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Burton makes late pass to win at Bristol

Mar 16, 2008 - 10:40 PM By Bruce Martin PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor

BRISTOL, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Richard Childress Racing scored a stunning 1-2-3 sweep Sunday with Jeff Burton winning the NASCAR Food City 500 in surprising fashion at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Burton grabbed the lead in a green-white-checkered finish when leader Denny Hamlin had a fuel pickup problem during the final restart.

Hamlin's Toyota had to pull to the inside of the track, while Burton led RCR teammates Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer to the checkered flag.

"It was just like last year - only a different car in front of me," Burton said. "I don't know what happened to Denny, if he ran out of gas or something. He quit, and we kept going."

It was Burton's first Cup win at Bristol in 29 races. Last year, he finished second to Kyle Busch in what was the first race of NASCAR's new car.

"Every win is different and unique," Burton said. "What I'm proud of today is we did the little things right. That's what I'm proud of. There are as many that we look back on and thing we should have won but didn't.

"I won't lose sleep tonight because we didn't have the fastest car; all I know is we have the trophy."

Greg Biffle's Ford was fourth, followed by the Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

One week after blistering Goodyear for what he considered a terrible tire, Tony Stewart got blistered by Harvick, who spun him out with two laps to go while battling for position heading to the finish.

Stewart, who had just been passed for the lead by Hamlin, was trying to keep second position before Harvick knocked him out of the way.

Stewart referred to Harvick as a "(expletive) jerk" to his crew over the radio, but that set up the green-white-checkered finish.

In addition to hard feelings between the two drivers, the spotters for Stewart and Harvick apparently had words on the roof.

"I just lost it," Harvick said. "Tony and I can work this out - we don't need some idiot spotter up there trying to sort this out. I told my spotter to go up there and tell him what happened, and the first thing his spotter commenced to doing was how he was going to kick my (rear) or Tony was going to do it for him.

"I was pretty ticked off by that when I got out of my car, but I can talk about it now. If his spotter wants to have a bad attitude about it, he can come down here and we can handle it."

Stewart had dominated the race, leading 267 laps. The two-time series champion used old tires to get a good jump on a restart with five laps left in the race and was able to pull away before Hamlin blasted by him with four to go.

Harvick, who had four fresh tires, went to the inside of Stewart's Toyota with two laps to go - and the result was contact that sent Stewart into the wall.

"I thought I left him plenty of room," said Stewart, who finished 14th. "I was far enough ahead of him I thought I gave him the room. Somehow, it's my fault - I'm sorry I got in the way."

Three-time IndyCar Series champion and 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. finished 29th but was able to climb into the top 35 in points, which guarantees him a starting position when the Sprint Cup Series returns to action in two weeks at Martinsville.

The same can't be said for reigning IndyCar Series champ and Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, who was involved in two crashes on Sunday before finishing 36th.

That leaves Franchitti 38th in points, and he will have to race his way into the starting lineup through time trial speeds beginning at Martinsville.

Dale Jarrett finished 37th in the final Sprint Cup points race of his career.

"I'm thankful for everything that happened in my career; the good and the bad," Jarrett said. "The good things were great and were a lot of fun and the bad things taught me a lot of things in life."

The race was scheduled for 500 laps but actually went 506 went it went into overtime. There were 17 lead changes among eight drivers and 10 caution periods for 68 laps.

A six-car pileup in turn 2 on lap 191 involved Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, Franchitti, Bobby Labonte and Ken Schrader.

Franchitti was in another crash on lap 280 when he was tagged from behind by Menard. Casey Mears and Hamlin were involved in a separate crash on the same lap as they were slowing down to avoid the incident.

Kyle Busch, who won last week's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, spun out while leading the race on lap 292.

Those were just preliminary incidents to the battle that erupted at the end of the race between Harvick and Stewart.

"I just lost it getting into Tony," Harvick said. "They can take it for what it is worth and move on. I got down on the apron, lost the car, got inside of Tony and that was pretty much the end of it. It was mine to lose at that point - and I lost it."

Meanwhile, Burton's teammate celebrated a win at this track for this first time in his Cup career.

"When Kevin and Tony got into each other, I viewed that as the opening and we had to jump through it," said Burton, who won $209,558. "Kevin and I banged doors and for both of us to come through that and then Denny had his problems. The restart worked out perfect. I almost ran into him but it worked out."

Burton, who also pitted for four fresh tires on his final pit stop, led just two laps in his 20th career victory.

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