When Jeff Burton jumps into a Chevrolet for the first time next week, he expects to give Richard Childress Racing a solid effort at Michigan International Speedway.
Burton, a 17-time winner in NASCAR's top series, will move from Roush Racing to the Childress team, where he will replace Dave Blaney. Burton has competed exclusively in Fords since 1993 and realizes it might take some time to feel comfortable in a Chevy.
"It better not take long, they're not going to wait for us," Burton said yesterday at Watkins Glen International, where he'll take his last ride tomorrow for Jack Roush. "No matter what happens, they don't wait to hold these races for you."
Childress said no time will be wasted in an attempt to reduce the severity of Burton's learning curve.
"We're going to start bright and early Monday morning," the car owner said.
But that could be delayed if tomorrow's Sirius at The Glen is postponed. The forecast is for rain from approaching Hurricane Charley, which would upset the Chevy indoctrination plan.
Weather took its toll yesterday, when qualifying was rained out, putting Nextel Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson on the pole. Teammate Jeff Gordon, a four-time winner on the road course coming off a victory last Sunday at Indianapolis, will start second as he tries for his fourth win in seven races and series-leading sixth overall.
Rain is expected today, meaning the cars could be denied practice time. Johnson would like the seat time, but cherishes the gift pole.
"It's important to have track position here and you can't ask for anything better than the position we're in," Johnson said. "We're in good shape."
The rest of the top 10 starters, also set by car-owner points, will be Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Elliott Sadler, Kurt Busch, Bobby Labonte, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman.
Burton, who will start 24th tomorrow, says he is approaching the GSF Marketplace 400 at Michigan as he would any other race.
"We don't have time to be goofing off," said Burton, the 1994 rookie of the year. "It's our responsibility to get in there and get going and figure out what we can do to be the best team at Michigan."
For Roush, the release of Burton was difficult from an emotional aspect, but left him feeling good about what he did. The car owner carried the 37-year-old Virginian despite a lack of sponsorship after Citgo departed last November.
"He has been such a friend, we've been involved with him for so long and he's been such a great ambassador for NASCAR, I wasn't going to be the guy who put Jeff Burton on the street," Roush said.
-- From News Services