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 was 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 Nextel Cup champion hasn’t won.
“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 scraped 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 last control. Earnhardt was running third when he slowed down to try to avoid Stewart but was struck hard from behind by Kyle Busch, who had the other win in Hendrick’s streak.
There must not have been any hard feelings between Earnhart and 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 fourth, 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.