Burton, CAT Racing Team Conquer Adversity to Score Second Consecutive Top-10 Finish in the Lone Star State In his second week calling the shots for the CAT Racing team, crew chief Todd Berrier guided Jeff Burton and Company through hardship and...
Burton, CAT Racing Team Conquer Adversity to Score Second Consecutive Top-10 Finish in the Lone Star State
In his second week calling the shots for the CAT Racing team, crew chief Todd Berrier guided Jeff Burton and Company through hardship and misfortune to earn their second consecutive top-10 finish in Sunday's Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team's ninth-place result helped them maintain 17th in the overall point standings and gained ground on David Reutimann in 16th, shaving 24 markers off his total. Burton also padded the difference between him and Marcos Ambrose in 18th by 20 points with two races remaining in the 2009 season.
Eagerness to start Friday's practice session was evident in the No. 31 camp when the boys in black and yellow unloaded a brand new No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy for the weekend's 334-lap showdown. As practice progressed, so did the performance of the RCR entry. Burton averaged eighth-place lap times in race trim but, when qualifying runs commenced, he found himself holding down the second-fastest time. With less than 15 minutes remaining in the session, the CAT Racing team sent the South Boston, Va., native back on track for another mock qualifying run. But, as Burton was exiting Turn 2, a part failure caused him to make heavy contact with the outer retaining wall. Significant damage to the No. 31 Chevy forced the Berrier-led crew to unload the backup car for Sunday's 500 miler.
As a result of having no on-track time with the backup Caterpillar Chevy, the veteran driver recorded the 42nd-fastest time in qualifying later that day. Down, but certainly not out, the new duo of Burton and Berrier put their heads together and immediately turned their focus on fine-tuning their machine during Saturday's twin practice sessions.
Saturday's perseverance translated over to Sunday's feature as the 21-time Sprint Cup Series race winner quietly flexed his muscle and, with the help of his over-the wall crew's lightning-fast work on pit road, he made his presence in the top 20 by lap 91.
Burton never raced outside the top 20 for the remainder of the race and, at times, posted lap times compared to, or better than, the frontrunners thanks to Berrier's adjustment decisions and in-sync work by the crew on pit road.
He was 16th on lap 182, 13th on lap 205 and cracked the top 10 by lap 292.
As the race was nearing completion, it was apparent that fuel mileage was going to be a factor in determining the outcome of the race. Knowing there wasn't enough fuel in the Caterpillar Chevy for Burton to make it to the end, Berrier's gutsy call on lap 319 for two tires and fuel would pay dividends if the race stayed caution free.
Burton returned to the racing surface 16th, one lap down to the leaders, but soon thereafter, a majority of the frontrunners began hitting pit road for fuel, aiding the 42-year-old's advancement up the scoring pylon. The race continued and ended caution free, playing right into the hands of the No. 31 team that produced a ninth-place finish for a team that kept their spirits high all weekend long.
Kurt Busch was able to nurse his machine to the conclusion of lap 334, capturing his second win of the season. Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and RCR teammate Kevin Harvick rounded out the balance of the top-five finishers.
Fellow RCR stable mates Clint Bowyer and Casey Mears finished seventh and 21st, respectively.
JEFF BURTON: "What a heck of a run with the CAT Racing team. These guys fought hard after we had to load up our primary No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy when it received too much damage when I hit the wall during practice. Todd (Berrier, crew chief) did a great job dialing in our back up car for the race. We hope to carry this momentum to the last two races of the season. What a great way to end the weekend."
NASCAR's premier division continues its westward trek for the second and final visit to the Arizona desert.