Martinsville: Jeff Burton wake up call interview

NEXTEL Wake Up Call with Jeff Burton Martinsville Speedway Jeff Burton - ...

NEXTEL Wake Up Call with Jeff Burton
Martinsville Speedway

Jeff Burton - #31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet Monte Carlo
(Currently 23rd in points)

THIS TRACK IS A GOOD TRACK FOR YOU AND RCR HAS GAINED MOMENTUM, WHAT DO YOU FORESEE WILL HAPPEN ON SUNDAY?

Well, I don't know what's going to happen on Sunday, I can assure you that. We feel really good coming to this race. We ran well here last year, got caught up in a pit sequence and ended up only finishing 11th. But we ran really well, ran in the top 5 the most of the day and we came back with that same car-it's got a new body on it-but it's the same car. And, I think we're certainly looking forward to it. I've been around long enough to know you come into it expecting the best and hoping for the best and the way my year has gone hasn't been quite like Ricky Rudd's, but similar, and we've yet to finish a race like we've been running. That's what we need to do Sunday: if we're running fifth, we need to finish fifth. If we run 15th, we need to finish 15th. We haven't done that this year yet and that's something we need to get under our belts.

BEING FROM VIRGINIA, DO YOU HAVE A CERTAIN FONDNESS FOR THIS TRACK?

I do. I grew up only an hour from here and I remember coming here as a kid, watching the twin 250s, the modified race and the late model sportsman race and that was always really cool to come to that race. I sat here and watched the Cup race as kid and I remember when they announced they were running a late model race here and for late model drivers around, for being to run Martinsville, that was like for us being able to run Daytona. That was a really big deal. So Martinsville for me is a place that's a lot of fun to come to, it's a tough race track, a hard race track, but for me it's a lot of fun. I like this race track and I like the environment. I grew up an hour away. Anytime you can do something as a kid, as a spectator and then participate it in as an adult is pretty neat and I've been fortunate enough to do that.

Speaking of the clock, one of the most exciting days of my life and most depressing days of my life was that I won my first Busch race here and I won the race and I was like, 'Yeah, I get one of those clocks.' Then I found out that Busch winners don't get clocks! So, I was disappointed and elated all at the same time.

IS THERE A LACK OF RESPECT FOR VETERAN DRIVERS OR JUST YOUTH, GIVEN THE SITUATION LAST WEEK AT BRISTOL?

I think it's both. I had a similar situation when I was coming up in the Busch Series. Jack Ingram had spun me out and I went to see him at the end of the race and I learned real quick that that old guy could whip my ass! And, I suspect that if this was 15 years ago, Shane Hmiel would have learned that on Monday as well. You know, I think that inexperience and youth let things come out of your mouth that shouldn't come out of your mouth. And, of course, we do it too. I think that when you're talking to a former champion and a multi-time race winner, and a guy that's done as much for this sports as Jarrett's done as much for this sport, I think it's okay to disagree with him and it's okay to not be on the same side of the argument with him, that's what we do. But I think we can do that in a way that's proper. I think that making a derogatory comment about a guy like that-or, the other way around-isn't really necessary. I think that when Shane did that, what he doesn't understand is that he offended a lot of people. He offended a lot of people that are in this sport that have been here for a while, he offended a lot of fans of this sport that have been here for a while and he didn't accomplish a whole lot other than making a lot of people mad. In the end, Shane came out the loser in that thing, in more than just points and money. I don't know if that's youth or what that is. Whether you're 22 or 43, there's a code of conduct that needs to be adhered to. That doesn't mean you can't disagree or have arguments, because that's what we do. I think we should show each other respect. It needs to go to the other way, too. Experienced drivers need to show the younger drivers respect too. I'll tell you what, when somebody makes a comment like that, in my opinion it's crossing the line and Shane didn't do himself any justice and didn't do the sport any justice when he did that.

Robbie, who is Jack Ingram's son who passed away, he saved my life that night, there's no question in my mind.

IS THERE A FINE LINE BETWEEN STANDING YOUR GROUND TO A VETERAN AND ACCEPTING IT?

One of the things that Ricky said that's very true is that when you were a young driver in the past, you didn't drive cars good enough to stand your ground. The way you stood your ground was that you got the hell out of the way. Because they were so much faster. Your team knew you didn't have a good car, your sponsor knew you didn't have a good car. You were told.I mean, when I was a rookie, they said, 'Look, we know you're not going to win, we don't expect you to win, if we can finish in the top 25 in points it will be great.' So, you earned respect in a different way. And I think that you do. You do have to come into this sport and earn respect. There's a right way and wrong way to do that. I said that Monday after the Busch race. If you look at the way that some young drivers come in. They come in and they run really really well, but they do that.Reed Sorenson for example. How many people has he made mad? You know what I mean? He's earned respect because he's run well and not made people mad. Shane Hmiel is equally as fast but he's made a lot of people mad in the process. He's done himself more damage than he's done himself good and he's been really really fast. So, the way you earn respect.and talking about a driver doesn't gain you respect in that driver's eyes. It actually, probably, makes you lose respect. The way you race and the way you conduct yourself on the race track, that's what gains you respect. That's what makes the veterans and the younger guys know what kind of driver you are, who you are and what you're about. It's not about what you say.

DO YOU THINK THERE IS A LACK OF RESPECT FOR THE EQUIPMENT?

There has been, I mean.I watched Ricky early in California, maybe the third or fourth lap there was stuff going on. I think there's so much pressure, like you said it's internal or external.the reason the races are slower today is that we're going faster today and we're all going faster together. I go back and watch.I love the past of our sport. But if you want to compare the racing and the competitiveness today versus 20 years ago, 20 years ago doesn't stand up. If you want to talk about how close the cars are and how competitive the cars are, if you put 43 cars at Bristol, separate them by three tenths of a second, you're going to have wrecks. There's no way around it. There is no way around it. The drivers are responsible for those wrecks. Not a single race car caused a wreck at Bristol. Not one race car. Drivers caused those wrecks. But you get into such a mindset that when you get a fender up on a guy, you better pass him right now, because if you don't pass him right now, it will be 30 laps from now before you get a chance to pass him. The cars are so competitive, look at the teams from first to 35th, 36th, 37th. There's no junk cars in there. It's all good cars with good drivers. And than creates competitiveness on the track and that creates close racing action, and that creates the wrecks.

DO YOU LIKE TEXAS?

Do I like the track. If we go there and run well I like it, if we don't I don't. It's a weekly question for me.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE IMPOUNDING WEEKENDS?

It's really not saving us any money, it's not doing anything for us like that. But what it does do, I think is that it opens the door for what we could do in the future. I think we're kind of in the learning mode right now, the negatives of it and the positives of it. I would expect, like in 2007 or so, that we might eliminate testing altogether and have open days on Friday and come in and do a Saturday deal where we run practice on Friday, put computers on the cars and all that stuff and come in on Saturday and qualify. I think it opens the door for those kind of things. It opens the doors up to things that will eventually save owners money. I think that we're in the feeling out process before we make those changes. I'm not speaking.I haven't been told that, but that's the way it looks to me. And, so I like the idea, it's not accomplishing a whole lot right now, but I think we're building on something that will be a whole lot better in the future.

It changed when we went from running and hour in the morning, then the Busch race, then an hour in the afternoon. tHat's when we were the last cars on the track. The minute they took that away, and made two 45-minute sessions in the morning, then run the race, that's the biggest change. You run a race on the race track and we don't get a chance to get back on it. But it's the same for everybody. As far as I'm concerned we could come in on Tuesday and practice and qualify and race on Sunday and nobody has an advantage or disadvantage. It's the same for everybody.

WHAT IS WARD BURTON DOING, AND HOW'S HE DOING?

Ward's here today. Well, he told me he was coming today. The turkey hunting.between then and today..he was coming today. Maybe you can track him down and ask him. HE wants to be in a race car but he wants to be in a good race car and nothing's presented itself to him just yet. That's really all there is to it. It's been really weird not having him here. We came into this sport together as rookies in the Cup Series. In the Busch Series, I came in a year before him. Gosh, 15 years, 16 years we've done this together. So, it's been odd not having him around. I'll tell you that he must have a gazillion fans because everywhere I go, everybody wants to talk about where Ward is and when he's coming around. Only when he's ready and he feels it's his time is he going to come back.

HENDRICK AND ROUSH HAVE BECOME BIG STORIES. WHAT DID THEY DO TO PREPARE FOR THIS SEASON BETTER THAN OTHER TEAMS, OR WHAT?

I think they did a better job of preparation over the winter. And when I say preparation, the cars they brought to the race track were more capable of running fast than other teams. They did a better job of understanding the wind tunnel, the new tires. They came with cars that were advantaged based on their structure and the way that they worked this winter. That advantage will dwindle away as the year goes on. That's what I would expect would happen. I'm not going to say that they're not going to be in a spot where they cant' run well, but as other teams step their programs up that didn't do as good of a job as they did over the winter, they'll be more gain for those teams than there are for Roush and Hendrick. Those two organizations are very well run, very well financed, good solid foundations and they're going to be competitive but I think people are going to catch up.

WITH REGARD TO THE INCIDENT AT BRISTOL, DO YOU EVER HAVE CONCERNS ABOUT THE IN-CAR CAMERA?

I started coming over here practicing this ((holds two fingers up)). I'll do this now, then I won't get in trouble. We have an in car camera every week and I am concerned about it. I do think that..I don't disagree with the penalty but I've got to go back and look myself in the mirror and say okay, and when you're angry you've got to show that in a particular way. I don't have a problem with the penalty. When you've got time to catch your breath, Shane Hmiel saw him coming, he's knows the confrontation is coming, the confrontation.Dale turns away, he flips him off. It was pretty quick. Things happen pretty quick and that tends to be when people get themselves in trouble. I don't have any.I think that when somebody gets out of the car and says something, after they've been out of the car for 5-10 minutes, they get whatever penalty they deserve. We've got to go back and check ourselves as drivers and not do it. If my in-car camera shows Ricky flipping my off down the back straight of Pocono, I mean.what are we going to do about that? I don't know. I feel that we've got Pandora's Box open pretty big on this one. I didn't have any problem last year on the deal with Junior. They all warned us and said this is what's going to happen. It happened and they said exactly what they said they were going to do. But this is spontaneity. We go in the tunnel turn at Pocono and I get into him and my in car camera shows him flipping me off and he gets penalized, that's tough. I don't know where I am on it. I said all along, the penalties for cussing was a good thing. And now we're making penalties.boom! That.you know.that's a tough deal. But we've got to be responsible if we've got to go back and check ourselves and not to do, that's what we've got to do.

DID NASCAR ERR IN LETTING DALE JARRETT WALK UP TO SHANE HMIEL'S CAR AT BRISTOL?

I don't know. I don't know. That's a good question and I don't know if you've ever done that, but I've walked up on a red flag situation to somebody's car and regretted doing that. I don't know. It probably would have been in everybody's best interest if they could have slowed him down. But I think that somebody else said it that the little guy walking beside Dale, he wasn't going to stop him or slow him down.

IS HAVING MARTINSVILLE AFTER BRISTOL A TEMPER POT ASKING FOR TROUBLE?

Would you want it any other way? At the end of the day.l don't really read a lot or listen a lot as far as race commentary, post-race stuff. But I listened this week because I was traveling a lot. It was pretty interesting the debate about: is racing too rough? Have drivers lost respect for each other, are drivers looking for retribution? Would you all want it any other way? At the end of the day, what we do is competitive and what we do is exciting to watch and what we do borders on craziness and that's why it's fun to watch. Then we all take the stance, 'We should all be responsible in how we do this.' But that's what you all want. You all want to talk about this and watch the racing the way it is. If you go back and watch racing and really watch racing, in all honesty, how many races have you seen leave from Bristol with people arguing and fighting and come to Martinsville and those same people are still arguing and fighting? Very rarely does that happen. We're all professionals. We all do this every single week. We race against each other every single week. We have disagreements with somebody at some point during the year, more than once. It's what we do. And we get over it. When this race is over Sunday, Bristol won't even be talked about anymore. IT will be something different every week. It's what we do from Martinsville to Richmond to Talladega, it's what we do. Nobody will pay anybody back from Sunday. The conversation from Sunday and Monday and Tuesday will be about who won and who lost at Martinsville and that's how it works.

It's a short track and people will be really mad on Sunday and there will be a few people will be really happy. People will feel like they've got things done to them they didn't deserve, the same way it's been like since the place opened. Those are the kind of places where things are suspect to happen and get penalties for and those sort of things more than say a place like California. Which is why people come to watch it.

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Shane Hmiel