This Week's Caterpillar Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway ... For the second consecutive year, Jeff Burton will pilot chassis No. 238 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in the annual Budweiser Shootout event. Built new in 2008, this No. 29-turned-31 Chevrolet Impala was driven in a number of races that year, including those at Auto Club Speedway at California in February, Atlanta Motor Speedway in March, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, as well as the June race at Michigan International Speedway and the fall race at Bristol Motor Speedway. In those five races, Harvick qualified in the top 10 four times and posted three top-10 finishes, his best result being a fourth-place run at Bristol in August. At the completion of the 2008 season, the RCR entry was converted from its original downforce configuration into a superspeedway car. In 2009, Harvick was scheduled to drive this car in the Daytona 500, but a crash during practice forced the team to use a back-up car instead. A couple months later, Harvick and the No. 29 Chevrolet were involved in a multi-car incident just seven laps into the 188-lap event at Talladega Superspeedway and were credited with a 38th-place finish. Serving as a back-up entry for the remaining restrictor-plate events, this racer wouldn't return to competition until the 2010 Budweiser Shootout when Burton drove it to a 12th-place finish.
The Road Previously Traveled ... In five Budweiser Shootout starts at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, Burton boasts one top-five and two top-10 efforts. His best finish of fifth came in 2001 after starting from the 16th position. The veteran driver's average starting position of 12.8 is, ironically, his average finishing position, as well.
Shootout Victor ... Crew chief Todd Berrier owns a Budweiser Shootout champion's jacket for his win with Harvick in the 2009 event. Despite Harvick being knocked out of the draft early in the 75-lap race due to contact with the outer retaining wall, Berrier orchestrated an array of repairs during the 10-minute break that put his team back in contention for the win.
No Rest for the Weary ... The Cat Racing team spent some time away from the shop in the off season, testing a number of No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolets in preparation for 2011. Berrier and his squad participated in Goodyear's tire test at Daytona International Speedway in December and revisited the 'World Center of Racing' in January for Preseason Thunder. Most recently, the No. 31 team returned to the Sunshine State where they tested the black and yellow machine at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla.
You made the Chase last season that put you in the Bud Shootout. Does that race take on a little more significance this year because you have so many more cars?
"It's almost a whole field. There are a lot of cars in it, and I guess that's good because we're in it. It's going to be an exciting race. I really think that the race, with the new surface, is going to be crazy. This race offers an opportunity to learn something. The drivers and teams racing in the Bud Shootout will go into the Duel 150's with a race under their belt that others won't have, and I think that's an advantage. Anytime you can be on the race track and other people can't, gives you an edge. It's going to be hard to imagine that half the cars that come out of it won't need another car to replace that one."
Speaking of another non-points race, the Duel 150's on Thursday, are you just trying to get your car through the races? Is that your first priority? What's your thought process in that race?
"I think it depends on what you have going on. I think that's going to be the mind-set for most people. If you look at testing this year, there was never a large pack of cars. You would walk through the garage area and ask 'are you guys going to draft?' People say 'no, we're afraid we're going to tear something up.' There's a general consensus that there's going to be a fair amount of wrecks going on at Daytona. You certainly want to be able to put your best piece into the Daytona 500 and, certainly, the car that you qualify is the car that you believe is the best one. There's a fine line between learning and being aggressive. I think the 150's are going to be a great place to learn but, at the same time, it's a race and people are going to try and win."
You've come close to winning the Daytona 500. How do you feel about coming so close and not winning it?
"In the last four years, we've been 15 laps from the end of the race and in the midst of a battle with a real opportunity to win the 500.Every year, there's been a circumstance where we didn't make the right move or something happened and it just didn't work out for us. Our restrictor-plate Chevys have been great and I feel like we've been in position to win at both Daytona and Talladega. We've always been a little better at Daytona than at Talladega, but I think you're going to have to shift your mentality a little bit. I have to make sure that my weaknesses at Talladega don't come out at Daytona because I feel like it's going to be more like a Talladega race. I've spent a lot of time watching the last three races at Talladega to see how Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer have won them as well as other drivers who got it done. I feel like I've learned a lot. I've talked to Clint a lot. The Daytona 500 is a race that means a great deal to me. I've never won one and it's certainly on my list."
Is there rust the teams have to knock off every year and is the Budweiser Shootout helpful with that?
"Competition brings something out of you that you can't replicate by practice or testing, especially in our sport. With football, basketball and baseball, you can practice and scrimmage at a level against people. When we go test, we're testing against the race track, which you ultimately have to beat. But, you have a lot of people you have to go through to beat the race track. So, in our sport, you don't get the chance to do that unless you're at the race track with other people. The Shootout is our first chance in three months to go out and try to beat our competitors. I think it's great to get started the week before the Daytona 500."