Jeff Burton Moves to Cingular Wireless Ride in '05 and Cingular Extends Contract with Richard Childress Racing through 2007 RICHARD CHILDRESS, OWNER OF RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING: "First of all I would like to thank everyone for their patience.
Jeff Burton Moves to Cingular Wireless Ride in '05 and Cingular Extends Contract with Richard Childress Racing through 2007
RICHARD CHILDRESS, OWNER OF RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING:
"First of all I would like to thank everyone for their patience. Each time I look up and see (Mike) Mulhern and David (Poole) and see all the different people who said 'When are you going to tell us? When are you going to tell us? Who is it?'"
(CELL PHONE RINGS - RC jokes "Cingular Phone?" then answers) "Yes buddy, come on in. I'll talk to you in here."
"Any how, sorry about the interruption. I would like to thank everyone for their patience. And I would like to thank Daryl Evans with Cingular. We have had a great relationship with them - WHOOPS, HERE COMES A DRIVER."
(JEFF BURTON ENTERS PRESS ROOM FROM CUP GARAGE)
"And Jeff Burton is going to be our driver. We are really excited. This is going to be a great program and a huge step for the future of RCR to have Jeff Burton on board and to have a multi-year contract with Cingular. They have been a great sponsor for us for three years, and Robby Gordon has done a great job for us. He had ambitions of being a team owner so we wish him well in the future.
"The guys from Chevrolet have supported us so much and gave us a lot of support in this decision. To get Jeff Burton on board to drive this #31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet is a huge step for RCR in the future. Just watching him and Kevin (Harvick) and the young drivers we have in the Busch Series, it is refreshing and we are really excited about it. And again, I just want to thank all the media and the press for working with us through it."
IS AOL DEFINITELY GOING TO CONTINUE AS A SPONSOR?
"All those announcements are going to come in the near future. I hate to drag you on because you've been patient. It's just one of those deals where you have to wait. The timing is pretty big and how the dominos fall is how you can do your announcements."
WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH THE TEAMS? WILL YOU MOVE THE CREW CHIEFS AND THE TEAM GUYS WITH JEFF BURTON
"Yes. Jeff has built a relationship and that didn't have to start out in Daytona. Now we've got a good feel for everybody. Kevin Hamlin will be the crew chief. All of them probably won't move. He's built a bond through Kevin right now and that's where he'll stay."
YOU HAVE THREE TEAMS BUT WE ONLY KNOW ABOUT TWO OF THEM. YOU'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT AOL AND JACK DANIELS. AOL IS A BIG COMPANY. IF AOL WALKS AWAY, WOULDN'T THAT BE BAD FOR THE SPORT?
"I don't think so. They've got about another eight or nine years to be associated with NASCAR through their AOL contracts they already have. We're going to make those announcements but sometimes things take a little longer. We're looking for possibly making an announcement at Homestead."
IS IT FAIR TO SAY THAT THINGS AREN'T GOING AS SMOOTH AS YOU'D LIKE RIGHT NOW?
"I don't know what you mean by smooth. We're here today to talk about Cingular Wireless. It's a great deal. It's a huge deal for NASCAR. It's a huge deal to be associated. I've got to thank everybody at NEXTEL for letting the deal work for another wireless company to stay in and for Cingular to stay in and go forward with it. It's a huge deal and we're just excited about them being the largest carrier now and being associated with them."
ON TEAMMATES JEFF BURTON AND KEVIN HARVICK - MAYBE NEXT YEAR YOU WILL BE TALKING ABOUT HOW HARD IT IS TO HAVE TWO TEAMS IN THE CHASE
"We're hoping to be able to talk about that. That's our goal. Both of these guys, so far, have had a great working relationship. They talk to each other.
"They go over to each other's coaches. I think both of them can be a plus for each other and that's what I'm hoping to get out of it. I know Jeff can really help the young guys coming up in the other series."
DO YOU THINK JEFF BURTON WILL STIMULATE THE OTHER TEAMS TO STEP UP THEIR PROGRAMS?
"Well, I think competition is great as long as it's healthy competition. I'm excited about it. Kevin Harvick is excited about it because he knows Jeff is going to be bringing a lot to the table."
IS KEVIN HARVICK'S TEAM GOING TO STAY IN TACT IN YOUR GAME PLAN?
"Yes, it'll stay pretty much like it is. Each year you'll one or two people move around, but most of the time it stays like it is. We have everything pretty much done with the exception of some announcements. We have the people. We have a lot of stuff done. We're just waiting to make some announcements."
SO YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE THREE TEAMS FOR SURE AND NOBODY HAS TO WORRY ABOUT WHETHER THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE A JOB NEXT YEAR?
"Yes. We're going to have three teams next year. We'll just see where it goes from there."
ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE A FOURTH TEAM THAT RUNS A PARTIAL SCHEDULE?) "We're probably going to make those announcements at the same time. We've got a lot of announcements coming up."
ON KERRY EARNHARDT NOT QUALIFYING FOR SUNDAY'S RACE
"It was devastating to him because we were 25th in practice and really had high hopes for racing here - especially because it's a Bass Pro race and a Bass Pro sponsorship on the car. It was just tough for all of us. Kerry is a good guy. Last night, the car was a little looser than he wanted to drive it and we just ran slower than we did in practice."
ON THE IMPACT OF NOT HAVING A TEAM IN THE CHASE AND THE WAY THE POINTS ARE STRUCTURED.....WOULD YOU CHANGE ANYTHING ABOUT IT?
"No, I don't think I would. We were disappointed. We stayed with Kevin Harvick in the top 10 all the way up until the last two races and it was just unfortunate. We knew we had a top 10 running car. We just got behind in a couple of those races. We had an engine problem in Pocono.
"You can look back, but you just can't talk about the what-if's. We didn't make it. I think the point structure is pretty good. I really think it's good for the sport and good for the fans. If you're in it's good and if you're not, it's no fun."
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT THE CHASE?
"It's caused so much excitement for all the media. This time you would only talking about how far ahead some guy is. But now we're all talking every week someone asks about and wants to talk about the Chase. It doesn't matter if I'm at a GM Goodwrench dinner or a Cingular autograph session; people want to know about the Chase. So it's done what it's supposed to do. It's caused a lot of excitement. I think it's refreshed the sport at the end of the year."
SHOULD THEY CHANGE THE POINT SYSTEM AND MAYBE GIVE 100-POINT BONUS FOR WINNING?
"It's put so much consistency back into it. You've got to be consistent to win and that's the way the points championship has been structured."
DON'T YOU THINK THEY OUGHT TO CHANGE IT AND GIVE MORE POINTS FOR WINNING A RACE?
"It's just kind of like playing golf. You get a hole in one, or you get a bunch of bogeys. It's the same deal here. You win a race or you get a few bogeys. At the end of the day, the guy with the best score wins. That's the reason I think our point system is so good. If you look at it like golf, you've got to be consistent to win."
YOU'RE WORKING HARDER THAN EVER. HAS THIS BEEN TOUGH?
"There have just been a lot of changes and a lot of things we've had to do. Our sport is changing. And the whole economy is changing. Everything is changing. We're getting the drivers in the right places and getting the right mix in place. It's not that I'm complaining. I'm just trying to get some of it put to bed so we can get back to focusing on racing and getting our cars in the top 10."
JEFF BURTON, NO 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO for '05 ON MAKING THE CHANGE
"I just want you to know how much I have enjoyed my opportunity to come to Richard Childress Racing and it is a real honor to work with Richard and all the guys there. I think the race team is doing a wonderful job. Kevin Hamlin and I have immediately hit it off and I think we have great things coming in the future. I think where we started off is very acceptable but our goals are higher than what we have been doing and we are working real hard going into next year to get ourselves where we can contend for that championship. I think we are really close right now and the effort and the dedication that Kevin and those guys have put forth is second to none and working with Richard is, well all you guys know Richard and his reputation speaks for itself. Now that I have gone to the organization, I understand why so many people speak so highly of Richard. The opportunity to drive for Cingular, the largest wireless network in the country with over 43 million customers, is quite an honor. I am looking forward to representing all of the Cingular employees and all of their customers and moving to the future. What I have gone through not having sponsorship to be able to go from that to step into a deal with the quality of a company and quality of people that Cingular has is pretty remarkable. I am really excited about what is going on and I am as upbeat right now about my career as I have ever been. There is a renewed sense of energy, there is a renewed sense of urgency and I am ready to go and get some good stuff done."
WHAT WAS THE KEY FACTOR IN DECIDING TO MOVE FROM THE NO. 30 TO THE NO. 31?):
"The main thing for me was the ability to keep my team together and for all of us to move together. We have accomplished that and that was the most important thing for me."
HOW CLOSE ARE YOU TO BEING A TOP TEN TEAM NOW?
"I think we are close right now. We are right on the verge. I think right now we are about a 12th place team, somewhere between 8th and 14th so I will say 12th. We're narrowing in on it. There is a lot of upside. I want to believe we aren't as good today as we will be in the future. If we aren't better in the future, then shame on us because we have a tremendous amount of time to spend together and grow as a team and reap the benefits from that."
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING SINCE YOU HAVE BEEN OVER THERE?):
"It is run very professionally. In some ways, it's the same as Roush. But in other ways, it's different. Richard is just such a kind, gentle person; it is a really warm place to work. Everyone gets along. It isn't confrontational at all. If you need to get something done, you get a group of people together to talk about it and you go get it done. It's pretty easy. Every company has its little clicks that don't work together quite as well as they need to but for the most part this company has been great to work with. From a marketing standpoint, they have their finger on a tremendous amount of things that are really exciting. From competition standpoint, we have a lot of things going on that are going to reap benefits for us next year. It is really exciting. Working with Richard is such a pleasure. It is just such a nice person, easy to get along with but at the same time, he is wanting results and that is a good mixture."
HOW DO YOU THINK THE HENDRICK TRAGEDY IS GOING TO MOTIVATE THOSE TEAMS):
"I said earlier this week that as much as I want to be in the championship hunt right now, I wouldn't want to be racing the No. 24 right now. When you see Rick Hendrick with Jeff (Gordon), with his drivers and crew chiefs, you can feel the love and respect they have for each other and I think that you will see those teams doing everything in their power to do things for Rick. Not that you don't do that every day, but there is something about an emotional spurring that can make things happen that weren't happening before. I just think the No. 24 will be really tough to beat heading down into these last four races."
ON RICHARD CHILDRESS LOOKING TO YOU FOR LEADERSHIP IN RCR):
"I love being 37 years old. I wouldn't want to be 27 for anything in the world. I am comfortable with where I am in my career. I am comfortable with where I am in my mental ability being 37 and not 27. Part of that is giving to the team I work for in ways that I can help. One of the reasons that Richard wanted me so badly is because I do have that experience that can help Richard Childress Racing. On the other hand, you also have to surround yourself with people that don't have that experience but can bring new ideas and enthusiasm. Kevin (Harvick) and I haven't gotten along really well.
"I know there have been some people who have questioned how we would get along but he has been incredible to work with. He has been really open to my ideas and I am really open to his ideas. I have spent more and more time with him every week. I think Kevin looks to me as a guy who has been around a long time and can help him in some areas and I certainly look at him as a guy who is real fast and very capable and can help me in some areas. There is a lot of mutual respect there and I think that is going to pay huge dividends for us. In a few weeks there will be an announcement about our third team and that is going to be an awesome deal too. Because he is going to fit right in and there will be three drivers that are going to work together very, very well, that have the understanding we can do a whole lot more together than we can separately. The teams are getting lined up and it is going to be good. That announcement is going to be good for us, and again, Kevin and I is really going well.
ABOUT BEING WITH RCR NOW WHEN EARNHARDT SR. WANTED YOU THERE BACK IN 2000?
"It obviously goes without saying that I had a tremendous amount of respect for Dale and a driver and a person. I can remember when Dale first talked to me about driving the #3 car, it was at the Daytona 500, and boy that seems like a long time ago, and I immediately left and went and told my wife and said, 'Man, you wouldn't believe what just happened.' I thought that was the coolest thing in the world, but at the same time I loved where I was at the time. It was certainly a very flattering comment he made to me at the time, and he was certainly persistent in his comments to me after that but it just never worked out for the right time with RCR. But now that it did work out, it has just worked out. I am not saying that where we are right now is good enough but we are headed in the right direction and we will be."