Phoenix: Jeff Burton preview

* This Week's Caterpillar Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway ... Jeff Burton will pilot chassis No. 280 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend's 375-lap affair. Built new for 2009, this...

* This Week's Caterpillar Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway ... Jeff Burton will pilot chassis No. 280 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend's 375-lap affair. Built new for 2009, this Caterpillar Chevrolet was put through its first paces at Chicagoland Speedway last July where the 17-year veteran was credited with a 37th-place finish after being collected in a late-race multi-car incident. Burton then piloted this No. 31 racer at Kansas Speedway where he finished 23rd before posting a runner-up finish at Phoenix International Raceway in November.

* Burton in the Loop at Phoenix ...

* Stat Facts ... In 21 starts at PIR, Burton boasts back-to-back wins in 2000 and 2001, six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. Additionally, the South Boston, Va., native captured the checkered flag in the 2000 NASCAR Nationwide Series event at PIR. Burton has also been running at the end of every Sprint Cup Series race at PIR and has completed 99.8 percent of laps (6,485 of 6,501) contested.

* Good Start, Impressive Finish ... Over those same 21 races, he holds a 24th-place starting average bested by an impressive 10.8 average finish. The 21-time Sprint Cup Series winner has finished no worse than 15th over the last 18 races held at the flat, one-mile desert oval.

* Since We're Talking Stats ... According to NASCAR's loop data statistics, Burton is the sport's best Green-Flag Passer at PIR. Over the last 10 events, he has completed 497 passes under green-flag conditions. Additionally, the 17-year Sprint Cup Series driver is the sport's fourth-best Qualify Passer. Of the 497 passes made, Burton has completed 250 of them while running in the top 15 under green-flag conditions.

* How This All Stacks Up ... Burton currently holds the 12th-best Driver Rating of 86.9 at Phoenix. The Driver Rating is a formula that combines the following categories: wins, finishes, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The Driver Rating number is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.

* Right Mix at Phoenix ... Since joining RCR in August 2004, Burton has run 11 races at PIR, garnering a 9.3 average finish with two top-five, seven top-10 and 11 top-15 finishes.

* Rearview Mirror ... After a dominating performance throughout the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway two weeks ago, Burton and the Cat Racing team saw a potential win vanish into thin air when a cut right-front tire 15 laps from the scheduled distance forced them to pit road that resulted in a top-20 finish. The RCR driver and fellow Virginian Denny Hamlin took turns leading the 43-car field, swapping the lead seven times. With Hamlin at the point with less than 50 laps remaining, Burton was gaining ground and, in the process, made several passing attempts for the lead. On lap 485 of the scheduled 500 laps, he radioed to the crew about the injured tire. The South Boston, Va., native came to pit road for fresh tires and finished out the race, being credited with a 20th-place effort.

* Over the First Six ... In the season's first six events, Burton has earned one top-five and two top-10 finishes and has led 189 laps of competition. He has recorded a 19.7 starting average coupled with a 12.5 finishing average. The veteran driver is one of five drivers who have completed all total laps contested and has spent 75.1 percent of the time running in the top 15 (1,558 of 2,074).

JEFF BURTON:

You scored a runner-up finish in the fall race at Phoenix last year. What does the Cat Racing team need to do to better themselves by one spot?

"Phoenix has been a really good race track for me. I felt that if we had qualified better and been up front earlier, we would have been hard to beat in that race. We were really fast and got by a lot of cars early but never had good track position until later in the race. It's been a while since I've won there and we're going back to finish where we left off in the fall. The key for us to do that is to go back better than we were and respond better to the spoiler than everybody else."

How much has RCR invested into the changing of the rear wing to the spoiler?

"As much as we can. We stopped putting emphasis into the wing developmental work when NASCAR said we were switching to the spoiler. We quit developing the cars with the rear wing and immediately switched to development work with the spoilers. We've done a lot of work behind the scenes and tested a lot. But, so have the other teams. The key to winning is doing the best work."

What challenges do drivers face at Phoenix?

"It's a really cool race track. Both ends of the race track are completely different. It's not really a short track. It's like a small superspeedway. The straightaways are real long and restarts are really aggressive. The front straightaway is down hill which leads to a really sharp turn one corner. The exit of turn two is like nowhere else I've ever been. Turns three and four are big, long, sweeping corners. Some people can run the top and some can run below the apron which gives the drivers different options. It's a challenge because it's so different on both ends of the race track."

Even though the No. 31 team has stepped it up a lot from last year, are you disappointed with the results that you've had so far?

"I'm disappointed that we haven't executed with some opportunities that we've had. We've run well and had fast race cars at every race but I don't necessarily have the finishes to show for it. I'm disappointed with that. We had a great chance to win at California and we didn't execute on that. A lot of people said that the (No.) 48 got a lucky break. They did, but we restarted third with enough laps to go and had a chance to win the race and we didn't make it happen. We had a fast car at Atlanta and had a problem. Then, I made the problem worse. At Bristol, we were running fifth on the last caution and ended up finishing tenth. We led a bunch of laps at Martinsville and were in position to the win the race with 15 laps to go and then we cut a tire. We have to do a better job of executing. If we do that, we'll win races. You are what your record says you are, and our record says that we haven't been good enough to win yet. I'm disappointed with that, but my focus has been on why we haven't been winning. We haven't been winning because we haven't executed and, in some other cases, we weren't fast enough to win. We need to get a little more speed and we have to execute better."

-source: rcr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Denny Hamlin