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Monday, March 20, 2006

Jeff Burton

You know you're a NASCAR fan when you watch the Busch Series race on Saturday leading up to the Nextel Cup race the following day. I knew I was going to be gone on Saturday, so I ended up taping Busch Series race and I'm glad that I did.

If you aren't familiar with the Busch Series, it's the highest level of the NASCAR minor leagues. Some of the greatest stories come out of the minor leagues of life. The minor leagues are where dreams are realized and sometimes, where they die. And once in a while, the minor leagues are where people like Jeff Burton go to prove to themselves and others that they've still got what it takes.

Burton first started racing in the Busch Series back in 1988 where he won 20 races and earned a shot in 1993 at the big leagues—the Winston Cup (now called the Nextel Cup). He won 17 races at the highest level in NASCAR by 2001. Then he changed racing teams. His victories faded away and he's been struggling ever since.

But on Saturday, at the Nicorette 300 Busch Series race in Atlanta, Jeff Burton took the lead with 20 laps to go and found himself in the Winner's Circle for the first time (on any level) since 2002. Afterward, he was interviewed, and he was quite emotional. Here's the brief exchange between the reporter and Burton:

Reporter: "It has been a long time Jeff."

Burton: "You know. It has been. You question yourself. You question everything. And I'm proud of myself. I've stayed focused through all of it. We're working really hard and trying really hard to get back to the top."

Burton's voice cracked throughout his statement and you got the sense that this win meant more to him that any win has in a long time. The Busch Series race next week will come and go and a few weeks from now, most people will forget who won the Nicorette 300 in 2006. But Jeff Burton won't.


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