Burton ends drought, takes lead in Chase

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Associate Press

DOVER, Del. -- Jeff Burton nipped at leader Matt Kenseth's bumper in the waning laps, ducked beneath him, pulled side-by-side and still kept falling behind.

It wasn't until six laps were left that Burton finally scooted by with the critical pass. Not that he even needed it: Kenseth ran out of gas, anyway.

Burton finally found his way back to Victory Lane at Dover International Speedway after the thrilling late battle, ending his 175-race winless streak and parking himself in the lead of NASCAR's Chase for the championship.

"We've got eight to go, this still isn't over," said Burton, who took a slim, six-point lead over Jeff Gordon, the polesitter, who finished third.

It may be over, though, for the likes of Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- each of whom had his own problems to fall all but out of the Chase.

Kenseth, who was going for a clean sweep at Dover International Speedway this season and led the most laps, stayed in third in the points standings with a 10th place finish. He rendered Burton's pass moot when he ran out of fuel with two laps left, losing a gamble that he could drive the final 100 laps without a pit stop.

Burton and his Richard Childress racing teammate Kevin Harvick spent this weekend denying a Speed TV report that claimed their teams manipulated wheels to gain a performance advantage in New Hampshire. Both drivers insisted it wouldn't be a distraction, and Burton came out with something to prove at the Dover 400.

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.

Carl Edwards finished second. Gordon moved up two spots in the Chase with his second-place finish.

"The effort was unbelievable, the fight was unbelievable, we didn't have the best car," Gordon said.

Kevin Harvick, the points leader coming into Sunday, was knocked out of the race with a blown engine. Harvick, who won the last two races, plummeted to fifth.

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