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Burton, Cat Racing Team Return to Top-10 Form at Pocono
Race/Date: Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500/June 6, 2010
Location: Pocono Raceway – Long Pond, Penn.
Start Position: 13th
Finish Position: Seventh
Points Position: Eighth (Maintained position)
Jeff Burton and the Cat Racing team ran inside the top 10 for most of Sunday’s Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 and overcame a rash of late-race cautions, pit gambles and a broken left-front shock to finish seventh at Pocono Raceway.
Burton’s Pocono resume proves that the triangle-shaped arena is not one of his better tracks but, based on the weekend’s qualifying and practice sessions, the Todd Berrier-led team had a reason to have peps in their steps when the garage opened on Sunday morning.
Mother Nature halted NASCAR from dropping the green flag just past 1 p.m. local time when hard rain pushed back the start time to just after 3 p.m. Since the downpour washed away the rubber buildup on the 2.5-mile speedway, NASCAR issued a competition caution at lap 15 for teams to assess their tire wear.
After returning to action 12th, two separate long green-flag runs ensued, with debris bringing two cautions out at laps 97 and 154. During that time, the South Boston, Va., native ran inside the top 10, running as high as third, despite needing slightly more rear grip to exit the corners.
A string of late-race cautions soon broke out, beginning at lap 159, when Berrier and Company opted to stay on the race track because of Burton’s sixth-place track position, but just over two handfuls of cars came down pit road to fill their fuel tanks full of gas so they could go the remaining distance. The next slowdown came eight laps later and it was during this caution period that Berrier summoned the veteran driver to pit road for fuel only.
This decision placed Burton 18th for the lap-171 restart where he fought with all his might to pick up spots but, while jockeying for positions, slight contact with another competitor gave the Caterpillar Chevy a minor right-front tire rub which moved him to 21st when another yellow flag was displayed at lap 175.
The Cat Racing team had no choice but to bring the No. 31 Chevy to pit road so the seven-member over-the-wall squad could pull the fender away from the tire. It was also deemed by Berrier that they would replace all four tires on the RCR machine since all those in front of Burton would have old tires, resulting in a 26th-place restart position for the team.
The 21-time Sprint Cup Series race winner was up for the task and had 22 laps to gain back everything he lost and more. And, that, he did.
He quickly moved into 15th at lap 181, 11th at lap 184 and seventh at lap 192.
However, with four laps remaining, Burton came on the radio and announced that something was wrong with the left front of the black and yellow entry and his lap times were slightly increasing. He dropped one position, to eighth, on lap 197 and held that spot before an untimely caution slowed the field just before the leader was about to take the white flag.
Radio chatter between the duo of Burton and Berrier commenced and the end result was for the 42-year-old driver to maintain his position on the track and hope for the best.
The decision proved to pay dividends as Burton took the green flag seventh and was able to uphold the position during the green/white/checkered finish despite competing with a broken left-front shock, which was discovered at the conclusion of the race.