With Sunday’s finish, Burton goes into this weekend’s race at Talladega (5:30 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1) with a top-10 finish in each of the first 10 races of the Xfinity season. That breaks the previous rookie record of nine races with top 10s established in 2005 by Carl Edwards.
“As a company I think we made some strides,” Burton said after the race. “Not a finish my team deserves, but that happens. You are getting all you can the last few laps – right against the fence – and sometimes you just overstep. Once I got to the wall, I couldn’t get off of it, and that’s what caused the right rear to blow.”
Burton’s win Saturday in Miami after only leading the final two laps gives him two wins on the season. He also has a series-leading seven top fives.
Despite those numbers, there’s still areas where Burton’s No. 20 team need to improve, namely stage finishes. Though he can finish up front, he has yet to claim a stage win.
Eight other drivers have at least one stage win, as Noah Gragson leads with five stage wins.
“I think we want a little more raw speed,” Burton said. “We want to win more stages, things like that. … Got to find a way to get those playoff points, they are really important come later in the year. We saw last year with (Tyler) Reddick, (Cole) Custer and (Christopher) Bell, all of those guys were pretty much locked in though the first round of the playoffs, and that’s because they the (had) stage points and the points from winning.
“We’ve got to get a little bit more dominate, a little bit more aggressive early in the race, and somehow be a little faster. That’s my main goal now – to fire off faster and try to be aggressive from the start and hopefully, get more dominate.”
Through 10 races Burton is third in points behind Gragson and Chase Briscoe. He trails Briscoe by 27 points and Gragson by 45 points.
As far as stage points go, Burton has earned 58 through 10 races. That trails Gragson (124 stage points), Austin Cindric (118) and Briscoe (106), even though Cindric has failed to win a race so far this year and is fourth in the overall standings.
Friday 5: Work remains for NASCAR after extraordinary week
“The process begins with us listening and learning because understanding the problem is the first step in fixing it,” drivers said in the video. “We are committed to listening with empathy and with an open heart to better educate ourselves. We will use this education to advocate for change in our nation, our communities and most importantly in our own homes. Even after the headlines go away.”
It’s a promise drivers must keep.
Bubba Wallace has taken the leadership role thrust upon him as the lone full-time Black driver in NASCAR’s national ranks.
“I’m really proud of what he’s doing, the effort he’s putting in, in wanting to kind of lead the charge,” Ryan Blaney said of his close friend. “I stand behind him. A lot of guys stand behind him in NASCAR, not only the drivers, but a lot of teams, as well, crew members.”
While NASCAR officials were discussing various changes to make, it was Wallace who went on CNN, saying of the Confederate flag: “Get them out of here.” Two days later, NASCAR did so.
“It was really cool to see what Bubba was able to do,” Joey Logano said. “He should be proud of the movement he’s made for the African-American community in our sport. He always has just by being here, but when you look at the comments he made on CNN the other day and then NASCAR completely answered it. Kudos to NASCAR. Kudos to Bubba for bringing it up and using his platform for something good.”
The youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. was among many who applauded NASCAR on social media for prohibiting the display of the Confederate flag at all its events and properties.
While now is a time to listen, there will be a time where more action is needed.
“There’s a lot of different ways you can go about this,” said Tyler Reddick, who was among the first Cup drivers to publicly support Black Lives Matter. “Just trying to make NASCAR a more friendly environment for all fans. The step that we made this week with the Confederate flag is one of those steps. I’m sure there are many others that they’re working on.
“Some of the drivers have talked about ideas and other things, and I don’t want to spoil their ideas, but just continuing to not lose sight of it. As they say, when the headlines finally clear and it goes back to a sense of normalcy, if you will, it’s just important to remain adamant that we need to go out there in our communities or we need to go vote and get the right people that we feel that are going to make those changes that we’ve been crying out for the last couple of weeks. … Stay diligent, and not lose sight of what’s important here.”
2. Enforcing Confederate flag ban
Shortly after NASCAR announced that the display of the Confederate flag would be prohibited at all its events and facilities, questions began to be raised about how that could be enforced.
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, discussed that matter Thursday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“That will certainly be a challenge,” O’Donnell said of enforcing the ban. “We’ll try to do that the right way. We’ll get ahead of it as we are today in letting people know that, ‘Hey, we’re all about pride, we’re all about America, fly your U.S. flag high, fly your driver’s flags high and come on into the track.’ But if we see something displayed at the track we’re going to have react and we will. More details to come but I’m confident we’ll do that and we’ll do that in a smart way.”
Chuck Rosenberg, an NBC legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, notes that those who think they are protected by First Amendment rights at a NASCAR track or event would be wrong.
“NASCAR facilities are private property and so First Amendment protections do not apply,” he said. “NASCAR has the right to make the rules regarding how people must behave inside their facilities. It will be important for NASCAR to issue clear and thoughtful guidance so fans can comply.”
Sunday’s Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway marks the third Cup race in a week. While this isn’t the first time this season that the Cup series has had as many races within seven days, Brad Keselowski says of this stretch: “I don’t know if there’s ever been a more grueling stretch in Cup racing.”
Last Sunday, Cup ran 500 miles at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The high was 84 degrees. Drivers spent much of the day fighting their cars as tires wore on the old pavement.
“Atlanta was a grueling race, very humid, 500 miles,” Keselowski said.
Wednesday night, Cup ran 500 laps at Martinsville Speedway. The high was 87 degrees during the day. While it cooled some at night, drivers noted how hot it was.
“I think a lot of guys, including myself a little bit, thought a night race at Martinsville wasn’t going to be hot,” Tyler Reddick said. “It was one of the hottest races that I’ve done in a very long time.”
Sunday, Cup drivers are set to run 400 miles at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The forecast calls for a high of 86 degrees.
“Honestly, Miami will probably be the hottest one we go to, most humid,” Blaney said.
While there is something to not having practice or qualifying for drivers and teams, that lack of track time can impact drivers during such a stretch.
“One thing about the practices – yes, it’s time on track, but it gives your body a little hint and a look into what you’re going to be experiencing for 500 miles or 500 laps, whatever it may be at the track that we go to,” Reddick said. “So, if you’re having any issues with the car, issues with your back, arms hurting after a 40- or 50-lap run or something in particular that’s bothering you from the week before, you have no insight to that going into the race and you’re going to have to fight it all race long.”
As for the challenge of this week, Keselowski said: “It’s the same for everybody. We all got to toughen up. I think it’s a great test of will, a great test of the drivers. I think it’s what makes these few weeks so compelling not just as a participant but as a fan myself.”
A few streaks to keep in mind this weekend for the Cup Series.
Jimmie Johnson enters this weekend having finished in the top 10 in each of the last three races. Since he won his seventh Cup title in 2016, this is only the second time he’s had three consecutive top-10 finishes.
In Martin Truex Jr.‘s last three Miami starts, he has one win and two runner-up finishes, leading a total of 201 laps.
No rookie has finished in the top 10 at Miami since David Ragan placed 10th in the 2007 race. Rookie Tyler Reddick won his last two Xfinity starts there and finished runner-up in a Truck race there.
Among major professional sports, NASCAR has had one of the longest and most meaningful relationships with the U.S. military.
That is most notable every Memorial Day weekend when for more than 30 years Charlotte Motor Speedway has honored present and former members of the military, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Even without fans and former and current military members in the stands, there will be a military presence at the track in the form of former service members who work for teams or in the sport.
Here are some of their stories:
– Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer, NASCAR
– Military service: U.S. Army, 1994-98 (active duty) and 1998-2001 (reserves). Served as a specialist/armored crewman, primarily on tanks.
If anyone would ever try to strap Goodyear racing tires on an M1 Abrams tank, it likely would be Tim Clark.
“Driving an Abrams tank doesn’t translate into a career in digital media, no matter what they try and tell you. Tanks don’t maneuver quite as well (as a stock car),” Clark said with a laugh to NBC Sports.
After piloting tanks in places such as Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Irwin, California and Germany, Clark joined NASCAR in 2012.
He came from a military family. His father, grandfather and uncle all served. He joined shortly after graduating from high school.
“(Being in the military) taught me the value of organization and teamwork, being motivated and working on a cause greater than yourself,” Clark said. “Some of the lessons that I learned there are by far the most important things that I’ve been able to apply from a career standpoint, no doubt.”
Clark takes pride in how the Coke 600 has honored veterans over the years.
“I think the respect that’s shown is the best part for me,” Clark said. “The drivers meeting is a great example. You’ll have a ton of VIPs and celebrities introduced, but the standing ovations are almost always reserved for military members.
“Being able to see it from both sides and through two different lenses, it’s incredibly powerful and I’m thankful to have the opportunity not only to have been in the military but also to now work for a company that has so much respect for the military.”
Clark said being in the military serves as good preparation for civilian life. He can’t count the number of times soldiers have asked him how they can someday also work in NASCAR.
“That is one of the most pleasant surprises of my time in the military,” Clark said. “The Army does a phenomenal job of preparing you to move into a civilian life and into a career. They help you with resumes, letters of recommendation and tips on how to apply what you’ve learned in the military into your careers and civilian life.”
Clark acknowledges that with fans and military missing, Sunday will be a strange feeling. But at the same time, he’s heartened that CMS and NASCAR will make sure service members and veterans are still honored.
“In an ideal world, we have not only troops at the track but the fans and everyone else out to enjoy the race,” he said. “But if the alternative is that we have a race that doesn’t have anyone in the stands and instead it’s just television entertainment, I think there’s a lot of value in that.
“Our ability to provide some entertainment and a distraction for not only the troops but for all NASCAR fans is top of mind for everyone. We’re doing that in a way that’s going to be the safest option for everyone.”
– President, Richard Childress Racing
– Military service: U.S. Navy, 1984-90. Served as an intelligence officer
With three years as an intelligence officer on the U.S. Nimitz aircraft carrier and three years at the Pentagon, the skills Torrey Galida acquired — things like analysis, interpretation, direction and execution — laid a foundation that has carried over into nearly a quarter-century in automotive manufacturing and racing, eventually becoming president of Richard Childress Racing in 2014.
“It was all part of my grand plan,” Galida said with a laugh.
Unlike some current members of the NASCAR community who went from high school into the military and eventually to college, Galida graduated from the University of Colorado, joined the Navy for six years and then earned an MBA from Duke University.
Galida went on to a lengthy stint as an executive with Ford, ran the pace car program for the Indianapolis 500, and was a key executive at Millsport Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing before joining RCR as Chief Operating Officer in 2011.
Galida has never forgotten his military service. He sits on the board of the Defense Alliance of North Carolina and along with the support of team owner Richard Childress, began a unique program of involvement with veterans more than three years ago.
Before the pandemic, RCR hosted veterans on the first Wednesday of the month, providing coffee and doughnuts and guest speakers. Galida said the event would attract about 200 veterans each month.
“We’ve also done a couple of special events,” Galida said. “We did lunch last May to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day and had over 1,200 people, including 64 World War II vets and five or six that actually participated in the invasion of Normandy.
“It was amazing to see all those people there and incredible to see that many World War II vets.”
RCR, which employs 24 veterans, also is involved in a number of other military initiatives, including an annual “military salutes” program with Dow Chemical Co. at Michigan International Speedway. The initiative features a stars-and-stripes paint scheme on Austin Dillon’s race car that includes the names of nearly 2,000 Dow and RCR employees or family members who are former service members.
“Even though I’ve been around this for 15 years,” Galida said, “it was really a pretty cool experience to see your name actually on the car.”
– Retired NASCAR crew chief
– Military service: U.S. Army, 1959-61, Specialist E-4 ordnance specialist
Dale Inman is the most successful crew chief in NASCAR history, winning eight championships (seven with Richard Petty, Inman’s cousin, and one with Terry Labonte) and 171 races overall.
Inman started going to races with Richard and father Lee Petty in 1951, with several of those trips to Daytona Beach, Florida, for races on the sand.
After attending the last sanctioned race on the beach in 1958 and the first Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in February 1959, the then 23-year-old Inman was drafted into the Army seven months later.
He served as an ordnance specialist, which oversees logistics. In Inman’s case, he oversaw the movement of trucks, deliveries and repairs.
Before Inman became a seven-time Daytona 500 winner with Petty, his Army tenure was fairly routine, with one exception.
Not surprisingly, it involved racing.
“In 1960, while in France, me and some friends in the Army went to Le Mans,” he recalled. “We took tents and camped out. We got there a day or two before the race and somehow we rode around the racetrack.
“One of the boys had a car over there and we went riding around the racetrack through the streets and by the houses, which were barriers (for the racetrack). It was unreal.”
Inman was discharged in 1961 and went to work as Petty’s crew chief after the 1963 season.
“There’s no question about how things I learned in the military helped me in civilian life, things like leadership, guidance or how to run a tight ship,” Inman said. “Whether in the Army or NASCAR, if you’ve got five or more people under you, you’ve got to have a leader, right?
“And you’ve got to respect the leaders. When I became a crew chief, people did respect me and I certainly learned a lot from the military. You’ve got to be disciplined, you know.”
Another story Inman likes to tell is about how “one of my heroes” – a fellow soldier who served a few years before him and someone who would one day join him in the NASCAR Hall of Fame – didn’t exactly get as good of a deal in the military as Inman did.
“They extended (the tours of service of) certain people depending on their birthday,” Inman said. “I missed getting extended an extra year by seven days.
“But Leonard Wood (one of the patriarchs of Wood Brothers Racing) got extended and he had to stay in another year, which cut into his racing.”
Not surprisingly, Wood’s specialty in the Army was the same thing that would lead him to fame and fortune in NASCAR – being a mechanic.
These days, Inman is happily retired in his hometown of Level Cross, North Carolina, where he and Richard Petty grew up together. Inman fondly recalls what the military means to him, particularly all the years it has been tied to NASCAR.
“I still get a thrill when I see the flyovers at the racetrack,” he said. “Any time I’m at the racetrack and see a veteran in a wheelchair or on crutches or with lost limbs or anything, I go out of my way to go speak to them and thank them and carry on a conversation the best I can, and I think they appreciate it too.”
– Military service: U.S. Air Force (1975-78 and 1982-2004). Served as F-16 crew chief, PR specialist, security police and recruiter.
Part of Randy Fuller’s job has been to pass out various sponsor caps to team members for photos in victory lane when his driver wins – NASCAR’s so-called “hat dance.”
Fuller couldn’t be more suited for that role, as he’s worn many hats in his career, including a 26-year tenure in the U.S. Air Force.
After graduating from high school, Fuller went from being a security police officer to F-16 crew chief to recruiter (he led a team of over 1,200) and marketing and public relations specialist.
He earned several of the Air Force’s most prestigious awards for his service, including for leadership and was named one of 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year in 1997.
Between his military stints, he also served as a police officer – both full-time and part-time – from Georgia to Utah to Niagara Falls.
Just days after retiring from the Air Force at the end of 2004, Fuller began wearing another cap, that of a NASCAR public relations person.
Over the years, Fuller, 62, has worked with a number of NASCAR notables while overseeing the Air Force’s NASCAR program, including Dale Jarrett, Wood Brothers Racing, Elliot Sadler and Ricky Rudd.
Shortly before he was due to retire from the U.S. Air Force a second time, then-Chief Master Sergeant Fuller was tracked down in San Antonio, Texas by NASCAR team owner Jack Roush to become a public relations person for an up-and-coming driver named Carl Edwards.
Fuller would hold that role for more than 10 years.
While Fuller took Edwards under his wing, he also treated him like a staff sergeant – in a good way.
“I’d only been working at Roush for like three weeks when we had a conversation,” Fuller said. “Carl goes, ‘Why do you always take your sunglasses off when you talk to me?’ I said, ‘Because you can tell a lot by people’s eyes and they can tell a lot by yours. It’s just a matter of respect. That’s what we did in the military.’
“Carl did that ever since. He just picked it up and embraced it. If you notice, Brandon Jones is doing that now, too.”
Since Edwards’ retirement in 2016, he still speaks with Fuller weekly while the latter has gone on to rep a number of promising young drivers including Christopher Bell, Ryan Preece, Kyle Benjamin and Jones.
“It’s pretty neat to mentor people,” Fuller said. “Between the Air Force and NASCAR, there’s so many similarities that you can’t even believe.
“But I think the biggest thing is the team. You can’t just fly an F-16. That pilot is just like the driver. You can’t fly it without the rest of the team refueling it, pre-flight, that kind of stuff, right? Same thing in NASCAR. You’ve got people that never even get recognized that are back in the shop, never go to the track. And these guys are probably some of the most important people besides the driver.”
Fuller has taken part in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s annual Salute to the Troops for more than 20 years, both while in the Air Force and as a team PR rep.
“The pride is huge,” Fuller said. “The hair on the back of my neck still stands up when a flyby goes across.”
He was a truck driver in the Marines, a role Barban carried over to civilian life for nearly a decade with Team Penske, piloting haulers for Rusty Wallace, Bobby Allison, Al Holbert, Danny Sullivan, Rick Mears and Emerson Fittipaldi.
“I think my work ethic probably was a huge thing that transferred from the military to privately and personally career-wise,” Barban said. “Whatever the job or task at hand was, you’d just go ahead and do what you had to do to get it finished.”
Being in the military also instilled focus in the St. Louis native.
“My dad used to make fun of me that I had 21 jobs and 21 cars before I was 21 years old, everything from wiring the electric meter that goes on your house to putting the ball on Ban roll-on, mop buckets, making the blades for can openers, Steak n’ Shake hamburger flipper, rental cars and brick laying,” Barban laughed. “But it’s been 32 years in racing since then.”
Part of what led to Barban’s first job with Team Penske, followed by Hendrick Motorsports, Robert Yates Racing and then back to HMS was the spit-and-polish routine he learned in the Marines.
“When you when you walk in, I think there’s a presence: clean cut, (shirt) tucked away pretty nice, pleated pants and polished boots,” Barban said. “I feel like that definitely translated into my private life after having that experience.
“I think that any person that has any military background whatsoever is definitely a good hire.”
Only a week later, on May 7, The Intimidator returned the favor. But his revenge didn’t come on a superspeedway. It occurred on one of Martin’s specialities in the mid-90s — a road course.
From 1989-98, Martin was an ace on road courses. In his first 10 starts at Sonoma Raceway, he placed in the top three five times, including a win in 1997. At Watkins Glen International, he never finished outside the top five in the same time span, winning three consecutive races from 1993-95.
Earnhardt, on the other hand, only broke through for a road course win once in 47 attempts during his Cup career, which included 20 starts and 13 top fives at the defunct Riverside International Raceway.
The breakthrough happened at Sonoma and occurred in typical Intimidator fashion.
Martin led 64 of the first 70 laps in the 74-lap event. Earnhardt had led none. But on Lap 70, Earnhardt loomed in Martin’s rear-view mirror as Jeff Gordon looked on from third place in almost a mirror image of the week before.
Earnhardt didn’t let up. He almost gave Martin a shove as they entered the Carousel with two laps to go. After Martin slipped in oil, Earnhardt dove to his inside and emerged with the lead as they exited Turn 6.
Earnhardt led the rest of the way, never receiving a real challenge, aided by Martin and Gordon nearly getting together in Turn 11 coming to the white flag.
“I was as careful as I could be the last lap without giving Mark a chance to get back to me,” Earnhardt said in the next day’s Charlotte Observer. “I knew I was close to getting my first win on a road course and I didn’t want to blow it after trying for so long.”
Earnhardt was asked if would have been able to pass Martin cleanly if not for Martitn’s slip in the Carousel.
“Clean to me is not putting him out of the race track,” Earnhardt replied. “Now why did I say that?”
Also on this date:
1955: Junior Johnson overcame two spins to lead 123 of the final 136 laps and win at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway. It was the first of his 50 career Grand National victories.
1972: David Pearson passed Bobby Isaac with three laps to go to win at Talladega. A young rookie from Franklin, Tennessee, named Darrell Waltrip competed in his first Cup Series race. He started 25th but fell out on Lap 69 due to a blown engine. Also in the race was country singer Marty Robbins, who placed 18th and was voted rookie of the race. Robbins later was disqualified for an illegal carburetor.
1983: Darrell Waltrip lapped the field to win a Cup race at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway over Bobby Allison. The race was named after Marty Robbins, who died the previous December at 57 due to complications from a heart attack. Robbins made 35 Cup starts from 1966-82. His only start at the Nashville short track was his first career start.
2005: In an overtime finish, Greg Biffle overtook Ryan Newman and beat Jeff Gordon to win the first night race at Darlington.
2011: On old tires, Regan Smith held off Carl Edwards to win at Darlington to claim his first and only Cup Series win and the first NASCAR win for Furniture Row Racing, which had been competing since 2005. After being involved in a late wreck, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch got into a post-race altercation that saw Harvick reach into Busch’s car and Busch drive away, pushing Harvick’s car into the pit wall.