tampabay.com

Tight track makes for frayed nerves as Chase grows tense

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published October 22, 2006


MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Points leader Jeff Burton has finished outside the top seven just once in the first five races of the Chase for the Championship.

He'll bring a 45-point cushion over Matt Kenseth into today's Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway, along with the fervent hope that things keep going his way.

Previous Chase champions, he said, "ran well but had a lot of fortune, too. From what I've seen, that means as much as anything. You can't make your own bad luck."

But racing, especially at a tight and tricky short track like 0.526-mile Martinsville, has the ability to take many variables out of a driver's control, which puts the onus on drivers and teams to focus on what they can control and just race.

"At the end of the day, that's all you can do," Burton said. "You throw it out. You hope you throw the right pitch and hope they don't hit it out of the park."

In the eyes of many, virtually every driver in the Chase will have at least one bad week, and some feel Burton already had his. He was 27th at Talladega.

"There's no question that we've had less bad luck than everybody else," he said.

Jimmie Johnson, who comes into today seventh in the standings, 146 points out, said because of the physical nature of the racing, and the likelihood that tempers flare, running at Martinsville is unsettling.

"You can get turned around, you can cut a tire and end up on pit road from just some light contact and lose two or three laps on the racetrack," Johnson said.

"This year, where we are, I am kind of excited coming in here; we don't have as much to lose. I am kind of far out of this thing, but the luck may swing our direction.

"I have a suspicion about that for some reason."