Richard Childress Racing
March 5, 2012
Engine Problems Thwart Burton's Top-10 Run at Phoenix
"We don't really know just yet. It's really disappointing because we had a pretty easy top-10 finish."
Start - 11
Finish - 33
Laps Led - 7
Points - 13
After running in the top 15 for 254 of the first 291 laps in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, Jeff Burton's No. 31 Wheaties Chevrolet suffered engine problems. The team was forced to retire early, relegating the Richard Childress Racing driver to a 33rd-place finish. After qualifying in the 11th position for the 312-lap event, Burton immediately drove his Chevrolet Impala into the top five and remained until the first pit stop of the day on lap 60. During that pit stop, the front-tire changer tripped and fell to the ground, delaying the stop for a few seconds. As a result, Burton dropped outside the top 10 for the ensuing restart and soon developed a loose-handling condition on the No. 31 Chevrolet in the middle of the 11-degree banked turns at one-mile desert oval. As the run progressed, the handling tightened up on the car and the 44-year-old veteran was able to return the top 10 and led seven consecutive paces beginning at lap 190. After the final four-tire pit stop of the day that occurred under caution-flag conditions on lap 248, the South Boston Va., native restarted 18th and went on a tear through the field, picking off competitors with older tires and working his way up to eighth with 25 laps to go. Around lap 288, Burton reported to crew chief Drew Blickensderfer the engine on the car was ready to expire. The RCR driver was able to complete three more laps on the track before retiring to the garage on lap 291 and finishing in the 33rd position. Burton now sits 13th in Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.
JEFF BURTON QUOTE:
"I don't really know what happened. We broke something. It felt like a valve or valve spring or something. We don't really know just yet. It's really disappointing because we had a pretty easy top-10 finish. We didn't run quite as well as we wanted to, but we ran well and put ourselves in position to have a good day. These things are going to happen."