Continued from part 1 JEFF BURTON ARE YOU A WINE CONNOISSEUR? "I wouldn't consider myself to be a connoisseur by any means, but I do enjoy having a glass of wine with dinner. And my wife enjoys it more than I do." ARE DRIVERS DRINKING MORE...
Continued from part 1
ARE YOU A WINE CONNOISSEUR?
"I wouldn't consider myself to be a connoisseur by any means, but I do enjoy having a glass of wine with dinner. And my wife enjoys it more than I do."
ARE DRIVERS DRINKING MORE WINE NOW THAN THEY WERE 10 YEARS AGO, AND CAN YOU RATE THE CHILDRESS VINEYARDS WINE?
"There's a new bottle he's getting ready to release in the near future that he (Richard Childress) just gave to me yesterday and my wife and I sat down and had a glass of it last night. It was very good. There are a couple of wines they make in the reds that I really like. But it's kind of funny. We needed a bottle of wine the other day and I went over and knocked on Kevin Harvick's motor home and said, 'Hey, I need a bottle of wine.' DeLana (Harvick) opened the door and said they had a bottle of this and that and gives me a long description about it. Ten years ago, if I knocked on somebody's door and asked for a bottle of wine, they would have laughed at me. It's just such a different environment. I can't even tell you. It certainly has gone more towards the wine drinking than just the beer drinking, for sure. But what's interesting about this group is they'll drink a beer and then they'll drink a wine, you know what I mean (laughs)."
IT JUST SEEMS ODD THAT A GUY LIKE RICHARD CHILDRESS WOULD OPEN A VINEYARD
"I understand what you're saying. When we go to Sonoma to race, everybody wants to go out there and everybody does the vineyard tours and it's really interesting. That wasn't the case 10 or 15 years ago. People went to the vineyards because the wine was free - not because they wanted to go try it (laughs)."
KNOWING RUSTY WALLACE AND RYAN NEWMAN DON'T SPEAK, HOW DOES YOUR TEAM COMMUNICATE? AND IN THIS DAY, DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE A THREE, FOUR, OR FIVE-CAR TEAM TO WIN A TITLE?
"I think you have to have a multi-car team. The funding that's allowed to you by having multi-car teams, the consolidation of funds and how your work and parts and pieces and equipment has such an advantage, that you really do have to have a multi-car team. You don't have to have five teams. We just went to Richmond and tested. The No. 29 and No. 07 didn't have to go to Richmond and test because we did. We shared every bit of information and everything that we learned. They have a chance to review all that data. They learn from us learning. It would be very difficult to give that up and not have that advantage. If you need 10 engineers for a one-car team, you don't have to have 30 for a three-car team. So you get more for the money you spend. There comes a time when it's too much information and you can't handle all of it - too many scattered efforts, not enough effort together - and then it starts to be destructive. In Penske's case - maybe I'm burning a bridge I shouldn't burn - but I am shocked that upper management allows that to go on. If I was running Penske Racing, they'd either be working together or they'd be working somewhere else. That's how it would be. It's amazing to me that you can have that much funding and effort to win championships, and yet have that big of a division. I'd find a way to fix that. If I couldn't, then I'd have to start getting rid of people. It's too destructive. You can't ask teams to work together only some of the time. It's either all or nothing. There are rules and guidelines and this is how you're going to do it. If it's not the same for everybody, eventually that stuff will explode and you'll have a major problem on your hands."
DO YOU THINK THAT PERHAPS THEY'RE GETTING AWAY WITH IT BECAUSE IT'S RUSTY WALLACE'S FINAL YEAR?
"I don't know. I know Rusty really well and I can tell you that Rusty wants help from other people and I can tell you that Rusty doesn't mind helping other people. Everybody talks about it this year, but it's been going on longer than this, right? Certainly I'm sure Roger or whoever else is thinking that when Rusty does retire, they'll bring somebody else in and maybe that'll take care of the problem because there won't be the personality conflict. Maybe that's the thought process. But we're spending millions of dollars a year. There has to be a certain way we're going to run our company, no matter who's there. The door is open now. From the outside in, it looks like you can do anything you want to if you work over there. It's just surprising it's gone on for as long as it has."
DOES GREG BIFFLE'S SUCCESS SURPRISE YOU?
"His success has not surprised me. Years ago when Biffle was running trucks, he came down and I was testing a Busch car at Charlotte and I invited him over. The next year he was going to run the Busch cars. We got done with that test and I went to Jack (Roush) and I said, 'You can't put a half-hearted effort together around this guy.' And he said, 'What do you mean?' And I said, 'He can win the championship next year. Don't wait. Don't treat this like it's a rookie development program. Treat this as if he's going out to win championships.' And that didn't happen the first year he was a rookie in Cup or the first year he was a rookie in Busch, for a lot of reasons. It wasn't particularly Jack's fault, but it didn't happen for a lot of reasons. Those years were wasted for Greg because he was ready right then. And he's a fierce competitor. If you watch him, he's aggressive but he's a clean driver. He's on a mission. And that's about all I can say. He's very talented. He's out to do what he can do and you can see it."
WHY DO YOU SAY THOSE TWO YEARS WERE WASTED?
"I shouldn't say they were wasted but he could have done more. His rookie year in Cup and the effort around that was not at the same level as the effort that was put around Jeff Gordon when he was a rookie or Ryan Newman. Just development of the team and those kinds of things. Carl Edwards's rookie program was run at a different level than Greg Biffle's rookie program because Biffle's rookie program was run the way you used to run rookie programs. You wouldn't invest a lot of money in really good people because the kid is going to wreck all these cars anyway. You'd walk into it slower than you would a program for Mark Martin. In today's times, a rookie coming in gets the same program that Mark Martin gets. It's just different. When Greg was a rookie, Roush hadn't taken that step of running the program the way they run all their other programs. That was a year when Greg could have shown more than he showed."
SO IT WAS JUST A MATTER OF TIME FOR BIFFLE AND THE EFFORT TO GEL?
"No question. The talent is there. He's won championships in Truck and in Busch. He's been fast in everything. Challenge is not the issue. Get the right people around him and harness his enthusiasm. Greg is an older young driver. He's 35 or 36 years old, not 26. There's a lot of growing up from 26 to 36."
DOES NASCAR NEED A LONGSHOT DRIVER?
"No, I don't think so. There are so many teams and because we're racing against each other every single week as opposed to other sports where there are say, 30 heavyweight boxers but only two fight at a time. We race each other every week. All the personalities are out there every week. I do think we need stories. We need youth coming in and stirring stuff up as much as we need an experienced guy stirring stuff up. It's part of the drama of our sport. But I don't think we need to create it. I think it's here. If you look at our sport today and how competitive it is and how much drama there is and how many stories are going on, there's more stuff than I can keep up with. All I have to do is listen to XM Radio now and then - I can't keep up. Then you go back only having five or six owners being successful. At the end of the day, who really cares? The sport hinges so much around the drivers, that as long as we have drivers being successful and competitive, I don't think it matters how many car owners we have. Our system has to work so that owners can run successful, profitable, self-sustaining business. If they can't do that, that's when we have a problem. I don't think we need to build a system around a guy being able to come in and have one car and be successful. We have to have programs that are well run and able to turn a profit. Then it's up to the owners to take advantage of that. I don't think we need to create a system that pinpoints a way to be successful for the guy who has one team. We need to focus more on making sure the racing is good and competitive. That's where the effort needs to be. That's my opinion. There have been many days I've said I wanted to own a race team. But there is no way in the world that I could be a successful car owner unless I had a program like Ray Evernham stepped into where he had a major corporation to fund it. Those are few and far between. You've got to have a lot of money and investors and a system in place to turn the money machine on when you don't have the money coming in. That's not what I could do. So from my standpoint, I wish it were a little easier for the health of the sport, but it's more important for the car owners to continue to maintain than it is to develop new car owners. That might change. But at this point, I think that's where we are."
IF THERE IS ONE THING YOU CAN PUT YOUR FINGER ON THIS YEAR, WHAT HAS KEPT YOU OUT OF THE WINNER'S CIRCLE?
"Not taking advantage of situations has been our biggest downfall. And I'll be perfectly honest, we haven't been fast enough consistently to put ourselves in position to win races. You've got to be knocking on that door a lot of times before the thing might open. Or, you might run well one day and everything works you way and you win. But the way you win consistently in this business is by continually putting yourself in position to win. We haven't done that enough. Our downfall of where we are in the points is because we have let so many points slip away. We haven't taken advantage of the opportunities we've had in most cases. We did at Phoenix and we had good fortune at Talladega. We missed a wreck and finished in the top 10. So, we've got to do a better job of taking advantage of opportunities and we've got to have a little faster car so we can continually put ourselves in position to win races."
GOING BACK TO TECHNOLOGY, ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
"I may confuse you when I say this because I confuse myself. But it's not my job to catch up with it. If we're going to rely on me to be the one who brings the technology, we're going to be in trouble. I might be the one who raises my hand and says I don't think we have enough technology in this area, but our engineering staff and crew chiefs are the guys who needs to be bringing the technology. It's my role to tell them what the car is doing and give them my ideas about how I think we need to fix those weak points. But the days are gone when the race car driver tells the teams how to build race cars that they take to the race track. Today, races are won with what you unload at the track. When you pull that gun out of that trailer, that thing's got to be loaded with some heavy ammunition and it's got to be ready to go. And if it's not, you can't fix it at the race track anymore. That's where technology comes in. And that's not for the drivers to do. That's for the engineering staff to do. That's what's different."
COMPARE YOUR 314 STARTS TO RICKY RUDD'S 762 CONSECUTIVE STARTS
"It's pretty amazing. That's a lot of racing. That's a lifetime commitment. I'm in awe of it. I have a lot of respect for Ricky. Those are big numbers. Ricky still definitely wants to do it. That's pretty cool."
ON THE DOMINANCE OF ROUSH AND HENDRICK THIS YEAR, AND WILL RICHMOND OFFER A CHANCE FOR SOMEBODY ELSE TO WIN?
"At the beginning of the season, if you asked me who were the two favorite teams it would have to be Hendrick and Roush. They've proven over time to consistently have good teams. They've invested heavily in technology and those things. If you watch these races, there are a lot of teams who are putting pressure on them. As far as this weekend goes, Roush will be tough. Kurt Busch runs exceptionally well there. Greg Biffle is on a role. Matt Kenseth has run well at Richmond and they have something to prove. Hendrick speaks for themselves. They're tough to beat anywhere. I don't know that Richmond changes that any to be quite honest."
DO YOU LIKE OR DISLIKE SATURDAY NIGHT CUP RACING, AND WHY?
"I like it in some regard. I enjoy having the Sunday to have some flexibility. The thing I don't like about it is waiting around for these night races without a whole lot to do. The more we have them; we're learning how to deal with that. In general I like them. It's a great for the spectators at the track with that pre-race atmosphere. It's a lot of fun. It's much more important for the fans to enjoy it than it is for the teams. So I'm good with it."
TEN RACES INTO 2005, CAN YOU COMPARE THIS YEAR TO LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME - BOTH PERSONALLY AND ON THE STATE OF THE SPORT?
"The state of the sport is a little stronger than it was last year. The talk is about the top 10 in points and all that, but it's from the competitor side rather than the great debate about whether or not we should be doing it. So now, we're on to who is going to be in it (Chase) and who is doing well and the things it should be all about. The competition is at an all-time high. There is no question about that. The sport is healthy. Sponsorships are stronger than they were last year. Personally, what I'm thinking about today is what we need to do to take the next step versus what I need to do to keep my career going and doing what I want to do. That's a big difference. I'm happier and much more relaxed with what's going on around me than I was last year. There's no comparison."
WHAT IS YOUR BROTHER, WARD BURTON, UP TO AND DO YOU KEEP IN TOUCH WITH HIM?
"I talk to him quite a bit. Ward claims he is working more now than he ever has. But Ward has that wildlife foundation, so whenever he's out in the woods he considers that to be work. I'm not sure if that's technically correct. But that's what he calls it. So he's pretty busy with his work and he really is committed to that thing. That's for sure. He hasn't made the decision yet about his racing career other than he does want to race. But he only wants to race if he can be competitive. And until he gets himself in a situation to where he feels he can be competitive, he's going to sit on the sidelines."