JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Infineon Raceway and talked about his new sponsor for next year, fuel mileage at Infineon, the impact of the economy on the sport and much more. ON HIS THOUGHTS...
JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Infineon Raceway and talked about his new sponsor for next year, fuel mileage at Infineon, the impact of the economy on the sport and much more.
ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT HIS NEW SPONSOR FOR NEXT YEAR. "We're really excited about it. To have a company like CAT (Caterpillar) to come on board for this and move into the future is really exciting. Our relationship with AT&T has been incredible and hopefully it will continue to be incredible for the rest of the year. We have a lot of unfinished business and look to finish out with AT&T on a real strong note but moving into the future, moving forward with CAT, a real, real strong company with really high quality products really fits well with what we try to do."
CAT FOR YOU, GENERAL MILLS FOR THE FOURTH CAR, A LOT OF NEW BUSINESS FOR RCR. WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT THE STRENGTH OF YOUR TEAM? "I think it's important that sponsors want to talk to us and that we're in their consideration. Certainly it's a tough market. There's not as many sponsors out there as we like to have and more teams than we'd like to have looking for sponsors. We feel good about the amount of interest that we've had in the company and that goes back to Richard (Childress). Richard is a very competitive person, to be able to do his best and put competitive teams on the race track. More importantly he's very honest, very straight forward and I think that the sponsors recognize that and have an appreciation for that because they know what they are going to get. We do what we say we're going to do, when we say we're going to do it and I think that goes a long way."
I KNOW LAST YEAR AT THIS RACE GUYS WERE TYRING TO SAVE GAS ON THE FIRST LAP, IS FUEL MILEAGE FIRST AND FOREMOST IN YOUR MIND THIS WEEKEND? "Oh yeah. Any time you go to a road course fuel mileage is the game. Saving fuel on lap one does you no good. You want to stop as soon as possible and the first stop happens well before you're out of fuel. A lot of people say we're saving the fuel right off the bat, that's kind of nonsense because the first stop is not the one where you have to save fuel it's the next two where you have to save fuel. It's always an issue and it will be an issue this week."
DO YOU HAVE ANY ISSUE WITH THE FACT THAT JUNIOR (DALE EARNHARDT, JR.) PASSED THE PACE CAR? "I don't have an issue with Junior passing the pace car. I don't see where he advanced his position or did anything by passing the pace car. I do believe it's another example about you think you have everything tightened up and you don't and it's something else NASCAR is going to have to go back and address. It seems like every year, every week something comes up that you think you have a handle on and you don't. I guess we have to make a rule that says you can't pass the pace car but I didn't see where it impacted the race."
ON IF THE FACT THAT HIS BROTHER DROVE THE CATERPILLAR CAR FOR SO LONG HAS ANY SIGNIFICANCE AT ALL. "It certainly is a factor. I think that Ward and CAT was a great relationship. Obviously they won the Daytona 500 together, won the Southern 500 and won some races together. That was a really neat relationship. I'm excited about continuing the Burton relationship with CAT. It's a really good fit for us, our family has been in the construction business forever and it's a really neat fit. It is a unique situation that a brother drove for the sponsor and now another one is but I think that's a positive thing. The family has really good thoughts about CAT and holds CAT in high regard. To be able to continue that I think is pretty special."
DO YOU TRY TO GO FOR THE POINTS LEAD NOW OR DO YOU JUST CONCENTRATE ON RUNNING WELL AND TRYING TO GET READY FOR THE CHASE? "We're happy because the higher up we are in points the better we're doing. We would certainly want to go get him (Kyle Busch) and take that and we don't want the people behind us catching us. I mean that's our goal. Our goal is to be in the front of the points. This time of year it's way more important to be in the top 12 however many races from now than it is where you are right now for sure but the higher we are the better we're doing our jobs. The way I view it is they're leading the points. They've done the best job. That's why we're here, to be the best team and the only way to prove that is to be first in points."
YOU SAID BEFORE YOUR TEAM WAS LOOKING FOR SPEED BEFORE YOU WOULD BE REAL HAPPY GOING INTO THE CHASE, WHERE DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU STAND? "I felt really good about our speed at Charlotte. I felt really good about our speed at Pocono. We didn't have a good week last week obviously. Again, I said it before I think our better days are ahead of us. I think we have a lot of stuff going on that I'm really excited about. I feel good about where we are."
ON NASCAR PUTTING IN HEAT MONITORS AND DOING SOME CARBON MONOXIDE TESTING IN LAST WEEKS RACE. "I think it's a sign that there are some drivers that had some questions about things and they're trying to get involved in it and try to make it better. I view that as a good thing. I think it's good that the drivers can say hey we're having this issue and NASCAR goes and tries to help with it. They are hot, there's no question the cars are hotter than they used to be. I also believe that from a carbon monoxide level, I think that personally I'm at an all time low of carbon monoxide exposure. I was involved in a carbon monoxide testing program 10 years ago and I learned a lot about carbon monoxide. Mark Martin was involved in it, I was involved in it and I can just tell you I know there's a whole lot less that I'm exposed to today than I used to be. We've worked hard at it. My team has put a lot of effort into putting systems in the car that helps scrub carbon monoxide that brings me fresh air. My guys have worked really hard at it and we've seen some real positive results from it."
WHEN DID THIS BECOME A WINE AND CHEESE CROWD? "When did this become a wine and cheese crowd, is it?"
YOU'VE GOT YOUR BOSS (RICHARD CHILDRESS) WITH A WINERY, YOU'VE GOT GORDON WITH A WINERY, AND APPARENTLY 25 PERCENT OF NASCAR FANS ARE DRINKING MORE WINE NOW. "I think wine is probably more popular period. Honestly if you think about it wine has become part of, you walk down any grocery store isle there's like whole isle's dedicated to it. I can tell you when I was a kid you had like some Mad Dog 20/20, you didn't have a whole isle of wines. It's become much more of a common thing. It used to be kind of the stuffy people were wine people. Today it's just everybody drinks wine."
HAVE YOU EVER DRUNK THE BOSS'S WINE? "My wife drinks a lot of the boss's wine. I don't drink much of any wine or alcohol but my wife, she's a high consumer."
I DON'T KNOW IF YOU CAN COMPARE IT, IS HIS BETTER THAN GORDON'S? "I don't know. I've never had Gordon's."
DO YOU THINK THERE IS ANYTHING THAT NASCAR COULD BE WORKING ON TO MAKE THINGS SAFER? "There's always things that we can be working on. When we get to the point where we don't think we have anything to be working on then we're doing something wrong. As long as we have a willingness and financial ability to do it, there is always going to be a way to do things better. What are those things? I think a lot of people would have a lot of different opinions. Obviously absorbing energy during an impact is high on the list, fire suppression systems, better wall systems, and better implementation of knowledge of what we have about stuff from soft walls to paving grass at race tracks.
"The list goes on and on and on and as long as we care and as long as we are dedicated the list will always go on. I think we've hit some big spots. I think we've made some big gains but there is always more to do. It will never stop and if it does stop then we'll get behind."
A LOT HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT FANS STAYING AWAY BECAUSE THEY CAN'T AFFORD THE GAS TO GET TO THE TRACKS, HOW DOES THE COST OF GAS AFFECT THE TEAMS? "It's just our expenses are way up. There's no question about it. We haven't not tested because of fuel costs, we haven't obviously not gone to races, we haven't not done things that we would normally do but our expenses are way up. It's expensive to go test, it's expensive to go to races. Fuel's up and those expenses go up."
AND YOU CAN'T GO BACK TO THE SPONSOR MIDSEASON AND SAY OUR GAS BILL IS UP $250,000? "Their gas bill is up too, you know. At a time when something is going on in the economy no matter what it is, I think it's fair to understand that everybody is having to deal with it. I don't know that it's fair to the sponsors to go back and say hey, we had an unexpected expense because I'm sure they have unexpected expenses as well."
IF DALE JUNIOR WAS TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP, WHAT KIND OF IMPACT DO YOU THINK IT WOULD HAVE? "I don't know. Obviously, his fans there's a lot of them, they're enthusiastic. Because he does have so many fans his success I think would be viewed very favorably. It's hard to specifically say what the impact would be because I don't 100 percent know. I think there's no question he has the most fans. If our sport is about one person we've got major problems. Our sport can't revolve around one guy. It can't revolve around one team. We have to be able to draw people in for a lot of things. It is clear that he has the most fans, but it's also clear that our sport has to be able to be successful."
WHAT IF HIS LAST NAME WAS BROWN INSTEAD OF EARNHARDT? "I mean there's no question that him being an Earnhardt has changed the way the fans have viewed him. On the other hand, his success level hasn't been because his name is Earnhardt. He's earned that. It's a tough question because anything I say can be construed as I'm saying the reason he's been successful, the reason he has fans is because his name is Earnhardt. I think that he would tell you that a lot of his fans are because his dad was who he was and there's nothing wrong with that. It's a legacy. His dad was arguably the best driver ever and those fans should roll over. But his success, he went and drove for his dad. He didn't start out driving at Hendrick, he didn't start out driving at the best race team. They built that thing. He deserves a lot of credit for that too. Its harder doing that than it would have been him just starting to drive for a team that was already up and running. So his success hasn't been because his name is Earnhardt. His exposure to it and some of the fans attraction to him has been because of Earnhardt, but his success has been because of his ability."
I ASKED LARRY MCREYNOLDS THE SAME QUESTION AND HE SAID IT WOULD BRING CLOSURE. FINALLY DALE COULD SAY I'M MY OWN GUY, YEAH I'M DALE'S (SR.) SON BUT HERE I'M A CHAMPION ALL BY MYSELF, MAYBE I WON'T GET SEVEN BUT I CERTAINLY CAN GET ONE AND HERE IT IS. "Well, I don't know. I just hate throwing everybody up in a limp and saying this is how people feel about it. Anytime anybody wins a race or wins a championship, has success it validates their competitiveness, it validates their ability. I think that's no different for Junior than it is for Jeff Gordon, than it is for me or anybody else. Validation is important for personal reasons and it's also important for your fans."
ONE OF THE ROOKIES I TALKED TO SAID ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS HE LEARNED WHEN HE JOINED NASCAR WAS DON'T CRASH JUNIOR. "I hear people joke about that. The reality of it is Junior is really good to race with. He's very respectful. Any time you have fans involved they don't have to be objective. You don't have to be an objective person when you're a fan. That's what's great about being a fan is you have your guy, whatever happens to him if it's bad it's bad, if it's good it's good, there is no in between. But you can't worry about how you race Junior because of the fans. You race Junior based on how he races you."
ARE YOU A FAN OF ANYBODY? "I'm a Duke Basketball fan and I'm a Carolina Panther fan."
-credit: gm racing