July 11, 2012 | By Jan Shaffer
Brickyard Pioneers: Where are They Now? Ward Burton
Note: This is the fourth of a series about drivers who competed in the early years of the Crown Royal Presents the “Your Hero’s Name Here” 400 at the Brickyard who no longer compete regularly in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
The inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994 was new to everybody, but it was “double new” to Ward Burton.
“It was just a huge honor to be at that facility,” Burton said. “’94 was my rookie year and to be involved with NASCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a real honor just to be a part of it.
“The biggest thing was that it was just a fabulous track to race on. When you went around the racetrack in a Pace Car and saw the number of fans …” His voice drifted off.
In all, Burton has started 12 of the 18 Brickyard 400s to date, with best finishes of a pair of sixths. He started on the front row in 2004, but 2002 Daytona 500 winner Burton has had his helmet off most of this season.
“I never officially retired,” he said. “I’m working on my son Jeb’s career. He’s 19, and I’m working feverishly to get him some support. I ran the truck at Daytona and finished eighth. Then he ran the next five races. He’s as good as anybody I’ve seen. He’d never been to a 1 ½-mile track before, went to Charlotte and finished eighth. For me, I could get my head back in the game real quick.”
One of those opportunities came up around the Indianapolis 500.
“I had a gentleman call me about it, and I was excited about doing it,” he said. “It turned out with my schedule to test it and all that it didn’t work. You have a lot of practice going on between Charlotte and Indy, and to give them both your best would be hard.”
From his home in Halifax, Va., Burton stays busy outside racing.
“I have a few businesses,” he said, “and the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, which is 2,000 acres of the south side of Virginia. I shovel by hand, drive the tractor and use the chain saw when I need to. We have an endangered salamander, black bear and quail management. It’s a good model for conservation.
“We have a contract with the Army at Fort Pickett’s Army Training Facility to provide assistance to land owners to make easements around their 48,000 acres. On our acreage, we have shooting, fishing and archery competition.”
Super Weekend tickets: Tickets are on sale now for the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard on July 26-29 at IMS.
All ticket orders can be made at www.imstix.com and through the IMS Ticket Office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday. For more information, call the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700, or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area.
Children 12 and under will receive free general admission when accompanied by an adult with a Kroger Super Weekend ticket or general admission ticket.
Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are on sale. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.