Jeff Burton finds himself first in the Sprint Cup standings as he returns to Texas Motor Speedway, site of his only victory in 2007.
For the second straight season, Burton is off to a quick start. He finished in the top 15 in his first eight races of 2007, and so far this year he's matched that.
While Burton never got to first in the standings last year, he had 23 more points through six races than he's got now. He's far from satisfied even though he's already got a victory at Bristol this season.
"Every team works hard to be better," Burton said. "We have worked hard. Richard Childress Racing has looked at all the departments trying to be better. But to be honest, I don't think we're running as well right now as we did this point last year.
"Last year we were really fast, led more maps, then we kind of fell off. We got where we weren't as competitive toward the end of the year."
Burton isn't exactly right about that. He'd led 25 laps through seven races a year ago -- he led on the final lap in a great duel with Matt Kenseth in the win at Texas. Even though he led only the final two laps in the victory at Bristol two races ago, he's already led 60 laps this year.
Burton had six finishes of sixth or better through seven races a year ago. He's done that three times this year, but is working on two in a row as he returns to Texas for Sunday's Samsung 500,
"We've run anywhere from third to 10th, that's been kind of it," he said. "We haven't really been the best car anywhere, but we've been in or near the top 10 everywhere.
"We've got to be better. We know that everybody's going to step it up. If we continue to run the way we're running come July, we will be running 20th. So, we've got to find a way to be better. We have a lot of room to grow."
Burton had sixth-place finishes in the spring race at Texas two years ago and in the race last fall. In the fall race in 2007, he cut a tire and hit the wall on his way to a 38th-place finish.
That's the kind of day Burton has been able to avoid this year.
"We haven't had -- knock on wood -- we haven't had a catastrophic day that a lot of people have had," he said.
"Certainly that has a lot to do with where we are in the points."
Consistency, though, has been a trademark for the three RCR Chevrolet teams this year. Clint Bowyer finished two laps down in the race at Las Vegas, but aside from those two laps, Bowyer, Burton and Kevin Harvick have completed every lap run this year.
While Burton believes his team will have to improve to stay at or near the top of the standings, he also has been around enough to know he needs to enjoy the good times as they come.
"That's how this sport is," he said. "When things are good, you enjoy them, and you don't take it for granted. And when things are bad, you have to understand it and you can't flip out about it. You just have to focus on how to be better and learn from mistakes or whatever.
"When you run well continually, you're going to get your wins and you're going to get your top fives. But you just have to look at what the next race is, not at the last one."