Michigan: Burton - Friday media visit

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the Nationwide and Truck Series, town hall meetings, personnel changes at RCR, the CoT, side-by-side racing, and more. GIVE US YOUR THOUGHTS AS YOU PREPARE FOR THE RACE ON ...

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the Nationwide and Truck Series, town hall meetings, personnel changes at RCR, the CoT, side-by-side racing, and more.

GIVE US YOUR THOUGHTS AS YOU PREPARE FOR THE RACE ON SUNDAY. "Yeah, obviously we've been kind of race-to-race to get our program back together. We ran really well last week for the first half of the race. And then we didn't know it till Monday that we had a mechanical problem that was going on. We got real frustrated the second half of the race because we had a car that with one improvement I thought we could have possibly contended but we kept going backwards, and going backwards and we couldn't figure it out. We know what happened now so we feel better about it.

"I feel good about where we are heading. We're not where we need to be but I feel good about it. Every week is important and we've got to get the thing moving in the right direction and so that makes this week a big week."

THIS IS A TRACK WHERE CHEVROLET HASN'T GOTTEN TO VICTORY LANE VERY OFTEN. IS THERE ANY SPECIFIC REASON BEHIND THAT? IS IT JUST BAD LUCK, OR IS IT FUEL ECONOMY? "As far as the Chevy question, obviously Ford has done a good job here for a long time. I'm not sure who's been winning all the races lately; I don't look at things like that. Ford for a long time had I think historically had the right power band for here but I think all that has changed and I feel that its more about the teams now and using the technology that the manufacturers are making available to them.

When you look at Roush, they have been really good here. I don't think it's a Chevy thing at this point. There was a time that I think the Ford engine was better here but not so much today. This track is real easy to go green and you expect a lot of green runs and it's hard to plan for anything. You just have to historically go back and look at what happens here and make your best guess. You have to know when you come here that it might be a fuel mileage game. At the end of the day though what always seems to work is to have a fast race car and the faster your car the more options you have on trying to save fuel and all those things. You really can't plan the race out because you don't know what is going to happen. The bigger your compartment of choices is the better chance you have and having a fast car makes that easier."

CHEVY HAS ANNOUNCED THAT THEY ARE GOING TO BE PULLING BACK SUPPORT TO THE NATIONWIDE AND TRUCK SERIES. HOW DEVASTATING IS THAT TO THESE SERIES? "I hate to comment on it because I don't know a whole lot about it. I haven't had a chance to talk to Richard (Childress) this morning a whole lot about it but I will tell you that I know Chevrolet is going to do everything that they can to do the best job that they can in motorsports.

"This is an unprecedented time and in many ways it's a sad time and in many ways it's an exciting time. Chevrolet having to pull support is a big deal because so many people rely on and they have been such a big part of the series.

"So I don't know everything I need to know about it to comment a hundred percent but I can just tell you that in my talks with Chevrolet is that they want to do everything they can to stay involved and be a part of the NASCAR deal. And I think they are but they have some tough decisions to make."

AT THIS RACE LAST YEAR, NASCAR HAD A SIT DOWN MEETING WITH THE DRIVERS AND THEN A WEEK OR SO AGO THEY HAD A TOWN HALL MEETING WITH THE DRIVERS AND OWNERS. CAN THOSE TWO MEETINGS BE LOOKED AT AS TWO DISTINCT EVENTS OR ARE THEY DIFFERENT? SOME PEOPLE WOULD SUGGEST THERE HAS BEEN A BIG CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP AT NASCAR. "I would look at them to be two different events to be quite honest. I hate to take one meeting with NASCAR and say, 'this is how they are' based on either one of those meetings. I will tell you that if you were a fly on the wall and you went to one meeting you wouldn't think you were talking to the same people in the second meeting.

"But I think the interesting thing to me is that I never one-hundred percent got the first meeting. I wasn't one-hundred percent the point. I knew that it wasn't like they were telling us what to say but I think they were more reminding us that 'hey, it's not as bad as you guys are acting like it is' and I don't know, I hate to say this is how NASCAR is or who they are based on any one meeting. It's clear that a lot has changed in the world from one meeting to the next and so I think that NASCAR responds to things as to how they are going right now. I don't know. I don't want to look at it and say it's some major bad thing or some major good thing. I just think its two separate meetings."

"From my perspective we had a meeting years ago about restrictor place racing where all the drivers came and we had a meeting. So when I look at it from a historical standpoint I look at it and I say okay, I can't connect all the dots. I look at it that when there is a need to get everyone together and a reason to get everyone together, they are going to do it. And those needs and reasons are going to be different. So with everything that's going on right now today that's why we had the meeting that we had a few weeks ago. So with everything that was going on a year ago, that is why we had the meeting then. For me it's kind of like a case-by-case basis so I just hate to say that they changed a lot. I think that they are just responding to the situation as it is."

A LOT HAS BEEN MADE ABOUT THE CREW CHIEF CHANGE ON THE 88 CAR BUT RCR HAS ALSO BEEN AN ORGANIZATION THAT HAS USED PERSONNEL AND CREW CHIEF CHANGES TO TRY AND JUMP START PERFORMANCE. FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE AS A DRIVER WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF DOING THAT VERSUS TRYING TO WORK THROUGH THE SITUATION WITH EXISTING TEAMS AND PERSONNEL?

"Well with that too, every situation is different. You know, there comes a time when things just aren't working and you look and someone has to make the decision and say, 'okay they are not working' but someone has to make the decision that it's never going to work.

"Every team, every structure, every business has its ups and downs and you have to have all the information to make the decision of when to make the change or to see it through. I've been in those situations where it wasn't going to get better and something had to change. And I have been in situations where it wasn't going well and I totally was convinced that sticking it out was the best thing to do and I was right. I've also been wrong about those things too.

"At the end of the day, the pros and cons are that you judge them by the results. And if the changes yield better results then you lean back and say it was better and if you don't then you look back and say it wasn't the right thing to do. But I think it's wrong to try and make that decision immediately.

"It's kind of like my father-in-law is a physician and one of the things that is interesting about medicine is that if you treat someone and they get better then that person believes that they got better because they were treated. But if you didn't treat them at all they might have gotten better too and then that person wouldn't think that the medicine is what made them better.

"When you make a change, you don't know what the result was going to be if you hadn't made that change. You never know that. You only know what happened after you did it. So it's really hard to compare the two because at the end of the day it's just results."

YOU HAVE MENTIONED BEFORE THAT NASCAR NEEDS VILLAINS IN THE SPORT TO BALANCE THINGS OUT. CAN YOU EXPRESS AGAIN WHY YOU THINK NASCAR NEEDS VILLAINS AND IS KYLE BUSCH FILLING THAT ROLE? "He is certainly one of them. He has that personality and the success that people are going to love or hate. You don't sit on the fence with Kyle. He invokes passion. There are a lot of people that don't like him at all and there is an awful lot of people that passionately like him.

"That's the same way you feel about the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees and that is a good thing. That's what makes the fans come and that is what makes sports fun because it's just as fun to pull against someone as it is to pull for them.

"I think that our sport needs those people. Kyle seems to enjoy it and seems to relish in it and many times provoke it just because he wants to. And you know, that's his business and that is the way he wants to do it and its okay with me. I think it's funny when he gets out and bows because I know that three-quarters of those people want to throw something at him and the other quarter want to throw something at the people that threw something at him. That's cool. That fan passion is what makes our deal work.

"I don't think you should fabricate it. I don't think it's something that can be fabricated because you either invoke that passion or you don't and I don't think he does fabricate it. I think it's just him being him. And I think he likes it when he pisses somebody off to be quite honest and he stands pat and says this is how it is, this is who I am and this is what it is and that's okay.

DOES IT MAKE YOUR JOB AND YOUR GOALS HARDER WHEN YOU HAVE ANOTHER COMPETITIVE TEAM IN THE MIX LIKE THIS YEAR? "You pay attention to your competition and if you are not paying attention to them then you are not doing a very good job. But when people make a mistake it's when they try to replicate their success.

"I don't know what the fourteen did last week to win the race other than what I could see which was the same thing that you saw. But all the things that went into the decisions that were made at the shop, decisions that were made months ago, I am not privy to those conversations. So me, trying to replicate what they did doesn't make sense.

"What I have to do is to understand that they won, and how they won and that they are doing a better job in some areas and try to improve in some of those areas but I can't do it the way they are doing it because I don't know how they are doing it. You pay attention to your competition but you don't try to replicate the competition. That is the way I view it.

"There is no question that the Michael Waltrip teams have taken a step forward this year. The Red Bull teams have at times looked like they have gotten better, the Penske teams have gotten better. We have more teams that thrust into being able to run well so that makes it harder to be successful. It's one of the reasons that we are not running as well as we did last year is that we didn't improve in comparison to them enough to stay ahead of them. So in many cases we broke even with them and when you break even with them they are going to beat you as many times as you beat them. So we have more people now that can beat us and it shows up in our performance and it does become harder because we have more teams that can be successful."

GIVEN THE GM SITUATION IN THE NATIONWIDE AND TRUCK SERIES DO YOU THINK IT'S TIME FOR NASCAR TO GO TO A CRATE MOTOR TO SAVE COST? "It's a double-edged sword because on the surface a crate engine thing sounds like a great idea, but at the same time there is a lot of resources that are channeled through Hendrick Motorsports, through RCR, through Roush that make our companies that make our companies more stable and enable us to make the investments necessary to be here.

"So on the surface of it the crate thing for a lower budget Nationwide team the crate engine thing makes a lot of sense. For the Nationwide teams that are winning races, I don't think it makes a lot of sense. I think in some ways it lessens a team's ability to serve the sport.

"If you go to a crate motor it takes away and there are a lot of people that are employed today that would not be employed. You know every time we start talking about saving money we are talking about people. That's what it ends up being. We have to be careful because it's a double-edged sword.

"I'll tell you that if I owned a Nationwide team and somebody said your engine bill is going to be cut in half that would sound pretty enticing to me. At the same time, it's kind of like paying taxes. I don't want to pay any more taxes than I need to pay, but if me paying some taxes makes our infrastructure better and health care better then I'm okay with it. So in some ways, spending more money in our sport makes our sport stronger and spending less money is not all positives.

"If you do the crate thing, I think it really hinders our opportunity for Chevrolet to want to be involved in the Nationwide series or Ford to want to be involved in the Nationwide series. So that's probably not a good thing either.

"With the IRL and Honda doing that, I don't know how that thing works but in these times, it's like hey man if we weren't relying on the manufacturers that might be a good thing but the majority of the time the manufacturers being here has been very beneficial to this sport. Marketing, merchandising, technology. The manufacturers have brought a lot to this sport. The manufacturers really started pushing the safety thing and put funding into that safety thing before anyone else. The manufacturers have brought a lot to this sport so going to that sounds good but there also some real serious negatives to it that aren't as good as it looks on the surface of it."

THERE IS A LOT OF UNDERCURRENT ABOUT THE CAR OF TOMORROW. DO YOU THINK THE CAR SHOULD BE CHANGED AND HOW DIFFICULT TO YOU THINK IT WOULD BE TO CHANGE IT AND MAKE IT A BETTER CAR? "If the car is changed at all I don't think the car should be changed drastically. If NASCAR believes if the cars drive a little better would produce better racing then I would support that. The fact that the cars are hard to drive, I'm not going to whine about that because this is supposed to be the hardest form of auto racing in North America. It's supposed to be hard, but if it's so hard that you can't have good racing then that is a whole different conversation.

"I'll tell you that Goodyear has brought tires the last three months that the cars have driven a lot better on. That's been a major improvement and if we can continue to make that kind of improvement.........I mean they have done an incredible job of bringing a better tire. If they continue to make those improvements I think there is less that has to be done to the car.

"I wouldn't support wholesale changes because of the cost, but if there are subtle things that could do, and every team could do inexpensively to make the cars drive a little bit better which may make the competition a little better then I support that wholeheartedly.

"The only reason that being hard to drive makes it wrong is if it's so hard to drive that you can't race it side-by-side and you can't put on competitive racing. Being hard is okay, but I don't see major changes coming. I think if any changes come it will be several small things that are relatively inexpensive and easy to adapt to."

DO YOU THINK RIGHT NOW THERE IS ENOUGH SIDE-BY-SIDE RACING? "I don't think there is ever enough. I mean we talk about racing and the thing that baffles me when we talk about racing and the quality of racing and wow, how it used to be. Let's go watch racing and see how it used to be. If you think racing is boring now you should have been here ten years ago. I'm sorry, but it is what it is and I think there is a perception about what racing used to be that is inaccurate. I think we've glamorized this thing and I think we have some people in the sport that have glamorized it when in fact it was cool, and I watched it ever Sunday. I can tell you that because I liked it but if you want to talk about racing the way it was versus the way it is today then look at how many cars are on the lead lap and look at how many people win races. I'm sorry, there is no comparison.

"Do we have enough side-by-side racing? I guess the answer is going to be no, because you are never ever going to have enough to where everybody says whoa that's perfect. And then when you do somebody gets in the grandstands and says 'oh we've got to do something about that', you know? Everybody wants to have it both ways. They want us to race side-by-side every lap, but it's impossible to do that.

"I will tell you this. And I will stand firm on this. I will take from Phoenix to this point in the year and I understand California wasn't a good race, but I will take from that Phoenix race to right now and you show me a six or seven race stretch that has been as competitive as that six or seven race stretch and I will be shocked. If you can pull it out of the archives and show it to me. The racing in that stretch has been really, really good.

"And is the racing at Pocono going to be the same racing at Phoenix? No its not because it's a two-and-a-half mile race track, but if you look at that segment of racing, it's been really, really good racing and it is what it is. I have watched every one of them...gone back and watched them and they have been really, really good races. I don't think there has ever been a period that I have been involved in where we have had a segment of races as good as that segment has been. I really believe that."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Michael Waltrip
Teams Hendrick Motorsports