Jeff Burton made three amazing saves, avoided multiple accidents, and led the No. 31 Wheaties Chevrolet team to a second-place finish in the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway.
The South Boston, Va. native qualified the Richard Childress Racing machine in the 21st position and decided early to use a conservative strategy during the race, falling back to the tail end of the 43-car field with teammates Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard to prevent engine temperatures from rising.
After running mid pack for a majority of the 160-lap event, the 21-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner dodged his first bullet of the night on lap 92 when multiple cars collided in front of the 45-year-old driver, sending the No. 47 car spinning, barely missing Burton's orange and black machine and bringing out the caution flag.
Burton restarted in the 18th position after his final pit stop of the day with 30 laps to go and began his climb up the leaderboard, working his way into the top 15 on lap135 and top 10 on lap 152. With six laps remaining, Burton once again, with assistance from spotter Brett Griffin, escaped "the big one" unscathed, maneuvering his way around spinning competitors.
Restarting in the top five for a two-lap dash to the checkered flag, Burton paired up with Harvick as a two-car tandem draft and maintained a top-five running position gaining momentum for one last run. On the white-flag lap, Burton made contact with another competitor but managed to keep his No. 31 Chevrolet from spinning. He held the outside line going into the final corner as typical restrictor-plate chaos ensued to the bottom of the track and narrowly escaped the multi-car pileup, crossing the finish line less than a second behind race winner Tony Stewart.
With the top-five result, Burton gained two positions, moving to 18th in Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.
JEFF BURTON QUOTE:
"It certainly feels good to have a good finish Wheaties team. We finished fifth here in the Daytona 500 and second tonight. Two top-five finishes down here is probably more than I can expect with all the wrecks and stuff. Hopefully, it's something that'll kick start our year a little bit. It's been a difficult year and hopefully we can build on this.Momentum is created by running well. Momentum doesn't create good runs, good runs create momentum. So we've got to go to New Hampshire (Motor Speedway) and perform."