Tough Break for Burton, Cat Racing Team at Martinsville After a dominating performance throughout the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Jeff Burton and the Cat Racing team saw a potential win vanish into thin air when a cut...
Tough Break for Burton, Cat Racing Team at Martinsville
After a dominating performance throughout the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Jeff Burton and the Cat Racing team saw a potential win vanish into thin air when a cut right-front tire 15 laps from the scheduled distance forced them to pit road that resulted in a 20th-place finish.
Although the finish doesn't reflect how well the Caterpillar Chevrolet ran all day, the Todd Berrier-led team vaulted two spots, to fifth, in the championship point standings. Six races into the young 2010 season, Burton sits 113 markers in arrears to current point leader Jimmie Johnson and 51 points forward of the coveted 12th-place position.
Mother Nature made her presence known during race weekend in Southern Virginia. She had plans of her own that included washing out both Friday's qualifying session and Sunday's 500-lap main feature. Luckily, the weather held off during all three practice sessions, allowing all 43 teams to make laps and find their best chassis setup for the 266-mile event.
Burton and Company found themselves 21st on the board during opening day's practice session and immediately went to work for Saturday's dual practice sessions. Hard work in the form of adversity shined through as the South Boston, Va., native led the first session and followed that up with the second-fast time in the final stint, posting a time that was only three one-thousandth's behind the leader.
Monday afternoon's Chamber of Commerce weather welcomed back race fans, drivers and teams for short-track racing that began just after noon local time.
With the starting grid lined up according to the owner point standings heading into the race, RCR teammate Kevin Harvick led the field to green with Burton, the 1997 Martinsville race winner, rolling off seventh. He fell as far back as 13th by lap 49 but quickly got in his rhythm and began making his march toward the front.
The veteran driver cracked the top 10 at lap 54 and briskly made his way into the top five 19 laps later.
Slight changes here and there to the Caterpillar Chevy during a couple of pit stops helped the 21-time Sprint Cup Series winner take charge of the field, beginning at lap 149.
During the middle and latter stages of the race, Burton and fellow Virginian Denny Hamlin engaged in spirited battles for the top spot, swapping the lead seven times.
With Hamlin at the point and less than 50 laps remaining, the 42-year-old driver was gaining ground and, in the process, making several passing attempts for the lead.
Unfortunately, the day went south for the Cat Racing team when, at lap 385, Burton informed the crew that he had a tire going down. As a result, his lap times slowed and he began slipping through the field before the No. 31 Chevy got away from him and spun in turn three on lap 492. Luckily, no contact was made and Burton was able to nurse his black and yellow machine to pit road for fresh tires.
He returned to the track on the lead lap and in the 18th position but, in the closing laps that included a green-white-checkered finish, he fell two spots before crossing the finish line in 20th.
Hamlin took home the coveted Martinsville clock, beating Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon to the checkers. Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-five finishers.
RCR teammate Clint Bowyer finished seventh while a brake failure forced Harvick to the garage area just 105 laps into the race. He was able to return to competition, where he was credited with a 35th-place effort.
After taking a weekend off, NASCAR's senior circuit will head west to make its first of two stops in Avondale, Ariz. for the division's first Saturday night race of the season.
"The Caterpillar Chevrolet was fast all day. We ran over something, which caused the right-front (tire) to go flat. Something happened that was out of our control and I'm not going to let that ruin our day. We did what we had to do and that was put ourselves in position to win. And, we did that."