Burton led the final 33 laps at Lowe's Motor Speedway on worn out tires and fumes to launch himself into championship contention. But with five races remaining, Burton's not ready to start counting points. More importantly, he hopes nobody else even notices.
"We come into this thing very relaxed, committed to having a good time, committed to having fun," Burton said after pocketing $280,208. "I truly believe that those guys who won all the races and were the guys that everybody picked, those teams are in the position where anything less than a championship and their year's not going to be that successful. We're not in that case. Our deal is to have fun."
Jimmie Johnson's sixth-place finish -- his 19th top-10 in his past 21 Chase races dating back to the 2006 season -- kept him atop the playoff standings. Burton improved from fourth place to second, 69 points back.
The 1.5-mile racetrack was tough on a lot of Chase drivers.
Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth all hit the wall. Biffle and Gordon recovered, however, to finish seventh and eighth, respectively. Kenseth and Earnhardt didn't, and both were essentially knocked out of championship contention.
Carl Edwards, who was second in the standings before the race, had ignition problems and finished 33rd. He's now fourth, down by 168 points.
"It's not good," Edwards said. "There's no other way to put it: It's just a bad week. This thing is far from over. We don't ever give up, that's for sure. But we needed to do better than this."
Lost in all of Johnson's playoff success has been Burton. He has five consecutive top-10s in the Chase and his Richard Childress Racing team seems to be peaking at the right time.
Crew chief Scott Miller decided to gamble on track position during the final caution period.
While most other lead-lap cars were changing tires for the stretch drive, Burton made a quick stop for gas. That got him off pit road with the lead, and from there he never slowed down.
"The car was happy on that set of tires, so it made sense to play it that way," Miller said.
Reach Don Coble at email@example.com.
Points through 5 of 10 races
1. Jimmie Johnson 5,878
2. Jeff Burton 5,809
3. Greg Biffle 5,792
4. Carl Edwards 5,710
5. Clint Bowyer 5,693
6. Kevin Harvick 5,671
7. Tony Stewart 5,650
8. Jeff Gordon 5,633
9. Kyle Busch 5,552
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5,524
11. Matt Kenseth 5,518
12. Denny Hamlin 5,498
WHAT: TUMS QuikPak 500
WHERE: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway
WHEN: 1 p.m. Sunday (ABC-Ch.6)
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Jimmie Johnson