Top 10 Greatest Career Moments for Jeff Burton


Aug 17, 2014; Brooklyn, MI, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver prior Jeff Burton to the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

South Boston, Va.’s Jeff Burton will forever be remembered as one of the sport’s most popular drivers of all time.

Over the course of his 26 year NASCAR career, Burton demonstrated a consistent nature behind the wheel that garnered a deep respect from his peers. Burton’s astute driving style caught the attention of Dale Earnhardt, prompting Earnhardt to make a recommendation to team owner Richard Childress about the possibility of Burton taking over the seat of the famous #3 once Earnhardt was ready to call it a career.

Sadly, Earnhardt’s untimely demise in 2001 would deprive Burton of any such opportunity with RCR. Ironically, Burton would join RCR in August of 2004, three years after Earnhardt’s passing. Burton’s burning desire to reshape the landscape of the sport for the next generation of drivers earned him the nickname “The Mayor” toward the latter stages of his career.

As a proud ambassador for NASCAR on and off the track, Burton’s reputation as one of sport’s most likeable personalities earned him a position in the broadcast booth with NBC in 2015.  As a new chapter of his career is set to begin away from the cockpit, Burton’s foray into the world of broadcast journalism is sure to be met with great anticipation as the summer of 2015 draws near.

Until then, let’s take a trip down memory lane as we highlight some of Burton’s greatest career moments.

First NASCAR Busch Series victory

Burton spent the first few years of his NASCAR Busch Series career searching for consistency in the realm of inconsistency.  Facing the challenge of driving for four different teams in four years disrupted Burton’s progress in becoming a series standout.

Following a mediocre rookie campaign in 1989, Burton would leave the family owned business in 1990 to drive for Busch Series legend Sam Ard.  The combination of Burton and Ard struggled for a better part of the 1990 season, highlighted by the occasional flashes of brilliance. On a Saturday afternoon in late September, Burton’s undying determination would pay dividends as he would overtake a dominant Robert Pressley on lap 138 at Martinsville to collect his first career Busch Series victory.  Although he only led 13 laps that afternoon, it was refreshing to see the jubilation on the young Virginia native’s face; little did anyone know back then that Burton would go on to become one of the most successful drivers in Busch Series history. But you get the feeling Jeff knew this was the start of something special.

The fabulous five

There was a time when Roush Racing had a stranglehold over the competition at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  Roush drivers won five of the first seven Sprint Cup Series races in Vegas, including Roush’s complete dominance in the inaugural (1998) Las Vegas 400.  On that day back in 1998, three (Martin, Burton, Benson) of the five Jack Roush drivers led for a combined total of 128 laps out of a possible of 267 with Mark Martin eventually capturing the victory.  Burton would end the day as the runner-up, but don’t feel too bad for Jeff. He would go on to win the next two races(1999,2000) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway . Capping off a day of dominance for Roush Racing was Johnny Benson coming home in fourth, followed by Ted Musgrave in sixth, and rounding out the Roush contingent was a 10th place run from Chad Little.

A man among champions

The International Race of Champions was designed to showcase the talents of North American motorsport’s finest drivers; the series was made up of an all-star lineup of drivers ranging from open wheel champions to stock car legends.  For the most part, the series catered to stock car drivers, as they accounted for a majority of the victories.

Burton competed in IROC for four seasons from 1998-2001. He would achieve his greatest triumph in the series in 1998, wining at Michigan and recording three top fives and three top-10s in four races, ultimately finishing  runner up to Roush teammate Martin for the 1998 IROC crown.

First Sprint Cup series victory

Burton graduated from the Busch Series to the Winston Cup series in 1994. Once again, he would find himself in familiar territory, grasping to find consistency. It wasn’t until 1996 that things started to look up for Burton. After enduring a frustrating 1995 campaign, Burton would be presented with a golden opportunity to finally thrive in the Winston Cup Series. Jack Roush would hire the Virginia native as part of Roush Racing’s business expansionto pilot the #99 ford Thunderbird with sponsorship from Exide Batteries.

Following a moderately successful first season with Roush in 1996, Burton entered the 1997 Winston Cup season with enormous expectations to not only win races, but to challenge for the Winston Cup title. Under the guidance of veteran crew chief Buddy Parrott, Burton would excel, capturing his first career Winston Cup victory in the inaugural Interstate Batteries 400.

A change of scenery

Burton’s final years with Roush Racing were less than memorable. The once consistent #99 team had fallen on hard times. Burton entered the 2004 season riding a two year winless streak, Citgo left as primary sponsor at the conclusion of the 2003 season and by the end of his tenure with Roush, Burton had worked with two different crew chiefs after Frank Stoddard’s departure from Roush in September 2002. On pace to record his worst season since 1996, rumours started to surface that Burton’s days with Roush were numbered. Initially, both Jack Roush and Burton would dismiss these claims, but as the season wore on, there was no denying the once powerhouse combination had outgrown one another.

Twenty two races into the 2004 season and siting 23rd in the points standings with no wins, one top five finish and three top-10s, Roush Racing released Burton from his driving duties in favor of rookie Carl Edwards. Ultimately, it was a crushing blow to Burton’s psyche, considering the fact all four of his teammates (Busch, Martin, Kenseth, Biffle) had recorded victories in 2004 and were in a position to compete for a championship.

Burton would be given a new lease on life, as Richard Childress Racing wasted little time in signing the driver once recommended to Childress by the late Dale Earnhardt. Burton would finish out the 2004 season driving the #30 America Online Chevrolet before taking over the reins of the #31 team. He would enjoy a prosperous tenure with RCR that would last from 2004-2013. During his time with RCR, Burton recorded four victories, 44 top five finishes, 107 top-10 finishes four four poles with four appearances in the chase.

Texas two step

Coming into the 2007 Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Burton was in the midst of a career-best to start the season sitting second in the driver standings through six races.

After a momentous 2006 campaign that resulted in his first Chase appearance, the duo of Scott Miller and Burton were hitting its stride. Burton qualified on the outside pole for the 2007 Samsung 500, his best qualifying effort of the season. Having already finished third at Daytona and second at Bristol, there was a growing feeling that Burton wasn’t too far away from capturing his first victory of the season. As a former winner at Texas Motor Speedway, his chances of claiming another victory on the 1.5 mile track increased substantially with his superb qualifying effort.
The race would be dominated by Jeff Gordon before he would lose the lead to Matt Kenseth in the final stages of the race. While it looked as if Kenseth would easily cruise to victory, Burton would give him all he could handle as the white flag waved. Burton would gain a head of steam on the leader as the race for first came down to the wire. Burton executed a brilliant last ditch effort pass on Kenseth for his second career victory at Texas Motor Speedway.

Laying down a foundation for success

Burton entered the 1997 season as a driver on many people’s radar to have a breakout season, and he would not disappoint. Aside from claiming his first career win at Texas Motor Speedway, Burton would visit victory lane at Loudon and Martinsville, two tacks he enjoyed a tremendous amount of success at during his Busch Series career. Working with veteran crew chief Parrot instilled an attitude of a winning culture in Burton, an entity that eluded him before joining Roush Racing in 1996. A future star was born.

Magic on The Mile

New Hampshire Motor Speedway has always been good to Burton. Some of The Mayor’s career defining moments happened on The Magic Mile. One that stood out from the rest was the day he blistered the field to lead all 300 laps of the 2000 Dura Lube 300. There was no stopping Burton on this day, as both car and driver outclassed the competition soundly for a fourth career win at New Hampshire.

Dream season

Two years removed from attaining his first career Winston Cup victory, Burton gradually became one of the sport’s top tier drivers. The 1999 season would turn out to be a career year for him in the Cup Series, as he would record six victories, 18 top five finishes and 23 top-10 finishes. Burton’s six victories eclipsed his career total in just one season. He and his new crew chief, Frank Stoddard, developed a knack for scoring victories in some of the sport’s most prestigious events — Charlotte Motor Speedway’s (Coca-Cola 600) and a clean sweep of both races ran at Darlington in 1999. A year later, Burton would add a Daytona victory (Pepsi 400) to his dazzling resume, topped off by another Coca Cola 600 victory in 2001.

Resurrecting the Mayor

Four years had passed since Burton last visited the winners circle heading into the 2006 season, his second with RCR.

While Burton had made some positive gains since joining the organization in the summer of 2004, it was hard to ignore the fact that Burton was facing a possible fifth season without a victory. Knowing he had to make good on his promise of rising to the top of the heap, Burton came out of the gate swinging by winning the pole for the 2006 Daytona 500. Winning the pole for the sport’s most celebrated race was a great way to start what would turn out to be the season, as he nearly became a champion. Eventually, Burton would shatter that dreaded four year winless streak in September of that year with a win at Dover.

The victory would catapult Burton into the points lead for the next four weeks before engine trouble at Martinsville derailed his championship aspirations. He would finish off the year with one victory, seven top five finishes, 20 top-10 finishes and a career high four poles, ending the season seventh in the standings. Despite dropping the points lead awfully close to the season finale, 2006 turned out to be a successful year for the Mayor, as he resurrected his career from the ashes.

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