JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with media members at Phoenix International Raceway and talked about Sunday's race, passing in the new car, a drivers union, drug testing and more. TALK ABOUT THE TRACK AND WHAT YOU'RE...
JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with media members at Phoenix International Raceway and talked about Sunday's race, passing in the new car, a drivers union, drug testing and more.
TALK ABOUT THE TRACK AND WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FORWARD TO TOMORROW NIGHT. "I'm hopefully looking forward to being better than I was yesterday. We had a horrendous qualifying result. We didn't have a bad effort, but we had a bad result. I don't know, really honestly with the car of tomorrow we've qualified poorly a lot and I thought we had figured that qualifying thing out but with the car of tomorrow we've struggled and yesterday just continued that.
Looking forward to being able to concentrate on race set up today and it's going to be interesting. It's going to be slicker today, it's hot and we'll have to be really careful to understand it is going to be hot and slick today. It's not going to be probably as slick tomorrow night as it's going to be when practice starts. That's something we're gonna have to keep in mind and pay attention to. We have a big challenge ahead of us, we've got a long way to go. This is one of the harder race tracks to pass on so that's our immediate focus."
DO YOU HAVE A CONCERN THAT YOUR TEAM MAY GET IN A COMFORT ZONE NOW THAT YOU HAVE THIS PADDING TO WORK WITH FOR THE NEXT SEVERAL MONTHS OR DO YOU JUST KEEP DRIVING AND TRYING TO GET BETTER? "Yeah, I'm not worried about that. I think that everyone on our team understands.
We've been the team that took off the start of the year really, really fast and then weren't good when we needed to be. It's real clear to us that we're gonna have to continue to improve as the year goes on, so I'm not worried about that in the least. The biggest thing is what do we do to get better, that's the biggest question. When you're running well it's harder to make improvements. The right decisions, putting the effort in the right place that's gonna be the hardest part. I'm not worried about the thought process or the comfort level. This team is mature and we've been around the block and I think we'll all answer that call just fine."
ON HOW IMPRESSED HE IS WITH THE START THE 99 TEAM HAS HAD SO FAR. "They've been incredible. Honestly, I thought they had Atlanta won too. They had a problem and they've been the best car on the 1.5-mile and two-mile race tracks. That's saying a lot because we run a lot of 1.5-mile, two-mile race tracks and they've been incredible. At times in those races, they've been where nobody can run with them, they've been dominate and that's hard to do at this level. I've been real impressed, which everybody has been."
ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT HAVING A TRAVELING SAFETY TEAM IN NASCAR. "I'm not one of those people that believes we have to have, that I have to look at a familiar face to get good care, that I have to look at a familiar face to have a competent person doing the job. I do think we have to have a group of people that understand all the little nuances that go with us every week, but I don't believe that every single person needs to be with us every week. I think that we gain benefit from drawing on the information that people in Arizona have, people in Michigan have, people in Florida have. I think there's some real advantages to that. We do have to have, and as seen by me, we have this now, we have to have NASCAR overseeing all that and directing people that don't have experience in this type of event. I don't believe we have to have a full-time traveling team 100 percent. The head of the snake needs to be the full-time leading group, they need to be here all the time. They need to know all the nuances. I believe if you have the head making decisions, training people, telling them what's going to happen. I'm really comfortable with our safety, medical, I'm really comfortable with all of that when it comes to we have an incident on the track and how they respond to it.
I'm really comfortable with that. A lot of people like to look at a familiar face, it makes them feel better, it makes them feel more comfortable. But we're not in the comfortable business when it comes to that, we're in the safety business. Sometimes emotions get in the way, especially when it comes to health care. I believe that a competent fireman is a competent fireman and I believe if a gentleman is trained or a lady is trained to put a fire out, he doesn't have to be a NASCAR employee to put a fire out. But I do believe he has to have some background and some training by someone that does have the experience and I believe we have that today."
ON HOW AT RCR IT IS STRESSED TO RUN AS MANY LAPS AS POSSIBLE IN ANY GIVEN EVENT. "Yeah, it starts with Richard there's no question.
When Martin (Truex) broke last week, that's been on Richard's head about the engine thing, it's been driving him nuts all week. That's just how he is, because he believes we have to run every lap. When we don't run a lap he gets very frustrated about it, when we have a mechanical problem. That really bothers him so he's our, not only does he own all the stuff and our boss, he's the head guy when it comes to reliability and he's the one you have to answer to when you're not finishing races."
LAST WEEK ON WIND TUNNEL YOU SAID THAT YOU DIDN'T NECESSARILY THINK DRIVERS NEEDED TO HAVE AN ORGANIZATION TO REPRESENT THEIR VIEWS. IN LIGHT OF ALL THIS GONE ON THIS WEEKEND AND A MAJORITY OF DRIVERS SEEMING TO WANT A CHANGE IN THE DRUG POLICY, HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR OPINION ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THE NASCAR DRIVERS SHOULD HAVE AN ORGANIZATION? "I haven't changed my opinion about whether we should have an organization. My fear in the drivers having an organization is that a group of drivers with power isn't necessarily in our sports best interest. NASCAR's willingness to listen to drivers is in our best interest. But a group of drivers that could, because they are given power, demand things, that could manipulate things for their benefit rather than the sports benefit, I don't think is a good situation for our sport. While we're talking about drug testing policy, one of the reasons that the drug testing policies in other sports have been really lax is that the players, the players unions and the players unions representatives put up huge fights about when they could be tested, how they can be tested and not only that what would happen when they tested positive. A few years ago when you got tested positive for marijuana in the NBA you kept playing. There was no penalty, there was nothing and that was because of the players union, well one of the reasons was the players union. That's an example of how I don't believe that a group of athletes that have power over a sport, that can force the sport into decisions that aren't good for the sport, that's my fear. If we were living in poverty and we were living lives that where we were highly underpaid, we were mistreated poorly, we were miners in the early 1900's then a union would be a productive thing because their conditions were so deplorable that they had to have force.
They had to have a group in order to get just everyday ordinary things accomplished. We don't have that. We're all well compensated, we're in a sport today that's very safety-minded. We aren't in a perfect sport. There are things that could be better but, as seen by me, having a group of drivers that have power is not in the best interest of those guys sitting in the seats. That's what I believe has happened in other sports. I may be wrong about it, but that's what I see. I don't see how the players union, the players union in major league baseball just looks so powerful and so many decisions have been made that are counter-productive to what's good for the game. How many people quit watching baseball because of strikes? How many people have not gone back to watching hockey because of strikes? Those kind of things are when a union is counter-productive and that would be my fear.
"Here's the other side to my comment. A group with no power really is no group. It really isn't very productive. It would be very hard in a non-formal fashion for a group of drivers or all the drivers to get together and be productive because once we all get together we have an association or whatever you want to call it, what's the recourse for us? If we say we want to do this and NASCAR doesn't do it, what do we do? I believe that our athletes need to be able to go to NASCAR, have a conversation with NASCAR, NASCAR listen and then make the decision. Ultimately its NASCAR's job, everything that revolves around our sport it's up to them to make sure fans are in the stands. They have a broader perspective. Do I wish NASCAR would listen to us a little more sometimes, I do. If you sit down with them and they walk you through a decision, then you kind of okay that makes some sense even though I disagree with it, it makes some sense. There's logic there. NASCAR doesn't make decisions with no logic put to it.
That's my stance on it, that's the way I feel."
ON THE DIFFICULTY OF PASSING WITH THE NEW CAR. "It's hard to pass when you're a tenth of a second faster than a guy, it's hard to pass. If you're three tenths quicker than him then it's not. I had more trouble passing at Texas than I did at Vegas.
I had more trouble passing at Texas than I did at California so I think some of that in the newer generation, tougher tire. I'm not blaming it on Goodyear, but we did go to Texas with no tire failure, we did go to Atlanta with no tire failure, those were positives. I think some of that, that we're feeling is the new generation tire, I don't know if it's the new generation tire but it is on this car. But it is, when you're just a little quicker than somebody it's exceptionally hard to pass."
ON HIS THOUGHTS ON NASCAR'S DRUG TESTING POLICY. "I'll be frank about it, I wish we tested more. I like the policy. I like the way the policy reads once you've tested positive. It's one of the most strict policies in sports. I'm really happy with that, but I think we ought to test more. It is an interesting dynamic in NASCAR because I don't work for NASCAR. NASCAR doesn't pay me, the race tracks don't pay me, Richard Childress pays me.
I'm an employee of Richard Childress Racing or actually I'm an employee of my own but I'm subcontracted or however you want to say it to Richard Childress Racing. So it's a little complex because who is responsible for testing me, is it Richard Childress Racing or is it NASCAR? I think that makes it a little more difficult, it complicates the issue. Ultimately though, NASCAR does make the rules and they do enforce the rules. They are the ones that penalize you 25 points for being high, they're the ones that penalize you 100 points for having the wrong wing on the car or whatever, so ultimately they are probably the ones that have to penalize us for illegal drug use as well.
I guess the way I look at is that everything you do has a negative side to it. What's the negative to testing too much and what's the negative to not testing enough? If you're gonna look at it like that, you rather screw up by testing too much than screw up by not testing enough. I'd like to see us test a little more. I know people get tested, because people have got caught. I guess I'm honored, I've never been tested (laughs), I feel like I should be.
Maybe, I don't know, I've heard a lot of people say they've never been tested. I don't know. Again, I just think if we're gonna mess up, let's mess up by testing too much. Let's be real aggressive about it and two years from now when something does go down we can stand together and say look. One of the things I was talking about earlier, and I've read all the articles, not all of them but I've read some of the articles and seen some of the stuff on television. We have a unique position here, every driver I've heard talk about testing, said yeah let's do it. There's no opposition, well I'm not going to say that. There's not a lot of opposition, I'm sure there's some opposition but there's very little opposition.
That's a unique position and I think that's a good thing."
AT TALLADEGA IT SEEMS THAT THE VERY BEST DRIVERS PUT THEMSELVES IN POSITION TO WIN, HAS THE STRATEGY TOWARD DOING THAT CHANGED IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS WITH THE NEW CAR AND NEW PAVEMENT? "Jeff Gordon winning last year, he did a great job and gives credence to your point that great drivers find a way to make it happen. He didn't have the fastest car. A lot of times we see at Talladega there's about four, six, eight cars that are better than the field. I know you guys don't see it because we're all in one pack, but we can see it. On the track we know who the fastest cars are and typically one of those cars wins. So we as drivers go, we need one of those cars to get it done. But Jeff did what he did last year and kind of makes you think, okay. So it is driver and it's also car but the interesting thing is being at the right place at the right time is so important there and knowing what to do and when to do it is so important and you see the same people able to do that. So there is a skill involved in it, there's no question about it."
-credit: gm racing