Jeff Burton isn't on this week's NASCAR media availability schedule again – and all of us are worse off for it.
A few years ago, NASCAR smartly instituted what were then called "Behind the hauler chats." The top 10 drivers (that number later increased to 12) were to have a 15-minute media session every week.
Over the years, these media availabilities have evolved. Most are now conducted in the formal setting of the infield media center, though some drivers still prefer to stand at the back of their team transporter and field questions there.
And while reporters still set up one-on-one interviews with various drivers, there's no weekly interview session with a driver if he isn't in the top 12 in points.
Burton, as you probably know, isn't in the top 12 this season – or even close. His miserable start to the year, often thanks to bad luck, has left him mired in 28th place.
As a result, there's no Burton in the media center, offering his insight on the issues of the day. For the past couple years, the man they call "The Mayor" had been a media center fixture as the first interview of the day – a valuable resource for reporters.
Burton may not be one of the biggest names to fans, but he's long been considered the go-to interview for reporters. His wise, reasoned take on the hot topics not only contributed to the media's stories, but in some cases set the tone for the rest of the weekend's interviews.
Reporters don't have all the answers, and so Burton's media availabilities were also often an educational tool. And the more the media is educated on a given issue, the better they can relay that message to the fans.
At this point, though, it's looking as if this will be a Mayor-less year in the media center. And quite honestly, not having Burton give his take weekly leaves all of us – reporters and fans alike – without a much-needed, articulate voice of reason.