Burton Eyes More Texas Success

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Jeff Burton will become just the ninth driver in history to reach 900 starts in the NASCAR’s three top national series. (Photo: Getty Images)


NASCAR veteran Jeff Burton hit it off with Texas Motor Speedway right from the start - winning the track’s inaugural Sprint Cup Series race in 1997.

Like any relationship, there have been some bumps along the road in the years since.  But all in all, the two are still pretty good friends as they get together once again this weekend for Saturday night’s Samsung Mobile 500.

“Texas is a track where I’ve had a lot of success,” said Burton, one of just three Cup Series drivers with multiple wins on the Fort Worth oval, “but we’ve either done really, really well … or really, really bad.”

As Burton navigates his 18th full season in NASCAR, he’ll become just the ninth driver in history to reach 900 starts in the sport’s three top national series when he takes the green flag at TMS.  The majority of those have come in NASCAR’s top touring division – including 20 starts in the Lone Star State.

Burton is looking for a spark to ignite his 2011 season, which so far is lacking the fire that fueled his entry into last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.  Through the first six races, Burton is without a top-10 finish and sits 28th in points – nearly 100 behind leader Kyle Busch.

As good as Burton has been through the years at TMS, it’s the bitter taste of what he calls “a bad day for the No. 31 Caterpillar team” that marked his last visit there – last fall.  Contact between Burton and Jeff Gordon triggered a wreck that sidelined the No. 24 Chevrolet.

After the crash, Gordon climbed from his car, confronted Burton on the track and actually threw punches.  But none landed before the two were separated.  Burton took full responsibility for the on-track contact which left him with a 36th-place finish.

“That certainly was unforgettable for me,” he said.  “That’s been a sticking point for me; something I’m not proud of.  It was a bad day for the No. 31 Caterpillar team and me, in particular.”

On a brighter note, the 2010 spring race in Texas yielded a 12th-place finish that kept him among the top 10 in points.  Burton had to overcome a commitment line violation about a third of the way into the race, clawing his way back into contention and into the lead with 22 laps left.

But a nine-car melee resulted in a red-flag period that took the edge off Burton’s Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

“I had a great opportunity to win the race and drove away from (Denny) Hamlin,” Burton said.  “Then, we got the red flag, sat there for 30 minutes and … I don’t know if we lost air pressure in the tires or what, but we couldn’t run a lap after that.”

Hamlin won the race and returned to Texas seven months later to complete the season sweep.  Like Burton, Hamlin is looking for a strong finish Sunday to get his 2011 season back on course.  The 2010 “Chase” runner-up is presently 19th in points with just one top 10 in six starts.

Sprint Cup Series qualifying will be held late Friday afternoon, with the Samsung Mobile 500 getting the green flag shortly after 7:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday.

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