Late-Race Spin Slates Burton, Cat Racing Team 27th at Infineon For the seventh time this season, and in his 500th consecutive Sprint Cup Series career start, Jeff Burton and the Cat Racing team's finish strongly doesn't reflect how well they...
Late-Race Spin Slates Burton, Cat Racing Team 27th at Infineon
For the seventh time this season, and in his 500th consecutive Sprint Cup Series career start, Jeff Burton and the Cat Racing team's finish strongly doesn't reflect how well they ran, being credited with a 27th-place effort in Sunday's Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway after being spun out by a competitor with less than five laps to go.
Even though the solid performance had a disappointing ending, the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team maintained their eighth-place slot in the overall Sprint Cup Series point standings, heading into the Race to the Chase -- the 10 race stint before the 12-member Chase class is set. The distance between them and the final eligible spot for NASCAR's version of the playoffs is 152 markers.
Prior to rolling off the grid 30th, crew chief Todd Berrier and Company formulated their game plan and vowed to stick to it during Sunday's 110-lap affair.
Ten laps into the contest, the first of seven full-course caution flags waved and, with nothing to lose and everything to gain, Berrier ordered Burton to give up his 23rd position to come down pit road for routine service and a slight air pressure adjustment to help the Caterpillar Chevrolet produce rear grip entering the turns.
The pit call from Berrier lined the South Boston, Va., native 25th for the lap-13 restart and because Burton had fresher tires than those in front of him, he set sailed through the field and cracked the top 10 at lap 26.
Those that didn't pit during the first caution period began making their way down pit road soon after, placing everyone on different pitting sequences and advancing Burton's charge up the leaderboard. But, another pit decision by Berrier on lap 31 placed the 21-time Sprint Cup Series winner 28th when he returned to the 1.99-mile race course. Still, Burton's advancement continued and he returned to the top 10 at lap 144 and into eighth 13 laps later when the second caution flag of the day waved.
Hoping to have the No. 31 Chevrolet visit pit road one more time, based on fuel calculations, Berrier wanted the veteran driver on pit road during the caution period for another round of routine service. Burton restarted 13th, as a result of the top six cars not pitting, and narrowly avoided two spins in front of him over the next couple of laps to be scored 10th when the third caution flag waved on lap 63.
Then-leader Marcos Ambrose led the 43-car field to the lap-66 restart but, in doing so, he laid back too long and bottlenecked the cars behind him. As a result, Burton drove into the back of the No. 24 Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon and crinkled the hood on the Caterpillar Chevrolet while those deep in the field wrecked, forcing NASCAR to display the red flag for clean up.
With help of competitors around him, it was diagnosed that there was a small hole on the hood of the black and yellow machine. Both Burton and Berrier chose not to pit before the field returned to green but, shortly after, the water temperature began to rise, requiring the 42-year-old driver to visit the over-the-wall crew so they could remove tape from the grill.
Down, but certainly not out, Burton returned to competition 33rd and worked his way up to 19th before making his final pit stop of the day on lap 86 during the fourth slowdown of the day.
Berrier's cards started to unfold nicely as his driver restarted 25th and quietly moved up the scoring pylon as those cars in front of the RCR entry needed to make their final pit stop of the day. Burton slid into 10th on lap 99 before the final caution flag was displayed three laps later, setting up a five-lap shootout to the checkers.
Hoping to steal a few more spots before the race was completed, Burton jockeyed for position with the best of them. But, just as the field was about to complete the first lap back under green, the No. 47 machine of Ambrose spun Burton off course, resulting in a 32nd-place position when he returned to the racing surface. Over the final four laps, Burton was able to pass a handful of cars to finish 27th.
Jimmie Johnson captured his fourth win of the 2010 season and was chased to the line by Robby Gordon and RCR teammate Kevin Harvick. Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon balanced out the top-five finishers.
Burton's fellow RCR teammate Clint Bowyer was also a victim of circumstance in the closing stages of the race and, as a result, he finished 31st.
NASCAR takes its premier series cross country next weekend for the first of two trips to the "Magic Mile" and the start of the Race to the Chase.
JEFF BURTON: "Todd (Berrier, crew chief) demised a great strategy for the race and we were sitting in the right position near the end and were flat-out spun out. It's disappointing because the Caterpillar Chevrolet was really fast and we played our cards right all race long. It's a tough pill to swallow."