All posts tagged Jeff Burton

47 Posts

i’m in the chase and you’re not, neener, neener

So now we finally know who the top 12 drivers are to make it into The Chase for the Championship this year. I’m glad The Chase to The Chase is over and I can now chew my fingernails down to the nub hoping and praying that something horrible doesn’t happen to my favorite drivers, which is basically everyone except Kyle Busch. hehe. I’m kidding!

The 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field poses with the Sprint Cup trophy after the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway. The drivers are (Back row L-R) Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton (Front row L-R) Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch. (Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field poses with the Sprint Cup trophy after the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway. The drivers are (Back row L-R) Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton (Front row L-R) Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch. (Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers celebrate their Chase berths after the CHevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Speedway. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers celebrate their Chase berths after the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Speedway. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

this time carl bumps but doesn’t run

Cars lined up for Cup Series practice on Saturday, August 30, 2008 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)On Saturday on my drive into the track from my sister’s house in Encino, I stopped by a Jamba Juice in Upland and bought a sixteen ounce Razzmatazz. I also decided to put the top down my on my car. It was 90-something degrees outside but I was wearing a hat and if you can’t put your top down when it’s hot what’s the point?

The day was about getting photos of anything and everything. During the Nationwide Series qualifying session I stood in the garage and watched as the top qualifiers came in and were interviewed by the crew from the SPEED channel.

After that I wandered the garage and spied Dancing with the Stars professional dancer Cheryl Burke with her new partner, Olympic sprinter and gold medalist Maurice Greene shooting some sort of video thing next to the pace car. Cheryl got to wave the green flag for the Camping World RV Service 300 presented by Coleman later that evening.

I made sure to keep close to the conference room in the middle of the garage where they hold all of the driver’s meetings and major press conferences. The Nationwide Series drivers meeting was set to start and I wanted to be in a good position to try and get good photos, but for some reason I got nothing of people going in, and then when they came out everybody was grouped together and they rushed out, so I didn’t get much.

One cool thing that happened was just a little bit later when the Cup Series guys got ready to go out for their final practice session of the day. Cars started to pull out from the far side of the Cup garage and made a long line out to pit road. They were all stopped and a second line formed right in front of me starting with Jeff Burton. He was so close that I could have easily walked up and touched the car and then poked my head in beside the window flap. Of course I didn’t, but there were photographers that did. They pushed their lenses right on inside the car to get close up shots of the drivers. I wondered what that must be like to have people basically shoving their cameras in Carl Edwards' No. 99 gets up close and personal with Jeff Burton's No. 31 at the Auto Club Speedway on Saturday, August 30, 2008 (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)your face to get a shot, right when you’re about to go out on the track.

But moving on, while I’m standing there Carl Edwards drives his car up behind Burton and rolls to a stop, and then starts to roll again and bumps into the back of Burton. I took a photo before Carl backed up. I’m assuming he meant to do that. They must like each other right?

So I’m standing there taking a couple photos and I’m like, I dunno, five feet away from his car and Carl waves at me. So I waved back, smiled, laughed and said “Hiii!” It was too funny.

After the Cup practice was the Nationwide Series race and oh how I love a Nationwide Series race. I love the fact that there’s way less security and structure to the driver intros, at least behind the stage, you get way better photos and experiences because of it. I got some great photos of drivers looking right at me as I took their photo, like the one below of David Ragan.

Okay, so I have to put in one more “Awww, Carl” story. There were these two teenage girls who kept calling to Carl to come over and sign their stuff. He eventually came over, talked to them and signed whatever it was they had. To hear their reaction was so cute, they were all “We got Carl! We got Carl! Omigosh!” I love that.

Nothing too noteworthy happened after all of that. I think some dude named Kyle Busch went on to win the race, but I’m not sure.


Cheryl Burke and Maurice Greene

Dancing with the Stars professional dancer Cheryl Burke and her new partner gold medalist Maurice Greene hang out before the start of the Nationwide Series race on Saturday, August 30, 2008 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

David Gilliland

David Gilliland chats with his crew after qualifying for the Nationwide Series race on Saturday, August 30, 2008 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Carl Edwards

Look closely and you can see his eyes peeking out through the window net!

Carl Edwards sits in his car, waiting to start practice on Saturday, August 30, 2008 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Stanton Barrett

Stanton Barrett signs an autograph for a fan before driver introductions on Saturday, August 30, 2008 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

David Ragan, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards

David Ragan (center) chats with Carl Edwards (right) and Joey Logano (left) before driver introductions for the Nationwide Series race on Saturday, August 30, 2008 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

fate is a cruel mistress

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car waits to go out on to the track for practice at Infineon Raceway (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)The NASCAR experience started on Thursday. I was driving through the city I live in — Concord, California — with a friend of mine on our way to get Starbucks. There were haulers for Juan Pablo Montoya’s team at a Holiday Inn down one street and haulers for Michael Waltrip at the Crown Plaza Hotel down another. It’s really not that interesting but it gave me that extra kick of excitement about this weekend. NASCAR really was coming!

When I got to the track on Friday the temperature was in the 80s. It was definitely warm, hot even but not unbearable. That changed of course as the temps hit 107 at the end of the day when I left. Yes, I left at like 5-o-clock whilst qualifying was still going on but I have very good reasons. For one, I was literally melting, even in the shade. Second, and most important, my camera/video camera’s battery died and I didn’t have my charger with me. And third it was friggin’ hot! Since you have to wear pants in the garage area you’re totally screwed when it’s hot outside. So there I am in jeans so jealous of the fans in the paddock area behind the grandstands ’cause they’re in dresses and shorts.

Ok, so on to the good stuff. The top-12 drivers were available to the media outside of their haulers at various times before and after qualifying practice. There was only ONE driver that I wanted to see the most and that was, of course, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale’s media meet-up was scheduled for 2pm, the first one after the practice session. Before the practice session, I went saw Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, and Kevin Harvick. While watching Clint answer questions I decided to try out my video skills. To be sure, they haven’t changed much from my experiment at the testing sessions last week (as evidenced in my earlier post). Anyway, I taped Kasey, Clint and Kevin, with various levels of pretty good sound.

It amazes me that anyone can hear anyone when those cars are grumbling in the garage. This was the first time I had ever attended one of the top-12 media press sessions before. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. The writers gather around the hauler doors before the scheduled time. It’s obvious that the majority of people know each other, which is incredibly intimidating to me since I’m the newbie. The PR reps are the gatekeepers and they’re not taking any crap from anyone. Kasey Kahne’s rep totally laid the smack down on some photographer who asked if he could get an autograph from him. It’s forbidden for media to ask the drivers for autographs, not to mention stupid. Why would you need an autograph when you’re there? I mean look at where you are!

OK, so picture it… You’re me and your computer is Clint Bowyer. That’s how close I was to him. I could have asked a question but I didn’t. For one, I had nothing prepared and two the questions I would want to ask would have nothing to do with the race this weekend.

Oh! I should say that I was given a cold garage pass. I wasn’t super worried about that, as I’ve found in the past that having a cold pass isn’t the worst thing in the world and I could still access a lot of things. So I wasn’t worried. Well not until practice began and the garage went hot. Dale Jr.’s press conference was the first one after practice ended and I was afraid they wouldn’t turn off the “hot” lights until it was too late.

And that’s exactly what happened. I wasn’t able to get back into the garage until after his session was over. I was so frustrated. I couldn’t believe it, out of all of the drivers, he’s the one I was looking forward to hearing from the most and then I couldn’t get in.

My consolation prize was seeing him walk past me as I sat on the ground outside the media center. He had just excited the men’s bathroom and quickly made his way through the fans that were looking for his signature.

One thing about the media center bathrooms, that is the place to be if you want to catch a driver. Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Jack Roush and Carl Edwards all made stops at the men’s room and really that’s the only time I have ever wished I was a guy. Haha.

Kyle Busch meets with the media at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

This photo is kinda eerie ’cause it seems like Kyle Busch is looking right at me, as if to say “What the hell are you doing?” Frrrreeaaaky.

Kasey Kahne speaks with the media at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Kasey Kahne speaks with the media at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Kasey Kahne's jeans and shoes (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

I looked down and happened to notice how cool Kasey’s shoes were, so I snapped a photo. I figured the Kasey Kahne fans out there would appreciate this. :)

Kevin Harvick speaks with the media at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Kevin Harvick speaks with the media at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Clint Bowyer speaks with the media at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Clint Bowyer speaks with the media at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

celebrating 20 years of nascar at infineon

Infineon RacewayAs the NASCAR race weekend in Sonoma draws closer I’m getting more and more excited. It helps that on Tuesday Cup drivers David Ragan, Travis Kvapil, J.J. Yeley and Sam Hornish Jr. (along with Nationwide Series driver Marcos Ambrose) will be rolling into town to test at Infineon. The testing session (from 8:30am to 4:30pm) is open to the public, free of charge and yeah, I’m so there. Did I even need to say that?

NASCAR has been coming to the San Francisco Bay Area for twenty years now and some of the drivers expressed their thoughts on the road course:

“They have kept up with the times, as well as brought a tremendous amount of diversity to the sport. One of the things that Sonoma has done is bring a different culture, a different type of race fan, which I think is really cool. The racetrack is so unique. It’s very different, the racetrack itself is different. The grounds are different. The location is incredible.”
Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet

“The track is definitely sentimental to me in terms of spring-boarding my career. Some of the big owners saw me win that (Southwest Series) race, and I was on ESPN that day, and in 1999 they had just changed the track configuration to use the Chute, so a lot of the big teams were watching that day. It was very exciting. We had a great Southwest Series team and ran for the championship that year and Infineon Raceway really put us on the map.”
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge

“What’s so special about Infineon Raceway is that it’s so difficult. I grew up racing on a three-eighth mile dirt track in Missouri. To come to a twisting, turning, uphill, downhill road course where you’re shifting gears in a 3,400-pound stock car, against guys like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and Boris Said is a very, very tough thing. To be able to come here and win a race, I think for any driver, and I know for me would be one of the most satisfying wins in all of NASCAR.”
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford

“I was born in Vallejo, right down the road from Sonoma. So to be able to come out and see my family and friends, who I don’t get to see very often, and then we were able to win fairly early in my career out there, which is a lot of fun winning on the road course. And we’ve had a lot of wins since then. To go the last couple of years and have some exciting news and excitement in my personal life, which has all coincided with that race, has been very exciting. And now it gives us something to celebrate every time we come out there. This year we’ll be celebrating Ella’s first birthday when we come out there, so that will be fun.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet

“Infineon Raceway is one race on the schedule that I absolutely love and look forward to coming and running. I mean, I like running the road courses, and we’ve had success out there. We ran really, really well. The people at the racetrack are always great. It’s an awesome crowd that’s very energetic and loves to see the Cup Series run there and it’s a track that I really have a lot of fun driving on so I always look forward to going there.”
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota

In other news…

– Did ya hear the news about Casey Mears?? He’s going to be dad! His girlfriend is pregnant with his first child. This tidbit of information was dropped in an article from the AP but Answer This has a little bit more detail. Congrats Casey!

Clint BowyerClint Bowyer spoke with the media here in the Bay Area today in anticipation of the Toyota/Save Mart 350. When asked if, in this sport, it was important for fans to have someone to dislike Clint had this to say:

“It’s the same way with racing in general or any kind of sport. Everybody loves the winner until they win too much, and then they don’t like them anymore. The guys who have been very successful have seen both sides. Jeff Gordon, you either love him or hate him, but bottom line you respect him. There’s a big difference between a guy like Jeff Gordon and a guy like Kyle Busch. Kyle Busch is winning races and he’s on top, but there’s not that love-hate relationship. I think it has nothing to do with his performance on the track. People don’t respect him because of the things he does when he gets out of the race car.”

And then when asked if it’s easy for fans to find someone to boo Clint said this:

“I think it’s pretty easy. That’s what makes this sport what it is — the personalities. That’s what separates this sport from other sports is that you’re able to get so much closer to these personalities. There are a lot fewer people in this sport, there are only 43, whereas football and baseball there are hundreds. You see a lot more of the personalities of the drivers in this sport. I think it’s a good thing about our sport that it’s so fan friendly and they can get that close to the action.”

And I believe that he’s totally right on both points.


liz clarke interview: the death of dale earnhardt

:: This is part four in a series of four posts (to see all of the posts on one page, click here) ::

Me: I know you have that history with Dale Earnhardt, and I know covering his death must have been horrible. I know in the book you wrote that his death changed you in a lot of ways, so how did it change you exactly? And how did it change the way you cover the sport? Did it change the way you cover the sport?

Liz: Oh, that’s hard. Let me first say, I’m certainly I’m not remotely unique. I think I speak for honestly millions of people when I say his death changed me and affected me. I don’t at all pretend to say my loss or my grief was any greater than other fans or certainly his own crew and own family. But, ya know, there was no personality quite like him and the circumstance, just the notion that he could have been killed was impossible to accept. To your question itself, I just was inconsolably sad and it wasn’t just when I went to the race track that I felt the loss. I just felt like the most charismatic, complex, fun, entertaining person had been taken away. Whether I covered a race and he spoke to me or not or he made some joke aside, or if I just saw him from across the garage, I mean, everybody watched that black car, everybody watched him when he got in the car.  Ya know and he made you feel differently about yourself, he really did and I think every driver would tell you that. I mean he’d aggravate you or compliment you. I think sometimes when he ran you really hard that was his way of complimenting you.

There was one time they had built the track in Dallas, that awful first year of that race, and I was working for the Dallas Morning News and I was taking one of our metro columnists for a walk around the garage. He had never been to a race and I was trying to explain, ya know here’s the order that they park the cars and here’s what this means, be really careful ‘cause they’ll come in with their engines off and you won’t hear ‘em, ya know a lot of basics when you’re sort of showing somebody around. Earnhardt came around the corner in the car; he was in a practice session so they were in and out and in and out. And he whipped his car, hand to God, about two inches from my foot. Swung it right toward me, the guy next to me almost fainted. And I said, “Oh, he’s just saying hello.” And he was grinning and that was totally him. I’m not sure I talked to Dale that day but that’s the kind of stuff he would do. He’d do stuff like that to Schrader, Mark Martin. It was just his little way. It’s an aside, but the notion that he was gone; it was just a hole of blackness. This profound hole, it was like the sun was gone. It was just something so integral to way you saw the world was gone. I still feel that way, I still feel that way. I know Rusty Wallace feels that way, we’ve talked about it. It’s not something people talk about in racing too much. But I don’t think seven years has lessened it at all.

Me: Why do you think NASCAR was so slow, I guess is the word, to put in those mandatory safety features until after Dale Earnhardt’s death, especially the HANS device, especially after all of those incidents?

Liz: That’s really a shameful chapter in NASCAR’s history, and of course it’s easy to say in hindsight. From the day NASCAR started it was very clear that drivers were independent contractors. And what NASCAR meant by that is if you’re hurt we don’t owe you disability. You don’t work for us; you’re your own boss.  And you can come play in our sport but we’re not responsible for you, we have no liability for you and it was a really smart posture to take. And they really, I think for business reasons, wanted to hold on to that as long as they could. Therefore, ya know, with every rule you make about how you stay safe, if something goes wrong with that then you’re technically liable. I mean, on the HANS device I can sort of empathize with NASCAR’s choice to not make that mandatory because there were several drivers who felt very, very strongly that it would keep them from being able to get out of a burning car. And the prospect of being trapped in a burning car understandably is the worst scenario for a race car driver and the fuel cell solved a lot of that. But still drivers would say flat out if it’s a choice of breaking my neck and burning up I want to break my neck. There were drivers who didn’t want to do it and made clear they wouldn’t want to do it. Earnhardt would have been chief among them. He wouldn’t even wear a closed face helmet, again not because he was being a tough guy, but he really thought peripheral vision was his best safety device. And he felt a closed-face helmet limited his peripheral vision. So he had very personal, very strongly felt views about his safety and that that’s what kept him safe. A lot of drivers felt the HANS device was not a deal they wanted.

There’s also a tradition in all forms of racing that every fatal accident is a freak accident. That there’s nothing to be learned from it in terms of the race car or the track or the rules of the sport, whether that’s racing back to the caution. It doesn’t really warrant further study because it was a freak deal; it’s not going to happen again. It was only because this part on the car failed, or the weird convergence of events, it’s just a way of rationalizing it away and therefore no drivers or driver’s family really have to wonder “is this safe?” It’s sort of a way of coping and a way of doing business and those were really entrenched that you don’t make wholesale changes after one guy dies and then another guy dies and then Earnhardt was the fourth in 11 months, I’m pretty sure.

Me: So do you think the whole idea of a drivers association, kind of like the NBA has and the NFL has, could ever happen in NASCAR?

Liz: I don’t think it will ever happen in NASCAR and I regret that. I think there’s a lot of use for the drivers on certain occasions speaking as one, having a representative. And they’ll tell you that that happens now that it’s ad hoc. They go in and speak to Mike Helton and Robin on matters of concern and I know that does happen. But I just like level playing fields and in NASCAR for all the bravery the drivers have, they’re not represented in the decision making, to me, to the extent they should be. I would love to see a drivers association with somebody like Jeff Burton be the head of it for the first couple years. He’s just so well spoken and reasoned and really smart about what’s in NASCAR’s interest, what’s in the driver’s interest, he’s not emotional. And I know there are other guys, I mean, Mark Martin would be perfect for that. It’s really only rarely have drivers sought that. It’s been a long time, it’s been seven years since I’ve even heard it discussed.

are you serious?? c’mon!

Oh. My. God.

I cannot believe it. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leading on the last lap of the UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway today but got wrecked, along with Jimmie Johnson, because of Brian Vickers. Vickers ended up winning the race.

I am so mad. I can’t believe that nut job wrecked his own teammate! What was he thinking??? Oh I know what he was thinking; he was thinking he would get his first win by being an impatient little punk.

I’m sorry; Brian Vickers has officially added his name to my crap list. Junior led the most laps of the race, he dominated, and his car was obviously the best. He even came back from being a lap down!! This is so incredibly not fair. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m crazy because I was screaming at the TV, cursing up a storm.

The last lap people! There was less than a lap left! UGH!!! It just hurts in points the most. Had Junior finished first, and because Jeff Burton was way back in the field, he would of gained three spots in the Championship and only been 26 points behind with 7 races left to go.

I’m not sure where he’ll end up now, as I type NASCAR is still figuring out the official race results.

Vickers was booed by the Talladega fans, as is customary when you ruin a perfect day for the most popular driver of NASCAR. Of course he said he was sorry to Jimmie Johnson, his teammate until the end of the season, but he didn’t say sorry to Junior! He actually insinuated that it was Junior’s fault that he got hit. Are you kidding me??

Yea, I’m just kinda mad. :)

random racing blurbs of the day

– I heard about the fight between drivers Michael Simko and Don St. Denis during Sunday’s Glass City 200 ARCA Late Model race at Toledo Speedway in Ohio yesterday. So of course I had to find video of it and thanks to YouTube I was able to view the glory that is the best racing-related fight this year. This beats Jeff Gordon shoving Matt Kenseth hands down. Enjoy!

If you can’t see the video click here.

– It’s about time Jeff Burton won a race. I was so incredibly happy for him. Seeing his wife Kim’s reaction during the final laps really shows you how much winning really means to the drivers, the team and their families. It’s not just about money. Well I’m sure that’s in there somewhere, but really it’s about wanting to prove that you can win and that you’re still worthy of being at this level of competition.

Since Burton won the race on Sunday he went from fifth to first in the Chase standings. With 8 races left it’s still — almost — anybody’s game.

– What was up with Brooke Hogan’s outfit at Dover on Sunday? She was there to sing the national anthem, and her father, Hulk Hogan, was there to give the drivers the go ahead to start their engines. Apparently Brooke can’t go anywhere without the Hulkster in tow. But I digress. Her dress was a bad choice. This wasn’t the… the… Wait, I can’t think of anywhere that dress woulda been appropriate. No, wait, if she was singing the national anthem at the Championship dinner in New York at night it woulda totally worked, but not so much in the morning at a dirty, grimy race track. I just thought it was a bit much. (photo credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

– The winner of the Fast and the Fabulous 200 at the simulated Indianapolis Motor Speedway last night was Bob Bryant . Congratulations to Bob! For more details on the race click here.