JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Texas, the current state of General Motors, crew member communication and other topics. ABOUT RACING AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY:...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Texas, the current state of General Motors, crew member communication and other topics.
ABOUT RACING AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY: "This track has proved to be a good place for us and bad place for us all at the same time. We have a lot of good finishes here, a lot of bad finishes as well. It's a real challenging race track. There's a reason why there's not been many repeat winners. It changes every time you come out here -- it changes from the time we start practice to the time the race ends the track changes a lot. We typically start with a really high grip race track and by Sunday it's a very low grip race track. It's a track that moves, a track that changes and keeping up with it is very difficult. The biggest challenge is coming here and trying to figure out exactly what the car needs on this race track on this particular weekend."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE PRESIDENT'S ACTIONS WITH GENERAL MOTORS?: "I know that General Motors is working really hard to have a company that's viable and that has products that Americans want. I've got a peak at what's coming in the future and General Motors has an incredible car line-up coming. My biggest thing about the whole GM - Chevrolet issue is getting people where they can afford to buy cars again. I really believe if you look at what Chevrolet and General Motors have done and are doing with their cars that if you go look at one you're going to like them. They have some incredible vehicles now and the new vehicles that are coming are just unbelievable. My biggest issue about all of that is just getting the economy moving so people can buy cars again -- that's the biggest issue. I know that it's a difficult time, but I believe that they will come back, but it's going to take a while."
ON TEAM OWNERS LOOKING AT OPTIONS IF GENERAL MOTORS CANNOT AFFORD TO STAY IN NASCAR: "I think those things have already happened. I think the climate that we're in today it would be poor business to not look at the worst-case scenarios. That's not to say that we believe a worst-case scenario is coming, but if you turn the news on you can't help but notice that it needs to have attention paid to it. Not only from that standpoint, but from the entire company standpoint with all of its sponsors and all of its partners. Our sport is driven by sponsors and fans being able to participate and when the economy gets bad it gets harder for those two groups to participate. I think that throughout the company and always we have to be looking at worst-case scenarios, I don't think we have an option."
ON MOVING THE SPRINT CUP BANQUET TO LAS VEGAS: "Obviously New York is very convenient from a logistical standpoint. At the end of the day our banquet needs some life injected into it. It needs fan involvement, it needs a fresh look with new ideas. The country music awards and those kinds of things where the fans are involved and are right there -- that's what we need. We need something new and exciting. What we do now is a really good thing, it's a great thing to entertain sponsors, it's a great thing to spend a night reflecting on the year and in some cases the history of our sport, but I just think it needs more energy. I think it needs something that's built around fun, built around excitement that embraces the fans more. Vegas may give us a better opportunity to do that. I don't care where it is. The only thing I care about is finding a way so that it's more exciting and I think that being in Vegas might give us a venue that enables us to do that. It would be a big venue that it would take to do that. I'm a proponent of it if it makes it more fun, more exciting and more energetic."
ON THE IMPACT OF THE FOURTH RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING TEAM ON YOUR TEAM: "Having a mediocre organization add a team means that you have a mediocre organization with more teams. Having more teams doesn't make you successful, having more teams with a game plan and an organization that can handle it has potential to make you more successful. It's no big secret why everybody wants to have more teams, it's because you are able to consolidate some expenses and to be able to save some dollars on that consolidation and then be able to take that money and use it to hire better people and use it for more testing, more research, more development to ultimately build a faster race car. It's very difficult for a one-car team to compete against a four-car team because they don't have those same resources. Number one -- it's given us some resources that we can do more with. Those are long term benefits though. We will not see the benefit of having a fourth team overnight -- it takes a long time for those things to come about. We didn't have one big thing that we couldn't do because we didn't have the funding, but it enable us to do the things that we're doing maybe more effectively. Those are long term gains. Having another driver's voice, having another crew chief's voice and have another engineer's voice -- just having more opinions. Using those opinions is of great benefit to us, there's no question. Casey (Mears) coming in has given us an opportunity to have a conversation about some things that he's been part of. It's given us an opportunity to look at ourselves as drivers. What is Casey (Mears) doing that we can learn from and it's given Casey (Mears) a chance to do the same. It's given all of our teams another look on a particular weekend and I think that's very important without testing. We don't all come to the race track with the same mindset, we come with different mindsets and hopefully we can all work together to ultimately come to the best conclusion. That's given us another look and it's just given us more resources, but again those things are typically long term gains, not short term gains."
HOW DO YOU VIEW THE SMALLER BUDGET TEAMS ENTERING SPRINT CUP THIS YEAR?: "Listen, the way that NASCAR is structured right now everybody is welcome to be here. The 71 team is a great example -- the 71 team has done a really good job. Some of their finishes don't indicate it, but if you watch them run throughout the weekend, they run really well. Some of that is a function of the Car of Tomorrow has enabled some teams to be successful because there's some things that make it so they can be successful with the car. It has presented some opportunities for some car owners and some new car owners that are looking to expand. We saw Tommy Baldwin took on a partner a couple weeks ago and those kinds of things are ultimately good for our sport. It's offered some opportunity and some teams have done really well through those opportunities."
ON TEAMS THAT FIND SUCCESS AT THE SAME RACE TRACKS: "It's a hard question to answer. I can tell you that we won a lot of races at New Hampshire, we won a lot of races at Phoenix and our company had success at those things and I can tell you that we didn't set out and say, 'We're going to set out and do New Hampshire better than everybody else.' It kind of worked out that way. I do think that when you have success in a company that success is able to continue because people take the bases and build from that and when you start from something that's close than someone else and you continue to build from that then sometimes that can give you an advantage. The mile-and-a-half's have been a strong point for the Roush teams over the last year or two years no question about that. This is obviously a mile-and-a-half and that has helped them as well. Some of it is a plan and some of its luck. Why you are more successful at Vegas than you are at Texas -- who knows. Some of it is just the programs you have fit a particular race track better than others."
ON HOW TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY AND THE RACE MARKET HAVE MATURED: "From day one this was built to be the show piece. From day one this was the crown jewel of all race tracks. The facilities that we didn't mean to mess the race track up -- they had a beautiful facility that wasn't quite finished yet or a race track that was malfunctioning. It was like they got half of it right and they had to keep working to get the rest of it right -- the parking, the traffic, the race track. It happened and it was kind of like it can be great, but it's not. As the years have gone on they've addressed the issues and now it truly is -- if you look at attendance, if you look at enthusiasm and I gauge that by doing appearances on Thursday nights or Wednesday nights -- the enthusiasm here is really high from the fans. The fans like this race track, the fans have embraced this race track and the drivers have embraced it too. From going to shut up and drive t-shirts to where we are today is a great big difference. Eddie Gossage has done a great job and a good rebound. His first couple years were a little touch and go, but Eddie (Gossage) has done a great job of embracing the drivers and doing things for the fan. The track has truly become a huge part of what we do and a lot of that is because of the fans. The fans have embraced it and the track is a great race track -- the facility is the best facility we go to as seen by me. Everything is here, but when we first came here everything wasn't here -- it was kind of piecemealed together and they've corrected those issues. Now it is one of, if not the best facilities we go to."
ARE THERE RACE TRACKS THAT HAVE REGRESSED?: "I don't know that we have facilities that have regressed, but we have had facilities that have no improved as much as this facility. It would be hard to improve as much as this facility to be perfectly honest. From having a clean sheet of paper and being able to build -- if you have a race track that's been there for 40 years it's a little bit hard to compare that to a race track that was built 10 years ago, in the facilities. We've had race tracks that have kept up, we've had race tracks that have not kept up although they haven't regressed with maybe their competition. The facility is no worse than it was, but it is not a whole lot better than it was. You're not going to ask me to name names I know -- thank you."
ON ADDRESSING YOUR TEAM MEMBERS WHEN YOU ARE UPSET: "It depends on the relationship. It depends 100 percent on the relationship. I know there has been a lot of talk about (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. and Tony Eury (crew chief) and listen, if Tony Eury Jr. is not bothered by it then nobody else should either. It's just how it is. What's really important to remember is that if you're running 30th and you're having a bad day you're driving a race car. The people on the pit box aren't happy either. It's not like you're the only poor guy that's having to suffer on this particular day. There's a lot of people that are disappointed. Car owner, mechanics, engineers, sponsors, fans -- there's a lot of people that are disappointed. You're not the only one. I think that what's really important too is what's the net of your relationship? You can say one thing and that shouldn't affect everybody's opinion of you. If you do it over and over and over and you're not part of the construction of the team and you're only part of the destruction of the team then you lose a lot of respect. You've got to be willing when days are bad to express your opinion, but then go on and go to work. Try to make it better and I think when people see you time after time after time put forth the effort when things aren't going well then they don't care so much about what you say. It's almost funny, but you have to be willing to fight. When things aren't going well you can't just give up and quit. The team knows that and the team feels that -- they can sense it. Your actions -- you're judged by your actions much more than you are by your words."
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO FEEL A COMFORT LEVEL WITH YOUR CREW?: "A couple days. We don't have time not to be honest. You can say a lot of things and wish you hadn't have said it, but at the end of the day are you being honest and are you being constructive? Are you giving information that they can work with? If through a four-hour race you say one thing that isn't constructive and you're just venting -- that's no big deal. By the way, keep in mind that they should have the same right to do the same thing. It's not a one-way street and that's what I tell my guys is that you can say anything you want to say to me. I don't take it personal. If there's something you feel like I need to be doing better, you have the right to say it. If we have a bad pit stop because I didn't get in the pits right -- you have as much right to say, 'Hey, you screwed this up,' as I do to come on the radio and say, 'Hey, you screwed this up.' It's a two-way street -- it's not a one-way street."
ON HOLDING GRUDGES FROM SHORT TRACK RACES: "That happens for sure. The drivers that have memories like elephants typically don't get over things very well are typically the people that have trouble throughout the year finishing in points and doing the things they need to do. It's important to understand the situation you are in, the situation you got in and if you always think someone is out to get you and you always think that you're getting the short end of the stick and you feel like it's always me and never anybody else then you probably have more problems getting over something than other people. Stuff happens on the race track, drivers make mistakes and when it's a mistake, its mistake. When it's on purpose -- it's on purpose. It's important to identify those things and understand who you're racing with, what happened and address it not with emotion, but with facts. When people get in trouble is when they let their emotions get in charge of them and not their brain. When you've had a week to think about it, you should be over it. It's not to say that you shouldn't have a conversation, that's not to say you shouldn't go and fix it and it's not to say that you shouldn't tell somebody, 'You messed me up and I think you did it on purpose.' Those conversations need to be had, but at the same time you also have to get over it."
-credit: gm racing