Five drivers have amassed at least 1,000 career NASCAR national series starts in their careers: Richard Petty (1,185), Mark Martin (1,141), Joe Nemechek (1,073), Michael Waltrip (1,062) and Terry Labonte (1,013).
This weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, that group will grow by one as Richard Childress Racing’s Jeff Burton will make his 1,000th national series start in Sunday’s Advocare 500.
It will be his 690th start in the Sprint Cup series to go along with his 306 in the Nationwide Series and his four in the Camping World Truck Series.
“It’s hard for me to imagine that I have driven in 1,000 NASCAR races,” Burton said in a statement. “I’ve been lucky and blessed to have family and friends that have given me all this support.
“I also have good relationships with everyone that I’ve worked with over the years to show for it, which is most important to me.”
Burton got his first NASCAR national series start in a Busch Series (now Nationwide Series) race at Martinsville Speedway in 1988. Since then, his 25+-year career of competition has seen him achieve solid success and now, he stands as one of the more respected veterans in the Sprint Cup garage.
Among his 48 national series wins are triumphs in some of NASCAR’s most prestigious races like Darlington Raceway’s famous Southern 500 and the series’ longest event, Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Coca-Cola 600.
He is also the last driver to ever lead a NASCAR-sanctioned race wire-to-wire, winning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2000 after leading all 300 laps.
Phoenix has been the setting for two of Burton’s victories. He went back-to-back in the Valley of the Sun in 2000 and 2001 while driving for Roush Racing (now Roush Fenway Racing), and has been running decent there in recent times with two Top-10s and three Top-15s in his last four PIR starts; he finished 10th at PIR in March.
“It makes it even sweeter to reach this milestone at Phoenix International Raceway where we have had a lot of success over the years,” Burton said. “The team had a top-10 finish in March at Phoenix and tested there recently. We expect to contend for the win this weekend.”
The future remains uncertain for Burton, as he is on his way out at Richard Childress Racing and has not officially announced where he’ll land in 2014. Last month, however, he indicated that he may be getting closer to doing just that.
Regardless of what happens beyond 2013 for him, it’s undeniable that Burton has definitely earned the accomplishment he’ll achieve this Sunday in Phoenix.