Jeff Burton wins Bank of America 500 at Lowe's
Jeff Burton made it known Saturday night that he is a legitimate threat to win the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup, winning the Bank of America 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in the halfway event in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
After flying under the radar for the first four races of the 10-race Chase, Burton and his team staked their claim to the title utilizing an unorthodox pit strategy to get Burton up front, gambling on three fuel-only pit stops including the final pit stop with 34 laps to go.
The strategy paid off, giving Burton his second victory of the season and moving him from fourth to second in the championship standings, 69 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson.
“This is an awesome race track, turning in to victory lane here is just an incredible feeling,” said Burton. “Getting out in front, that was a great call. Scott Miller (crew chief) won this race for us. I’m sure a lot of people were saying ‘What in the world?’ and I will be honest, I was too. He made a great call.
“We’re racing for wins, but we have the championship in the back of our mind all the time. We were kind of laying it out there and seeing what we could make happen.”
The victory was 21st of Burton’s career, and his first Chase victory since 2006, when he led the points standings for the first four weeks before falling to finish out the year in seventh.
This year, Burton and his team are hoping for a better outcome.
“Obviously goal number one to take one week at a time,” said Burton. “We certainly want to put ourselves in a position to win a championship. It’s going to be a battle, there’s still five races to go, still a lot of racing left to go. It’s not done yet.”
Kasey Kahne finished second, followed by Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray.
Burton led two times for 58 laps, leading the field off pit road after taking only fuel in the final round of stops on lap 300.
Johnson came out second and immediately challenged Burton for the top spot, running side by side for six laps before Burton charged back to the front and began to pull away. Johnson continued to fell back in the field, winding with a sixth-place finish.
Kahne, looking to pull off the season sweep at Lowe’s after winning the NASCAR All-Star race and the Coca-Cola 600 here last May, restarted third after the last round of pit stops and slipped past Johnson to move into second but came up short of the trifecta, finishing nearly a second behind Burton.
“I tried catching (Burton), but came up a little bit short,” said Kahne. “We battled the car all night. We got up towards the front, the car was pretty good, I was just real loose into the corner. I’m glad to finish where we did.
“It was a fun race, We had a nice try to catch the 31 – he was fast. We tried; we just didn’t get to him.”
For Kyle Busch, Saturday’s fourth-place finish was his highest finish thus far in the Chase.
Having led the points standings for 20 of the 26 weeks leading into the Chase, Busch’s averaged just a 30th-place finish in the first four races, dropping him 11th place in the standings and virtually out of the championship picture.
“It’s good to know that we finally ran well again on a mile-and-a-half,” said Busch. “We’ve got a few more of these tracks coming up here. We’ve got to get through Martinsville and keep going from there.”
However, much like the previous week’s event at Talladega, Saturday night’s race proved disastrous for several of the Chase contenders.
Having coming into Saturday night’s event second points behind Johnson in the championship points standings, Carl Edward fell victim to engine woes early on, eventually getting back on track to finish 33rd, 17 laps down.
Already embroiled in controversy after triggering last weeks big crash which later resulted in a garage tussle with Kevin Harvick earlier this week, Edwards tumbled two spots to fourth in the series points standings.
“Today’s race didn’t help at all,” said Edwards of points battle. “There’s only one thing to do and that’s to learn from everything this week. I guarantee you that if I had the week to do over again, the last seven days would be a lot different.”
Chase contenders dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth, both taken out in a crash last week, both wound up in the garage after separate crashes on Saturday.
Among the drivers who failed to finish the event were Kenseth, A.J. Allmendinger, Travis Kvapil, and Juan Pablo Montoya.
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