Jeff Burton gives No. 14 team solid finish amid controversy
AUG 25, 2014 4:00p ET
After three rough weeks both on and off the track, the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team had something to smile about Saturday night.
With veteran Jeff Burton behind the wheel for the second straight weekend, the No. 14 team tackled Bristol Motor Speedway and scored their best finish since Tony Stewart stepped out of the car due to a sprint car incident that claimed the life of 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr.
Starting from the 25th spot, Burton worked his way through the field and was racing within the top five by Lap 200.
Burton, the 2008 Bristol winner, remained in the top 10 until he suffered a bit of nose damage and eventually dropped back. As Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth battled for the race lead in the closing laps, Burton fell a lap down, but was able to finish the night in the 15th spot.
While it was not a win, Burton's top-15 finish was the best result for the No. 14 team since Stewart finished seventh at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July.
"We ran well, we just had a little wreck there and got the front end torn up and then after that we were no good," Burton told FOX Sports. "The splitter was way up off the ground. That wreck in front of me, I just didn't get slowed down. From then we weren't any good. I'm proud of how we ran, though. You just have to run good the whole race."
Dealing with a host of off-track distractions surrounding Stewart and the investigation into the death of Ward, Burton was able to turn things around for the team that finished 36th at Pocono Raceway with Stewart behind the wheel, 37th at Watkins Glen International with Regan Smith driving, and 37th at Michigan International Speedway with Burton piloting the car.
"That's a good race team," Burton said of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing organization. "They've got good cars, good equipment, good people. My ass being out of the car for so long isn't helping them any. It's taken me a little while to get going. I thought part of the race there, we were really competitive and had a top-five car and it just got away from us."
As the investigation into Kevin Ward Jr.'s death enters its final stages, there is still no word on Stewart return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Stewart-Haas Racing officials have said that decision ultimately falls with Stewart, and that the three-time Sprint Cup Series champion continues to grieve over the situation.