If you look at the NASCAR Sprint Cup record book, no one has more victories at New Hampshire Motor Speedway than Jeff Burton, who has triumphed four times at the flat, 1.058-mile oval.
And no one has ever won a stranger race at NHMS than Burton.
In Sept. 2000, back when he drove the No. 99 Ford Taurus for Jack Roush, Burton qualified second at New Hampshire, passing pole-sitter Bobby Labonte’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac on the race’s opening lap. Burton would go on to lead all 300 laps of the race, becoming the last driver in Cup history to win a race wire to wire.
In fact, the only other driver in the modern era of Sprint Cup racing to lead every lap in a race was Cale Yarborough, who did it twice, both times in Tennessee: Bristol in 1973 and Nashville in 1978.
The New Hampshire race was also significant because it was the first in NASCAR history where power-robbing restrictor plates were used at a track shorter than 2.5 miles in length. NASCAR mandated the use of the plates, which reduce horsepower by roughly 40 percent, after first Adam Petty and then Kenny Irwin perished in crashes at New Hampshire earlier that season.
With the plates on, the cars were roughly 10 miles per hour slower than normal, and the action was, to put it politely, uninspiring.
“At least it was a safe race,” Dale Jarrett told the Associated Press after the event.
Three times during the race, eventual 2000 series champion Labonte inched past Burton, but at no time was he able to hold the lead at the start-finish line, where laps are scored.
The most dramatic action of the race came when Burton attempted to lap the iconic black No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet driven by Dale Earnhardt. Three times Earnhardt bumped Burton before the race winner finally put him a lap down on Lap 259.
“I don't want him to be on the outside of me,” Burton said of Earnhardt. “I didn't want him inside me, either.”
This time around, Burton’s prospects for a fifth New Hampshire victory are actually very good. His Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet has performed well all season, and he’s been a threat to win on several occasions. This weekend, he will attempt to seal the deal and secure his first race victory of 2010.
“I can tell you that I am very optimistic about going to New Hampshire this year based on how well we ran at Phoenix and Richmond,” said Burton, who is currently eighth in points. “I haven't won there in a long time and it would mean a great deal to me to win the Lenox Industrial Tools 301.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEEDtv.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.