Chase Seed No. 7: Jeff Burton

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This is not, to borrow from the old cliche handbook, Jeff Burton's first rodeo.

The veteran driver made his 500th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start this season and comes into the 2008 edition of the Chase with enough championship run experience to impress anyone.

But Burton hasn't been able to seal the deal and win a title during his stellar career, something he would dearly like to erase from his record this season.

“Our first goal was to get in the Chase and now that we got that done, we have to find a way to step it up," said Burton after his sixth place finish in Sunday's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond.

"The fact that Kyle (Busch), Jimmie (Johnson) and Carl (Edwards) have separated themselves means that we have to find a way to answer that call. Our finish today proves that we are headed in that direction. We just have to keep our focus on the prize.”

Burton has shown he can be a force in the Chase before, running out to an early lead two years ago and leading the standings at the mid-point of the championship stretch.

But he faded and did the same a year ago, a trend Burton wants to reverse.

"Our results don’t indicate it and the results are the only thing that matters, but I do believe that we are better than we were six months ago or four months ago," Burton said of his Richard Childress Racing No. 31 AT&T team. "What we have to do is much the same thing that we did in 2006, we have to step it up right now. Well that’s not necessarily true; we have to step it up next week (heading to Loudon).

"Going into 2006 we were our best in the Chase. We put ourselves in position to win so that’s what we have to do. We just have to perform a little better and we have to execute. We did a great job of executing the first half of the year or the first half of the regular season. The last third of the regular season we haven’t executed."

Don't count Burton among those who simply want to hand the title to one of the "Big Three," Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards or Jimmie Johnson.

“It’s the same thing people said about the New England Patriots last year," he explained. "You know the New England Patriots were undefeated and nobody could beat them. The Giants couldn’t play and Eli Manning sucked and the coach was terrible, let’s face it that’s what they said right?"

"You got to show them that you can beat them. Once you show that whoever it is the hot dog at that moment, once you show them that you can deal with them then that changes their mindset and now its game on. I wouldn’t consider it a fluke if someone else won.”

Including Burton himself.

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