By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Over the years, Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon have had their share of on-track battles and some that continued outside the car, but in September 1998, the two gave Burton’s home state fans in Virginia a race to remember and one of the closest finishes ever at Richmond Raceway.
Both drivers started in the top-five for the Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400, but the lead would jump between 10 different drivers in the first 150 laps of the race, including Burton, Rusty Wallace, Bobby Hamilton, Ken Schrader, Mark Martin, Todd Bodine, Kenny Irwin, Jr., Johnny Benson, Jr., Geoffrey Bodine, and Jimmy Spencer.
Of those first 150 laps, Wallace led the lion’s share with 103 circuits at the front of the field.
Taking over the lead for the second time at that point, it was all Burton and Gordon the remainder of the way, as the two traded the lead back and forth 10 times between them, with Spencer being the only other driver to lead any laps.
As the race started to wind down, it looked like it was going to be Burton’s race to lose as he had pulled out to a substantial lead over Gordon, but in true short track racing fashion, lapped traffic came into play and Gordon was able to take advantage.
Lap after lap, Gordon closed in on Burton’s Ford and it looked as if Gordon was going to pull another one of his patented bump-and-run maneuvers to take the lead and the win, but instead the four-time series champion raced him cleanly, just as Burton had done a year prior in the Southern 500 at Darlington that Gordon won.
Gordon tried every trick in the book to try and get past Burton, ducking high and low as the checkered flag grew nearer, pulling alongside Burton a handful of times in the closing laps, but never being able to complete the pass.
Burton contined to hold off Gordon and on the final lap, Gordon made his move, pulling alongside Burton through Turns 3-4 and down the frontstretch, but ultimately came up half a car length short as Burton scored his second win of the 1998 season and the fifth win of his career.
“They got their money’s worth tonight,” said Burton in Victory Lane after saluting his home state fans. “That was a hell of a race for the Exide Ford. I need to thank Jeff Gordon first of all, he drove me real clean. We worked together all night getting through traffic. Traffic was really hard and we took our time with each other all night. I want to thank him first, because he drove me real clean there at the end.
“These guys did a hell of a job in the pits all night. We picked up spots every single time. We beat the 24 out of the pits every single time and that’s huge because we all know how good they are. Big win for us.”