By Thomas Chemris - Motorsport.com Darlington, S.C. - Winning his second Busch Grand National race, and fourth overall at the famed Lady in Black, Jeff Burton is becoming a master at the track that is too tough to tame. "We always run great ...
By Thomas Chemris - Motorsport.com
Darlington, S.C. - Winning his second Busch Grand National race, and fourth overall at the famed Lady in Black, Jeff Burton is becoming a master at the track that is too tough to tame.
"We always run great here", noted Burton, who competes full time in NASCAR Winston Cup series, but also competes part time in the Busch series.
"It feels awfully good, we have struggled this year in our Winston cup and our Busch programs. To come out and dominate like this means an awful lot".
Clearly the class of the field, Burton who started twenty- fourth charged through the field and took the lead on lap 71. A position he held for the remainder of the event with the exception of two laps as Mike McLaughlin held the point as the leader cycled through pits stops under caution.
Burton, who made his last stop with sixteen laps to go would have remained on the track, however with an opportunistic caution late in the race, he brought the car in for fresh tires.
"We could have made it on fuel, no doubt about it. We were going to go the whole way under green, but once the caution came out with three cars on the lead lap you've got to pit", notes the race winner.
Burton won by a margin of 0.201 seconds in front of the second place finisher Elton Sawyer, who describes the closing laps of the race.
"We had a heck of a race there with Mike McLaughlin and the twenty six car. I was really catching the nine (Burton) and thought I might have a shot. When I saw the white flag I gave it all I had going into one and two, but Jeff was a little bit better"
McLaughlin, Pole sitter Ryan Newman, and Bobby Hamilton Jr, rounded out the top five.
The race had five lead changes among five drivers.
Other drivers to pace the field were Mike Skinner, Ryan Newman, and Jeff Green.
The event was marred by four cautions for a total of forty-one laps.
The first of witch came out on lap 12 for rain.
After a brief delay under the red flag, the field prepared to go back to green flag racing when unusual contact occurred between Steve Park and Larry Foyt.
Foyt, a lap down was moving up past the field at speed to the head of the inside line comprised of the lapped cars. Inexplicably, the car driven by Park veered left into the path of the oncoming Foyt. The two cars had hard contact off turn two, with Foyt T-boning Park. Park had to be cut from the car prior to being transported by helicopter to the Medical Center in Florence South Carolina. Park was held overnight with a moderate concussion and a dislocation of the Sterno- Clavicular joint. Injuries that placed him out of his Winston Cup car for Sunday's Southern five hundred. Team Crew Chief Paul Andrews announced veteran Kenny Wallace would fill in for the injured driver. Speculation is that Parks car lost control due to a problem with the steering wheel fittings. No official statement from the team has been made relating to the cause.
Larry Foyt was treated and released from the infield care center.
During the caution laps many driver were notably concerned as track workers covered the destroyed car with a tarp, a procedure not seen since the death of Dale Earnhardt.
"I thought to myself, My God this cant be happening", reflected Jeff Burton.
The remaining cautions flew for on track incidents involving Dan Pardus, Mike Skinner, Rich Bickle, Kelly Denton and Kevin Grubb.
The final lap of the race saw contact between Randy Tolsma and Shane Hall, both of whom spun in turn two.
In addition there was some close contact between the races highest finishing rookie Scott Wimmer, and last years champion Jeff Green, an exchange that led to problems on the cool down lap
Following the checkered flag, rookie driver Scott Whimmer ignored the cool down lap and aggressively drove through turn two and drove over the car of Gregg Biffle, destroying both cars.
"What the NASCAR people were telling me in the trailer is that they think he was after the ten car for wrecking him (Wimmer) coming to the checkered or something and he was kinda chasing after him and I happened to be the victim, expressed Biffle.
Biffles' car owner Jack Roush was less kind on the matter. "It is not unlike someone leaving the track and running over a bunch of fans. It is outrageous, this type of conduct is inexcusable and there is no room for this type of poor sportsmanship. These individuals should not prosper from these actions. Nascar should sit down with them and make examples of them"
This was not the only post race incident, following the race there was a physical altercation between the series points leader Kevin Harvick and Chad little, however neither team commented on the occurrence.
Harvick, who finished fourteenth, one lap down, retains the Championship point lead by 316 points over Jason Keller.
The series heads next week to Richmond for the twenty- sixth of thirty-three races in the 2001 season.
Elton Sawyer, on the crash involving Steve Park.
"I'm not sure what happened. The only thing was I looked up and they said they were wrecking. I looked up and said wow, that's a big wreck over there to be under caution. Nobody was saying anything on the radio, and that is not a good sign. The first thing I asked Jim Phillips when the race was over is if Steve is ok"
Jeff Burton on not allowing series points leader Kevin Hardvick to get his lap back
Kevin Hardvick is upset because I didn't let him have his lap back, but you can't let a guy have his lap back that late in the race when they can pit and you cant. That's just the way it is. I will let a lot of guys have their laps a lot of times, but I'm not going to do it when it is going to hurt me"
Ryan Newman on loosing a tire early in the race
"The car felt really good. I think we did a hundred percent recovery on the car with the exception of the quarter panel and the body there, but once you get behind here it seems like it's hard to get back up front and we struggled to do that."
Kevin Grubb on racing at NASACARS oldest Super Speedway.
"Darlington is still one of the toughest tracks that we race on. You have to race the track as much as the competition"
Scott Wimmer on the post race incident
"Jeff Green pinched me pretty hard coming off two and I hit it pretty hard, and I couldn't turn, I didn't mean to do it, it was my fault for getting into him (Biffle) but I couldn't slow down".