Burton, No. 31 Team Post Fourth-Consecutive Top 10 at Pocono In a race that saw five caution flags, two red-flag periods and an interference with Mother Nature, Jeff Burton and the Cat Racing team weathered the storm in Sunday's Pennsylvania 500...
Burton, No. 31 Team Post Fourth-Consecutive Top 10 at Pocono
In a race that saw five caution flags, two red-flag periods and an interference with Mother Nature, Jeff Burton and the Cat Racing team weathered the storm in Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 and overcame a late-race pitting decision to score their fourth-consecutive top-eight effort of the season at Pocono Raceway.
The No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team's hard fought eighth-place result helped them leapfrog two spots in the overall point standings to fifth. With just five races remaining before the top 12 drivers in the standings have their points reset to contend in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the Todd Berrier-led team enjoys a 227-point cushion over 13th. At the same time, they sit 46 markers in arrears to Jimmie Johnson in fourth and 63 points on the cuff of the top three.
The veteran driver and his 11-man band showcased sporty performances during all three practice sessions that took place on Friday and Saturday in the Pocono Mountains. Although, on paper, Burton was only able to muster the 20th-fastest time in Friday's opening practice session, his consistent lap times in race trim were strong enough that it later translated into him touring the 2.5-mile tricky triangular-shaped race track and posting the eighth quickest in qualifying, lining the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet on the outside of row four for Sunday's 200-lap event. Saturday's dual practice sessions only further exhibited the strong performance of the black and yellow machine when the Cat Racing team was scored fourth and the fastest, respectively, on the score board at the end of the day.
Green-flag racing commenced shortly after 1 p.m. local time and because morning rain washed away the rubber build up on the track, NASCAR opted to have a competition caution at lap 15 so teams could access their tire wear. By the time the yellow flag was displayed, Burton had worked his way into the third position but would soon give that up to visit the Cat Racing over-the-wall crew for four fresh tires and slight air pressure adjustments that he needed to help the Caterpillar Chevrolet exit the corners better. Since some teams chose to change only two tires under the slowdown, Burton was shown sixth when the 43-car field returned to action on lap 19.
It didn't take long for the RCR driver to return to the top three before dropping a spot, to fourth, on lap 60. He held the fourth-place real estate for the next 61 circuits that included three scheduled visits to pit road for routing service on the No. 31 Chevy.
Debris on lap 121 slowed the field and provided an opportunity for Berrier to make additional changes to the loose-handling race car but a hiccup with the left-rear tire relegated the 21-time Sprint Cup Series winner to seventh for the lap-126 restart.
Three cautions, including two red flags for cleanup after a heavy on-track incident and rain, respectively, consumed the next 40 laps where Burton raced between seventh and 12th.
Once the final red flag was lifted and the yellow flag displayed, a pivotal call would have to be made by all teams as to whether or not they will pit before completing the remaining 21 laps.
Berrier decided that a four-tire pit stop would better serve the team and, as a result, Burton restarted 17th behind competitors who either did not pit or took only two tires. But, there were no concerns in the No. 31 camp as everyone knew the strong performance the Caterpillar Chevy was capable of and had a driver who was up for the task.
When the field returned to green, Burton quickly settled into a rhythm and moved into 15th at lap 184, 12th at lap 187 and into the top 10 seven laps later.
In the closings laps, he was able to rally past two more competitors to finish eighth in the final rundown.
Greg Biffle earned his first victory of the season, beating Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards to the start/finish line. RCR teammate Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five finishers.
Other RCR stablemate Clint Bowyer finished 15th.
NASCAR's senior circuit heads to upstate New York next weekend for the division's second and final road course event of the 2010 season.
"We just weren't very good on restarts and lost positions as a result, but the Caterpillar Chevy was strong and we were able to move back up through the field. There was a lot of guesswork whether or not to pit under the last caution because of rain and it was, obviously, the right call to pit. The No. 31 team fought all day and that's what we need to continue to do."