From the Marbles - NASCAR

You'd be hard pressed to find a classier guy on the track than Jeff Burton. And he's not only universally liked and respected, he's tearing things up out on the asphalt, too, currently running third in the Chase points standings. Recently, Jeff spoke to the Marbles about his year, his career, and his future in politics. (Sadly, the interview was conducted before the infamous bird incident, but we can imagine that Jeff got a chuckle out of the whole thing. Tires, probably not so much.) Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome The Senator, Jeff Burton:

Jeff, thanks for joining us on the Marbles; let's start by talking about this year. You've got to be thrilled with how the season is going so far.

I'm happy, don't get me wrong, but we're not there yet. We're a good team, we're not a great team. There are so many things that we do every week to get prepared for the track, and while we're doing almost all of them as well as we can, there are a few that we still need to work on.

Such as...?

Well, the purpose of racing is to go fast [laughs]. We're always making little adjustments to squeeze a little bit more speed out of the 31 car. We try something, see if it works; if not, we go back and give it another go. We do a lot of little things very well, and what I want to see happen is that translate to more wins on the track.

What's your favorite track of those left on the schedule?

That's a tough question. I always say my favorite track is the last one I won at, so it'd have to be Bristol!

Does it give you any kind of concern, the lead that Kyle Busch has posted in the points standings? Do you feel like you've got a tough hill to climb to catch him?

Here's the thing with NASCAR. We're not competing against Kyle, or Jeff Gordon, or Dale Earnhardt Jr. We're all competing against the race track. We've all got to run the same track out there, and when you start focusing on individual teams instead of focusing on the track, that's when you get into trouble. If we can run the best race we can on the track where everyone else is running, the winning's going to take care of itself. But we can't get caught up in worrying who's ahead of us or who's coming up on us.

One of the big stories in NASCAR these days is the dominance of Toyota, particularly in the Nationwide series. What are your thoughts on the situation?

One thing people don't realize is that, to save costs, Toyota produced one engine for all three series. NASCAR was fine with that, and so are we. It was the smart thing to do. However, it gave us a bit of an imbalance in the Nationwide and Craftsman series. While Toyota's running a new engine, the other guys aren't. Chevy has a new engine for the Sprint Cup, but the engine [design] they're using in the other two series is probably twenty years old now.

What's the answer? I don't know. But right now, we're setting up two separate engines every weekend, and Toyota only has to set up one. NASCAR has shaved off some horsepower from the Toyotas, so we'll see what kind of effect that has down the line. Will that help? It'll take awhile before we find out.

And then you bring in the law of unintended consequences. Who knows what will happen as a result of those changes?

Yeah, absolutely. You never can tell how these will play out, and hopefully it's not a nasty surprise, either to Toyota or the people running the other engines.

You seem to be a pretty even-tempered guy. What can get you riled up on the track?

I'll tell you, what gets me riled up is when you've got a guy who's all over the track, who's doing stupid things just for a single lap. Bumping, shoving, putting the car where there's no space for it, not showing the proper respect to the other drivers ... this is a long season, a long career, and acting like that - there's no place for it. And I still see guys doing it over and over.

You're not going to name any names.

[Laughs] No, I'm not going to name any names.

A few months back, we ran a little contest where we came up with a nickname for you, and we decided on The Senator. How's that sit with you?

Oh, boy. [Laughs] I like it. Long as I'm not put in charge of public safety!

Are you still considering a run for public office?

It's always in the back of my mind, sure. I think one of my strengths is the ability to assimilate a lot of information from a lot of sources. That's something I really enjoy doing, and something that I think I'm pretty good at. I like to take in as much information as I can, look at every side of an issue I can before making my decision and taking my stand. We don't see enough of that in politics these days, and so if I could do something along those lines, great. I'm only going to be racing for another five, six, seven more years. I don't want to be racing in my 50s!

Speaking of politics and NASCAR, we had that moment a few weeks ago when it appeared that the Obama campaign was considering sponsoring a car. What was your take on that?

I don't know ... everybody's money is welcome, certainly, but I could see how that could become a problem no matter who was sponsoring the car. I think that the best thing that comes out of all of these sponsorship talks and all these political visits is that the politicians have started actually listening to the fans. Not about NASCAR stories and races and all that, but about real issues - the war, the economy - things that are concerning our fans week to week. If the politicians will start doing more of that, then I'm all in favor of bringing them to the track.

Let's talk for a moment about the contest you're running with Prilosec OTC this year. You're bringing a fan to the final race of the year in Homestead?

Absolutely. We've had such a great relationship with Prilosec OTC. The fans love the paint scheme, the lightning bolt on the car, and it's all gone so well. And this is an amazing contest; you win this one and you get to see the best race up close, the race for the Sprint Cup! It's going to come right down to the wire this year, so this is a race that anybody would love to be at. [Register for the sweepstakes at http://prilosec.eprize.net/winnerscircle/, and pick up your Jeff Burton race widget right there too.]

Last question. What's the best race you and your brother Ward ever had?

Oh, that'd have to be Las Vegas [in 1999]. He needed some Prilosec after that one for heartburn. We ran side-by-side for a few laps, and it felt like a hundred. I finally won, and I don't let him forget it!

And you never should. Jeff, thanks for the time today.

Absolutely. Thank you!

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