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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 11, 2006
DENISE MALOOF: Welcome to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series teleconference, first a bit of our usual housekeeping. This week's Nextel Wake-Up Call begins at 9:30 Friday at the New Hampshire International Speedway infield media centre. The guest will be NASCAR Nextel Cup chew chiefs who hail from the area and among them are Greg Binelli, Tony Stewart's crew chief, and Steve Letarte, who is Jeff Gordon's crew chief, so a good lineup.
We are joined by Jeff Burton leading all drivers with four wins and a runner-up finish in Chicagoland and has six Top-10 finishes in his last eight races. New Hampshire is the only race that's in the Race to the Chase, in the ten races that lead up to the Chase that began with the Pepsi 400 at Daytona, and of course the Chase to the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. It's the first race of the Chase, how important is this Sunday's event?
JEFF BURTON: I think it's real important. Matter of fact I think all of the next eight races are exceptionally important. If you look at the points from 3rd to 12th, they are really tight. I think certainly the first two guys, Jimmie and Matt, their teams, they are looking at this as the first of two races, and obviously the first one of the last ten, and they can learn a lot in this first race to apply to the second race.
The rest of us are looking at this as this race and this race only and then when the race is over, we'll look at it and say what can we learn for next one.
If you're the 17 or 48, you want to experiment just a little better and they are to be in a position to do that. The rest of us are fighting real hard to make sure we get into the Chase.
DENISE MALOOF: We have a NASCAR Nextel Cup Series test this week at Indianapolis and today is day two of that, and unfortunately we've got some rain but that is an important test, too, for the Allstate 400 Brickyard down the road.
JEFF BURTON: Indy is such a big race. Our series is really weird in the world of sports. We have a really, really big race the first race of the year and halfway through or roughly halfway through we run the Brickyard. It's cool to go to the Brickyard. If you don't respect what's going on at Indy you're not much of a race fan. It's just so much history there. It is interesting, however, I think, that we test there, being that the track is so different from everywhere else that we run, the information that we gain at Indy is pretty much not usable at other racetracks.
So it is interesting that we test there. But I think it shows the importance of the race and how much prestige the race has brought on throughout the years.
DENISE MALOOF: Today we also have in addition to our usual telephone audience we have folks who are working Indy test in Indianapolis Motor Speedway press conference room so we also have a live audience. So let's take some questions for Jeff.
JEFF BURTON: What does the media do all day at the racetrack when it's raining?
DENISE MALOOF: They work. (Laughter) They work.
Q. As recently as a year ago, car owners in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series wanted to sign the next great 18-year-old driver that came along. Today, though, it appears there's been a significant ship to hire veteran drivers. Bill Elliott is considering a full-time schedule in 2007 and your brother, Ward, possibly may be coming out of retirement. What's changed for these car owners to now covet the more mature drivers?
JEFF BURTON: Well, we've gone through a period and we've gone through this before, if you go back and look at the Busch Series and, you know, we have taken all of the 100% -- you definitely believe this guy can get it done, people in the Busch Series. If you look at David Gillan (ph), he won a Busch race and everybody, you know, got -- about him and rightfully so. But a lot of the Busch drivers have taken away from the series already so it's going to take a while to regroup.
The Busch guys that are there now, are very young in the Busch Series. And so this happens every four or five years where you end up with kind of a shortage of "the next great guy" that people are willing to take a gamble on. Now I'm not saying there's not people in the Busch Series right now that won't be next great guy, but I'm just saying it's not obvious. So people are looking at other opportunities, because there is a driver shortage.
So we have a situation where next year, which I think poses major problems for our sport, we have too many teams, and we don't have enough crew chiefs, we don't have enough engineers, we don't have enough drivers. There's a severe work shortage or work people shortage. And that goes into the driver thing, as well.
So older drivers that have experience and wins and those kind of things, you know, look really good right now. And there's also been -- there's also been the understanding that there's no sure bet. That's young drivers that have come into the sport that people thought would go out and win a bunch of races and they didn't. There's young guys that have come in and not conducted themselves in the right way and sponsors have not been proud of that. A lot has added up to people looking at guys that have proven they can do it. I actually think it's amazing to me -- wouldn't just die to get Bill Elliott or Ward Burton or Ricky Rudd. Those are the kind of things that have surprised me over the last couple of years.
Q. We recently were informed here in the Montreal newspaper that you were slated to come down to the Montreal track, the Jacques Villeneuve track, try out the track. Has that happened, and if not, when will it happen and your thoughts on the possibility of having a Busch Series race up here in Montreal?
JEFF BURTON: I think that Canada, first of all, moving into that region of the world is a great step for NASCAR. At the end of the day, I'm a race fan, too, and we do a tremendous amount of appearances in the northeast and the northern part of the country. The Canadian fans, there are a lot of Canadian NASCAR fans and Canadian race fans in general. So going that way makes a tremendous amount of sense to me and I applaud NASCAR and I applaud the people at the racetrack making that happen.
You know, Canada needs a Cup race. I just think that that's an obvious step for us to go and it's a great market for everybody involved.
As far as me going there, that got -- I have had no conversations with anyone concerning going and doing the test. I think what happened there was that I did the Mexico test and I think a comment was made that I had done the Mexico test and kind of laid out how that went and people just assumed I was going to do that test as well.
But I've had no conversation about going to do it. I will, you know, if NASCAR asks me to do it, certainly I'll do it, but right now, I have nothing on my schedule to do it.
Q. Can you talk about your feelings about all of the driver movement so early on in the season? It used to be mostly at the end; now it seems to be almost from the beginning. Do you have any particular thoughts on that?
JEFF BURTON: It gets earlier every year. I think the reason why is just it takes so long to get stuff in this action today. If you look at marketing plans from sponsors and getting ready with the team, I just think it takes forever to get stuff to happen today.
And people are itching. I think if you look at next year, you look at all of the stuff that's going on, car owners getting sponsors, getting anxious, and they want to know right now what's going to happen. It's moved stuff along; I think it's moved it along too early in the year. It takes away -- I think it hurts our sponsors when drivers are talking about leaving in March, April, May. I think it hurts our sponsors and them being able to market their product as well as they would otherwise.
But, it's the nature of the business now. I don't think it's a positive, but I think it's a necessity based on the fact just to build a marketing plan, get everything lined up, all that stuff takes so much time.
Q. Can you talk about the upcoming off-weekend? First of all, do you think it's a good time of year to have one, or would you rather maybe see one a little bit closer to the Chase, and what are your plans for the off-weekend?
JEFF BURTON: You know, we've run a lot of races consecutively. I wish we actually in a perfect world we spread those weekends out where we run two races, have a weekend off, run two races again, have a weekend off and then run 18 or whatever it is and have a weekend off. I'd rather see us run eight get a weekend off, run another eight, get a weekend off, and I'd like to see them spread it out a little more.
It is what it is. I think that basically whatever -- whatever they tell us the schedule is, we build our programs according to that. Other than everybody being tired this time of year; it starts to get hot, you get tired and those kind of things. The weekend off works pretty well, because everybody is dragging just a little bit.
But as far as what I'm doing Monday after, we have been testing a tremendous amount so we are going to take some time off, give our team members some time off. We've been building a lot of new cars, we've been testing a lot, we've been Car of Tomorrow testing and we've really been hitting hard in preparation to make the Chase and hopefully get into it and hopefully try to make a run for the championship. We do a lot of testing so we can go into a mode getting ready for that part of the year.
So we're going to be able to give our guys some time off. I'm actually going to take ten days and I'm just going away, and I'm not going to do anything with racing. I'm just going to step away from it and take ten whole days off, and then when I come back, I'll be 100%.
Q. If you could give me your initial reaction when you heard that Ganassi had signed Montoya to come over from Formula 1, and. In addition to that, if you could take a look at what he faces in terms of transitioning from that world to the world of Cup racing.
JEFF BURTON: My initial reaction was -- I had on Sunday morning I had an interview -- well, I won't say who I had an interview with. I had an interview lined up and he said he couldn't come because he had to write a story, they were going to have a press conference, and he wanted to get ahead and write the story. And I'm like, what did you say? I was shocked. Leave it to Chip and Felix to make something like that happen.
Montoya is one of the world's best drivers. You know, I've had the opportunity several years ago to speak to several of his colleagues, and they told me that he was without a doubt the real deal. And a guy like Montoya will be able to make the transition. I do think that he'll crash harder. In IRL, Indy, a lot of what he's driven has been high downforce, limited slip vehicles. When they slip, they essentially red. These cars slip every lap and these cars are heavy. These cars have a tremendous amount of horsepower for the way they drive. They don't brake very well.
I think it's going to take every bit of his talent to make that transition quickly. He will make it. He will -- you know, a driver is a driver. You can take Mark over to Europe, put him in Europe and he can compete at a high level and I'm convinced of that. And I believe that Montoya will come here and compete at a high level.
The things he's going to have to deal with are the things that, you know, the more experienced guys take for granted like: Getting on pit road; if the car is doing something, why is it doing it. He's going to have to learn all these things. His talent level is to high, he will do it and he will do it with success.
Q. You've been at the forefront of safety in this sport and obviously you can never be too safe, but is there any concern with everything being built in these cars and the Car of Tomorrow coming, it's starting to give drivers, especially some of the young drivers, a false sense of security and enticing them into taking some chances maybe they shouldn't be taking?
JEFF BURTON: Oh, there's a lot of young -- inaudible. You know, if you drive, and this is something that the general population doesn't understand about race car drivers. I don't sit in my race car and not want to wreck because of the fear of getting hurt. I don't want to wreck because the impact that has on that race team. I don't drive differently because of the soft walls and I don't drive differently because of better seats or technology.
The at the end of the day you have to earn points. You have to put yourself into position to win, and you can't do that wrecking and you can't do that by hitting the wall. You can't do that by hitting other cars.
I'm concerned about getting hurt because I'm a realist. I understand that it's part of our business. And I do everything in my power to keep from getting hurt. But I don't drive my car to keep from getting hurt. I drive my car to keep from wrecking because of the negative impact it has on our goals.
So that's something that -- that's what I believe in my heart, and so I don't think that the addition of soft walls, the addition of better harnesses and everything that we've been able to do has given people the false sense of security. The sense of security doesn't come from -- we don't -- drivers aren't afraid of getting hurt. If you are, you can quick. What we're afraid of is finishing 38th.
I just don't think it impacts it.
Q. There was a report that came out that Danica Patrick's parents were in Chicagoland last week exploring their options after the end of the IRL season. If she were to move to NASCAR, what kind of impact could that make on the sport, understanding that this is somebody who has no stock car experience and somebody who has not won in the discipline that they are at right now? And considering where NASCAR is, could it have much of an impact or could this potentially be a big deal?
JEFF BURTON: That's a pretty political question you're asking me there. (Laughing) Leave it to you to do that.
Obviously you can't -- the success that Danica's had has not been to the level of, you know, Montoya's or to the level of some other IRL drivers. There's no question about that. But she has proven to be competitive and she has proven to be not only competitive, but she has a bit of a ego about her. She doesn't have the hey, I'm just happy to be here attitude. I've never spoken to her, but that's the image she gives me.
Certainly, without a doubt, her name is perhaps the most well-known driver's name in the country, especially when you factor in that she hasn't won. Obviously she's a good race car driver. Obviously she's talented. If she were to make the decision to come to NASCAR, I think she would have a major impact on the things going on in NASCAR. We have so many female fans; it's not fair, but some people will like her because she's a woman and some people will not like her because she's a woman. That's a ridiculous thing to say in 2006, but that's a reality. It would have a major impact from a marketing standpoint, competition standpoint.
The bad thing about Danica's position is every day people look at her and say: Well, she's a woman, so how is she doing it. They don't look at her as just a race car driver, and that's not fair to her. We should, and the race fan should, look at her as just another race car driver out there trying to get her deal done. That's fair to her. And on the other token, she's received a tremendous amount of accolades and attention because she is different than all the rest of us.
So it's a two-way street. I think that overall it would be very positive for our sport. I think it would be positive for her. I think, you know, if you look at -- I think it would be a negative for the IRL; if you look at the number of people watching our type of racing, it's just a really high number. It seems to, you know, most people in North America like this kind of racing. I think it would be good for the sport. I mean, it would be good for her. She would actually get more exposure in the NASCAR world than she does in IRL I believe.
Q. Is there a way you could benefit or other drivers could benefit?
JEFF BURTON: You're assuming that I always look at things at how I benefit me. (Laughter).
Any time, any time that our sport and our type of racing, NASCAR racing gets more attention, that's better for us. I'm convinced the biggest problem we have is just getting people to watch. We don't have a problem keeping them. We don't have a problem of our sport being boring. We don't have a problem of our athletes conducting themselves for the most part in the right fashion. We have a great sport. It's getting them to it. It's getting them to come watch it; getting them to experience it, see it, smell it, touch it. If we can do that, then we give what we have more fans.
Any time -- we talked about this the other day, any time there's a Will Farrell movie out, Cars, those things expose our sport to more people. Without a doubt, Montoya will, and that exposes us our sport to more people and creates a reason to go watch it. Once you watch it, you're like, wow, this is cool.
So it benefits me, in particular, because I'm best benefitted when the sport is best benefitted. When the sport is strong and healthy and the fans are excited about being there, that's good for me, that's good for my sponsors, that's good for my car and that's good for everybody. That's how it will positively impact me.
Q. Your team is having a great season and you've been one of the surprises this year right out of the box in Daytona. What's been the big difference this season over last year, and are there any races coming up that your team is really targeting?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I think as far as with a we're Targeting, our next eight races we're targeting. We're one at a time kind of a team. We focus on what we're doing right now today, and that's pretty much what we focus on. You know, tomorrow at Indy we'll be there, focus on how to win Indy. And when we get to New Hampshire, we'll focus on how to win New Hampshire.
We take it one race at a time and that's what we'll continue to do. That's one of the reasons we're better. Our company is stronger. Our support systems back at the shop from an aerodynamic standpoint, from an engine standpoint, from an engineering standpoint, from a preparation standpoint, we've stepped it up in every category. We have reorganized, rebuilt, restructured everything. And most of those things are working better than they were.
Scott Miller has come to our team and has been a tremendous asset for our team as well as the whole company. He's done an incredible job, and you know, there's been a lot of things, it's not one reason that we're better.
And by the way, we need to be better yet. We're still not where we need to be. We haven't been winning races. We're not leading the points. There's people that are doing better than us. We've got to step it up.
We're having a good year, but we're not where we want to be. If we want to be good, that's where we are, but we're striving for excellence. We're striving for greatness. You have a limited time to do this. I think we have the resources. I think we have the people. I think we have the drive and the commitment to get it done. But we're not getting it done. We're not competing at the highest level. We are competing at a high level, but we are not competing at the highest level. And in this sport, if you're going to have continued success, you've got to compete at the highest level because the bad days drag you down in the points and they drag you down in a lot of ways, and you've got to be strong to be bigger than that. That's what we're striving for.
You look at the 20 car, that's a great example of that. Look at the 16 car, great example of that. They are great race teams that have proven to be able to contend for championships, but things don't always go right. And the better you are, the better you can recover from those things.
Q. If you continue this way, you'll be there at the end whether you win or not, but do you care about winning? Would you take for the rest of the season a Top-5 finish or are you dying for that win?
JEFF BURTON: We are not in the business of trying to Top-15 our way into this championship. By the way, you can't Top-15 your way into the championship. You have to be in the Top 15 to be in a position to win the championship.
We don't have a goal where we want to finish when we go into every race, with the exception of winning. What we do is we base -- we go into every practice session trying to make the car the best we can. We go into every race trying get the best race we can. On some days, that might be 15th and on many days that might be 30th and on some days that might be a win. We go to New Hampshire this weekend trying to get the very most out of the week with no regard to where we are in the points. The way we get to where we need to be in the points is by having great races. We don't go into New Hampshire thinking, okay, we're fourth in points and we're 100 or whatever points. We go into it thinking, how are we going to win this race. The best way to getting points is to win a race. And by the way, if you can't win a race, you're getting more points for 5th than you do for 15th.
Now, my personality and the way I drive, if I was really an exceptionally aggressive driver, I might have to pull it back some. But the way I drive, I don't have to change the way I drive and the way we approach things because of trying to protect. I'm not going to be overly aggressive, or I'm generally not overly aggressive. I'm going to drive the way I always drive because that's the way I've always done it and that's the way I've had success. I'm not going to change it.
If we go to Richmond and we just have to finish the race it get into the Chase, then we're going to go there with the goal of just finishing the race because that -- but we're eight races away from that. What we've got to do is position ourselves and if we continue to run well, we'll be in position, and if we don't, we won't.
It's too close. It's too close, you can't protect. It's too close to protect. Look at Sunday's race. Think about the Top-12 drivers, where they were running. Trust me, I looked. One of the cautions, I looked, and it was like, I could see all of the Top-10 -- I was running fifth or sixth and I could see in my mirror or my windshield the Top-12 drivers. You've got to run with them. If you don't run with them, you won't be in the Chase.
Q. Two questions for you. You're coming to Pocono in a few weeks, talk about the differences from the June to July race. Obviously the weather is a big part of that. And also talk about your move over from Roush in 2004. You had some growing pains last year, was that just something of you getting used it a new team and them getting used to you because obviously you've had a lot of success where you are now being in the Top-10 in points.
JEFF BURTON: Well, when I went there, the reason they needed a driver was because they were having troubles. If you look at the success, the level of success wasn't there.
You know, I knew, and Richard knew and everybody knew, that we were not going to change things overnight; that it was going to take some time. It was very clear to me when I went there, before I went there, that it was going to take time.
I didn't expect to go into last year -- matter of fact, a lot of the media asked me, could we make the Chase and my answer in January of last year was: We can make the Chase, but if we're going to make it, we can have no mistakes. We're not going to be good enough to Top-5 our way into it. We're going to going to have to 12th, 13th, 15th, our way into it. That was clear to me. I knew last year was a building year and I was hoping we would have more success than we did, and I was in a position to win quite a few races last year.
You know, it takes time, and it's still -- we're still building, we're not there yet. I said it earlier, we're not there yet. We're a good race team but we're not a great race team. We've got to keep striving to be better.
As far as going to Pocono, typically, the track has much less grip in the summer race, late summer race. It's typically much hotter there. When we raced there last time it was overcast, it was cloudy, it was fairly cool. This time, if history means anything, it will be hot, sunny and slick. It's hard it get overall grip the second race.
Q. You've had a lot of success in New Hampshire, is there anything you can take from that or has the track changed too much at this point?
JEFF BURTON: The track has changed a tremendous amount. And the sport, the way you have success in New Hampshire is totally different than what it used to be. Biggest thing about New Hampshire is you used to be able to turn the car pretty decent around the corner and get good rear grip off the corner, you could have a lot of success. Today, you've got to fly through the middle of the corner and you've got to fly on exit. It's just unbelievable how different it is. It's so much faster than it used to be as far as the corner speed.
So the way you win there is quite a bit different, and the way you've got to have your car handle is quite a bit different. And the sport has changed, track has changed a lot, certainly. I actually like the old racetrack better. But it's changed so much, that without a doubt, there's not a whole lot that you can take from the races before.
Q. Do you now or have you at any point had any connection with fund-raising with Kyle Petty's camp?
JEFF BURTON: I have been involved in some of the fund-raiser activities. I have still yet to go -- I have not gone to the facility. My wife and I really committed to the Duke Children's Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, and most of our focus goes there. But I have done some things with Kyle in an attempt to raise money for the camp, but I have not been there.
Q. Most all the drivers have a favorite charity, like you, the Duke Children's Hospital and that's understandable because everybody's lives are touched by someone or something.
JEFF BURTON: Exactly.
Q. But almost to a man, you guys have got behind this thing of Kyle's, and why is that, are you proud that it's been given such universal support?
JEFF BURTON: You know, I think at the end of the day, it's the ultimate show of respect for the Petty family, Kyle Petty and Patty Petty, two of the nicest, kindest, caring people you'll ever meet. They are just genuine people.
Obviously Richard and Linda have made a Mark in this sport that will go forever. And I think people can -- I think people relate to why that camp means so much to the Petty's. And therefore, means something to them, because, I mean, at the end of the day, it's about the Petty's.
You know, if the President of the United States came to all of us and said can you put this much effort in, I would say that we would have said no. Not that we have a collective voice. But the Pettys have just been such, such a part of our sport for so long, they have conducted themselves in a way that makes everybody proud to say we know them. They are just good people. I think when it's all said and done, you ask any driver, it boils down to how the Pettys have conducted themselves over the years.
Q. Were talking earlier about what went into the success of your team this year and obviously any success on this level is a team effort. Given there is so much jumping around these days, not only drivers, but crew members as well, how much harder is that chemistry to hold onto?
JEFF BURTON: It's hard. I've got to tell you, that takes people that are committed, that are willing to, the interesting thing about our sport is everybody in our sport could probably make more money working somewhere else. And I say that, when I say that, and I said it earlier, we have a shortage. If you look at how many Truck teams, how many Busch teams and how many Cup teams, just look at that and think about all of the positions that are needed, we are in a position of not having enough people and not having enough skilled people with experience to do this.
So we have them, but you want to hold on to them. And by the way, when you have people, other people want them. We're in a situation where people will spend an awful lot of money to try to buy away their success so they can use it, to buy away your knowledge so they can use it, and fill their positions. There's only so many good fabricators in our sport. There's only so many good assembly guys in our sport. That's a shortage, and that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the employees to be able to be loyal. Let's face it, if you've got a family and family, a wife, two children, and somebody offers you 35,000, 40,000 more dollars a year, how do you not look at it? That's made it difficult to keep teams together.
The team that I have now has been together for a long time. They care about each other. They believe in each other. And that shows. I mean, that shows. At Daytona, when we wreck, that car, that car was off that lift gate and in ten minutes I was back in that car on the racetrack. They care about each other. That kind of stuff doesn't happen just because you get a check. That's out of passion. When you have that passion and you have it together, you do everything you can to keep it together.
Q. How much of the radio frequency, broadcast, has that made you change things strategy-wise and what you say, and have you seen rivalries increase over the past through years or have they always been there?
JEFF BURTON: Interesting thing about our sport is the rivalries change. You know, in football, if you like the Redskins, you've got to hate the Cowboys. That's just how it is. But in our sport, it's like -- I mean, some people are never going to like Tony Stewart and some people are going to always like Tony Stewart. But if you really, really like Tony Stewart, it only takes one event to all of a sudden hate somebody else.
You go back to last week's race, all of the Matt Kenseth fans right now, they really don't like Jeff Gordon, and vice versa. And by the way, I'm sure Matt Kenseth doesn't like Jeff Gordon right now, too. In our sport, one event changes who your rival is. It's always changing. As competition grows, you have more of that and you have more of -- more of the high intensity and more of, you know, that guy did this to me and it makes me mad, you know, so you get a lot of that.
But it's really interesting to watch it. It changes. It's not always the Cowboys and the Redskins. It's Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon or it's Jeff Gordon -- or it's Jimmie Johnson and somebody else. It moves around based on how people are running in one single event.
Q. It was just announced that Montoya is leaving Formula 1 immediately, so I would assume you'll be seeing him quicker than you thought. And secondly as a follow-up, what is going to be the consequence of the shortage that you mentioned, the shortage of drivers and teams, is that going to show up in competition or on the track? What do you think?
JEFF BURTON: Well, salary is going up. Expenses are going up for car owners. The Hendrick Motorsports of the world I think actually are stronger, because if you good to Hendrick Motorsports, they don't have a lot of turnover for the most part. If you look at the Roush Racing and the Richard Childers Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing, I think they look like rocks. They look strong. They have been around for a long time. They have won championships. You know, it makes employees want to work for them even more because the more people we have, the more volatility we have and sponsorship is off and teams shut down and those kind of things.
I'm telling you, next year is going to be tough. If you look at what's going on in the sport, and you look at how many teams are coming into the sports, and how many we don't know about, there are some coming that you don't know about that are coming into the sport next year, the competition level next year is going to be intense. So current teams will have a tough time being in the top 35 in points and some new teams will have a tough time being in the top 35 in points.
We have got to find a way -- our sport has got to find a way so that the Cingular Wirelesses of the world, the GM Goodwrench, the Coca-Cola's, when they are involved in the sport, they know they are going to be on Sunday. You're talking about having 46, 47, 48 well-funded, fully-manned, fully-staffed, highly-capable teams in a series that protects 35. We've got a problem coming. And at the end of the day, it's not good for the sponsors to be involved in a sport that has that much volatility in it.
We'll get by with it for a few years, but the long-term event of it, I'm really concerned about it. I've seen it. I've been part of the Busch Series when you go to hickory and have 32 spots and 48 cars, it's a bad deal. It's a bad deal.
We can tolerate it if the sponsors are small sponsors that are not fully-committed. You can look at them and say, well, you know, you're not fully-committed you don't spend much money as Cingular does, you know, so kind of -- but when you start talking about sponsors who talk about being involved next year, you have 55 cars showing up every week, man, we've got a problem. We've got to be ahead of it.
Q. Appreciate you not wanting to out me earlier, but I can confirm that I'm the guy that blew you off for Montoya.
JEFF BURTON: I knew it was you. You and I have a special relationship and I didn't want anybody to know about that. (Laughter).
Q. My question goes along with what Steve Ballard asked earlier, with the idea that safety innovations -- wondering if you were concerned by the fact that Jeff apparently dumped Matt in a payback move on a high-speed track, and that's not the first time that's happened this year. Is that a change from years past where something like that might happen at Martinsville?
JEFF BURTON: You know what surprised me, and I'm in the downing Jeff, but Jeff's willingness to say: I'm here to win and I'm willing to do whatever it takes. In the past it was: Oh, man, I hate that that happened.
It was interesting because in NASCAR, it's like, well, it's just a racing deal. Then Jeff said, well, I don't care what happened. I'm here to win and if I need to knock him out of the way, that's what I was going to do. Jeff was kind of contradicting what NASCAR was saying, so, I don't know.
I think that we are -- I'm glad I'm not a NASCAR official. Our sport needs to stay aggressive. It needs to stay where drivers are not afraid to lose. We need to be able to drive hard and with the limitation, not worry about the ramifications that are coming, within limitation. If you black belt somebody every time if somebody causes a problem, then the drivers become afraid to do anything and you have boring races.
I don't envy NASCAR's position at all. I do think that we have to -- we can't forget that we are going as fast as we're going and we have to remember that, you know, we need to respect each other. You know, Sunday's deal was two guys racing for the win, and by Jeff's own admission, he was willing to do whatever it took to win. Hey, that's what our sport is about. You need that, "I'll do whatever it takes to win."
At the same time, NASCAR, when necessary, needs to make a guy wish he hasn't done that. You can't make him do the right thing but you can make them wish they had. It's a Pandora's Box: If you penalize Jeff on Sunday, then you've got to do it again next Sunday. And not only do you have to do it for the win, what happens for the guy that's running 15th that that same thing happens to? It's a vicious cycle. Once you start penalizing one, they have to penalize all.
It's just a hard thing -- it's a hard thing to police. But I think at the end of the day, it falls into the driver's hands. If you feel like you've been mistreated, you've got to go aggressive and you've got to do it in whatever way you think is effective.
Q. What do you think abut doing something like at Chicago or Daytona, as opposed to doing it at Bristol?
JEFF BURTON: I think that, No. 1, I don't agree with spinning people out, period. I don't agree in paybacks, period. I think at the end of the day, we ought to race hard and go after it and go try to get the position and through that, things happen all by themselves that they wish had not happened. I just don't think we need to be knocking people backwards. Whether it's at Bristol or Chicago or Martinsville, we really need -- one of the hardest hits I've ever had was in Martinsville. I was hit at New Hampshire one time hard enough where I didn't know if I was going to race on Sunday in a practice run. So you can get hurt anywhere, and I think we really need -- we really need to respect -- we need to race hard but respect each other.
DENISE MALOOF: Jeff, thank you for joining us today and giving us a little extra time this morning. We really appreciate it.
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