Driving a special-themed Caterpillar Chevy Impala, commemorating Dale Earnhardt’s induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team overcame a 17th-place starting position to finish third in the annual Sprint Showdown 40-lap event.
The race, which precedes the yearly All Star event, consists of two 20-lap segments where both green flag and caution laps count toward the first 20 laps, followed by another 20 laps where only green-flag laps are scored.
Friday’s opening day gave the 29 entries an 80-minute practice session so they could fine tune their race cars for Saturday night’s contest. The Todd Berrier-led team meticulously used every second of the session and when it was all said and done, the Cat Racing team was listed second on the scoreboard.
Later that night, Burton was slated to roll of the grid 17th in the qualifying session and toured the 1.5-mile oval fast enough to position himself right behind the provisional pole sitter. But, with four cars left to make qualifying runs, Mother Nature swarmed the Concord area and delayed the time trials session for rain. Track-drying efforts, coupled with a race against the clock to get the Camping World Truck Series race in, forced NASCAR officials to cancel the Sprint Showdown qualifying session and set the starting lineup based on qualifying order.
Despite starting deep in the field, Burton & Company were overall pleased with the performance of the Caterpillar Chevy in Friday’s practice session and hoped that it would translate over to the 40-lap brawl.
The RCR entry did not disappoint.
The veteran driver moved into 12th just two laps in, 10th on lap six, and cracked the top five at lap 12.
Tussling with a machine that was tight through the middle of the turns and loose on the exits, a caution on lap 17 provided an opportunity for Berrier to summon Burton to pit road where the veteran crew chief called for a two-tire pit stop that included air pressure adjustments.
Restarting fourth, the 21-time Sprint Cup Series race winner narrowly missed a three-car racing incident that placed him fifth for a 19-lap shootout.
The South Boston, Va., native traveled to fourth on lap 23 and into third on the ensuing lap, where he spent the remaining laps trying to reel in the second-place car. But, the handling on the Caterpillar Chevy shifted to the tight side in the closing circuits and Burton couldn’t make up any time on the frontrunners, taking the checkers third.
Martin Truex Jr. captured the win while Greg Biffle crossed the line second, posting finishes that allowed both drivers to transfer into the All Star Race. Burton, Paul Menard and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top-five finishers.
Burton’s RCR teammate Clint Bowyer retired to the garage early after making contact with the wall, resulting in a 23rd-place finish.
Fellow stablemate Kevin Harvick competed in the All Star Race where he finished sixth.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing continues at Charlotte Motor Speedway next weekend for its annual longest race on the 2010 circuit. Flag-to-flag coverage of the Coca-Cola 600 will take the green flag Sunday, May 30, beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The race will be televised live on FOX and broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and Sirius XM Satellite Radio. Qualifying for the 13th points-paying race on the 2010 schedule will be telecast live on SPEED Thursday, May 27 beginning at 7 p.m. EDT.
Race/Date: Sprint Showdown on May 22, 2010
Location: Charlotte Motor Speedway – Concord, N.C.
Start Position: 17th
Finish Position: Third
Points Position: Eighth – Maintained position, non-points event
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