Jeff Burton Press Conference Transcript

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES 2011 DAYTONA SPEEDWEEKS DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT February 16, 2011  

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, met with media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed the two-car draft, changes in the sport over the past 10 years, the yellow line rule and much more. Full transcript  

YOU RACED IN THE SHOOTOUT, TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW EXCITED YOU ARE FOR THE DUELS AND THE DAYTONA 500 COMING UP AND YOU WEEK SO FAR HERE AT DAYTONA.“Well its gone well. We qualified well, we raced well Saturday night. Unfortunately we didn’t get the finish we were looking for. It’s been a good week. It’s been real productive. We feel like we’ve learned every time we’ve been on the race track and obviously with some of the changes coming up there is a lot to learn again. We need to continue to work hard to get as much information as we can. At the end of the day everything you are doing is in an effort to win the Daytona 500 and there’s an opportunity here that isn’t presented anywhere else. We run two races before we ever get to the 500, plus we have more practice time than we have everywhere else. There’s more opportunity to learn and our intention to take full advantage of those opportunities.”  


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BECAUSE OF THE TWO-CAR DRAFT AND THE RULE CHANGES THIS YEAR, DO YOU THINK MAYBE THERE IS MORE VALUE PLACED ON TOMORROW’S RACE?“Every year we come down here there is something different. Between not testing, for several years now we’ve come down here not tested so that made the 150’s real important. A few years ago we came down here with the Car of Tomorrow that made the 150’s extremely important. I think the 150’s are always exceptionally important. I will say that I think we are in a steep learning curve with the two-car draft, trying to make that thing work. We’ve seen certainly glimpses of it at Talladega, but never before has the entire garage put the effort into it that they’ve put into this. So we’re trying to learn it at a really quick rate. Like I said a little bit ago the 150 is a great opportunity to learn. Sitting here today I would say yeah there is more to learn today than it ever has been but I would have said that last year too.”  

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE SPECIFIC CHALLENGES OF THESE TWO-CAR DRAFTS IN TERMS OF NOT BEING ABLE TO HOOK UP WITH THE PERSON YOU MIGHT WANT TO HOOK UP WITH, THE LACK OF VISIBILITY, NOT BEING ABLE TO RUN THREE CARS IN A ROW?“It sounds like you know all the challenges. What are you asking me for? (laughter) When it’s just two of you and you’re leading the pack or you’re not running a pack down at a great deal of speed, there’s not a whole lot going into it. It requires a lot of trust by the guy that’s doing the pushing, because the guy that’s being pushed is leading you into whatever it’s leading you into and literally you cannot see at all. So that makes it very difficult. We have to communicate really well. Of course that’s hard to do. You can’t see through the windshield, so you can’t see the hand signals so there’s a certain amount of trust involved. When it really gets busy is when you start to catch people and the reason that gets busy is because again as the guy being pushed you are making the determination of where you are going to go and the guy that’s doing the pushing just has to go with you. If anything at all happens in front of you, it’s a little easier to slow yourself down than it is another guy with 3500 pounds pushing you. So there’s a lot of things going on there and it gets really difficult in those situations. When it comes times to put the checkered down, the pushing gets more intense, the blocking gets more intense, all those thing intensify and the guy that’s pushing you cannot see it. So there’s pretty high pressure felt to be quite honest. I know it may not look on television as pressure as a 30-car pack, but when you’re being pushed and the guy behind you can’t see you and you’re catching these people at an accelerated rate, things happen and things happen quickly. So there’s a lot going on. Saturday night was a lot of fun, but it was also real tense at times.”  

ITS BEEN NO SECRET THAT THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS HAVE BEEN VERY DIFFICULT ECONOMICALLY FOR THIS SPORT, CHALLENGES WITH RATINGS, SPONSORS, ETC, DO YOU THINK THIS YEAR IS THE YEAR THE SPORT IS POISED TO REBOUND AND WHY?“Well I think we rebound last year and when you talk about rebounding when you watch basketball the guy rebounds but he doesn’t score on the rebound, you score on the next play. I think that’s kind of what’s happened with us. I think that the racing action last year was real intense. We had great racing. I think it’s fair to say that we had as good of racing last year as we could honestly ask for. That’s what I believe. You guys can disagree and we all have different opinion but at the end of the day the quality of racing last year was really good. The people that we alienated for whatever reason, we can debate that for days, but for whatever reason the people we alienated don’t come back over night and it takes time. I think last year was the step that will make this year better. Hopefully this year is the step that will make next year better. I do believe when I look at what’s going on with the sport, when I look at the number of teams that can be competitive, I do think that we are poised for a very exciting year. I’ve been surprised before as we all have, but I really do feel like we’re in a good position. We’re still in tough economic times, things really aren’t that different from the day as they were six months ago. They are a little different and maybe a little better but they’re not way better. There is still a lot of challenges ahead of us. This sport kind of is behind the flow of economic times and we always get hit later and we always recover later so I think we still have a good year to 18 months of tough economic times in the sport but as far as fan participation, I believe we will see more excited fans this year. Whether people can afford to sit in the grandstands or not, I don’t know. At the end of the day people have to have jobs and have to have well-paying jobs. I think this sport is in good position.”  

I GATHER THEN SINCE YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT WORKING THE TWO-CAR DRAFT THAT THE CHANGES NASCAR MADE ARE NOT GOING TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU GUYS RACE.“Well I didn’t say that. We don’t know.”  

TALK ABOUT HOW YOU THINK THOSE CHANGES TO THE CAR ARE GOING TO EFFECT HOW THINGS ARE, AND DO YOU THINK NASCAR DOESN’T WANT YOU TO RACE THIS WAY?“I haven’t had a discussion with NASCAR why they want to make the changes, what’s the reason, so I don’t want to speak for them. There’s no question if you lower the number of square inches you can run in the radiator the cars are going to run hotter. There’s no question if they limit the amount of the pressure relief valve that we run in the radiators the car is going to push water out quicker. So those two things you would think are going to make it to where you can’t push as long. You know Kevin Harvick pushed me for 25 laps the other night and did not have a problem with heating. We knew he could do that but I don’t think they knew he could do that. Now they know, so at the end of the day I believe what their intention is, number one – they want us to go fast but we don’t need to go 206. There comes a point where enough is enough, so pulling the restrictor plate down we’re still going to go exceptionally fast but we don’t need to go that fast. We know what happens when we go that fast and it’s not good. We’re still going to go plenty fast. The quality of races is not going to be impeded by the restrictor plate. And the other two things will obviously make it harder to push longer. That potentially will bunch the pack back up and make it a bigger pack for longer. There will still be an exceptional effort for the last two or three laps of the race for two cars to hook up and try to driver away. That effort is still going to be there. But there is nothing they can do to prevent that. There is nothing NASCAR can do to make it so you can’t push, unless they bring the no pushing zones back and we know what happened when they did that, you know what I mean. They are kind of in a rock and a hard place but at the end of the day they are going to do everything they can but to limit the number of laps we can push.”  

LISTENING TO THE RADIO SATURDAY NIGHT WHEN YOU WERE WORKING WITH KEVIN (HARVICK), YOU GUYS WERE ON THE SAME CHANNEL AND ONE SPOTTER WAS KIND OF CALLING EVERYTHING, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOU GUYS DID THAT? I KNOW YOU CAN’T ALWAYS PICK YOUR PARTNERS IN THESE SITUATIONS BUT DOES THAT BECOME MORE CRITICAL IF YOU CAN FIND YOUR TEAMMATE SO YOU CAN GET ON THE SAME CHANNEL AND DO THAT TWO-CAR THING?“It sure appeared that the communication was real important. Having said that, later in the race I got with Clint (Bowyer) and we communicated in the same fashion and we didn’t work as well together. There’s still an anomaly that we don’t understand, why my car was pushed by Kevin better than Clint was able to push me and by the way better than Kevin was able to push Gordon. We still don’t completely understand that. So kind of back to the same thing, you certainly want to be with one of your teammates, but it may be one of your teammates isn’t who you want to be with and they don’t want to be with you. You’ve got to find the right car that works with your car. I heard some people made a comment that was dangerous you’ve got one spotter, but honestly if there’s two cars at one place then one spotter is okay. Really there is nothing wrong with that at all. They’re spotting for two cars but we both could hear him and he’d be spotting for both of us if something happened. From a safety standpoint there is no issue there. It’s probably more important that the cars work well together than it is than you are communicating. That’s what I see right now.”  

A LOT OF TALK ABOUT THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF (DALE) EARNHARDT’S DEATH, AND MAYBE SAFETY IS THE BIGGEST CHANGE IN THE TIME, WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE OTHER BIG CHANGES IN THAT DECADE, AND HOW MUCH OF THAT IS A TRIBUTE TO DALE’S DEATH?“I think the biggest impact to our sport has been the economic downturn of the country. Honestly, dismissing the safety and that thing, you know you asked me about other things, I think this sport, I believe more so than other sports, is impacted in a larger way by an economic downturn. It just is. Every one of our cars cannot exist without major corporate sponsorship. That is the driving factor for our income. If you own a football team the driving factor for your income is the TV deal and spectators in the seats. For us, it’s sponsorship. Our TV deal is much less and our impact by who is in the seats is much less. So our thing revolves around sponsorship and that has had a huge impact on the number of teams that are in the garage. The number of high quality teams that are in the garage. You know we have enough teams for sure right now, but there are a lot of teams that are in a lot more difficult situation than they were. In my eyes, the economic impact has had a huge, huge impact on this sport more so than anything else in my opinion.”  

YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT THE PLATE SYSTEM JUST A FEW MINUTES AGO, HAVE YOU HEARD THERE IS GOING TO BE A PLATE REDUCTION AND IN TERMS OF THE VISIBILITY, IS IT TIME TO LOOK AT MICHAEL WALTRIPS IDEA OF A CLEAR SPOILER AND WOULD THAT HELP?“Well that idea has been floated around as long as I’ve been in the sport. It’s not a new idea.

  We used to run 23, 24, 25 years ago I had a clear spoiler on my late model car. That’s not a new idea. I don’t know how much that would help. When you get behind a car and you try to look through the windshield with as big as the seats are today, the head surrounds, where the mirror location is, the diagonal bar, all those things I just don’t know how much that would help. It may help you see hand signals, but I think that would be it. This thing about not being able to see through cars precedes the Car of Tomorrow. I can remember being at Talladega many years ago saying I cannot see. The width with this car got worse. You can see less around the car, but as far as seeing through the car it’s really no worse. So the spoiler wouldn’t hurt, having a clear spoiler wouldn’t be a negative assuming it didn’t break and those kinds of things. I don’t think it would have as big of an impact; it’s not like you put a clear spoiler on there and all of a sudden you can see completely through the car. You might can see around the edges a little bit better and you might can see a little better but it’s not going to improve a great deal. There was a day when you could see through the car in front of you and through the car in front of him. I don’t care what spoiler is on the car anymore, you won’t be able to do that.”  

WHAT ABOUT THE PLATE?“When I left here the other day there was discussion about a smaller plate and to be honest I just assumed that’s what they were doing. I’m sure that you will see a smaller plate. I’m confident that you will see a smaller plate.”  

WE’VE HEARD FOR 10 YEARS THAT THERE’S NO LONGER A VOICE IN THE GARAGE, IS THAT A ROLE THAT YOU WOULD EMBRACE AND YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN TAKE?“I’ve tried to impact the sport when I think I can and when I think it’s useful. It’s not my position nor is it my will to be the voice of the garage. I have no interest in that. I want to be my voice. When I have an opinion it may be different than 90 percent of my colleagues. I don’t care, I’m going to voice my opinion. It may be an opinion that 90 percent of the people agree with me. I’m going to voice my opinion on that one too. I have no desire to be the voice of the garage. I have a great desire to be heard for my opinion and then they can use that as they like. The reason that is, is because I care about this sport. I care about my well-being, I care about my colleagues’ well-being. I want to be heard about it but I have no interest in being the voice of the sport.”  

THERE WAS SOME TALK LAST SATURDAY NIGHT ABOUT THE YELLOW LINE RULE, WHAT IS YOUR UNDERSTANDING SPECIFICALLY OF THE YELLOW LINE RULE AND WHAT ABOUT THE SUGGESTION THEY JUST DO AWAY WITH THE YELLOW LINE RULE ON THE LAST LAP?“The only people that want to do away with the yellow line rule at any point of the race are people that never race without the yellow line rule. The reason that we have the yellow line rule is because we need a yellow line rule. I must confess, when the yellow line rule was first floated I thought that was the stupidest thing I had ever heard in my life. After doing it for a race, I thought that is the greatest thing we’ve ever done. I’d like to say we shouldn’t keep learning the same lesson over and over and over, I’d

like to say it I just have a hard time saying it. To learn a lesson and then to ignore it and go back and say we don’t need the yellow line rule is absurd. The yellow line rule is there for a reason. Without the yellow line rule, trust me its five-wide getting into turn three with people on the apron. It’s people on the apron through the tri-oval. Its people on the apron getting into turn one. There’s a reason that we have a yellow line rule. There’s no value, no logic other than pure bravado to try to take the yellow line rule out. That theory would be along the same lines if football players didn’t wear helmets it would be really cool because we could see them bleed. It would be that same logic.”  

WHAT ABOUT THE LAST LAP?“I stand by what I just said.”

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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