St. Petersburg Times Online: Sports
TampaBay.com
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
tampabay.com

printer version

Motorsports

Burton wants to join the fun

After two lackluster seasons, Jeff Burton is ready for a resurgence.

By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 2, 2003


Any one of the drivers from Roush Racing could be at the front of the pack today when the Winston Cup series races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Even Jeff Burton.

Remember him?

The one-time championship contender was the only Roush Racing driver not to join the multi-car team's resurgence party last season. And Burton yearns to get in on the fun.

"You never want to be the worst performing team in a multi-car team," said Burton, coming off consecutive disappointing seasons in the No. 99 Ford. "It is not a position I enjoyed. That's why we ended up making our changes. We look a lot different than we did a year ago."

Like a contender.

Energized by new crew chief Paul Andrews and several new team members, Burton is seventh in the standings with finishes of 11th and 12th in the first two races. Always strong at Las Vegas, today could be the day Burton snaps a 42-race winless streak.

"I really like Las Vegas," said Burton, the 1.5-mile track's only two-time winner with victories in 1999 and 2000. "Las Vegas is a one-groove track and handling is important, so if we can get the car handling good we'll be fine. We've had success at Las Vegas in the past, so the team is definitely looking to build on that this year."

Burton was a career-best third in the championship standings in 2000, one of three drivers in a late battle for the title. He was not a title contender in 2001, but won twice. Last season, Burton failed to win a race for the first time since 1996 and was 12th in the standings, snapping a five-year run of top-10 finishes.

Meanwhile, Roush Racing teammates Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch were grabbing headlines. Martin was the championship runner-up, finishing 38 points behind Tony Stewart. Kenseth led the series with five victories. Busch won four times, including three of the last five races.

The organization thrived.

Except for Burton.

To shake things up, crew chief Frank Stoddard, who won 12 times in four seasons with Burton, was released with 11 races left, and Andrews was hired from Dale Earnhardt Inc. During the offseason, the shock specialist, several shop employees and four members of the pit crew were replaced.

"I wanted totally new energy, a totally new environment," said Burton, 35, who has 17 career victories. "It's like I went to drive for another team and I didn't have to leave."

Though the split with Stoddard was awkward, Burton responded immediately to Andrews. He began to qualify better and had four top-10 finishes.

"I think Paul will be able to settle Jeff down some and get him better cars than he's had recently," owner Jack Roush said. "I think the team chemistry is going to improve and the fact is that Jeff went immediately to qualifying better. Even though they weren't able to win a race at the end of the season, they certainly were a factor in many races."

Andrews, a 15-year veteran with 12 victories and one championship with the late Neil Bonnett in 1992, is car-oriented. For Las Vegas he built a new car for Burton that he hopes will hug the bottom of the single-groove track.

"You definitely need to turn good up off the corners, and if you're tight then you are going to have problems the whole race," said Andrews, who spent the past three-plus seasons with driver Steve Park. "We need to make sure the car handles well on the bottom of the track. If you move up, you will get passed."

Roush Racing should again be a force today. Busch, a Las Vegas native, is leading the points for the first time in his three-year career. Martin was the inaugural Las Vegas winner in 1998 and is the only driver to complete every lap of the five races there.

Burton is tired of being left out.

"Whenever you do anything in front of the public, you lay it out there, and when you are not doing well everybody knows that," Burton said. "We certainly were not doing a good job last year. As you can see from the changes we made and the dedication that our car owner has, we are going to make it better."

Back to Sports
Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
Contact the Times | Privacy Policy
Standard of Accuracy | Terms, Conditions & Copyright
 

From the Times sports desk
  • Gary Shelton: Wake up, shape up, or gig's up
  • Hubert Mizell: A lot changed around Tampa Bay in the last 20 months

  • College basketball
  • Gators keep wits about them in W
  • Eckerd completes season sweep of Tampa
  • 'Noles put away struggling Cavs
  • Nittany Lions fall to 'Cats in 2OT
  • Golden Eagles still control Bulls at home
  • Arizona wraps up Pac-10 title
  • Sluggish UConn rallies, clinches
  • Southern Illinois 70, No.17 Creighton 62

  • Outdoors
  • A kayaking coup gone with the wind

  • In brief
  • Ward resigns as CEO of Olympic Committee
  • Rant and Rave

  • Storm
  • Howfield relishes latest chance

  • NHL
  • Slapshots
  • Devils rally to defeat Caps

  • Sailing
  • Swiss finally get their Cup

  • Baseball
  • Blue Jays have rough day

  • Boxing
  • Jones Jr. wins heavyweight crown

  • NBA
  • Spurs' 'future' stymies Kings

  • Tennis
  • Legends mix comedy with skill

  • Motorsports
  • Andretti team takes front row
  • Burton wants to join the fun

  • Golf
  • Woods, Toms go distance to make final

  • Preps
  • Warhawks soar
  • Gators can celebrate
  • Eagles' day best ever
  • Hand grabs second title
  • Pair of goals in second half wash away frustration
  • Goals for glory, but defense wins
  • Land O'Lakes, Brandon are tops
  • Cambridge comes up short
  • Clearwater dominates Seminole
  • Durant falls to late run
  • Six champs, state records point to team's dominance
  • Relay puts Wharton in second

  • Outdoors
  • Hit docks for snook while weather cool
  • Daily fishing report
  • Your turn

  • Rays
  • Sensitive subject
  • Standridge starts strong
  • It gives Gomes scare, but heart not an issue

  • Bucs
  • Bucs DB Jackson has two visits scheduled
  • Teams still seek Bucs defenders

  • Lightning
  • Convincing, confident victory
  • Roy makes news in Ottawa


  • From the wire

    From the state sports wire
  • Jacksonville's Spicer placed on IR after leg surgery
  • FIU-Western Kentucky game postponed because of Jeanne
  • Brown anxious to face old team for first time
  • Dolphins' desperate defense readies for Roethlisberger
  • Former Sarasota lineman sheds tough-guy image with Michigan
  • Rothstein rejoins Heat as assistant
  • No. 16 Florida has history on its side against Kentucky
  • FSU and Clemson QBs both off to slow starts