This Week in Ford Racing September 17, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 CITGO Taurus, goes into this weekend's scheduled MBNA America 400 at Dover International Speedway ranked 13th in the NASCAR Winston Cup point ...
This Week in Ford Racing
September 17, 2003
NASCAR Winston Cup
Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 CITGO Taurus, goes into this weekend's scheduled MBNA America 400 at Dover International Speedway ranked 13th in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. Burton, who is only 123 points out of cracking the top 10, spoke about some of the recent changes taking place in the sport.
JEFF BURTON - No. 99 CITGO Taurus:
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON BRIAN FRANCE TAKING OVER FOR BILL FRANCE, JR.?
"I have the utmost respect for Bill. He has a genuine passion for this and he mainly has a genuine understanding of what we do. And when I say a genuine understanding of what we do, I'm talking about a genuine understanding of what makes the sport successful. He may not know what a race car driver deals with on a day-to-day basis, nor should that be his concern. His concern should be, 'How do we continue to nourish this sport and make this sport better and more exciting?' I think Bill has a grasp of that and has had a grasp on that for a long time. Competitors can disagree with his opinion, and many times we do, but his mindset is, 'make the racing good, take care of the fans and the fans will come.' The opinion of the competitors comes second and that's frustrating at times, but it's 100 percent the right attitude. That's what separates us from the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball. So I respect him a tremendous amount for growing the sport the way he's grown it. At the same time, I've had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Brian, and I think Brian is a very intelligent person that has been raised in the shadows of understanding what this sport is all about, and I think Brian will do a very nice job. You don't see Brian around a whole lot, but that doesn't mean he doesn't know what's going on. The other thing is there are a lot of really good people in NASCAR. Bill has been getting a lot of help from a lot of people around him and Brian will get a lot of help from a lot of people around him as well. Bill has continued to give more and more control to people and that will make the transition easier for Brian. There are people already in place that have been helping Bill through the thing. Bill hasn't been the one-man show that maybe he was 10 years ago and I think that will make for an easier transition for Brian to step in and try to do the deal and do it right."
NEXT YEAR THIS SPORT WILL BE MUCH DIFFERENT THAN THIS YEAR WON'T IT?
"Yeah, it will be and that's good and bad. There are times in every business and every sport that you go through changes and you go through transition and this is certainly one of those times. The good thing is that people seem to like it. Bill's attitude has kind of rubbed off on me. I've quit complaining about things that are driver specific and team specific, and I'm much more concerned about what's the overall good for the sport because that's what makes our deal work. Bill has beaten that into my head and he's right. He's got the right attitude and that's what has made this sport work. I don't think that will change. I don't think the understanding and the commitment to making this sport accessible and exciting is ever gonna change because that is bred into 'em, that is beat into 'em, and if you don't have that same philosophy you won't be part of NASCAR. As long as that philosophy is alive and kicking, then this sport is just fine."
MARK MARTIN SPOKE ABOUT A CODE EACH DRIVER HAS IN TERMS OF HOW THEY HANDLE ON-TRACK INCIDENTS. IS IT A PERSONAL THING?
"Well, you live with yourself every minute and I guess you've got to do what you feel like is the right thing to do. I try to conduct myself the way that when my children look at me they say, 'Hey, there's my dad and I'm proud of him for being my dad.' That's how I choose to conduct myself and I'm sure a lot of people do that. Some people have a little more bravado about them than others and some people are a little more aggressive than others, but I've got the advantage of some maturity. I've got the advantage of watching this sport and participating in this sport and making mistakes that I can look back on. I'm gonna make mistakes in the future, there's no doubt about it, but at the end of the day you've got to do what you think is appropriate. I think you have to be careful to not think about that and let your emotions take over and let that emotion turn over the top of your brain. That's generally what gets people in trouble in everyday life. They don't think things out. I want people to respect me. When you make a mistake the only thing you can do is say, 'Hey, I made a mistake,' and be sorry for that. That's all you can do. The guy that you made a mistake with needs to understand that he's made mistakes too. Now, if the mistake continues to happen, then at some point it's not forgivable anymore because now it's not a mistake. You can't just smooth everything over by saying, 'Hey, I'm sorry,' every week. That doesn't cut it. You have to demonstrate by example the code that you have chosen to race by, the code that you have chosen to live by, and then when you veer from that you need to be a man and stand up and say, 'I'm sorry, I made a mistake,' but then get right back on it. You can't continue to use that as an excuse and I try not to do that."
YOU CAN'T BE TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE OUT THERE, CAN YOU? ---
"The thing that I think everybody doesn't understand is that not only are you under a microscope from the media to the general public, your peers are watching you too. Your peers are paying attention to what you say and what you do and they watch. You can't conduct yourself a certain way without that understanding and without looking around and saying, 'Why doesn't anybody have respect for him?' Because they're watching you. Competitors love to find something that they don't like about you. They're looking for it because they really don't want to like you anyway. They'd rather just race against you and not have to deal with you. That's what we do, we compete against each other. They're looking for any flaw anyway and they're looking to make a case that says, 'He's a jerk,' or 'He's a dirty driver,' or 'He's not a good driver.' They're looking for that and love to find a weakness and try to expose that. You need to understand that. You've got to be who you are. Who you are is who you are and when you start trying to change who you are, I think that's a bad thing. But there's nothing wrong with trying to look at who you are and trying to make improvements and trying to learn from your mistakes and trying to take your next step in being a man."
THE LAST TWO TRACKS HAVE HAD THE SAFER BARRIER. THERE ARE A LOT OF GOOD CHANGES TAKING PLACE NOW, RIGHT?
"There have been a lot of good changes. We've made a lot of strides and there has been a lot of effort to make things safer. The fact that soft walls are now starting to not be an exception but to be the norm is a wonderful thing. The fact that every single team in here is looking at how to do seats better and how to mount seat belts and all those things on a consistent basis is a wonderful thing, too. There is something else coming in the future. I don't know what it is, but the key is that we're all trying. That's the key."