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Jeff Burton Makes it 900 At Texas
No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes
This Week's Caterpillar Chevrolet at Texas Motor Speedway ... Jeff Burton will pilot chassis No. 344 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built brand new for the 2011 season, this No. 31 racer most recently competed at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where handling issues relegated Burton to a 21st-place finish.
The Texas Report ... In 20 starts at Texas Motor Speedway, Burton boasts two wins, three top-five and nine top-10 finishes. Over those same 20 races, he holds a 25.4 starting average to go along with a respectable 16.1 finishing average. The track's first repeat winner has finished no worse than 13th in seven out of the last eight races held at the Fort Worth facility. Burton is also one of four drivers who have competed in all 20 events held at the 1.5-mile oval.
900 for JB ... This weekend's Samsung Mobile 500 will mark Burton's 900th career NASCAR start. Over the course of 899 NASCAR starts, the South Boston, Va., native has accumulated 48 wins, 17 poles, 219 top-five and 393 top-10 finishes. Additionally, he helped capture RCR's 2007 NASCAR Nationwide Series owner's championship and has finished in the top 10 of the Sprint Cup Series point standings in eight of the 17 years he has run the series full time. This milestone places the veteran driver ninth on NASCAR's all-time starts list across their top-three national series and ranks him second to Mark Martin in active drivers.
Loopy in the Lone Star State ... The RCR driver is the series' seventh-best Green-Flag Passer at Texas Motor Speedway. Over the last 12 races, he has made 752 passes at the Fort Worth arena under green-flag conditions.
Inaugural Winner ... Burton won the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race held at Texas Motor Speedway on Apr. 6, 1997, capturing his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win. Additionally, the South Boston, Va., native became the track's first repeat winner when he took the checkers in April 2007.
This Time Last Year ... A fast race car, coupled with excellent pit calls, helped Burton and the Cat Racing team overcome a commitment line violation just past the 100-lap mark and be in contention for the win in the rain-delayed Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. A two-tire pit call with 22 laps to go gave Burton the lead but, six laps later, a nine-car melee broke out that forced NASCAR to display the red flag for clean up. After the engines re-fired and a couple of pace laps were taken, Burton led the field back to green with 12 laps remaining. Much to the disappointment of the driver and team, the Caterpillar Chevy produced a tight-handling condition that aided in the loss of positions and a scrape with the outer retaining wall before the checkers flew, crediting them with a 12th-place finish.
Catch the Driver ... In honor of the track's 10-year celebration of the former Samsung Mobile 500 race winners, Burton will appear on the main stage in front of the frontstretch grandstands (Gate 4) and be a guest on KRLD's 105.3 FM airwaves from 2:45 - 2:55 p.m. local time on Saturday, April 9. The Dallas/Fort Worth radio station is Texas Motor Speedway's official radio partner.
JEFF BURTON QUOTES:
Texas will be your 900th NASCAR start. What do you think when you hear a stat like that?
"My wife was telling someone the other day that she took a leave of absence from her teaching job because she was pretty positive she'd need that job the first year we went Cup racing. She wanted to go do that with me and experience that with me, so she took a leave of absence pretty much believing that she'd be asking for her job back. We've been fortunate to be doing this as long as we've done it. I love what I do. It's a way of life.
I think I have more respect for it today than I did then. I don't know why that is, but having been through the peaks and valleys of a career, I appreciate it more. I'm extremely hungry to win a championship before I'm done. I really respect people like Mark Martin and Ricky Rudd.
I respect people that have dedicated their life to this sport - Richard Petty, Richard Childress, those kinds of guys. They've done things that a lot of people could not have taken because it's hard. It's a hard way to make a living. I don't want to be a guy that's just been here for a long time. I want to be a guy that's been here a long time and been competitive."
You can't help when you were born, or when you started racing, but do you feel like you came along in a good era of NASCAR?
"I think I came along in the best era when it was unprecedented growth. I came along when the TV coverage was wide open and when the fans and sponsors were fully excited. I hope I can look back on my career and say 'it wasn't the best time in NASCAR,' but I can truly say at this point, that it is the best time. There's no question about that. My luck of timing there was great. We were afforded a lot of opportunities. If you go back and look at the Rookie of the Year class the year I came in, it was stout. There were a lot of people that won a lot of races. I think it was seven, or eight, or nine of us. Now, you look at rookie classes, and it's one or two. We came in at a time when young drivers were given an opportunity; sponsorship was there to give them an opportunity. Davey Allison and Jeff Gordon opened a lot of doors for us. People were looking for the next young guy, like a Jeff Gordon, and he gave us a lot of opportunities."
Talk about how tough Texas was for the Cat Racing team last year.
"I really don't remember it. I remember the second Texas race - that's when Jeff (Gordon) and I had our altercation. That certainly was unforgettable for me. That's been a sticking point for me. It's not something I'm proud of. It was a bad day for the No. 31 Caterpillar team and me, in particular. In the same token, Texas is a track where I've had a lot of success. At this track, we've either done really, really well or really, really bad. I was leading the race in the spring race, had a great opportunity to win the race and drove away from Hamlin. Then, we got a red flag. We sat there for 30 minutes and I don't know if we lost air pressure in the tires or what, but we couldn't run a lap after that. We finished 12th. I thought we had the race won. That was kind of how our year went. If you look at Texas, we ran really well and had a chance to win the race and finished no where as near as where we should have. Then, towards the end of the year, we had that calamity with Jeff (Gordon). Those two races summed up my year to be honest."
The spring race was an example where your car was much better than where it finished.
"There are days when you finished 12th and you're like 'alright great, we got 12th.' Then, there are days when you finish 12th, and you feel awful about it. That was definitely one of those days. We played our cards exactly right and had the right pit strategy. We just took our time all day and got to the front, drove off and then we got that red flag. It went downhill from there."
Texas, on paper, kind of looks like Charlotte or Atlanta. What makes it different?
"When they built Texas, they said it was going to be just like Charlotte but whoever was working the GPS that day missed some coordinates. They didn't quite hit the buttons correctly. Texas is just an incredibly challenging race track. The corner entries are really bizarre. Getting into turn one is very, very different than any other race track and turn three is very different than any other race track. Once you get there, there's a lot of throttle. You get into the throttle quickly, and there's a big bump in the middle of (turns) one and two that's caused a lot of issues. So, it's a difficult race track. Turn two used to be the place that everyone had trouble and that's kind of switched. It's turned into turn four being the place that a lot of people have trouble. Matter of fact, in the last few races there I've been really excited about our car because of how well it turned in turn two, but then I start watching other people and everyone's going good through (turn) two well, too. Something has changed there where turn two has become the easier corner - easier, not easy. It's still a very difficult corner, but certainly something has changed."
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