Disappointing Ending to Strong Performance for No. 31 Team in Talladega Jeff Burton and the Cat Racing team led the most laps and showcased a sporty performance in Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, but contact with another ...
Disappointing Ending to Strong Performance for No. 31 Team in Talladega
Jeff Burton and the Cat Racing team led the most laps and showcased a sporty performance in Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, but contact with another competitor seven laps from the scheduled distance left them with a disappointing 32nd-place finish.
The disheartening result dropped them four spots, to 12th, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings, 241 markers in arrears to point leader Jimmie Johnson. However, 71 points separate the South Boston, Va., native from Kyle Busch's fifth-place tally and is 15 forward of Carl Edwards in 13th with 17 races remaining until the 2010 Chase field is set.
Friday's dual practice sessions exemplified just how well the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet handled in the draft with Burton posting the third-best time in the first gathering before leading the charge in the weekend's final practice session.
For the second week in a row, Mother Nature played havoc with both track and NASCAR officials, as well as drivers and teams, when severe thunderstorms swept through the Talladega area on Saturday. The inclement weather cancelled the afternoon's time trials session, therefore slating the Caterpillar Chevy eighth on the starting grid for Sunday's scheduled 188-lap contest.
The Richard Childress Racing driver methodically raced his black and yellow rocket ship throughout the 500 miler, running in the top 10 for 44 laps and leading the charge on three separate occasions for eight circuits in the event's first half.
Competing at high speeds and inches apart from his competitors around the 33-degree banked tri oval that placed him in a different position each lap saw Burton anywhere on the scoreboard, ranging from second to 28th over the next 56 laps.
The 21-time series winner took point again on lap 160 and held it for the next 16 trips around the 2.66-mile superspeedway before a two-car incident on the backstretch brought out the day's fifth caution. Concerned about the Caterpillar Chevy's water temperature, both crew chief Todd Berrier and Burton chose to come down pit road on the ensuing lap for two fresh tires, fuel and to clean the front grill of any debris.
The decision placed them 16th on the lap-179 restart where, once again, the dominant performance of the driver and car began to shape. Burton notched four positions as the field thundered to the line two laps later and then positioned himself inside the top 10 on the next lap. But, as the cars were coming to the line on lap 182, the No. 09 machine clipped the rear end of Burton's Impala that sent him into the tri-oval wall where he bounced off and collected three more cars in the process.
The battered and underpowered No. 31 Chevy was brought to the garage area so the Cat Racing team could diligently work on getting it back onto the race track to salvage as many positions and points as possible.
Three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish helped buy the Berrier-led crew time to return Burton and the bruised machine to the racing surface where their never-give-up attitudes vaulted them from 37th to 32nd in the final rundown.
Teammate Kevin Harvick returned RCR to Victory Lane after a 49-race winless streak by the Welcome, N.C.-based operation. Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya finished second and third, respectively, giving ECR Engines podium finishes. Denny Hamlin and Mark Martin rounded out the top five.
Burton's fellow RCR stablemate Clint Bowyer finished seventh.
NASCAR takes its senior circuit from the high banks of Talladega to the short track of Richmond International Raceway next weekend for the first of two stops on the 2010 calendar.
"It's upsetting to finish 32nd. The Caterpillar Chevy was extremely fast the minute we unloaded it for practice on Friday and it didn't disappoint us during the race. I hate it that we ended up where we did. The entire RCR organization has built great cars and deserves better finishes. We'll press on and try again in Richmond."