All eight Ford NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers participated in media day at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday. JEFF BURTON - No. 99 TNT Taurus THIS IS THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE 1979 DAYTONA 500 WHEN THE TELEVISION ERA FOR THIS...
All eight Ford NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers participated in media day at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday.
JEFF BURTON - No. 99 TNT Taurus
THIS IS THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE 1979 DAYTONA 500 WHEN THE TELEVISION ERA FOR THIS SPORT BEGAN. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED WATCHING NASCAR ON TV? "I didn't realize this was the 25th anniversary, but me and my family were at a resort in Virginia snow skiing. The race was on a Sunday the way I remember it and we all went skiing that morning. I kept looking at the clock on the lifts and at about noon I said I was going to go to the condo. They said, 'What do you mean, you're going to the condo?' And I said, 'I'm going to the condo.' They thought somebody needed to go with me, but I told them I would be alright. So they skied with me and I took my skis off and they watched me go in the condo. I shut the door and I watched the race while they all went skiing. That was cool. To watch the Daytona 500 live was pretty cool and remembering that is pretty cool, too. I would have been 10 at the time."
WHERE WAS IT AT? "At Wintergreen Ski Resort."
WE'VE SEEN WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE NFL AT THE SUPER BOWL BY GOING AFTER THE YOUNGER DEMOGRAPHIC. IS NASCAR IN DANGER OF THE SAME TYPE OF THING? "When a sport exposes itself to an inexperienced group of athletes that haven't been put through the ringer, so to speak, from a mass media standpoint you're in the position to have things happen that you otherwise wouldn't have happen. Mark Martin isn't gonna do things that a young driver who hasn't been exposed to this stuff is gonna do. I'm not saying the older you have to be, but the more time you have to spend in front of television cameras with the media, with the public and doing those things, the more you understand how to handle it. When you are a professional race car driver or a football player or a basketball player, people around you want you to believe that you're something more special than you really are. The more you go through, the more you understand that that's not necessarily true. You're gifted. God gave you that ability to do some things really well that other people can't do, but that doesn't give you permission to do things that other people can't do. I think sometimes younger drivers and younger athletes in general forget that. They don't forget it, they just don't know it. They also have a hard time separating that this is motorsports and this is everyday life. Not all of them, but some of them. If you treat your motorsports or any sport that you're in as you treat your everyday life, you're prone to be a pretty crappy citizen.
"You have to be ruthless. You have to be selfish. You have to be self-serving. You have to be everything that being in the general public says you shouldn't be to be successful in sports. But there are times to turn that on and times to turn that off. Some of the younger guys have a problem turning that off."
IN DECEMBER THERE WAS TALK ABOUT YOUR FUTURE. DID YOU COME CLOSE TO LEAVING ROUSH AT ALL? "There was more speculation about what I was gonna do with my career from people on the outside than there was from me on the inside. When you're looking at your career and you've won 18 Winston Cup races and you've been doing it for 10 years and you're looking at possibly not having a sponsor, that certainly creates a situation where you have to look around and think, 'What if?' On the other hand, my experience at Roush Racing has been they've always been able to do what they say they're gonna do. They've always put forth the effort to do what they say they're gonna do and I believe that to be the case now. I trust in what they say. I believe in what they say. They say we're gonna be OK. Does that mean there's not a little bit of anxiety about it? No, because there is, but I trust Geoff Smith and I trust Jack Roush. They've always done what they say they're gonna do and they say they're gonna do this deal and find a way to make it happen, so I believe it to be true."