One of Ford's top young drivers continued his rise toward to top of the NASCAR Winston Cup ladder as he posted his second straight top-five points finish. After placing a career-high fourth in 1997, Burton followed that up with a fifth-place effort in '98 after winning two races and posting 23 top-10 finishes.
Burton's '98 campaign got off to a rocky start as he got hit from behind while on pit road in the season-opening Daytona 500 and finished 40th. Burton hovered around the top 10 in the point standings for the first three months of the season and then hit his stride after the California 500 in May. After that race, Burton reeled off 18 top-10 finishes in 23 events, including 15 top-five showings and victories at New Hampshire and Richmond. While he was disappointed with the first-third of the year, Burton felt his team was arguably the third-best team on the circuit over the final two-thirds of the '98 season.
Statistically, Burton was one of the best last year as he posted the third-highest top-10 total and fourth-best top-five performance among all drivers. In addition, he finished second four times and third twice.
In three seasons with Roush Racing, Burton has registered five victories and 53 top-10 finishes. He reached victory lane for the first time in his NASCAR Winston Cup career when he captured the inaugural race at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997, a win that served as a springboard to victories at New Hampshire and Martinsville later that same year.
While all of Burton's success has come as a member of the Roush stable, he actually got started full-time on the circuit as driver for the Stavola Brothers in 1994. He started 30 races that season and posted a pair of fourth-place finishes en route to claiming rookie of the year honors. That caught the eye of car owner Jack Roush, who signed Burton one year later to be a teammate of Mark Martin's. It didn't take long for Burton to impress as he finished 1996 with 12 top 10s in 30 races.
In addition to his growing popularity and success on the NASCAR Winston Cup level, Burton continues to be a force while running a limited Busch Grand National schedule. He competed in 13 events last season and posted three victories and nine top-10 finishes in his Track Gear Ford Taurus.
Burton, who has nine career Busch Series wins going into 1999, got hit by the racing bug after watching older brother Ward race go-karts in South Boston, Va. Jeff followed in his brother's footsteps, first racing go-karts and then moving on to Late Model stocks, where he won the Orange County Speedway championship in 1987. Jeff moved on to the Busch Series in 1988 as he competed in five races and then ran a full schedule one year later. Both Burton brothers reached the Winston Cup level in '94 and have been battling each other ever since.