Burton Scores 15th Top-10 Effort of the Season at Martinsville Jeff Burton and his lightning-fast Caterpillar Chevrolet spent the majority of Sunday's Fast Pain Relief 500 running in the top five where they led the most laps before finishing...
Burton Scores 15th Top-10 Effort of the Season at Martinsville
Jeff Burton and his lightning-fast Caterpillar Chevrolet spent the majority of Sunday's Fast Pain Relief 500 running in the top five where they led the most laps before finishing ninth in front of the driver's hometown fans at Martinsville Speedway.
The outcome vaulted the Todd Berrier-led team two spots, to eighth, in the Chase for the Sprint Cup hunt and inched them closer to cracking the top five before the season ends in four short weeks. Burton is now 10 points behind Tony Stewart in seventh, 33 in arrears to Carl Edwards in sixth and 43 markers on the cuff of Jeff Gordon's fifth-place tally.
After experiencing heartbreak in the spring race at the Martinsville, Va., facility, the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team came into the weekend with redemption on their minds. A dominating performance, and a potential win, at the paper clip-shaped oval in March vanished into thin air when a cut-right front tire 15 laps from the scheduled distance forced the Cat Racing team to pit road and finished 20th consequently.
Sunday's race was all about unfinished business.
Burton rolled off the starting grid 18th and quickly showcased the strength of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet by making his way to the top spot just 83 laps into the 500-lap contest.
Soon after, a string of seven cautions broke out over the next 128 circuits, and both the driver and pit crew continued to rise to the top and stay on point. But, just short of halfway, a caution period at lap 226 shook things up a bit when some teams, including the No. 31, took advantage of the opportunity for fresh tires and adjustments while others chose to remain on the race track. As a result, Burton was slated 16th for the lap-232 restart, behind the top 14 cars that chose not to pit.
That pit call was short lived as Burton returned to business as usual, making his way into the top 10 on lap 260 and into the top five 13 laps later.
With the South Boston, Va., native reporting the race track was getting slicker, veteran crew chief Berrier used caution laps 290 and 351 to make slight adjustments to the No. 31 hot rod that helped move him into the runner-up spot, a position he held onto until lap 453.
While trying to chase down then-leader and RCR teammate Kevin Harvick, the right-rear tire was wearing off and, in the process, the black and yellow machine began loosing grip. Although the 1997 Martinsville race winner was holding his own in the top five despite the loose-handling condition, the final 10 laps proved to be a struggle as four competitors were able to move around Burton before he took the checkers in ninth.
Denny Hamlin claimed his third consecutive victory and took another coveted grandfather clock home, holding off Mark Martin and Harvick for the win. Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five finishers.
Fellow RCR stablemate Clint Bowyer finished 38th after contact with another competitor sent him into the turn four wall just 193 laps into the race.
NASCAR's premier division returns to Talladega, Ala., next weekend for the final restrictor plate race of the 2010 season.
JEFF BURTON: "The Caterpillar Chevy just got really loose at the end. We took off and didn't have any rear grip. We never could hold our own. And, of course, it got worse and worse. We were trying to keep the pace and I was trying to keep myself in position and, in doing so, the right-rear tire wore off. That's the worst thing you can do on a long run. It just didn't accept the speed on that last run for whatever reason and just killed the right-rear tire. We didn't have that problem all day and had it on the last run, so I am really disappointed. Obviously, the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet was fast all day prior to that. We weren't as good as we needed to be at the end. We put a great effort out there and it's hard to believe you can finish ninth in a car that was that good."