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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2006 Driver Review: Ward Burton

Ward “I’m Back and Better Than Ever” Burton
2006 Ride: No. 4 Lucas Oil Products Chevrolet
2006 Owner: Larry McClure
2006 Crew Chief: Chris Carrier

Stats: Three races, zero wins, zero top fives, zero top 10s, 53rd in points.

High Point: After a two-year absence, Burton made his long-anticipated return to Nextel Cup competition in October at Martinsville. He started the race from the 35th position and had an eventful day, falling two laps behind the leader and spinning after contact with another driver. With the aid of quick pit work, skillful driving and the Lucky Dog pass, however, Burton would persevere, finishing on the lead lap in 26th place.

Low Point: With the team buried deep in the owner standings, Burton had to make every race on speed. He did an admirable job until the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Burton failed to qualify for the first time in four attempts with the team.

Summary: This is a case where the driver is far better than the equipment he is driving. While Burton didn’t set the world on fire, he completed all but two laps in his three Nextel Cup starts and acheived an average finishing position of 26th place, about where he should be with a single-car team searching for sponsorship.

2007 Outlook: Larry McClure and Ward Burton have an agreement, but not a signed contract, to keep Burton behind the wheel of the No. 4 car in 2007. Sponsorship announcements are rumored to be pending for early December. Funding will ultimately determine how far this team will go, and the team will find it tough sledding having to qualify on speed; but the performances of ’06 have proven Ward can still drive, so don’t count them out.

Grade: C-