Harrison Burton and the No. 21 DEX Imaging team took advantage of some savvy strategy calls that put them in the lead pack in the final laps of Sunday’s HighPoint.com 400 at Pocono Raceway and came away with an eighth-place finish.
It was Burton’s second top-10 of the season, the first being a sixth place at Darlington in May, and the fourth of his Cup Series career.
In the early laps of Sunday’s 400-miler on the Tricky Triangle, Burton moved up two spots from his 26th starting position then finished the first 30-lap Stage in 15th place by staying on the track as others ahead of him made pit stops just prior to the end of the Stage.
Crew chief Brian Wilson brought Burton to pit road during the caution period at the end of the Stage then called for several more stops under caution, at Laps 36 and 46, which allowed the DEX Imaging team to make a green flag stop with just four laps remaining in Stage Two.
When a group of drivers pitted at the end of the Stage, Burton moved up to 13th position for the start of the third and final segment of the race.
Burton was back on pit road at Laps 106, and that strategy allowed him to move up to second place during the next round of green-flag stops.
The No. 21 Mustang hit pit road at Lap 138 for two tires and six laps later was back in the top 10 with 15 of 160 laps left to run.
Burton, with his No. 21 Mustang responding well to some mid-race adjustments, did his best driving of the day over an action-packed final 10 laps as two more incidents caused restarts, with the racing as aggressive as it had been all day.
The final green flag flew with three laps remaining, and Burton picked up three positions to eighth place before a stalled car on the track caused the race to end under the caution flag.
“We were mired in traffic all day and that makes it hard,” Burton told reporters after the race. “We struggled for handling but made a few changes at the end and that got the car pretty good right before the long green-flag cycle and I could kind of run long.
“A lot of those guys pitted themselves into traffic, and we were able to have clean air and click off faster lap times.
“We pitted and came out in front of a lot of those guys, so that helped us a lot.”
Burton said the varying strategies employed at Pocono make the racing much more interesting.
“It’s fun to kind of know what’s going on and know that you have to go run fast laps because the guys behind you are trying to do the same,” he said. “It worked out to where we pitted out in front of them. The guys did a good job on pit road to do that, and the last few restarts I just tried to be aggressive and keep moving forward and got a few more spots.”
Burton said the strong run and top-10 finish were a big boost for him and the No. 21 team.
“The last two weekends have been better for us,” he said. “This weekend I was disappointed the first little bit because it wasn’t very good, and then found a way to keep digging and claw out of it. Last weekend was the opposite. The first three-quarters of the race was really good and then the end just got cycled back on some restarts.
“It’s good to finish on the good side of it this weekend and keep fighting through the day and not give up on making the race car better. We definitely did that.
“I’m proud of our guys. There’s not a lot of quit on this race team. We’ve been through hell and high water, but we’re still fighting.”
Next up for Burton and the Wood Brothers team is a Sunday afternoon 400-lapper at Richmond Raceway.