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May 10, 2005

Jeff Burton

DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference. First, as usual, a little bit of housekeeping. I know we mentioned last week that the NEXTEL Wake-Up Call was going on a bit of hiatus, but actually there will be one this week. Rusty Wallace is the tentative guest. It will be Friday morning at Richmond's media center. That's set right now for around 9:15 a.m. The details are still being worked out, so if you will be at the track this weekend, please double check that a little bit later in the week. Also, don't forget that we've got the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge on Saturday evening, May the 21st, and prior to the race the teams who are currently qualified will test their skills in the NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge on Thursday, May 19th at the Charlotte Coliseum. And with that out of the way, today we're going to be joined by Jeff Burton who's in his first full season with Richard Childress Racing. He's been making his way steadily up the point standings during the past four months and sits 16th headed into Saturday night at Richmond. He appeared headed for a third consecutive top-10 finish last week at Darlington until late-race tire problems bit him. Jeff is a Virginia native who knows Richmond International Raceway very well. He has 11 top-10 finishes, and that includes one win in 21 starts there. To help accommodate as many of you as possible, please ask one question and requeue for a follow-up.

Q. Jeff, so many people, fans and competitors alike, all consider Richmond the perfect racetrack. Why is that?

JEFF BURTON: I think it has a combination of everything. First of all, hello to everybody. But I think Richmond is almost the perfect balance of the size of the racetrack, how many grooves you can run. The fans are still close to the action, and it's not -- Bristol is fun to watch, but in all honesty it's a lot of wrecking and it's not as much racing as there is at Richmond. I just think it's the best compromise of all things, speed, competition, being close to the action, and to me it just seems like the perfect fit.

Q. And your peers I think at the garage also feel that way, don't they?

JEFF BURTON: I think without a doubt. If you ask teams, drivers, everybody, where is their favorite place, Richmond would be in the top five. It's such a cool racetrack because we all grew up racing on short tracks but not on a short track that is that nice. For the drivers it's just fun where you can run different grooves and you can start your round at places where your car likes to be more than others. It's really competitive there. Those restarts at that place are really fun. It's very competitive. It's just, like I said, the best balance of everywhere we go.

Q. Jeff, we had a comment from Kevin Harvick last week that he was talking about the improvement in both the motor department and the overall mental attitude and morale at Richard Childress Racing, and in that comment he said that you brought a lot of that along when you came in. What did you bring in?

JEFF BURTON: Well, I don't know. I mean, it's always difficult to ask somebody what they've done. It's difficult for me to answer it. I'll tell you what I've tried to do. I've tried to instill that we can win, that we can be successful. I've tried to let everybody know that just because Richard Childress Racing hasn't won a championship in the last X amount of years doesn't mean that we can't -- really, I think, it's just bringing confidence back to everybody. I mean, I think when you have a lot of success and then you don't have it, it's harder than if you never had it. And I think everybody's confidence was down a little bit. I've tried to be very open and very honest and very straightforward in the things that I think we need to do, and I've tried to be constructive in finding a way to make those things happen. I think that they lost that a little bit when we had so many different kind of driver personalities and it was very strong personalities and we had a lot of strong personalities at the same time and everybody was always butting heads. We just said, we're not doing that anymore. It's just a struggle for everybody. It just kind of calmed things down a little bit. The other thing that happens is that when you work at a company for a period of time, you know the things that not everybody else knows and you know what doesn't work. Well, I didn't worry about that. I didn't know anything about that, about Richard Childress Racing. So I came in, somebody said we can't do this and we can't do that; I wouldn't say, well, that's always been, I'd say, "let's fix it," and I showed them how to fix it. I think that's a product of new -- it's good to have new people sometimes. I think that my willingness to get in there and not accept the way it's always been, to say we need to do it better and then sitting down with Richard Childress or Bobby Hutchinson or whatever and saying this is the concern, how can we be better at it, and then some don't have it. I think all those things helped us a lot. The other thing is I respect Kevin Harvick a great deal. I think that his talent goes without -- it's unspoken. He drives his butt off, he's a very intense person, and I have a lot of respect for him, and I think that he feels that respect and I feel it back from him, and I think that goes a long way.

Q. Can you tell us what would be -- us looking from the outside in, what would be the biggest thing that would surprise any of us at Richard Childress racing?

JEFF BURTON: I think the level of technology. I think that Richard Childress racing has a persona of being out in the middle of nowhere doing things the way things were done when Dale Earnhardt was at his peak. I think that's what people think. I think people don't understand the amount of technology and the amount of engineering, support and the amount of tools that we have to work with in comparison to our competitors. I think that that would be the biggest surprise. We have respective employees come to visit us, and they always leave saying, "My goodness, I had no idea this was going on up here," and I think that they're always surprised about how much stuff we do have.

Q. A year or so ago you talked about how it is when you get just a little bit behind, how hard it is to get back. Can you just talk about that a little bit? I get a sense that you're really on the right track at RCR.

JEFF BURTON: Well, they really are. When you get behind from a technological standpoint, there's no immediate help coming. It truly turns into having to grind your way through it, and it's very difficult. There's a lot of ways you get behind; you can not have enough cars, not have enough technology, not have enough money, and all those things are different. But when you get behind in technology, all you can do is grind it out, so to speak, in an effort to get to the point where you can be competitive enough to start gaining the technology. It's very difficult. It's an uphill battle all the way. That's the biggest danger that you face, whether you're doing well or not doing well, is being able to have the technology so you can compete at the highest level.

Q. It's not quite at the halfway point but it's looking like your team could be one of the bubble teams for the chase. With Richmond being the 11th and 26th race of the season, will your team and maybe other teams that may be on that bubble be looking at taking a more detailed record of every change you make to the car this weekend, every change to the track, every strategy to Saturday night? Is it possible to try to pay more attention this weekend to try to prepare for the race that leads into the chase?

JEFF BURTON: Let me say this: I hope it's not possible. I hope that we're utilizing everything we can every single week anyway so when we go to Richmond we're smarter when we get to Charlotte. However, when you're going to the same racetrack twice, the thing you do when you go back the second time is you look at your notes from the first time. What did we do well, not do well, how do we need to improve, and those things are based on your notes that you made, the comments that you made during the event and then post-event. After every race we have a post-race meeting and we talk about things we wish we would have done differently and why we needed to do things differently, and certainly, without a doubt, the information that you take from Richmond and then the way you use that information for the next race will be a huge factor in how well you perform in the next race there. But we try to do that every week. I don't think we can do it any better than we're doing it now as far as effort goes. We don't always get the results that we want, but as far as effort, we're putting all the effort we know how into it, and I wouldn't know how to change that.

Q. Very off-topic here and I appreciate you fielding it.

JEFF BURTON: I like off-topics.

Q. Drug testing in professional sports has obviously become a very hot topic with baseball's troubles. NASCAR obviously has to look for different things in their sports, but do you think NASCAR does a good job of catching violators, or is there something else that should be done, or should they be looking for something else?

JEFF BURTON: The thing that I enjoy a great deal about our sport is that on a lot of issues, we're in front of them in comparison to other sport competitors. We don't have a players' union that stands in the way of our sanctioning body doing the right thing. It's one of the things that I enjoy about our sport. Having said that, I wish we would get further ahead of this than we are. I'd rather look back five years from now and say we were trying maybe a little too hard rather than saying we weren't trying hard enough. I think it's our duty and our responsibility to show the youth that's watching this sport and the adults that are watching this sport that this is a drug-free environment because what we do -- we're operating vehicles at a high rate of speed. We're operating them around pit crew members. We are the perfect environment to have major problems, from whether it be drinking and driving or using drugs and driving. We have that opportunity to take full advantage of the responsibility that we have, the same way that when Jack Daniels came in, I said that's a great thing because they're going to promote a responsible drinking message. I think we can as a sport do a better job of having a drug-free environment. I'm not aware of anybody using drugs in the sport, but I wish we were more proactive in testing. I wish we would do more testing without a doubt. Without a reason of suspicion, I wish we would do random drug testing. When you subject yourself to this sport, whether you're a pit crew member or a driver, you owe it to the people that are doing it with you to be sober, straight and clean, and that's a minimum commitment that you make when you do this. So I'd like to see us get further ahead of it. I know it's easier said than done because there's a lot of legal things that go into all of it, but I want us to have the best drug policy in all sports, the same way we do a lot of things better than all the other sports, so I wish we were a little more proactive in it.

Q. I had a question for you, again, kind of off the subject of NASCAR right now. You having grown up in South Boston and South Boston Speedway being your hometown track, can you remember what it was about South Boston that made you and your brother enjoy racing there?

JEFF BURTON: Well, it was there (laughter). You know, from the time I was five years old I knew what I wanted to do, and that was drive a race car. I grew up going to South Boston speedway watching Sonny Hutchen and Jack Bingham and all those guys race, and when you had a chance to race there, that was a big deal. I'll be perfectly honest, I looked more at Dale Earnhardt, and the guys I just mentioned were doing way more than I did with Richard Petty. I mean, to me they were the guys. If you could beat Tommy Ellis you had done your day's work. So for me, South Boston Speedway was the next step for me in my racing career. It was really good competition, there were a lot of people that came in from Richmond to race. Some of the best short track racing that I've ever seen and been part of for sure was right there. I grew up there, so I kind of knew the history of the track, I knew the people that had raced there and it was a special place.

Q. It wasn't so long ago that people picked you to win championships and stuff like that, and then things seemed to plateau for you a little bit. How did you feel at that point in your career, and did it have any bearing on your decision to leave Roush?

JEFF BURTON: It didn't plateau, it went downhill. Thank you, I appreciate that. You're a member of the media, you don't have to be polite. You can be brutally honest. All I can tell you is this: I believe in my heart, and no one questions me any more than me, I can assure you, I believe in my heart that I'm a better race car driver today than I was when everybody was picking me to win the championship. There's been days -- and I heard Dale Earnhardt, Jr., talk about this the other day. There's been days that I've ran 15th in the last three years and got out of my car and went home and thought, "you know what, there's only a few people in the world that could have done what I did today and finished 15th." I heard Dale Earnhardt, Jr., talking about that the other day. People don't understand that because when you watch a quarterback throw a football you knew whether or not he threw it in the right place. You can't watch a race car driver and understand why he's running 15th instead of winning. What has happened to me and what has happened to my level of success going down has more to do with technology and the way that we had success in the past compared to the way we have success today. In the past, Buddy and myself and Frank Stoddard and Tony Liberati, we had a lot of good people. We'd sit down and we'd say, "okay, what do you think, what do you think, what do you think." I had to make the decision. The final decision was always mine every time. Today you have to refer to the computers and engineers, and it's a much more complicated issue because the competition has had to do that. When we built the '99 team, I was the computer. I was the one that said this is what we need to do, this is how we need to do it because I can feel it. Today we have drivers coming in that don't know -- I'm being brutally honest; they don't know one end of the race car from the other. They couldn't build a race car if their lives depended on it, but they're going to win races. For me to be successful in today's environment, I have to have engineering support, I have to have more support behind me than I could when I was having success, and I didn't adapt to that quick enough. I didn't demand enough out of Jack. I didn't demand enough and say, "Look, I have to have better this, I have to have better that, I can't carry the load." I didn't do that because I was trying to carry the load. Today I'm doing it different. Today I'm saying to Richard, "I've got to have more help with engineering, I've got to have more help with this, I've got to have more help with that if we're going to compete with Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch and all those guys," and that's the difference. But if you asked me today can I drive as well as I did when I won seven races in a year or whatever it was, I'd say I drive a lot better today than I did then; there's no doubt in my mind.

Q. Are you a wine connoisseur at all?

JEFF BURTON: I'm sorry, am I what?

Q. A wine connoisseur.

JEFF BURTON: I'm not going to tell you what I thought you said (laughter). I wouldn't consider myself to be a connoisseur by any means, but I do enjoy sitting down and having a glass of wine with dinner, and my wife enjoys it more than I do.

Q. I want to know, are drivers now drinking -- I've heard that you guys are drinking more wine than beer than say ten years ago, and if you can, can you assess the Childress Vineyards' wine

JEFF BURTON: There's a new bottle -- he's getting ready to release a wine here in the near future that he just gave to me yesterday, and my wife and I sat down and had a glass of it last night and it was very good. There's a couple of wines that they make in the reds that I really, really like. It's kind of funny, we needed a bottle of wine the other day and I went on to Kevin Harvick's motor home, and DeLana answered the door and says, we have this, it's a bottle of this and a bottle of that. I was thinking, ten years ago knocking on somebody's door saying do you have a bottle of wine, they would have laughed at me. It's such a different environment, I can't even tell you. It's so different than it used to be. It certainly has gone more toward the wine drinking than just the beer drinking for sure. But what's special about this group is that they'll drink a beer and then they'll drink a wine. They'll do them both.

Q. It strikes me as odd that a guy like Richard Childress would be opening a vineyard.

JEFF BURTON: Yeah, I understand what you're saying. When we go out to Sonoma to race, it's like everybody wants to go out there and everybody does the vineyard tours. I mean, it's really interesting. That wasn't the case 10 or 15 years ago. People went to vineyards because the wine was free, not because they wanted to go try it. It was because it was free.

Q. This is some interesting stuff today. We've got wine, we've got drugs. I feel really bad staying with one thing. I think I actually know the answer to this question, but I'd like you to put it in your words. We have a team out there, Rusty and Ryan, that don't speak to other each or to each other's crew chief. I think I know how your team operates, but if you could talk about the communication between you guys, and in this day, in 2005, do you have to have a three-, four-, five-car team to win a title?

JEFF BURTON: I think you have to have a multicar team. I think the funding that's allowed to you by having multicar teams, the consolidation of funds, the consolidation of work ethic -- not work ethic but how you work, the consolidation of parts, pieces, equipment, has such an advantage that you really do have to have a multicar team. You don't have to have five cars, but you have to have a multicar team. It's a two-tiered question, but they work together. We just went to Richmond and tested. They're 29 and 7, they didn't have to go to Richmond and test, and we did. We share every bit of information, everything that we learned. They have a chance to review all our data and sit down with their engineers, so they learn from us learning. And by the way, we learn from them learning. It's just -- it would be very, very difficult to back up and not have that advantage. If you need ten engineers to do this thing for a one-car team, you don't have to have 30 for a three-car team. Do you see what I mean? There's consolidation. So you get more for the money you spend. And then there comes a time when it's too much. There comes a time when you can't handle it all. There comes a time when it's too much information, too many scattered efforts, not enough effort together, and then it starts to be destructive. In Penske's case, and maybe I'm running a ridge and I'm going to burn, but I am shocked that upper management allows that to go on. I mean, I'm just -- if I was running Penske Racing, they'd need to be working together or they'd be working somewhere else. That's how it would be. I mean, it's amazing to me that you can have that much funding and that much effort to win races and championships but then you have that big of a division. I mean, I'd fix that. I'd find a way to fix it, and if I couldn't fix it then I'd have to start getting rid of people because it's just too destructive. It's very difficult. You can't ask your teammates -- you can't ask teams to work together only some of the time. It's either all or nothing. There's rules and there's guidelines, and this is how you're going to do it. And if it's not the same for everybody, eventually that stuff will explode and you'll have a major problem on your hands.

Q. Do you think that perhaps the fact it's Rusty's final year is the reason why they're getting away with it, that Roger hasn't stepped in and said fix this thing?

JEFF BURTON: I don't know. I mean, I know Rusty really well, and I can tell you that I know Rusty will take help from other people and I can tell you that Rusty doesn't mind helping other people. I mean, everybody talks about it this year but it's been going on longer than this. Certainly I'm sure Roger is thinking or whoever is thinking, "Hey, when Rusty does retire and we'll break somebody else in, then maybe that will take care of the problem because there won't be the personality conflict." Maybe that's the thought process. But we're spending millions and millions and millions of dollars a year. It's all about you have to be a certain way within our company no matter who's there. The door is open now from the outside in; it looks to me like you can do anything you want to if you work over there. It's just a bad -- it's just surprising it's gone on as long as it has.

Q. Back at Roush, Greg Biffle is obviously having a great season. Can you talk about what it was like -- what he's like as a guy, as a driver, and has his success this year surprised you?

JEFF BURTON: His success does not surprise me. Years ago when Biffle was running Trucks I was testing Busch Car at Charlotte, and I invited him, come on to Charlotte and run the Busch Car some. The next year he was going to come down and do Busch Cars and we got done with that test and I went to Jack, and I said, "You can't put a half hearted effort together around this guy." He's like, "what do you mean?" "He can win the championship next year. Don't wait. Don't treat this like it's a rookie development. Treat this as if he's going out to win championships." That didn't happen the first year he was a rookie in Cup and the first year he was a rookie in Busch for a lot of reasons. It wasn't particularly Jack's fault, but it didn't happen for a lot of reasons. Those two years were wasted for Greg because he was ready right then. He was ready right then. He's a fierce competitor. If you watch him, he's aggressive but he's a clean driver. He's on a mission, and that's about all I can say. He's very talented and that goes without saying. He's on a mission and he's out to do what he can do, and you can see it.

Q. Just as a quick follow-up, when you say those two years were wasted for a lot of reasons, can you offer any insight?

JEFF BURTON: It's not that they were wasted, it's just he could have done more. For his rookie year in Cup, the effort around that was not at the same level that the effort was put around Jeff Gordon when he was a rookie or --

Q. Was it more sponsorship or money --

JEFF BURTON: Just development of the team and those kind of things. When it's poorly run, it was run the way you let a rookie -- today a rookie program is run at a different level than Greg Biffle's program because Greg's program was run the way you run rookie programs. You wouldn't invest a lot of money in really good people because the kid is going to wreck all his cars anyway. You'd walk into it slower than you would a program for Mark Martin. In today's time, a rookie coming in gets the same program that Mark Martin gets. Do you see what I mean? It's just different. When Greg was a rookie, Roush hadn't taken that step of saying, "Okay, we're going to run this program the way we run all of our other programs; it's a rookie program and we're going to run it like a rookie program." That was the year that Greg could have shown more than he had a chance to show.

Q. So in your mind it was just a matter of time for him and effort to come together?

JEFF BURTON: Yeah, there's no question there's a talent there. There's no question at all. I mean, he's won championships in the Trucks, won championships in the Busch Cars. He has been fast in everything he's sat in. I mean, talent is not the issue. You get the right people around him and harness his enthusiasm and things of that matter. Greg is an older rookie. Well, he is not a rookie but he's an older young driver. He's 35, 36 years old, he's not 26. There's a lot of growing up from 26 to 36.

Q. I was reading today a sports story about boxing desperately needing a Sea Biscuit and long-shot odds and million-to-one dreams and roaring out of the gate and the race this past weekend where the horse is 50 to 1. You're saying, and it's true, that it would be very difficult for somebody not in a multicar team to win. Does NASCAR need a guy coming up who could never make it, the odds are against him, there's not a multicar team? I know they're talking about leasing tires and making options for it to be easier for somebody not in a multicar team to win, but does a sport like NASCAR need somebody who might be one of those?

JEFF BURTON: I don't think so. I think that because we race -- there's so many teams and we're racing against each other every single week as opposed to all the other sports where -- say there's 30 heavyweight boxers that are fairly good boxers; only two fight at a time against each other. We race each other every week, so all the personalities are out there every single week. I do think that we need stories, and I think that we need youth coming in and stirring stuff up as much as we need an experienced guy coming in and stirring stuff up. It's part of the drama of our sport. But I don't think we need to create it. I think it's here. I think if you look at our sport today, how competitive is it, how much drama is it, how many stories are there going on, this is more than I can keep up with. I mean, all you have to do is listen to your show every now and then, and hell, I can't keep up. Then you get back to, well, we only have five or six owners being successful. At the end of the day, who really cares? The sport hinges so much around the drivers that as long as we have a lot of drivers that are being successful, a lot of drivers that are being competitive, I don't think it matters how many car owners we have. I think that what we have to do is our system has to work so car owners can run a successful, profitable, self-sustaining business. If we can't do that, that's when we've got a problem. I don't think we have to build a system around a guy that's going to come in and have one car be successful. We've got to have programs that are well-run, that are able to turn a profit, that are able to be successful to self-sustain, and then it's up to the owners to take advantage of that. I don't think we need to create a system that pinpoints, okay, let's make it, we can be successful with a guy who has one team; we need to focus more on let's make sure the racing is continuing to be good and the racing is competitive and that we have all this stuff going on. That's what the effort needs to be. That's my opinion. Now, I'll tell you this: There's been many days I've said I want to own a race team. But there is no way in the world that I could come in and be a successful car owner unless I had a program like Ray Evernham stepped into where he had a major corporation say, "Look, we're going to fund this thing." Those are few and far between. You've got to have a lot of money, you've got to have investors, a system in place to turn the money machine on when you don't have the money coming in, and that's not what I could do. So from my standpoint, I wish it were a little easier for the health of the sport. I think it's more important for car owners to continue to maintain and sustain their business than it is to develop new car owners at this point. Now, that might change, but at this point I think that that's where we are.

Q. The leasing of tires, do you think any of those efforts will help? And do you think like an Alan Kulwicki team; people are always mentioning that. People don't want someone to come in and at least compete.

JEFF BURTON: I don't think people mind people coming in and competing. As a matter of fact, the whole talk about the young guys, I mean, that's what that's all about. It's something new, it's something exciting. Hey, we've got these young kids, they're coming in and they're doing this and they're doing that and that's really cool and it's a great story, but it's more important for our sport in my opinion to have exciting, competitive races. That's the number one thing we've got to have. If we have that then everything else takes care of it. We have sponsors, fans that watch what we want to do, TV networks that want to show people what we're doing. It all starts with the product on the racetrack. The leasing of the tires and what happens in the future, that's more about keeping things competitive and being able to control the cost of racing and being able to control the competitiveness of racing than it is about being able to bring a new owner in. We need to have new owners. If you look at who owns these race cars, okay, they're all going to kill me for saying this, but none of them are spring chickens. If you look at Jack Roush, Richard Childress, if you look at Rick Hendrick, Robert Yates. I mean, Joe Gibbs. These are guys that have a whole lot of time left to do this, and where's the next thing going? I mean, if you look at it from that standpoint, if they can run a self-sustaining profitable business, then there's a group that will want to take that product over or that will want to take that company over and continue it, if it doesn't somehow or another end up going internally or with the family or something else. But I think it's important to have successful competitive races. If we have that, as long as the economy is good, then I think all those other things take care of themselves.

Q. Talk about if there's one thing you could put your finger on this year, what has kept you from getting into the winners circle?

JEFF BURTON: Not taking advantage of situations has been our biggest downfall. And I'll be perfectly blunt and perfectly honest; we haven't been fast enough consistently to put ourselves in position to win races. You've got to be knocking on that door a lot of times before the thing might open or you might run well one day and everything will work your way and you win. But the way you win consistently in this business is to keep continually putting yourself in position to win. We haven't done that enough. Our downfall where we are at a point is because we have let so many points slip away. We are in position for a top-5 finish, a wheel will come loose. In Martinsville we have a wheel that's loose; at Daytona we break a part. The first three races of the year in the last ten laps, we lost like 18 spots in the last ten laps of those races. So we haven't taken advantage of the opportunity that we've had in most cases. We did in Phoenix and we had good fortune at Talladega. We missed a wreck and we finished top-10. But we've got to do a better job of taking advantage of opportunities and we've got to have a little faster cars so we can continue to put ourselves in position to win races.

Q. Going back a little bit to what you were talking about, that technology sort of got away from you, have you caught it now? Are you at the point where you feel comfortable with it, with the technology?

JEFF BURTON: Well, it may confuse you when I say this because I confuse myself, but it's not my job to catch up with it. If we're going to rely on me being the one that brings the technology, we're going to be in trouble. Now, I might be the one that's raising my hand and says, look, I don't think we have enough technology in this area, but our engineering staff and our crew chiefs, those are the guys that need to be bringing the technology. It's my role to tell them what the car is doing, to give them my ideas, to tell them what I see us having as weak points, give them ideas about how I think we need to fix those weak points. But the days are gone of a driver being able to say, "Look, I know we need a little more right front spring or a little more this, a little more thought." Those days are gone. But the days are gone of the race car drivers telling teams how to build race cars that they build for the racetrack. Those days are gone. Today races are won with what you bring to the track. You have to unload -- when you pull that gun out of that trailer, that thing has got to be loaded with some heavy firing ammunition and it's got to be ready to go. And if it's not, you can't fix it at the racetrack anymore. That's where technology comes in, and that's not for the drivers to do. That's for the engineering staff and everybody that's in charge of that, that's for them to do. That's what's different today than from yesterday.

Q. Can you just put into perspective Ricky Rudd's consecutive starting streaks? He's at 762, you're at 314; just kind of what an accomplishment. Maybe 314 for you but you're not even halfway to where he's at.

JEFF BURTON: Pretty amazing. That's a lot of racing, a lot of competitive racing. I mean, that's a lifetime commitment is what that is. I'm in awe of it. I have a lot of respect for Ricky and the intensity that he brings to the track. That's some big numbers. That's pretty impressive. The thing about Ricky, I talk to him quite a bit. He wants to do it. He still enjoys doing it. That's pretty cool. I have a lot of respect for him.

Q. Could you just put it in perspective from the drivers' seat just about the dominance of Roush and Hendrick's teams having won all but one event and how racing this weekend at Richmond increases the chances for some other teams to win?

JEFF BURTON: Well, if you asked me when the year started who were the two favorite teams, it would have to go to Hendrick and Roush. They're the guys that have proven over time to consistently have good teams and have invested heavily in the things we were talking about earlier with technology and those kind of things. It's no surprise. I will say, and I firmly believe this, that the gap is narrowing. If you watch these races, there's a lot of teams that are putting pressure on them, and I think that will continue to happen. As far as this weekend goes, you know, Roush will be tough. Kurt Busch has run exceptionally well there, Greg Biffle is certainly on a roll, Matt Kenseth has run really well at Richmond and they certainly have something to prove. Hendrick, speaks for themselves, but they'll be tough to beat. They'll be as tough to beat there as they are anywhere. I don't know that Richmond changes that any to be quite honest.

Q. Here's a quick one that doesn't require any follow-up, simply your druthers. Do you like or dislike Saturday Night Cup Racing?

JEFF BURTON: I like it in some regard. I enjoy having the Sunday, having some flexibility with it. The thing I don't like about it is there's a lot of waiting around on these night races without a whole lot to do. The more we have them, the more we're learning how to deal with that. But in general I like them. I think for the spectators at the track, it's a great environment. It gives us an opportunity to create that environment that you have at ballgames; that pre-race atmosphere I think is a lot of fun. It's much more important for the fans to enjoy it than it is for the teams. That's just how it is. The fans do seem to enjoy it, so I'm good with it.

Q. Ten races this year, can you even begin to describe the differences between last year at this time and this year at this time, both personally and also the state of the sport

JEFF BURTON: You know, I don't know that there's -- well, I'll tell you this, the state of the sport is not much different in my position than it was this time last year. I think the sport is a little stronger than it was last year. I think the talk is about the top-10 in points and all that, but from the standpoint that it should be coming from, and that is the competitive style of it rather than the great debate about whether we should be doing it or not. So now we're on to who's going to be in it, who's doing well, who's doing poorly, the things that it should be all about. Competition is at an all-time high, there's no question about that. The sport is healthy, sport is strong, sponsorships are stronger than they were last year. As a whole, I think the sport is in a better place than it was last year. Personally what I'm thinking about right now today is what do we need to do to take the next step versus what do I need to do to make sure I can keep my career going and what do I want to do. That's a big difference. I'm happier and much more relaxed with what's going on around me than I was last year. It's no comparison.

Q. Your brother, what's he up to, and how much do you stay in contact with him?

JEFF BURTON: I talk to Ward quite a bit. He claims he's working more now than he ever has. Ward has that Wildlife Foundation and everything, so whenever he's out in the woods he considers that to be work. I'm not sure that that's technically correct, but that's the way he calls it. So he's pretty busy with his work. He really is very committed to that thing, that's for sure. He hasn't made the decision yet as far as what he wants to do with his racing career, other than he does want to race, but he only wants to race if he can be competitive, and until he gets himself in a situation where he feels like he can be competitive, he's going to stay on the sidelines.

Q. Tell him we said hey, and good luck to you.

DENISE MALOOF: You've been awfully gracious today and we're going to let you go. Good luck in Richmond. Thanks, everybody, for participating. We'll see you again next week.

End of FastScripts...

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