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The Callahan Report: Jeff Burton wins 'brotherly-battle' in Las Vegas

7 March 1999

By Terry Callahan
The Auto Channel
LAS VEGAS, NV: As the Las Vegas 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race headed into the final laps . . . one thing was certain. The race to the finish line was going to be a clean battle. The two drivers fighting for the victory have been competitors all their lives. When they were kids, they fought over who had to take out the trash. The stakes were higher on the Las Vegas Speedway asphalt. Jeff Burton beat his older brother, Ward Burton, to the checkered flag at Las Vegas Sunday. It was Jeff's sixth win on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit.

Jeff Burton

"I knew I had to get on the outside for sure to get by him,'' said Jeff. "I felt like if I got by him I could get away a bit. I just kind of made a last-ditch effort and he drove in deeper than I thought he would and I just drove in deeper. It just stuck."

Ward Burton said, "I wasn't giving him an inch. I was trying to crowd him as good as I could without wrecking him. You don't want to wreck your brother." Burton continued, "It's a great run, but I just wanted that No. 1 position so bad."

Ward Burton has one NASCAR Winston Cup victory to his credit. It came in 1995.

It was not the first time two brothers have finished first and second in Winston Cup competition. Terry Labonte beat his younger brother, Bobby Labonte, at Talladega in October of 1997.

The race was in question until the last ten laps. Both Burton brothers had been very fast all day. Ward Burton came from the 30th starting position to the lead before the first round of pit stops were made. He nearly took himself out of competition on the first pit stop. Ward came off the fourth turn too fast. He spun through the grass before pulling onto the pit road.

Jeff Burton stayed up front throughout the middle portions of the race. Ward re-captured the lead with 37 laps remaining in the race. He did it in the pits. Jeff Burton dropped from first to third as the majority of the field dashed to the pits for fuel.
Jeff Gordon

The defending Winston Cup Champion, Jeff Gordon, tried to get into the picture on the final round of pit stops. Gordon found himself in second place as the green flag waved on lap 236 of the 267 lap event. Gordon was able to lead briefly on lap 242 before fading away. He finished a distant third to the Burtons.

"We should have at least had Ward," said Gordon. "I was trying as hard as I could to get up to them so I could maybe have a shot at getting one of them. I knew nobody could touch Jeff. He was in another zone he was so unbelievably fast. But I got real loose the last few laps. I don't know if I could even have hung on to third if I had to battle anybody."

Gordon's finish was a big improvement over his last race. He finished a disappointing 39th as he experienced engine failure at Rockingham two weeks ago. Gordon's third place finish at Las Vegas was good enough to move him back into fifth position in the Winston Cup points race.

Mike Skinner finished a strong fourth at Las Vegas. He has not finished outside the top ten in the three races held this season. Skinner's strong performances have earned him the top spot in the Winston Cup championship battle. He is still looking for his first "points-paying" victory. Skinner has won the past two years at the season-ending NASCAR exhibition race in Japan.

Mark Martin, the winner two weeks ago at Rockingham, experienced engine trouble late in the race at Las Vegas. He fell out of the top ten as he limped home, running on seven cylinders. Mark Martin is one of Jeff Burton's teammates.

There were five caution periods during the race. The most serious incident occurred on lap 131 when Kenny Irwin and Kenny Wallace came together. The crash effected eight cars on the Las Vegas backstretch.

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