NASCAR Illustrated: Straight (TV) talk with Jeff Burton
July 09, 2014, Kris Johnson, NASCAR Illustrated, NASCAR.com
Jeff Burton has never shied away from giving his opinion. That held true in his days as a full-time Sprint Cup competitor and remains so now that Burton has made the transition to television with NBC Sports.
Burton is also serving as a test driver for Michael Waltrip Racing this year and he'll make select race starts in the team's third Toyota. When asked about a potential conflict of interest for team owners also working in the broadcast booth for national telecasts -- as Waltrip does for FOX -- Burton acknowledged they have to walk a fine line.
"I think that it is imperative for broadcasters to be and remain objective. I don't like broadcasters pulling for someone and I don't mean just racing but in general," Burton said. "I think Michael, for example, does a pretty damn good job at being objective. He really does but it's gotta be hard."
"I just think if you're in that situation you really have to think about what you're gonna say, you have to put yourself on a pretty short leash."
Given NASCAR's inherent business structure, Burton added, "it's impossible not to have some sort of relationship or association with somebody that's driving while you're broadcasting."
In his first year being away from the track on a regular basis, Burton has watched race telecasts intently while preparing for his appearances on NBC Sports Network's "NASCAR America." To his eye, there hasn't been anything to be concerned about where conflict of interest is concerned.
"I think they handle it pretty well," Burton said. "I really do and I'm not just saying that because of my association with Michael. I've watched every race this year and pre-race. I haven't watched most post-races. As far as being involved in ownership, I just haven't seen where they have allowed it to be a conflict. I really haven't. But I think they've got to work at it to make sure they won't."