Birth date: June 29, 1967
Hometown: South Boston, Virginia
Residence: Huntersville, North Carolina
Family: wife Kim; daughter Paige; son Harrison; older brother Ward is also a Cup driver.
Jeff Burton was a model of consistency during his early years with Roush Racing, finishing Fourth, Fifth, Fifth, Third, and Tenth in points from seasons 1997 to 2001. His career then took a downturn, culminating in his surprising departure from Roush and consecutive finishes of 18th in points. Last season marked a resurgence for Burton and for his new employer, Richard Childress Racing. His Seventh-Place points finish came during a season when he returned to Victory Lane for the first time since 2001. We caught up with Burton at Daytona, two days before teammate Kevin Harvick won the Daytona 500.
SCR: Last year had to be especially gratifying-you were Seventh in points, won for the first time in four years, and really got back on track. Talk about what that was like.
BURTON: It was a good year for us. We've been building to have that kind of year. But it was a good year and a disappointing year, all at the same time. We did a nice job of putting ourselves in position and then didn't execute and get it done at the end. But we did put ourselves in position and that's really, at the end of the day, the primary goal. I think the experience last year will go a long way toward helping us in the future to close the deal.
Burton is known as one of the more thoughtful, articulate drivers on the circuit.
SCR: If you had to pinpoint one thing that helped RCR turn it around, what would that be?
BURTON: Well, obviously, Scott Miller has done a phenomenal job. His organization and his desire to compete at a high level is huge. That has a lot to do with it, as does the commitment from Richard to make changes and to be willing to look at it and say, hey, what we're doing isn't good enough, so we need to find a way to do it a lot better. He's putting a lot of resources into trying to do just that. Really, every department in the company has been changed in the last 18 months. That's really a big part of it as well.
SCR: That's the ultimate mindset for a racer-you do what you have to do to succeed.
BURTON: The hardest part of what we do is to know when to do something different. In some cases, when you're not having any success, it's easier than when you're having some success. When you're having some success, you tend to try to hold on too much, or change too much. When you're having none, then you go at it. Truly, I think that's the hardest part of this job, in this sport-knowing when to do something different.
SCR: Daytona in particular has been good to you recently. You sat on the pole for the Daytona 500 last year and ran Third in your qualifying race this year. You seem to have this place figured out somewhat.?
BURTON: I enjoy racing here. It's fun. My 500 record is pretty pathetic over the past five or six years. I don't really know why. It just seems like we've been caught up in a lot of stuff. But I enjoy racing here and I love the history of this racetrack. We need to win a Daytona 500. It's something that I certainly want to try to get done before my career is done, for sure.
SCR: From the outside looking in, I think most people expected you to be a Roush Racing lifer. How hard was it to leave there?
BURTON: Well, it was hard. Honestly, I thought I would be a Roush Racing lifer, too. As things continued there, we started having less success. There wasn't a lot of excitement about the program. It just wasn't successful, and we weren't able to do the things we needed to do. There comes a point where change is good. I don't believe change is good by itself, but good change is good. And it was time for something new for both parties. I feel like I contributed a great deal to that company in a lot of different ways. That company contributed a great deal to me. But it was time to do something a little different.