Jeff Burton speaks about crew chief change

Roush Racing announced on Wednesday, Sept. 4, that Paul Andrews has been hired to become the new crew chief of the No. 99 Citgo Taurus driven by Jeff Burton. Andrews will replace Frank Stoddard beginning this weekend, but Stoddard may still...

Roush Racing announced on Wednesday, Sept. 4, that Paul Andrews has been hired to become the new crew chief of the No. 99 Citgo Taurus driven by Jeff Burton. Andrews will replace Frank Stoddard beginning this weekend, but Stoddard may still remain with the Roush organization in another capacity. Burton spoke about the change prior to Busch Series practice on Thursday.

JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo Taurus

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DECISION? "First of all, it was very difficult. There was a lot of energy and emotion invested between Frank and I in building this team. He's been an integral part of building the 99 and it was a hard decision for us to come to. It's apparent that we aren't doing as well as we need to do. We're in the midst of our second year that's sub-par as seen by me and by Frank and by a lot of people watching it. Frank hasn't done anything wrong and I don't feel like I've done anything wrong, it's just that together, right now, we aren't getting it done. So, we either needed a different driver that could do the deal with him or I needed a different crew chief that could get the deal done with me. We came to that decision together, but it's been hard. I think you can tell from the last three or four weeks that we haven't given up on each other, but we're a lot like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Everybody keeps talking about the fact they're gonna do it and they never get it done. At some point you've got to say, 'OK, we haven't won a championship. We haven't gotten it done. Why is that?' And when we really looked at it, it's nobody's fault it's just that collectively the way we run our program, we've built everything around me. We've done it the way I wanted to do it, but that wasn't getting it what we wanted. So then we tried to do it the way other people wanted to do it and that wasn't getting us where we wanted, so we needed to do something different."

AT WHAT POINT DID YOU START TALKING ABOUT A CHANGE LIKE THIS? "You don't go to California this year and run as bad as we ran and you don't go to Darlington in the first race and Texas without thinking, 'Man, we've got to do something,' particularly when we didn't run well at those tracks the year before. Initially, we thought about trying to figure out how to bring somebody else into the company that could help us, but there was nothing there for us. We didn't wake up yesterday and say, 'We've got to make this change.' When it did happen, it happened very fast but it was a long process."

DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT CAUSES THIS? "I don't know, it's a great question. I think technology changes. My willingness and Frank's willingness to work together never changed. Technology changes and one or both, and in our case both, have a problem with keeping up with it. The way we run our deal is that we both need to be able to keep up with it and I don't think that we kept up with it very well, so I think things change and the crew chief-driver combinations that are successful -- when they stay together for a long time -- they're able to continually adapt. But that's why they don't stay together very long because it's difficult when you really get in there together and you're doing everything together, that, sometimes, is bad and that's where Frank and I were. We agreed on almost everything. It's OK to disagree. There are times when Brad (Parrott, Busch crew chief) says things to me and I think, 'That's crazy,' but we try it. It's OK to disagree. We got to the point where we weren't disagreeing on anything. That sounds crazy, but you need different philosophies and different ideas in times when you're not doing well and there was nothing coming from us, in my opinion."

IS IT LIKE AN OLD MARRIED COUPLE WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT THE OTHER IS THINKING? "It's probably a lot like that. You take each other for granted a little bit. You know exactly what the other one is thinking and you know exactly what the other one is gonna do and there's some comfort in that. When Frank became the crew chief, Buddy (Parrott) had allowed Frank and I to do our deal. He gave us a lot of freedom on the car and we could do almost anything we wanted to do. So when Frank became the crew chief, it wasn't a major change. This is the first major change that I have dealt with at Roush with the 99 car and it's hard. I've lost sleep. I've had a lot of emotion about it. It's been a hard deal. It hasn't been easy, but it just gets to the point where you both look at each other with a blank look and that's not what we're gonna have to be able to do to win races."

IS IT HARDER FOR YOU SINCE IT WAS YOUR IDEA TO BRING FRANK HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE. "Oh yeah and Frank wouldn't come. When I tried to get Frank to come, he wouldn't come for a while. He wouldn't come until it was the right deal, so, yeah, Frank was my hand-picked guy but I had to earn him. I had to go and put myself in a position where he wanted to come, so, yeah, it's really hard because I imposed Frank on everyone else. I said, 'Whether you like it or not, he's gonna be here.' That's what I'd say to people. Some people liked it and some people didn't, but if somebody didn't like it, they left. Frank was the man. I've tried really hard to support Frank and I know Frank has tried really hard to support me. I couldn't ask for anybody to work any harder for me than Frank has worked. He's been very loyal, even at times when he didn't necessarily believe in what we were doing as a company. He stuck it out for me and that's hard to let go of. That's really hard to let go of. My wife is friends with his wife. I'm friends with him. We're all friends. It's just hard, but it is what it is. Just because it's hard, though, doesn't mean we can't make changes in areas where we need to be better. I offered up. I said, 'Hey, I'll go drive somewhere else too. If we want to build a program around Frank, I can go find a really good ride.' I mean, I wasn't gonna have a problem finding a ride, but Jack and I have a really, really good relationship and my relationship with Citgo goes really deep. Frank has a lot invested in the company and I have a lot invested in the company, too. So, at the end of the day, I was gonna stay and drive the car and we hope that Frank will stay with our company. He's looking at all of his options in the company and, if he decides that nothing is there for him, then we'll support him in leaving too. It isn't my intention to hold Frank back from being able to have a successful career in Winston Cup racing. It's my intention to help him because we've helped each other. I'll help him anyway I can. He's a great crew chief. There's nothing wrong with Frank's crew chiefing ability, it's just that we've gone stale together. I guess that's the best way to put it, we've gone stale together."

IT WAS YOUR IDEA TO SWITCH THE 6 AND 97 CREWS, BUT THAT REALLY WASN'T AN OPTION HERE WAS IT? "Right, there's no way to put Frank in a crew chief position right now at Roush. So, yes, that complicates the matter. If we had a crew chief position to roll Frank into, we would do that but we don't. That's the difficult thing about it. However, there are a lot of areas in our company that we can use some help in that Frank would be very productive and that Frank would enjoy on top of that. I have no interest in offering up a job for Frank that he doesn't want to do and that's boring to him or doesn't challenge him. He won't be happy doing that and he shouldn't. He shouldn't stay with the company just for the sake of having a job and he won't have to. If we can find something for Frank, and I think we'll be able to, that he can be productive and he feels like he's contributing and he can help the overall good of the company, then that would be a wonderful thing."

DOES THE PRESSURE OF HIGH EXPECTATIONS LAST YEAR AND THIS YEAR MAKE YOU PUSH THE ENVELOPE FARTHER -- TRYING DESPERATELY TO FIND SOMETHING? "Possibly, yeah. I think we've been pretty calm through it, though. I've got to tell you, I haven't sensed much panic about it and I have not sensed a lot of turmoil, but it has to be clear that it's our intention to compete for championships. It's the essence of what we do and the minute that we become content with competing for 10th or 15th, we've got a major problem. I'm not suggesting that we've done that, but we can't let that ever happen. One of the things that we try real hard to do at Roush is we don't fire people. We try not to just fire people. We try to work it out. Frank and I have been trying to work it out for over a year and a half and we just aren't where we need to be. We have to be where we need to be -- we have to -- and that's why we had to come to this conclusion."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON GETTING SOMEONE LIKE PAUL ANDREWS? "This has been a really hard deal. I can tell you I have lost a lot of sleep over these discussions. It's been very painful and it's been very hard. Unfortunately, Paul has had the same problem. Paul has had a lot invested in where he's been working too. Not only am I making a major change and Frank's making a major change, so it Paul. Paul has invested a lot of his life at DEI. Well, he's had to leave that too, so we've got three people that have had so much going on that we haven't had a chance to get excited about what's going to go on. The thing that precipitated us moving ahead with it was Paul becoming available. When it became clear to us that Paul was looking to make a change, you can't let a Paul Andrews get away when you're having a problem. If we weren't having a problem and we had nowhere for him, then we wouldn't have been looking for him. But when we were having a team that had a problem and you've got somebody like Paul Andrews out there, man, you've gotta go at him. There aren't many times the person that is the quality of a Paul Andrews becomes available. These crew chiefs and drivers, they get all contracted up and they don't go anywhere. That's a good thing. I am so excited about Paul. I can't tell you. When I developed a list, he was the guy that I wanted and he became available. That was a sign that we had to proceed. His experience, his professionalism, and his intensity to win are really exciting things to me because I don't feel like I've taken a guy that has all those things and had to bring a guy that doesn't have all those things. I've got two people that both want to win really bad. This is selfish, but I'm able to shift around and get new ideas and new thoughts. I look at my Busch program and part of the shortcoming of my Busch program last year, in all honesty, was me. We had other issues too, but in some areas I was telling the team what to do and that wasn't successful for us. That's similar to what was going on with the Winston Cup program. When I felt like I didn't really get involved, we weren't haven't success there either. But with this Busch program, I turned to different people who are high skilled, good people and said, 'You do it.' That's what I hope to do with this. I'm still gonna be there everyday and I'm still gonna worry the hell out of everybody everyday, but I'm gonna be a little more backed away from it, like I've done with my Busch program because that's worked really well over there for me. It's been a great thing to watch and I'd like to try and emulate that same thing on the Winston Cup side. I can't tell you how excited I am to have Paul because everywhere he's been, he's won. He's a winner. He's very well respected in the garage. We want our employees to work for people that are good to work for and people want to come to work for him. It's a sad time, but it's a great time too. I'm having trouble with my emotions. I'm not really sure how to handle it emotionally because it's a break up, but it's also a re-birth of something and that's kind of how we're approaching it. We are rebuilding and reloading the 99 team to try and win that 2003 championship. That is the emphasis with what we're trying to do right now. The other part of it is there are major changes next year in rules and we are constantly looking at how to make our company better. So at a time when we're looking at how to make our company better, every car we have in the shop needs to essentially be thrown away. We have a tremendous rebuilding opportunity and that's the way I'm choosing to look at it. It's not that we have to do it, it's an opportunity and we need Paul in here to get all of that stuff going. If we wait until November, we have lost two months of energy and excitement to build for 2003, so as painful and as hard as it is to come and make a change with 10 races left, it's all about thinking about next year. It isn't so much about thinking about this year because Paul is here at Richmond and knows nothing about the cars we've brought here. He's at a huge deficit, but when we start next year, it's gonna be 100 percent his program and he couldn't have done that by starting in November. There would have been no way DEI could have built the 1 program the way they wanted to build the 1 program starting in November with a new guy. They needed to start now."

HOW HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU PERSONALLY TO GO THROUGH THIS DRY SPELL? "It's been hard. I don't do this because I like to go in circles, I do it because I like to win and I like to compete. The respect of my peers means a lot to me. What they think of me means a lot to me and I want them to think I'm a fair person but that I can race my butt off. I want them to think of me as a quality person away from the track and on the track, but that I can race my butt off. I'm sure there are people out there that don't realize that. I know there are young drivers out there that have never seen me when I'm at my best and I want them to see that. I want and desire and crave the respect because I respect the hell out the people that can do it and I want them to be able to respect me as far as my ability and I can see how people would question my ability at times this year. I mean, you don't go to Texas and run like crap, like we ran, and people say, 'Boy, Burton is a really good driver.' The crew members, everybody needs to believe in me and I need the respect. I want respect, but I shouldn't get it if I don't deserve it."

HAS ANY OF THIS CAUSED YOU TO DOUBT YOURSELF? "Yeah. Anybody that would go through not running well and never doubting themselves, that's not confidence that's arrogance. There is a big difference. If you aren't doing well, if you don't win every race, if you don't question yourself at the end of every race, that's arrogance. Don't confuse confidence with arrogance. If you're not doing well and if you're not looking in the mirror saying, 'Man, I'm part of the problem,' then you are the problem. That's the way I feel about it. That's one thing I'm hoping Paul can help me with. I hope Paul can watch things that I do and can say to me, "This might help you.' I want someone to help me and Paul has been around a long time. Certainly there are some doubts. The Busch program has been good for me this year because it's showed me I can drive these race cars. We've had races this year in Winston Cup where we've been very competitive and we've had races this year where we've been terrible. What that has shown me is that when my car will run, I can win with it. When it won't, I can't. I am not a good enough driver to throw it up on my back and win with a car that can't win, but I don't think that anybody can. I think that some people can get more out of a bad car than others, but in today's environment the driver can't carry the car. I can take a car that drives really bad in the Busch Series and run fifth with it. If my car drives like that in the Cup Series, I'll run 20th, 25th or 30th. The multi-car team thing has made it so much harder and it's made the drivers have to be better and it's made the cars have to be better. A driver can ruin a car and a car can ruin a driver. It takes both, but you can't carry these cars with these tires like you used to when things weren't going well. That's my opinion. You know, everybody wants to talk about how great Jeff Gordon is right now, but I have never seen Jeff Gordon run as bad as he ran at Michigan and I have never seen Jeff Gordon run as bad as he ran at Watkins Glen. He ran two races back-to-back and you would have never convinced me that he could run that bad. He's won two in a row all of a sudden, well, he didn't learn how to drive just last week. He's part of the problem when he doesn't run well and he's part of the solution when he does. He's a great driver, but he couldn't carry his car at Michigan to a top 10 finish because it wouldn't do it. He's part of making it do it. I'm not putting it all on the car because the driver is part of making it do it, but once the race starts and your car won't do it, you're done. You can work and work and work and make it better, but at Dover this year we started the race and got lapped. We came in and made changes and finished third. I didn't learn how to drive during that race, I promise you, but when that race started I couldn't tell them how to fix that car. We made some changes and we made it better and, all of a sudden, 'Burton is a driver. He's hauling butt.' But a half-an-hour before it's, 'Burton can't drive and that team doesn't know what it's doing.' It's all about starting the race competitive, that's what it's about."

PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO HEAR YOU SAY YOU DOUBT YOURSELF. "I think self doubt is helpful. I'm not one of those people that think you have to look in the mirror and say, 'I know how to do it.' If you're not willing to look at how to do things better, then you're not doubting yourself. If you never doubt yourself, then why do you need to do it better? You've got it figured out, so you don't have to do it better. I think self doubt is inbred in winners. That's what I think. Even though you look at them and think they're full of confidence, winners work and winners try and winners put a lot of effort into it. They do that because it makes them better. If they didn't need to be better, they wouldn't put that work into it."

-ford racing-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon