The bad luck that Jeff Burton has dodged
since taking the points lead in the 10-race Chase For The
Nextel Cup finally caught up with him.
Just one week after being dubbed “The Ice Man”
by fellow Chase competitor Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Burton pulled
into the garage on lap 217 of Sunday’s Subway 500 at
Martinsville Speedway with a terminal engine problem, relegating
him to a 42nd-place finish and dropping him from first to fifth
in the standings, 48 points behind new race leader Matt Kenseth.
Despite avoiding the “Big One” at Talladega and
transmission problems that plagued his teammates last week at
Lowe’s Motor Speedway, the half-mile at Martinsville may very
well have proven to be the turning point in the Chase.
Burton’s DNF at Martinsville on Sunday has
turned what had looked to be a four-horse race for the title
just one week ago into a near dead heat with eight of the 10
drivers separated by just 99 points with just four races to go.
Somewhere, you know NASCAR President Brian
France – who first came up with the idea of the Chase format –
must have a very large smile on his face. In its third season,
the Chase has produced exactly what NASCAR had hoped it would –
a wide-open battle for the title that could very well come down
to the last lap of the season on Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami
Sunday’s winner Jimmie Johnson, who at one point was 136 points
behind Burton and all but written out of the championship
picture, now finds himself back in the hunt – currently he is
third in the standings, 41 points out.
“I think there have been a couple teams that have shown a lot of
speed but have had bad luck. I think we are one of them,” said
Johnson. “If we look back at Kansas, Talladega, Charlotte and
here, we had a chance to win all four of those races. We have
had the speed, the No. 31 has had the speed, but the luck hasn't
been with it.
“(Burton’s) had decent races, not a lot of bad luck. Today was a
lot of bad luck for him but up until this point he's been pretty
clean and the rest of the teams have had bad luck including us.
Even Kasey Kahne – dead last in points just a month ago – has a
shot. He’s in eighth place, but just 99 points behind the
Burton, though, has vowed he and his team would give up so
“Stuff happens and everybody in the Chase has had trouble,”
Burton said following Sunday’s race. “We certainly didn't want
this to happen, didn't need this to happen but at the same time
it did happen. We will burrow down tomorrow morning and focus on
being better and focus on going to Atlanta to win the race.
By no means do I think we're out of this thing. I think we have
as good a shot as anybody. We run well enough to win a
championship; we've just got to put the next
four races together.
“We're a team. We fight together. We die together. We do
everything together and that's what it's all about. We'll go to
Atlanta. I feel like we have as good a chance as anybody to win
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