Daytona II: Burton - Thursday media visit

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the progress of the new race car, the economy and how it affects the sport of NASCAR, sponsorships, and more. Q. How confident would you say you are right now with the COT program...

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the progress of the new race car, the economy and how it affects the sport of NASCAR, sponsorships, and more.

Q. How confident would you say you are right now with the COT program at this point in the season?

JEFF BURTON: Not very. I think it's clear that the COT thing is difficult and we'll see teams that run really, really well one week, then run very poorly the next.

I think we're still in a learning phase, a lot of learning. So, you know, every week's kind of an adventure. So I wouldn't say real confident at all.

Q: The second half of the season, you go to some tracks you've already been to, but still a couple you haven't, Indy being one of them. Are there any concerns there?

JEFF BURTON: I think all the work that we've done, you know, I don't have COT concerns, per se, for Indy. I have competition concerns. You know, the COT ain't going to be a problem getting around Indy. The question is: How we gonna do it better than anybody else? That's the question. The car itself I don't think will be a problem at all.

Q: Take about track position the last couple weeks. Track position is important here, but it's a different kind of track position. It's horizontal, not vertical.

JEFF BURTON: Yeah, track position here is defined definitely different than other racetracks. Other racetracks, track position is being in the right place with 50 to go so you can be in the right place on the last lap. Here it's more about being in the right place on the last lap versus 50 go. You can be running dead last here on the lead lap and still win.

You know, as in every race, you got to have track position because, you know, that's how you determine the winner. But it's a completely different world of what we've seen, especially the last few weeks.

Q: How do you get yourself in position?

JEFF BURTON: I've only won here once, so you might ask somebody else. I don't know (laughter).

Typically, you know, I've tried to not be, you know, like leading with two to go or something. In the 500, I found myself leading with eight to go. I thought, Oh, boy, we're in trouble. And we were based on where the cautions fell out. However, if the cautions hadn't have fell the way they did, we might have been in the position we wanted to be in.

So a lot of it is determined by what kind of race you get when the cautions come out. But if you don't have a real fast car, being in the front's maybe not in your best interests.

Q: Is that a feel thing?

JEFF BURTON: Some of its ego. To be honest, some of it's ego. Some of it's -- I think driver's egos get them in positions they really don't want to be in sometimes. It's not always in your best interest to be leading. But the competition side of you and the ego side of you puts you there because that's what your whole life you've been trying to do. But here it's much more like chess. You know, you really want to be in the right place at the right time so you can strike when it matters.

Q: What's it like being (in the garage) between the most popular guy and arguably the most hated guy in the sport?

JEFF BURTON: It's a pain, to be quite honest, because wherever Junior's car leaves or my car leaves, my car gets full of people. My garage gets full of people trying to take pictures. I like the position we're in on this side of the garage. But logistically, it's been tough.

Q: Do you think the drivers of today have to have more skills than, say, the drivers of yesterday?

JEFF BURTON: No, I don't think that at all. I think the skill set's different. I think that a driver today -- you know, the great question is, you know, the best driver today, how would he go against the best driver of the past. And I don't have that answer.

I think the racing's so different than it used to be, the cars are so different than they used to be. I think that there's some attributes that the previous drivers could bring that would make us better. On the other hand, I think there's some attributes this generation could bring, too.

But in no way do I mean we possess a skill they didn't possess. I don't believe that at all. I believe that Richard Petty in his prime, or Cale Yarborough in his prime, or David Pearson in his prime, you could pile them in one of these cars, and they'd be extremely competitive. Also if you put Tony Stewart and Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon in their cars, they'd have been extremely competitive, as well.

Q: Getting into Victory Lane, is it the car or the driver?

JEFF BURTON: That question's been going on since the beginning of time. You know, I don't know. I know that a great driver can't take a bad car and win with it. And, by the way, a great car can't take a bad driver and win with that.

I think you have to have both. And that combination, you know, that percentage, has to be -- I think it has to be close. But, you know, there's days that the car is better than the driver and there's days that the driver is better than the car. The best teams match that up more often than not.

Q: Do you feel you're still adjusting to this new car?

JEFF BURTON: I think everybody is still adjusting to it, become much more familiar to it. I'm much more comfortable with it than I used to be. But I think we're all still adjusting. I mean, if you think about it, we are going to a lot of racetracks still. We got Kansas, we have Chicago, we have Indy that we've never been to with the Car of Tomorrow. Homestead. You know, we still have four or fives racetracks to run this year that we've never been to.

So I think everybody's still adjusting.

Q: How disappointed are you that you haven't managed to get more wins this season?

JEFF BURTON: I'm not disappointed. You know, my theory about racing is, if you keep putting yourself in position to win races, then you'll win 'em. Our goal is to keep putting ourselves in position.

I think that we've executed when we've had opportunities. I feel like we've gotten a lot out of our year so far. But I'm not disappointed at all that we have one win and somebody else has four.

I think we can get more wins. If I didn't think we could get more wins, I'd be disappointed.

Q: Do you think as long as a driver makes the Chase, then it's anybody's game? Anyone can win?

JEFF BURTON: Oh, I don't think there's any question about it. I think maybe more so this year than ever. With the Car of Tomorrow going to so many racetracks we've never been to with it, I think a team can get hot and really be good. You know, the way you ran in May isn't necessarily going to be indicative of how you run in November. So I think it's anybody's ballgame. Whoever gets in the Chase will have an honest shot.

Q: Late in the race does a driver go from a defensive or sort of a survival mode -- at some point late is there a time where you have to be aggressive and look for that line that moves?

JEFF BURTON: There is a time to be more aggressive than others. You know, some people flip that switch. You have to turn that switch on when it's appropriate. You have to be willing to give some room. I mean, really, from my seat, we have a lot of accidents prevented because a driver let another guy in that needed some help. A lot of that goes on. These races get very intense at the end of the race because nobody does that any more.

So there is a time that you have to be willing to just say, Okay, regardless of the consequence, we're gonna stay in here. But lap ten is not a time to do that.

Q: Randy Moss officially announced his venture into motorsports. Is it surprising to see some of those other athletes trying to get in now? There hasn't been a lot of success with those guys in the past. Given maybe the economic status right now...

JEFF BURTON: Well, I think it's a tough time right now to try to break in. There's no question. You know, this sport I think offers a lot. It's one of the sports that, you know, a car owner can still get involved without really any experience, without a tremendous -- you know, you got to have a lot of money. But at the truck level, you don't have to be, you know, Bill Gates kind of rich. So there's still an opportunity for investment by young owners.

And, you know, Randy's an example of that. Obviously, Randy has made a lot of money playing football, but he would have a tough time going and buying an NFL football team. He can get into this sport at the truck level without, you know, near the investment.

But it's a tough time for anybody. The economic status that we have today in our country's really tough. And the sponsorship game is really hard right now. It's a really tough time to break in.

Q: Could you see that on the Cup side this week with the No. 40?

JEFF BURTON: I think you're going to see a lot of it. I mean, the reality of it is that, you know, we're gonna have -- we're probably gonna have less sponsors in this garage than we did last year, which is common. If you track our sport, you follow it, it ebbs and flows with the economy. You know, we came down here a few years ago, and there was 44 or 45 cars attempting to make a Daytona 500. We come back a few years later and it's 52.

You know, we're at a point where, you know, the economy's down, and less companies are going to be willing to make that investment. So that means you're gonna have less teams that are going to be able to be funded, so you'll have less teams here. It's always been like that. And I suspect it always will be, as long as we have a system that, you know, we have 52 teams. I think if we had a system that had 43 teams every year, I think our car owners would be much more secure and our sponsors would be much more secure.

Q: Is that why you think you're seeing more dual sponsorships?

JEFF BURTON: The cost is up. The cost is up. Revenues are down. You know, economy's tough. People are less willing to make the investment because of the economic times we're in. People are looking at a way to spread out their expenses.

Q: Do you think with the 40, though, the fact he was an open-wheeler driver trying to adjust to the NASCAR, do you think that played a part?

JEFF BURTON: I think a couple things happened. I think that, you know, Dario is an accomplished racecar driver, and I think he can get it done in the Cup Series. But it's gonna take time. And the question is, how patient can people be? And at a time where we don't have a lot of new sponsors coming in, it's hard to build a company that wants to be patient. People that are wanting to make that investment want success right now. You know, I think a lot of things stacked up against him and it made it harder for him if he would have been able to have success sooner.

But, you know, unfortunately Ganassi has been a little down, too. Ganassi hasn't been as good as you would expect them to do. They would admit that, too. It's not because they haven't worked hard and haven't tried. They haven't been as successful as they wanted to be and that's made it hard for him, too, because he hasn't been able to sit down in real, real fast racecars. And every team goes through that. I mean, every team in the garage goes through times where they're not as good as they want to be. Theirs just happened to be at a time when they were trying to bring in a new driver without much experience at this type of racing. So that made it harder, too.

Q: Do you think Juan Pablo Montoya has adapted quicker?

JEFF BURTON: I think he has. I think there's still -- you know, I think that the length of these races and the number of cars that can compete and how hard it is to run 20th, I think that still is probably surprising to him. But, you know, I think, again, I don't believe that Cup drivers are the best drivers in the world. I think that we have a particular skill set that makes us very good at these kind of cars. But I do believe that good racecar driver's a good racecar driver. You just have to be able to hone your skill at whatever it is you're driving. It just takes time to do that.

Q: Are the old boys happy with NASCAR going global with more foreign driver, more foreign manufacturers?

JEFF BURTON: Some people don't like it, some people do. The reality of it, the way I view it, if you've exhibited the skill and the ability to be here, then you shouldn't be precluded to be here because of where you're from or anything else. All that matters is do you have the skills to do it. If you ask me, the people that have come in here definitely have the skills to do it.

Q: Are good results hard work meeting good luck or hard work overcoming bad luck?

JEFF BURTON: Most of the time you make your luck. There's certainly things that happen to you that are completely out of your control. You know, there's no question about that.

But most of the time you had a play in the outcome. So, you know, people that subscribe to bad luck all the time I tend to buy into being people that don't take responsibility very well. So I do know that there's bad luck, and I do know that people go through periods where they don't have things going well for 'em, and it's completely out of their control. But for the most part this sport, you know, a lot of it is what you make of it. You know, and that bad luck tends to balance itself out with good luck. People forget about the good luck; they only remember the bad luck.

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya