Jeb Burton’s daily life is far from average. As the son of Daytona 500 Champion Ward Burton and a professional stock car racing driver himself, you’d think racing was all he lives and breathes, but Burtons never slow down. Jeb is also an adventurous outdoorsman and loves to hunt, fish, and explore all over the country.
Last year, we had the chance to go NASCAR racing ourselves with the Burtons, and had the time of our lives tearing it up at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
If you’re like us and want to catch an inside glimpse of the life of a professional racing driver, we’ve got a surprise for you! We gave Jeb a call and asked him about his experience in racing and his advice for those getting started, and his answers were far from what we expected.
“Something about that racecar and those fumes and the hard work it takes to make it all work… I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
How did Jeb Burton get started in racing?
Since Jeb was exposed to the sport of racing at an early age, it didn’t take long for him to dream of hitting the racetrack himself. “My dad raced in NASCAR and I was around the sport for my whole life,” Jeb says. “It was something I was always around and I fell in love with it. I decided to start this journey when I was 11 years old racing go-karts and just worked my way up the ladder to where I am today.” While 11 years old might seem young to get into racing, there are kids who start even earlier. Jeb says, “I could have started a little younger to be honest with you. There are kids who start at 7 or 8 years old.”
While racing sounds like a thrilling sport for a young boy, Jeb shared that it wasn’t always an easy road. “It was fun but at the same time very competitive… just trying to win, you know?”
Growing up in the Burton household, there was never a boring moment. “It was a lot of fun,” Jeb says. “My dad (Ward Burton) is a big supporter of mine, in whatever I’m doing. He’s helped me a lot along the way. We got to do some really cool stuff, being a kid with a dad who is a professional athlete.” Jeb added that watching his dad race gave him a clear perspective of how much work goes into racing. He says, “I definitely saw a bunch of ups and downs in his career so I got warmed up to how things can go good and things can go bad.”
Ward wasn’t the only superstar in Jeb’s family. His mom played a strong role and held everything together during his childhood. “She was a big support system,” Jeb says. “Mom handled everything. She still does - paying all the bills, doing all the paperwork, taking care of the kids, taking care of the house… all of that stuff.”
Jeb was able to watch Ward win the Daytona 500 many years ago and would love to someday do the same. “[Watching him win] was really cool,” Jeb says. “I was 9 years old so it was really hard to appreciate it then but I knew it was a big deal. People always call him a Daytona 500 Champion. I’m hoping one day I will get one - that would be really special.”
What is Jeb doing now?
Jeb currently races for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team and considers it a true honor. He says, “It’s a blessing to be where we’re at. We’ve been really close to winning. I’m hopeful that we can get it done. I’ve got six more races with them this year. I’m not sure what the future holds for me there right now. We’re working every day to try to race more next year. Like I said, we’ve got six more opportunities and it would be really cool to get a win for them.” Since the time of this interview, Jeb has raced in the Xfinity Series at Richmond Raceway and achieved second place!
Jeb also got married this past year. His wife Brandi has been a huge supporter to him during his career over the past five and a half years that they have been together. “She helps me a lot with the sponsorship side of stuff,” Jeb says. “She helps me build proposals... and she's been there for me through the ups and downs my whole career. It’s really important to have somebody there for you when things aren’t going right.”
Stock car racing isn’t just wheels on the speedway.
Jeb shared that a whole lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes in between races. There are so many pieces that have to go together just right before a racing driver can even dream of winning.
“It’s a really tough sport,” Jeb says. “There are so many things that can go out of your control that can affect the outcome of the race. A bad pit stop, whether you have a good enough car to win, something breaks, something mechanical happens… there are so many things that can go wrong. It’s really tough. Another thing that’s hard is having all the pieces and parts and the right people and everything... it’s challenging.”
It can be tough to prepare for a race when so many things can go wrong. Jeb shared that in those situations he has to trust in his skill and just do his best. “I just have to go off my experience and then just prep with watching footage, stuff like that, so I can be the best I can be.”
“I’ve been lucky to be able to race as much as I have and make a decent living for a couple of years. If it ends tomorrow, it is what it is.”
These days, sponsors are hard to come by.
Jeb is overwhelmingly thankful for the sponsors who support his racing journey. He doesn’t take them for granted.
“I’ve been lucky to have the relationships I do with State Water Heaters, Alsco Linen and Uniform Rental Services, Carbon Express Arrows, Rocky Boots and some others to keep me going .... [T]he sponsorship side of it is really the most important thing. Without it, you don’t have a ride. It’s something that I work on every day. I mean every single day I am doing something for my partners, trying to grow the relationship, trying to find business opportunities for them so at the end of the day we have more sponsorship rates.
I could get a call tomorrow and a sponsor says ‘yeah, we’re not doing it next year.’ That affects my life, you know? It affects my family. It affects it all. But that’s something I have to deal with.”
How to start stock car racing.
So you want to get into stock car racing? You can learn a few things from Jeb.
- Make sure you prepare financially.
If you want to get into racing, you have to have financial backing and it isn’t always easy to find. Jeb says, “It’s really tough to get in. You have to have sponsorship to start. You have to have a plan on the financial side.”
- Start small and work your way up.
“...When you get that [financial] plan, then just start from the ground up. Start at your local racetracks and build that foundation of learning everything that you need to so when you go to the next level you can be prepared.”
- Prepare for some hard work.
“It’s really tough. The driving part is really tough, the sponsorship is really tough…. There are a handful of guys that have success and a lot of people are trying to do it. It’s like anything in life, it takes a lot of hard work to make it all happen.”
- Understand that a lot of things have to go right if you’re going to win.
It’s not always about the driver’s skill. The quality of the car itself plays into the outcome. Jeb says, “There are a lot of things that go on out of your control. Getting the car to handle like you want it to is the most challenging part really. A lot of the drivers out there are good but some bought better equipment than others and that’s why you see a lot of the big teams winning all the time.”
Is racing worth all of the hard work?
Jeb shared that his racing career has been a challenge, but sometimes it’s the challenge in itself that brings the most satisfaction in the end.
“It’s really hard to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, like with the people, the equipment, the sponsorship… it is even harder now than it ever has been. If you’re missing one part, you’re not going to win. When you do win, there’s just so many emotions that run through your body. You don’t ever know when it’s going to be your last one. It’s so hard to get to where you are in your career… I think that is why I like it so much. It’s so challenging. I’ve been knocked down on my face a lot more than I’ve been smiling, from sponsorship stuff to doing stuff behind the wheel and when it all comes together it’s worth it.”
Jeb spends time hunting when he isn’t racing.
“I have an outdoor show called Crossroads with the Burtons,” Jeb says. “We spend a lot of time in the woods hunting, fishing… we do all kinds of stuff. Being in the outdoors is definitely something I enjoy.” At the time of this interview, Jeb was planning a trip to Montana for his second time elk hunting. “It’s fun,” he says. “We’ll be hunting with a bow and it is definitely challenging because you’ve got to be close enough to make a clean, ethical shot. It’ll be exciting. Hopefully the weather is right because when it’s hot and stuff like that, they really don’t like to move. If the weather is cold, they’ll be moving around and chasing and bugling, that’s when it’s fun.” The weather must have been perfect because Jeb recently shared a victorious photo on his Instagram.
Why is it important for racing drivers to wear a Groove Ring?
Groove Rings are essential for Jeb and Brandi. Jeb likes to wear our Zeus ring and our original black band while his wife Brandi also wears a Groove ring and uses a Groove Apple watch band. Jeb shared that wearing a metal ring could put his hands at risk. “For me, I like the Groove Ring better than my real ring,” Jeb confessed. “I don’t ever really wear [the metal ring] unless it’s a really special occasion. With all of the things I’m doing with my hands, I just don’t want to take a chance to get my finger ripped off.” Jeb also wears The Groove Belt.
Last year, our Groove Life Adventure Team hit the Charlotte Motor Speedway and South Boston Speedway with Jeb and Ward and had a few days of extreme fun. “That was fun,” Jeb says. “We rode them around and did some fishing… rode some go karts… we had a lot of fun.” You can view the whole adventure on our YouTube channel here!
“It’s so hard to have the opportunity in the right car, in the right equipment to win. And then when you have all that, it’s still freaking hard to win so when you do it’s just so special.”
Connect with Jeb Burton
If you’d like to stay up to date on Jeb’s racing career and other adventures, you can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Don’t forget to tune in to Crossroads with the Burtons on the Sportsman Channel and give that account a follow on Instagram as well.
Jeb noted that the races aren’t the same in 2020 without the cheering crowds. “It’s really weird not having fans in the stands,” Jeb says. “We miss the fans. Just really ready to get back to normal to be honest.”
We’re ready to get out there and cheer you on, too, Jeb! As soon as restrictions lift, you’d better believe those stands will be packed and ready to cheer you on.
About Groove Life
We’re a team of adventurers who design gear for those who live life to the max! Whether you’re into hiking, kayaking, catfish noodlin’, or even skydiving, we’re here to make sure your pants stay cinched, your watch is comfy, and you’re wearing a breathable ring. Click here to learn more about our mission and values!