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Burton beats Kenseth on last lap to win in Texas

7/14/2008 - NASCAR

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 1½-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 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.

"Man, I'm just sick," Gordon said. "I don't want to give away
races. I felt like we had the car to beat there. ... Another Texas
race getting away from us."

Gordon was still leading with 21 laps to go when he scrapped the
outside wall coming out of Turn 4 -- the first of a couple of times
he did that. Gordon managed to stay in front five more laps before
Kenseth passed him.

Soon after that, Burton got past Gordon and caught up to
Kenseth.

Lap after lap, Burton tried to get past Kenseth, and finally did
with only a half-lap left in the Samsung 500 when he overtook him
on the backstretch coming out of Turn 2.

"Honestly, I thought he was going to pass me way before that
because he was running me down like crazy," Kenseth said. "He was
running me down and had the faster car, but I was just enough of a
pain in the his neck to hold him off for a while."

Just as Burton did last month at Bristol when he was chasing
eventual winner Kyle Busch in the closing laps, Burton didn't try
to push Kenseth out of the way. Burton raced clean and waited for
his chance.

"I received some criticism after Bristol for not being more
aggressive. I'm OK with that," Burton said. "At the end of the
day, I am the way I am, race the way I race. That's the way I am."

And it worked out perfectly this time.

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 Earnhardt 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, who won at Texas last fall, 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."
When making a run on Busch only 13 laps later trying to get back
on the lead lap, Stewart lost control. Earnhardt was running third
when he slowed down to try to avoid Stewart but was rammed hard
from behind by Kyle Busch, who had the other win in Hendrick's
streak.

There must not have been any hard feelings between Earnhardt and
Kurt 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 fifth,
followed 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 his 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 the most of the first half of the race
before Earnhardt passed him on lap 154, pulling his No. 8 Chevrolet
under Gordon entering the backstretch.

Earnhardt still was in front of Gordon with 100 laps to go, but
everything started to change after Johnson bashed up his front
right end when he ran into Stewart.

During the pit stop on that caution, Gordon dropped six spots to
eighth after one of his tire changers had problems.

Kurt Busch got past Earnhardt on lap 248 and was in the lead
when he pitted under green. Right after Busch got back on the track
on lap 294, the seventh caution flag came out and his chance at
winning was gone.

There was a first-lap crash at Texas for the first time since
1997, when there was a 13-car accident on the first turn of the
first lap on the then-new track.

This time, rookie David Ragan slid up into J.J. Yeley coming out
of Turn 4. Casey Mears, the other Hendrick driver, then made
contract with Ricky Rudd, who wound up in the infield rolled over
the top of Ragan's car.