Jeff Burton has seen plenty in this his 20th full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Sponsors have come and gone, crew chiefs have changed, NASCAR has changed the racecars repeatedly, and Burton himself has switched employers a couple of times. At 45, Burton’s maturity and matter-of-factness are sought out heavily by the media. And this still after an awfully tepid last two seasons at Richard Childress Racing – a couplet that has not seen the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy on TV very often. But 2013 shows hope for Burton, who reportedly is a free agent after the season. After getting wrecked late in the Daytona 500, the Virginia driver ran 10th at Phoenix Sunday – his and the team’s first top 10 since Talladega last October. The new Gen-6 car and structural changes at RCR have left Burton and the whole organization (which had a very mediocre 2012 season) optimistic they can all rebound.

Burton and team are also enthusiastic about a new sponsor for the No. 31 Chevy. Kwikset will serve as the primary sponsor for the car at Daytona in July and as an associate sponsor throughout the season. The black, red, and white paint scheme should fit right in the RCR shop, as those are RCR’s main colors (thanks to Dale Earnhardt and GM Goodwrench) and Kevin Harvick’s sponsorships with Budweiser, Jimmy John’s, and Rheem. Burton, who has often stood for driver safety and the stability of the sport, seems a “lock” to be a successful fit for the door hardware company.

Burton’s take on NASCAR is a must with so much change these days. As he boarded a flight Burton took a couple of minutes (and held up the plane’s takeoff) to talk about the new Gen-6 car and its criticisms.

“Everyone is so quick to jump to conclusions on everything we do in life. We’re not going to have the answer immediately. Daytona was not as exciting of a race as I think that everyone hoped it would be. Phoenix was a real good race,” Burton tells News/Talk WSB.  

“This Gen-6 car was designed and developed for Vegas, for California, for Michigan, for Charlotte – the racetracks we’re getting ready to start going to. Before we make an assessment, I think we really need to get through those races. I thought Phoenix was a very good race – I thought it was every bit as good as it was last year and that [the race Sunday] was the very first downforce race for the Gen-6. There’s a lot of positives for the Gen-6. Is it gonna be perfect? No. There is never a perfect anything. This thing about an ‘aero-push’ or ‘when you’re in traffic, it doesn’t drive as well as when you are not in traffic’ – you know what? You’re not going to fix that. There’s some things that physics – no matter what you do – physics is physics. And you can influence it, but you can’t change it. I think a lot of people are looking for a silver bullet that isn’t going to come. I think that with this Gen-6 car, it’s a whole lot closer to getting what we need and that is better racing on the mile-and-a-half racetracks.”

Finally, realistic perspective. Burton’s take on the Gen-6 car foils the hype that NASCAR and most of the media has heaped on the car – both good and bad.

Listen:  as Burton also talks more about the Kwikset sponsorship, how pitching sponsors has changed for him over the years, and who he does and does not enjoy racing.