The opportunity to spin the tires incessantly as part of a celebratory burnout for winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is the goal of any driver, and veteran wheelman Jeff Burton had that very goal at the start of the Pure Michigan 400 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
Unfortunately for Burton, who served as the interim driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS as he subbed for regular driver Tony Stewart, a broken tailpipe provided the wrong kind of burnout, as he was out of the 200-lap race before it even hit the halfway mark.
Around lap 65 while running among the top-20, Burton radioed that the cockpit of his No. 14 machine was filling with smoke. “Smells electrical,” he said.
By lap 75 the smoke was too much. Burton came to pit road, where the crew did a cursory review of the car while performing a scheduled, four-tire stop. They smelled the same foul odor that Burton did, and a lap later, crew chief Chad Johnston brought Burton back to pit road.
Further investigation revealed the problem was too involved to fix on pit lane. The call to take the Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevy to the garage was made. There the culprit was determined: a broken tailpipe. The heat was escaping through a crack in the tailpipe, which had caught the heat shields underneath the car on fire.
The tailpipe was replaced and Burton returned to the racetrack, albeit 24 laps down in 37th position. For the rest of the race around the 2-mile oval, it was a matter of bringing the racecar home and using the remaining laps as a test session.
“I started smelling something and then just before we pitted I got a lot of smoke in the cockpit,” Burton said. “When we pitted, they could see all the smoke all over the place. Something just burned up.”
It was a tough end to what had been a tough week.
“This was a hard week,” Burton said. “This was honestly one of the hardest weeks I’ve ever spent. Coming here on Friday and not knowing what to expect – I thought everybody did a really good job. We put a great effort out there. I did a terrible job on the restarts, but once we got in clean traffic we were maybe a tenth off the leader. We had really good pace and the car drove well. I was really encouraged by the one change we made. The car was fast.”