Burton, No. 31 Team Clinch Chase Spot at Atlanta Jeff Burton and the Cat Racing team overcame their 26th-starting position to score a fourth-place finish in Sunday's Emory Healthcare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, securing a spot in the 12-man...
Burton, No. 31 Team Clinch Chase Spot at Atlanta
Jeff Burton and the Cat Racing team overcame their 26th-starting position to score a fourth-place finish in Sunday's Emory Healthcare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, securing a spot in the 12-man 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup class. The No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team scored their fifth top-five and 13th top-10 finish of the season and, in the process, jumped one position, to sixth, in the championship point standings, 27 markers in arrears to the top five.
NASCAR's two-day show at the Hampton, Ga. facility left all teams with one day of track activity to prepare their cars for Sunday's 500 miler. Despite using all 165 minutes during two separate practice sessions, the Todd Berrier-led crew was only able to muster the 26th-fastest speed in time trials late in the afternoon.
In the opening 90 laps of the 325-lap affair, in front of an estimated 93,000 race fans, Burton raced between the 20th and 26th positions before losing a lap to the leader, attributable to a tight-handling machine in traffic.
Three cautions during the next 63 circuits provided opportunities for the boys in black and yellow to give the No. 31 Chevy doses of medicine and, by way of the lucky dog, Burton returned to lead lap for the lap-161 restart in the 23rd position.
For the second half of the race, the South Boston, Va., native's tenacity to make his way to the front of the field, coupled with a better-feeling Chevrolet, made their presence known in the top 10 at lap 210 and their never-quit attitudes continued to shine.
Four slowdowns consumed the balance of the event, in which Berrier took advantage of three of them by summoning the veteran driver to pit road for adjustments.
Despite giving up track position in the night's final caution that left them with a 14th-place restart with 19 laps remaining, the 21-time Sprint Cup Series race winner's fresh tires and slight air pressure adjustments brought the Caterpillar Chevrolet to life.
He moved into the top 10 on the ensuing lap, seventh at lap 310 and cracked the top five at lap 313 before notching one more position to finish fourth.
The rock solid effort locked the No. 31 RCR team into the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup with one race remaining in the regular season.
Tony Stewart captured his first victory of the season, beating Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson to the checkers. Burton finished fourth while Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-five finishers.
Fellow RCR teammates Clint Bowyer finished seventh while point leader Kevin Harvick suffered a blown left-front tire that left him with a disappointing 33rd finish.
Burton and the No. 31 team will travel to the Dominion State next weekend for the division's second stop at Richmond (Va.) International Speedway-- the site where this season's 12 Chase contenders will be determined.
"We've been a little off here the last seven or eight weeks. I think we have been protecting (our points position) and now we can go. When you clinch, you get to go to Richmond and be in the shape to run really hard. That's how the Cat Racing team is going to run in the Chase - we are going to run it really hard. We are going to kick it off next week and just bring everything we have. There's no more protecting now. It is go time and we have to lay it all on the line."