Burton, Cat Racing Team Roll to Fifth-Place Finish at Daytona Jeff Burton and the Cat Racing team had a fast Caterpillar Chevrolet in Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway that helped them overcome a racing incident 16...
Burton, Cat Racing Team Roll to Fifth-Place Finish at Daytona
Jeff Burton and the Cat Racing team had a fast Caterpillar Chevrolet in Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway that helped them overcome a racing incident 16 laps from the scheduled distance to finish fifth in a dramatic ending to the checkers.
The Richard Childress Racing team's fourth top-five and eighth top-10 result in 18 starts this season keeps their Chase for the Sprint Cup hopes alive by maintaining the eighth position in the championship point standings. At the same time, they expanded the distance between themselves and the cutoff spot to 188 markers and moved within three points of seventh-place point man Matt Kenseth.
After unloading a brand new chassis on Thursday when the garage opened for the first of three days in Daytona and put it through its first paces in the first practice session, Burton was none too pleased with the performance of the black and yellow machine. Todd Berrier orchestrated an array of adjustments over the course of that practice session and into final practice later that evening where the handling was somewhat better but not fully to the team's liking.
The 10-member squad regrouped and formulated a setup that they believed was the right combination for Saturday night's affair.
With qualifying rained out on Friday due to rain over the larger-than-life speedway, the South Boston, Va., native inherited the eighth-starting spot based on points heading into the 160-lap showdown.
The first half of the contest saw the July 2000 Daytona race winner draft his way with the best of them where he ran mostly inside top 15 during that time with the exception of 16 laps.
He led for the first time at lap 103 and ran inside the top six over the ensuing 44 circuits, taking the point at four different times for a total of 11 laps led.
While running fourth with 16 laps remaining in the scheduled 400-mile race, contact with the rear end of the No. 31 Chevrolet and the front bumper of Kurt Busch's No. 2 machine forced Burton to make right-side contact with the No. 77 entry of Sam Hornish Jr. before making left-side contact with Busch. That wiggle triggered a 19-car scuffle behind the 21-time Sprint Cup Series race winner that placed the field under red-flag conditions for just over 19 minutes for clean up.
Both Berrier and Burton dissected what the over-the-wall crew needed to do to the Caterpillar Chevrolet when the veteran driver would visit them on pit road on lap 149. It was crucial for them to not only quickly service the RCR entry, but to make sure all the fenders were pulled away from the tires, erasing any tire rubs that could potentially spark. Yeoman's work by the Berrier-led crew placed Burton 13th on the scoring pylon with eight laps remaining in the event.
While the fans were on their feet, nerves kicked into high gear in the No. 31 pit stall as the team cheered on their driver as he drafted his way into eighth at lap 153 and fourth at lap 155 before being shuffled to ninth at lap 157. But, as the field roared off turn four and into the tri oval, coming to the white flag, three cars got together in front of Burton that placed the field under caution and kicked the race into overtime.
Savvy driving around the skirmish placed Burton fifth for the green-white-checkered restart on lap 164 where he worked the draft the best that he could, placing third with one lap to go before close, tight racing resulted in a top-five finish for Burton and Company.
RCR teammate Kevin Harvick claimed his second restrictor-plate race of the season and was narrowly chased to the line by Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Burton closed out the top-five finishers.
Burton's fellow RCR teammate Clint Bowyer was spun out of contention, while running in the top five on the final lap, and was credited with a 17th-place finish.
NASCAR takes its premier series from the 'World Center of Racing' in the Sunshine State to the mile-and-a-half oval in the Midwest for its annual stop in the Windy City.
JEFF BURTON: "We had a fast Caterpillar Chevrolet. I thought we had the best race car on the track tonight and if everything would have gone the way we needed it to go, we would have the race won. Kurt (Busch) and I got together at one point and, to be honest, I don't even know what happened. I know he was coming with a big head of steam and we got together. I don't know if it was my fault or his fault or if it was a racing deal. But, we wrecked half the field, unfortunately. The No. 31 Chevrolet wasn't bad after that. It hit everything solid so it didn't tear up anything too bad. On the last restart, we were on the bottom line and that wasn't good. Nonetheless, it was a good finish for us. I'm disappointed we didn't win, like last week, but I'm not discouraged about what we are doing. We are building great race cars. We're not closing the deal but we will. And, when we do, there's going to be a bunch of them (wins). If we can get ourselves in the Chase, we are going to be a contender. We can run well and our speed is great so I'm real happy. I'm proud of Caterpillar and our sponsors for being patient and sticking with us this year."