Car number: 31 • Manufacturer: Chevy • Sponsor: Cingular Wireless
Owner: Richard Childress
• Team: Richard Childress Racing
• Crew Chief: Scott Miller
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images
Final Points Standing
After First 26 Races
Lead Lap Finishes
2007 Spin We can only hope that the performance of Jeff Burton and the Cingular Wireless crew is a sign of things to come. As classy and respected as anyone in the garage, Burton and car owner Richard Childress enjoyed a successful season that reestablished RCR as a powerhouse organization.
Honestly, there is no practical reason for a dropoff from this bunch. Burton has been an above-average driver his entire career, and his team appears to be staying intact. The consistency displayed throughout the summer will be hard to replicate, as not many teams score 16-straight top 15s. But Burton just may be the man to pull it off again. He's a heady racer, not taking chances or sticking the nose of his machine where it doesn't belong. Of course, that mindset will hurt a driver in the win column, but the goal here is a championship.
Burton will easily adapt to the Car of Tomorrow. The characteristics of the car should reflect those of cars he drove in the early- to mid-'90s. Putting a little extra into the hands of Burton in terms of the car's setup itself shouldn't hurt, either.
Another win or two is now expected of this bunch. Obviously Dover, the site of his '06 triumph, is a possibility, and he had Indy won until the handle went away. However, keep an eye on him at Bristol in the first COT race. That will be a big weekend for everyone, and we think Burton might be the guy to beat.
Is another Chase appearance in the cards for Burton? We think so. One point of concern is how the team ran up front early in races last season only to be junk the last 150 laps. If you can't close a race, you can't close a championship run.
2006 Recap Jeff Burton was undoubtedly the comeback story of the year on the Nextel Cup circuit. After a miserable 2005, when the Cingular Wireless team recorded no wins, only three top 5s and finished 18th in the point standings, many had written Burton and the entire Childress organization off.
Burton came back with a vengeance in '06, however, notching his first win since 2001 to accompany seven top 5s and 20 top 10s.
Most impressive was his consistency. From the Texas event in the spring to Watkins Glen in mid-summer, Burton reeled off 16 consecutive top 15 finishes, which paved the way to a Chase bid.
Once in the Chase, JB looked as though he would cap his comeback with a title, leading the standings for four weeks. The run came apart at Martinsville when a blown motor relegated him to 42nd. The slide was on from there, as Burton averaged an 18.75-place finish in the season's final four events.
• The Good: Good may not be the right word. How about Great. Jeff Burton's thrilling duel in the waning laps with Matt Kenseth at Dover was as entertaining a show as we saw all year.
• The Bad: The two fades, at Indy and Bristol, when Burton seemingly had the car to beat until the handle went away in both events. You've got to close it out come showtime.
• The Ugly: Martinsville was this team's Waterloo. Entering the event with the points lead, Burton suffered a blown motor shortly before halfway. The team never recovered, finishing seventh in the final point standings.