Fuel Gamble Leads to 15th-Place Finish for Burton at Loudon Jeff Burton's No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala ran out of fuel with two laps remaining in Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but it was able to coast to the...
Fuel Gamble Leads to 15th-Place Finish for Burton at Loudon
Jeff Burton's No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala ran out of fuel with two laps remaining in Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but it was able to coast to the finish line and was credited with a 15th-place result.
Even though the Todd Berrier-led team's finish does not reflect how they ran throughout the 300-lap contest, the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing squad was able to maintain the 10th position in the championship point standings. With nine races remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup before the 2010 NASCAR Champion is crowned, Burton and Company sit 112 points behind point leader Denny Hamlin and only 37 markers in arrears to cracking the top five.
After rolling off the starting grid 13th for the 317.4 miler, the veteran driver maintained that position before the first caution flag of the day was waved 25 laps in. Needing more grip and assistance turning through the corners, Berrier elected to give up their real estate to come to pit road for four fresh tires, which included air pressure adjustments, and fuel. The decision placed Burton 23rd for the lap-33 restart after some teams chose to replace two tires instead of four.
But, just after seven circuits around the Loudon facility, a yellow flag was displayed for a two-car incident, triggering a last minute call by the veteran crew chief to bring the Caterpillar Chevrolet to pit road for two right-side tires after a majority of the frontrunners stayed on track.
The call from atop the pit box left the 21-time Sprint Cup Series winner 20th for the restart, where fresher tires helped him begin his march toward the front of the 43-car field. He was 15th at lap 48, 11th at lap 76, ninth at lap 90 and sixth at lap 110.
Happy with the performance of the No. 31 Chevrolet, Berrier and Burton chose not to make any changes to the sporty machine under the third caution, just a few laps short of the halfway mark.
Burton raced as high as fourth and as low as sixth over the next 61 trips around the 1.058-mile oval before making another trip to pit road on lap 208. The South Boston, Va., native restarted sixth with the understanding that all teams were short on fuel and would need to make one more pit stop in order to finish the race.
However, four cautions plagued the next 35 laps that saw some teams maintain their track position while others chose to top off their fuel tanks. The RCR entry stayed on the racing surface during all the slowdowns in hopes that it would help with fuel calculations and, at the same time, advanced its position to third.
The final restart of the day occurred with 54 laps remaining and, during that time, Berrier reminded Burton to help save all the fuel he could. In doing that, the 2010 Chase contender gave up two spots to cars with plenty of fuel to make it to the end.
As the laps wore on, the nerves in the pit box kicked into high gear as it looked as if the Cat Racing team would make it to the end. But, with two laps to go, the three words that no one wanted to hear were spoken when Burton keyed the team radio stating he was "out of gas."
Luckily, he was able to coast his way around the flat oval on his own for the final two laps and wound up crossing the finish line 15th.
Teammate Clint Bowyer took the checkers first, taking home the trophy in the first race of the Chase and capturing RCR's fourth points-paying victory of the season. Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and fellow RCR stablemate Kevin Harvick balanced out the top-five finishers.
Round 2 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup will get underway next weekend when NASCAR's senior circuit visits "The Monster Mile."
JEFF BURTON: "We weren't very good yesterday and the Cat Racing team did a great job of making the car better. We just came up a little short. We thought we were good (on fuel). We saved some under all the cautions and, during the first three quarters of that run, I was saving, too. We just didn't get as good of fuel mileage on the last run as we had been getting. It is what it is. Our finish certainly doesn't reflect how well the Caterpillar Chevrolet ran all day. If our cars stay this strong in these last nine races, we'll put on a show."