The NASCAR Winston Cup Series officially begins its summer swing this week when the circuit heads to Dover, Delaware for the MBNA Platinum 400. Ford driver Jeff Burton talks about his season so far and what lies ahead in the future. JEFF BURTON...
The NASCAR Winston Cup Series officially begins its summer swing this week when the circuit heads to Dover, Delaware for the MBNA Platinum 400. Ford driver Jeff Burton talks about his season so far and what lies ahead in the future.
JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo Taurus
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT HOW MUCH LONGER YOU'D LIKE TO DRIVE? DO YOU THINK DRIVERS WILL START RETIRING AT EARLIER AGES?
"I figure that I've got seven more bust-my-butt, work as hard as I can, everybody get out of the way I'm gonna work harder than you are type of years left. I think I do that. I'm not being boastful or anything, but I take a lot of pride in the amount of effort I put into this thing. I work really hard. If you want to compare the number of laps I've run at test facilities this year and also race tracks this year, I'll put that up against anybody anyday. I'm trying to make myself better. I do that everyday. That requires a tremendous amount of effort and a tremendous amount of dedication from me and my family. When you run that hard, you will run out quickly. So I figure I can do that for six, seven, eight more years -- just bust my butt and do it as hard as I can -- and then when I get to that point that will probably be enough."
THERE ARE MORE OPTIONS FOR EX-DRIVERS NOW.
"There are more options now. I'm sure at this point in my career, I feel there are a lot more things open and available to me than Ricky Rudd did when he was at this same point in his career. I have more money than he did at this point in his career and I have more ability to do things because of the environment that we race in today. When Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman and those guys get into their eighth or ninth year, they're gonna have more options than I did I hope. That means the sport is healthy and it's growing. Hopefully, you'll have the option to retire early and you'll have things open to you to go do. To retire at 45 years old and not do anything, I'm not gonna do that. I'm gonna want to be doing something, but I think I'll have those options."
IS MANAGEMENT AN OPTION?
"That's a long time ahead, but as much as I like to put my nose into everybody else's business, being a manager is something that's pretty appealing to me."
OWN YOUR OWN TEAM?
"I'd like to be part of an ownership group. I don't know if I'd like to handle the burden of ownership all on my own. I think it's getting to the point where to own a team you've got to have really, really, really deep pockets and to race solely on the sponsorship and not being able to turn on the big money machine when you need, it would be a hard way to go. Most of the successful teams can turn the big money machine on, they don't have to wait for the check to come to go do something. They can turn the big money machine on and make something happen before they get a check. To go race from check to check to check, I don't think puts you in a position to be able to be competitive on a weekly basis. So I'd like to be part of an ownership group with two or three owners that have a common goal and common cause and go out and do it like that. But I don't think I'll ever be in a position to have enough outside leverage to go pull a Winston Cup team off effectively as it needs to happen."
WORKING FOR JACK YOU'VE SEEN IT.
"I've seen Jack turn the money machine on. I've seen him not have to look at the red and black and just say, 'Do we need this?' 'Yes.' 'Well, let's go get it.' And I've seen that and thought, 'Boy, how did he do that.' I know if you're Andy Petree, you can't do that. If you're Robert Yates, at times, you can't do that. Eventually, if done properly, that stuff will wear you out."
YOU RACE IN THE BUSCH SERIES. DO YOU EVER WONDER IF IT'S WORTH THE RISK AFTER SEEING GUYS LIKE BENSON AND PARK INJURED IN BUSCH RACES?
"It's part of what we do. I'm a racer and I race. I not only race the Busch car a tremendous amount, I test the Busch car a tremendous amount. Every time you get on the race track, you put yourself at risk for injury. The negative to running Busch races and testing the Busch car is that you're opening the door for more injury. You can't take unnecessary risks. I don't like people that say, 'Well, you can get hurt in a street car just as easy as you can a race car,' and I think that's stupid. The more you do something, the more opportunity for injury no matter what it is you're doing. The more times you ski down a slope, the chances are better you're gonna get hurt. It's the same way with the Busch car. It's what I do. Everybody on my Winston Cup team knows it. My Winston Cup sponsor knows it. My car owner owns the team I drive for in both series. It's what I do. It makes me better. It makes my team better. I'm never willing to put my health out there for the benefit of something, but I don't look at it like I'm doing that. I don't feel like I'm taking an unnecessary risk. I race because I love to race. I race the Busch car because I still have a tremendous amount of respect for having the opportunity to race. That shouldn't be taken lightly. To go and run that Gain car with all the effort and all the energy that's behind it, man, that's a hell of a nice thing. I didn't always have these opportunities and I still respect that. I still have a lot of reverence and respect for people that go out and want to run Busch cars and have the opportunity to do it. So, it's who I am and it's what I do and with that comes exposure to more risk, but that's just what we do."
IS THERE MORE COMFORT KNOWING YOU'RE IN A ROUSH CAR AS OPPOSED TO AN INDEPENDENT CAR LIKE BENSON AND PARK WERE?
"I know the effort that's gone into it. Everything about that car I'm aware of as far as from a safety standpoint. I know that the rules and procedures that we have at Roush are as good as anywhere, so I feel good about all those things."