MORE: Burton discusses throwback scheme and more on "Dirty Air Podcast"
When Jeb Burton decided to join the wave of throwback paint schemes for Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway, he didn't have far to look for inspiration.
BK Racing announced Tuesday that Burton's BK Racing entry for the 66th running of the Bojangles' Southern 500 will pay tribute to the career of his father, Ward Burton, a two-time winner at NASCAR's oldest superspeedway. But the tradition-rich race will also feature another notable switch: The Ron Devine-owned team also announced Tuesday that it will make an intrateam driver swap starting at Darlington, with Burton taking over the No. 23 Toyota from J.J. Yeley, who will drive the No. 26 Toyota.
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The change in driving duties puts the younger Burton that much closer numbers-wise to the Bill Davis Racing No. 22 that his father campaigned during his heyday from 1999-2003. The yellow-and-black paint scheme for team sponsor Estes Trucking -- with its similar corporate colors to his father's longtime sponsor Caterpillar -- leans heavily on his family's racing tradition.
"I saw all the throwback stuff and Estes has the same colors as Dad had, so I just thought about the idea and I got the PR team to come up with a design," Jeb Burton said. "I saw it and I thought it'd be a cool idea so we went on with it."
Ward Burton caught his first glimpse of the car's vintage look ahead of last weekend's race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The resemblance -- both in colors and its similarly styled numbers -- is uncanny.
"It's really cool," the 53-year-old Burton said. "We had a lot of success at Darlington, but more importantly I really appreciate Jeb thinking about me."
Ward Burton flew the Caterpillar flag for his most prominent wins in NASCAR's premier series, foremost among them the 2002 Daytona 500. The yellow-and-black look was also front and center for Burton and crew chief Tommy Baldwin Jr. when the Davis-owned team found a sweet spot at Darlington, yielding two victories at the 1.366-mile track, including the 2001 Southern 500.
"Tommy and I'd hit a set-up at Darlington. For about three years there, we were on the top of the board whenever we showed up," Burton said. "Rain got us twice, a wreck got us one other time, a lug nut got us another, but we had the car to beat many times. I liked that place ever since I went there."
Jeb Burton, 23, hopes the knack for the "Lady in Black" doesn't skip a generation as he prepares for his first Darlington start. His uncle, Jeff Burton, also won twice at Darlington, sweeping the season's two events there in 1999.
The younger Burton got his first taste of driving the treacherous egg-shaped oval in an open test for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on June 10.
"Darlington is its own animal," Burton said. "We went there and tested, and I struggled a little bit and was running the track a little wrong. Right there at the end of the session, I got behind Joey Logano and learned a lot, followed him and actually kept up with him. I thought that was really good, and our team did their best."
BK Racing aims to jump-start its performance with next weekend's driver shakeup. Burton's Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidacy has been a rocky path thus far, with the No. 26 missing seven races and cracking the top 30 just twice this season. He ranks 39th in the driver standings. Yeley has run 23 of 24 in the Sprint Cup Series this season but is eligible for championship points only in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. (The team made a driver switch at Richmond with Burton in the No. 23 instead of Yeley.) The No. 23 team stands 39th in the car owner points; BK's No. 26 sits 44th after Bristol.
Patrick Donahue will remain the crew chief on the No. 26 team, while Joe Williams will remain the crew chief on the No. 23 team.
It's all been a learning process for Burton, who made the jump to Sprint Cup this year after two solid seasons in the Camping World Truck Series.
"Coming into it, I didn't think it'd be as tough as it was because I had somewhat success," Burton said, "but in the Truck Series and the (XFINITY) Series, the competition level is high up front, but it's … one through 43 in the Cup Series is the best of the best. The best people, the best drivers, the best teams. You've got to be on it and our guys are working hard as a low-budget team. We're getting better every week."