Brad Keselowski continued to show why he will be a threat to be reckoned with come Chase time as he picked up his third win of the season and it was once again a dominant performance. The only thing that was going to cost Keselowski the win was Keselowski and his crew -- his car was that good. It didn’t matter where he restarted the race or how many cars were in front of him, he was able to slice through traffic like a hot knife through butter. With the win, Keselowski joins Jimmie Johnson as the only two drivers who have three wins on the season.
As Keselowski was celebrating in Victory Lane, TNT and Turner Sports were saying goodbye for the final time after 32 years of covering NASCAR races. Turner Sports will be giving way to NBC Sports next year and one third of NBC’s announcing booth lineup was making what will most likely be his final career Cup start on Sunday.
Long-time veteran Jeff Burton was making his second start of the season in the 66 car for Michael Waltrip Racing and with no more scheduled starts lined up, it was most likely his final one. He will end his career with 21 career victories. Burton’s career took off when he signed with Jack Roush in 1996. He picked up his first career win in 1997 at Texas Motor Speedway in the inaugural Interstate Batteries 500. He won two more races and finished fourth in the final standings. That started a four-year streak of finishing in the top five in the final standings for Burton. His two best years came in 1999 and 2000. He won a personal-best six races in 1999 including his first win in the Coca-Cola 600 and also won the rain-shortened Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington. In fact he won both races at Darlington that year thanks to rain. In 2000, he won four races, including the Pepsi 400 at Daytona and for the fourth straight year, he won a race at New Hampshire. That final win at New Hampshire will probably be the final time a driver leads every single lap in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
With a strong showing in 2000, many picked him to win the 2001 title. Burton didn’t come close as he got off to a terrible start and recovered enough to finish tenth in the final standings. He did get his second career win in the Coca-Cola 600 and another win at Phoenix, but that was it. He went from a potential championship contender to also-ran after that. He failed to win a race from 2002-2005. Things got so bad he left Roush Racing midway through the 2004 season for struggling Richard Childress Racing, which was still trying to find its footing after losing Dale Earnhardt. Burton says that he didn’t move to RCR to end his career but to restart it. Restart it he did as he picked up his first-ever Chase berth in 2006 and he ended a 175-race winless streak at Dover in September 2006 that dated back to Phoenix in 2001. He won one race again in 2007, this time at Texas, passing Matt Kenseth off of turn two on the last lap. It was the only lap Burton led all day but it was the one that counted. With the win, he became the first repeat winner at Texas. He made the Chase again, but wasn’t a factor like he had been in 2006. In 2008, he had his first multi-win season since 2001. He led an RCR 1-2-3 sweep at Bristol and earned what will likely be his final career win at Charlotte in October 2008.
Despite having not won a race since 2008, Burton is one of the most-respected drivers because he’s a clean racer and when asked his opinion, he responds in a way that shows that he sees the bigger picture and promotes the sport of NASCAR. With that kind of ability, there is no doubt Burton will easily make the transition from behind the wheel to behind the microphone next year.
David Barr is a graduate of Daniel Boone High School and Mansfield University, where he received his degree in Communications.