JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Homestead-Miami Speedway and discussed his outlook for the weekend, his reaction on the testing ban, the measures RCR is taking to save money and much more. Full ...
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Homestead-Miami Speedway and discussed his outlook for the weekend, his reaction on the testing ban, the measures RCR is taking to save money and much more. Full transcript.
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK GOING INTO THIS WEEKEND? "First of all this is a nice media center. You guys keep getting nicer and nicer places to stay. That's a good thing.
"We obviously come here trying to find a way to finish third, maybe possibly second. Obviously our chance at winning a championship is gone. That's disappointing but second is a lot better than 10th. It's our goal to finish as high as we can, to ultimately finish as high as we can in points. It matters to us where we finish and that's what we are here to do."
WITH DEI AND GANASSI MERGING THAT'S GOING TO BE A NET LOSS OF TWO CARS FOR THE FIELD, THERE'S ESTIMATES OF 100 TO 125 CREW MEMBERS THAT HAVE BEEN LAID OFF, FROM YOUR STANDPOINT HOW DIFFICULT IS WHAT A LOT OF THESE TEAMS HAVE TO GO THROUGH RIGHT NOW MAKING THE DECISION TO LAY PEOPLE OFF? "It's very difficult for the car owners. For everybody involved. The last few years we've been at a, I would be willing to say, an all-time high in the number of fully funded, fully staffed race teams. I'm sure I'm correct when I say I would imagine more people have been employed within the teams in the last three years than any other point in our history. With the economy the way it was with the exposure that NASCAR was able to give sponsors, there was a tremendous amount of willingness to get involved which created a lot of jobs. Obviously Toyota coming in put at a minimum to new multi-car teams into play so we had a time where we had a lot of people needing to be employed to serve all the needs that needed to be done and then now at a time when the economy isn't as good we're going to see the negative side of that. It's really hard to be part of a team that has to let people go. I've said this before in the past, we think about this as a sport and that's what it is but to the people involved in this sport this is the way they pay their mortgages and this is the way they pay their car loans and send their children to school and pay their bills. This is the way that you make a living and at a time when the economy turns bad, it's just tough times. It's tough times. It will come back. There's no question in my mind that it will come back but this year is going to be a real tough year. The net loss of teams is really going to be interesting to me. If you think about it we know we have two new teams and they've offset some of the losses. We know there are two new teams coming. One of those at this point has been absorbed into Michael Waltrip Racing but it definitely appears we're going to have a loss, ending up having a net loss of full-time teams there's no question."
CAN WE GET YOUR REACTION TO NASCAR'S TESTING BAN? "I haven't seen any official word from NASCAR. I've been kind of out of the loop. I was kind of out of the loop yesterday so you're telling me something that I don't know anything about. Feel free to give me any information. I would love to have it."
WHAT THEY SAID IS YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO TEST AT TRACKS WHERE SPRINT CUP, NATIONWIDE OR TRUCK RACES ARE HELD. "You want me to comment on something that's not official? What is this politics? (laughter) My crew chief hasn't told me. What I will say about it without knowing all the details, here comes Mr. (Jim) Hunter (laughter). God, I hate when Jim comes to see me in the middle of a press conference.
"I do believe that we are at time in our sport where we've got to look at ways to cut some costs. There's no doubt about it. We've been in conversation with NASCAR about what it is they can do, more importantly we as teams ultimately have the responsibility to pay attention to what we're spending. Jack Roush is a master at that. Richard Childress is a master at that, of trying to figure out where to spend the dollars without wasting it. A testing ban, there's a lot of unknowns. I've never been part of a sport where testing was banned. So I'm not sure of the consequences of that. I do believe that testing is a way for a struggling team to improve but I also believe that we're in severe times and we need to have severe actions. I'm assuming that a testing ban will include the inability to obtain tires from Goodyear because if you can obtain tires from Goodyear then there are places to go test. So it's a complicated matter and without having all the details it's very difficult for me to comment on. I'm more than willing to comment on it after I have all the details but for me to go into deep complex conversations about it without having every bit of the information, because that's what's going to make the thing work or not work is all of the small things that are within the rule. Without having those it's really hard for me to comment on. But I am a proponent of severe action because I think that our sport has got to have severe action right now."
YOU MENTIONED RIGHT OFF THE BAT THAT IT'S IMPORTANT TO YOU PERSONALLY TO FINISH AS HIGH IN THE STANDINGS AS POSSIBLE, WHAT IS THE MINDSET FOR A DRIVER IF HE IS MATHEMATICALLY ELIMINATED FROM A CHAMPIONSHIP AT THAT POINT? "Well you know the Chase format is created more of a finality to that if that makes any sense. In the past, the old format by far the majority of the people coming to this race had been eliminated months ago. We were eliminated a week ago so it's a little more fresh, a little more raw for us because it's right in our face because the reality of our situation just occurred. What we have to do is we have to be sure to refocus, to not dwell on the fact that we're not championship caliber at the moment. So my mindset is to prove to myself, for my team to prove to themselves, for us to prove to each other that we can regroup in the face of disappointment and focus on the positive. No matter what at the end of the day this is a test and it really tests humility and it tests your ability to get over things and it's hard. It's really hard, but it boils down to pride. What are you going to do? Are you going to lay down and cry about it or are you going to go to work and bust your butt to try to be better? That's the course we're going to take."
ON HOW THE TESTING BAN WILL AFFECT THE PRE-SEASON AS FAR AS GETTING THE CARS READY AND THE BUILD UP PRIOR TO THE DAYTONA 500. "I'm shocked that we won't test at Daytona. I always believed even if we had a testing ban we would test at Daytona because, I don't know it's always been what we've done. It's going to be interesting. I'm sure this sport will find a way to step up and fill the void of not having the test of finding a way to create excitement for the beginning of the year. I'm sure the drivers, car owners and NASCAR will find a way to get together and do something like that. I think that would be in the best interest of our fans to create some energy, to create something going on around the sport. For me personally, I'm a tester. I'm not going to be as bold to say as I like to test but I respect what testing will give you and there's something about waking up at five in the morning and leaving your house to go work to try to be better that I really enjoy. It gives me the sense of kind of a workman-like attitude. I could be playing golf but instead I'm going to work. I tested last year for a month. If you look at the number of days that I tested last year it takes a month up. That's a lot of testing in addition to everything we do here. I mean we tested a month. For me, I don't know. I agree with the policy but at the same time I'm nervous about it because I think testing make s me better.
"I think it makes my team better. I've never done a year without testing. My son, seven-years-old, we go test quarter midgets. When I was eight-years-old my father would take me to the go-kart track and we'd test for two days at the go-kart track. It's what I've always done. So I don't know what it's going to be like. We will as a sport have to find a way to create some energy over the winter and I'm sure we'll do that in some form or fashion."
CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WAYS THAT YOU'RE SEEING RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING TRY TO SAVE MONEY? "I'm aware of some personnel changes but I'm not aware at Richard Childress Racing of anyone that has been laid off or is going to be laid off in an effort to save money. Now I will say as through the expansion of a fourth team, we probably won't hire at the same rate that we would have hired two years ago. So we're going to try to become a little more efficient in how we prepare vehicles. Try to do things together a little bit more in an effort to save some costs. Try to test, when I say test I'm not saying track testing, but we do a lot of testing in other forms and fashion, try to test more efficiently so it tries to benefit all four teams rather than each of the four teams going out to try to do something by themselves.
"The quantity of vehicles, how many race cars do you really need, those kinds of things. Richard (Childress) has pledged to the teams that there's going to be no cuts in regard to performance related issues but there are going to be demands placed on us to become more efficient in how we spend those dollars. So where we are right now is we're more trying to gain efficiencies to make sure the dollars that we spend are valuable than we are trying to necessarily cut money that we are spending. But again we aren't going to grow at a rate that we normally would have grown in considering we're adding a fourth team."
IT APPEARS THAT ON-TRACK INCIDENTS ARE DOWN ABOUT 16 PERCENT IN TERMS OF ACCIDENTS AND THINGS LIKE THAT, HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK A DROP LIKE THAT THIS CURRENT MODEL CAR WOULD CONTRIBUTE AND DO YOU THINK PART OF THAT IS MAYBE DRIVERS ADJUSTING TO THIS CAR? "To me it's a very interesting thing. The more difficult things become the less cautions we have. Its kind of counter intuitive. You would think the worse the conditions are the more cautions you would have but it's really the opposite. If you go back and think about, take Bristol out of the equation, but if you go back and think about the Atlanta Spring race you know how much we complained about the cars we didn't have a whole lot of cautions. If you go back in history and look at times when the car has become very difficult to drive, the cautions come down. The only thing I can think of from a driver's perspective is that you have to be so much more focused and that the edge of control is so much more defined that we have less cautions in adverse conditions. These cars are hard to drive, which by the way I think is a good thing. I think that's why we have fewer cautions because the car is actually harder to drive. The definition of the limit is much more easy to see."
HOW DO YOU GRADE THE NEW CAR AFTER ONE FULL YEAR OF COMPETITION AND DO YOU THINK THERE STILL NEEDS TO BE A LOT OF PROGRESS MADE TO FINE TUNE THE THING? "I think that some teams and drivers have done better jobs with it than others obviously and I think that's to be expected. Any time there's a new product out there I think some people are going to do it better than others. By the way, some people were doing the old car better than others. We did see less winners this year than we saw last year, I think that's a product of the car more in the sense of adapting to the car and more in the sense of what drivers did the best job, what teams did the best job. I think you're going to see that number spread out more next year. As we learn the cars more, as we spend more time with the cars, as the teams that weren't successful are forced to go and figure out how to be successful they're going to close the gap on the better teams. So I think all those things are going to happen. Considering that we kind of wiped the slate clean and started with a complete new aerodynamic package, chassis package, suspension package, I think the car has been remarkably successful. I know the car has received a lot of criticism. It's true the car is very hard to drive but that doesn't make it wrong.
"This is Cup racing, it's the hardest form of motorsports in North America, it's supposed to be hard. If anybody can hop in it and do as well as one of the top drivers then why do it? It's supposed to be hard. But overall I think it's been very successful but I do believe as we spend more time with it, it's going to become more successful. That's my honest opinion. It has the ability to create more parity than what we've had because there's so much less that we have the ability to control. Over time, I believe that will create more parity. I may be wrong but that's my belief.
"Ultimately the best drivers and the best teams will always be on top no matter what the car, no matter what the circumstance. There's a reason Carl (Edwards) has won the races he's won. There's a reason Jimmie (Johnson) has won the races he's won. At the end of the day, the cream rises to the top no matter what cars you give them."
-credit: gm racing