Jeff Burton - NNCS teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Thanks for coming this morning and Happy Halloween. JEFF BURTON: Are you dressing up tonight? Q: I'm thinking about it. I'm not sure which driver I'm going to be yet. JEFF BURTON: Do you need some help...

Continued from part 1

Q: Thanks for coming this morning and Happy Halloween.

JEFF BURTON: Are you dressing up tonight?

Q: I'm thinking about it. I'm not sure which driver I'm going to be yet.

JEFF BURTON: Do you need some help with that?

Q: I have some bright orange around the house that might work. In honor of the day, what has been the scariest moment so far in the chase?

JEFF BURTON: The scariest moment, I'm going to tell you, I have had, my in car camera has been getting overtime. I have had a tremendous amount of things happen right in front of me in a lot of these races. I mean, I can go back and think about just about every race, there has been a wreck happening right in front of me. So I've had several moments I've had to catch my breath thinking we were going to get swept up in it. Last week a car spun out in front of us, someone spun out in front of us a few weeks ago. Those have been my scariest moments.

Q: Watching the races, they do look very scary. It's been a crazy chase with a lot of movement in the top 10, including you and your teammate Kevin. How do you guys stay on an even keel with things sliding around so much?

JEFF BURTON: First of all, for me, I know we're fifth in points, because when the race was over I was doing a TV interview and they said, "You're fifth in points. And this is how many points you are back." As far as I'm concerned, when Atlanta is over, it's over and we're on the next race. The only reason we're talking about Atlanta today is because I was scheduled for this and I knew the roll bar padding incident was going to come up. For me, I can't worry about where we are in points. I can't worry about how well or how poorly our competition is doing. The only thing I can help control and the only thing I can be positive in is trying to help our team be better. It's obvious to us we finished 13th last week. It's obvious to me I made a mistake. It's obvious to me I need to do a better job at that. So I'll work and try to do a better job at that. That's how I run me. I go race. I'm going to race as hard as I can this coming weekend. I'm going to do all I can to do the very best job I can. My team is going to do the same thing. And then we're going to go to the next race. We're not going to try to manipulate things to make the points we're going to go race the way we know how to race. I don't think that we're in this is the way I view this, and I keep using these football analogies, but, hey, it's the season. To us, it's in the 4th quarter with six minutes to go. We're down by 7, and it's fourth down. We're going to go for it or punt. Well, right now I'm still punting. Right now I'm still relying on our defense. I'm relying on us as a team to be able to pull this thing off. If we go into next week, you know, still 90 points down or 100 points down, I'm going to have to think about going for it on fourth down. The situation we're in today, again, we're still relying on ourselves. We're relying that the luck we've had, other people will have that as well, we just need to go out and do a good job. We're not in a position to try to force something to happen.

Q: You talked earlier today about NASCAR should err on the side of caution. If there's something out there on the track, throw the caution. In regards to that, what kind of concern do you have with how the race ended last week with Clint Bowyer's car running up against the wall, scraping it, maybe shedding some pieces? Is that something that NASCAR needs to look at? Because that's certainly not the first time in the last lap or two they've allowed a car that's beat up to continue on as everyone else is racing.

JEFF BURTON: That's tough. They've implemented the rule that gives us a minimum speed. And you have to be able to run on the minimum speed. And if you can't run at the minimum speed, you have to pit. It's very complicated with three laps or less left to go. When NASCAR gives you the black flag, there's a moment there is a period of time they give you to heed the black flag, to accept it, because they don't know for sure you got the black flag. They don't know you understand you're being black-flagged. It's a very difficult situation.I really believe that NASCAR has taken the lead in motorsports in making the racing safer, especially coming to the caution, especially when there is a problem on the race track. I think they do a better job than any other form of motorsports, as seen by me. But there are variables, and there are times when it's very difficult for them. And they have the decision to make, are we going to drop the caution here and the fans see this race end under caution or can we deal with this situation for only two laps. That's an assessment that they have to make in a matter of seconds.I don't want to be in that position, because if you always drop the caution with two laps to go and something happens, we have a lot fans that are very upset. The fans are not as nearly upset if you have to drop the caution with 40 to go. It's a balance, and it's a tough balance. I don't know the right answer. But again, I'm overall comfortable with the way they manage it.

Q: A different topic. Going back to the 2000 season, only Hendrick, Roush and Gibbs have had teams that have won the title, and those teams have had the most top 5 finishers in the points at the end of the season. You've seen this from different perspectives. One, what is the challenge in maintaining that level of success over a long period of time? And two, for a team like you guys, what you're trying to do, what kind of challenge is it for any organization to try to break through that?

JEFF BURTON: The challenges in building a good team are kind of the same as keeping it. The hardest part of what we, do in my opinion, is knowing when to change, knowing when to change what we're doing. When you're having success, it's hard to know when to quit doing that. When you are having success it's much easier to start changing stuff, because it's obvious you need to do something better. The teams that continually have success are really impressive because they found a way to move with the sport. They found a way to keep up. They found a way to lead the charge. That's a very difficult thing to do. It's a really difficult thing to do. The same this year, the top three teams from last year didn't make it this year. For us, and I in particular, because I'm living it right now, not only are we trying to win a championship, we're trying to build a good Car For Tomorrow program. We're trying to build a better Above Mile Track program. We're trying to improve our Superspeedway program. There is a lot going on. And it's hard to continue to put the effort into what we're doing right now today and put the proper effort into what we need to do next year. It's hard to do those things. Last year at this time we were just all into '06. We were racing hard, but by far, our focus was on being better for next year versus this year, or the year we were in. So it's a difficult thing to do. It requires, in my opinion, it's all about you've got to have the plan in place and you have to be executing on the plan. And the teams that continually do it are really impressive: Let me say this. We've also seen companies put the same cars, but we haven't always seen the same teams within those companies doing it. And so companies are able to step up to the plate and do a good job, but even down to the team level, it's very difficult for a particular team inside of a company to move as a support, as well.< br> Q: Jeff, I wanted to know, sort of talk about the roller coaster of emotions that this chase has been I guess for you and if it's exceeded what you thought going in or what.

JEFF BURTON: It's a difficult question, because I have done my best to prepare myself emotionally for whatever this sport or whatever life brings me. Not to say that I've prepared myself as well as I could have, but I've tried. Coming into this chase, I understood, believed that there would be moments of excitement, hoped there would be moments of excitement, and understood there would certainly be moments of disappointment.I haven't gotten caught up in we're leading the points, we're fifth in points. I haven't gotten caught up in that, because I've said to you guys to begin with I thought with two to three races to go, you start to get into it a little bit, but as we got with three to go, now we're the pursuer. How that affects us, I don't know. We're still going to go out and do our best job, but I don't feel like I've been on a roller coaster. I've been in this sport a long time. And Jimmie Johnson and I were talking about this before the race on Sunday, look at any 10 race period throughout the year and how many teams go through that 10 race period without struggle, without problems. It's very few. So certainly the microscope is on this 10-race program. There's no question about it. But we, as competitors, understand that just because it's the chase doesn't mean that it's any different than any other time of the year, it just has more importance to it.I haven't let myself get caught up in the whole chase thing, because emotionally I'm better not worrying about it. I'm better off just focusing race to race, the same way I did the first 26 races. We got to Richmond, and I feel like when I look back on the year, I don't feel like we've been racing for eight or nine months, whatever it is, I feel it has gone fairly quickly. And I think that's because I'm a race-to-race kind of guy. I get over the last race pretty quick and I'm on to the next one pretty quick.

Q: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and now Jimmie Johnson this morning talked about a dip in turns one and two at Texas Motor Speedway, and Johnson said this morning he kind of thought it's growing and each year that's kind of what happens. Do you know, what do you think there is a problem at turns one and two with the dip or is it something that you have to deal with?

JEFF BURTON: I'm a fan of bumps and dips and things on race tracks that make it difficult. I think that that gives race tracks character. I'm not a guy that jumps up and screams and says we need to repave race tracks. I'm just not. I think whatever the facility is, within reason; it's our job to deal with it. And the more obstacles that there are to deal with, the more important it is to have your stuff together.I don't go to Texas thinking about the bump. I go to Texas thinking about how are we going to do it better than everybody else. I don't think it's a problem. I think that it's an issue that we as teams have to address, but I wouldn't be on the, hey, you've got to fix it band wagon, because it's been my experience, any time race tracks try to fix something, they tend to mess it up more than help it. And the quality of the race isn't affected by it. It's up to us to figure out how to make it work, and I just don't care.

Q: One thing totally unrelated to the chase. You said you're not in favor of a separate point system. How about ten cars in the chase? Would you like to see them extend it to get 12 cars or more in or do you like the number 10?

JEFF BURTON: You can make a case that there should be more. If you looked at other professional sports and the percentage of the teams that play, how many of those get into the playoffs. Somebody could make a case there needs to be more teams. But on the other hand, there is a tremendous amount of, how do I say this, if you end the top 10 with the way it is now you're certainly one of the elite teams, and it's harder to get into this playoff than it is most other professional sport playoff systems, and I'm not sure that's bad. I think I do support, and we heard a lot about it before this chase started, I think I do support if a guy has won 4, 5 races, I might support him being in the chase in some form or fashion. The only problem I have with that, though, when I think about it, is, you know, if you're playing golf and you win the Masters, it's a big deal, right, but if you go on the next 25 or 30, they play a lot of golf, how many other tournaments they play in, and don't do very well, are you one of the elite golfers? I don't think you are. So it's a balance. I think the way it has been laid out works really well. At the same token, I do know there's always room for improvement. You can make a case that more teams should be in. I'll be honest, it doesn't matter to me. The more teams that are in it, the better it is for all the competitors, because the more chance you have to be in it. At the same token, there's something real special about being in it the way it is now.

Q: How do you feel about the situation in the Busch Series? Do you feel like something should be done to bring more attention to the Busch regulars? Obviously I know NASCAR wants a couple of guys in there because it helps to sell tickets, but do you think there should be some kind of adjustment made there?

JEFF BURTON: We've been having this conversation for 15 years, but it's worse today than it has ever been, or better today than it has ever been, however you want to look at it. I don't know what the answer is. No. 1, I don't know if it's a bad thing. I don't know if the situation we have today is bad or not. I don't know. The fans, I hear a lot fans saying the Cup guys shouldn't be in the Busch Series, but a lot of fans go to the Busch races. My question, I guess, boils down to, what's the harm? At the end of the day, when I had my Busch team, when I owned my own Busch team, I didn't have to race Richard Childress, I didn't have to race against Jack Roush. So it was a different environment. I did have to race against Harry Gant. I did have to race against Mark Martin. I did have to race against Dale Earnhardt. The only reason I'm in the Cup today is because I got a chance to race with them, I got a chance to show my abilities against them and show just enough promise that somebody said, hey, let's give him a chance. Without those guys in the Busch Series, I wouldn't be in the Cup Series. I never would have gotten here. So I benefited greatly by those guys being there. The problem we have today is you have to drive for a really good team to show your talent. And there is a bigger difference in technology from the first car to the 25th place car today versus 15 years ago. That's where the problem lies. I don't think the problem lies in the drivers. I'm not saying that because I'm a driver, I'm looking at it from an owner's perspective; I'm looking at it from a sponsor's perspective, and from a fan's perspective. When I go through driver introductions, I hear people glad that the Cup guys are there. They cheer for them. Overall, I think the fans, they may not want to admit it, but overall I think the fans are glad we're there. But there is an issue.I don't know how you res olve it. I don't know what the fix for it is. I just don't know. I don't know how NASCAR does resolve it unless there is some sort of a franchise Busch system, much way there needs to be a franchise Cup system, unless there is some sort of system like that, short of that, I don't know how you slow it down, because you can't prohibit Richard Childress from having a Busch car, I don't think. That's the problem; the Busch teams are having to race against Cup technology.

Q: With the ratings and attendance down this year and so much unproven young talent out there, is NASCAR finally suffering a discernible negative backlash from alienating its longtime fans by trying to bring in a new demographic?

JEFF BURTON: That's a complicated question.

Q: I'm sorry.

JEFF BURTON: That's okay. I don't mind it. You know, I don't know. Very rarely do I just say I don't know. But I don't know the effect of I don't think that unproven rookies have a stake in this. Certainly a lot of people still show up to watch Dale Earnhardt Jr. race and watch Tony Stewart race, and some day those fans will be the fans of the guys that nobody knows who they are right now.It's my opinion that the quality of racing isn't the reason why we would have a fall in ratings. The quality of racing is better than it has ever been. I would imagine, and of course I'm standing in the forest looking at all the trees, I'm not standing on the outside of it, but I think the quality of racing is really good. I think the marketing around motorsports is really good. It looks like there are more fans than we've ever had. I feel like its more fans we've ever had, from fan mail, to autograph sessions, to things I measure by, there's more fan input than we've ever had. So I don't know that l...I don't have enough information about the ratings thing to give you an opinion. I would be curious to know whether all sports ratings are down.

Q: Do veteran NASCAR fans say maybe there's nothing here for me anymore?

JEFF BURTON: I don't think the majority of fans look at it like that. Bobby Allison is not racing anymore, and Kelly is not racing anymore. The longtime fans know who they are. I think as long as the quality of racing is good, and there is a good alternative for a fan, then there's reason for a fan to come. If Mark Martin decides to retire...you heard me say if he decides to retire.

Q: I got that.

JEFF BURTON: And there are obviously a lot more Mark Martin fans out there, it's my experience those fans will latch on to someone they feel good about. I don't think those fans leave the sport. I think there is a period of time where they are not as enthusiastic as the sport, but as they pick a driver and they become more attached to them, they become equally enthusiastic. I believe that to be the case. So no, I don't think that...I certainly...Tony Stewart, when he came in, he didn't have any fans. Nobody knew who he was, but a lot of people know who he is now. Fans have a way of migrating toward people and drivers, and I just don't see that being an issue.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Jeff, for spending time with us today. Good luck this week. We appreciate it.

JEFF BURTON: Thanks a lot.

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Bobby Allison , Clint Bowyer , Jack Roush , Harry Gant , Mark Martin