2011 Stats: Points Finish 20th, 0 Wins, 2 Top Fives, 5 Top Tens, Average Running Position 17.2, Average Finish 18.3, Laps Led 94, Driver Rating 78.7
2011 was a disaster for Jeff Burton and the 31 team. That doesn’t mean you should expect a repeat performance in 2012. I believe the reason for the down turn in performance can be traced to RCR’s expansion last season. For whatever reason RCR has had performance problems every time they make the transition to being a four car team. Jeff Burton didn’t forget how to drive, it was an organizational issue.
In 2012 RCR will downsize and become a three car team once again. I think this will be a good thing for RCR from a performance stand point. Since 2006 Jeff Burton has made the Chase every year that RCR was a three car team. In the two years they fielded four cars he finished 17th and 20th in points.
If you’re looking for a great sleeper pick on draft day pick Jeff Burton. He’s my pick for bounce back driver of the year. Last season he only had five top tens but four of them came in the last five races of the season. From a 2012 fantasy prognostication stand point that’s the best time to have them. I believe that his end of the season hot streak and RCR’s downsizing only mean good things are in store for Jeff Burton in 2012. In terms of how this fantasy preview is written I’m focusing a lot on Jeff Burton historical trends.
Strengths- Look for Jeff Burton to be at his best on intermediate tracks and the shorter flat tracks. Last year he got off to a terrible start of the season but in a typical Jeff Burton year you’ll see him at his best in this portion of the schedule.
Weaknesses- Bad luck is never far from Jeff Burton. Last season Jeff Burton ended the season on a strong note but that segment of the schedule is typically a struggle.
Intermediate Track Grade- B, Last year Burton’s performances on this track type were really bad. He only had one top ten and it came in the season finale at Homestead when he finished 10th. So why did Jeff Burton get a B? As I mentioned earlier in this preview, Jeff Burton will bounce back this year. Intermediate tracks are traditionally among his best. In 2010 Jeff Burton accumulated the 10th most points in the series on this track type.
Flat Track Grade- B, When it comes to flat tracks the smaller the better for Jeff Burton. I like him substantially more at New Hampshire and Phoenix then I do at Pocono and Indy. Last season at the newly reconfigured Phoenix he finished fourth. In 2010 Jeff Burton accumulated the 10th most points in the series on this track type.
Restrictor Plate Track Grade- B-, RCR cars are typically amongst the best in the series on plate tracks. However tough luck is never far from Jeff Burton so I typically avoid him on this track type. Last season at Talladega he was leading coming to the white flag but Clint Bowyer passed him before they crossed the checkers.
Short Track Grade- B, Jeff Burton is a really good short track driver. Last season he only had one top ten but as I’ve mentioned more than once last year wasn’t a typical Jeff Burton season. In 2010 Jeff Burton scored the 6th most points in the series on this track type. In 2009 he scored the 8th most points.
Road Course Track Grade- C+, Jeff Burton got his first top ten of the 2011 season at Watkins Glen but that doesn’t mean I like him on the serpentine tracks. They typically prove to be a struggle for the “Mayor”. Since 2003 Jeff Burton has two top tens at Watkins Glen. He hasn’t fared much better at Infineon. His average finish at these tracks is 20th (Infineon) and 21st (Watkins Glen).
How to use Jeff Burton from a Fantasy NASCAR Perspective in 2012? Look for improved performances out of the 31 team in 2012. Jeff Burton will bounce back. His best runs will come on the shorter flat tracks, short tracks and intermediate tracks. Forget 2011 and use Jeff Burton where he’s been historically strong.