They have won the last three Darlington races and have already
tied the win total of four generations of Pettys at "The Track Too
Tough To Tame."
The Burton boys get another crack to extend the family legacy
here with Sunday's Southern 500.
"I don't know what it is that makes us do so well there," said
Jeff Burton, who swept both Darlington races, including the
Southern 500, in 1999.
Ward, second to Jeff here a year ago, outran his younger brother
at the Mall.com 400 in March for his first Winston Cup victory in
five years. "That was several months ago," Ward said by phone.
"Hopefully, we can find our way to the front again and figure out
what had been going wrong for us."
Darlington, the sport's first superspeedway, was created more
than a half-century ago and has befuddled some of the world's best
drivers. King Richard Petty won only three of his record 200
victories at the 1.366-mile oval. His son, Kyle, has suggested
several times turning it back to farm and fishing pond it had been.
It takes a gambler's knack and a tactician's feel to get through
the narrow, oddball chutes unscratched and in front.
You've got to be aggressive, Ward says, "but you can't get too
fast or it'll catch up with you."
Jeff, who says he and his brother haven't spoken much about
their shared Darlington success, says the track is demanding, "but
What surprises him some, though, is how good he and his brother
have been here "because Ward and I have such different driving
Ward is more of a hard charger, which can get you in trouble
since turns 1 and 2 at Darlington aren't even close to turns 3 and
4, Jeff said.
Jeff got little bit of rain help for his two Darlington
victories, both shortened by storms. But his car was among the
strongest on the track each time.
Ward also was dominant in March, surpassing Matt Kenseth with 36
laps left to cruise to the win.
"We seem to like this place," Jeff said.
The two used to listen to Darlington races on the radio. They
attended races here as children and dreamt of one day, chopping
through the tricky oval. When Jeff finished ahead of his
second-place brother last September, Ward was diplomatic when asked
how he felt: "You got a younger brother? You know how it feels."
So when Ward took the checkered flag, he got a relieved hug from
Jeff and was on the phone to his parents in South Boston, Va.,
Victory Lane isn't all the two share at Darlington.
Ward had an electrying run at the 1996 TranSouth to set the
track's qualifying record of 173.797 mph. Jeff was involved in one
of the most fascinating and exciting last-lap duels with Jeff
Gordon in 1997. The two Jeffs bumped down the stretch until Gordon
threw a final block that edged Burton.
The two are sharing top 10 Winston Cup seasons as well. Jeff has
won the July race at Daytona and is fourth in the points after
Saturday night's goracing.com 500 at Bristol. Ward, who held the
Bristol lead with 40 laps left but faded to 11th, is ninth in the
Jeff was sixth Saturday night.
While that's nice, both say Darlington gives them a surge of
confidence that comes from returning to a favorite track.
"You don't expect to come here and win," Jeff said. "But we
expect to come to Darlington and run well."