|"The Mayor" speaks!|
“Obviously, (Richard Childress Racing) has some work to do, based on our performance last year and the year before," he said. "We’ve certainly made a lot of changes from the very top of the company to a lot of positions within individual teams. I feel good about what we have done. I think our preparation -- what we have done to be ready before we start building cars -- is at a different level today than it was last year and even the year before.
“I’m excited about what we have going on,” he said. “I feel like we have something to prove and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be able to do that.”
Burton said RCR, like every team, is attempting to learn as much about the new Gen-6 car as possible, in a short period of time.
“I think everybody is kind of in the same boat,” he said. “It’s an exciting time. The car is a really good looking car. There has been more work that has gone into this car; not the aesthetics, but the opportunity to have better races. As we have evolved the sport into much more of a mile and a half oriented sport, it has become harder to have the good, close racing that people want to see. I think the racing is really similar to what it has always been, but I think the fans want more than that today.
“A lot of effort has gone into making these cars so that we will have better races. I’m really excited about that, because I think at the end of the day, the corner stone of this sport is an exciting day at the race track, whether you are watching it on TV or watching it at the track.
“Without that, the sport is in trouble.”
After back-to-back years of limited success for the entire operation, Burton said the new car could not have come at a better time for RCR.
|Burton has high hopes for the new, Gen-6 car|
“The timing of the car is good for us as a company,” he admitted. “By anybody’s measurements, we didn’t have a good year throughout the company last year. We went almost the whole year without winning a race. Kevin (Harvick) won really late in the year. So for us, I think it’s easier when there is a whole new car with a lot of new rules (and) a new rear rule package.
“I think it is easier to start over than it is to take an existing vehicle and start over. The timing of that is good for RCR in general, (but) whether that will yield results or not, we will see.”
Burton’s newfound optimism stems from what he called, “a new philosophy” inside the walls of RCR, a philosophy based on “the direction of the company (and) the mindset of the company (concerning) what we have to do to be better.
“Those things are there and those things are real,” he said. “I won’t sit here today and guarantee you that it’s going to give results, (but) I believe it will. For me to sit here today and (say) `we are going to do this and we are going to do that,’ I think is ridiculous. But I can tell you that the commitment to improve is there. The philosophy to improve is there. It’s a different way of doing business than we have done it before.
“I believe in my heart things will be a lot better, but every team in that garage works hard, too. It will be a challenge.”
Burton said that even if the new car may suits his personal driving style, teammate Kevin Harvick has historically liked something different in his chassis set-ups.
“Typically, I like cars set-up looser than my teammates,” he revealed. “The thing that has been hard the last two years -- and it’s something I haven’t dealt with much in my career -- is that the things Kevin has liked haven’t worked for me. That hasn’t been a good thing.
|"RCR has some work to do."|
“It hasn’t always been like that at RCR, it just kind of popped up for some reason. That has been a difficult thing… throughout the company. One driver likes this, the other driver likes that. We are not in the same area (and) that has been very confusing. At the end of the day, doing a good job with whatever the rule package, is what it’s about. We’ve got to give me what I need to be successful.
“If we do that, we will be doing the things we need to do.”
While admittedly early in the development process, the Virginia native said he expects good things from the new, Gen-6 racer.
"My theory is based on years of experience, and watching what is going on with this sport,” he said. “We've gone through this thing (with) a lot of downforce, a little downforce, a lot of grip, low grip and all these different tire combinations. At the end of the day, the better the cars are stuck in the race track, the closer the cars run to each other.
“Years ago when we took downforce off, the racing suffered. When the COT first came out, Goodyear was still using the tires it had used the year before. The cars didn't drive very well at all, and the quality of racing suffered. Especially on big tracks, the better the grip is, the closer the action can be. NASCAR and Goodyear; everybody has gone into this process saying, 'Okay, can we take downforce off and put a lot of mechanical grip in it? Will that make better racing?' They've looked at a lot of different things, and what's come out appears to be that more downforce and more grip are going to make the racing better.
“I believe we are going to make more grip this year than we have ever made,” predicted Burton. “Now, that's not to say every race is going to be the greatest race in NASCAR's history. We have to have realistic expectations. Some races are going to be boring. Some football games are boring. Some basketball games are boring. But, the average race has got to be a fun race to watch, and I believe more grip gives the drivers more opportunity to put their car in a position that they wouldn't be able to put it if they didn't have that grip.
“That's why I think the racing is going to be better.”
|"I want to be respected by my peers."|
Burton also offered his opinion on how to rebuild the sport's flagging popularity.
“One of the things we suffer from is that our sport is a lot different than every other sport,” he said. “In every other sport, they play on a field; they’re 100 yards. Baseball fields are a little different, but the bases are the same distance apart. Major League Baseball provides a baseball. The NFL provides a football.
“We race at completely different facilities every week, and we bring the ball with us,” he said. “So there are a lot of moving targets. One of the things that our sport has always suffered from -- whether it’s true or not -- is that when Jimmie Johnson wins five championships, it’s because his car is different than everybody else’s. (Fans say), `they’re cheating, they’re doing this, and they’re doing that.’
“I think anything we can do to expose the fans to all of the rules, so that when NASCAR makes a call during the race, they understand that when the rule was enforced, they didn’t make it up as they go, the better we are. And that goes for the inspection process as well. The more we can show (fans) how we police those limitations, the better off we are, I think.”
On a personal front, Burton admitted that the last two seasons have been difficult for him, as he struggled to remain competitive in the dog-eat-dog Sprint Cup Series garage.
“I want to be respected by my peers,” he said. “That does matter to me, and I think anybody who says it doesn’t is a pretty shallow individual. I think you always want to be respected by those around you. I don’t want to be in the conversation about, `is he going to have a ride?’ because that means things aren’t going well.
“I don’t drive for my dad,” said Burton. “I drive for my boss, and he has bosses. He has sponsors that require and demand -- as they should -- success. I’m tough enough to handle the pressure. If I wasn’t, I would never have accepted a position 25 years ago to get paid by somebody. But I don’t want to be involved in those conversations.
“I understand not everything is fun about racing,” he said. “You are going to have some tough days. But generally, it needs to work well. And I have no interest in just being here. I have no interest in getting a paycheck just to show up and drive. I want to bring energy. I want to bring excitement. I want to have enthusiasm. I want to be part of a fight. I want to leave the track disappointed when we do badly. That’s what you have when you’re doing well.
“I can tell you this as the God’s honest truth,” he said. “I’ve been paid to drive race cars for a long time, but I’ve never driven race cars to get paid. I drove race cars because it was my passion. And I do it today because it’s my passion. I’ve been fortunate enough to get paid; I live a blessed life. I get paid to do my hobby. But that doesn’t mean… I don’t have a passion for it.
“I want to be successful. I want to race Jimmie Johnson for the championship. I want to have the pressure going to Homestead (that) if you don’t get it done, Burton, you’re going to finish second. I want that pressure. That’s why I do it. The other pressure sucks. It’s just no damn fun.”