Jeff Burton has had four top-five finishes and eight top 10s this season but no victories.
It has been a good season. Not a great one.
He’s likely to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup and will have a shot at what would be his first championship.
Still, there are the questions about victory lane. And Burton, who has come so close, knows they’re out there.
“I think what you have to do is, in our case, our magic number has been like 20 – 20 laps to go it seems like things go downhill for us,” he said Friday. “I think what you have to do is to work hard, to quit waiting for something to happen. You’ve got to quit feeling like a victim, you’ve got to take accountability for what’s going on, you’ve got to love the opportunity for that 20th lap to get here because this is a race so we’re going to make it so that it works.
“It is what it is. Addressing it and paying attention to it is really all it’s about. I’ve said this before. It’s been disappointing; last week [at Daytona] was disappointing. I thought after Kyle [Busch] went out we were as good as Kyle. I thought that we were the best car, and we didn’t win. At New Hampshire, we were the best car; we didn’t win.
“One didn’t have anything to do with the other. We didn’t not win Daytona because we didn’t win New Hampshire; they had nothing to do with each other. Each one was a separate incident and each one had a separate cause. We just have to focus on what we’re doing and look at how to be better. That’s all there is to it.”
His team has to do analysis on each situation, Burton said, and figure out what should have happened and what can be done to make things better.
“We tend to oversimplify things and bunch everything up, and say, well, the 31 team is going to run fast, but they aren’t going to win because they don’t know how,” Burton said. “We don’t have that luxury. What we have to do is look at every incident, every race when we were in position and understand why we were in position and then understand what happened in each race and why we didn’t capitalize.
“When you start to do the analysis, it’s been an array of things. So we focus on trying to make those things better. When you don’t do the analysis like that, then I think it does get in your head. It does start to bother you. It’s very clear to us where we missed it, it’s very clear to us the mistakes we made, it’s also clear to us that there has been some occasions where we didn’t do anything wrong; it just that something happened. So we have addressed the things that we felt like we needed to address, while at the same time we’re addressing the things that we’re doing well. We’re doing a whole lot more good than we’re doing wrong, and we have to continue to do those things good and we have to do them better.”
In the past nine races, Burton has six finishes of eighth or better. Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway, he tries to cross the last hurdle to victory lane.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEEDtv.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.