Ward's woe: another near miss By Matthew Leach ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 27, 2000) It really looked like this would be the one for Ward Burton. All the indications were there. He started a good-but-not-great 11th, but was fastest in Happy...
Ward's woe: another near miss By Matthew Leach
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 27, 2000) It really looked like this would be the one for Ward Burton. All the indications were there.
He started a good-but-not-great 11th, but was fastest in Happy Hour final practice for the Dura Lube/Kmart 400. A bit of savvy pit strategy put the No. 22 Pontiac on fresh tires ... and seemingly on rails early in the event. At points in the first half of the race it appeared that no one would have anything for the Caterpillar car.
Then consider that Burton's younger brother -- and nemesis of late -- Jeff fell out of the lead pack, and soon after had to leave the track with mechanical problems.
And all of this at the track where Burton scored his only previous NASCAR Winston Cup Series win, North Carolina Speedway.
But once again, as has been the case so many times over the past year and a half, it was a case of good but not good enough for the South Boston, Va., native. Burton fell well behind Bobby Labonte in the last quarter of the Dura Lube/Kmart 400 at Rockingham, and by the time he had his car sorted out, it was too late to make a run on the 18 car.
Burton finished a strong third, leading 100 laps (second-most behind Labonte) and vaulting to third in the series standings, but his winless streak continue. Burton has now gone 134 races since he won at Rockingham in October of 1995.
"The Cat team did a great job," Burton said. "We adjusted on the car all day. It started out way too tight and we got loose on long runs. Right there at the end was actually a better run, we just didn't have the track position. But we're pretty happy with a top-5 finish."
He said that, and very likely meant it. But at the same time, Burton aches for a win as intensely as any driver on the circuit. And he didn't deny that when he took off from the field during the first long green-flag run, he had a win on his mind.
"Oh yeah," Burton said. "I'm thinking about that every time we get in the car. It just wasn't our day. It was track position. The 18 and the 3 car and the 20 really for that matter had gotten away from us a little on the end of the last run before this one. We had just gotten really loose and that set the stage. We were able to adjust the car and they did a great job, we come back and got the 20 car but we just run out of time."
There's nothing that Burton isn't doing, or doing wrong. He just hasn't gotten the breaks needed to get to Victory Lane. Next week at Las Vegas would seem to present as good a chance as he'll have.
Last season's Las Vegas 400 provided the first -- and probably the most competitive -- Burton-Burton 1-2 finish. And as well as the Pontiacs ran at The Rock, Mr. "older but faster" may have just the little edge he needs to bump him from top-5 to top-1.