NASCAR & Auto Racing

Jeff Burton's philosophy: Don't worry, be winners

MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Wes Adams isn't particularly fond of the story about what happened to him and two Jeff Burton's team at Martinsville Speedway in 2006.

Burton came in leading the battle for the championship, but when he blew the engine in his No. 31 Chevrolet that afternoon it was the beginning of the end of the team's title dreams.

As soon as it was clear that Burton's car was finished that day, the driver called his team together for a quick meeting inside their hauler. As the troops began to gather, though, Adams had to hang back.

Adams, you see, is the team's engine tuner. Whatever the problem was in Burton's engine, at least as far as Adams was concerned, was his responsibility. So before he joined the impromptu team meeting, Adams walked between Burton's hauler and the one next to it and lost his lunch.

What makes that story relevant as Burton heads into Sunday's Tums 500 at Martinsville is something the driver said Saturday after winning the Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway and moving into second in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup.

"There was a lot going on that year," Burton said of 2006. "It was our first year in the Chase. We had worked really hard. It was Scott's (crew chief Scott Miller's) first year, our first year together. It was my second year at Childress. We had been through a lot of changes, a lot of stuff going on at the shop, trying to make things better.

"And it was kind of like our first shot at it. It had been a while since I had been in the mix. So we were getting accustomed to all that again. We weren't as relaxed as we wanted to be, you know, I wasn't as relaxed as I thought I could be.

"I was saying all the right things, I was doing all the right things, I thought. But at the end of the day, I was still kind of tensed up about it. So, lesson learned, and we won't do that again."

Of course, it's much easier for Burton to feel relaxed after getting his second win of the season and pulling to within 69 points of championship leader Jimmie Johnson.

But it certainly seems to be a good approach, fending off as much of the pressure as possible. Johnson, after getting through the race at Talladega, had much the same sentiment.

"I'm just trying to keep my focus on the right things and keep it simple," Johnson said. "Right now I'm not as stressed out as some of the other guys, but I still can't lighten up."

Burton laughed after his win at Charlotte when he was asked if he feels more relaxed being second and trying to catch Johnson than he did two years ago when he was leading.

"I'd rather have the lead," he said. "The only reason you wouldn't want the lead is because you're messing yourself up in your head. If somebody gave us 100 points today, I'd take them.

"Having 100 points isn't going to make us run poorly at Martinsville. That's not going to determine our level of success. We're going to do that."

Burton said he and Miller are committed to enjoying this year's Chase.

"We've come into this thing very relaxed," he said. "We just said. 'You know what? We're going to have a good time, race hard, do the best we can and it will be what it will be.'

"... Whatever happens, we look at each other at the end of the race, we all know we put a lot of effort into it. If we don't do well, we'll go back and try to do better next time. That's how we're going to approach it. That's how we've done it up to this point. That's how we're going to do it till the end of it."

And why not, Burton asked.

"I've thought a lot about this over the past two years," he said. "What not to have fun about? Honestly. We're not trying to solve world hunger. We're racing. When I was 7 years old I wanted to drive a race car. I'm 41 and I do it for a living. Why shouldn't this be fun?

"We're going to argue and fight and disagree. But at the end of the day, the reason we got into this thing was to have fun. That's why we got in it. It's really easy to start focusing on the business side of things, focusing on points and all that stuff.

"(But) we have a job that we love. What do we have to be afraid of? We're not going to be afraid of not succeeding. We're just going to have fun, go race hard, enjoy ourselves, learn from our mistakes. I'm not saying we're not going to hold ourselves accountable. We're going to do that. But we're going to do it in a way that's constructive and we're going to do it in a way that's enjoyable.

"If we can't do this, we ought to be doing something else. We live blessed lives. There's no reason not to have fun. I'm not worried about it. I'm telling you the God's honest truth. I'm not worried about it."

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