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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Jeff Burton a Title Contender to Some, a Man of Character to All

As the first press conferences of the day from Lowe’s Motor Speedway unfolded, no one was surprised to hear the recent controversies of Talladega repeatedly mentioned. Be it the yellow line pass of Regan Smith or Carl Edwards’s bump-draft that took out two fellow Roushketeers, there was certainly plenty to ask about from Sunday.

But what was perhaps unexpectedly prevalent was discussion by fellow drivers of their perceptions of an emerging Chase darkhorse from that race – fourth-place finisher and points man Jeff Burton. It’s a sign of how Burton remains the steady veteran in this Chase, a man whose presence demands that no one forgets his possible impact.

Burton was the first driver to speak in the media center this afternoon, and his remarks were both insightful and outspoken, just as all race fans have come to expect. He professed his enjoyment of racing at LMS. He questioned the ability of some drivers to let wrecks at tracks like Talladega and Martinsville just go (“Wrecks don’t just happen by themselves, they are caused by the drivers.”) He referred to anyone that questioned whether Jeff Gordon has slid as a driver as someone who “lost their mind.”

And he was perhaps clearest of all as to his chances at scoring a Cup out of this year’s Chase.

“They’ve (the No. 48 team) done it better than what we have, and we just got to go knock them off [their perch],” he said. “We can’t ask them nicely to give it to us, we just got to go take it from them. That’s what we’ve got to go do.”

There’s no question that Burton and his No. 31 team are aware of the challenge ahead to claim the title. But there seems to be question among his fellow competitors as to whether or not others even have a shot at stopping Jimmie Johnson’s push for a three-peat. When asked if this Chase was simply Johnson’s to lose, Greg Biffle responded simply, “I think that’s clear.”

Matt Kenseth was more optimistic that the No. 48 could be overcome.

“In my book, the [No.] 48 is probably pretty heavily the favorite right now, but [72 is] not a lot of points, and you know one flat tire or one broken part can change the way the whole thing looks. I hope Greg [Biffle] and Carl [Edwards] can get back in it, and hopefully have a tight race down to the end.”

Note that Burton didn’t come to Kenseth’s mind, despite being fourth in points and only 99 out of the lead. Perhaps most telling were the words of Burton’s RCR teammate, Kevin Harvick. When questioned regarding Burton’s status as a threat to win the Cup title this season, Harvick bluntly stated, “You know, right now I think the No. 48 car is the car to beat, and I think it’s theirs to lose.”

Not every driver in the Chase, however, is discounting Burton – and that includes Johnson himself.

“I absolutely believe that Jeff Burton is a threat for this championship,” he said. “He’s far from a push-over.”

And while fellow Chasers were not in consensus regarding Burton’s contender status, his character remains above reproach.

Said Johnson of his fellow competitor, “He is a man of his word. He races people with respect. He acts that way through the garage area.”

Johnson recalls an incident from 2004 in which Burton plowed over Johnson’s Chevrolet late in the running at Martinsville as a prime example.

“He comes in the garage area, comes into the transporter after the race, through all my guys who are just as mad at him as I am. Walked through and came up to me and said, “‘Hey, I am not making up any excuses, I ran you over and I thought I should be here as a man and tell you that I meant to move you out of the way. Sorry I got so rough with you, but I intended to do that.’”

“I thought, well, at least he didn’t lie to me and say,’ Hey buddy, I didn’t mean to do that.’ So I have a lot of respect for him.”

Teammate Harvick was even more complimentary.

“You know, Jeff Burton is one of the best people you’ll ever meet no matter if you’re in the garage or just in everyday life.”

“I think Jeff Burton’s helped me more as a person than he’s helped me as a racecar driver, and that’s more rewarding than anything that you can do.”

Harvick referred to Burton as a man who knows how to make things work. And while it remains to be seen whether Burton and his No. 31 team can work their 2008 campaign into a championship, there’s no doubt that as a racer, a teammate, and a man, Jeff Burton has certainly made his career in NASCAR racing work.

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4 thoughts on “Jeff Burton a Title Contender to Some, a Man of Character to All”

  1. What can you say about Jeff Burton?? I mean the guy is really something else.I have been following his career since 1997.It has been a roller-coaster ride to say the least.I remember every single up and every single down.Every great finish and every tough day…always handled with such style..

    This is the part some may find a little crazy.In 2004 I stopped drinking because it was ruining my life..I was watching a race at texas and the un-sponsored 99 car was closing in on leader Jeremy Mayfield.There were not many laps left and Mayfield was on old tires because he stayed out…the 99 was going under Mayfield and got crossed up near the start finish line and spun around.

    The 99 car was not really that good day but the driver was incredible..as he always is.He was just going for it.Trying to make something happen.As he always does…

    Anyways,after his interview which I painfully watched,He explained how you just need to keep diggin every single day of your life…no matter if it’s on a race track or not,you must keep diggin

    I thought that if he can drive that un-sponsored pile of junk every weekend and never,ever even get remotely close to giving up then I can stop drinking…And I did it…And it led to a huge turn around.I have made the “chase” every year since…I’m coming up on 5 years.5 years of hard diggin…

    I climb in that car every weekend with that driver…and continue to learn lifes lessons from someone that I don’t know

    Jeff Burton is a championship on and off the race track no matter what happens with the rest of 2008…

    I obviously take pride in his gritty determination…and in the fact that every single weekend,even during the dark days of the un-sponsored 99 car,I never stopped believing in this mans courage…

    He’s my champion
    Keep Diggin

  2. Jeff will have a good safe run in the Chase. He will probably finish in the top half.
    He will, however not be a serious threat to win.
    No disrespect intended, but he is a points stroker, in the Mark Martin mold. Points strokers consistently finish high. I suppose, if ALL the stars, & planets aligned. One could win a championship, but it hasn’t happened yet, & I personally hope it never dose.

  3. yea,your right…he’s not a “threat to win”

    point stroker??? the guy is 110% every frikin lap…

    i’m thinking you failed astronomy…

    your statement was not disrespectful…just ignorant as hell…

    hope you enjoyed the race there numb nuttzz!!!

    keep diggin
    31 car

  4. Jeff Burton is Mark Martin minus the wrinkles; he even holds the steering wheel the same. If there is one driver who is contending for the Cup who “deserves” it….it is Jeff Burton. Never gets involved in controversy, and you’ll never see him getting thrown onto the hood of a car or getting choked in the garage area.

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