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NASCAR Illustrated - Growing Up NASCAR: Burton

June 03, 2014, NASCAR Illustrated,

Paige, Harrison Burton look back on childhood in the infield

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What was it like? That's really all we wanted to know when we talked to the children of some of the most famous NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers in NASCAR history. We wanted to know how it felt to grow up in racing.

The children of Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton have lived lives of incredible breadth. Travel, privilege, and excitement have been part of their lives. But their parents' lifestyle also brought stress with fathers focused on success at the expense of almost everything else.

But most of all, the children in the inner circle shared a unique and near-unbreakable bond. No matter what might have happened among their fathers on the track, they were bound by the unique opportunities and demands of their lives.

Here are the stories of Harrison and Paige Burton.

NOTE: This is an excerpt from the June 2014 issue. To read the entire interview, you can order a copy or subscribe here: -- As told to Steven Levine and Jay Pfeifer. Edited by Jay Pfeifer.

Paige Burton and Harrison Burton

Jeff and Kim Burton

Paige Burton: "The race track is more like a family. It's not only friends. You're so close with these people; you see them every weekend. It's like a second brother or a second sister. We all just kind of have our own little family groups within the race track."

Harrison Burton: "There's such like a tight bond between people because they know what going to the track over and over means and how hard it can be if you don't have somebody to stay and talk with. So we all kind of need each other to keep sane, you know what I mean? Because we can't go to our friends' houses on the weekend, we're at the race track, so we had to make our own friends and hang out there with them."

PB: "I missed a lot of games, a lot of school dances, I missed father-daughter dances. My grandpa would take me because Dad was always working. I never missed prom. I didn't miss that. But I did miss a lot of school events and weekend parties. I missed a lot of those.

"[NASCAR] teaches you that life isn't fair and you've got to work for what you want. No one hands out anything on silver platters of wins or whatever. You have to earn whatever you want to get. NASCAR does teach you that. It's very real. It's another world, honestly. I think for people outside that just kind of watch NASCAR and don't really have a full understanding of it, it seems fake, it seems like a fairytale, it's not real. We're real people. It's a real business. It's a real competitive sport."

HB: "My dad has always loved racing with all his heart and to see him not racing, kind of just makes you feel sorry for him because he’s not able to do what he loves as often as he used to. But you know he's doing broadcasting with NBC and all this stuff, and he's having a fun time doing something different as well. You always miss going and seeing your friends at the motorhome lot. It's refreshing and sad at the same time."

PB: "Sometimes I do wish I could go to the track. I text my friends and they're like, 'Where are you?' I'm not there and it's weird. It's very strange watching the race and not having his name on the top of the screen. It's very strange. It's good in a way because I'll get to see him more. But it's not good because he's not racing. It's so mixed emotions right now, it's so new and it's so different. There's not really a set emotion for it. It's just everything."

HB: "I think it was Dover and my dad had won the race after the great battle between Matt Kenseth and him. And I was very sentimental back when I was 7. I used to feel bad for throwing trash out because I thought it had feelings. So when the confetti went everywhere, I went and grabbed it all and stuffed it into this plastic bag. So I still have this plastic bag full of old confetti from Dover in like 2007 when he won and it's in my room still. It's pretty cool to think back to that memory."

NOTE: This is an excerpt from the June 2014 issue. To read the entire interview, you can order a copy or subscribe here: