Burton's dominant performance shakes up points By Marty Smith LOUDON, N.H. (Sept. 18, 2000) Leading the most laps in a NASCAR Winston Cup Series event earns the driver 10 bonus points. Leading every lap, now that's a different deal ...
Burton's dominant performance shakes up points
By Marty Smith
LOUDON, N.H. (Sept. 18, 2000) Leading the most laps in a NASCAR Winston Cup Series event earns the driver 10 bonus points. Leading every lap, now that's a different deal entirely.
It had only happened twice in NASCAR's modern era, both by legendary pilot Cale Yarborough. He last ran the table in 1978. No one in the modern era had ever achieved the feat on a superspeedway, and with today's parity it seemed virtually impossible that that might change.
Sunday, it did, as Jeff Burton led all 300 laps at New Hampshire International Speedway to win the Dura Lube 300 and drastically shake up the championship points battle.
So much for the restrictor plate rule slowing him down.
With his third victory of the season, Burton shot from fourth to second in the championship chase. He trails leader Bobby Labonte, Sunday's runner-up, by 168 points with eight races remaining.
He's never ranked this high, this late in the season, in his career. This also ties the highest he's ranked in NASCAR 2000.
"Obviously, I was sitting in a piece of equipment that was far superior to everybody else," Burton said. "It made my job a lot easier than it would have been if it didn't handle like that. The easiest day a racecar driver has is when his stuff drives like that. It's just a real tribute to our team."
Labonte nearly got by Burton on the final restart, but Burton was able to maintain the lead despite Labonte's superior position on the bottom of the racetrack. Even so, Labonte's second-place finish extended his points lead by 10 points. He led Dale Earnhardt by 158 heading into Sunday's affair.
Still, as has been the case all year, Labonte isn't overly concerned with points at this juncture. When asked about the significance of his lead, he simply responded, "Sounds good to me. Better up 170 than 170 down."
This is Labonte's largest lead of the year.
Earnhardt was the big loser this weekend. By finishing 12th, his deficit increased by 53 points and now stands at 201. However, he's just 33 out of second place. Earnhardt said the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet was unresponsive to the restrictor plate, resulting in just his sixth finish outside the top-10 all year.
"I'm frustrated the way I raced, the way I run," Earnhardt said. "The way I lost two positions in the points. I lost a lot to the leader. I'm just very upset."
Dale Jarrett, who finished fourth Sunday, remains in third position, 27 points behind Burton. Jarrett has now finished among the top-10 in 16 of the past 17 events. His 14 top-5s and 21 top-10s lead the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
The championship hunt is still wide open for the top-4 competitors. In the 1992 campaign, Alan Kulwicki surged from a 278-point deficit with six races remaining to win the closest championship in series history. He bettered Bill Elliott by 10 points.
This time around, it's feasible for all four of the contenders to win, but it won't be easy.
"The points are just gonna come down to whether Bobby Labonte has any trouble or not," Jarrett said. "If he doesn't, then Burton and Earnhardt and myself are racing for second. We've got to race hard and try to win. Jeff Burton did his part, but Bobby Labonte ran a good race, too. They're just gonna have to have some trouble if we're gonna get back in it."