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January 18, 2003

Jeff Burton


Q. Jeff, what changes have been made with the No. 99 team and how is things for the 99 car ?

JEFF BURTON: We are just like everybody else, we think we've done everything right and a majority of us are wrong, but certainly we look like a new team. We have a lot of experienced people on our team that have been with us a long time at upper positions. But we also have a lot of very young people on the team. We look like a new team and that's exciting to me. We have been struggling to try to get cars built and when we get one built they say no, you didn't build it right; you need to build it again. This new template deal has been kind of a pain in the butt. I think Paul (Andrews) has done a nice job of bringing in new and exciting people. I'm ready to go racing. I don't like the winter time.

Q. What is your opinion about what the common template is going to do once everybody figures it out and gets the cars done, what's this going to do as far as the competition?

JEFF BURTON: From the Daytona tests, I have never seen that many cars that tight. If you pick up a 10th, you move up 5 or 6 spots. I think it's going to make racing even that much more competitive. I think that's what NASCAR wants. I think they assume you buy a body from an outside manufacturer not being able to touch it at all and bolt it on the car. We are getting closer and closer to that every day.

Q. Jeff, two years ago there was a lot of struggles at Roush Racing. Last year, everybody seemed to hit on something where a short team got left behind. Was it frustrating to be left out of the party than it was even two years ago when there was this group feeling that we know there was something wrong in a common way?

JEFF BURTON: Yeah, you never want to be the worse performing team in a multi -car team. I've been fortunate never to be the worse performing team at Roush. It is not a position that I enjoyed being in. That's why we ended making our changes. We look a lot different today than we looked a year ago at this time. We will see if that reaps rewards or not. I believe it will. It wasn't from a lack of effort. It wasn't because we had anybody on the team that is there now that isn't there anymore dumb or wasn't trying hard. We just didn't do the right things. And when we did finally get caught up and we did, in my opinion, wait too long to copy what was working for other teams, when we did do that we were having success the last 10 races of the year; we were very competitive. We didn't win any but we were competitive. When you have a multi-car team or whenever you do anything in front of the public, you lay it out there and when you are not doing well everybody knows that. We certainly were not doing a good job. As you can see from the changes we made and the dedication that our car owner has made, we are going to make changes and make it better.

Q. NASCAR is expected to announce some new policy in the garage, limiting access for the fans this season. There will be the perception among fans that now the sport may not be as fan-friendly with that. What are the challenges on the sport or the drivers to maybe alter those perceptions whether they're true or not?

JEFF BURTON: The other side of that, it was obvious that we needed to do something, but if we every put our sport in the position where we aren't fan-friendly or we don't allow access to the sponsors, we don't allow access to the fans, we have done the sport a huge injustice. At the same time there is no reason why we can't have the time to do the most critical part of what we do in an environment where we can concentrate. So the policy that I have heard seems to make some sense. We have limited the access to the fans for a limited amount of time during the weekend. It's a small amount and small percentage of the time. What we as drivers have to do is make ourselves accessible at other times. If we aren't going to be accessible for four hours out of the weekend then we need to find ourselves to be accessible other times of the weekend to do the autographs in a controlled manner. It's an uncontrolled manner right now and to be quite honest, someone is going to get run over in the garage area. We are lucky it hasn't happened yet. We can go to the souvenir trailer once every other week so we can be fan-friendly. If we every forget that, we are in bad shape. It's what separates us from the Major League Baseball, NBA, and all of those other sports. We can't forget that. NASCAR won't let you forget it. NASCAR has a firm grip on the concept that what makes our sport works is the fans. Everything they do has the fans in mind. They don't make these template rules because it is easier for them. They make it so that the racing is better. They don't care about Robby's point, my opinion, but the fans' opinion, and that's okay. It puts people in the seat and watching it on TV. That's why the people are here today and that's why people will be at the Daytona 500.

Q. With all of these new templates and the body changes, do you think we will see more passing this year on the track?

JEFF BURTON: It's going to be more cars vying for the front positions; that's what I think. Whether it's going to be more passing or not, I surely don't know. I think we still have the same tires, the same aero situation that we have had in the past. I don't think that's gone away. I think there will be more of us battling for those top positions. The passing situation, I'm a student of the sport, and certainly there has been a lot made about the aero push and all of that stuff, but that's nothing new. You hear more about it now because there is more teams and more cars and more drivers that are competitive. It didn't used to be that competitive. Now when you have a guy running 5th you have more guys capable of running 5th so you have more guys complaining they are having problems in passing, that's the big difference from this year to three to four years ago. 10 years ago, I'm sure it's totally different. On the other side, how much better can the racing get? I thought last year was a great year for our sport as far as competitiveness. And if the drivers didn't complain about being able to pass, you guys probably wouldn't ever known us. You figured the guy in the lead is just a little quicker. As drivers, we like to complain. At the end of the year I thought it was a great year.

CASEY MEARS: I'm learning a lot right now listening to Jeff.

JEFF BURTON: Don't listen to me, I will screw you up.

CASEY MEARS: I have nothing to say after that.

End of FastScripts...

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