Saturday, October 18, 2008

NASCAR TV Networks Finally Warming-Up To Burton

He might not have the volatility of Tony Stewart or the youthful enthusiasm of Kyle Busch. He does not have the swagger of Clint Bowyer or the fan base of Dale Earnhardt Jr. The only thing Jeff Burton has is experience and momentum.

It has taken the NASCAR TV networks a while to warm-up to the fact that Burton is here to stay in this season's Chase for the Championship. Sunday is a good example of how SPEED and ESPN/ABC have begun to integrate Burton into the weekend coverage.

He will be a live guest on SPEED's RaceDay at 11AM. That show hits the air right after ESPN2 does a full hour of NASCAR Now at 10AM. There is little doubt that Burton will be featured by host Nicole Manske on that program as well.

SPEED recently had Burton on Trackside and ESPN had him stop-by the Infield Pit Studio to chat. On Sunday, after running the entire Martinsville race, Burton will be Dave Despain's guest on Wind Tunnel. That might be the only time fans may have the opportunity to ask Burton their own questions on television.

The coverage of NASCAR began by both ESPN and SPEED back in February. Burton was not even a blip on the radar. Then, the Toyota era of Kyle Busch exploded and Burton faded even further out of range. The TV networks tried to keep Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the picture, but the dominance of Busch and JGR made it hard to do.

When the networks talked about Richard Childress Racing, it was usually Clint Bowyer or Kevin Harvick who were the topics of conversation. How did race fans remember Burton? He was the nice guy in the commercial driving so slow his kids were embarrassed.

As The Chase unfolded, there was almost a sense of loss on the part of the NASCAR on ESPN team as Kyle Busch began to fade. The network tried hard to keep Johnson and Edwards front-and-center, but once again reality re-wrote the ESPN script.

It was Greg Biffle who grabbed the early publicity. A regular on SPEED's This Week In NASCAR, Biffle has finally been mellowed by marriage and seems happy to just be in the running. For SPEED viewers, Biffle was already someone they knew quite well. Now, it seems to be Burton's turn in the spotlight.

In a very difficult time for the sport and the country in general, Burton may be just the "face" that NASCAR needs in front of as many TV cameras as possible. As the unofficial mayor of the Sprint Cup garage, Burton has been the thoughtful man behind many ideas that ultimately resulted in change in the sport.

As NASCAR fans watch the Sunday racing TV shows unfold, it will be Burton and his personality of quiet dignity and good family values that is seen nationwide. Should he come away from Martinsville with a strong performance, Dave Despain and Wind Tunnel may wind-up with a much more interesting interview than they originally imagined.

The one missing component that the TV networks have yet to show is an interview with Burton's older brother Ward who has a long NASCAR history. In the past, these two made quite a pair when interviewed together. Jeff was often referred to as Ward's translator. Perhaps, Despain and his staff might dial-up Ward on Sunday night and add that missing piece of the Burton puzzle.

So, with only five races left in the season, fans should see a lot more of Burton on Sunday then they normally would. How all this media exposure will affect him both on and off the track will be something to watch over the next month.

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Photojosh said...

About darn time.

Burton is a quality driver and a quality person. Drives respectful, but finishes well. When he's interviewed, I actually am eager to hear what he has to say. When some of the "cool kids" are interviewed, I just want to punch the girl sunglasses of their whiny faces.

I'd be happy to see Jeff Burton win the cup title. The only thing better would be Jeff winning and Mark Martin winning next year.

More power to the sports REAL men.

Anonymous said...

If they took awhile to warm up to Burton being in the Chase, it's because Mr. Consistency was not a challenger until this last week. I mean, each of the last two weeks, with Johnson, Edwards, and Biffle locked so tightly in points, it would have been a little odd to include Burton any more than they did. Likewise, I bet it will be Edwards who gets the virtual cold shoulder. Double likewise, I bet if Burton or Biffle's engine blows up and drops them 150 pts back, the coverage on them will shrink, too.

Burton fans knew he was a factor, but the standings did not reflect as much until after the last race.

Lesley said...

Burton is lucky that he has a wife who stands behind him, and not just with him!It seems like he has always known what he wanted,In racing,and in life!! Go get um Jeff!!

Anonymous said...

I have the highest respect for Jeff Burton. He drives hard, is consistent and represents Nascar well. But, in my mind, he's not "Cup Champion". How many races has he won this year or in the last five years? How many laps has he led this year? My opinion is that the Champion should be a front runner during the 26 race pre-Chase and the Chase. I hope this year isn't a repeat of the season Matt Kenseth won the Title that resulted in so much controversy.

Rockin Rich said...

I too would like to see Ward brought back into the mix. I am of the opinion that Bill Davis did him wrong several years ago, and started his slide to lower tier teams. Plus, we all know that Ward was "born on the southern side of the house", and that makes him old school NASCAR.

JD: might be an interesting subject to expound on "As the unofficial mayor of the Sprint Cup garage, Burton has been the thoughtful man behind many ideas that ultimately resulted in change in the sport." that you write in this article.

cvt said...

Jeff Burton has the unique distinction of being the first NASCAR driver to use the word "microcosm" during a tv interview!

midasmicahone said...

As a fan of Jeff Burton since the mid nineties, it's nice to see him get his just due AGAIN. People tend to forget that in a five year period from 1997 to 2001 he finished in the top five in the points a few times. It was hard to watch him struggle at Rousch for a couple of years. It was obvious that Rousch was enamored by the young drivers (Edwards per say) To the Rousch contingent he wasn't exciting enough to sell. It's sad that someone with so much class and dignity and talent got shown the door. I have memorablia from the nineties to the present. He's not called the mayor of the garage for nothing. I'm hoping he finally wins a title . It will proove that good guys do finish first.

3bud said...

Jeff Burton is a class act, he also was on Richard Childress and Dale Earnhardt's radar to take over the 3 car when Dale retired, I believe he also had alot to do with turning things in the right direction at RCR. I think it would be interesting to see Jeff win the Sprint Cup championship in the ATT car. Bring back WARD!

Newracefan said...

I heard Jeff once say that he is a lot of peoples second favorite driver and he's OK with that, that is truly a classy statement. I am a 48 fan so obviously I am hoping he 3peats however if he can not I'd be comfortable with Jeff or Greg (even putting Greg in there says a lot for him because I can not stand his car owner, guess it's the TWIN effect). The reason I am comfortable with Jeff is because of the way the others in the garage speak about him and I do not mean his teammates that speaks volumns to me.

Vicky D said...

Jeff Burton was never my favorite driver although he was my second favorite, but next year will be a different story when Caterpillar takes over the sponsorship of his car. Maybe Jeff & Waaaaarrrrrdd can do some commercials together too that should be fun.

Anonymous said...

Jeff has never been my favorite driver. He is one of the drivers who I read what he says when the controversy swirls, or when he is interviewed on TV.

He is always well spoken, just a nice solid guy, who does not wear sunglasses when interviewed, does not speak in plural (?) using the royal "we" when he refers to himself.
Just an intelligent racer, who is not some shiny new driverboy like S.Speed.And that IS a compliment!

Anonymous said...

I miss the Sweet Babboo (Ward) as well Rich! I wish he'd find a home again :(

I really like Jeff and he's very intelligent :). I'd so love it for him to win!

Anonymous said...

like the idea of Burton winning the Championship, but hate the idea of ESPN kissing up to RCR.

daharp111 said...

HELPPPPP 2nd week in a row the audio is breaking up only durning the race Directv says it's the feed from ESPN all the phone #'s I can find for ESPN appear to be fax lines JD please help!

Daly Planet Editor said...


There is no problem with the ESPN feed and no one else is reporting problems with DirecTV feed.

We would have tons of screaming fans if there was a problem.

It may well be time for a local repair guy just to take a look.

BTW - there is a new post up for the in-progress race comments. Just refresh your browser or click on the top TDP logo.


Anonymous said...

JD thanks for getting back to me but my neighboor is having the same problem and he has dish network and directv told me they were having a problem with the feed so I don't know what to think but thanks

Anonymous said...

I really like Jeff Burton. Like has been said, he's nice guy, good driver, and nice family man. Does that qualify him to be the face of NASCAR? I say no.

Jeff is pretty much vanilla, or plain toast. That's probably the same reason it has taken NASCAR press to warm up to Jimmie Johnson.

Jimmie can be described as a nice guy, goor driver, and nice family man. Since JJ came on the scene, no other driver has beaten him head to head. NO ONE.

I could not believe how they ignored JJ and kept on saying that Kyle Bush was great thing. This is while they were both working for HMS. I mean JJ had 14 wins his first 3 years, Kyle only had 4.

Since JJ started Cup, he had never finished higher than 5th. He is finally getting his dues. I think the difference between these 2 nice guys is that JJ is a Cup champion and Jeff B is not.

In troubled times like we have now in the country, I think the face of NASCAR should be all the drivers who give back. The fans know how much these guys make, so it's great to see the drivers who give back a lot of their money to worthy causes.

A good example are the Petty's and their Victory Junction which is free to special needs kids, JJ who gave his winnings to his hometown when they had the major firesand built several houses with Habitat for Humanilty, Jeff Gordon who has granted hundreds and hundreds of wishes from Make a Wish Foundation, built a Children's hospital, Biffle and Newman who do so much for pets, etc.

As far as I know, Jeff Burton does not have a foundation (though Ward does)

Anonymous said...

The face of NASCAR:

The town of Greensburg, KS was 95% destroyed by a tornado and Jeff Gordon and DuPont with Habitat and built a bunch of homes.

By using his fame, Jeff G is able to get others to contribute to this worthy cause.

Maruth said...

I agree with you. Jeff Burton doesn't get as much media hype as Kyle Busch or Carl Edwards, but he's a great race car driver and doesn't make media hype for himself as much as those guys, which is sometimes a good thing because true talent will win out in the end.