Even some of the best drivers NASCAR has to offercould not find a safe place to race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway Fridaynight.
Toward the back of the field, Jimmie Johnson started a wreck thatcollected Matt Kenseth and Busch Series points leader Carl Edwards,denying Edwards a chance to clinch his first series title.
A few laps later and back up front, then-leader Clint Bowyer spun offTurn 4 and triggered a wreck that collected Greg Biffle, who startedfrom the pole and had dominated much of the night.
When the smoke cleared and the wrecked cars were removed from thetrack, what was left was a battle between Jeff Burton and Dale EarnhardtJr. that ended with Burton celebrating a victory in the Dollar General 300.
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Earnhardt Jr. just about got around Burton on Lap 182, but ReedSorenson spun off Turn 4 bringing out a caution, freezing the field andlocking Burton in the lead. On the restart on Lap 190, Burton quicklypulled away to a big advantage and held off Kyle Busch by 1.598 secondsfor his fourth win of the season.
“I wasn’t going to hold Junior off. He was coming so hard,” saidBurton. “We got a lucky break with that caution. We had a real fast carbut he had gotten right there.”
Not only did Burton have good timing, but he got a good workout fromhis team. The team had to change engines on Friday and had to changeoil lines and the oil tank.
As a result of the change, he also had to start the race at the rearof the field. But he made his way to into the top five before the racereached the halfway point.
“Winning at Charlotte is as good as it gets in the Busch Series,”Burton said. “To me, growing up, I remember sitting in the grandstandswatching Busch races thinking, ‘Golly, it doesn’t get better thanthat.' ’”
Earnhardt Jr., making his final Busch start of the season, wasconvinced he was going to win.
“If it weren’t for that caution, I think we could have won the race,”said Earnhardt Jr., who finished third.
“Everybody including (Burton) really had a short run setup that would beat me. The car was set up forlong runs. Our car couldn’t run the first 10 laps.”
Aric Almirola finished fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth. Edwards endedup 33rd and still holds a 638 point lead over second place DavidReutimann.
Edwards can clinch his first Busch title if he leaves theOct. 27 race at Memphis with at least a 585-point lead.
“Jimmie got loose. I was going to miss him, but somebody just got mein the left-rear,” Edwards said.
“I did the best I could to save it because I didn’t want to just lock it down right there. So many guyswere racing so hard I didn’t want to get hit and I ended up wrecking it.
“I saw the leaders wrecked (after his wreck) so I don’t know if therewas a safe place out there.”
Series veteran Jason Keller made his 418th career start in the race,breaking the record he shared with Tommy Houston (417 starts). Kellerhad to make the field on speed and qualified 36th. But he got caught up in awreck and finished 34th.
“It’s a huge honor to do this with what Tommy has done,” Keller said.“It’s the people who made this sport what it is. I feel good about whatwe have done here.
“About a year and a half ago, I didn’t think I would ever break hisrecord. Hopefully, we will have a lot more to go.”