(Hampton, GA) March 11, 2001 --- In a race that ended in a bitter sweet victory for the NASCAR team formally guided by the late Dale Earnhardt, the CITGO SUPERGARD Ford Taurus team won a bittersweet victory of its own. They were able to nurse an...
(Hampton, GA) March 11, 2001 --- In a race that ended in a bitter sweet victory for the NASCAR team formally guided by the late Dale Earnhardt, the CITGO SUPERGARD Ford Taurus team won a bittersweet victory of its own. They were able to nurse an ailing motor to the finish.
Starting 37th in the Cracker Barrel 500, CITGO SUPERGARD driver, Jeff Burton took pre-race advice from crew chief, Frank Stoddard to practice patience. Just three laps into the Atlanta Motor Speedway event, the CITGO SUPERGARD machine was forced to pit under caution after avoiding an incident on the racetrack. The decision to pit by crew chief, Frank Stoddard was an excellent call. By ordering the grill to be cleaned of debris, air was able to flow to the engine and avoid an overheating problem.
Patience continued to be practiced by Burton as he worked his way up through the field proving his point that qualifying near the back does not mean you can not win a race. By lap 26, the CITGO SUPERGARD Ford Taurus was in 21st position. The lap times being turned in by Burton was equal to race leader, Jeff Gordon.
On lap 51, Burton radioed in to say that he was having difficulty staying on the bottom of the racetrack. As a matter of fact, most race teams were having the same problem. The handling challenge appears to be associated with the new Goodyear Tire compound designated for the race. So, changes to tire pressure were ordered by Stoddard for the next pit stop.
Six laps later the CITGO SUPERGARD machine came in for service. The pit crew turned in an impressive stop of 15.93 seconds for a four tire and gas stop. Stoddard once again made the right call on the tire pressure adjustment. Burton radioed in a few laps later to say the car was tightening up to a handling condition he liked.
Another caution came out on lap 82 after Steve Parkis engine expired. The yellow flag situation allowed the CITGO SUPERGARD team to pit and once more improve the caris handling. Unfortunately, the CITGO SUPERGARD racecar entered the pits with its right side tires on the white line of the pit box. NASCAR rules state that right side tires may touch the inside part of the line. However, if the tires rest on the majority of the lineis surface area, a rule infraction will be issued. The rule was enforced and Burton had to back the car up and reposition the car to stop inside the pit box area. The team lost track position due to the penalty.
The race went back to green on lap 87. Two laps later Burton notified the crew that the caris water and oil pressures were getting dangerously high. If the temperatures get too hot, the engine will breakdown.
Another rule infraction was issued to the CITGO SUPERGARD race team on the next pit stop at lap 122. NASCAR rules allow 7 crewmembers over the wall at one time during a stop. An 8th man may be added if he is needed to service the driver. On the CITGO SUPERGARD stop, an 8th man went over the wall to clean the windshield and checked the water level. NASCAR says those two jobs are not considered a service to the driver. Therefore, what was a respectable lap time turned into a 30-second pit stop. The CITGO SUPERGARD machine was in 38th position by lap 131.
Despite the pit stop penalty, the CITGO SUPERGARD race team proved patience gains track position. Within 13 laps, Burton raced to 24th place.
The caution came back out on lap 156. The CITGO SUPERGARD team continued to make adjustments to the car. Air pressure adjustments were made to the left side tires during the four-tire change. A round of wedge was also ordered during the service. Water pressure remained a concern for the team as it was recorded to be 255 degrees.
About 20 laps later, Burton radioed in to say the caris engine was missing badly on the straightaway. On lap 213, the team believed the caris engine had lost a cylinder. The loss of power extinguished the CITGO SUPERGARD race teamis chance for victory. It also forced the crew to switch gears and concentrates on racing for every Winston Cup point they could get.
The remaining pit stops made by the CITGO SUPERGARD team concentrated on maintaining caris engine. That strategy paid off as Roush teammates, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth, plus, Sterling Marlin and Kyle Petty saw their engines expire.
Excellent calls made by Frank Stoddard during pit stops and the patient driving of Jeff Burton awarded the team with a 30th place finish.