Phoenix II: Jeff Burton preview

* This Week's Cat Financial Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway ... Jeff Burton will pilot Chassis No. 280 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built new for 2009, this Caterpillar Chevrolet was put ...

* This Week's Cat Financial Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway ... Jeff Burton will pilot Chassis No. 280 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built new for 2009, this Caterpillar Chevrolet was put through its first paces at Chicagoland Speedway in July where the 16-year veteran was credited with a 37th-place finish after being collected in a late-race multi-car incident. Most recently, this No. 31 racer finished 23rd when the series visited Kansas Speedway last month.

* Burton in the Loop at PIR ...

* Leading the Way ... Burton leads all active drivers with green-flag passes at PIR over the past nine events. The South Boston, Va., native made 440 passes under green-flag conditions with 229 of them (52 percent) being made while running in the top 15.

* Movin' on Up ... Since the inception of Loop Data statistics in 2005, Burton has gained 15 positions over the final 10 percent of laps in each race. The 42-year-old driver is the series' fifth-best Closer with an average of 1.7 positions gained in each of the last nine events at the desert venue.

* Keep on Running ... Of the 2,809 laps contested over the last nine Sprint Cup Series events at PIR, Burton spent 1,821 of those laps (64.8 percent) running in the top 15 and holds a 9.9 finishing average.

* How This All Stacks Up ... Burton holds the 13th-best Driver Rating at Phoenix. The Driver Rating is a formula that combines the following categories: wins, 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 points 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.

* Phoenix Facts ... In 20 Sprint Cup Series starts at PIR, Burton boasts two wins, five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes to go along with his Nationwide Series victory in 2000. He has also finished on the lead lap in his last 16 starts at the one-mile desert oval, leading a total of 215 laps, and has never finished outside the top 15 in those same starts.

* Right Mix at Phoenix ... Since joining RCR in August 2004, Burton has run 10 races at PIR, garnering a 10th-place average finish with one top-five and six top-10 finishes and has never finished outside of the top 15.

* RCR at PIR ... Richard Childress is tied for third with Robert Yates for car owner victories with three. In 58 races at Phoenix, RCR has earned three wins, including Kevin Harvick's sweep of both races at PIR in 2006. Prior to that, Dale Earnhardt won the Checker 500 on Nov. 4, 1990. Additionally, the Welcome, N.C.-based organization boasts 11 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes.

* RCR Drivers Rock Phoenix ... Harvick and Burton are two of four drivers with two wins each at PIR. The only other driver who has more wins at the Avondale facility is Jimmie Johnson with three. Burton captured back-to-back wins in 2000 and 2001 while Harvick swept both Sprint Cup Series races in 2006.

* Rear View Mirror ... In his second week calling the shots for the CAT Racing team, crew chief Todd Berrier guided Burton and Company through hardship and misfortune to earn their second consecutive top-10 finish at Texas last weekend. After damaging the primary No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy in practice, the Berrier-led crew dialed in the backup car and overcame a 42nd-place starting position to finish ninth.


You haven't finished outside the top 15 in the last 16 starts at Phoenix. What will it take to get over the hump and finish up front?

"It seems that we run between eighth and 12th every time we go to Phoenix, all with different setups. Clint (Bowyer) and Kevin (Harvick) have led the way for RCR and I've been playing catch up the whole time. So, we, as a team, have looked at why that is and what I, as a driver, can do differently. Phoenix is an awesome race track. It's a fun track to drive on and has different lines you can run. I'm real excited about what we can do this weekend with Todd (Berrier, crew chief) calling the shots."

The track built new grandstands in Turn 1 to act as a shield against the sun. Is the sun still an issue during the race?

"Absolutely. When the sun starts to set, you can't see when you're driving into Turn 1. There's a moment on the straightaway when you're looking at the corner to see where you need to go and your vision is hindered. You see it in qualifying a lot because drivers tend to over drive, or under drive, the corner and turn too early, or too late, because you can't see. The key to driving into corners at any race track is to position yourself in the right groove, at the right time, and the sun messes with that timing. The sun definitely plays havoc with the drivers."

What are some other challenges 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 straightaway's are real long and restarts are really aggressive. The front straightaway is down hill, which leads to a really sharp Turn 1 corner. The exit of Turn 2 is like nowhere else I've ever been. Turns 3 and 4 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."

-credit: rcr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Robert Yates
Teams Richard Childress Racing , AT Racing