Race: Win turns Burton's nightmare around

Jeff Burton may just have left it a little too late to turn around a nightmare year, but the Virginian's victory in the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte on Sunday night - the longest race in the NASCAR Winston Cup - at least salvaged pride for the pre-season title favourite

Race: Win turns Burton's nightmare around

Superior fuel mileage gave Burton the lever he needed to take the win. His Roush Racing Ford Taurus covered the last 71 laps of the 1.5-mile Lowe's Motor Speedway on one tank of fuel, allowing him to head home Kevin Harvick's Richard Childress Chevrolet by four seconds at the flag.

Before Charlotte, Burton had just one top five to his name and floundered in 25th in the Winston Cup standings. His last race win had come last autumn at Phoenix, but he and Roush had ended 2000 with the momentum that hinted at a championship in 2001.

"This was the first time we've really been on our game," said a relieved Burton. "Never give up - that's how you describe us."

Burton had stopped for fuel under the green flags on lap 329, but stayed out when the caution flags flew on lap 336. Ironically, it was Bobby Labonte's spin in turn two that brought out the yellows. Prior to that, he'd looked like dominating the race in his Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac.

In the end, Labonte had to be content with fifth after managing not to lose a lap post-spin. But it was his team mate Tony Stewart who provided one of the surprises of the evening by finishing third. Stewart had come hot-foot from the Indy 500, where he'd taken sixth overall and had to start at the beck for the '600 for missing the drivers' briefing. He then spun after just two laps, but clawed his way back into contention at the end.

Roush Racing's Mark Martin was fourth, with Ricky Rudd completing the top six behind Labonte in his Robert Yates Racing Ford.

Dale Jarrett shrugged (although maybe not literally...) off a broken rib to finish eighth overall in his Yates Ford and extended his championship lead over Jeff Gordon to 75 points. Gordon had to be content with a distant 29th after damaging his Chevrolet in a pitlane collision.

Pole-sitter Ryan Newman had a short-lived first Coca Cola 600, crashing out in his Penske Racing South Ford after just 11 laps.

Jeff Burton Ford 400 laps
Kevin Harvick Chevrolet +3.687s
Tony Stewart Pontiac +4.133s
Mark Martin Ford +6.723s
Bobby Labonte Pontiac +9.803s
Ricky Rudd Ford +9.941s
Jimmy Spencer Ford +11.637s
Dale Jarrett Ford +11.771s
Ward Burton Dodge +12.305s
Jeremy Mayfield Ford +13.409s
Mike Skinner Chevrolet +14.586s
Kurt Busch Ford +16.025s
Jerry Nadeau Chevrolet +16.393s
Rusty Wallace Ford +17.667s
Sterling Marlin Dodge +21.791s
Hut Stricklin Ford +24.504s
Brett Bodine Ford +27.803s
Matt Kenseth Ford 1 lap
Elliot Sadler Ford 1 lap
Johnny Benson Pontiac 1 lap
Ken Schrader Pontiac 1 lap
Steve Park Chevrolet 1 lap
Terry Labonte Chevrolet 2 laps
Bobby Hamilton 2 laps
Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 2 laps
Bill Elliot Dodge 2 laps
Buckshot Jones Dodge 2 laps
Michael Waltrip Chevrolet 3 laps
Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 3 laps
Jason Leffler Dodge 3 laps
Ricky Craven Ford 3 laps
Rick Mast Chevrolet 3 laps
Dave Blaney Dodge 3 laps
Stacy Compton Dodge 5 laps
Kevin Lepage Chevrolet 5 laps
Ron Hornaday Pontiac 7 laps
Todd Bodine Ford 23 laps
Robert Pressley Ford 87 laps
Bobby Hamilton Jr Chevrolet 138 laps
Kenny Wallace Pontiac 156 laps
Andy Houston Ford 216 laps
Casey Atwood Dodge 349 laps
Ryan Newman Ford 389 laps

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