Jeff Burton, No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, met with media members at Michigan International Speedway and discussed the AT&T sponsorship situation, running the Busch Series race here this weekend, the impact of the Car of Tomorrow...
Jeff Burton, No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, met with media members at Michigan International Speedway and discussed the AT&T sponsorship situation, running the Busch Series race here this weekend, the impact of the Car of Tomorrow in the Chase races, characteristics that make MIS a popular track and Juan Pablo Montoya.
ON THE DECISION MADE THIS WEEK ON THE RULING REGARDING AT&T SPONSORSHIP OF THE 31 CAR: "Well certainly it is not something that we want to be dealing with at this point in the year, but it is what it is. AT&T is committed to being in the sport. They are going to everything in their power to be here. It certainly has the potential to be a distraction but this team is really focused and full of very mature people who have been around a long time. We are paying attention to the races and things ahead of us that revolve around competition. That is what we are focusing on."
DOES IT IMPACT YOU WHETHER THEY ARE THERE NEXT YEAR OR NOT? IF THIS DOESN'T FALL IN AT&T'S FAVOR, DO YOU HAVE TO GO AND LOOK FOR ANOTHER PLACE TO DRIVE? "The chances of me not being at RCR next year are very, very, very slim. Richard and I have a commitment with each other and it would take a very odd set of circumstances for that to happen. We feel good about where we are as far as funding. Certainly the decision this week . makes that more challenging than it was before that decision. A lot will happen in the next little bit for sure but we will just have to see where it goes."
HOW DOES RUNNING THE BUSCH RACE BEFORE THE CUP RACE HERE HELP YOU IN THE CUP RACE? "I think that running the Busch race here, honestly is just a lot more about fun than it is help. We have run this race track a long time and we pretty know what to expect, not that we know that we are going to come here and run well, but there are not a whole lot of surprises . around something that we would learn in the Busch car. To be honest, this is a fun race track. There is a tremendous amount of challenge to win a race here. I come here to run the Busch race, because it is fun. I think it does, anytime that I am on a track I think that it harbors the opportunity to learn something. This is one of the tracks that we don't have a tremendous amount of chance to learn a lot."
ON THE OWNER POINTS AND DRIVER POINTS SITUATION IN THE BUSCH SERIES: "Since the year started it's been our goal to win the Owners Championship. We knew that we weren't going to win the Drivers Championship, but it has been our goal all along to win the Owners Championship. It is like anything else, anytime you set a goal, that becomes the primary focus trying to get done. So, we are putting a lot of effort into it. We feel like we have a reasonable chance at it. We know that there is a lot of racing left and it is going to be hard, but you know, we are putting a lot of effort into it and we feel good about our chances. The No. 60 car is a really strong car. The No. 21 car obviously is a really strong car. We are just laying it out there and just seeing what we can make happen. For us, it's fun. You know, I mean, all of the pressure is on the No. 60. The No. 60 has had a tremendous lead for a long time and with no worries what so ever and now they don't. We don't have anyth ing to lose. They don't want to split their Championship up, but for us, no one was talking about us winning the Championship anyway, we were internally. All of the pressure is on them and we are just having fun with it. We are having a great time and we want to keep the pressure on them and make them think about it."
CREW CHIEFS FOR THE NO. 24 AND NO. 48 COME BACK THIS WEEK. THAT WHOLE EPISODE WHERE THEY DECIDED TO SIT DOWN A COUPLE OF CREW CHIEFS, DO YOU THINK IN THE PUBLIC'S MIND THAT IS A NON-ISSUE OR IS A CREDIBILITY ISSUE FOR THE SPORT? "Well, I don't know what the public thinks. I don't think that it is a non-issue. I think that sending two crew chief's home is a significant penalty. There is no question about it. With technology today, with the way race teams are run today, it is not the same kind of penalty that it would have been fifteen years ago, there is no question about that. It is, none the less, a penalty that you would not want to have to serve. It is not a non-factor. I think that we need to look at how we penalize teams. I am a believer that strong penalties are a good idea. I think that strong penalties are a great deterrent. Small things don't have a whole lot of impact. Big things have a major impact. So, I am not opposed to driver suspensions and or crew chief suspensions. I do find it odd that crew chiefs are suspended a lot longer than drivers are. I don't really understand that. I believe, the bigge st penalties are points. When you start taking points away, that is what get's your attention."
WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT THE BIGGEST IMPACT OF THE CAR OF TOMORROW IS GOING TO BE IN THE CHASE? "Well, that's a huge impact. I mean - half of the (Chase) races are Car of Tomorrow races. So, if your Car of Tomorrow program isn't where it needs to be, then your chances of winning a Championship are much diminished. That is what makes the DEI cars, right now, if you look at what the DEI cars have been able to do with their Impala SS stuff, you know they have been really fast recently. That makes them really dangerous. Obviously McGinn's cars are running well, the Hendrick cars are running well. To me, it is 50% of the ball game. You know Car of Tomorrow races are the same as the regular season. You have got to be good in regular season and in Chase season with the Car of Tomorrow to make sure that you can win a Championship. They make up so many races that you have got to be able to do it well."
HOW DO YOU THINK THAT CAR IS GOING TO ACT AT TALLADEGA? "I don't have a clue. I haven't driven a car, with a wing on it, at a big race track. I don't know. Believe it or not, I have zero opinion on what it is going to act like, other than it is going to probably drag differently than the cars that we have today, there is no question about it. What the effect of that is, with forty-three, well funded operations out there, I don't know. It will be an interesting race I can assure you that."
HOW DOES WHERE YOU SIT IN THE POINTS STANDING AFFECT THE WAY YOU DRIVE IN THESE LAST FEW RACES BEFORE THE CHASE? "Well, we are obviously in a position of need. Need to get ourselves in the Chase. That is the focus number one and goal number one is to get into the Chase. To do that we need to have good finishes, we need to run well, we need to compete at a high level, we need to get the best finish that we can, which by the way is what we would do anyway. We certainly don't want to put ourselves in a situation that we didn't have to be in because I did something silly, or we had a mechanical problem, there is no question about that. But at the same time, you have to compete at a high level. You don't not run hard in these cars and expect to finish this. This competition is too tough to do that. So, we are going to go out and try to win the race. If we can't win the race then we are going to try to finish second. If we can't finish second then we are going to try to finish third. That is what we try to do every week. That i s what we will do this week."
WHAT ARE THE CHARICTERISTICS ABOUT MICHIGAN THAT MAKE THIS SUCH A POPULAR TRACK? "Well, I mean certainly the fact that we have multiple grooves has a lot to do with it. There are a lot of options for drivers. You can run up by the wall. You can run down by the white line. A lot of room with wide straight-a-ways. It is just a fun race track but it is not one of those tracks that, it doesn't have an overwhelming amount of grip. It is still a fairly low grip race track. You still have to drive the car, you know, this isn't one of those race tracks that you can just point the wheel, you have got to be driving it. The grip level is way down, but it is a big wide race track so it is fun to drive, options for the drivers. It is pretty well laid out."
YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE LAW SUIT AND HOW IT IS GOING TO AFFECT THIS TEAM: "There are a lot of questions that still have to be answered to be perfectly honest. Certainly the focus of this race team is to compete for a Championship, to number one get in the Chase and number two (inaudible because of garage engine noise) that is what our focus is on. There are a lot of things that are going on that are going to affect what happens in the future. We honestly don't have control over those things. We kind of have to wait those things out. AT&T is committed to being in this sport and they have been here for a long time and they want to continue to be here. Obviously this makes it another hurdle, or a hurdle that you have to jump over. We honestly don't know what all of that means to be perfectly honest."
DO YOU HAVE THE TIME TO THINK ABOUT THE "WHAT IF'S"? "We have no choice but to think about the 'what if's.' Obviously, AT&T is committed to us. We just signed a long term commitment with them. They are committed to being with us for a long time; they have expressed that over and over and over. We believe that to be the case. So, you know, there is the reality, that if AT&T is not aloud to put their logos on a car, at some point that might not be beneficial to AT&T anymore and at the point, something might have to change. That I don't know, but I do know that they are committed to us. That we have a long term agreement with them because they want to be here, they want to be at RCR Racing and they want to be in this sport and this ruling makes that more challenging."
IN YOUR OPINION, SHOULD THESE EXCLUSIVITY RULES BE RESOLVED? I MEAN IS IT A DETERRENT TO SOME TEAM OWNERS? IS IT HURTING THEM? "This case has never been about NASCAR's right to grant exclusivity. That has never been questioned. The question of this case has everything to do with what AT&T was told that they could and could not do. I don't think that anybody in this sport has a problem with the exclusivity that NASCAR can grant, including AT&T. This case has been about what AT&T was told that they could and could not do. It is AT&T's interpretation that they were not told that they could not change the brand. That is what this whole argument is about. It had nothing to do with NASCAR's right to grant exclusivity. This case certainly requires NASCAR to look at things differently. To make sure that everything is spelled out very clearly to everyone so that we don't have this situation again. It is NASCAR's charge to do what is good for the overall good of the sport. We respect that. It is our charge to make sure that we have the funding that it takes to have race teams and I think that NACAR respects that. The areas that are being questioned in this case need to be spelled out more clearly in the future. But it is not about NASCAR trying to grant exclusivity. We support NASCAR's right to grant exclusivity. We have benefited from that, the sport has benefited from that, there is no question about that. That has never been a question. The question that AT&T has had from the beginning has everything to do with what they were told that they could and could not do and it has been misrepresented by people that it has been about NASCAR's right to grant exclusivity. That is not the case. That has never been the argument nor will it be the argument. The argument has everything to do with what the grandfather clause stated that AT&T could do."
LAST WEEK YOUR TEAMMATE SAID THAT JUAN PABLO MONTOYA RUNS OVER SOMEBODY EVERY WEEK. NOW I KNOW THAT HE WAS ANGRY AT THE CAR, BUT IS THERE A FEELING IN THE GARAGE THAT MONTOYA IS BEING TOO AGGRESSIVE OUT THERE? "Montoya has put himself in many situations that someone else has come out the loser; there is no question about that. He is trying to feel his way through this thing. He is an aggressive driver. He has come here to win, immediately, and he is driving accordingly. He doesn't necessarily have the experience in these cars to drive as aggressively as, say, Jeff Gordon can and still get by with it. It's still a learning process, he has been in the middle of more stuff than most people have; there is no question about it. No one questions Montoya's ability to drive a race car, at least no one that I have spoken to, it is just a matter or him getting the experience to go along with the ability that he has. Certainly there's a lot of different ways to learn and he has chosen to learn by sticking it in holes and finding out what will happen rather than looking back at it later and thinking I wonder what would have happened if I had done that. I can't fault him for that. I am not saying that he is wrong. I am not saying that he is doing the wrong thing, but he is certainly, he has been in more than the average driver has been in."
IS THAT A CASE OF NOT UNDERSTANDING OR FOLOWING THE UNWRITTEN RULES THAT THERE SEEM TO BE SO MUCH OF IN THIS SPORT? "You have got to understand that he hasn't been in this arena in any more of a fashion until last year. The things that he is learning are things that he has to learn. I am not sitting here saying that he is doing the wrong thing. His inexperience, in this style of car, has put him in some positions that a Jeff Gordon wouldn't have been in. But Jeff Gordon was in those things when he was a rookie. It is just a matter of experience; it has nothing to do with talent. Again, everybody learns differently. Some people learn in a fashion where they want to make sure that they don't get involved in anything, they don't want to cause any incidents, that is what they are comfortable learning with. In Montoya's case, his effort has been on being aggressive, letting people know that he is here to win, letting people know that he is here to win immediately and through that he has been in a little more than he would have, had he done it the other way."
-credit: gm racing