Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Cheerios Chevrolet SS team finished off a solid afternoon with a top-10 finish at Phoenix International Raceway.
After qualifying 20th for the scheduled 312-lap event, the team received news early Sunday morning they would be without the services of crew chief Luke Lambert, who returned to Charlotte, N.C., to be with his wife as the couple is expecting their second child.
Midway through the race, Burton radioed to Cope the No. 31 Chevrolet was losing grip, so Cope called for fresh Goodyear tires and fuel under the next caution period, as opposed to their two-tire pit stops earlier in the race.
Burton was scored 20th on the lap-242 restart and the handling on the car balanced out over the next 42 laps. The Richard Childress Racing driver gained 10 positions and clocked the fastest laps of any car in the field over a long green-flag run; moving him into ninth-place with seven laps to go.
Cope, worried about Burton having enough fuel to finish the race and directed the 45-year-old driver to save fuel over the final laps before the caution flag was displayed; setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
Burton managed to save enough fuel to complete the final two laps and crossed the finish line in the 10th position, collecting his first top-10 of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
Jeff Burton (Start-20 / Finish-10 / Laps Led-0 / Points-15): "Over the last 60 or so laps, we consistently had the fastest car in the field.
It was great to end it off with a top-10 finish, especially after all the adversity the team faced early in the day when Luke (Lambert, crew chief) flew home to be with his wife who was expecting their second child.
Ernie (Cope) stepped in and made great calls all day. I appreciate him and the entire No. 31 Cheerios team pulling together and working hard.
It paid off in the end with a solid finish, and we hope to build on that momentum next weekend at Las Vegas (Motor Speedway)."
Kevin Harvick and the Jimmy John's Team Finish 13th
Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Jimmy John's team battled handling issues which resulted in a 13th-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday afternoon.
The Gil Martin-led pit crew made several two and four-tire pit stops along with chassis adjustments to help alleviate the issue. During the late stages of the event, the Bakersfield, Calif., native informed the team that the Jimmy John's Chevrolet SS was as loose as it had been all day, as he began to slip back in the field.
Harvick was scored in the 10th position for the green-white-checkered finish, but was shuffled backward, ultimately crossing the finish line 13th.
Kevin Harvick (Start - 7 / Finish - 13 / Laps Led - 0 / Points - 30): "This was a tough one for the Jimmy John's team today. We had a great qualifying effort and had high hopes for this race after our win here last fall.
With the changing track conditions, we just couldn't find the right setup to get the car handling like we needed and couldn't get to the front. We'll put this race behind us and move on to Vegas."
Menard Finishes 20th in the Arizona Desert, After a Green-White-Checkered Finish
Starting from the 16th position, Paul Menard and the No. 27 Serta/Menards team faced handling issues throughout the 316-lap event, earning a 20th-place finish when the checkered flag flew at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday.
The Serta/Menards pit crew made a variety of adjustments to the Chevrolet SS in hopes of remedying the issue. The series of chassis and air pressure adjustments provided some relief to the Eau Claire, Wis., native toward the later part of the event, and Menard was scored 18th with just two laps remaining.
A late-race caution set up the field for a green-white-checkered finish. When the green-flag flew, Menard was shuffled out of line on the last lap, crossing the stripe 20th.
Paul Menard (Start - 16 / Finish - 20 / Laps Led - 0 / Points - 17): "We struggled throughout the race to find the right setup for the Serta/Menards Chevrolet, but we were never able to get exactly what we needed.
Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) and the team worked really hard to get the handling balanced, making adjustments on every pit stop. They never gave up all day.
There at the end, the car was handling better, but we just couldn't gain any track position. We'll move on and hope 'Lady Luck' is on our side at Las Vegas."
Richard Childress Racing