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A dissatisfied Jeff Burton at Bristol
Jeff Burton actually skipped the last practice at Bristol this past weekend because he was so happy with his race car. But again, lady luck dealt the veteran a very bad hand.
A blown engine in the Daytona 500 has me nervous for California. The next big test for the ECR engine.
But I think the engine troubles are behind this team. They've been good, but need to do one thing...
Qualify better. Jeff, you know better than I do, starting in the back will only lead to trouble. The RCR cars, with the exception of Menard, have not qualified well, and that can be a recipe for disaster.
Jeff needs to qualify better. His best finish of the short 2011 was last week at Bristol, and it was 20th.
This team came out to Fontana last year and dominated, RCR as a whole did. Burton finished third. His performance hasn't been bad, but his results have been. He sits 29th in the points.
I did the research, since the chase's inception in 2004, four drivers, who were worse than 29th after Atlanta (the fourth race of the season), have made the chase. Matt Kenseth was 31st in points in 2005. He followed Atlanta with a 16th place finish at Bristol, and made the 10-car chase and finished 8th.
Carl Edwards was 30th, in 2006, and ended up finishing fourth at Bristol, and 12th in the 12-car chase.
Ryan Newman's 2009 season got off to a slow start, and he was 32nd after Atlanta. He followed that up with a seventh at Bristol, and sailed home with a ninth-place points finish.
And finally, remember Mark Martin's slow start in 2009. It was a lot like Burton's. A good car, good runs, but no results. Mark was 34th after Atlanta and finished 6th at Bristol. He ended up just losing to Jimmie Johnson in the championship race, after an amazing comeback.
If there is one team back here that I believe can do it, it's Burton's. His computed average California finish is 16th. He's going to need a top-10 to come out of this thing.
If he finishes in the top-10, and goes to his home track in Martinsville with some confidence. I would watch out for him. He dominated this Martinsville race last year, before burning the bead out in his tire.