What can you do with an automotive degree in NASCAR? The answer is simple: work with a racing team and aim to become a member of the pit stop team. The NASCAR Nation explains that only six crew members have the opportunity to work on pit stops during a Sprint Cup series race. A seventh crew member remains on stand-by; if he is allowed to join the crew during a stop, he has the job of swiftly cleaning the windshield.
The more common tasks performed during these hurried stops include the change of all four racing tires and a fuel tank top-off. How much time is allotted for these tasks? No more than 13 to 15 seconds; any NASCAR pit stop that goes beyond this time frame is considered to be a problem. In extreme cases, an inexpertly conducted pit stop can cost a team the race.
So how does an automotive degree figure into the equation? Considering that the maintenance tasks are not particularly involved, it would make sense that anyone trained in basic car care could serve as a pit stop crew member. Then again, remember that the automotive degree enables the crew member to make split-second decisions – based on professional training – that can turn a good pit stop into a great one. In fact, NASCAR history shows that there are a couple of amazing stops along the way – even if they only took up seconds.
Case in point is Sterling Marlin’s 2002 UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400 pit stop. Speeding in the pit lane, although not by choice, should have led to a 15-second penalty. Because of an error on the part of the racing officials, the driver never received the penalty and instead won the race by 1.163 seconds. The quick work of the pit crew, which may have prevented the officials from quickly realizing their errors, undoubtedly factored into this memorable NASCAR pit stop.
In fact, 2002 was the history-making year for the pit stop. At the Sprint All-Star Race XVIII, a final pit stop strategically planned by Jeff Burton’s racing team might not have been enough for Victory Lane, but it led to a change in NASCAR rules. The final pit stop, just 100 yards away from the finish line, propelled Burton into an advantageous position and earned him an extremely short time in the pit. Recognizing the unfair advantage that this stop represented to other drivers, current NASCAR rules now stipulate a target lap for each pit stop.
Richard Childress Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton presented a superb example of teamwork and driving skill as they separated themselves from the pack, chasing each other and working together to maintain first and second positions at Talladega on Sunday. But on the final stretch of the Good Sam Club 500, Bowyer pulled past Burton to cross the finish line in first place – his first win of the current season and the 100th win for Richard Childress Racing in the Sprint Cup Series. Third place was taken by Dave Blaney, with Brad Keselowski in fourth place and Brian Vickers in fifth, followed by Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin in sixth, seventh and eighth place respectively.
In a post-race interview Bowyer was reported as saying that he owed it to his team and sponsors to go out and win the race, even if it was up against his teammate. Burton noted that Bowyer did what he was supposed to do in making his move to take first place, following the strategy they had planned before the race. Commenting on the result, Childress said that he tells all his drivers to try to win the race, as they are in the business to race hard and to put on a good show for the fans.
While the two RCR drivers held the lead using the two-car drafting system, where two cars working in a nose-to-tail formation can gain at least a 10-mph advantage, other drivers further back in the field tried the same strategy with varying degrees of success. Jeff Gordon was less than impressed when Trevor Bayne failed to push him over the last two laps as Gordon had expected. Instead, Bayne joined the alliance of fellow Ford drivers in supporting Roush Fenway Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards in the championship race. Gordon had been in seventh place on the final restart, but fell to 27th spot when Bayne bailed on him. Gordon tweeted his disappointment with Bayne and his dissatisfaction with the two-car drafting style, noting that it is too premeditated.
A number of accidents marred the race, but fortunately no injuries occurred, although it did result in a reshuffle of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings. The first ten spots, in order, are held by Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon.
Jeff Burton was born in South Boston, VA, on the 29th of June, 1967. His more than 30-year career started off when he first got behind the wheel of a go-kart at the age of seven and it eventually led him to winning two Virginia karting state championships before he took to stock car racing instead in 1984. He raced on his home track in South Boston Speedway, winning six Late Model races in 1986 and seven the following year.
Jeff Burton’s NASCAR career began in 1988 when he competed in five Busch Series races, twice finishing 11th. He raced the Busch Series for his father, John, finally winning in September 1990 at Martinsville, where he drove for Sam Ard, the Busch series legend. From 1988 to 1993 Burton raced full time in the Busch Series with a personal best in 1992. Overall he had a total of 20 career Busch wins.
In July of 1993 Burton made his Cup debut in New Hampshire but failed to complete the race when he had a crash after 86 laps. He again raced full time in 1994, which ended with him winning Cup rookie of the year honors. Throughout these years of racing Jeff Burton was unable to feature as well as he would have liked, but 1996 changed all of that when he began driving for Jack Roush and his career took off with six Top-5’s and twelve Top-10’s and finishing overall 13th in points.
Between 1996 and 2001, Burton was able to keep his track record up and doing well, finishing top five in points. It was during those years that he made 15 of his 17 wins, which included his first win in April 1997 in Texas. Burton was tenth in points when he finished 2001, which was the last year he ever won a race. Jeff Burton left Roush Racing in 2005 and moved to Richard Childress Racing where he had three Top-5’s and six Top-10’s driving the No. 31 Chevrolet. Overall, Jeff finished the year 18th in points for the second time round.
Continuing to build his reputation as a talented driver, and as a reflection of his confidence in RCR, Burton won the pole for four races in 2006, adding to his previous two pole wins. His best finish of the season was a second place in the Chicagoland Speedway race, and he set the pace for more than half the race at the Sharpie 500 at Bristol. Breaking his four year winning drought, Burton won at both the Dover International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. He qualified for the Chase for the Nextel Cup, and set about winning the Dover 400, putting him in the points lead. However, the taste of victory was short-lived as a series of poor finishes and misfortune precluded Burton from the championship.
On 15 April 2007, Burton won the Samsung 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway, making him the first driver to score multiple wins at this particular track. He qualified for the Chase for the Nextel Cup, finishing in a tied 7th place in the standings for 2007. In 2008 Burton qualified 36th for his first Daytona 500, and worked his way up in the field, finishing 13th. He won the 2008 Food City 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway, as well as the Bank of America 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, taking the lead from Greg Biffle. Still racing with RCR, in 2009 Burton finished 17th in series points, being his most disappointing points finish since 2005 where he came in at 18th. In October 2009 he made his 800th NASCAR Nationwide Series start at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Moving into 2010, Jeff Burton will be undertaking his 17th full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. His achievements to date (March 2010) include 547 starts, 21 wins, six poles, 122 top-five finishes, and 222 top-ten finishes.
Richard Childress Racing is a NASCAR team that fields various Chevrolets. Kevin Harvick drives #29, Jeff Burton drives #31, Clint Bowyer drives #33, John Wes Townley is in the #21, and Austin Dillon drives #3. Businessman Richard Childress, who was a former driver, owns the team.
Richard Childress Racing made its debut at the 1969 Talladega 500 with a 1968 Chevy, numbered 3. Childress drove and finished 23rd due to axle problems. Between 1972 until just before the end of the 1976 season, Childress competed for the team in fourteen races. He made eleven top-ten finishes and finished the year ranked eleventh. Then in 1981 Richard Childress ended his career and gave over the #3 ride to the defending Winston Cup champion, Dale Earnhardt.
With car #29 Earnhardt made six top-tens and then moved, with Ricky Rudd taking his place for the 1982 season. Rudd ended both 1982 and 1983 placed ninth in points and the next two years he won. When the season ended Rudd was replaced with former RCR driver Earnhardt. He had a successful two decades, winning six championships but later on his performance slowed down. On February 18, 2001, Earnhardt was on the finishing lap of the Daytona 500 when he crashed head-on into a wall, dying immediately.
Jeff Green was selected to drive the #07 car, which debuted at California Speedway, finishing 21 in total points. Green made pole position at the Sharpie 500, with six top-tens and finishing 17th the following year. Later Green was replaced with Steve Park but with not much potential he was not re-assigned. Jeff Burton later became available and was snapped up by Childress, finishing off the rest of the year. With Robby Gordon moving, Burton decided to leave, which meant that Childress had two spaces to fill. Jack Daniels took up sponsorship and by 2006 Clint Bowyer took over the car.
Childress used car #31 for research and development. Its debut was at North Carolina Speedway in 1988. The next time the car was seen was in 1993 with Neil Bonnett driving at Talladega Superspeedway. Three years later Mike Skinner made a return with the car but having suffered injuries during the 1998 season Morgan Shepherd and Mike Dillon, Childress’ son-in-law, took over. With the injuries Skinner was never able to excel and eventually Robby Gordon took over with a spectacular race in 2001, where he battled against Jeff Gordon near the closing-laps to win the season finale at New Hampshire International Speedway.
By the end of 2009, Richard Childress Racing had managed to rack up the following championships: 6 Sprint Cups, 5 Nationwide Series and 1 Camping World Truck Series.
Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, was the stage for Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 Sprint Cup. The night was full of fast-paced action, with an exciting turn of events taking place as Jeff Burton took his No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to its limit to take home the winner’s trophy.
The race was exciting and had the phenomenal 160,000-strong crowd on the edge of their seats. Jeff Burton led the final 57 laps of the race, finally managing to beat 2nd place winner Kasey Kahne by just one second. Burton’s entire racing strategy was a gamble, but it paid off. This is his second victory this season and it has had even bigger implications for him in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. The win helped Burton gain 30 points on Jimmie Johnson, who only finished sixth in the race. Burton is now just 69 points behind Jimmie Johnson for the Sprint Cup and there are still plenty of races in the season for Burton to gain even more ground. Commenting on his move up on the Sprint Cup standings, Burton said: “People keep wanting to give the trophy to someone, but we’re only halfway through this chase, and it’s a long time from here to Homestead.” Indeed, contenders for the coveted Sprint Cup trophy are only five races into the ten-race chase. A lot can happen between now and then and Burton’s latest victory might give him quite a big psychological advantage over his chief rival.
Dodge driver Kurt Busch finished third and both he and Kasey Kahne were a surprise to fans who watched Johnson fade into the background after some stiff competition initially. Carl Edwards had an even more dismal race, crashing early and finishing a distant 33rd. Prior to the start of the race, Edwards had been second in the standings for the Sprint Cup, just 72 points behind Johnson. He will now have to work extremely hard if he wants to regain the ground he has lost. Sprint Cup contenders will be looking forward to driving at Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas, Phoenix and Miami during the second half of the challenge. A lot has already happened in the first half of the Sprint Cup challenge and it is impossible at this point to predict who will be taking the Cup home after the Miami finale.