DETROIT (March 1, 2000) - During last year's NASCAR Winston Cup event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Caterpillar Pontiac Grand Prix driver Ward Burton dueled with his younger brother Jeff for a victory in the season's third race. The eldest Burton...
DETROIT (March 1, 2000) - During last year's NASCAR Winston Cup event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Caterpillar Pontiac Grand Prix driver Ward Burton dueled with his younger brother Jeff for a victory in the season's third race. The eldest Burton finished second, which was the first of three such scenarios that would play out during the year between the brothers.
This season Ward Burton heads to Las Vegas in the best position he has ever been in since joining the Winston Cup circuit back in 1994. Burton currently sits third in the point standings, just 23 points behind fellow Grand Prix driver and Las Vegas track record-holder Bobby Labonte. With an eighth place finish at Daytona and a third place finish at Rockingham already this year, Burton appears to be on the brink of grabbing his second career series victory. And although Burton sees paradise in the slower pace of his South Boston, Virginia-home, he looks forward to the bright lights, big city and big opportunity that Las Vegas has to offer.
THOUGHTS FROM WARD BURTON, NO. 22 CATERPILLAR PONTIAC GRAND PRIX
...his impressions of Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
"It's more than one groove. It's got some banking in it, but it's wide enough you can get some good two-abreast racing - sometimes even three-abreast. But you don't have to run the bottom groove. Some of the shorter tracks - places like Loudon - are just absolutely horrible for that. You about have to grudge somebody out of the groove. But Vegas has a great track surface and it's just a good track for everybody to run on."
...his impressions of the city of Las Vegas:
"I like it. I wouldn't live there, but that doesn't mean I fault anybody that does live there. I enjoy going there to visit. A lot of these places that we go to and race at are some of the grandest places you could ever go. It's a neat part of my life and my children's lives and family's life to be able to see how other people live. At the same time, when I quit racing I'm going to find a more peaceful life. But, I still want to somehow or another be involved with racing, whether that is doing something for Caterpillar or Polaris or some of our other sponsors. I'd still like to be able to do that, but I doubt that you'll see me at the racetrack every weekend. "I enjoy going and seeing the enthusiasm of the gamblers and the fast pace of life. It's enjoyable to be there for a couple days. I learn a ton just by watching people. Hey, I'm like a tourist, too. I have a big time at it."
...if Las Vegas Motor Speedway asked him to be track president when he retires:
"I'd be there. I'm that dedicated to the sport and more so to NASCAR that, yeah, I would be there. But that doesn't mean I'd have to fly back to Virginia. I could fly back to Montana to a log cabin somewhere."
...racing against his brother (Jeff) for a win:
"It complicates things a little bit. It's been fun, but then at times it has had it's moments of frustration, too. It's not really about him beating me, as much as it is the same car and the same team was able to beat me last year three times. In '93 I wore him out pretty bad in the Busch Series. It's just that since he's gotten with Roush and Buddy Parrott and all them, he has had an advantage the last few years. It's just now that I'm getting a support group that is somewhere equal to what he has had. Having him as a driver and a fellow competitor complicates things a little bit. But at the same time, it was fun and worked out good that it never resulted in a bad incident for either one. I think the amount of fan response we've gotten from it has really been unbelievable. Everywhere I go people will mention something about it and give me a lot of support and all. That part of it has been a lot of fun for me."
...does Jeff remind you of those races much during the off-season:
"Well, Jeff moved to Charlotte. Myself and all my family members all live within 10 miles to 30 miles of each other, so with him not being in Halifax County or in Southside Virginia, he's kind of distanced himself from our daily or monthly activities. I probably saw him once, maybe twice last year in Virginia, so there are not a lot of opportunities for that kind of thing. He's busy like all of us. You just don't have time to take many joy rides these days."
...how did two brothers from South Boston, Va., rise to the elite level of Winston Cup:
"I think our family's enthusiasm for motorsports and speed is number one, but our upbringing is certainly right at the top with that. It's a direct result of the upbringing from my mom and dad. My mom instilled in us a sense of feeling for others and caring for others. I know I've got that very strong. My dad instilled in me a feeling of being honorable, which means basically just being trustworthy. Also the competitive side for both of us comes from our father. And I've got a lot of heritage from my grandparents, too, from being the oldest of three boys. I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time particularly with my grand dad on the Burton side. A lot of me is him, even though he is not with me now."
...how much bragging does your mom do back at home:
"She doesn't. I don't think any of the family does any bragging. Of course she is awed by the amount of people that say things to her. They'll say, 'Oh, you're Jeff and Ward's mother,' or, 'Hey, you're from South Boston. That's where Ward and Jeff - well now - where Ward lives.' So she is kind of awed by that. It's something that myself and everybody has had to get used to because it has come pretty quickly. The amount of acknowledgement that has come to myself and my brother from the popularity of NASCAR is really unreal when you think about it. When you're sitting right in the middle of it, it's something you get used to. But when you stand away from it and have time to reflect on it, it is pretty amazing."
THOUGHTS FROM BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX
...the race in Las Vegas:
"We were able to test there last year and that has helped our overall program at intermediate tracks. I think we finished fifth at Las Vegas last year and we were able to use some of the things we discovered at other tracks for the rest of the season. The track there is really smooth and we are able to run three-wide pretty much the whole way around the place. That is if everyone runs you clean, but for the most part, you can see a lot of good racing. It's a really neat facility to race at."
...the anticipation of being in Las Vegas and what it has to offer:
"It's a really neat city. It has a lot more to do and offer than most of the cities we go to, but at the same time, our schedules do not always allow us to go out and do any site seeing so it doesn't seem to be a factor. I would have to say that I enjoy it out there though. And because it is such a long trip out to the West Coast, Donna (his wife) and the kids will be staying back in North Carolina this time."