THIS WEEK IN NASCABurton stays cool under pressure No driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series understands the obligations of his job more than Richard Childress Racing’s Jeff Burton. Burton, 41, is cool under pressure. He is analytical and articulate. He doesn’t often speak without gauging the effect and significance of his words. This isn’t just handy in the media center. It’s beneficial to the team. Burton isn’t just a team player by nature. It’s something he considers important. He’s right. Just as canny on the track, Burton was asked at Phoenix about the knack of formulating competent strategy for the final laps of races. “It depends on the kind of race,” he said. “Talladega has the potential of being a 20car pack, with 23 others in the garage, or a 35-car pack. The bigger the pack, the more the danger. “If something happens with three laps to go, and the first four break away, then being in the front is not as dangerous. Being in the front is dangerous when the guys behind you can get momentum and come get you…. I do believe, in the old car, you were more protected up front than you are in the new car. With the new car [once known by the acronym COT], you seem to be a little more of a sitting duck than you were in the old car.” In 2008, all three RCR entries made the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but the team won only three races, two of them courtesy of Burton. “I would stack our team up against anybody,” said Burton, a native of South Boston, Va. “I feel really, really good about the way our cars go down the straights. I think we make a lot of power. What we have struggled with is ‘deep speed.’ If you go back and look at most of the races that we’ve won, they’ve been long-run races, they’ve been races that had adverse conditions, slick tracks and those kind of things. “For us to achieve all the goals that we want to achieve, we’ve got to find a way to win races no matter what the conditions are.” *** Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week ( features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E- mail Monte at (c) 2009 King Features Synd., Inc. Jeff Burton (left) has the skills to compete with the Sprint Cup pack. He currently sits 11 th in the standings. (photo by John Clark)