Hailing from South Boston, Virginia, the Burton racing family made its name on its hometown track at South Boston Speedway. But another short track, over an hour or so to the west, has seen them excel over the years.
Three of the Burtons have claimed a NASCAR national series win at Martinsville Speedway, which hosts the Xfinity and Cup Series this weekend.
Jeff Burton earned both Martinsville Cup (1997) and Xfinity (1990) wins in his career. Ward Burton (1993) and Harrison Burton (2020) also have their own Martinsville Xfinity victories.
Another Burton has come close to joining them at times.
Jeb Burton – Jeff’s nephew, Ward’s son, Harrison’s cousin – has a pole and two top fives in Camping World Truck Series competition at Martinsville. Last November, he finished fourth in his first Xfinity start there for JR Motorsports.
In a Wednesday media teleconference, Jeb mentioned the Truck pole from April 2013 as “probably (his) fondest moment” at the track. He went on to lead 154 laps in that race, but finished third after losing the lead on the final restart.
He returns to Martinsville for Friday night’s 250-lap race with perhaps his best chance to break through for his first career win and become the fourth Burton to win at Martinsville.
Four family members have never won at the same track across NASCAR’s top three divisions.
“I think that’d be really special if we could get that done,” said Jeb Burton, a full-time Xfinity driver for Kaulig Racing. “Four different family members to do that – I don’t think anybody would ever do that again. Hopefully, we can make that happen.”
Entering Friday’s race, Jeb Burton is sixth in the standings with three top-five and five top-10 finishes. He’s tied for the most top 10s with reigning series champion Austin Cindric and Daniel Hemric.
His only blemish came in the most recent race on March 20 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. On a restart with less than 50 laps to go, he and Jeremy Clements came together in Turn 1 and then went into the outside wall.
The incident ruined potential top-five days for both drivers. Clements finished 12th, while Jeb Burton finished 25th. But the latter was still heartened by the speed from his No. 10 Chevrolet.
“We were about two-tenths off the best car there in the last stage, and that’s the best speed we’ve shown all year,” he said. “I think we were about to show even more speed going into that third stage before we got crashed.
“I thought the week before that at Phoenix was our best race. We ran top six all day (finished sixth) and then Atlanta, I felt like we were a legitimate top-four car.
“The finishes have been there, but I think our speed maybe hasn’t quite been there. I think some of that’s me just getting familiar with these race cars – and I haven’t been to these race tracks in a while.”
Prior to Las Vegas, Jeb Burton said he was having to focus on that familiarization during the first two stages of races before trying to claw back lost ground in the final stage.
It’s a process that his Kaulig Racing teammate, AJ Allmendinger, knows as well. He returned to full-time status this season after running part-time for the organization in 2019 and ’20.
But Allmendinger, who won earlier this year at Las Vegas, has been impressed with Jeb Burton’s ability to get solid results, especially with that process not including practice sessions on most race weekends.
“He shows he has the speed,” Allmendinger said this week. “As the year goes on, he’s only going to get better. He’s not gonna have to take those first two stages as practices, so he’ll be up front more consistently. More importantly, because of that, he’ll keep giving better feedback.”
Friday night also marks a milestone for Jeb Burton: His 50th Xfinity start.
That number may not jump off the page. But considering the circuitous path of his career, it’s an important one.
His full-time ride with Richard Petty Motorsports in 2016 disappeared after just 11 races. From there, he ran partial schedules for now-defunct organizations Biagi-Denbeste Racing (2016) and JGL Racing (2017), then Richard Childress Racing (2018) and JR Motorsports (2019-20), before landing a full-time ride with Kaulig.
When he and Kaulig made their announcement last November, Jeb Burton spoke about how in those days, every race felt like “a life-or-death moment” for his career.
He can now move forward in his career with confidence. But as he approaches No. 50, he is grateful for what he learned while living race-to-race.
“Time flies by,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like I ran 50 races, to be honest. It’s definitely been a lot of hard work to get this opportunity. I’m just excited about where I’m going as a driver and where our team’s going.
“All those hardships I’ve been through has made me into the person I am today and has taught me a lot.”