Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ward Burton says son Jeb achieving through sheer talent

Jeb Burton after qualifying third at Texas Motor Speedway
Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
Thursday evening in the media center at Texas Motor Speedway, I watched 20-year-old Jeb Burton frown through his post-qualifying media obligation.

He wanted to add the pole award for the Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 400 to his collection, but wound up third on the grid.

The intense young Turner-Scott Motorsports driver has an average starting position of 2.7, but apparently that's not good enough.

The next day, I rode around the track in a pace truck with Jeb's dad, Ward, driving.

During the brief ride I mentioned to him how upset his son was over his qualifying effort.

Ward said that it was a good thing to be upset over starting third.

Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
Friday night in victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway, young Burton grinned through his tears after earning his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory in just 12 starts.

His three top fives and six top tens contribute to an average finish of  7.6  and being just 23 points behind veteran Matt Crafton in the championship point standings.

Later in the media center, Burton was still smiling, but humble, giving credit to crew chief, Mike Hillman, Jr., who guided Todd Bodine to Truck series championships in 2006 and 2010.

Hillman Jr. said, "What he lacks in experience, he makes up for in talent."

Burton thanked Steve Turner and Turner-Scott Motorsports, as well as sponsor Arrowhead for giving him an opportunity he wouldn't have otherwise had.  He mentioned the "tears and blood" it had taken to get him to the Truck Series. How he hadn't had the financial resources that some young drivers had to fund their careers and that his father worked really hard to get him to where he was.

Jeb's father Ward visited the media center after his son left. The 2002 Daytona 500 Champion and winner of the 2001 Mountain Dew Southern 500 shared how special his son's win was to him, "the most special moment" he'd had in motorsports.

Ward's smile lit up the room as he expressed gratitude to the team and the sponsor.

As excited and happy as the father was for his son, his look turned serious as he took a moment to thank those who were in the media center for covering the truck race. That without us, no one would know about the race or the series.

Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
He explained how important the series is to young drivers with Sprint Cup dreams. How the Nationwide Series is controlled by corporate interests so getting a competitive ride is difficult for young drivers who don't bring family money with them.

Ward Burton wasn't bashing the Nationwide Series. He was simply explaining the state of the sport. He worked hard for his son, knocking on doors, looking for dollars more diligently than he did for himself.

Burton admitted that he made decisions in his career that cost him in the long run. That he was brought up to trust people to do what they said they would and that he probably stayed in a situation longer than he should have and it hurt his career. He simply didn't have the financial resources needed to fund a young driver's career.

"He's doing what he's doing on sheer talent. He doesn't have that much experience," said the elder Burton.

Think about that.

Jeb Burton won a Camping World Truck Series race in his 12th try, and has been a threat to win in almost every race this season.

What will he be able to do once he does have that experience?

Janine, aka Lisa or LJ, Cloud, a fifth-generation Texan, lives in Houston and considers Texas Motor Speedway her home track.

She's been a part of the Skirts and Scuffs team since May 2011, going from contributor to media rep, photographer, and associate editor covering both NASCAR and IZOD IndyCar. Janine considers it a privilege to represent the site at the track and to share with readers the excitement of the world of motorsports.


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