Season Review: Jeff Burton

Jeff Burton

"It's been a fun year and it's been a really discouraging year all at the same time." (Photo: Getty Images)

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Jeff Burton 2010 Race-by-Race | 2010 Season Loop Data eBook

Jeff Burton started the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season on a high, but ended up finishing on a low.

After failing to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2009, Burton and his No. 31 team posted 13 top 10s in the 26-race regular season en route to their fourth career Chase berth. Burton sat as high as third in the standings following Watkins Glen and then started the Chase as the 10th seed.

But when the green flag waved on the Chase, Burton struggled posting the worst average finish (21.4) among all Chase drivers in the 10 races and finished 12th in the final standings, 589 points behind champion Jimmie Johnson.

The final race at Homestead-Miami saw Burton finish 31st to mark his fourth consecutive finish of 19th or worse.

"It's, obviously, very disappointing to end our season with a finish like this," said Burton, who hit the Turn 4 wall on lap 182 at HMS. "We've had a disappointing Chase, but I'm very proud of what the Cat Racing team was able to accomplish in the off season and turn our season around after a rough year in 2009. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger and we'll be ready to start after it again in February."

Burton was part of the resurgence at Richard Childress Racing, but was the only team car not to post a win this season. The No. 31 team showed strength through-out the year, posting the fourth-best average running position (12.1) and 2,382 quality passes (Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag), which was the most among all drivers.

"It's been a fun year and it's been a really discouraging year all at the same time," Burton said. "We've run well, we're fifth or sixth in laps led and we are in that same area in number of races led. Our performance has been good - not been great, but it's been good. Our average running position is much better than our average finishing position. That's why we're in the spot that we're in."

One of Burton's worst finishes in the Chase came at Texas when he was put in the spotlight after making contact with Jeff Gordon as a caution came out on lap 191. After the two climbed from their battered cars, Gordon walked up to Burton and lashed out angrily and shoved him, setting off a heated fight between the two veteran drivers that had to be broken up by NASCAR officials.

"I could tell by the gait in his walk and by the look in his eye that he wasn't coming down there to talk (laughter)," Burton said. "It's all funny now."

The 36th-place finish at Texas was Burton's second consecutive DNF after a crash at Talladega took him, and a fast car, out of contention. Burton led 11 laps in the AMP Energy Juice 500, but contact from Dale Earnhardt Jr., while the two were racing in Turns 3 and 4, sent Burton's car into a spin, resulting in heavy damage to the No. 31 Chevrolet.

“It wasn’t anything on purpose,” Burton said. "Just didn’t get lined up. I moved a little different than he thought I was going to. He didn’t do anything wrong.”

Heading into 2011, Burton knows the team needs to work on several areas in hopes of ending a 77-race winless streak that dates back to October 2008.

"We have to have better pit stops and I have to do a better job at making decisions on the race track," Burton said. "Todd’s (Berrier, crew chief) got to do a better job at making decisions on the pit box. We collectively have got to find a way to bring the speed to all the weekends that we have on some of the weekends. These are big factors, but those are the things that jump out to me that we need to be better at.

"I really think that we can go fast enough to win the championship next year, but we’ve got to find the little speed that we lost through the summer."

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