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The Wait is Almost Over for Ward Burton’s Return to Racing

After months of preparation, on and off the track, it’s time for Ward Burton to go racing again.

The 2002 Daytona 500 winner is competing in the Rogers Heating & Cooling Orange Krush 200 on Friday, March 29 at Orange County Speedway. The race will be Burton’s first since 2012.

Ward Burton Returns to Driver Seat For Charity Event at Orange County Speedway

Preparing for the race has not been the only challenge for Burton, however. Alongside his son, Jeb, Rogers Heating & Cooling and the staff at Orange County Speedway, there have been months of preparation to organize the event itself.

Proceeds from the Orange Krush 200 will benefit the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation. The 25-car invitational field will be competing for a $15,000 prize, and making sure the event and facility live up to the hype has been just as pressing for Ward as getting up to speed on track.

WATCH THE ORANGE KRUSH 200 ON RACINGAMERICA.TV

“We’ve got some really great drivers coming in to put on a good show,” Ward told Racing America. “Me personally, I’m just trying to survive. Maybe if I can get out of there in one piece with a top-10, that’s a good day.

“Compared to where this facility was two months ago to where it is now, it’s night and day,” he added. “We wouldn’t have been able to use the suite and now we can. The paint around the facility, the clean-up inside of here. Terry [Deal] and his gang have done a lot of work.”

Jeb Burton echoes the sentiment that the process leading up to this race has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Jeb. “One, to get him to agree to doing it. Second, just putting it all together. I appreciate all the drivers and crews wanting to come and participate. Joey Rogers and everybody at the Rogers team, him and his wife, have been excellent to work with. We wanted to make a purse that was respectable for everyone racing.“

The preparation has kept Jeb from testing his own entry leading up to the Orange Krush 200. When it comes to the on-track build-up, the focus has been on getting his father up to speed.

“I think my car’s pretty decent,” said Jeb. ”I bought it last week. We were going to do something different with cars, but this one became available so I bought it. H.C. and I are going to start working on it.”

“We’ve mainly been focusing on Dad’s car, getting him up to speed and working really hard. This is the fourth time we’ve tested with dad. I haven’t really focused on my car, but I think we’ll be in the game.

“I’m just excited. Dad and I have never been racing against each other before. We got on track together and I could show him a little bit what I was doing.”

Photo credit: Will Bellamy, Racing America

The process of getting Ward more comfortable in the car has been more challenging. Late Model Stock Cars have evolved a lot in the 30-plus years since he was competing for wins at places like Orange County and South Boston Speedway.

“So we’re on bump stops,” explained Ward. “That limits the travel. You’re really at maximum travel when the car is sitting right here, so that’s quite a bit different. Knowing how much brake I need to use, how much I don’t need to use. I’m starting to get some rabbits in front of me, so it will start starting to come back.

“Meanwhile, I’ve got to get the car to work. I don’t really have any seat time to know what it needs to feel like. I know, right now, I’m a little bit out of control, so that’s not good.”

Photo credit: Will Bellamy, Racing America

No matter how it shakes out, both Burtons are excited to race again at Orange County. Ward Burton won a NASCAR Xfinity Series event at the venue in 1993, and Jeb once held the Late Model Stock track record.

“This is a cool little race track,” said Ward. “I’ve had some good success here in the past. The main thing I need to do is I need to finish the race.”

“This is the first place I ever raced a Late Model race,” added Jeb. “Limited Late Model, Late Model Stock. I had the track record here and the CARS Tour broke it a couple of years ago. This is a special place for me. Dad won one of his Xfinity races here. It’s been a special track for the Burtons

“South Boston is home for us, but we wanted to do something a little different. Who knows where the race will go in following years, but this place is really special to the Burton family. It’s an old, wore out race track with multiple grooves. I’m just excited for next week and I think we’ll put on a heck of a show.”

-Photo credit: Will Bellamy, Racing America

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