Jeff Burton has admitted that he still needs to find more sponsorship to complete a full season in NASCAR in 2004. Burton has already announced that Turner Network Television (TNT) will be the primary sponsor of the car for the Daytona 500.

He spoke of his search for a full-time sponsor during testing at Daytona...

Q:
What's the deal you have sorted for the Daytona 500?

Jeff Burton - #99 TNT Taurus:
We've got TNT and the NBA All-Star event as sponsor for Daytona Speedweeks, which is pretty cool. I love basketball, so it's gonna be a fun thing to do - a fun promotion to bring some awareness to the NBA All-Star event. That's the Sunday night after the Daytona 500, so that's a pretty cool day. You can watch the Daytona 500 and then watch the best in the NBA play Sunday night.

Q:
What about after Daytona?

JB:
We don't have funding for the whole year. The logical thing and the thing we had to come to grips with is that the chances of having one major sponsor come in was pretty slim, so we made the car available to a lot of different marketing arenas. We've sold some packages of four or five races, but we haven't succeeded in selling enough sponsorship to get us through the end of the year. There are still some marketing opportunities available. We've got money committed to get into the season but not to end it.

Q:
How nerve-wracking is that for you, knowing you need to find the money to compete?

JB:
Here's the way I look at it. If this team can't get sponsorship and this team isn't good enough to get sponsorship to run the full year, then this sport's got a problem. Every employee on this team is a NEXTEL Cup calibre person and a good NEXTEL Cup calibre person. I happen to think I'm a good NEXTEL Cup driver and our futures aren't in dire straits. If for some crazy reason we couldn't race in August anymore, these guys would be taken care of by Roush Racing. They're good enough to get jobs in this sport, although that's certainly not the thing that we want to make happen.

I believe we'll find sponsorship. Is it inconvenient? Is it nerve-wracking from time to time? It most certainly is, but we need to pay attention to what we're doing. I think we're more focused right now than we've been in three years. I see our team really paying attention to what they're doing. Everybody, including myself, is focused and not all thinking about things other racing. Even if we're thinking about the bad stuff about racing, we're thinking about racing all the time and I think that's different than we've been the last three years.

Q:
You said if you can't get sponsorship then the sport has a problem. Is this sport in trouble?

JB:
I don't think it's in trouble. I think the cost of racing is high. I think the cost of sponsorship is high at a time when people's marketing dollars are tight. I think the combination of the two things have put pressure on the sport. It's not in trouble, but I think there's a lot of pressure.

Q:
Will you run all the races?

JB:
It's our intention to do them all, we've built our team, we're preparing. We're doing all those things to run and compete for the NEXTEL Cup championship. I'm not going to lie to my team, nor is Jack Roush, and tell them things that aren't true. We're going to inform them and tell them the truth and be honest with them.

I think the thing is that everybody understands the situation we're in, but everybody is also realistic enough to know that if there is new sponsorship dollars coming into the sport and people don't bring those dollars to the #99 car, somebody in their marketing office needs to be smacked on top of the head.

We bring a lot to the table. We're a competitive team. We do a lot of great things. Although our performance the last two years hasn't been what it should have been, at our worst we're better than 80 percent of the people at their best.

Q:
Do you have enough money for 26 races so if you got in the playoff you could keep going?

JB:
If you looked at the #99 team and you looked at the defending champion #17 team and the way we've prepared to run the year, it's identical. We haven't prepared to run a part-time year. We're preparing to run the full schedule beyond the ten races, beyond the 26 races and that's what we're prepared to do.

Q:
What about keeping the team together?

JB:
It's been no problem because we have been honest with them, because we have sat down with them and told them what's going on and because we have people that trust our company. We have people that understand nobody is going get thrown out on the street.

We have an intelligent group of people and a dedicated group of people and a group of people that believe in what it is that we're doing. I think if those guys saw for a minute that Jack Roush was letting up in the dollars being spent and how we were preparing for the year, they'd be gone obviously, and they should be gone. These people deserve to be on a team that is going to compete for the championship and have a chance to win races. They believe they're on that kind of team. If they didn't, they wouldn't be here.

 

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