Burton, Cat Racing Team Overcome Penalty to Finish 12th in Texas A fast race car, coupled with excellent pit calls, helped Jeff Burton and the Cat Racing team overcome a commitment line violation just past the 100-lap mark and be in contention...
Burton, Cat Racing Team Overcome Penalty to Finish 12th in Texas
A fast race car, coupled with excellent pit calls, helped Jeff Burton and the Cat Racing team overcome a commitment line violation just past the 100-lap mark and be in contention for the win in the rain-delayed Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, but a tight-handling condition and a scrape with the wall with less than 10 laps to go relegated them to a 12th-place finish.
Despite losing one position, to eighth, in the overall championship point standings due to the less-than-desired result, the Todd Berrier-led team quietly remains in the coveted top 12 with eight races in the record books. They trail point leader Jimmie Johnson by 243 markers but are just 23 points in arrears to Jeff Gordon's fifth-place tally. At the same time, Berrier & Company extended their distance from the 12th-place spot to 64 markers.
Friday's lone practice session was a workhorse for the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team after looking at the weather forecast for the remaining race weekend. They spent the entire 90-minute session diligently working on finding the best setup for the 500-mile showdown and, in the process, translated their findings in practice to qualifying later that afternoon when Burton turned in the sixth-fastest time, lining up the Caterpillar Chevy on the outside of row three for the 334-lap affair.
The weather forecast held true as both Saturday and Sunday's on-track events were rained out, cancelling practice time and postponing NASCAR's senior circuit event to Monday.
Burton took the green flag just past 11 a.m. local time and ran the next 25 laps at a somewhat conservative pace. The South Boston, Va., native paid close attention to the handling on the Caterpillar Chevy so he could relay what the car needed to Berrier during the day's competition caution that NASCAR mandated in order for teams to evaluate their tire wear due to the short amount of practice they had over the course of the weekend.
Overall pleased with the No. 31 Chevy's performance, a slight air pressure adjustment to help turn the machine through the corners is what the race track's inaugural winner asked for before returning to competition eighth on lap 32.
He ran in the top nine before the day's second of seven caution flags waved and a last-minute decision by Berrier to only take two fresh tires advanced the team to third when the field returned to action on lap 104.
A spin by a competitor brought out another caution just eight laps later, presenting Berrier a tough pit call decision to make. While the field was coming off turn four, the veteran crew chief quickly summoned Burton to pit road only to get forced back onto race track when the No. 24 machine pulled up beside the RCR entry to enter pit road. When pulling back onto the racing surface, Burton hit the commitment line cone that forced NASCAR to place the 2007 spring Texas race winner at the tail end of the longest line, in 32nd, for the lap-116 restart.
The Cat Racing team shook off the mishap by digging deep both on the track and in the pit box by returning to the top 10 just past the halfway mark.
Continuous adjustments to the already competitive yellow and black machine over much of the second half put Burton in contention for his third victory at the Fort Worth facility.
He ran inside the top five from laps 237 to 311 before a caution flag allowed Berrier to make another two-tire pit call that leapfrogged Burton to the lead at lap 313.
Six laps later, a nine-car melee broke out on the frontstretch that halted any on-track action for the next 20 minutes so track officials could clean up the debris.
After the engines refired and a couple of pace laps were taken, Burton led the field back to green with 12 laps remaining.
Much to the disappointment of the driver and team, the Caterpillar Chevy produced a tight-handling condition that aided in the loss of positions and a scrape with the outer retaining wall before the checkers flew. Burton held on to finish 12th and remains one of two drivers who have completed all laps contested in 2010 thus far.
Denny Hamlin wore the cowboy hat in Victory Lane after beating a hard-charging Jimmie Johnson to the finish line. The balance of the top five consisted of Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne.
Burton's RCR teammate Kevin Harvick finished seventh, while fellow stablemate Clint Bowyer was an innocent bystander in the lap-318 incident. He was credited with a 36th-place result.
Next weekend, NASCAR's premier division heads back east to Talladega, Ala. for the second of four restrictor-plate events on the 2010 calendar.
"Todd Berrier made great calls all throughout the race and I'm proud of the Cat Racing team for not giving up after getting penalized. We did what we needed to do and were leading at the right time but, after the red flag lifted and we went back to racing, the tires on the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy were chattering and the car got tight and I hit the wall. It's a tough pill to swallow to finish 12th after leading with 12 laps to go, but we brought a fast Chevy and we'll continue to fight."