Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Taurus, is sporting a special decal on the hood of his car this weekend that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Korean War. The decal honors those who fought in that battle and...
Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Taurus, is sporting a special decal on the hood of his car this weekend that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Korean War. The decal honors those who fought in that battle and Burton spoke about the issue earlier this morning.
JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus --
"It's a great honor to have the commemorative insignia on the hood of the car. I wasn't aware until a couple of weeks ago that 1.7 million Americans served in the Korean War and, I believe, about 36,000 gave their lives. So it's a great honor to represent the Korean War with this commemorative insignia and people like that who gave their lives and gave a lifetime of commitment for the freedom, not only of our country, but of the world. It's a great honor to be a part of it."
THE PEOPLE WHO FOUGHT IN THAT WAR GAVE A LOT, MUCH LIKE YOU GUYS HAD TO DO YESTERDAY AFTER KENNY'S ACCIDENT. CAN YOU SPEAK TO THAT?
"It's hard to compare the two. These people were thousands of miles away from home under adverse conditions -- heat, cold, people shooting at them -- things that a race car driver, especially a race car driver of my era can't understand. Obviously, yesterday was a tragedy beyond explanation and it was a tough day. It'll be a tough weekend and it's be a tough couple of weeks. It's kind of fitting that this is going on this weekend because I'm not afraid of dying, but I'm afraid of leaving my children and my wife by themselves. What we had to do yesterday is an example of what the guys did in going to Korea, they had to leave. They left for years at a time, I left my wife for a few minutes so it's a big difference. Yesterday will be with us for a long time. A gentleman walked up to me yesterday who was a veteran of the Korean War and wanted a picture with him and the hood. We, 20 years from now, won't have that same burden in our heart that those guys have in their hearts -- having to see on a daily basis what they had to see. They sacrificed and gave way more than we ever will."
Brett Bodine, driver of the No. 11 Ralphs Supermarkets Taurus, qualified 13th for tomorrow's thatlook.com. That matches his second-best starting spot of the season, bettered only by a fourth-place qualifying effort at Martinsville.
BRETT BODINE --11-- Ralphs Supermarkets Taurus --
YOU HAVE A GOOD STARTING SPOT TOMORROW. ARE YOU EXCITED?
"I am. The team is improving and that's what I want out of this race team. I feel like our qualifying is picking up since Mike (Hillman) has come on board. Even though we missed Daytona, that wasn't Mike's fault or anybody's fault -- our speedway program has been that bad. It was kind of unfair for him to come in and have to face up to Daytona, but we've steadily improved since his first race at Pocono. At Sears Point we had a great car and we've got another good car here at Loudon, so I'm just excited about the team's future. What happens on Sunday, that's important, but right now I'm real excited about what can happen down the road."
AT MARTINSVILLE YOU WERE FOURTH AND GOT INVOLVED IN A WRECK. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE DUE SOME GOOD LUCK?
"I think we're capable and I think the car is capable. There are still areas on this race team that on race day we're gonna be weak and we're working extremely hard on that. When we hit pit road we've been really bad, but the guys have worked extremely hard and we're trying to improve that part of the program too. We've just had a lot of areas that we needed to tune up and it's hard to ask a new crew chief to come in and tune up all the areas in just a couple of weeks. Mike has done a great job of organizing and motivating the guys to show them that we can run better."
SO TOMORROW YOU JUST GO OUT AND DO THE BEST YOU CAN.
"We're just gonna get all we can get. We don't have any expectations, we just want to perform at our best tomorrow and, hopefully, on down the road our best performance on race day will be better than we expect tomorrow."
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus, is scheduled to start 10th in tomorrow's race. He spoke about his expectations while reflecting on his former teammate Kenny Irwin during a morning Q&A session.
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus --
"Our cars are safe and safety is not an issue. We're here to race and that's what we'll do tomorrow."
CAN ANYTHING BE DONE WITH BARRIERS?
"I think there can be some looking into some type of barriers before we get to the concrette wall. I'm sure it's something that NASCAR has looked at and has explored. It looks like there could be something done, but I'm not an authority there so I can't tell them what to do. Obviously, there are places that it looks like it would be beneficial."
HOW IS THE CAR FOR TOMORROW?
"The car's not bad. We struggled early this morning, just way too tight. Of course we had a very cool race track at that time and I think the next session will be more indicative of what we're gonna see tomorrow. But we made gains on it and we got better. It seems the car is better in longer runs, which is kind of typical for us -- not extremely fast to start with but better in the long runs, so we'll work the next hour in trying to get a little bit more speed without giving up something later in the run."
CAN YOU GIVE US A SENSE OF WHAT THE DRIVERS ARE FEELING IN THE GARAGE?
"I don't know, only guessing because I really haven't talked to anyone else. We're all shocked and stunned that this could happen again. It's pretty somber there, but we, unfortunately, have to go on about our business."
WHAT WOULD HAVE TO HAPPEN FOR YOU TO THINK MAYBE THE RACE SHOULD NOT BE RUN?
"I don't have an answer to that. It's totally NASCAR's decision on when we go out and what we do there. It's just a very, very difficult situation for everyone involved and there probably is no good answer because each situation would be different."
PERSONALLY WAS IT HARD TO CONTINUE YESTERDAY?
"It was difficult to continue, yes. But, there again, it's put on you to where you have to go and do it. As difficult as it is to concentrate, we still had plenty of time because of it not being a real hectic day -- as far as being in the car a lot -- plenty of time to think about Kenny and his family."
ANY TREPIDATION GOING INTO THAT TURN FOR THE FIRST TIME?
"No. You can't, I mean once you get in the race car you think about what you have to do and you go do that."
WHAT ABOUT THE THROTTLES. IS IT A PROBLEM?
"No, I mean, I don't know that we've found that's exactly the cause -- maybe we do know -- but I don't know that. That's up to the teams and, I mean, we don't see it happen a lot in Winston Cup. It's just something that it's up to the crew to make sure there are no problems there and it's a responsibility of the driver to check that right before you go out. I've always tried to express to younger guys, and, especially my son, that before you ever go out you've gotta push the throttle and make sure it doesn't hang and look around it to make sure that there's nothing there close to catch on."
THAT'S BEFORE YOU EVEN GET IN THE CAR?
"Yeah. That's a responsibility of the driver to look at that. Sometimes we get caught up and a lot of times I don't see them put the air cleaner on, but I know that I'm very fortunate to work with a group of guys that I know are very safety conscious and they're checking that all the time. I know that every time I get in the car that I look and check my throttle to make sure before I ever go out."
IS THAT SOMETHING YOU'VE ADDRESSED WITH YOUR TEAM IN THE LAST 24 HOURS?
"It's not something I've really had to because they do it, it's just part of our routine."
CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW IT HAPPENS? WHAT CATCHES?
"There are a lot of things that could happen. The air cleaner can do it -- they get it tightened down more at the track than what they did at the shop. They may get here and the cowl actually was at one place when they were at the shop and then they get here and the template needs to fit a little bit better across the hood and the cowl beats down, so there you've lost some clearance. It can get hung, the actual pedal can get hung on the mat inside of the car. You've got tape around the air cleaner, a piece of tape can come down, so there are just endless things. That's why you have to take such precaution and look at it all the time to make sure."
THOUGHTS ON FUTURE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS?
"Hopefully, we'll use these unfortunate circumstances to make things better. What we can do, I'm not totally sure, but there should be something that comes out of these two accidents that will be beneficial to everyone in the future."
WHAT ABOUT THE FIRST HALF OF YOUR SEASON?
"I'm happy with where we are considering I don't think we've raced to our potential yet. We've had some good races, but the last seven, eight, maybe even nine races have been much better and we've gotten ourselves back in a position to challenge for the championship. We've made a lot of strides and a lot of gains here over the last eight or nine weeks and that pleases me that we've been able to do that and I think we're in a good position right now."
WHAT ABOUT DALE EARNHARDT. DO YOU SEE A CHANGE THIS YEAR?
"I don't think Dale has ever changed. I think that now he has the equipment and the people that it takes to get the job done. He's always been able to get the job done, but I think now his spirits are probably up and he's a little more feisty now because he knows he has that equipment and he's gotten himself in a position. The last few years he hasn't had the things to make all of that happen, so the talent has never left. The ambition inside of him has never gone away, but now he has all the tools to win another championship."
DO YOU CONSIDER HIM A LEGITIMATE CONTENDER?
"I think Earnhardt definitely is a contender now. They've shown that they can race well. They make a lot of good decisions because of the experienced people that they have there now, that helps them later in races, and he's running well. They don't have failures, parts failures and things, and Earnhardt knows how to race for championships, so I say if we're gonna win he's somebody we're gonna have to beat."
RUSTY MENTIONED SOME KIND OF METAL LOOP AROUND HIS TOE THAT HE RACED WITH IN ASA. DO YOU THINK THAT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA FOR NASCAR TO MANDATE SOMETHING LIKE THAT?
"It's probably a good idea to put something. I've driven dirt cars and things that had that very apparatus on it and it would probably be something that we should look into. You never know what can happen, but if you watch after everything closely something shouldn't happen. But there is that time that it can slip by and then you have that, so it would probably be something that we all definitely need to look into doing on our own. It shouldn't be something that NASCAR has to say you have to do this. We should take it upon ourselves. If that's something that could be beneficial to us we should be able to do it on our own."
BUT YOU DON'T USE ONE NOW BECAUSE YOU CHECK IT EVERYTIME?
"I feel we take the necessary precautions, but it still would be a good idea. We've talked about it a couple of times, but we haven't really implemented it into our program as of yet, but I'm sure when we get back next week this will be something that we will look into."
HAVE YOU HAD THROTTLES HANG?
"Oh yeah. I've had throttle hang. It's the worst feeling that a driver will ever have. I've told my son Jason, he's had it happen twice already and I told him, 'You've experienced the worst thing.' That and fire, but that's just the most helpless feeling, especially on a shorter type race track where you have no banking. You can't react quick enough. Your first reactions are to stomp on the brakes and that doesn't do anything when you're going wide open. It's a terrible feeling."
HAVE YOU WRECKED HARD BECAUSE OF IT?
"Yeah, I wrecked at Richmond when I first started driving for Cale Yarborough in 1988 or '89 -- one of the two. I wrecked hard there and, again, it's a terrible terrible feeling."
LIKE RUSTY'S IDEA, IS THERE ANYTHING THAT CAN BE DONE TO RECOVER FROM THAT?
"If you have what he's talking about, it's basically a piece of metal across the top and you could just jerk it back with your foot. You would have time. You're more than likely still gonna wreck, but not nearly as hard."
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN THE THROTTLE HANGS AND THE CORNERS ARE MORE FORGIVING?
"Most of the time you have enough time to reach up and hit the switch at places where you have banking. I've even had it happen and driven the car by flipping the switch on and off until we could make a pit stop, so you literally drive the car doing that."
SO YOU'VE CONTINUED ON IN A RACE WITH A HUNG THROTTLE BEFORE?
"Yeah, you just use the switch to do what you need to do."
WHAT REFLECTIONS DID YOU HAVE LAST NIGHT OF KENNY?
"I think the biggest thing was that he was just a good person. Kenny was a friend of mine. I had him to drive my Busch car last year when I was pretty much getting out of the Busch Series. I thought he was a really good racer and a good person and that's the kind of representation we wanted for our sponsor. The two years we spent as teammates were good and I enjoyed trying to help him what I could with his career. I just know he was an intense competitor. He wanted to do well. He just didn't want to be a Winston Cup driver, he wanted to win, but on top of all of that, again, he was just a really, really good person."
EVERYTHING SEEMED TO COME TO A HALT YESTERDAY WHEN HE WAS BROUGHT TO THE CARE CENTER. WERE YOU HOPING TO SEE HIM COME OUT?
"Yeah, there's no doubt. You know in those situations, it's something you unfortunately kind of have that feeling. It's very seldom that a race track gets totally quiet during a day of a lot of activity, but you kind of get that feeling. I really was just praying that the worst wouldn't happen, that Kenny could come through. It's a helpless feeling to know that there's absolutely nothing we can do other than pray for him and, unfortunately, this time the worst did happen."
WAS WARD BURTON THE ONE WHO CONFIRMED IT TO YOU?
"I guess Ward came by and said that, but I'd kind of watched some people that I know and kind of devised it on my own that things were not good. Just seeing the faces of some of these people that I know, I felt sure that if there would have been some sort of hope -- knowing that Kenny and I were friends, that I would have gotten some good word and I never got that."
WHEN YOU GET IN THE CAR TOMORROW WILL THAT BE THE COCOON AND REFUGE YOU GUYS WILL BE LOOKING FOR?
"I think, yeah, you know getting in the car you can't have anything else on your mind. It's just totally what you have to do and that's the time you can get away from all the troubles of the world no matter what it may be. That's a three-hour time slot that we have to ourselves."
DO YOU SUBSCRIBE TO THE THEORY THAT WHEN IT'S YOUR TIME, IT'S YOUR TIME OR DO YOU BELIEVE SOMETHING COULD BE DONE TO PREVENT THIS SORT OF THING?
"I'm a firm believer that we all have our time to go no matter what you're doing, but I'm also a believer that these things happen for a reason and that there is something we should benefit from these things happening. It shouldn't just go as a loss to us, there should be some type of gain from that and that's what we have to do here in this situation is not totally overlook it, but that some benefit would come to all of us from that."
DO YOU THINK NASCAR SHOULD HAVE A MEDICAL TEAM TRAVEL EVERY WEEK?
"A dedicated medical team to the sport is probably a good idea, but I don't think that had anything to do with what has taken place here, certainly. I think the medical staff here is as good as anywhere that we go, but from NASCAR's standpoint there are a lot of liabilities in having your own team and it's a huge responsibility there. It used to be, I think, more of a concern for us, but it seems the places that we go now that things have been stepped up quite a bit and we have adequate medical staffing at all the facilities that we go to."
SO BEFORE THE YEAR YOU GO TO YOUR OWN PHYSICIAN?
"NASCAR approves it. You have a form that they send and you can either do it in Daytona or through your own personal physician."