Burton Ready For Battle

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David vs. Goliath doesn't begin to describe the battle independent NEXTEL Cup teams have on their hands against the powerhouse operations in the sport.

Ward Burton, who comes back to the series as a full-time competitor in 2007 with the now upstart Morgan-McClure team, knows what he'll be up against.

"We've got an uphill battle ahead of us," Burton said. "The guys have been working really hard and hopefully their hard work is going to pay off. It certainly is somewhat of a mountain to climb."

Making the season-opening Daytona 500 will be Burton and Morgan-McClure's first order of business, a tough nut right out of the box for teams that aren't locked in through the Top 35 in owners' points from last year.

"I think right now, with the few spots - which is basically seven spots available - if we can make that race that same feeling is going to be there again with the (team sponsor) State Water Heater effort," Burton said. "I think it's going to be tougher and there are a lot of things against us."

Certainly the NEXTEL Cup Series landscape has gotten tougher in the years Burton's been away from the circuit, which he realized would be a challenge coming back.

"It's just gotten more competitive," he said. "There are more cars. They're in a tighter bunch. I was thinking about that last week and remembering the first Busch race I had with Earnhardt and Gant. There was five or six that kind of broke away from the pack and we did that all day. Those days are gone. I think I could have my kid and 25 of his buddies that race each other in go-karts and they'd be bumper to bumper. Where 20 years ago they wouldn't. So it's just the competition has closed up. It has gotten tighter and there are a lot more solid teams than there used to be."

But despite the tighter competition and changes in the sport, Burton is still confident he and the Morgan-McClure group can succeed. And one of the keys to that success is keeping a positive attitude.

"I think it's real important to feel confidence in yourself," Burton said. "But just as importantly, that confidence that inner peace comes from and seeing a lot of light in the tunnel and seeing all the support that's going around your efforts. There is a difference between having day-to-day confidence in what you're doing and in your efforts in life versus efforts around racing."

"So it is something you have to work on really hard. It's not something that always comes easy. A lot of it is what you're surrounded with. If you're surrounded with people who are negative, it's going to rub off on you. If you're surrounded with people who are positive, it's going to rub off on you too."

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