Ward Burton is an American former stock car racing driver who recorded more than 500 starts in NASCAR national divisions between 1990 and 2007. In 161 starts in the Busch Series, he won four times. In 375 starts in the Cup Series, he was a race winner five times, including 2002 Daytona 500.
Other members of Burton family were (or still are) stock car racers – Ward's younger brother Jeff Burton scored 21 Cup Series wins, Ward's son Jeb Burton currently competes in the Xfinity Series and Jeff's son Harrison just started his stock car career in the Truck Series.
Born in October 1961 in South Boston, Virginia, John Edward 'Ward' Burton III made a NASCAR debut in the 1990 Busch Series, driving the #5 Buick for Sam Ard Racing. During a season, he was also driving the #9 Chevrolet for Falcon Racing, finishing 21st in the points with three Top 10 finishes.
Burton improved his performance in 1991, driving for Henderson Motorsports and A.G. Dillard Motorsports. He had eight top 10 results, finishing 18th in the points.
Burton scored his maiden NASCAR victory in the 1992 Goodwrench 200 race at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, where he was driving the #27 Buick for Allan Dillard Jr. He added nine more Top 10 results, finishing the season 8th in the points.
Burton's best season in the Busch Series was 1993 when he won three times in Dillard's #2 car. He was race winner at Orange County Speedway (Rougemont), Martinsville Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, finishing the season in the sixth place.
In 1994, Burton entered Winston Cup Series full time but continued to race occasionally in the Busch Series until 2007. He recorded 50 more Busch Series starts with seven different teams.
He was most successful in 1995, scoring five top 10 results with American Equipment Racing. He was the most active in 2007, recording 16 starts with Brewco Motorsports.
After four seasons in the Busch Series, Burton switched to a full-time schedule in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 1994, driving the #31 Chevrolet Lumina for A.G. Dillard Motorsports. He was in a pole position for the first time at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October. With two top 10 results, he was 35th in the points at the end of the season.
Burton spent one and a half season in the #31 car, scoring two more top 10 results in 1995. He was released midway through the season. He moved to Bill Davis Racing to drive the #22 Pontiac.
In October 1995, Burton scored his maiden Cup Series victory on the same track where he won his first Busch Series race three years earlier – the North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham.
Combining results with two teams, Burton ended a season in the 22nd place. He stayed with Bill Davis Racing for eight more seasons.
Driving the #22 Pontiac for Bill Davis, Burton scored no wins in the following four seasons, from 1996 to 1999.
Year by year, he was improving his overall result, from 33rd place in 1996 to 9th place in 1999. In that period, he was on the pole five times. The ninth-place remained his best season's finish in a career. That season, he scored sixteen top 10 finishes in the #22 car.
The next win came in September 2001, again at Darlington Raceway. Driving the #22 Dodge, Burton has won the Southern 500, one of the most famous stock cars races, beating Jeff Gordon.
The even bigger victory, the biggest of all, came in February 2002. A year after he led most of the laps at 2001 Daytona 500, but retired after an accident, Burton has won the 2002 Daytona 500.
This time, he led just for five laps but it was enough for the victory. He inherited a lead when a leader Sterling Marlin was penalized because of forbidden repairs during a red flag period.
Later in the season, Burton has won the New England 300 at New Hampshire Speedway, what was his fifth and final Cup Series victory.
Burton's results were poor in 2003 and he left Bill Davis Racing four races before the end of the season. In those four race, Burton was driving the #0 Pontiac for Haas CNC Racing.
He stayed with the team in 2004, driving the #0 Chevrolet. He scored three top 10 results but he was released from the team with two races left in the season.
Burton spent the next two seasons out of racing. He returned to the Cup series late in the 2006 season, driving the #4 Chevrolet for Morgan-McClure Motorsports in four events, including DNQ at Homestead.
The team signed Burton as a full-time driver for the 2007 Cup Series season. He recorded just sixteen starts, failing to qualify for nineteen races. His best result was 14th place at Indianapolis. Bad results ended not just Burton's season but his career.
Ward Burton reactivated himself in 2012, driving the #27 Chevrolet for Hillman Racing in the season-opening race of the NASCAR Truck Series at Daytona Speedway. His son Jeb was also driving for Hillman Racing that season.
Ward finished 8th in that race and that was officially his last race in NASCAR. A year later, he joined Turner Scott Motorsports as a driver coach but it didn't last long, as the team was shut down in 2014.
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