Jeff Burton discusses qualifying and the tandem draft

Todd Warshaw

Jeff Burton explains why qualifying doesn't matter too much at Daytona and why he preferred the two-by-two tandem draft.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Jeff Burton is a throwback to a bygone era.

Just a few moments before strapping into his Kwikset No. 31 Chevrolet on Friday afternoon, Burton was investigating new possible fishing and hunting destination as well as the latest hot topics in short track Late Model racing.

Burton is the stereotypical southern stock car driver, focused on family and the simpler things in life.

Never one to fit in within New York City or Fifth Avenue, Burton would rather spend his free time out in the wild or at a local short track. Especially the latter, where his 12-year-old son -- Harrison -- is honing his own skills in the hopes of following in Dad's footsteps.

Joking with his crew members and friends, you couldn't tell that Burton was about to pilot his Gen-6 Sprint Cup Series machine at 190 mph around Daytona International Speedway. But once he was properly secured into his car, Burton was all business, an unchanging expression in his eyes as he awaited the track official's permission to drive off and qualify.

With the restrictor plate rules and drafting format that takes place at Daytona and Talladega, qualifying isn't as important as other tacks. That combined with the amount of grip into the racing surface following a 2010 repave and Daytona doesn't require a lot from a driver during time trials.

Burton was the sixth driver to qualify at just before 4:30 p.m. with Daytona Beach sitting at a sweltering 90 degrees. He turned a lap time of 46.699 seconds at 192.724 mph (ultimately good for 17th) and wouldn't change a lot about his performance.

"Michael Waltrip once said that anyone, even a monkey, could qualify a restrictor plate car and he's absolutely right," Burton told SB Nation on Friday after qualifying. "There's so much grip in this track and in the tire that you just steer it the right direction and hope you catch the clouds and wind at the right time."

While Burton says he can tell what kind of car he has to a degree during practice, while in race trim, he really won't know what he's capable of until the race starts on Saturday night. But even then, he already knows what to expect.

In the current restrictor plate format, drivers are mostly unable to pass at Daytona because fans demanded that NASCAR restore the big pack format following three years of the two-by-two tandem draft. Fans were not happy with that style of racing and some of Burton's peers weren't particularly fond of it either.

But Burton says he was in the minority.

"I felt like we had more control over the cars and the outcome of the race with the tandems," Burton said. "I hate to say this but I feel like it's true -- a certain subset of our fans just likes to see the crashing. I don't understand what they didn't like about the tandem racing.

"There was more passing, less crashing and you still had the dramatic side-by-side finishes."

Burton said that the drivers certainly pay attention to fan feedback and that races will be more crash-ridden after a plate event where fans were left dissatisfied. He added that the pace of Saturday's race will be decided in the middle stages.

Ultimately, Burton just wants to survive.

"It's not a good feeling going into a race where I'm 50 percent sure that I'm going to get tore up," Burton concluded. "But that's the box NASCAR has us in and we're going to do our best."

Kwikset will be the primary sponsor for the team this weekend at Daytona International Speedway and has launched a Twitter campaign and sweepstakes that will give fans a chance to win a VIP Experience with Burton and Richard Childress Racing during the Chase race at Charlotte in Oct.

For more information and to enter the sweepstakes, fans can visit www.iHeartTheMayor.com

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