FORT WORTH, Texas – When Jeff Burton won for the first time in the inaugural race in Texas, he was a young driver still trying to prove himself.
A decade later, Burton is still proving things – and still winning.
Burton passed Matt Kenseth on the final lap for his only lead Sunday to become the first repeat winner at Texas.
“I feel like I did then. I feel like a guy that just came back,” said Burton, who turns 40 in June. “I didn’t forget how to drive. Some other people forgot I could drive. Richard Childress didn’t.”
Burton won his second race for Childress since moving from Roush Racing midway through the 2004 season, and moved within eight points of Nextel Cup points leader Jeff Gordon. It the 19th career victory for Burton, who last won for Roush in 2001.
As the first repeat winner at the 1 1/2 -mile, high-banked Texas track, Burton denied a true Texas two-step for Kenseth, his former Roush teammate. Kenseth won the Busch race on Saturday and was going for a weekend sweep.
It also ended a four-race winning streak by Hendrick Motorsports.
Gordon led 173 of 334 laps and finished fourth, the fifth top-five finish in the seven races this season for the Hendrick driver. But he is 0 for 13 at Texas, one of three active tracks where the four-time champion hasn’t won in Nextel Cup.
Burton won with an average speed of 143.359 mph and was the last of nine leaders. Gordon, the points leader who started on the pole after qualifying was canceled because of storms, led four times and Dale Earnhart Jr. had three leads for 96 laps.
Jimmie Johnson, the Hendrick driver who won three of the last four races, was knocked out of contention on lap 240 when he ran into Tony Stewart’s sliding car coming onto the frontstretch. Johnson finished 38th.
Stewart was sent into a spin when he was bumped while running side-by-side with rookie Juan Pablo Montoya.
“I don’t blame him. You can’t expect him to learn everything in four or five weeks,” Stewart said. “He didn’t make friends with me today, so he won’t get any help from me in the future.”
There must not have been any hard feelings between Earnhardt and Busch. After being unable to finish the race in his No. 8 Chevrolet, Earnhardt drove the final nine laps in the No. 5 car after Busch’s crew couldn’t find their driver.
“He’s gone, I think he left,” Earnhardt said. “They asked me to do it so I wasn’t going to say no.”
There had been 11 different winners in the 11 races since Burton first won in Texas, which had gone longer than any other track without a repeat winner. When Richmond opened in 1953, there were eight races before inaugural winner Lee Petty won again in 1960.
Kenseth and Mark Martin, who finished third after sitting out two races, are former Texas winners. Jamie McMurray was fourth, followed by Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., Montoya, Denny Hamlin and David Stremme.
Earnhardt was trying to repeat at Texas, where he got his first Cup victory seven years ago, a year after his first Busch victory came at the track. He has gone 33 races since winning at Richmond last May, finishing 36th, a spot ahead of Busch.
Gordon has gone 25 races since his last victory. His 75 victories are one short of the late Dale Earnhardt for sixth place on NASCAR’s career list.
Gordon ran in front for most of the first half of the race before Earnhardt passed him on lap 154, pulling his No. 8 Chevrolet under Gordon into the backstretch.