Jeff Burton, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Impala SS, met with members of the media and talked about racing at Darlington, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s announcement that he is leaving DEI, the Impala SS and more. THOUGHTS ON HEADING INTO THE RACE TOMORROW...
Jeff Burton, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Impala SS, met with members of the media and talked about racing at Darlington, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s announcement that he is leaving DEI, the Impala SS and more.
THOUGHTS ON HEADING INTO THE RACE TOMORROW NIGHT: "A lot of anticipation coming into this race. Darlington is the most historic track that we run on. It's rich in tradition. It's a throwback to the way things used to be and then we bring a car - that we're still learning a great deal about and have a whole lot to learn about - on a track that's the slickest, toughest track that we go to. So a lot of challenges for this weekend, a lot of anticipation, a lot of nervousness about where we're going to be with our handling. That's Darlington. It's fun to be part of. It's really neat to come here, knowing all the challenges of the racetrack and also knowing the challenges of the new car. So it's a huge challenge and hopefully we look back on it with fond memories but I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I feel really honored to be part of this weekend with all the changes with this car and the last race before the repavement; it's a neat weekend."
WHAT DO YOU THINK IT'S GOING TO BE LIKE FOR THE NO. 8 TEAM TO KEEP THINGS TOGETHER FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON? "We've seen it before where teams know that early in the year something was going on; a driver was going to do something different. It's their job to stay focused. It's their responsibility as competitors to stay focused on the job at hand. I think that they'll do that. I think they'll put effort into doing that at the very least. Whether they're successful at it or not is another story. It will be difficult to do. That team is under the microscope every week more so than all the other teams. Which in some way has prepared them for this and in some ways it makes this easier because they're used to the exposure and used to the attention. But it will be difficult for everyone to stay in line. Whenever a driver raises his hand and says 'hey, I want to go somewhere else because I don't think I can have success here' then what he has said is that we're not doing the things that are correct. Then it's also hard to turn around and look the guys in the eyes and say 'hey, you guys are doing a great job and everything is going to be really good. It's hard to do both. I think that that team will put a lot of effort in. I think (Tony) Eury, Jr. is a real intense guy, a real competitive guy and I'm sure he will rally the troops. (Dale Earnhardt,) Junior will too. Junior has a good repertoire with those guys. He's got presence in the garage, not because he has so many fans but because he has respect for the sport and he treats the people in the garage with respect. I think he'll get that back. I think they'll give a lot of effort to make it work but it will be a challenge."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE DIFFERENCES RUNNING THIS TRACK TO THE SHORTER TRACKS AND DO YOU THINK YOU WILL BE ABLE TO APPLY WHAT YOU'VE LEARNED TO LONGER ONES LATER ON? "It almost seems like every week it's a new chapter on the new car. Every week we say that 'this is the biggest test'. Next week 'this will be the biggest test'. That's why I was cautioning myself because I was getting ready to say 'not only do we have this week, we also have the test at Dover on Monday and Tuesday'. Which will be an even bigger test than this. So we have progressively ramped up the types of race tracks that we go on. The speed has gone up. We started at Bristol then went to Martinsville - two of the slower tracks we go to. Then we went to Phoenix and Richmond: flat, faster three-quarter to one mile race tracks. Now we're at almost a mile-and-a third, whatever you want to call it. The speed comes up again, the G-force and lateral loads are just completely different here than they are at Richmond. In addition to that, this track is very rough. Lot of chance of bottoming out and hitting the splitter. So you've got to find a way to stop the car from traveling and not hitting the splitter. Which is a harder problem here than it is at Richmond and at Phoenix, but the speed is up. By the way, this is the slickest, low-grip race track that we run on. There is no slicker, low-grip race track than this race track. So because we are in the infancy of this car, we keep throwing new challenges to it. But I do believe that we can apply the things that we learned at Richmond to Darlington and the things we learned at Phoenix to Richmond. I think that it is a building process. This is a big test. It's not the ultimate test. It's not the end-all of tests for the car, by any means. But it is perhaps the largest test to date because of all the challenges that this race track offers. With more travel in the front of the car, less lateral grip, a slick race track - all those things will make the cars drive. they'll be a handful. It will be very difficult f or these cars to get around this race track so this is a large test."
WHAT QUALITIES WOULD YOU LOOK FOR IN HAVING DALE EARNHARDT, JR. AS A TEAMMATE? "Any teammate that I look at, the thing that I want no. 1 to be is a person that understands the common good of the company is in his best interest. We have to have teammates that are very competitive but that also understand that the mission is, for us collectively, to do it better than everyone else. We have to have each other's interests at heart, we have to have talent. There are a lot of qualities that make a good teammate - honesty. we don't have time not to be honest. If Clint Bowyer is mad at me, he has free reign to come to me and say 'hey, you pissed me off and here's why'. And we can talk about it. You've got to have that kind of relationship. In any teammate that's the things that we will demand and expect. When I don't live up to those then I've done wrong. I'm not going to go into the good things that Dale would bring if he was a teammate but those are the things that we would expect of anyone. From the outside looking in, there's very few people in the garage that I believe couldn't bring that. It would be nice to have Junior as a teammate, it would also be nice to have Mark Martin as a teammate again. It would be nice to have a lot of people in the garage as a teammate and I understand that the way things work, when someone says 'I'm going somewhere else' and 'we've got to go right now where he's going' I think you guys are jumping the gun just a little bit on where he's going to end up. There's a lot of time between here and then and we'll see what ends up happening. If he does come and that does work out, then we would be excited about it for sure. But there are a lot of things that have to go on between now and then. Richard (Childress) has got to get committed to a fourth team and we're not there yet. I know everybody says that that we are definitely doing a fourth team. That's not true. There's talk of doing a fourth team but we're not to the point of saying we're doing a fourth team. So that has to happen f irst."
WHO WOULDN'T YOU WANT AS A TEAMMATE? "Next question," (laughs).
IS IT AS DIFFICULT TO RETRIEVE MOMENTUM AS IT IS TO ACHIEVE IT? "I think it's difficult to achieve it and it's easy to lose it. One of the things about having success in the sport is that I think sometimes you over-analyze it. When we're having success we tend to say 'here's why we're having success. We know we're doing this well, we know we're doing that well.' When you're not having success you tend to thing you know exactly why you're not having success. I think that some of that has a lot to do with things you don't understand. I can tell you that we certainly, all the last three races have had no momentum carried over. The last two races we ran well; things just didn't work out for us. Had we not well at Richmond and finished 20th, had we not run well at Talladega and finished 30th, then I'd be much more concerned than the things that have happened to us. It's really important to do the analysis of what caused you to finish where you finished. If you get caught up in only the finish then sometimes there's too much euphoria and sometimes there's too much panic. You have to understand why you're in the position you are in from a - at Richmond, for example, we broke an engine. We can't break engines. At Talladega we got in a wreck that we couldn't avoid. Nothing we do about that. You just can't lose sleep over every single thing. You have to focus on the things that you can control. It is easy to get backed into a corner and feel like you need to come out swinging and you come out trying to press things and I feel like that's the worst thing you can do. I think you can't change who you are as a driver, you can't change who you are as a team. You can look to improve it but you can't change it in a week. We can't will our way into a win this weekend, we've got to work our way into it. I think that's important."
TALK ABOUT THE EMOTIONS INVOLVED WITH MAKING A TEAM CHANGE: "When you leave a team that you think fondly of and have good feelings about, it's different than when you are leaving a team that you are ready to get away from. There are some occasions when the team wants (to get) rid of you and you want (to get) rid of them. And the sooner you can get away from each other the happier you are. In my case and Junior's case - I shouldn't speak for him but from what he says - it's much more difficult than that. You have an attachment to people and you have relationships with people and you're walking away from those relationships, professionally. You try really hard to build camaraderie, you try really hard to build a team concept and then you raise your hand and say 'enough of that, we'll go do something different'. You almost feel hypocritical and there's a lot of emotions that go on. You're sad for leaving and you're excited about the future. You're nervous about the future. No one has a crystal ball, no one knows what's going to happen. You lay in bed at night awake trying to figure it out before you have all the information. It's a difficult time. It's not something that I enjoy, to be perfectly honest. I do enjoy being part of a new group and trying to build something new. That is an enjoyable thing. But getting from point A to point B is pretty much hell. It's no fun. Junior won't look back on this as being a fun experience, I can assure you. It's not fun. Some things in life are just tough."
-credit: gm racing