Jeb Burton will make his first Cup start of 2019 when he drives the second chartered entry for Rick Ware Racing in the March 24 STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, team officials announced Thursday.
Burton will drive the No. 52 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with sponsorship from Muzzy Bowfishing and RockyBoots.com.
NASCAR veteran George Church will serve as crew chief for Burton’s 32nd career Cup start.
Burton’s last Cup start was last fall at Martinsville, and was also for Rick Ware Racing, starting 39th and finishing 33rd at the .526-mile paperclip facility that Burton considers his home race track.
The son of former Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, Jeb Burton will be making his fourth Cup start at Martinsville, with a career best finish of 27th in 2015. He’s also made six Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts at Martinsville, with two top-five finishes and a pole.
“I have a great relationship with Rick and the RWR team,” Jeb Burton said. “Hopefully, we can build on how we performed last year.”
Added team owner Rick Ware, “The Burton name carries a lot of weight in that area and we will do all we can to put Jeb in a competitive car. We know he can drive it, so the guys at the shop have been working very hard to build him a good car.”
After making eight Cup starts from 1970 – 1978, Shepherd finally ran a majority of the schedule in 1981, running all but the first two races. His first win came relatively quickly in race No. 9 on April 26 at Martinsville Speedway.
The second victory came on March 16, 1986 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Of Shepherd’s four career wins, three came at Atlanta.
Go back in time and look at what other car owners were saying and how their concerns were repeated.
In 1999, Ricky Rudd closed his race shop and sold his cars and equipment at auction because he was unable to find a sponsor to continue a team that had won six races in six seasons, including the 1997 Brickyard 400.
Rudd told motorsport.com the day of the auction: “I’ll probably get a little sad when I see those race cars loaded up on trucks and rolled away. That’ll bother me a little. The hardest day was the day before I signed with (Robert) Yates. I walked into the shop and told the guys that the sponsorship deal wasn’t working out, and that I was sorry but I was gonna do something else next year.”
In 2007, Ginn Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. merged during the season because Ginn needed help after it was unable to find funding for two of its three cars. Car owner Bobby Ginn explained to The Associated Press that had he not merged: “We would have had to continue to cut costs, and that is disgraceful to me. I am proud of the merger. I would not have been proud of putting a car out there that couldn’t compete.”
Ginn went on to say: “Even if the sponsors had come in, we probably would be talking about something like this anyway. This is just going to be the way teams operate going forward, and we needed to be invited to the party before it was too late.”
The organization was a three-car team in 2013 but then lost sponsor NAPA after the season in response to the Richmond scandal that year when NASCAR penalized MWR for team orders in the final regular-season race of the year and removed Truex from the playoffs.
Last month, a bankruptcy judge approved the sale of BK Racing to Front Row Motorsports. Court documents showed that BK Racing, which struggled to find sponsorship, lost $29.5 million from 2014-16. The team also owed a bank more than $9 million in unpaid loans and the IRS more than $2.5 million.
“It’s a tough business,” Devine said in February at Daytona when asked why he never aligned with another team to help defray costs. “I think it’s an expensive learning curve. I also think … you’ve got to decide where you are taking the company and I took it down a very independent route, which probably wasn’t the smartest (thing).”
Just in recent years, the sport has seen Richard Childress Racing contract from three to two teams and Roush Fenway Racing, which had five full-time teams in 2009 downsize to four teams in 2010, three teams in 2012 and two teams in 2017.
Furniture Row Racing cut from two teams to one this season and then suffered a fatal blow when 5-hour Energy announced in July it would not remain in the sport after this year. It is to serve as a co-primary sponsor for 30 races this year. Forget that the 2019 Daytona 500 is 164 days away, the need to have sponsorship secured for next year had already passed for Furniture Row Racing.
Although their lifespan may be recalled more often by fans, its demise falls in line with what has happened to many teams through the years.
For the second time in his career, an organization shut down with him as a driver. Two other times, an organization Truex drove for merged to remain in the sport.
In 2007, Truex was with Dale Earnhardt Inc. when it merged with Ginn Racing, creating a four-car operation. Then that organization later merged with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Truex then left for Michael Waltrip Racing only to see his ride disappear after the 2013 season when NAPA left the team. The fallout was from the Richmond team orders scandal NASCAR penalized MWR. Now, Truex will be heading elsewhere after Furniture Row Racing closes shop after this season.
3. What’s next?
One of the things to watch for with Furniture Row Racing is who buys its charter.
The value of a charter, just like anything, is based on what someone is willing to pay. If there’s only one interested party, the price won’t be as high. If there are more, that can raise the price.
One thing that should make Furniture Row’s charter is its recent performance. There’s a historical element to charters that have weighted payments based on the performance of the team that held that charter. With Furniture Row Racing’s championship last year, this charter will have a larger payment to the next owner.
4. Unique attraction
The NASCAR weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway began with a USAC National Midget race on Thursday night.
A quarter-mile dirt track was built inside Turn 3 and more than 100 USAC midgets entered the event.
Holding races leading up to a NASCAR weekend is not a new thing but showing this dirt track series is. With a push toward grassroots racing, such options could be good tie-ins with race weekends — as long as fans show up. If fans don’t attend, they won’t happen.
Children 12 and under already could attend NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity races for free but this is a step up for the sport.
It provides another avenue to reach out to a younger generation with the hope that those in that group become life-long NASCAR fans.
Admittedly, it’s not something that can be done everywhere. Watkins Glen sold out its grandstands again this year. Darlington Raceway did not announce a sellout for last weekend’s Southern 500 but the stands were close to capacity.
At other tracks where there are open seats, it might be something to consider in the future even if only on a year-to-year basis.
However, do you remember what happened 20 years ago this week?
An Andretti won at Daytona.
Thirty years after Mario Andretti won his only Daytona 500, his nephew John Andretti put his name in the history books by winning the 1997 Firecr … I mean, the Pepsi … wait, the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola.
You know what I mean.
On July 5, 1997, the 34-year-old Andretti won his first Cup race, what was then the Pepsi 400.
That weekend Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were exterminating space bugs in theaters in Men in Black. In music, the top song was “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy … I mean P. Diddy. No, it’s Sean Combs. Yeah, that’s it.
You know what I mean.
When ESPN began its broadcast of the race, Andretti was third on the grid. He was next to Gordon and behind the Richard Childress Racing front row of Mike Skinner and Dale Earnhardt. The latter was in the midst of his first winless season since 1981.
To get the audience up to speed, ESPN featured a series of four musical montages to recap the season to date.
The songs of choice are in included in the below Spotify playlist.
In none of the storylines set up by those montages was Andretti’s name mentioned.
He drove the No. 98 RCA Ford owned by Cale Yarborough, who himself won at Daytona nine times in his racing career. Andretti was in his fourth full year of Cup racing and was three years removed from being the first driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and Coke 600 in the same day.
As the field came to the green, Andretti was 27th in the points and had only one top-10 finish through 15 races, a fourth-place finish at Talladega.
By Lap 3, Andretti was in the lead after having led only 20 laps the whole season – 19 at Talladega and one at Pocono.
On Lap 12, announcer Bob Jenkins made first mention of Andretti seeking his first Cup win. The son of Mario Andretti’s twin brother, Aldo, John Andretti made his first NASCAR start in October 1993 at North Wilkesboro Speedway driving for Tex Powell.
By July 1997, the cousin to Michael Andretti had only earned four top fives in 109 starts.
Here’s an observation on restrictor-plate racing in the mid-1990s – it was better.
This isn’t intended to be a typical “the racing then was better” statement.
In the years since tandem drafting was banned, restrictor-plate racing has largely become a large pack of cars where moves must be cherry picked at the right time and nothing can change for laps on end.
But in 1997, 10 years into the plate era, the field wasn’t bunched together, almost held against its will. While still close in proximity, drivers had room to maneuver in a slightly strung out snake, with no clearly defined lines. A driver could make something happen more easily without the risk of starting the “Big One.”
Instead of keeping your eyes on the screen waiting for chaos to break out, you were left waiting to see who made a push toward the front.
And when something bad did happen, chances were half the field wasn’t taken out … probably.
This was the case on Lap 33, when Jimmy Spencer got turned on the backstretch and only Chad Little and Mike Skinner were caught in it.
It resulted in the first pit stops of the day and a near scare for Andretti as he left the pits and Gordon nearly took him out at the pit exit.
He restarted second behind Bill Elliott and had the lead back by the time the field got to Turn 4.
Andretti’s previous career best for laps led was 41 in the 1995 Southern 500. In this race, he led 80 of the first 89 laps.
All the videos in the post are from a YouTube video that is the raw satellite feed from the ESPN broadcast, which means you don’t see the commercials.
“Hey guys, I don’t know if you can get a shot of him, but Cale Yarborough is on top of the RCA truck in the garage and he’s so excited. He’s taking on the radio, he’s driving the race car. He’s cracking the guys up in the pit. He’s saying, ‘John, John, go help the 3, help that 4, help that 3, help that 4.’ They’re just dying. They said he’s jumping up and down on top of the truck.”
ESPN never got a shot of him.
Yarborough had reason to be excited. A 83-time Cup winner as a driver, Yarborough was a car owner from 1987 – when he drove for himself – to 1999. He fielded cars for Dale Jarrett, Dick Trickle, Derrike Cope and Jeremy Mayfield. Andretti replaced Mayfield with eight races left in the 1996 season.
In 371 races, Andretti’s win would be the only visit to victory lane for Yarborough as an owner.
“And I was just as happy walking in there as I was when I was driving in there,” Yarborough said.
With 43 laps to go, Andretti pulled off a maneuver that would be declared illegal in today’s NASCAR. Going down the backstretch, Andretti dove his No. 98 Ford down below the dotted white line to get by Rusty Wallace into fifth.
This was similar to the move Gordon made on Bill Elliott six months earlier on the frontstretch that eventually led to him winning the Daytona 500.
Speaking of Gordon.
The 1995 Cup champion was on his way to his second title that season. He would do it on the back of 10 wins, which matched his total from 1996. From 1995-97, the “Rainbow Warriors” won 27 times and they would add a modern record 13 in 1998.
By July 1997, many in the grandstands were sick of it.
So, when Gordon smacked the backstretch wall on Lap 125, they let their pleasure be known as the No. 24 limped to pits.
If you want to party like it’s 1997, you have my permission to crank this up while you sip a cold Pepsi or a Coca-Cola depending on your sponsor obligations.
When the race went green with 30 to go, Andretti was second. A lap later he had to take the lapped cars of Bill Elliott and Spencer three-wide to make a clear path to Mark Martin.
Now Andretti was experiencing déjà vu. Earlier in the year, Andretti finished fourth to Martin in the caution free Winston 500 at Talladega, a race he had the pole for and led 19 laps of early on. That day, no one could get out of line to take a shot at Martin in the closing laps.
“I got behind Mark and thought, ‘Not like Talladega again,’” Andretti said later, according to the Associated Press. “Luckily for me Bill Elliott pushed me through. I guess I owe Bill a check for this.”
The drafting help from Elliott came on Lap 137 after coordination between the two team’s spotters.
By the time there was 13 laps to go, The Intimidator was stalking his prey in the form of Andretti. Earnhardt was running in second, followed by Dale Jarrett and Martin.
The end of the race was heating up when the final caution of the race waved for a five-car crash in Turns 1 and 2 with four to go.
As the field raced back to the flag – which was still a thing at this point – ESPN cameras caught the No. 98 crew mildly celebrating, thinking the race was over.
They were wrong.
The wreck was cleaned in time for a final lap, with the green and white flag being displayed together.
When they waved, Andretti had a rear-view mirror full of a certain black car.
As Andretti celebrated his win, Ward Burton was put on a stretcher. He was taken to the hospital to be tested for a concussion, but results were negative.
Also negative were driver reactions to how the race ended.
“That wasn’t a shootout,” Earnhardt said. “That was a slugfest, a wreckfest. They know better than to do that.”
Said Kyle Petty, “What they just had is a recipe for somebody getting hurt real bad. NASCAR got what they wanted, the fans didn’t get anything because they saw some of their favorites get taken out on the last lap. And the same guy that was leading the race before the restart still won. Why didn’t we just end it under caution?”
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO: John Andretti
When it came to NASCAR, Andretti wasn’t a one-hit wonder.
He won once more in 393 Cup starts. Two years later, while in his second stint in the No. 43 for Petty Enterprises, Andretti found victory lane at Martinsville Speedway after leading only the final four laps.
His last full-time season came in 2002.
From 2003-10 Andretti competed sporadically in Cup while competing in one full Xfinity campaign in 2006.
His final NASCAR start came in the 2010 Daytona 500, where he finished 38th for Front Row Motorsports after a crash.
From 2007-11, he made 10 starts in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The final four, which included three attempts at the Indianapolis 500, were in a No. 43 Honda co-owned by Andretti Autosport and Richard Petty Motorsports.
Whether you’re visiting Darlington Raceway for the Sept. 6 Southern 500 or watching from home on NBC, you might experience confusion or a sense of Déjà vu spanning more than 40 years of NASCAR history.
With the Southern 500’s return to its traditional spot on Labor Day weekend for the first time since 2003, many Sprint Cup teams are using the opportunity to commemorate the history of their team or sponsors with retro paint schemes.
Here’s a look at the paint jobs that will populate the field next Sunday at the track “Too Tough to Tame,” which held its first race in 1950:
Brad Keselowski – The 2012 Sprint Cup champion’s No. 2 Ford will look like a Miller High Life car Bobby Allison once drove. Allison won at Darlington five times, including a sweep of the 1975 races with Team Penske.
Austin Dillon –The No. 3 belonging to the Richard Childress Racing driver pays tribute to the early days of RCR when Childress, Dillon’s grandfather, was behind the wheel.
Kevin Harvick – The defending Darlington race winner. The paint scheme for Harvick’s No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet was announced back in May. Harvick’s car “mimics the first can Budweiser produced.”
Kasey Kahne – The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet will channel Rick Hendrick’s first race car, the All-Star Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo, driven by Geoff Bodine in the 1984 Southern 500 at Darlington. Hendrick was ready to close up shop after Darlington, but crew chief Harry Hyde convinced him to continue on. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Trevor Bayne – Party like it’s 1998! Bayne will be driving the paint scheme used by Mark Martin in the Sprint Cup in 1998, when he won seven races and finished second in the points to Jeff Gordon.
Alex Bowman – Alex will be driving a very sharp black and yellow Chevrolet SS for Tommy Baldwin Racing. The scheme will honor Baldwin’s father, “Tiger” Tom Baldwin, who spent 40 years racing in a Modified. He earned six Modified wins and victories in other circuits, as well.
Sam Hornish Jr. – The paint job for the No. 9 Ford at Richard Petty Motorsports is a tribute not to the Sprint Cup Series but to the 1990s when the Xfinity Series was known as the Busch Grand National Series. The scheme looks like the one driven by Mark Martin for many of his 49 series wins.
Danica Patrick – The No. 10 Go Daddy Chevrolet is meant as a tribute to Darlington, affectionately known as “The Lady in Black.”
Denny Hamlin – The No. 11 Toyota pays tribute to when Cale Yarborough drove the No. 11 in the 1970s. Yarborough won five times at Darlington.
Tony Stewart – The three-time Sprint Cup champion has never won at Darlington, but if he does this year, it will be with the original Bass Pro Shop logo from the late 70s adorning the hood of his No. 14 Chevrolet.
Clint Bowyer – The No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota was hand-painted to honor the late Buddy Baker, who drove a No. 15 car sponsored by RC Cola in 1974 for Bud Moore.
Greg Biffle – Biffle’s No. 16 Ford will be sponsored by Ortho. The red in the scheme is based off the color of Ortho’s original delivery cars.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – The No. 17 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing pays tribute to when David Pearson wheeled the 17 for the Wood Brothers, winning six of his 10 Darlington races for the team. The Cargill sponsored car was unveiled at Darlington Raceway.
Ryan Blaney – The Wood Brothers decided to turn their No. 21 Ford into a mosaic depicting the team’s 65-year history. The scheme includes about 2,000 pictures dating back to 1950.
Joey Logano – His Team Penske Ford will honor the Shell-sponsored Porsche Mario Andretti drove in the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1988. Andretti drove with son Michael Andretti and nephew John Andretti. They started third and finished sixth.
Jeb Burton – The son of Ward Burton will race the paint scheme his father used when he won the 2001 Southern 500.
Chase Elliott – Racing his last Sprint Cup event of 2015 before going full time in 2016, Elliott’s No. 25 Chevrolet is a more subtle throwback. The angled red stripe toward the rear-end is a tribute to the paint scheme used by his father, Bill Elliott, when he won the Southern 500 and the “Winston Million” in 1985.
JJ Yeley – Will drive a unique scheme designed by famed NASCAR and motorsport artist Sam Bass. The car will benefit Beds for Kids, a Charlotte-based charity that empowers families with children by delivering beds and other furniture for those in need.
Paul Menard – The 2011 Brickyard 400 winner personally helped out in the design of his No. 27 Chevrolet, which is based on the marketing for the Menard’s home improvement stores in the early 1970s.
Ryan Newman – The RCR driver’s No. 31 Chevrolet will be an homage to what Caterpillar’s heavy equipment looked liked in the 1970s. Newman has never won at Darlington.
Josh Wise – Twelve years after Ricky Craven came out on top in the closest finish in modern NASCAR history at Darlington in the No. 32, Wise and Go Green Racing our bringing back the paint scheme Craven used in the 2003 race. The sponsors are different, but the bright “Tide” orange is easy on the eyes.
Mike Bliss – What would a retro throwback to Darlington be without an homage to Harry Gant’s old green and white paint scheme from back in the day. Bliss will be driving the No. 33 for Hillman Racing.
Landon Cassill – The paint scheme for Cassill’s No. 40 Snap Fitness Chevrolet is a tribute to the “God Bless American” scheme used by Sterling Marlin in the Sept. 31, 2001 Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway. That was the second race following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Kurt Busch – Stewart-Haas Racing didn’t always exist in its current form. Before Tony Stewart joined the team, it was known as Haas CNC Racing, which first competed in the Sprint Cup season in three races in 2002. Busch’s paint scheme is the original one driven by Jack Sprague.
Kyle Larson – The No. 42 Chevrolet gets two tributes in one with this Mello Yello paint scheme. It’s the look used by fictional driver Cole Trickle in the 1990 film “Days of Thunder” and it would then be used by Kyle Petty from 1991 to 1994 when he drove the No. 42 for SABCO Racing, which was owned by Ganassi co-owner Felix Sabates.
Aric Almirola – In 1972, STP premiered as the main sponsor of Richard Petty. He would go on to win eight times that year leading to a championship. With STP, Petty would earn 60 of his 200-career wins. Almirola sports the paint scheme from that 1972 campaign.
Michael Annett – The No. 46 will carry the color scheme and logo of Annett’s sponsor from the 1970s.
Jimmie Johnson – The three-time Darlington winner will sport the Lowe’s Home Improvement logo used in the 1940s and 50s. Lowe’s was founded in 1946, four years before Darlington hosted its first race.
Justin Allgaier – Making his second career Sprint Cup start at Darlington, Allgaier’s No. 51 Chevrolet will honor the career of legendary race car driver and four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, who raced the No. 51 in several of his 128 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts.
David Ragan – The two-time Sprint Cup winner is using the retro weekend to honor the Cup career of his father, Ken Ragan. The elder Ragan raced in 50 Sprint Cup races from 1983-90 driving mostly for his brother Marvin. His career included five starts at Darlington Raceway. This paint job was raced by Ken Ragan in 1987.
Martin Truex Jr. – The New Jersey native’s No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet will have a special teal paint scheme for this weekend’s race to raise awareness for National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Truex has nine career starts at Darlington, with his best performances being fifth in 2012 and sixth in 2009.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – The 12-time most popular driver will have a new, one-time sponsor for the Southern 500. Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet will bear the name and colors of Valvoline motor oil. Valvoline sponsored drivers like Cale Yarborough, Neil Bonnett and Buddy Baker in the early 1980s, but is probably more well known among fans for its time with Mark Martin at Roush Racing throughout the 1990s.
Also participating in the retro fun is Goodyear. The tire company has branded the tires for the Southern 500 race weekend with an older white logo, which can be seen on Twitter at @GoodyearRacing.