Earnhardt, Burton have put themselves in the center of another NASCAR feud
(September 20, 2000)
The NASCAR teams of Jack Roush and Richard Childress have
been going hard at each other for more than 10 years, and some of those Mark Martin-Dale
Earnhardt battles have become part of racing lore. Now, as the Winston Cup title chase
heads down the home stretch, the Jeff Burton-Earnhardt ''thing'' is heating up, too.
Earnhardt has thrown some verbal jabs at Burton and
other drivers for pushing safety issues so hard, and Burton has had some pointed retorts.
''To ignore the problems here would be wrong,'' Burton said.
''It doesn't make you brave; it makes you dumb. If a driver has a problem with the rules,
he can stay at home.''
''For people to complain about something that will make it
safer is ludicrous. I took offense at it. I have an aggressive personality when it comes
to trying to fix problems. Some drivers don't, but that's OK.
''However when some drivers complain about other drivers
complaining about how to do it safer, that confuses me. Just because it inconveniences us,
that doesn't mean we're doing the wrong thing. That's not because I'm a wimp. It's because
I'm smart. I've got kids, I've got a wife, I've got parents, and I've got things I want to
do with my life. And if I can make things safer . . . ''
After Sunday's Dura Lube 300, Earnhardt complained about the
use of restrictor plates mandated by NASCAR.
''This is not Winston Cup racing,'' Earnhardt said. ''If I
was a race fan, I wouldn't buy a ticket to a restrictor-plate race on a short track. We're
supposed to be racing Winston Cup, elite racing. To grade us down to Late Model Stock
racing is pretty bad.
''No throttle response off the corners. We shouldn't be
running Late Model Stock cars. Leave that to kids on short tracks still learning how to
race. I don't want to see restrictor plates nowhere. They just overreacted. I hope to hell
we don't do it any more.''
In Sunday's race, Earnhardt-versus-Burton provided some of
the hottest action on the track.
Late in the race, Earnhardt was trying to get back on the
lead lap, Burton was trying to keep him a lap down, and the two got physical. Later under
caution, after Burton had been successful, Earnhardt angrily gave him a ''tire doughnut''
on the side of his car. ''I knew when I caught Earnhardt, I sat there a moment and thought
'If I lap him, and the caution comes out, then he'll be the first car on the inside a lap
down,''' Burton said. ''That's not always the best thing. He is so intense. Passing him
for the lead is one thing, but when you lap him it's like caging a tiger. He's not liking
that. ''But I needed to do what I needed to do. We're racing him for the championship, and
I saw an opportunity to get some more points. So I put him a lap down, and we didn't let
him get his lap back. Had the positions been traded, that's what he'd have done to me.
''I did let a lot of people get their laps back, but he
wasn't going to be one of them.
''I didn't take kindly to him hitting me under caution. I
made contact with only one car all day long and it was him, and it was three times. It
wasn't going to happen a whole lot longer, because I wasn't going to let him ruin the race
''On the other hand, I don't blame him for racing me to stay
on the lead lap,'' Burton said. ''I don't fault him one bit for that. Had he stayed on the
lead lap, he would have pitted and come out with four new tires, and instead of finishing
12th he would have finished seventh. That's why we put him a lap down and kept him a lap
down. At Richmond last week he almost won the race, and he'd never even been in the race.
So when you get a guy like that a lap down, you'd better put him a lap down, and you'd
better keep him a lap down. I don't hold grudges, and I'm not mad he hit me under caution.
It's just what it is.''
It might not be a grudge, but Roush and his men still haven't
forgotten the 1990 Richmond engine issue that Childress triggered, and the NASCAR penalty
that ultimately cost Roush and Mark Martin the title.
That's part of the background also to Frankie Stoddard's
complaints about NASCAR's new Talladega rules, expected out this week with a little NASCAR
concession to make Earnhardt's Chevrolet and the other Monte Carlos a little better.
T h e E a r n h a r d t C o n n
e c t i o n
Home Page | Contact Us