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Darlington: Jeff Burton preview

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Darlington: Jeff Burton preview
May 6, 2010, 4:37 AM

This Week's Caterpillar Chevrolet at Darlington Raceway ... Jeff Burton will pilot chassis No. 305 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend's Showtime Southern 500. Built new for 2010, this Caterpillar Chevy ...

This Week's Caterpillar Chevrolet at Darlington Raceway ... Jeff Burton will pilot chassis No. 305 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend's Showtime Southern 500. Built new for 2010, this Caterpillar Chevy will be put through its first paces this weekend.

The Darlington Report ... In 27 Sprint Cup Series starts at Darlington Raceway, Burton has posted two wins, eight top-five and 15 top-10 finishes, with only one DNF (did not finish) and three finishes outside the top 20. He holds a 21.3 starting average coupled with an impressive 11.3 finishing average and has led 786 laps of competition.

Last Time Around ... Burton and the CAT Racing team refused to surrender to adversity or the Lady in Black by overcoming a handful of setbacks to notch a respectable 12th-place finish in last year's Southern 500. Tight-handling conditions, slight pit-road hiccups and a broken shock didn't hamper the No. 31 team's spirits throughout the 367-lap contest. Collectively, they stayed focused and turned what could have been a disappointing end to an optimistic sixth-place start into a reputable finish.

JEFF BURTON:

You have a lot of respect for Darlington. Why is that?

"With no disrespect to any other race track, Daytona is the centerpiece of our sport but, Darlington, to me, has the most historic meaning of anywhere we go. Darlington has changed. It is not the way it was 40 years ago, but, it is the way it was 30 years ago. It still has that character. There are no fluke winners at Darlington. It requires you as a driver to push hard, but penalizes you when you push too hard. You have to be precise. It is a track that people that like to drive race cars like to go to. Some of the race tracks we race on, you are a rider more than a driver. This is the type of place where you can make a difference in the car. When I go there, I look at it as a huge challenge because I know that if I operate at 100 percent of my capability and my car's capability, we'll get the best finish we can. If I am at 97 percent, then we're not. That extra three percent at Darlington gets you something. It did for Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty and Bobby Allison. It is the same race track. I know the suites are cool, but, to me, going there is like stepping back in time and you don't have all that there. It is just a race track that was built around a pond that is the same way it was then. I think that has some special meaning to it."

Darlington is usually one of your better race tracks but you finished 12th last year. Do you expect to improve on last year's performance?

"We just didn't have the handle on our race car last year and the track is a lot different since they paved it. Speeds don't fall off so you're running pretty fast around a track that's not made to go that fast. So, it's changed setup and driving style and I don't think I adapted to it well last year as I needed to. I have a different game plan in mind for this weekend and we can be more successful."

How close do you feel you are to winning?

"I think we're right there. We've put ourselves consistently in position to win races. I've been in the position to win more races this year than I was all of last year. Most races we've consistently been running in the top five. We consistently have been one of the faster cars in most races. I think we certainly had a real shot at California, Martinsville, Texas and last weekend at Richmond. All those races I felt like we could have done a little better job and they were our races. We didn't do that. So, I feel like we're close. Having said that, we're ninth. It's bizarre to run the way we've run and to post the finishes that we've posted. I've been a part of a lot of different scenarios, but I've never been part of this scenario where we run this well and finish this poorly."

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