't have a magic button that we can push that can take us from 12th to third. What we have to do going into Richmond is prepare our car the best way we know how, spend all day Friday working on the car, figuring out how to get it drive the best way, and then race and let the race unfold and let the strategy unfold and it dictates. Now certainly, there's no question it's more important for us to finish in front of Mark Martin, to finish in front of Kasey Kahne, to try to finish in front of Tony Stewart. That's what we have to do. And at the same time, if a guy that's, you know, six or seventh in points, he has a problem early in the race, we need to understand that, too. The main focus of this race is to transfer into the Chase. That is the whole that's all there is to it. We have to assume that no one is going to have trouble. We have to assume that if we're going to transfer in, we're going to have to race our way in. So we go into the race with that in mind, as the race unfolds and as things start to happen, then the picture will become more clear of exactly what we do have to do. And then the strategy may change, the way we have to pit the car, the way we have to take chances on trying to pass somebody, those kind of things may evolve. But initially, we have go to go into the race just like we do every race, and that's run the very best race we can and that's all that we can do. Again, we also have to be smart enough to understand the situation as the situation changes, because the situation on Saturday night is going to change a lot. It's going to be it's going to be a revolving it's going to be a moving target, and you know, Scott Miller and my engineer and my wife as well, they all sit in the box and they all each have a job to do on Saturday night as far as understandin g what the position we're in, and then relay that information to me. But I don't need to know it until it's late in the race. I'm going to go out there and race and pay attention to us and, and the other stuff, the better I focus on what we're doing, the better we're going to do and that's our strategy. But we also have to be aware of what is going on so that we can respond accordingly.
Q: Off topic but your thoughts about Toyota coming into Cup racing next year, and what impact you think they will have and how quickly you think it will take them to become successful?
JEFF BURTON: I think they will be successful very quickly. A lot of that hinges on the teams they have associated themselves with. NASCAR really works hard as limiting the impact that a manufacturer can have and the rules that they make and the way that they enforce rules, it makes it very difficult to try to get an edge on the other manufacturer. Toyota is very committed obviously to coming in and, you know, spending the resources necessary to get the right people and to buy the right parts and develop the right parts. The key is, how well do the teams integrate into their system. And the biggest impact as seen by me that Toyota having on the series is I think that we are on a slippery slope with the number of cars that are going to be fully funded, fully sponsored going into next year. I think the biggest issue that Toyota has created is that when they came in, it didn't go they didn't go build all new teams. What they did or what they did, they did build all new teams. They didn't acquire existing teams. So the car count with the exception of Bill Davis next year is going on exorbitant. We're going to go to Daytona with, I mean, take a guess, 50 cars, and 48 of them to 50 fully prepared to run the full season. Which means that on any given Friday, you have between five and ten, and I'm saying it's a guess right now, you have between five and ten fully committed, fully funded, full marketing campaigns built around a racing program going home and not being able to utilize the money they are spending in marketing. I think that's not good for our sport. I think that the strength of the series is not how many cars are in the garage; it's how many people are watching. And I think we've really got to look at in addition to the top 35 thing that we have going on right now, I think that we've got to look at even a better way to protect the car owners and protect the sponsors for the investment they make. To me, that's the biggest impact Toyota has had, is going to have. I know NASCAR well enough to know that they are not going to let a company come here and just outspend everybody, out technology everybody. They are not going to do it. They will hold that dam, as they should. So that's not my concern. My concern is where we are and our sponsors. Without our sponsors being able to operate effective marketing campaigns around motorsports, we don't have NASCAR racing, and that's the biggest problem that I see.
Q: Are you a purist or pragmatist when it comes to NASCAR's rule change on Saturday that says if two guys are tied with points in the Top 10, they are not going to go to a tiebreaker of wins; which means if you and Kasey were tide for points, you would both get in, instead of Kasey getting in because he has more wins. So it kind of benefits you, on the other hand it's a rule change sort of in the middle of the season, which some purists might not like?
JEFF BURTON: Actually the purists would be exceptive of that because NASCAR has a history of making rule changes. Really if you think about what NASCAR does, when it's in the interest of and they have done it much less recently, but when it's in the interest of better competition, when it's in the interest of the fans seeing a better show, NASCAR has been willing to make rule changes. It's difficult for me to comment on that because you're all right. There's no way that I could transfer in in a tiebreaker with Kasey Kahne. Nor could I with Tony Stewart nor could I with really Mark Martin is the only guy that I could transfer in in a tie situation. So, you know, it's hard for me to objectively look at it. I will tell you, however, when I try to look at it objectively, the negative consequence to Kasey Kahne or to Tony Stewart or to Denny Hamlin for being in a tiebreaker situation with me or Mark Martin, and me and Mark Martin transferring in without a win, there is no negative to that driver. And I think that in the best interests of the fan, it would be very difficult to not for Mark Martin not to transfer in because he didn't have as many wins as Kasey Kahne or Denny Hamlin. From that standpoint, I believe it's the right thing to do. I believe that it gives the fans the best opportunity to see as many qualified teams and drivers in the Chase as possible. So I think that NASCAR did the right thing. Again, I'm a little biased because you are right, the two people that it could benefit is Mark Martin and myself.
Continued in part 2