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Burtons - Ward and Jeb - to take part in charity race

South Boston News / August 20, 2018

NASCAR 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, his son Jeb Burton and legendary crew chief Ray Evernham held court Saturday at Virginia International Raceway, promoting a special charity race coming to the Alton track Sept. 22.

Sportscar Vintage Racing Association announced Thursday that Ward Burton, and his son, Jeb, are the latest entries in the American Racing Legends Charity Pro-Am Presented By RACER Magazine.

The Burtons join a growing list of NASCAR stars that have announced they will compete. Among those already entered are NASCAR Cup Champions Bill Elliott and Bobby Labonte as well as Mike Skinner and Wally Dallenbach Jr.

“Anyone who knows the Burtons will tell you they are a class act,” said SVRA CEO Tony Parella.

The VIR event will benefit IGNITE - the Autism Society of North Carolina’s community center for young adults with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome. IGNITE was founded by The Evernham Family Racing for a Reason Foundation - a nonprofit established by Evernham and his family. Evernham will share a car with Elliott as the amateur of the team in the VIR race. The two have raced in the Indy Legends Charity Pro-Am Presented By RACER Magazine the past three years.

Its all part of the Heacock Gold Cup weekend at VIR, Sept. 21-23, featuring the professional Trans Am series, and much more.

Evernham, Ward and Jeb Burton are excited to be a part of the Heacock Gold Cup weekend at VIR.

Evernham thanked VIR owner Connie Nyholm and her team for the upcoming opportunity to stage a NASCAR-style pro-am event.

Evernham called VIR “an incredible facility.”

He appreciates the milieu of racing and the level of sophisticated cars at the track.

Evernham has become passionately involved with SVRA and this charity push.

He had looked into vintage racing several years ago and learned these cars are extremely competitive. The cars are well-prepared, fast and very safe, and the plan here is to put together an exciting event.

Evernham said the point of the IGNITE charity is to help young adults with autism transition successfully into the community after high school.

“It’s going to be an incredible event. We’re really looking forward to coming,” said Evernham.

Corvettes, Mustangs, and other makes are expected to compete.

Jeb Burton said, “It’s a great charity that Ray has formed. Anything we can do to help people with NASCAR, we’re all family, to help his organization would be really cool, looking forward to it. Hopefully, we can keep all the tires on the race track and not tear up anything.

“Really looking forward to coming down here in a couple of weeks. I think it’s going to be an awesome show,” he said.

Ward Burton also appreciated VIR’s hospitality.

“We’re really pleased to help Ray with his charity,” he said.

“Just really an amazing facility (VIR), sitting here in our hometown in Halifax County, you really see all the work that (Connie Nyholm) has put in this facility. The IMSA folks, what they’re planning and…what they’ve done with this series is really amazing,” W. Burton said.

“We learned a lot (Friday).”

There’s a balance for the September event. SVRA will not want these cars heavily damaged, but there’s the natural inclination for the drivers, especially the pros, to go full bore on the track. This will feature a pro-Am mix. The amateurs will start the race and the professionals will take over for the finish.

W. Burton said the race would be quite a bit different from the normal avenues of racing.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” said Burton.

Burton said the September race will be a lot of fun.

“All those guys that (Evernham) mentioned …(Bill Elliott, Bobby Labonte, etc.), we all raced each other for a long time. When we go into that first corner, you know what our training is, is not to give much and rub a little bit. But that is not what Tony is going to want us to be doing with these vintage muscle cars from the 60s. We’re going to all have to kind of rein it in a little bit, to where we can put on a good show, and bring the car back in one piece,” he said.

J. Burton, who has run laps at VIR, also believes this race will help with his road course experience.

“I’m really looking forward to getting out and doing a different form of racing…yesterday I was exploring the IMSA series, with the different classes they have. I’ve been considering doing that some, maybe next year, trying to figure out what the right path (forward).”

The younger Burton is trying to find some traction in his race career. He has completed a three-race XFinity package this season with Richard Childress Racing. He’s still exploring NASCAR options.

“I was really impressed (after his visit here). It looks like a whole lot of fun,” he said.

The charity event ran earlier this season at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“At Indianapolis, (the pro-am) was really, really competitive,” said Evernham. The drivers worked hard to prepare the cars and get into race mode.

At the same time, there is the desire to avoid unnecessary damage to the cars.

“We don’t want to wrinkle up a $200,000 Shelby,” said Evernham, who nonetheless said the closing laps at the Indy event were very competitive.

Nyholm thanked Evernham and the Burtons for their help in bringing this charity event to Alton.

“Gold Cup has been near and dear to our hearts at VIR,” said Nyholm.

W. Burton promised to be ready when he returns to the competitive side of the sport. He continues to work out on a regular basis, and the veteran will pay attention to proper hydration.

He will need, along with the other drivers, to pay careful attention to the mechanical issues involved, especially with brake usage as the race moves forward.

At the same time, the race machines involved will have considerable power.

Throttle control and brake issues will be important.

“I think it’s a matter of which cars we all get in, which ones are going to have the brakes that hold up a little bit,” he said.

“It’s a lot of factors, but the main thing is, come out here and have fun,” said W. Burton.

“I’ve always been very humbled, and very proud to call (Halifax County) my home. I’ve always felt very endearing for the support I’ve had over the years,” said W. Burton.

Burton knows the nature of the drivers coming to VIR to race. He said there is no question the racing will be competitive.

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