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Fuel strategy gives Burton, Rudd a boost

It was Greg Biffle's show Saturday night at the Daytona International Speedway, but Jeff Burton and Ricky Rudd were good in supporting roles.

All three shared the same fuel strategy, stopping during a caution at Lap 79 to top off a tank that would require one stop the rest of the way to help make it a 1-2-3 finish for Ford and the Roush Racing engine department.

Biffle and Burton are Roush teammates and Rudd drives for Wood Brothers, which is affiliated with Roush and gets its engines from the multi-car team.

It was Biffle's first win, but for Burton and Rudd it was a shining moment in an otherwise uneventful year. Burton picked up his fourth top-10 finish of the season but his best overall finish since 2001, and Rudd's finish was his best of the year and first time he has cracked the top 10 in five races at Daytona.

Both moved up two spots in the Winston Cup standings.

"We really needed a good shot in the arm," Rudd said. "You've got to give it to these guys."

Burton, who started 36th, was in the hunt from the beginning, lurking just outside the top 10 before getting as high as sixth on the 60th lap and holding steady the rest of the way.

And Rudd, who started 27th and dropped back through the first half of the race, stayed right about there until beginning a steady move toward the front around Lap 120.

"We could run with the pack all day," he said. "We got fouled up there one time in the beginning and lost track position, but were able to kind of tag along in the back of the pack. Real late our car started handling really good."

And exceptional fuel strategy allowed the drivers to do the thought-to-be impossible _ topple the mighty Dale Earnhardt Inc. team, if only for one night.

Burton said the key was an adjustment his crew made after the pit stop. The caution was not as long as they thought and was not going to bring them to the finish without another one, so Burton was told to conserve fuel.

"We didn't actually beat (DEI) on the track, but we beat them on economy," Rudd said.

For teams looking for a second-half bump, Saturday's results were just what Burton and Rudd needed. Neither has been satisfied with their finishes this season and have been disappointed in qualifying.

Burton was coming off a bad outing in Sonoma, finishing 38th.

"The last 10 races we've been running a lot better, but we haven't been putting finishes down," Burton said.

"Last week I was sitting in a rocket ship and I got wrecked and then I wrecked myself. Last week was really disappointing. I hate screwing up and then having to wait 13 days before you race again. I felt bad about it."

Saturday night, though, all was forgiven as Burton and Rudd turned their attention to the second half.

"These guys have something going," Rudd said. "I don't feel like we're a winning team yet, but I feel like we're top-10 material every week now."