Another competitor near the end of a NASCAR Cup race spun Kyle Busch. Busch had to restart near the end of the lead lap cars with only a handful of laps remaining. He was vocally upset over his radio. This is a story that we have seen and heard more than once.
But this time the other competitor was Jeff Burton.
That’s right, Jeff Burton.
The driver nicknamed ‘The Mayor’ in the garage area had a strong day in Loudon, NH leading much of the race and threatened to win. But as so often happens, late race cautions change the entire complexion.
Burton was out front when Juan Pablo Montoya crashed. Pitting decisions had to be made in a matter of moments. Crew chief Todd Berrier elected not to come in.
Every other car came to pit road and changed at least the two right side tires. That left Burton as a sitting duck. On the restart Jimmie Johnson advanced to the lead, Kurt Busch moved to second and Kyle Busch drove to third, dropping Burton to fourth.
Burton challenged Kyle Busch for third when the contact was made sending Busch for a spin.
It was an uncharacteristic move for Burton who is one of the most respected drivers on the entire tour. He speaks his mind with measured and well-chosen words and with the best interest of the sport in mind. Rarely does he anger or brush another driver the wrong way. And he always has control of his car. Until late in Loudon’s event.
“Kyle didn’t have anything to do with that. That was all me” said Burton accepting responsibility for the incident. “He got loose off of two and I dove underneath him. I just underestimated the grip I would have getting into three. And the back came around. He was there. He paid the price for it. He didn’t do anything wrong.”
Burton commented about the late pit stop call. “That last call was a tough call. Hard to know what to do. That was the first time we had taken off on old tires and I really didn’t know what to expect” Burton said. “It’s easy to sit back now and say ‘We should have changed tires.’ All we had to do was drag two other cars with us (stay out and not pit) and we win the race. Nobody came. Sometimes leading the race is in a difficult position to be in.”
Kyle Busch was not happy but still under control emotionally. “You all saw it. I got wrecked. Good hard racing at the end of the race. A guy on no tires trying to make it all with what he’s got” said Busch. “We screwed up. We didn’t have the right front underneath the car there at the end (grip-wise) and I washed up the track in the previous corner and Kurt got by. And went down there into turn three and Burton got loose underneath me and we wrecked.”
When the checkered finally waved Busch and Burton finished 11th and 12th.
Sunday showed a rare side of Burton that he is human and susceptible to mistakes like all the others. But he does seem to make those errors a little less than everyone else does.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR mechanic who hosts “Motorweek Live” Thursdays at 9pm ET. Listen at www.racersreunion.com)
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