JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS met with members of the media today at Chicagoland Speedway and discussed what it means to drive the CAT car, Tony Stewart's announcement, racing at night and much more. ON THE CAT...
JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS met with members of the media today at Chicagoland Speedway and discussed what it means to drive the CAT car, Tony Stewart's announcement, racing at night and much more.
ON THE CAT SPONSORSHIP "It's hopefully the beginning of a great relationship. We're really excited about '09. We have a lot of unfinished business in '08 that we have to focus on, but this gives us a tremendous amount that we can focus on going into the next year."
OTHER BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS THIS WEEK INCLUDE TONY STEWART GOING BACK TO THE CHEVROLET CAMP, YOUR COMMENTS ON THAT. "I have a great deal of admiration for what Tony's been able to do in our sport and motorsports in general. He is unbelievably talented and he will help our Chevy program and be able to bring some ideas and thought processes that I think will be able to help us so I'm really excited about it. That team's going to overnight get more competitive and that's nothing against anybody that's there now, but Tony is just so talented and he's one of the most gifted drivers that I've ever seen. He's going to have a real positive impact on that organization and that's going to be another team that you're really going to have to contend with."
AS A CHEVROLET DRIVER SEEING THAT POOL GET A LITTLE BIT MORE CROWDED, WHAT DOES THAT DO FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM? "We have a great relationship with Chevrolet. Chevrolet's involvement with that team is there currently so it's not like it's hurting us in any form or fashion, it's only going to help us. We have to work hard together. There has been an infusion of cash that mainly Toyota has brought into this sport with little regard to the negative impact. They've done a lot of things that has made this sport way more expensive than it was prior to them being here so we all have to work together and be smart to combat that. I believe that American technology and American know how and American will, will eventually win out. I think Tony being there and that team stepping up will help every Chevy team."
THE POSITIVES OF TONY'S INPUT AS A DRIVER AND COMPETITOR, CAN THEY OUTWEIGH THE NEGATIVES OF HIM PULLING A LITTLE HARDER ON THE CHEVY RESOURCES? "We're not worried about that team pulling harder on the Chevy resources. Chevy is a company that's a racing company. I'm not involved in their day-to-day business, but from where I sit I feel like they race first and build cars second. They do a lot of racing stuff and make their cars better. Chevrolet has been very committed to RCR and they'll continue to be. We don't have any negative feelings about this whatsoever. We think it's only positive."
YOUR BROTHER WARD (BURTON) DROVE THE CAT CAR. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT? "It's been very much in the forefront of my mind. The success that CAT has enjoyed in this sport most of the time Ward was driving it. We hold Caterpillar really high regarding our family based on how their relationship with Ward and the things they were able to do together so this is a great opportunity to continue that relationship and to make that Burton involvement even larger. We're really excited about it. It is a unique situation that's for sure. I don't ever remember a brother driving for a company and then a few years later another one driving. It's going to be fun. We're going to use it as a way to have fun and we're real excited about it."
YOU ARE THIRD IN POINTS AND IT DOESN'T SEEM LIKE YOU ARE GETTING ANY PUBLICITY. "I'm not worried about that. Kyle Busch deserves every bit of publicity that he has gotten, he's winning the most races and that's how it should be. I've been here for a long time, people know what kind of person I am and it's not as new of a story as Kyle Busch. I'm not worried about the exposure that we get and the attention that we get so to speak, I'm more worried about what we do on the race track. If we take care of business and we do the things we're supposed to do, then all those things will come. I don't lose sleep over that, I can promise you."
YOU SAID A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO THAT YOU KNEW YOU HAD TO GET BETTER, HAVE YOU GOTTEN BETTER? "I think we've gotten better. I'm not saying we are where we need to be."
WHAT ARE THOSE AREAS? "Some of those are internal that we'll keep internal but I feel very strongly about where we can be as a company in particular where the No. 31 can be two months down the road, eight months down the road. I feel that we're making the moves and decisions that will allow us to be more successful in the future than we've been to this point."
ON RACING AT NIGHT AT CHICAGO? "The track's are different at night verses what they are in the day. It will give us a chance to experience the way the cars drive during the day and how it changes at night. Just looking at the track it's hard to explain but the tracks are lit up so well but you can't simulate daylight. The track's change appearance, from a driver's standpoint, from day to night. Having already seen that and experienced that I think that's a short-lived advantage. Just kind of getting a feel for the track and understanding the difference between day and night, I think that is potentially the advantage."
HOW DOES THAT EFFECT QUALIFYING? "Honestly, qualifying is so different than racing that the fact that we practice during the day and qualify at night isn't perfect. The only way to do that would have been to be here last night. If we practice during the day I wish we would just qualify during the day but qualifying is so different than racing, it's not as big of an impact."
COULD YOU SAY THAT THE TRACK LOOKS DIFFERENT AT NIGHT? "Track does look different at night. Anything that you do that is athletic or whatever it starts with what you see and then once you see your brain starts to work and through that your responses start to work. So when you see something different it takes just a moment to get in gear. Not that you have a moment in qualifying you have one lap so there's not much time for an adjustment. Some of the tracks we go to change a lot. Some of the tracks aren't lit as well as others. I have no idea how this one is lit, we've never seen it here at night so I have no idea."
DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A BETTER DRIVER DURING THE DAYTIME? "I don't know. I've never thought about it. I hope I'm not better or worse, I hope I'm the same."
ON TONY STEWART'S ANNOUNCEMENT THAT HE'S GOING TO BE A PART OWNER: "I think it's really good. Think about who the owner's are today, it's people who have been involved in this sport for a long time. We do have investment groups coming in. You know Jack Roush has raced his whole life. Richard Childress has raced his whole life. (Rick) Hendrick has raced his whole life. You think about all those things, it's good for our sport to have a way for a driver to transition into ownership or an owner to transition into some other involvement in this sport because that experience of and understanding the history of our sport will help move it forward. I hope we never get to the point where you have to have a $500,000,000 business to be involved in this sport. I hope we never get to that point but that would certainly preclude people like me from being involved and I think it's important for our sport for people that have that understanding of the history to be involved."
IS THERE MAYBE A LITTLE BIT OF AN URGENCY BECAUSE GUYS LIKE CHILDRESS, PENSKE AND RICK HENDRICK ARE GOING TO BE OUT OF THIS SPORT AT SOME POINT? "There is a factor. If you look at the age of our owners, they are mostly in the latter part of their working careers and that is certainly an issue that's in front of us. The landscape of ownership 10 years from now is going to look a lot different than it does today. If you look at what Tony's done, he got involved with a fairly young owner. I don't know how that impacts the sport but it's very clear that the people you look to as owners today, it's going to look a lot different 10 years from now there's no question. It's going to happen at a faster rate than it's happened in the past. If you think about ownership groups, 15 years ago who were they, a lot of those are still here and a lot of those are the people who are at the top of this sport. So, it is a factor."
ARE YOU SAYING YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN OWNING AT SOME POINT? "I'm not interested in whole ownership, being the guy that owns it, because I don't have the financial wherewithal to do that. I am interested in being involved in this sport in some form or fashion post-driving career. This is what I do. I don't want to say this is who I am but it's a real big part of me. The thought of just walking away from it is something that doesn't interest me. I don't want to uninvolve myself. I want to continue to be involved. That's five or six years away but I can't imagine there being a scenario where I just don't want anything to do with it."
ON THE SUCCESS OF OTHER DRIVER/OWNERS "I think that some of them got really, obviously (Alan) Kulwicki talked a lot of people into doing it through his success and at the time that was happening there was an investment being made that a lot of those teams couldn't make. If you look at the ownership groups that tried to do it, Geoff Bodine, Bret Bodine, there were several that just didn't have the funds to make it happen. Maybe they had the ability to make it happen but they didn't have the funds. The Jack Roush's of the world, Richard Childress' of the world were getting the sponsorship and they were able to make those things happen so a lot of it had to do with funding. Bret Bodine may have been the best car owner in the world but you never got a chance to see it because he immediately didn't have success so therefore the sponsors didn't want to be involved and it just snowballed downhill. So a lot of it is trust and faith. If Rick Hendrick has a bad couple of years, people are still going to believe that Rick Hendrick is going to get it turned around. When you're a new owner, people don't have that patience for you."
ON WHAT DRIVING THE CAT CAR MEANS. "I'm real excited about it. Ward's history with CAT is pretty cool. A Daytona 500 winner, they won the Southern 500, a lot of success. I think it's fair to say that the majority of CAT's racing success was with Ward behind the wheel. Obviously we hope to continue that on. We're really blessed to be able to work with people like CAT. It's a worldwide leader in their industry. Those are the kind of companies that we strive to work with and we've been lucky to be able to do that. If you look at the sponsors on my car we have the best of the best, which is a far cry from where I was four years ago. Four or five years ago certainly wasn't the case. I hold in high regard their willingness to get involved with us. Their faith in us means a great deal to me."
BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK THE SPONSORSHIP PICTURE LOOKS LIKE RIGHT NOW? "It's lean. It's very lean. I'm not aware of a new major sponsor coming in and I am aware of a few that are leaving. That means that it's going to be tough. The economy is down. We've seen this picture before in '01 or '02 maybe it was, we certainly saw something that looks similar to this where the economy was really good then it fell and we saw a lack of involvement. We went to Daytona with 44 or 45 cars. I see something similar to that. I see less full-time teams involved next year. I may be wrong about that but I know teams are unsponsored and I have a hard way of understanding how they can exist without sponsorship. It's going to be lean."
IS IT TOUGHER NOW THAN EVER IF YOUR'E NOT GIBBS, ROUSH, HENDRICK OR CHILDRESS THAT YOU'RE NOT ABLE TO GET A BIG SPONSOR? "It's kind of a catch 22 to answer because Gibbs, Roush if you really think about the teams that you just mentioned they own the majority of the cars. Is it harder, yeah its' harder but there's less other owners. It's a, is it the chicken or the egg kind of a question."
-credit: gm racing