Disappointing Finish after Promising Run for Burton, Cat Racing Team in Kan An extremely loose-handling Caterpillar Chevrolet in the latter stages of the Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway prevented Jeff Burton from finishing in the top five...
Disappointing Finish after Promising Run for Burton, Cat Racing Team in Kan
An extremely loose-handling Caterpillar Chevrolet in the latter stages of the Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway prevented Jeff Burton from finishing in the top five and, as a result, was scored 18th when the checkered flag waved.
The disappointing finish after a promising run for much of the 267-lap event cost the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team 21 points in the championship point standings. The Todd Berrier-led team fell two spots, to ninth, and is 101 markers in arrears to newly-appointed point leader Jimmie Johnson and 43 points out of the top five.
After producing the 21st-fastest lap in Friday's qualifying session and diligently working through two practice sessions on Saturday to construct a close-to-perfect setup for Sunday's 400-mile showdown, Burton and Company felt pretty good about their chances heading into Round Three of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Upon taking the green flag, the South Boston, Va., native quickly showcased what the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet was made of as he worked his way into the top 15 by lap six and cracked the top 10 just 35 laps into the contest, despite needing a little grip to help him turn through the 15-degree banked corners better. After taking advantage of an early caution period at lap 42 to fix the grip issue on the black and yellow machine, Burton returned to business and continued his ascent up the leaderboard. He was ninth at lap 66, seventh at lap 89 and raced his way into the top five at lap 108.
After cycling through green-flag pit stops just prior to the halfway mark, the caution flag was displayed and placed pressure on all the teams as varying pitting strategies would commence. Berrier elected for a fuel-only pit stop coupled with a chassis adjustment that placed Burton seventh for the lap-159 restart. But, those teams who chose to replace two tires during that stop came to fruition, moving the 2010 Chase contender to ninth when a timely slowdown occurred seven laps later.
With track position hard to come by at the Kansas City facility, a tough decision was placed once again on the crew chiefs, and it was Berrier who rolled the dice and instructed the veteran driver to visit pit road for two tires. The pit call, in the end, paid dividends for the Cat Racing team as Burton, armed with a fast No. 31 Chevrolet, resumed his position in the top five at lap 184.
But, the turning point in the race would occur three laps later when the final caution flag of the day was waved. A routine four-tire pit stop sent Burton back on track in the ninth position and, upon returning to green-flag racing, an extremely loose-handling condition transpired that would set the tone for the remainder of the race. The unfortunate circumstance steadily moved the 21-time Sprint Cup Series down the scoring pylon and balanced him out in 18th when the checkers eventually waved.
Greg Biffle crossed the finish line ahead of Johnson and RCR teammate Kevin Harvick, while Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top-five finishers.
Fellow RCR stablemate Clint Bowyer rallied to finish 15th after battling with a handling condition in the early stages of the race.
Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar team head to the west coast next weekend for Round Four of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
JEFF BURTON QUOTE: "I don't know what happened. The run before the final caution, we were the fastest car on the race track. We chose not to put on tires and the Caterpillar Chevrolet wasn't as good. And, then we went to (being) the slowest car on the race track. It's really frustrating. I don't know if we had a bump stop fail or something else went wrong, but we went from having a really good race car and being able to, I thought, contend for the win, to where we wouldn't have stayed on the lead lap if we had gone another run."