Sunday, March 27, 2011
Jeff Burton, Joey Logano looking for answers to poor start to Sprint Cup season
The two expected Chase contenders are well back in the points standings tied at 29th.
Jeff Burton will start seventh in today's race, only the third time in the last 20 races he's started in the top 10.
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FONTANA, Calif. -- Separated by more than two decades in age, Jeff Burton and Joey Logano share a common bond of high-speed headaches and hopes this season.
Mechanical woes, accidents and other issues have dropped the preseason Chase picks into a tie for 29th in the points standings heading into today's race at Auto Club Speedway. Their slow start has led some to question if they can still make the Chase.
With 22 races left until the Chase field is set, the answer is yes, but it won't be easy. Still, that's not reassuring for both.
"It gets more frustrating every week,'' said Logano, who has not finished better than 23rd this season. "I don't think I've ever been as mad in my life as I was last weekend when my wheel broke. We fight all day to be up there and week after week after week, it just keeps building up inside of you.
"I feel like I do a good job putting it all behind me after the race. But when you're right there in it in the middle of the heat, it will get you.''
Burton, who is 23 years older than the 20-year-old Logano, has been through such slumps. Burton focuses on what can be done.
"We have to be big boys and determine why we're where we are and strive to be better,'' said Burton, who has not finished better than 20th this season.
"There's plenty of time to make it up. We haven't been sentenced to not making the Chase. We haven't been sentenced to not winning races, but we do have to do better.
"We cannot break engines. We cannot leave a wheel loose. We cannot slide through the pits. We cannot get into wrecks, things that have happened to us in the first four races. We can't allow it. This is a strong team. This is a good race team. We will bounce back. The key is you can't push. You have to be who you are. You have to strive to improve every weekend. You can't get into panic mode.''
NASCAR's new points system could make it easier to panic. Some competitors say that they think there's a greater punishment for a poor finish with this points system -- where each position is only separated by one point -- than the one used last season. Whether that's true remains to be seen, but both Burton and Logano are more than one race's worth of points out of 10th place.
Logano's saving grace has been how fast his car has been.
"The way I look at it, we should have four top-10 finishes,'' said Logano, who spent more than half the races at Daytona and Las Vegas running in the top 15 before issues. "Every single race something has happened. I kept saying that "Third time is a charm, fourth time is a charm.' I'm not going to say, "Fifth time is a charm.'
"The thing is you have to stay motivated and concentrate on the good things that are happening. The thing is we're running as good if not better than what we did at the end of last year when we had all those top 10s.''
Logano qualified third for today's race. Not far behind is Burton, who starts seventh -- only the third time in the last 20 races that he's had a top-10 start.
"If we go run well, we'll be fine,'' Burton said. "If we run well and we're not fine and it's circumstance, I sleep at night. If we go somewhere where we run well and we constantly screw it up, that drives me nuts. If we don't go and run well, that drives me nuts.
"We can't build a magic formula on how to do it. We've got to build fast race cars. I've got to drive them to their potential. We've got to have good pit stops, we've got to have good calls, we've got to do all those things that Kurt Busch has to do and Kyle Busch has to do.''