BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS: IS IT HARD ON A DRIVER TO RUN TWO RACES A WEEK? "It's not the driver. for me it's not the number of races I run, it's all the work we do during the week. The ...
BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS:
IS IT HARD ON A DRIVER TO RUN TWO RACES A WEEK?
"It's not the driver. for me it's not the number of races I run, it's all the work we do during the week. The reason we run the Busch Series is because it's convenient. You can do it on a weekend -- Saturday or Sunday. You're not gone from home more than you would be otherwise. It's awfully convenient. That's the reason that allows us to do it, and the advantage of doing it - is the competitive advantage. If you and your team are willing to put the work in to do it there's things you can benefit from."
HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK THE SPONSOR/DRIVER RECOGNITION BENEFITS THE DRIVERS?
"I don't blame UPS for continuing to do Dale Jarrett. Jarrett is a highly respected winner that has done an awful lot for our sport. At the same time they need to understand that the car owners that have financial liability in this thing, not the drivers. We just have got to be careful pulling sponsorship from car owners. It's a little bit of a slippery slope. I don't blame UPS certainly and I don't blame Dale Jarrett certainly. Had that team been competing at a higher level like they were four or five years ago then neither one would be looking to make a move. That is the competitive nature of our sport. At the same time I have a tremendous amount of respect for what the car owners - their financial liability in this thing compared to the drivers. The drivers have no financial liability. We have expenses, and getting us to the racetrack and those kinds of things. But our expenses are miniscule compared to the car owners' and the sponsors are the bloodline and the heartbeat of what the car owners are able to do. We just have to be careful to always respect that and understand that."
DO YOU FEEL BAD FOR ROBERT YATES TO LOSE THAT SPONSORSHIP?
"I do feel bad for him. At the same time, UPS has spent a tremendous amount of effort and money in promoting Dale Jarrett and Dale Jarrett representing and becoming a part of UPS. For race fans, when they think of UPS they certainly think of Dale Jarrett and their marketing campaigns have been very successful, much the way Cingular has. So yeah, you feel bad for Yates in losing a sponsor.
At the same time, it is because the good marketing campaign that UPS has done and because of the image and reliability of Dale Jarrett. Jarrett's not going to embarrass you, he's going to always put forth effort. He's a good spokesman for our sport and for his sponsors, so all those things coupled together, Dale Jarrett's value is very high to UPS. And it's hard to recreate that."
ARE YOU A HAPPIER PERSON TODAY; IS IT MORE FUN TO COME TO THE TRACK WITH YOUR RECENT SUCCESS?
"It's definitely more fun to come to the race track and my competitive life is certainly more enjoyable, although no less intense and no less pressure filled. It's way more fun to be competitive than not competitive for sure. At the same time, we're not in the Chase yet. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We haven't been winning races; there's a whole lot of things we haven't done. My focus is on the things that we need to get done and the things that we haven't done rather than looking and being all happy about where we are. Certainly we're excited about where we are and I feel good about that but there's an awful lot we haven't done. My focus is on that rather than jumping up and down celebrating the gains that we have made. We have made huge gains; all of RCR has made huge gains. We've got to do it again and again. It's a moving target. These teams out here will push you and force you to be better than you thought you could be and work harder than you thought you could work. If you don't do that then you'll get left behind."
IS THIS RACE MORE IMPORANT THAN ANY OTHERS?
"I don't think so. I just think we've got to be careful not to put a whole lot of emphasis on any one race. I certainly understand there's a tremendous amount of emphasis for guys racing for the championship about Infineon because a lot of things can happen there. Certainly Daytona has the opportunity and it did impact a lot of people in the Chase. But I think that going to Chicago and New Hampshire, you can still have a very bad race, but who gets in the top 10 isn't going to be because of what you did in one race, it's because of what you did in those first 26 races. I just think we can't put too much emphasis on any one race."
DO YOU ENJOY TRACKS LIKE CHICAGO?
"Without a doubt. I think the thing that gets lost on the media and the fans is that we do this every week. And once we get in here, we don't know where we are. We know where we are because of the race track but not because of the city. However, there are some cities that separate themselves. Chicago has to be one of the biggest sports towns in America. It's fun to be able to be here and compete in front of an audience that is one of the best sports audiences in the U.S. With a long term history in football and baseball and obviously basketball, it was very successful with the Jordan era, it's fun to go to a city that has that rich history in sports."
ANY WORRIES GOING INTO THIS RACE?
"Well, it bothers me that we haven't won, whether we were first in points or 30th in points. Our goal coming into this year was to put ourselves in a position to win races more than once a year. We've continually put ourselves in position and we felt like if we did that we could win races and I feel like that. I feel like if we continue to do what we've been doing we would get our wins. It's a matter of time. If we don't continue to do what we're doing, we won't get our wins. So for us, we're concentrating on what we have to do for this week and what we have to do next week. We're taking one race at a time, but we're coming here trying to win this race."
WHAT IS THE FEELING THIS YEAR KNOWING YOU NEED TO PROTECT YOUR POSITION?
"I don't think that we can't protect, I think that if we get complacent we won't be in the Chase. There's nine races left and we're just over 100 points worth of protection. That's not a whole lot of protection. That can get eaten up into pretty quickly in one race. You can't just protect. You've got to go out and run well. The thing for us is if we go out and do what we've been doing from a competitive standpoint, we'll be in the Chase. But it's not easy to do that. We're not a good enough team - nor is any team in the garage - that can just say 'we can just step back and easily finish in the top 10'. It's not easy to do that. What we've got to do is continue to push, continue to make improvements, continue to try and improve our cars, continue to try to make our teams stronger and make all of RCR stronger so that we can take advantage of it. But no team in the garage can protect at this point with the exception of the No. 48 and the No. 17. Those teams can protect, but from third to 15th, it's time to go."
THERE'S MORE COMFORT THIS YEAR THAN LAST YEAR, RIGHT?
"Last year, what we were going to have to do was get our way into the Chase by not having bad races and by other people having bad races. That was the only way we were going to get in. We weren't fast enough running our way in from finishing fifth and fourth and seventh and 10th. We were going to have to finish 16th and 12th and 18th and hope people had trouble. That was going to be the only way we got in. Just because we weren't fast enough, and that's what we tried to do and ultimately we didn't. For us today, we come here thinking we have a chance to win and it's about trying to make that happen."
ARE THERE SPECIFIC THINGS YOU'VE BEEN PUSHING THIS YEAR?
"Well, Scott Miller has come in and done a really good job. We've been really impressed with his professionalism and level of preparedness. He's getting the most out of everything that we have, I think. All of RCR has stepped it up. The key to success in this business is unloading fast cars. If you unload fast cars, you find out that well, the driver doesn't get on pit road they're going to report we don't do a good job of making changes to the car during the race.
You find out problems that show up more when you're running well. When you're running 18th, they don't show up because you're running 18th. All your focus is on trying to figure out how to run well. When you run well, you start to see all the little things that you could do even better. Those are the things we've been able to approach this year and try to make better."
IS THE MORE MONEY INVESTED STARTING TO PAY OFF?
"I think the investment has been there all along. It was the collective effort more so was the problem than the willingness to spend money. We have a much better effort today from all of our programs within the company understanding that the reason they are there is to serve the cars and to make the cars go faster. With that unified effort we've seen better results."
HOW PIVOTAL IS THE FIRST RACE GOING TO LOUDEN (AFTER CHICAGO) AND HOW DO YOU ATTACK THAT KNOWING THAT THE SECOND RACE AT LOUDEN IS THE FIRST RACE IN THE CHASE?
"I think it is important. If you leave there after the first race having a good performance than you have a lot to build and you can try to make fine adjustments to your program to try to finish it off and get a win or get the best finish you can. If you go there and run 40th than you're back on your heels a little bit trying to figure out the best option is when you do go back. I think the first race in any two-race venue is very important."
HOW ABOUT THE BRICKYARD?
"I think that every race has taken on more importance, the Brickyard included. The cool thing about the Brickyard is you get a really, really prestigious high-paying, high-profile race in the middle of the year. I think it builds a lot of excitement for our sport and our fans. A win in Indy is certainly for a lot of people, is something they would love to be able to say they did. You add the championship factor into it and Indy becomes a pretty important race."
IF BRIAN FRANCE CALLED YOU AND ASKED YOU ABOUT TWEAKING THE CHASE FORMAT, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
"That's a tough question. I'm a real fan of the way it works now, but I will tell you when if first came out I thought it wasn't a good idea. I thought about it for a few days and I decided it was a very good idea. I kind of have the same thoughts now. I want to kind of hear what he's got on his mind. I don't think that we should necessarily make it easier to get it; I think the thing that makes any sporting event exciting is the intensity level that increases as the stakes get higher. That's why the playoffs in football are exciting. That's why the NCAA basketball tournament is exciting. So the fans come to sports to watch great events and great events are events that have a tremendous amount of intensity. Anything that we can do to ratchet up the intensity is good for the sport."