Jeff Burton's plan this weekend is simple: Don't cause the big wreck, don't be in the big wreck. Unfortunately, at Talladega that's not the easiest thing in the world to do. "It's so easy to get caught up in a wreck and it's easy to cause a ...
Jeff Burton's plan this weekend is simple: Don't cause the big wreck, don't be in the big wreck.
Unfortunately, at Talladega that's not the easiest thing in the world to do.
"It's so easy to get caught up in a wreck and it's easy to cause a wreck," Burton commented. "So the first priority is to not start the wreck. The second priority is, if it happens, to try and miss it."
Burton enters this weekend the current NASCAR Chase for the Nextel Cup leader. For the first time in his career he has a legitimate shot at winning the title and the numbers are on his side. Statistically, in the first two years of the Chase, the driver leading the points after the third race has gone on to win the championship.
One of the landmines on Burton's mind is the new track surface; which has created a smoother track with less bumps and more grip. But Burton is unsure of how the cars will react to the new exterior and whether or not more grip is such a good thing.
"The more wide open you run, the easier it becomes to drive," explained Burton. "So when you have more grip it allows you to run wide open with no effort and without having to worry about handling. It is my opinion there is the opportunity for more multi-car wrecks because if everybody is running the same speed and wide open, and one person makes a mistake, everybody is in the same place. If there's more grip, we have higher potential for larger or more frequent multi-car accidents."
Burton has always had a way with balancing a humble life perspective with racing and no matter how much he is enjoying leading the points he still dwells in reality. The reality anything can happen and in the end there are a lot more pressing world matters than whether or not he is the next NASCAR champion.
"Whatever happens Sunday happens Sunday," said Burton. "The sun is still going to come up Monday morning. There are bigger things in life."
Burton's modesty is refreshing. It's almost as if sitting inside the bubble he doesn't give much merit that for all intensive purposes this is his comeback year. Not only him but for the entire Richard Childress Racing organization. This is the first time RCR has made the Chase field since its inception and they have two drivers (Burton and Kevin Harvick) competing.
While Burton enjoyed a tremendous amount of success at Roush Racing when he left that organization three seasons ago it was supposed to be for the greener pastures of RCR. But it was a bumpy ride until things miraculously turned around this season. Childress funneled more engineering support, hired key personnel and rather quickly their stock as a platinum team began to rise.
"We've done a tremendous amount of things at RCR," said Burton. "We've pretty much restructured every part program at RCR - engine, aerodynamics, chassis and engineering programs. Scott Miller has come in as a crew chief and done a heck of a job. This team is a really solid team."
The No. 31 Chevrolet team now enters the treacherous 2.66-mile track at Talladega as the cream of the crop with a 69-point lead over the Chase field. In 25 starts here Burton has just two-top five finishes.
For Burton, who knows it's anyone's title too lose, he's not agonizing over the numbers. He is just relishing this moment in time and soaking up the spotlight.
And, hey, if it works out, it works out.