Indianapolis: Burton - GM Top-10 interview

CHEVY NNCS AT INDY: Weekly Top 10 with Jeff Burton BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS: ON TOYOTA ENTRY IN CUP IN 2007: "I think the impact is being right now is being seen in the fact there...

CHEVY NNCS AT INDY: Weekly Top 10 with Jeff Burton

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS:

ON TOYOTA ENTRY IN CUP IN 2007: "I think the impact is being right now is being seen in the fact there is going to be too many cars. I don't think it is healthy for our sport to have 47, 48, 49 fully sponsored, fully prepared teams because we are going to send major sponsors home. I think that is a negative right there. On top of that, Toyota, regardless of what they are saying, is throwing a lot of money at a lot of people. It is free enterprise, I am not saying they are wrong for doing it, but they are going to raise the cost of motorsports because of what they are doing with drivers and employees and everything else. But that is what has built America and they have every right to do so, but it is going to have an impact on everybody."

THOUGHTS ON NUMBER OF FULL-TIME TEAMS: "I think we need to continue to look at how we improve what we have now with the top 35 locked in. I think it is a great rule but I think it needs to increase. I personally think that much like the Dallas Cowboys or the Carolina Panthers, they know they are going to have a chance to play in every game. They don't know if they are going to make the playoffs but we need that here. I think it would protect the owners and it would protect our sponsors and I think we have to find a way to move towards that. I think we need 43 teams that know they are going to be in the show that at the same time have to do a certain amount of things to validate that they deserve a franchise. I don't agree with baseball for example when the Florida Marlins, then had a complete sell out and decided that they weren't going to compete anymore. I think if we had of a situation, you could be in jeopardy of losing your franchise. We need to find a way to guarantee everybody they are going to be in the show for our sponsors and car owners. It isn't about the drivers; it is about the sponsors and the car owners. At the same time if a car owner doesn't do a certain amount of things, he could lose his franchise."

ON PRESTIGUE OF RACING AT THE BRICKYARD: "It is pretty high. The thing for me here is that I feel like we are coming to someone else's territory. At Daytona, the stock car guys built that history. At Darlington, the stock car guys built that history. Here at Indy, we haven't built the history. We have helped it, but we didn't start it and I feel like we are walking on ground that others have made as important as it is. I think that is really cool. I think that neat that we get to come somewhere that is known as worldwide as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I think that is special. The Daytona 500 is always going to be our biggest race, just because for stock car guys, it is the most historic and prestigious race. Is it second here? I think that is a personal thing? For me, it is up there. But for me Darlington is bigger than Indy only because Darlington has so much history in our type of racing. But this place should not be underestimated of its value to sport, to worldwide motorsports for that matter.

ON PREPARATION FOR ALLSTATE 400 AT BRICKYARD: "I think we are as ready as we have been for every other week. Every team comes here with new cars because we test here, everyone builds new cars hoping that it is better than the last one we had here. Some people found something that was better and some people didn't. We brought a new car, but it was based on the cars we are building today. It is a big race, because to us, it starts the second half of the year. For everybody else, they thought half time was at Daytona. But for our team, there is 16 races left. The next six are huge for a lot of teams, then the last 10 are really big. This is a chance to try and step it up. We all had a weekend off. You had time off, we all came here and tested, this is the place everybody tries to step it up for a lot of reasons, not only because it is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but also because of what is going to happen over the next six races and eventually over the next 10.

ON TIGHT SITUATION OF POINTS RACE FOR CHASE BUBBLE CONDITION AFFECTING THE RACING: "If you look at everyone for the exception of Matt (Kenseth) and Jimmie (Johnson) it is clear you have to race your way in the Chase. You can't have bad races; you have got to go. I think the intensity of the races will pick up; the emotion level will pick up; I look for more excitement than we have seen already to be quite honest with you. Some guys will take more chances; some guys will take less. If you are a team that needs to have some things happen, you are going to try and make things happen, you are going to push a little harder than maybe you should. If you are a team that is in the top 10, but on the edge, you might get a little conservative. Everybody is different. My approach is we have gotten here by doing certain things and we are going to continue to do those things.

"Our team is looking without a doubt at the next six races to try to improve and try to be better. We aren't as good as we need to be. We have done a nice job, but we aren't as good as we need to be yet and the next six races are an opportunity to continue to improve. If we can get our selves in the top10 for those last 10 races, if we have done a good job in the next six races of running well and performing at a high level, then we have a great chance to win the championship. If we can't do that, then we don't. We have to go in to the last 10 races, running well feeling like we can compete at a high level every weekend to give ourselves a shot to win the championship. So first we have to get there and by the way, the way you get there is the same way you win the championship. By running well, by avoiding bad races and try and go out and win. The guy that wins gets the most points and that is how we need to do it."

ON IF A WIN WILL END UP BEING IMPORTANT ON WHETHER YOU GET IN OR DON'T GET IN THE CHASE: "I think a win is important because it is the most points. You don't have to win to get in but obviously the goal of every team is to come to Indy, then go to Watkins Glen and then go to every race track after that to win. That is why I say we aren't as good as we need to be. When we are good, someone is always a little better. We have to find a way to step it up so when we are at our best, no one else is better. We haven't done that yet. In my eyes, we need to improve, we need to continue to improve and we need to use these six races to do that and the only way to do that is to go out there and run hard and try to beat everybody."

ON WHAT TO ATTRIBUTE THE MAJOR IMPROVEMENT AT RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING: "Actually, that is a really long answer but I am going to try to make it as short as possible. Quite simply, we have improved in pretty much all areas. Our chassis, engine, our body departments are all better. We have stepped up to the plate in all areas. When we roll a car on the truck, it is a better piece of equipment than it was last year. Simply answered, we haven't fixed one thing at RCR, there wasn't just one thing that was prohibiting us from leading, it was a series of things we weren't doing well enough and we have adjusted all of those. To Richard's (Childress) credit, we have seen improvement everyone."

ON PERSONAL AFFECT OF RUNNING BETTER WITH RCR: "Honestly it feels good, but at the same time, I am always looking at the next race. I really don't look at what we did three weeks ago, as a matter of fact, if you asked me where we raced four weeks ago, I would have to go look at a calendar. I have been here before; I don't feel pressure. I don't feel like 'oh my gosh, we are in this championship hunt, we can't make a mistake. I don't feel any of that, I just feel like we are racing. It is rewarding. I will tell you that through not running well, I never lost confidence in my ability to drive because I have seen it happen to everybody. I saw Dale Earnhardt get to where he couldn't run well. I have seen it happen to others. I watch enough sports and I pay enough attention to things around me to know that everything is not always going to go your way. When it doesn't you just have to go to work and try to make it better. I was hugely disappointed in the part that I played in the 99 car not running as competitive as it should have been but to be quite honest, never believed that revolved around me as a driver. I was part of the decision making progress but it just keep snowballing. This is a fickle sport, it is a demanding sport, it is a very very humbling sport. At the same time, it is hard and that is why I like it. I enjoy the challenge. Even when running well I always knew we have to go to the next race and run well. Just because we ran well last week, that is no guarantee you are going to run well this week. At the same time, when we weren't running well, I always believed we were working to get to get to where we could. At this level, Bobby Labonte hasn't forgotten how to drive a race car. You give him equipment that will go around a race track fast, he will go around a race track fast. I believe the same thing about myself, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and many others. The reality is a driver can't put it up on his shoulders any more. He can certainly have an impact, but the equipment is so important. I never lost confidence in my ability. Every now and then, I had to walk in to my trophy room and look to remind myself that there was a lot of trophies here. It wasn't easy, and by the way, it won't be easy again."

ON FIRST ISSUES NOTICED AT RCR: "It wasn't a funding issue. It wasn't a commitment issue, it was an organizational issue. A lot of people were working on a lot of things but everybody wasn't working on things together. In a nutshell, that is what I saw. I will match our resources against anyone, I will match our employees against anyone. I will match our sponsors against anyone. I think we have the hardware to succeed. So when you look at all that, there had to be some organizational issues. At the end of the day, we didn't go fire a bunch of people, we did bring in a few new people without a doubt, but the biggest impact we had was just organizing and holding people responsible for their jobs and building programs that had accountability, had a goal. That is the biggest improvement and that is the thing I saw when I looked at it. It was scary, to be honest. I came here because I believed we can be successful and I saw all the things it would take to be successful. At the same time, it was scary, because when you see all that stuff and you aren't running well, you think 'Ok, how do we overcome this?' But, at the end of the day, the commitment was there, the desire was there. Richard told me he would do whatever it took to get us back to the top and he has done that. He has done everything he told me he would do and more. "

ON ROOKIES IN THE SERIES THIS YEAR: "Darrell Waltrip conducted my rookie meetings. I didn't learn much from him but he is quite a comedian. In today's time, with the way teams are structures, there is no excuse in a young driver coming to a race track without enough information. If you are Carl Edwards last year, you have access to Matt Kenseth; you have access to Mark Martin. If you are J.J. Yeley this year, you have access to Tony Stewart. You have to be willing to open the door to accept help. That is not to say that you are asking the best way to drive in turn one, a lot of times, you are asking what is the best way to handle a particular situation. To be quite honest, the guy who won't go off and try to learn that by himself and use the resources available to him, he isn't going to listen to a guy talking to him about it (an experienced driver at a rookie meeting) either. I didn't get a whole lot out of the rookie meetings. It was kind of like a drivers meeting, every week they tell you the same things. The great thing though about having Darrell (Waltrip) there was that he would take time to answer a question if you had a question. Today we have all these multi car teams; it is just a different environment. I don't think it is a necessity (to have a veteran driver at rookie meetings). I do think the young drivers, and by the way the old drivers, need to be open to getting input. I go to Clint and ask about a test. I will look at everything from the test, I just want all the information I can get and by the way, he talks to me a lot and he talked to Kevin (Harvick). For the people who want it, it is there for them and if they don't want it, they aren't going to accept it anyway.

"I think our young drivers have blended well into the sport. We do have some young drivers who don't get it but we have some older ones who don't get it either."

IS TALK OF ROOKIE DRIVERS JUST ABOUT THE EVOLUTION OF OUR SPORT: "I would be willing to bet that Cale Yarborough was pretty ticked off about somebody being young and aggressive. It is part of the sport. It is part of the sport; it is part of what we do. It is an aggressive sport. Young drivers tend to make more mistakes by being too aggressive than older drivers and sometimes that aggravates older drivers. But at the end of the day, if you really analyze what goes on in these racing, we don't have a problem with our young drivers, we really don't. You know at Talladega and Daytona, we cause all the wrecks. The guys in the front are there cause they say you need to run in the front at Daytona cause it is safer, but heck that is where all the wrecks are at. I don't see young drivers causing issues on the race track. I just don't see it.

I think what happens with a young driver is when he makes a mistake, everybody was expecting it and says "Oh my gosh, it is a young driver and look what happened." If you go back and really watch, I don't think our young drivers are an issue any more than any body else. Young drivers in some cases aren't socially as responsible as they should be. But guess what, if you are just 22 years old and as mature as Dale Jarrett or Mark Martin, then you are an exceptional person. Some of the things that have happened to our young drivers is that we have continued to add them younger and younger stepping in to really good equipment. They don't have the time to grow up. They do it all in the public. In many ways they are greatly advantaged over the generation before them, I was greatly advantaged over the generation that came before me. At the same time, if a young driver doesn't have success immediately, they get kicked out the door. They are demanded from a great deal, they put in a situation where if they don't succeed immediately, there is a tremendous amount of pressure put on them. That is hard. On the other hand, they are driving great equipment and they should run well. It is a tough deal. From racing against them, I just don't see that we have a problem with young drivers."

ON QUALIFYING ORDER AT THE BRICKYARD: "Qualifying order is the single most, well I don't want to say it is the important thing because having a fast car is important, but there no denying that qualifying order here has a major impact on where you qualifying for the race. It is an issue. But, you can't do anything about it. If you qualify late, you have got to understand that is where you are going to qualify and you have to go make it work."

ON IMPACT OF TONY STEWART INCIDENT AT POCONO: "I don't see it as an issue. This sport is full of events that happen every three or four weeks and everybody gets all up in arms about it. A week from now we won't even be talking about it. Tony got himself in a situation at Pocono that was less than desirable without a doubt, but those things have a way of going away. If you hold that stuff in, you will rot to death. There are way more things that happen to you than you wish that would in this sport, a lot is made of those things. But Carl Edwards isn't going to wreck Tony Stewart, but everybody will know he did it on purpose. You can't do that, NASCAR won't allow it. You start wrecking people on purpose, you talk about it, then you go do it, they are going to get you. It is probably less than is used to be. Heck, 30 years ago, they would have been fighting. There is just so much exposure. Tony Stewart is a household name. 30 years ago, Richard Petty was a household name, but I find it hard to believe that David Pearson was a household name. We have so many drivers that are known by so many people that, it makes it different that it used to be.

"The media coverage is more. You can't turn on the TV without watching something to do with NASCAR. What has happened is that it is out in your face more. I think the intensity of racing is at an all time high. I really believe that from spot one to sport 30 is more competitive that it has ever been. If you are running 15th, you are running in a dogfight. You can't understand how hard it is to run 15th. It is a dogfight. So when you have that, then you have all the pressures we have today from sponsors, the media, from fan, it more intense. Which is by the way, why people watch it."

ON THE UNWRITTEN RULES IN THE NASCAR CUP GARAGE: (BANTER IN JEST WITH ATTENDING MEDIA) I want to applaud Tony for turning something he did in to everybody else's fault. (LAUGHS) He did a heck of a nice job at that. (CONTINUES TO LAUGH). That was pretty good. We just spent 20 minutes talking about the rookies did wrong and I don't understand that. Maybe he should be running the war or something like that. (LAUGHS)

Seriously, the thing about an unwritten rule is that if you can write your own rule, then everybody is going to write it different. Mark Martin's code of conduct is different than other peoples. This sport has a tremendous amount of those things that aren't in writing, they are in your head or someone else's head, but you all have differing opinions about what is acceptable. The harder that you run and the more aggressive you are, your code is going to be different than another guy. That is just how it is. When I am out on the race track, I don't look at a guy and think that that guy is a rookie and I need to stay away from him. The qualify of drivers and teams that we have we have today is so high that I just see somebody I have to pass or who is trying to pass me."

ON ONE CHANGE I WOULD MAKE TO CHASE: "I am a proponent of playoff situations. I am a proponent of get it done or you are out. Cause I think that is what makes it fun to watch sports. In the NFL, when they started the wild card thing, I know some people didn't like it but at the same time, that put another week of games in and anytime you have a scenario where there is intense pressure and competition, that is a heck of a lot of fun to watch. We can't forget that our sport is nothing if it isn't fun to watch. The more intense that it is, the more pressure filled that it is, the more people we have watching it. In my opinion, the only thing that would add to it, is to get more people in and start farther out. Then have a series of eliminations not just one. Start with 15 races to go and 15 guys, then eliminate three, then two more, and so on. That would make us have to bring it every week for a series of weeks. That will make it more intense. We can't worry about how hard it is for me, we have to worry about how much fun it is to watch."

-gm racing-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Richard Petty , Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards , Cale Yarborough , Mark Martin , David Pearson