Jeff Burton has long been viewed as the statesman in the garage, the driver with informed and thought-provoking opinions on issues of the day and the one who often serves as the voice of the drivers. Burton is also a genuinely nice guy, a true family man and a challenger for championships for most of his career. He’s racked up wins in multiple series and helped build Roush Fenway Racing and then help to rebuild Richard Childress Racing during his career. Burton, 44, has already achieved both the respect of his competitors and a slate of high marks during his racing career. Rea White takes a look at 10 of his top NASCAR achievements:
In 2002, in one of his limited appearances in the Nationwide Series, Burton had the kind of run that teams love and competitors envy. He made just 13 starts, but won in five of those. He earned nine top-10 finishes, eight of them top-fives, in that limited engagement.
Burton has been actively involved in charity endeavors. One of his leading areas of support is the Duke Children’s Hospital. His wife, Kim, has served on the board and Burton has been involved in supporting the children’s hospital for years.
Burton pulled double duty for much of his career, running a limited schedule in the Nationwide ranks while also competing full time on the Cup side. He’s shown quite a bit of success when he runs on the Nationwide side, too. For example, in 2007, he raced in only 29 events, but finished in the top 10 in 17 of them, the top 10 in 12 of them and earned five wins to help Richard Childress Racing net the owners title.
Moving on up
Burton is a proven winner, in both the Cup and Nationwide ranks. He has a total of 48 career wins in the two series, with 21 of those coming in the Cup ranks. That includes victories at an impressive array of tracks, including short, intermediate and superspeedways.
The long haul
Burton is one of the true veterans in the sport and already surpassed the 500th consecutive series start mark, which came at Infineon Raceway. Overall he enters the 2012 season with 618 career Cup starts, a stretch that includes 21 wins, 242 top-10 and 130 top-five finishes.
In 1999, Burton showed flair in winning a career-best six Cup races. He spaced those out relatively evenly over the season and flashed his talent on a series of different tracks. He won early at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (1.5 mile) and Darlington Raceway (1.366 mile), then followed with wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway (1.5 mile), New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1 mile), Darlington again and North Carolina Motor Speedway (1.017 mile).
In 2000, Burton (pictured with his wife, Kim, and daughter, Paige) was driving for what is now Roush Fenway Racing and put together the best season of his career. He finished third in the season standings in a year when he earned four wins. Burton finished in the top 10 in 22 of the season’s 34 races, with 15 of those top fives. He posted an average finish of 10.2.
In 2004, Richard Childress Racing was three years removed from the tragic loss of Dale Earnhardt, who won six titles with the organization, the team was slipping off track. Burton joined the team late that season and they spent 2005 working to learn and improve. It paid off with the 2006 season, a year in which Burton and teammate Kevin Harvick both made the Chase. In 2007 and 2008, all three of the organization’s teams made the Chase before suffering a down year in 2009. The group made changes and rallied back in 2010, with three drivers making the Chase and teammate Kevin Harvick has finished third in each of the last two seasons.
Now in his 19th season of full-time competition, Burton (pictured with his wife, Kim) has enjoyed some great runs in his career. He earned five consecutive top-10 season finishes from 1997 through 2001 and has eight overall. He’s been a regular among the frontrunners and has made the Chase for the Sprint Cup four times.
Burton differs from some others in the garage in that he is not only willing to offer his opinion on a variety of subjects, but that his comments seem well considered and offer no glimpse of a personal agenda. Both media and other drivers look to Burton for an opinion and information whenever a rule change or trend is evolving in the garage. And Burton’s opinions, whether he means for them to or not, seem to help shape public concepts of some of the rule changes and developments in the sport in general.