JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Dover International Speedway and discussed racing at Dover, teamwork, Richard Petty, Joey Logano and more. ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT DOVER. "This is a demanding race...
JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Dover International Speedway and discussed racing at Dover, teamwork, Richard Petty, Joey Logano and more.
ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT DOVER. "This is a demanding race track. It's a really fun race track. It's a huge challenge. I think it's one of the biggest challenges of the year. Always look forward to it but know it's going to be a tough day and a long day. We've had some success here and hope to continue that."
HOW DO YOU BALANCE BEING PART OF A TEAM BUT AT THE SAME TIME BE AN INDIVIDUAL COMPETITOR? "Well I think the key to remember in our sport what teamwork means, in the sense of the 29, 07 and 31 working together is we all work together to try to be better than everybody else we are competing against. It's our charge to take the tools and the resources that we have and use them more effectively that the 29 and 07. Of course it's their job to do the same, but it's our job to collectively use the resources better than what everybody else can use their resources. So we do compete against each other in a positive way but more importantly we compete against everybody else. The whole teamwork notion isn't so much what happens on the race track on Sunday but what's happening in the shop on a Tuesday or what's happening when the 29 is at a road course test or at a Milwaukee test and their helping the other two teams as well as helping themselves. Teamwork has much more to do with just making our company
ON THE PENALITIES HANDED OUT THIS WEEK AND DOES THAT CONCERN THE TEAMS. "I think that NASCAR has showed a lot of consistency in how their handing out penalties. They have shown the willingness, and of course they have the ability to stiffen penalties especially when it's not a question of something that could have been a mistake. There are times that a mistake can happen during the race as we've seen that with say a low roof height or a high quarter panel heights in the past or something like that, that you could make a case that it could've been accidental. They've been very consistent in how they've penalized for those things. Then last week appeared to be very intentional and was in an area that was probably you couldn't argue that it happened by mistake. They've been real consistent and really lowered the boom on that type of penalty and I think that's a good thing."
ON HOW RCR'S ADDITION OF A FOURTH TEAM NEXT YEAR WILL BENEFIT THE 31 CAR. "The way that our view and how its gonna help is that it's going to open the door to more resources. Its gonna open the door to some efficiencies and how we build our cars and how we build engines and cars and transmissions and more importantly the amount of resources we can put to the technical side of our company from an engineering standpoint, from a testeam standpoint, from all the areas that we need to work on to make our race cars faster. We believe that a fourth team will allow us to do that. We believe that we'll be able to put a driver in place that will join and work with the other three drivers. We're excited about the fourth team. There are a lot of challenges with it. It's not just a simple thing to do, it's a difficult thing to do to put a fourth team together and get all the people in place and do it right but fortunately we have a head start and we're able to get going on it."
WE'RE COMING UP ON THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF RICHARD PETTY'S FIRST START IN NASCAR, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT FROM YOUR PROSPECTIVE WHY HE HAS REMAINED SUCH AN ICON IN THE SPORT DESPITE THE FACT THAT HIS LAST DRIVING YEARS WEREN'T THAT GREAT AND HIS TEAM STILL STRUGGLES, BUT YET HE PROBABLY REMAINS ONE OF THE TOP FIVE PEOPLE FROM A PERSONALITY ICON POINT OF VIEW IN THE SPORTS HISTORY? "I think there's a couple of things. I think his willingness to be involved with the fans very early in his career. I wasn't there but if you read history it looks like he was much more involved and much more engaged in the fans. Obviously the fans are attracted to someone that is successful or they either really like him or they really hate him so he had that going because he was very successful. His image is unmistakable. When Richard Petty walks in a room nobody says who is that. Everybody pretty much knows who he is because of his image. All those things work together but the main thing is his success. He did it better than everybody else, did it for a long time better than everybody else and I think that if you go back and look at all sports we've seen greats in football, basketball, every sport maybe do it a little longer than they perhaps should have done it and typically they get a bye on that and they should. I think that his personality is the main thing. His willingness to spend time with the fans and the media. That got him off on the right foot and it's just continued."
CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ALL THE HYPE THAT'S AROUND JOEY LOGANO BEFORE HES EVEN STEPPED IN THE CAR? "I guess time will answer that question. I think the Nationwide Series is hungry for a guy that is running full time in the Nationwide Series, not yet a cup guy, a young up and coming guy. I think we kind of missed that a little bit the last couple of years. He personifies that. If you look at the success he's had before he's gotten here it's obviously been very good. You know Mark Martin stood up years ago and said there's the guy, it's my belief that the reason Joey Logano is here has a lot to do with Mark Martin and his willingness to stand up and say he's the guy. He's been pumped up. His talent is I think unquestioned. Only time will tell if he can live up to the hype. In basketball we see players come in with a tremendous amount of excitement and some of them have a great deal of success and some of them don't. The key to Joey is having himself in a situation that he can be successful in and understanding that it doesn't have to happen today. He has time to grow, he has time to mature. He can go try, he should go try, but if he doesn't win his first Nationwide race it's a long career and panic shouldn't set in."
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE PEOPLE OF THIS SPORT NEED TO DO TO STAY AFLOAT WHEN ALL AROUND THEM THE ECONOMY IS TROUBLED? "Well the reality of it is that the health of our car owners has a tremendous amount to do with the health of corporate America. If corporate America is healthy, the economy is healthy, then our car owners are healthy. We have seen several times in the past that the economy has gone down and sponsorship has gone down and I think we'll see that again this coming year. I think this coming year we'll have less full sponsored cars. It will become harder to obtain sponsorship. There's more competition for those sponsors and that will continue. As revenues go down, the efficiencies that you've built into your company, the ability to sustain a down turn in your company is very important. You can't just spend every dollar that you get every year. You have to have a rainy day account. You have to have the ability to continue to move even when the resources are down. So business planning is essential to being a car owner. It's not easy because the drivers, the crew chiefs, the engineers are always tapping on the car owner's shoulder telling him he's not doing enough. He has to do more, he has to spend more. We have to have this, we have to have that. We don't have this, they do we don't, we can't win if we don't have it. The car owner has to have a tremendous amount of strength and he has to have a plan and he has to stick to it. We've seen it with a lot of major teams. We're seeing it with teams now that revenues have gone down but they're still able to be successful. That's good business planning and it through a good competition model."
DO YOU THINK THAT NASCAR IS AFFECTED MORE BY THE ECONOMY THAN OTHER SPORTS, BECAUSE FANS TRAVEL SO FAR AND ARE SO LOYAL? "I can't comment on how we're affected in comparison to other sports, I don't have the information on that. I do know that we are greatly affected by it. I don't understand how NFL owners, how they make business. I'm just not aware of their business model. I'm very aware of our business model and I'm somewhat aware of NASCAR's business model or the track owner's business model. The reality of it is that it hinges around people. We have to create an environment that people are excited about number one, number two that it's affordable and number three that they have the economic means to enjoy what it is that we do. We have to play a part in that by making it affordable and exciting and then the economy has to play a part in that in making it so they can afford it. That's a pretty simple business model but that's how it works. If we have people who don't have jobs, they won't be here. If we have costs that are too high then they won't be here. We have a delicate balance and it falls on us to make sure we live up to our end of the bargain. There's not a whole lot we can do about the economy I don't think, but there's a tremendous amount that we can do to make sure that we keep it as affordable as possible."
CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE SHIFT IN THE WAY DRIVERS ARE ENTERING THE CUP RANKS SINCE YOU CAME ALONG? THE TREND OF CUP OWNERS SIGNING TEENAGERS TO DEVELOPMENTAL DEALS QUITE EARLY WITH THE HOPES OF BUILDING THEIR OWN PIPELINE OF TALENT FOR FUTURE DAYS. "It's somewhat of a new approach. I think you're starting to see the execution of that. (Joey) Logano's been signed at Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing) for many years. We've seen other drivers signed at companies that haven't quite made it here yet but are in the pipeline to get here. At the end of the day if you want to go hire the hot shoe driver that drove in the Nationwide Series or the Truck Series last year, the competition for that guy is immense and it's hugely expensive. You might can find a Joey Logano and be able to do it more affordable and raise him so to speak in the model you want him raised in. I think it's a good thing. I don't see any negative to it by any means. In many ways I'm really envious of the way they're able to come into this sport today and in other ways I feel sorry for them. When I came into this sport Billy Stavola sat me down, he said look there's two things I want to do. I want to finish races and finish top 20. If you finish 20th I'll be really happy, if you finish 18th we'll throw a party. Essentially that's what he told me, he said just make laps, basically don't care where you finish just make laps. I had a chance to grow and mature and the guys today they don't have that chance. It's get it done now or hit the highway and I don't envy them for that. I envy them for getting to drive, these kids today get to drive extremely good equipment off the bat, they don't really drive junk anymore and that's a huge difference but there's a lot more pressure on them than what my generation had. My generation had room to grow, time to grow. Nobody expected you to be successful in your second or third year. Matter of fact they expected you not to be successful. So the expectation level was completely different. So I'm envious in some ways but I feel bad for them in others."
THIS WEEKEND AND THE END OF THE MONTH WHEN WE GO TO LOUDON ARE THE LAST TWO TIMES WE VISIT TRACKS THAT ARE PART OF THE CHASE, DO YOU APPROACH THESE TRACKS A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENTLY IN KNOWING THAT YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO COME BACK TO THEM IN THE FALL AND THEY'RE GONNA MEAN A LOT IF YOU'RE IN THE CHASE? DO YOU APPROACH BEING WHERE YOU ARE IN THE POINT IN A WHOLE DIFFERENT MINDSET, DO YOU BECOME A LITTLE MORE CONSERVATIVE NOW AND JUST MAKING SURE? YOU HATE TO ADMIT YOUR ARE RACING FOR POINTS BUT YOU KIND OF ARE. "I think everybody is racing for points. The definition of racing for points I think is one of the things, as much as I admire Humpy (Wheeler), is one of the things I became very aggravated at Humpy about was his definition of how drivers race and that we just go out and try to finish eighth and we finish eighth we're happy and the reason we're happy is we get out and we say it's a good point day. Just because you say we had a good day in the points, that doesn't mean you're happy with what you got. When we go to Loudon for the first race, I don't go to Loudon and think we're here to learn for the second race. I'm at Loudon to do that best I can at that race because the better you do in that race, the better you have a chance to do in this next race. All we do is learn. When we go to a race track we learn. Sometimes we learn the hard way sometimes we learn that we did things right. We all race for points because we're here to win a championship, that's what every team is out here to do is win a championship. If you're not in a position to win a championship then you're racing to be in the top 35. If you're not racing to be in the top 35 then you're racing to be in the top 10 or top 12. If you're not racing for that then you're racing to be in the top 25 to get point money. You're always racing for points. The whole series hinges on points. It's a shame that's become a negative consequence, it's a shame that people say well you're racing for points. What sport doesn't race for points? The reason that the Lakers are playing in the playoffs today is because of what they did in regular season. It's how it works. We go to every race trying to get all we can and try to learn so we can be better at the next race. That's how it works."
WOULD YOU SACRIFICE A WIN TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU SCORED SOME GOOD POINTS? "Would I intentionally say I'm not going to try to win because I can finish second, is that you're question?
WE ALWAYS HEAR DRIVERS AND TEAMS SAY WE'RE GONNA GO FOR IT AND EVEN IF WE RUN OUT OF FUEL OR BLOW A TIRE. WOULD YOU THEN THROTTLE IT BACK TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU SCORED THE MOST AMOUNT OF POINTS? "Here's the thing. Here's where I think the big misconception comes. If Denny Hamlin is leading a race and I'm running second and I catch Denny Hamlin and I don't wreck running second, people say well he wasn't trying hard enough. If I don't wreck him people say well he wasn't trying hard enough. I race the way I race and that gets me what it gets me. Some days it's a win, some days it's eighth, some days it's 15th, some days it's 30th. I don't change how I race or how I drive based on where we are in points. I race the way I race and that puts me in the position to do the things that I can do. The unfortunate part of our sport is that giving it your all is right there before wrecking and unfortunately we have a lot of people in the media that because you don't wreck they say you're not trying hard enough. Because you don't wreck someone else you're not trying hard enough. If we have an opportunity to win, I'm gonna give 100 percent of my ability on that day, with what my car will do and what I can get done to go win that race. I'm not gonna throttle back and say well I'm gonna run 98 percent because I know I'm gonna run second. You never know when you're gonna win another race. You never know when you're gonna have an opportunity to win another race and you've got to give 100 percent, but the effect of that 100 percent is different every day. You don't always have the best car. You don't always have the best driving car. Just because you're running second or leading a race doesn't mean you are better than the guy that's leading or that you're running second to. All you can do is give 100 percent of what you can get on that given day. Again it gets a little frustrating because you won't wreck somebody, people say you didn't give 100 percent and that becomes a little frustrating."
-credit: gm racing