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Jeff Burton versus Kyle Busch? The Update

  Kyle Busch (L) and Jeff Burton (R): a new level of understanding between these two title contenders (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   POCONO, Pa.
   Jeff Burton is still hot at Kyle Busch for their late-race run-in at Charlotte in last Sunday's 600, but he has cooled off.
   "My perspective now is the same it was last week, that Kyle made it three-wide and cut my left-rear tire," Burton said, just before the start of practice Friday for Sunday's Pocono 500.
   "I was madder last week than I am today.
   "He didn't mean to get into me. He was just being aggressive and made a mistake.
   "But we've been in position to run good several times this year and don't have a lot to show for it. It is frustrating...and you saw that Sunday night.
   "We haven't talked. Not that we've avoided each other. I was in Watkins Glen the last two days.
   "I like racing with Kyle. I don't have a problem with Kyle. We won't have any problem moving forward.
   "We can talk about it, but honestly there's not a lot to talk about.
   "It's hard to deal with a situation when someone is in your face (as Burton was with Busch post race on pit road), but Kyle handled it well."

    Greg Biffle weighed in on the debate, and he came down firmly on Burton's side: "There is a cracking point for everybody.
   "It is the longest race of the season. You have run 595 miles of a 600-mile race, and a guy drives into your left-rear tire and cuts it down...
    "Anybody is going to get ticked off.
    "He (Burton) was driving straight ahead. It is hard to run into something going straight ahead, it really is. That doesn't take any skill.
    "If the space isn't wide enough for your car to pull in, and you try to pull into it, you are going to have a problem. It just doesn't work.
    "It would be one thing if they were in the corner and he (Busch) slid up a little bit. But when you are driving straight ahead and just drive into the quarter panel, that's another story. 
    "I've watched the replay, and it didn't look like the gap closed up; it looked like the gap just wasn't there. 
    "I saw the contact on TV just like everyone. And the reality is that the contact wasn't necessary."

    And Kyle's side today?
    "I just was shocked where he came from, because I didn't know where he finished," Busch says.
    "And I didn't know what he was mad about. 
     "I thought he still ran sixth or seventh. So I was like 'Where did this guy come from?'
     "It was just a spot of 'the heat of the moment.'
      "I think we can both move forward and put this behind us and just try to race each other with dignity and respect...as much as we have.
     "He says there is no need to talk. 
       "Until seeing a little more of the replay -- and until seeing my car after the race -- I had no idea how I touched him or cut his left-rear tire down. But after the race there's a four-inch piece of my car sticking out wider than it normally is: It was like a tire spear, from the repairs that my guys did. And that's what got into his tire. 
      "I had no idea my car was four inches wider.
     "But that's no excuse for what happened. 
       "It was unfortunate him and those guys. They had a solid run going. I hate they didn't get a good finish like they deserved."
     "It was just an unfortunate circumstance, and hopefully we can look forward and try to move on and race each other well here on out."
    Burton's response was out of character. He's normally quite mild-mannered.
    "But Jeff Gordon is normally a well-mannered guy too," Busch noted, "and he was awfully frustrated earlier this year with Jimmie Johnson.
    "I don't know if that just comes out of not being able to get to victory lane after having great race cars (this season) or not. 
     "They'll get there. 
      "Jeff Gordon is not not going to win a race again; Jeff Burton is the same: He's got a long time that he can still win races.
     "Yeah, it's frustrating when you are running as good as they are and have a shot to win and miss out on the opportunity. But those guys' last opportunity has not gone by."
    And Busch was able to laugh at himself, and his reputation: "You know I don't get benefit of the doubt, ever.  So it's all my fault....
     "If I would have done that (Burton's outburst), it would have been called childish antics. 
     "I guess I look at it and try to learn -- which I guess is to not make it three-wide on the restart, and stay inline and work my way up through the field some other way. 
     "But I felt I did what I needed to do for my team."

     Jeff Burton: Best shot ever at a NASCAR championship...and he'll have to race Kyle Busch for it (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

     Burton says he was just asking Busch for more respect.
   And he concedes he may have stepped over the line with his post-race display.
    "Not everything I do is calculated.  Sometimes I make mistakes...." Burton said. "I didn't exactly go over there after sitting down and having a thoughtful conversation about the right way to handle that situation. 
     "A lot of that, or most of that, was emotion.  Whether that's productive or not can always be debated.  At the time I didn't really care if it was productive or not. 
     "That's a little out of my character...but that's part of having a passion for the sport and a passion to succeed. 
     "I work hard at what I do.  I don't play golf on Tuesdays; I work.  I put a lot of time into what I do. I try real hard.  I consider myself to be a guy that never quits. And I take a lot of pride in that. 
     "I'm going to be respected, for sure.
     "I'm here for a reason, and it's not to be part of a game, it's to win. And I think this is my best shot to ever win a championship.
     "Because of my passion for it, every now and then I'm going to behave in a way I probably shouldn't.  I crossed the line a little bit last week, but I don't regret it. 
     "I did cross the line a little...and could have been more productive by having a conversation on Monday rather than Sunday night."
    And Burton then gave a nod toward Busch: "I understand it was heated. To his credit, he handled that pretty well. It's hard when somebody is in your face; but he handled it well, his crew handled it well."
      "It's a new week," Burton said.
    "I won't race him any differently, and I don't think he'll race me any differently. 
     "I think we're both professionals.  Kyle's consistent, and I think I'm consistent. 
      "I'm coming to Pocono to race Pocono; I'm not coming to Pocono to race Kyle. 
      "I'm not interested in a weekly confrontation.  I don't like them.
       "This is an emotional sport.  I've been that mad plenty of times. Usually when you get that mad, you have time to get over it before the race is over.  In that case, I didn't.
       "I've heard people say 'That's the maddest I've ever seen him.'
      "That's not the maddest I've ever been, I can guarantee you that. 
      "By the way, I wasn't mad Monday morning when I woke up.  It was over. 
     "Ten years ago I would have still been mad today. 
     "What I've learned is that this is an emotional sport and everybody tries hard. 
     "Kyle didn't set out to cut my left rear tire; he set out to go try to win the race.  That's what he’s supposed to do. 
     "All I was asking for was just a little more respect.
     "I don't want to keep reliving this. I've got a 14-year old daughter: I have all the drama I need."

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     Kyle Busch (L) has caught fire this spring with new crew chief Dave Rogers (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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