Burton leads RCR 1-2-3 sweep at Bristol
Jeff Burton has been a bridesmaid at Bristol three times in 28 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at the famed half-mile track, but on Sunday it took extra-laps to finally break into victory lane as Burton led the final two laps of a green-white-checkered finish to win Sunday’s Food City 500 for his career victory at Bristol.
Burton passed Denny Hamlin halfway through the opening lap of the overtime session and held off teammate Kevin Harvick to score his first career Cup victory at Bristol. Clint Boyer finished third to give Richard Childress Racing their first. 1-2-3 finish. Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounded out the top five.
Burton led just two laps – the final two – for his first triumph at the .53-mile oval and his 20th career Sprint Cup victory.
“It feels good to get to victory lane here,” said Burton. “This win at Bristol is real special. I have been lucky enough to win Nationwide races here, somebody told me today that we finished second in this thing three times and never won it, I said to myself, 'Wow, that
“I just lost it there underneath of Tony,” said Harvick. “I got up on the inside there and just flat out lost the thing. I was trying to win the race and I hate it.
“It's just the way it goes. I got down on the apron. I lost the car. I hit the side of Tony. That was pretty much the end of it. Just made a mistake. They can take it for what it's worth and go on with it.”
Stewart led 267 laps during Sundays race, marking the third straight spring Bristol race where he’s led the most laps. So far, he’s failed to win all three.
After passing Harvick to re-gain the top spot on lap 414, Stewart looked poised to break the streak, holding off Harvick through the final 40 laps before Brian Vickers blew a tire on lap 489, setting up what was shaping up to be a ten-lap dash to the finish
Having run well over 120 laps on their tires, Harvick and crew chief Todd Berrier took a risky gamble, giving up the second position to come to pit road for fresh rubber. Nearly all the lead lap cars followed Harvick to pit road, leaving only Stewart, Hamlin and Earnhardt, Jr. left on the track.
The gamble paid off for Harvick, as he re-joined the field in the fourth position as the green flag flew with six laps to go.
As the race resumed, Hamlin quickly passed Stewart for the race lead as Harvick began to work on Earnhardt, finally passing him on the inside before moving in a Stewart.
Running side-by-side entering turn one, Harvick’s car appeared to wash up the racetrack into Stewart, sending Stewart’s Toyota backwards into the outside wall.
In the ensuing melee to avoid Stewart’s spinning car, Burton dived under Harvick to take the second position. Harvick recovered to stay in third while Stewart pitted and rejoined the field in 14th.
“I thought I left (Harvick) plenty of room, but I don’t know I was far enough ahead of him that I didn’t see where he hit me or when he hit me,” said Stewart. “I’m sure some how it was my fault. I’m just sorry I got in his way.”
Coming to the green flag for the final restart, Hamlin’s car faltered right out of the gate with an apparent fuel pickup problem as Burton flashed by to take the lead for the final time.
Burton credited his crew, and crew chief Scott Miller, making the gutsy call to come to pit road on the final caution flag for fresh tires.
“This team won this race today,” said Burton. “Great pit stops and Scott Miller making a great call there at the end. This team won this race, I was just lucky to be driving it.
“Obviously without a caution we weren’t going to win. Things work out sometimes for you and sometimes they don’t. Today they worked out for us and we’ll take it.”
Hamlin recovered and finished sixth, a disappointing result despite leading 98 laps.
“Another really frustrating day for us -- I know I could have held those guys off there at the end, but we were either out of fuel or it was a fuel pickup problem like we had here last year,” said Hamlin. “By all of calculations were good on fuel to the end, including a green-white-checkered, but we just couldn't seem to pick all of it up.
“It's been that kind of season for us -- we can't get a break.”
Kasey Kahne came home seventh, followed by Aric Almirola, who posted a career-best eighth-place finish in his first start of 2008. David Gilliland and Matt Kenseth made up the rest of the top ten.
2002 Sprint Cup Champion Dale Jarrett finished 37th in his final points start of the season before turning over the wheel of the no. 44 UPS Toyota to David Reutimann for the rest of the season
“It wasn’t the finish I would have liked,” said Jarrett. “I’m able to go out with the best sponsor in the business in UPS and I would have liked to have had a better day for them, but I really can’t be too upset when you take into consideration the kind of career I have been fortunate to have.”
Kyle Busch retains the series points lead heading into NASCAR’s off-week. Greg Biffle trails by 30points behind in second, followed by Kevin Harvick. Jeff Burton moved up one spot to fourth while Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also moved up a spot to claim the fifth spot.
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