In the Fast Lane: After two somewhat difficult weekends to begin the 2009 Sprint Cup season, Jeff Burton is ready to turn things around.
After two somewhat difficult weekends to begin the 2009 Sprint Cup season, Jeff Burton is ready to turn things around.
And there's no better place for him to do that than this weekend's event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
In 11 races at LVMS, Caterpillar-sponsored Burton has an average finish of 10.5 with wins in 1999-2000 (driving for Roush Racing) and five other top-10 finishes.
Last year, he placed fifth.
"Las Vegas is a track I'm comfortable racing on," said Burton. "I think we have learned a lot from previous races that has helped us have good starting points every time we unload there. So, based on the date we gathered from last year's event and off-season preparation, I know we'll have a competitive Caterpillar Chevrolet."
Burton's 28th-place Daytona result can be chalked up to rain and restrictor-plate racing. But his 32nd place finish at California was a disappointment. In fact, all the Richard Childress drivers except Kevin Harvick ran poorly.
"Obviously, we didn't have the weekend we were expecting at California," Burton said. "You always want to get your year started off on the right foot and based on our performance in Fontana, we have some work to do. (Harvick's team) hit on something because they were running in the top 10.
"We'll have to work off of that, take our best-laid plans to Vegas and hope that what we brought will be something we can run with the leaders with."
Winless at Vegas
LVMS is one of four tracks where Richard Childress Racing has not won. The others are Auto Club/California, Homestead-Miami and Kansas.
Vegas also is the one track at which Tony Stewart has not won, after taking the checkers at Talladega, California and Darlington last year.
Two of those check marks came in the Nationwide Series, where Stewart is running infrequently this year.
It's been a good start to the season to the rookie team owner. He's one of three drivers who finished in the top 10 in both races, along with Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch, and led laps in each.
"These early races teach you very quickly where your program is compared to the competition," said Stewart. "If your cars are good, you'll run well at California, Vegas, Atlanta, Texas and so on. Everybody wants to know where they stack up and shake up right now. If you can get off to a good start, it shows that your program is really where it needs to be. This is a huge week."
Everything but a win
Kyle Busch has run all six of NASCAR's point-paying races in its top three divisions this year, finishing in the top four in five of those races. He was involved in the Brian Vickers-Dale Earnhardt Jr. wreck in the Daytona 500.
And in those six races, he's led 358 of a possible 843 laps, or 42.4 percent of the laps available.
NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps is keeping up a Kenseth-like pace, winning his first two races of the season.
It's the first time that's been done in Funny Car since John Force opened with back-to-back wins in 1997.
Capps went winless last year with new sponsor NAPA but credits crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch's starting-from-scratch tuneups for the great start to this season.
"It's like a really good cook learning how to cook again completely differently," he said. "The car is just so different to run, to feel, and it puts me in the trunk at half-track.
"Our focus this year is to roll into each race and rip their hearts out in each run (and) focus on winning each race."
Cat Entertainment Services has announced that NASCAR Productions has renewed a multi-year agreement to provide power for its televised events.
CES uses specialized generators to power the NASCAR Media Group TV compound.
This is the ninth year for that partnership.
Jane Miller is the Peoria Journal Star motorsports columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.