Veteran Jeff Burton is slated to make his 1000th career NASCAR series start in Sunday's AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
By Tom Jensen
FORT WORTH, TX - NOV. 03: Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, takes part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 3, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas.
For his career, Burton has won 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup races with a best points finish of third in 2000. He finished in the top 10 in points for five consecutive seasons from 1997-2001 and helped RCR win an owners' championship in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2007.
"When I was 7 years old I wanted to be a race car driver," said Burton, a native of South Boston, Va. "I'm 46 and I'm a race car driver. I've just been really blessed. The cool thing is I've met so many people and experienced so many things that I never would have been able to do. To have a chance to compete for a living is a really cool thing. You know what your job is and go out and try to do it. Competing to me means something. To be able to do it this long has been really cool."
Burton's first NASCAR race was March 13, 1988 at Martinsville Speedway, driving the Golden Skillet-sponsored No. 64 Chevrolet. Burton finished last after his engine blew two laps into the race. He won $705 for his efforts.
"I had gone to the bank and borrowed money; we wonder why the banks are in trouble right," said Burton. "I had gone to the bank to borrow money to buy an engine and it blew up after qualifying. Hubert Hensley, Jeff Hensley's dad, who is a crew chief on a truck, said, 'Hey man, I've got an engine if you need it.' ... We ran that engine for those laps and it blew up. So, yes, I remember it vividly. It took me about three years to pay that damn engine off. No, it didn't. It took me longer than that. It took me like five years to pay that engine off."
Burton's career has seen many highlights, one of which was his first NASCAR Sprint victory, which came in the inaugural race at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997, with wife Kim up on the pitbox, cheering him on those final laps.