Varying Pitting Strategies Spoils Strong Performance by Burton Jeff Burton and the Caterpillar Chevrolet were on their way to posting a promising top-10 finish, but were forced to pit for fuel with eight laps remaining in Sunday's Kobalt Tools...
Varying Pitting Strategies Spoils Strong Performance by Burton
Jeff Burton and the Caterpillar Chevrolet were on their way to posting a promising top-10 finish, but were forced to pit for fuel with eight laps remaining in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway that relegated them to a 19th-place result.
Their finish, which doesn't reflect how the Todd Berrier-led team ran all day, keeps them 12th in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with just one race left on the 2010 schedule. Burton & Co. head to Homestead-Miami Speedway 70 markers in arrears to RCR teammate Clint Bowyer's 11th-place tally and 75 points outside the top 10.
After two discouraging weeks, the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team looked to rebound with a solid finish at a place that, statistically, has been good to the South Boston, Va., native.
Despite mustering a 40th-place starting position during time trials on Friday, the boys in black and yellow knew the strength of the Caterpillar Chevrolet and planned to do what they do best on Sunday -- overcome obstacles.
Collectively, the veteran driver and the No. 31 team showcased their skills by moving inside the top 20 on lap 74 and inside the top 15 at lap 111 before cracking the top 10 just past the halfway mark on the strength of savvy driving, proper adjustments and solid pit stops.
Burton had worked his way up to seventh when a caution flag waved on lap 222 for a single-car incident. The call from atop the box was four fresh tires that included slight air pressure adjustments and fuel. Another speedy stop by the over-the-wall crew lined the 2010 Chase contender fifth for the lap-228 restart.
He slipped to sixth when another caution flag was shown to the 43-car field six laps later. The Cat Racing team, along with half the field, chose to remain on the racing surface while other teams pitted for fuel and tires.
Burton restarted sixth with 74 laps remaining, knowing that the Caterpillar Chevrolet couldn't go the distance on fuel. He held on to the top-10 real estate over the next 65 circuits while hoping for a caution, but a yellow flag never came and he was forced to pit, giving up his sixth-place spot on lap 303 for fuel. Other teams were forced to pit under green-flag conditions, as well, while a handful of them chose to roll the dice and remain on the track.
The 21-time Sprint Cup Series winner returned to competition 20th in the rundown and was able to notch one position before the checkered flag waved.
Carl Edwards snapped a 70-race winless streak when he beat Ryan Newman and Joey Logano to the checkers. Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five finishers.
RCR teammate Kevin Harvick finished sixth while fellow stablemate Bowyer was credited with a 21st-place finish after running out of gas with a few laps remaining.
Next weekend, NASCAR's premier division heads southeast to the Sunshine state for the final race of the 2010 season.
JEFF BURTON: "We really had high expectations coming into the race and the Caterpillar Chevrolet ran well, too. We, obviously, ran better than what our finish shows but, along with some other teams, we were short on fuel and a caution that we were looking for never came so we had to pit. It's disappointing in the fact that we finished 19th but I can't complain about where we were running and how well the No. 31 ran today. We have one more chance to win a race this season and that's what we're going to set out to do."