Michigan: Jeff Burton - Friday media visit

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T MONTE CARLO SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway today. he discussed Dale Earnhardt's decision to join Hendrick Motorsports, if that affects richard childress racing's plans to have a fourth...

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T MONTE CARLO SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway today. he discussed Dale Earnhardt's decision to join Hendrick Motorsports, if that affects richard childress racing's plans to have a fourth team, the role his father played in his career, the difference between the two road courses on the Nextel Cup schedule and other topics.

ON DALE EARNHARDT, JR. GOING TO HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AND THE RICH GETTING RICHER: "Well Hendrick obviously as a driver is a place that certainly you would want to look at going. Junior did what I think most drivers in the garage would have done. Rick Hendrick runs a great program. They got great people over there, had a lot of success. From the outside looking in I think he made a good decision."

DOES THAT AFFECT YOU WITH PLANS TO HAVE A FOURTH TEAM? "Doesn't affect us in the least. Obviously there's several drivers that Richard has expressed a lot of interest in. Junior was one of them. He wasn't the only one. There were several drivers that Richard has a tremendous amount of interest in so it doesn't affect RCR's position on whether they'll be a fourth team or not."

ON THE TEST NEXT WEEK AND THE IMPALA SS GOING TO SONOMA NEXT WEEK AND HOW THE SPLITTER WILL BE A BIG THING THERE. HOW WILL THE NEW CAR REACT ON A ROAD COURSE VERSUS THE OTHER CAR: "I think the splitter is not a big of an issue as we believed it would be in January. The splitter has proven to be an extremely durable piece of material. I don't think the splitter is going to be that big of an issue. I could be proven wrong but being that the curves of VIR were pretty aggressive, some of them are anyway, and I don't think it's going to be that big of an issue. Certainly it's potentially an issue but I don't think the splitter is going to be that big of an issue in and of itself. The car is certainly as everywhere else we take it, it's a lower grip car it doesn't make as much grip as the cars are running today and certainly on a road course that makes a big difference. They're heavier, the CG (center of gravity) is higher, there are a lot of things that work against the car driving well and that will show up on a road course."

IS KYLE BUSCH ONE OF THE DRIVERS THAT YOU ARE INTERESTED IN? "Richard is the one to talk to about that. Richard's the guy to talk to about that."

WHEN A DRIVER IS RELEASED AND KNOW THEY WON'T BE WITH THE TEAM NEXT YEAR WHAT DO THEY RACE FOR? "A lot of times things happen in the office that have nothing to do with what goes on at the shop. In Kyle and Rick's case they came to the determination that maybe it was in both of their best interests to do something different. That doesn't change the fact that Kyle is still here to race to win. That doesn't change the fact that Kyle is still here to race to win. That doesn't change the fact that that team is still here to race to win. It becomes complicated, there's not question about it but I don't think the crew chief and the crew members of that team, they still have the same dedication and desire to win the race. They're not here just for Kyle Busch. They're here for themselves to and Kyle's not here just for himself. It works both ways. Kyle is in a difficult position but at the end of the day running well and performing is what it's all about and there's a lot of racing left. We're not even half way through the year yet. There's a lot of racing left and you can't lose focus on the fact that there's only one chance to win this race ever and that's today, Sunday rather. If you don't have that intensity when you come to the race track you won't be successful and I don't think that Kyle or anyone on that team will lose that."

WITH THE MONEY THAT DALE EARNHARDT, JR. CAN BRING TO HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS IS THERE A CONCERN THAT THE BALANCE OF POWER IS GETTING OUT OF WHACK? "I'm pretty sure that Hendrick Motorsports has pretty good funding anyway. Certainly Junior can demand a tremendous amount for sponsorship and his fan following is really big and certainly that adds to the resources and revenue opportunities that Hendrick has. We have to counter that, not necessarily just because of the Junior factor but we were already talking about a fourth team and one of the reasons is because of the resources that are available to Hendrick and available to Roush that aren't available to the teams that don't have that many teams. So we have to be efficient with the money that we as well as they do. We have to spend the money in the right places. We have to have a great game plan about how we're going to spend money and more money doesn't fix any of that. If run properly, (it) can give you an advantage or help you catch up in some areas but it has to be run properly. It has to be the right program. It has to have a plan behind it. If not then you have chaos."

ON THIS THOUGHTS ON THE IMPALA SS AND HIS INTRODUCTION TO IT: "I'm O.K. with it. I've never been one that had a major problem with the Car of Tomorrow. It's certainly a different feeling car. It's different than what we have today no question about it but when we go to Car of Tomorrow races I'm not thinking hey, we've got a Car of Tomorrow race. I'm thinking about we're racing at Sears Point or we're racing in New Hampshire. I don't have in my mind about the Car of Tomorrow. I know that sounds silly but it's our job to do it better than our competition."

ARE THERE PARTS OF THE NEW RACE CAR YOU LIKE AND DISLIKE: "Certainly there's parts that I like more than others. I really like the flexibility that the car gives with the space for the drivers, the safety of the car. I certainly like those things. I wish the car were lighter. I wish we could have built a car that.I wish the Car of Tomorrow had more of tomorrow's technology in it than yesterday's technology from a performance standpoint. But none the less, I'm of the opinion that we would have been better off building a car that weighed 2,800 pounds than building a car that weighed 3,600 pounds. I think we would have been better off doing that but the other side of it is that would have pretty much wiped the slate clean for sure with a lot of new different technology but again, I think that's probably the direction it should have gone it but that's not to say that this can't be a successful platform. If I was building a Cup car, the Cup cars we run today, I wouldn't build it like they're built either. I'd build them where they were lighter and they had more composite materials rather than steel and I'd do thing differently but this formula has proven to be successful and I think will continue to be successful in the future."

ON HOW HIS FATHER INFLUENCED HIM: "When I think of my father, obviously his commitment to his children is what has enabled Ward and I and our middle brother Brian to do what we do in our lives. He got us moving in the right direction and taught us to deal with things when they're not going well and taught us the importance of focus and the importance of intensity. With his help and us learning our lessons, we've been able to be fairly successful at the venues that we've chosen. I think of his commitment that he gave to us when he could have been moving on with his friends, many times he was with us at a go-kart track or with us playing basketball or spending time with his kids and that shouldn't be taken lightly."

IS THERE A SPECIAL FEELING FOR THE DRIVERS THAT RACE ON FATHER'S DAY WEEKEND? "Honestly one of the things that his sport forces you to do is to kind of shut all those things out. You can't celebrate birthdays, you can't celebrate Father's Days and Mother's Days like you would normally because we're here racing and all of the things that go into that. Unfortunately it takes away that opportunity to celebrate things in many cases but that's what we do. It's part of the sport, it's part of being committed something but there are days that are more special without a doubt."

IS THERE DISAPPOINTMENT AT RCR OVER JUNIOR'S DECISION? "I'd prefer you talk to Richard about that."

JIMMIE JOHNSON SAID HE WAS SURPRISED IT ALL WORKED OUT THAT THERE WAS A SPOT AVAILABLE FOR JUNIOR TO GO THERE. WERE YOU AT ALL SURPRISED THAT IT WORKED OUT FOR HIM TO JOIN HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? "Well I don't know, from the outside looking in, no I wasn't surprised but I don't have all the information in front of me that would make me surprised or not surprised. I'm dealing with a third of the facts, maybe even not that many of them. From the outside looking in, I know that Rick's been extremely committed to Kyle and the development of Kyle and believed that Kyle could take him where he wanted to go and that seemed to be an unwavering commitment so I don't know what went on to spread them apart but the biggest surprise to me based on my conversations with people at Hendrick Motorsports (is) that Rick's been very committed to Kyle and myself biggest surprise that there is room based on that but other than the business side of it, it's kind of a no brainer. We spoke about it before, the revenue that Junior can bring and those kind of things are certainly benefits to Hendrick Motorsports as it would be to any team but there's a bit of upheaval going on now too that will have to be weighed out."

ON RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING POSSIBLY ADDING A FOURTH TEAM AND IF KYLE BUSCH WOULD FIT IN THERE: "Certainly Kyle's talent level is very high and that's for Richard to do the full assessment. Kyle is an exceptionally talented young man that has proven he can get it done and that's for Richard to do. I'm not going to comment other than to say that, that's Richard's deal."

IS IT GOOD FOR THE SPORT TO HAVE A SUPER TEAM? "It's our intention to be the super team. I don't look at Hendrick Motorsports any differently today than I did yesterday. It's our intention to be the team that looks at everybody and says 'Wow, how do we get to there?' I don't believe we can't get there from here."

DO YOU ENJOY ROAD COURSE RACING? "I love the road course racing. I think it's a blast. My record at Sears Point hasn't been very good. I'm confident in how we've run there. I feel really good about how we've run there but we don't have a lot of finishes to show for it and a lot of that falls on my shoulders. The two road course races are I think are going to be very important to the Chase. Those are the kind of race tracks that have huge potential pit falls for teams. You can easily finish 43rd there. You can easily have a problem, get off course, break something, it's very easy to happen so it's a place where you can lose a lot of ground. On the other hand, it's a place you can make up a lot of ground. If you can run in the front and have a chance to win, I think it's a place you can really make up a lot ground in the points."

IS IT IMPORTANT FOR NASCAR TO KEEP THE TWO ROAD COURSE RACES BECAUSE IT SHOW THE WHOLE PORTFOLIO? "I like the road courses. I think it's fun because it breaks up the year for us a little bit, it's gives us something different to do, gives us something that's a huge challenge and different than what we normally do but that's up to the fans to decide not me. It's all about fan response and do the fans enjoy. If the fans enjoy it we ought to be there. If they don't then we shouldn't."

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO ROAD COURSES FROM A DRIVER'S PERSPECTIVE? "Everything. Watkins Glen is like a superspeedway of road courses. It has three long straightaways. It has a lot of high speed corners. Sears Point almost all corners are slow, elevation changes are done at a quicker rate, it's completely different. It's totally different. The same skills apply which is why you see the same people run well at both tracks but from a technical standpoint they're completely different."

FROM A RACE FAN PERSPECTIVE, IS THERE SOMETHING YOU ARE INTERESTED IN SEEING WHAT JUAN PABLO MONTOYA MIGHT BE ABLE TO DO? "I think that certainly he and Allmendinger, they certainly bring with them a background in road course racing that the majority of us don't have. That makes all of us have to be better. That makes all of us have to find a way to do a better job which is what we've seen consistently. If you look at the field at road course racing, where we were eight years ago to where we are today, the gap from the first car continues to close and we'll see that even more this year with four people coming in that have more experience and their background in that arena. I think it makes it more competitive. It puts more cars out there with a chance to win, not necessarily focusing on one driver, but that makes the race more exciting."

ON HOW IMPORTANT A CREW CHIEF IS AND HOW THEY CAN DICTATE A RACE ON THEIR DECISIONS AND HIS THOUGHTS ON FRANKIE STODDARD: "He was really quick on his feet. From a strategy standpoint Frank was one of the strongest in the garage. He had a way of gambling at the right time. He had a way of playing it safe at the right time. He was really, really good on pit road. We won a couple races, we had good, fast cars but got ourselves in position where Ray was coming and we were able to take advantage of the cars because of his calls. He and I together conjured up the idea of taking the checkered on pit road at the All Star race. I had the idea but I told him that he had to have the guts to pull to it off because if it didn't work it was going to be his fault. He thought about it overnight and came in and we executed that based on his willingness to gamble. He was really good on pit road. When it comes to strategy and knowing when to do certain things, I think he's one of the best."

WHAT'S THAT LIKE FROM THE DRIVER'S POINT OF VIEW WHEN THE CREW CHIEF DECIDES TO MAKE A GAMBLE? "Well you've got to be careful not to get caught up in the strategy. You got to be careful not to start trying to figure it out. You need to have the confidence that your crew chief is going to do it and you need to drive the car and there is some information that you can provide to the crew chief that will help him make his decision from a what do you see other people doing, how their cars are handling, those kind of things. But you need to concentrate on driving the car and if a crew chief makes a decision to try to pull some strategy it can only work if the driver's in there getting 100 percent every lap. It's like pitting early, if you pit early that only works if the driver when he comes out of the pits is getting all he can get and it only works if the driver before he comes in the pits gets all he can. So the driver needs to focus on driving the car and not try to figure out if the strategy's going to work or not. I think it's really important because sometimes I get caught up in worrying about how this is going to work out rather than worrying about driving the car and it's in my best interest to worry about making the best lap time at the end."

ON HOW DIFFICULT IT WAS TO MAINTAIN FOCUS IN THE FIRST RACE AFTER HAVING HIS FIRST CHILD: "Well Jeff (Gordon) does it at a time in his life when he has a lot more maturity and has things in a different perspective than I when I did. I think Jeff's position in the sport is fairly solid I would imagine. He can take a little bit of a not a break but a little bit a mental break and still perform and still be OK. When I went through my first child, I was still trying to earn my way into this thing and it's just a totally different perspective. A lot's been made about it but what Jeff's going through is no different than what everyone of these crew members has gone through, well not everyone one of them, but what a vast majority of the crew members have gone through, NASCAR officials. Being the job that we've chose, the passion we happen to have requires to us to be at place sometimes when it's difficult to be there but that's just the ballgame we place. Jeff's position is no different is no different than anybody else's in the garage other than the fact that he is solid in here (in the sport). He doesn't have to wake up on a Tuesday morning wondering about his job. He can kind of relax for a week or so."

ON IF JEFF GORDON CAN TAKE SONOMA OFF: "I'll be shocked if he's not at Sonoma. You come see me Sunday morning in Sonoma if he's not there. I'll be really surprised."

ON THE FIRST TIME THE FANS SEE NASCAR'S NEXT GENERATION RACE CAR AT NEW HAMPSHIRE AND HIM HAVING SUCCESS THERE AND IF THE NEW CAR WIPES AWAY HIS SUCCESS: "We haven't won a race there in years and we haven't had the success that we need to have there. The Car of Tomorrow has changed things for sure. There's a lot of work going into the Car of Tomorrow by a lot of different people trying to become more successful and we're one of them. We haven't run as well as we need to in the Car of Tomorrow so far but that doesn't mean we can't, that just means we've got to figure it out and we're working a lot between now and New Hampshire and hopefully we'll be a smarter going to New Hampshire than we are right now."

DID YOU TEST AT MILWAUKEE? "We haven't but we will."

ON THAT BEING A SIMILAR TYPE OF TRACK: "That's the best option we have as far as I know."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Kyle Busch
Teams Hendrick Motorsports