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Archive for Monday, September 25, 2006

Burton blazes to Dover 400 victory

Driver halts 175-race winless streak, leads ‘Chase’

September 25, 2006

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— Jeff Burton's winless streak is over and a week of controversy is behind him.

Up ahead: A run to the Nextel Cup title, with a whole lot less competition to worry about.

Burton finally led the lap that matters Sunday, finding his way back to Victory Lane at Dover International Speedway after a thrilling late battle with Matt Kenseth. The win parked Burton in the lead of NASCAR's Chase for the championship and ended his 175-race winless streak.

"We have positioned ourselves to have something special happen, but just because we're in this position doesn't mean something special is going to happen," said Burton, who took a slim, six-point lead over Jeff Gordon, the polesitter, who finished third. "Eight races is an eternity."

Even so, Sunday's Dover 400 likely ended the title hopes of Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. - each of whom had his own problems to fall all but out of the Chase.

Burton nipped at Kenseth's bumper in the waning laps, ducked beneath him, pulled side-by-side and still kept falling just behind. It wasn't until six laps were left that Burton finally scooted by with the critical pass.

"I knew the sooner we got by Matt, the better chance we had of winning," Burton said.

All that work to pass Kenseth was for naught, though: He ran out of gas.

"We gambled for fuel, but there was really no reason to gamble because we had the best car," Kenseth said. "Even if we would have lost two or three spots, we had the car to beat, so I don't understand how you can run out of fuel."

Kenseth failed in his bid for a clean sweep at Dover, but he certainly isn't out of contention for the championship. He finished 10th and remained stuck in third in the points race after losing a gamble that he could drive the final 100-plus laps without a pit stop.

Burton came in with a whopping 637 laps led this season, but no victories. He wasn't won a Cup race since Oct. 28, 2001. It was his 18th career victory.

"The winless streak, I don't even know what it is. I don't think about it," Burton said.

Carl Edwards finished second. Gordon moved up two spots in the Chase with his third-place finish. Non-Chase drivers finished fourth through eighth before rookie Denny Hamlin, who took ninth. Hamlin fell from second to fourth in the points standings.

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