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For Jeff Burton and car owner Richard Childress, it's back to the drawing boards


Will the new Las Vegas scenery change Jeff Burton's luck? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   As part of NASCAR's 'Sweet 16' – driving for Richard Childress, one of stock car racing's Big Four car owners – Jeff Burton comes into Sunday's Shelby 427 here hoping for a much better weekend than what he suffered through last weekend in California.
    Burton says he may have been driving "the worst car on the track.
  "When you come off a really bad weekend, it is hard to look your engineers in the eye and say 'I believe 100 percent in what you are doing.'
   "And it is hard for them to look you in the eye and say the same thing."
   And it wasn't just Burton struggling. So were teammates Casey Mears, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick.
   Burton said Childress' best car at California was Harvick's, "which was maybe going to finish eighth to 12th ," Burton said.
   "So for us to look at last week and think that was a successful week and that we are doing everything right is a huge mistake.
   "As long as we have been working on simulation programs, as long as we have been working on data acquisition, we still don't know a lot, we still have a lot to learn.
   "But it is real important, when things aren't going well, you've got to address them right now. You can't sit and wait and hope it is going to get better."
   Burton says he didn't unload well at California: "We were a 15th to 20th -place car.
   "Then we made a bunch of changes and quickly became a 40th -place car.
   "That was a bad day.
    "But we feel good about this track. We have run well. If there is anywhere we should be able to come and perform at a high level, this is the track. And we are looking forward to turning the corner."
   However Burton says the first three or four races of the season are always a gamble: "When you go to Daytona, we had to have three cars ready, prepared to race, ready to go.
   "And we had to assume we were going to need four cars to run the next two races.
   "So you have seven cars before you even leave for Daytona.
   "Then after what happened to us this past weekend, the stuff we had in the trailer ready to go to Vegas was the same stuff we raced in California….and, well, guess what: We ain't doing that.
    "We had to punt. We had to work.
   "Our guys had to jump through the hoops to bring a different package to Vegas.
   "It is a stressful thing."
    Maybe some testing at California might have helped?
    "I hope," Burton says.
   "One of the things the testing ban has done is that now we are testing things at the race track itself. That is out of character for our team; we are typically are pretty conservative about what we do at the track on race weekend.
    "We weren't good enough last year to lead laps and win as many races as we would like to win. So we came last week with some completely different stuff in a lot of different areas.
   "But once we got there and weren't where we needed to be, we weren't real sure where to go, because everything was so different, and we hadn't really had a chance to test it out. 
    "Now we have to stop and regroup and take a different approach for this weekend.
    "I can tell you if we had tested at California, we would have gone back with different stuff."
   So now Burton is 31st in the standings, 239 points behind leader Matt Kenseth.
   Panic might not be in the cards just yet, but Burton concedes "there is a sense of urgency.
    "If not, you are not in full understanding of the situation you are in.
    "There certainly is a sense of urgency.
    "We ran well at Daytona; we just got caught up in a bad deal at the end.
    "Then last week we ran terrible.
     "This is a results-oriented business, and we need to put some results down.
     "I wouldn't call it a sense of panic, but I definitely think a sense of urgency."


Jeff Burton (L) and long-time bud Mark Martin (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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