Burton Battles Darlington for 21st-Place Finish in Diamond Hill Plywood 200 Handling issues thwart promising race Darlington, SC (May 11, 2007) ... The NASCAR Busch Series made their annual visit to Darlington Raceway this weekend to challenge...
Burton Battles Darlington for 21st-Place Finish in Diamond Hill Plywood
Handling issues thwart promising race
Darlington, SC (May 11, 2007) ... The NASCAR Busch Series made their annual visit to Darlington Raceway this weekend to challenge the track nicknamed "Too Tough to Tame". While the track itself always presents a challenge for drivers and crews, two major issues during the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 were the numbers of cautions and handling. Ward Burton and the #27 Kleenex Ford Fusion Team managed to avoid all the accidents, but handling issues were an obstacle too difficult to overcome. The result was a 21st-place finish in the 147-lap, 200-mile event at NASCAR oldest speedway.
After two practice sessions on Thursday, the Busch Series qualified on Friday afternoon. Burton was the 25th driver to make his qualifying run, and responded with a fast lap of 29.752 seconds / 165.286 mph. The Virginia veteran's lap would pace the #27 Kleenex Ford Fusion ninth on the starting grid.
After qualifying, the cars were impounded by NASCAR until the 8:30 PM ET start of the race. And, with changing track conditions due to the hot weather and Nextel Cup practice, the track "Too Tough to Tame" would be extra difficult at night.
During the early stages of the race, Burton maintained his position in the top ten, and pitted on lap 23 under caution for tires, fuel, and chassis adjustments. Burton reported to Crew Chief Stewart Cooper that he was "loose in turn one, and 'out of control' in entering (turn) three". Restarting 8th on lap 29, Burton would continue to race in the top ten until his next stop on lap 54.
With Burton and the other leaders choosing not to pit during an earlier caution on lap 43, they would be forced to restart behind those cars that made their trip to pit road during the previous caution. Therefore, Burton would restart 30th on lap 59. A huge "logjam" on the restart resulted in Burton being shuffled back to 33rd on lap 62. Two more caution periods would wave before the halfway point of the race, lap 74, and Burton would move up to 28th position in the running order.
Working his way steadily through traffic and dodging several potential accidents in the next thirty laps, Burton would move up to 23rd when he made his next pit stop under caution on lap 114. Stating that the crew needed to "make the nose of his car rotate better and not loose the rear", the team made air pressure and chassis adjustments. Excellent pit work by the Kleenex crew enabled Burton to restart 18th on lap 117.
After another multi-car accident, Burton would restart 16th on lap 125, but reported that his car was "sliding the nose and very tight". When caution waved again on lap 129, Burton came to pit road on lap 130 for tires and an air pressure adjustment to the left front. However, a problem with the lug nuts on the left rear caused Burton to come back to pit road to have them checked and tightened. He would restart 25th on lap 135.
After a hard crash by Bobby Labonte on lap 136, NASCAR red-flagged the race on lap 139. Burton was running 23rd on the restart and gained two positions in the final eight laps to earn a hard-fought 21st-place finish.
"Tonight was a typical Darlington race with lots of cautions and close calls," Burton commented. "My Kleenex Ford Fusion started out loose in turn one and literally 'out of control' in three. I thought I was going to wreck several times entering turn three, and just had to hold on the best I could. The crew kept making adjustments during the race, and at the end I was sliding the nose and tight. But, we brought it home in one piece after a wild night."