Jeb Burton hoping to carry on family tradition

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 04, 2012
(Eds: With AP Photos.) By HANK KURZ Jr. AP Sports Writer Ward Burton's transition from race car driver to parent of a race car driver hasn't always been easy. In at least one instance, watching as son Jeb, now 19, as he tore up the track was downright frightening. ''On his first go kart race, the first lap he made, Ward said, `My chest. I don't know if I can take this. I feel like I'm going to have a heart attack,''' Ward's wife, Tabitha, recalled, laughing at her husband, who raced 13 years in the Sprint Cup Series. ''And I said, `Welcome to my world. This is what it's like. Wait until he's in a car and someone's wrecking him. You want to kill somebody.''' Being a spectator has gotten easier over time, and last weekend the Burtons had to travel only about 60 miles from their South Boston home to see Jeb take his next big step forward as he made his debut in the Camping World Truck Series. In perhaps the tamest race at Martinsville Speedway in the history of the truck series, he started seventh, finished 13th and finished all 250 laps, essentially meeting his goals of a good qualifying run, a respect-building clean race and a top-15 finish. The race was the first of five Jeb will make in the truck series this year, sponsored by State Water Heaters, and while the Burtons hope to find sponsorship for more races, they are still adjusting to being bystanders, and in Ward's case, part-time coach. ''Coach,'' Jeb said when asked if his father is more father than coach. ''Sometimes me and him don't agree on everything.'' Ward, who always tried to be in command of his car when he was racing, admittedly struggles to keep quiet sometimes. ''The problem with me is I'm real quick to assume things when I need to sometimes slow down because he may be saying something different than what I think he's saying,'' Ward said. ''But the big picture is, this is a good opportunity for Jeb.'' During his career, Ward Burton won five times in the Sprint Cup Series, including the 2002 Daytona 500. He also won the prestigious Southern 500, but got out of racing after the 2007 when he decided he would take a well-funded ride, or none at all. By then, Jeb was already well on his way up the racing ladder. He started at 12, and progressed from motocross to go karts, then limited late models and finally late models before the family decided he was ready to go on to more ambitious things. To ease the transition, Ward teamed Jeb up with Trip Bruce, who was crew chief for Ward later in his career. It's an arrangement Bruce said he and Ward discussed in 2000, and one that has helped Ward step back, at least a little bit. ''You have to learn to kind of sit back and watch, be not as involved,'' Bruce said, ''and Ward said, `You know, I was always nervous before a practice session or qualifying as a driver, but nowhere near as much as he is standing here watching Jeb do it.''' Jeb would have raced in the season-opening truck race at Daytona, but hadn't been cleared yet by NASCAR, so Ward drove the truck and finished eighth. That was just fine with Tabitha, who wasn't ready to see her son driving on a 2 1/2 mile trioval. During the race, Jeb was in radio contact with his dad, offering some coaching of his own. ''He told me on the radio, `Ride in the back and watch them wreck,''' Ward said, laughing at the role reversal. ''And then at the last restart, he said, `OK dad, now it's time to go. You can't be dilly-dallying around any longer.''' By the time the team unloaded at Martinsville, Tabitha was confident Jeb was ready, and that helped her, too. ''It's so much more emotional for me,'' she said. ''I was always a supporter of Ward, a big cheerleader, but I quietly supported him. I stayed with the kids. We were there, we were always cheering for him, but that was his job, his career. Now with Jeb, I feel like I'm involved. We're in the middle of it. He's our child and we've done nothing but this the last four, five years. We've sacrificed a lot.'' And the way she supports her son is more than a little bit different than that demure racer's wife of old. ''I feel like I was pretty graceful throughout Ward's career. I don't think I embarrassed myself but maybe a couple of times, but with Jeb, I get furious,'' she said, speaking of when another driver causes problems for her son. ''We were somewhere and someone wrecked Jeb, and we were both on top of the trailer and I said (to Ward), `Go get him!', and he said, `I'm trying to get down!'''
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Top eight takeways from Raiders’ relocation to Las Vegas

Tony Romo upset with situation, distancing himself from teammates and coach

Kings owner looking for an executive to place over Vlade Divac

Elway: Broncos plan to 'stay the course' with Siemian, Lynch

Boykin may have violated probation, could face jail time

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

USF suspends DB indefinitely for role in shooting, arrest

Softball player, coach get physical in handshake line

Kraft: Patriots do not intend to trade Malcolm Butler

Brandon Marshall talks about how he can help Odell Beckham

Scherzer makes Tebow look silly in spring training at-bat

Lonzo Ball discusses headlines his father creates

Best, worst and hard to stomach MLB offseason moves

The 28 craziest ballpark foods for the 2017 season

The Rewind: George Mason's improbable run to the Final Four

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

Best of Yardbarker: Did Team USA's victory save the World Baseball Classic?

Breaking down the Naismith Award race

Box Score 3/24: Waiting on West Virginia

Eat, Drink, Watch: Weekends are for upsets

The 'Once again, Barry Bonds is the best power hitter in San Francisco' quiz

With Team USA's victory, World Baseball Classic (finally) lived up to its potential

The NFL distraction playbook

Which Sweet 16 team should you be rooting for?

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best, worst and hard to stomach MLB offseason moves

The Rewind: George Mason's improbable run to the Final Four

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

Best of Yardbarker: Did Team USA's victory save the World Baseball Classic?

Breaking down the Naismith Award race

Eat, Drink, Watch: Weekends are for upsets

The 'Once again, Barry Bonds is the best power hitter in San Francisco' quiz

The NFL distraction playbook

With Team USA's victory the WBC (finally) lived up to its potential

The Aesthetic: The world of player exclusive sneakers

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker