DOVER, Del. – Jeff Burton doesn’t look back.
He can’t afford to.
Since he opted to leave Roush Fenway Racing during the 2004 season, there were plenty of times when the view behind appeared a better choice than the path ahead.
Yet remaining focused on what lies ahead is what helped Burton snap a career-long 175-race winless streak and qualify for the Chase for the Nextel Cup two consecutive seasons.
“When I made the decision to go to Richard Childress Racing, I resisted the temptation to look over my shoulder at what the No.99 (his former Roush team) did this week to judge if I did the right thing,” said Burton. “When I went to RCR, it was clear to me that we had work to do. We had to improve.
“It was clear to me that I was perhaps taking a step back short-term to be (successful) long-term. I had to ignore what was going on with the No.99 and that performance to see what we were doing.
“Were we making improvements? Were we stepping forward? That’s all I paid attention to.”
It took some time, but Burton and RCR improved dramatically to the point where he and teammate Kevin Harvick qualified for the Chase last season and Burton earned a victory in this race a year ago, his first in the series since 2001.
Burton, who stumbled in the first race of the Chase last weekend with an 18th-place finish, could use another victory to jump-start his championship hopes.
Although he won at Texas in April, he is still looking for his first win in a car of tomorrow race. He’ll start 36th in Sunday’s Dodge Dealers 400 at Dover International Speedway.
“Success isn’t generated by momentum. I think a lot of people confuse the two. I don’t care how pumped up you are, how excited your team is, how much belief you have in yourself, if it won’t go fast, it won’t go fast,” he said.
“That’s just the way it is. Momentum doesn’t put trophies in the cases; success puts trophies in the cases. It’s clear to me that success on this Sunday doesn’t guarantee success next Sunday. Nor does it guarantee failure.
“I don’t feel that we have any sort of advantage based on the fact that we won the race there last year. I wish I could. But the reality is that it’s a whole other world, a whole new set of rules and we need to go earn it.”
RCR again made improvements this season, as all three Cup teams made the Chase for the first time.
Teammate Clint Bowyer dominated last weekend’s race at New Hampshire, picking up his first series victory.
“For every step you take, there’s another still left that you haven’t and we need to find a way to be better. Obviously Bowyer dominated last week, but until then none of us have taken a race and said, ‘This is mine. Come take it from me.’ That’s what we need to be,” Burton said.
“Certainly three years ago we weren’t in the position to put three teams in the Chase. We didn’t have a chance. We’re a lot closer and a lot better than we were two years ago.”