Burton, CAT Racing Team Turn Tough Weekend Start Around at Charlotte An early racing incident during the first practice session on Thursday set the tone for a very busy weekend for Jeff Burton and the CAT Racing team, but hard work and ...
Burton, CAT Racing Team Turn Tough Weekend Start Around at Charlotte
An early racing incident during the first practice session on Thursday set the tone for a very busy weekend for Jeff Burton and the CAT Racing team, but hard work and perseverance outweighed the setback that resulted in a 14th-place finish in Saturday night's NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Although the Richard Childress Racing team displayed a strong performance in the 334-lap event, they dropped one spot, to 19th, in the overall series point standings. Burton is now only 13 points behind RCR teammate Casey Mears in 18th and 59 markers forward of Joey Logano in 20th with five races remaining in the 2009 season.
Race weekend in the heart of NASCAR country didn't start off on a positive note for the Scott Miller-led crew. During the veteran driver's initial practice run on Thursday afternoon, the No. 42 machine made contact with the No. 31 Chevy's left-rear bumper exiting Turn 4, sending Burton to the garage area for almost the remainder of the session. Quick work by the CAT Racing team allowed the South Boston, Va., native to return to the racing surface with minutes to spare to try and collect as much data as he possibly could before qualifying later that evening.
Alas, the lack of track time in practice was evident as the RCR entry posted the 34th-fastest time during time trials, but Burton and Co. kept their heads held high and vowed to get the Caterpillar Chevy back to competitive form during Friday's dual practice sessions.
Resilience, determination and team spirit was apparent inside their garage stall as they turned their misfortune into a 15th-place practice speed.
The CAT Racing team's efforts spilled over to race time Saturday night as the defending winner wasted no time flexing his muscle, snaring 13 positions in the opening 119 laps.
With track position being somewhat hard to come by, a two-tire gamble by Miller on lap 121 helped the 21-time Sprint Cup Series winner crack the top 10 for the first time of the night.
During the middle stages of the race, Burton raced between eighth and 12th where he was posting lap times comparable to, if not faster than, the leaders. Happy with the performance of his No. 31 machine on long green-flag runs, the 42-year-old driver required no adjustments when he visited pit lane for service on two separate occasions.
A rash of cautions broke out with less than 50 laps remaining, straddling Burton to race between 11th and 14th on short green-flag runs. Traffic hampered his forward progress, but, all was not lost in the No. 31 camp. In the end, they bettered themselves by 20 positions when Burton crossed the line 14th.
Jimmie Johnson captured his second consecutive victory with Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne in tow. Jeff Gordon and Logano rounded out the top-five finishers.
Burton's RCR teammates Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears and Kevin Harvick finished sixth, seventh and 18th, respectively.
Next weekend, NASCAR's senior circuit heads slightly north when it makes its second and final stop of the season at the paper clip-shaped oval speedway in Martinsville, Va.
JEFF BURTON: "To overcome a 34th-place starting position and finish 14th says a lot about the hard work the entire team put into the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy all weekend. Track position was everything tonight. I wish we were able to hold on to a top 10 but the speed just wasn't there at the end. We're getting better with each race and I couldn't be happier with all the hard work and extra effort the CAT Racing team is putting in."