TALLADEGA, Ala. (Jan. 10, 2000) NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Jeff Burton's strong finish at the close of the 1999 season has paved the way for serious talk of a championship campaign in 2000 for Roush Racing's No. 99 Exide Batteries Ford team. Burton, along with 17 other drivers, began a two-day Ford manufacturer's test at Talladega Superspeedway Monday in preparation for next month's Speedweeks 2000 at Daytona International Speedway as well as April's activities at Talladega, including the DieHard 500.
While Ford teams were at Talladega, nine General Motors outfits were testing at Daytona International Speedway, where Mike Skinner posted the fastest laps. Ford teams may opt to head to Daytona for further testing on the 2.5-mile speedway on Wednesday and Thursday.
Each manufacturer has its "mandatory" Daytona test next week, General Motors teams on Jan. 17-18 and Ford teams on Jan. 20-21.
Burton, after posting one victory and four top-5 finishes in the final four events last season, is looking to jump to the next level and capture his first Winston Cup Series title.
"We're excited about it, and we think it's a better car than what we had last year," Burton said, referring to the 2000 Ford Taurus. "We think it's going to be a good race car. We really don't know a lot about it other than wind tunnel stuff.
"This test will help a lot with some of the things we need to know."
This week's test session at Talladega Superspeedway marked the first track action for Burton in the new Taurus. The upcoming season will mark Burton's seventh in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, and confidence is abundant after a successful 1999 that produced six victories, 18 top-5 finishes and a fifth-place performance in the points.
At Talladega Superspeedway in 1999, Burton finished eleventh at April's DieHard 500, and broke into the top-10 with an eighth-place finish at the Winston 500 in October.
"We have to perform at least at the same level, if not a higher level to do what we want to do," Burton said. "We weren't reliable as we needed to be, and we were in too many wrecks. So there's two areas that we need to be better in to move up."
Other drivers joining Burton at Talladega included Stacy Compton, Derrike Cope, Bill Elliott, Robby Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Lepage, Chad Little, Jeremy Mayfield, Robert Pressley, Scott Pruett, Ricky Rudd, Elliott Sadler, Jimmy Spencer and Darrell Waltrip. Buddy Baker was testing the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford for Rusty Wallace and Greg Biffle was driving the test sessions for Mark Martin in the No. 6 Valvoline Ford.
Speeds were withheld as a standard practice at the "World's Fastest Speedway."
The NASCAR Winston Cup Series returns to Talladega Superspeedway April 16 for the 31st DieHard 500. The event is part of "Track Attack Weekend," April 13-16 that also features the Touchstone Energy 300 NASCAR Busch Series event and the True Value International Race of Champions in an April 15 doubleheader.
For ticket information and purchase call (256) 362-7223, or visit: www.talladegasuperspeedway.com.