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Burtons, fundraiser winners go for a ride at SBS
RACING

Burtons, fundraiser winners go for a ride at SBS

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Burtons, fundraiser winners go for a ride at SBS

Former NASCAR Cup Series standout and Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton and his son, NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Truck Series competitor Jeb Burton, treated five individuals from four states to a high-speed ride-along in a NASCAR race truck last Wednesday at South Boston Speedway. The five individuals received the ride-along opportunity through a promotion that was part of a fundraising effort for the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation’s Next Generation Outreach Program.The ride-along participants included front row from the left Robert Bartholomew of New Mexico, Jason Carey of Idaho, Casey and Shawn Mesler of Ohio and Stephen Werkmeister of Richmond, Virginia. Back row from the left are Randy Johnson, founder of God’s Pit Crew, which donated the use of the truck, Ray Page representing LS Tractor, Brandon Divers representing Alsco, Jeb Burton, Ward Burton and Mike Roberts, naturalist and outreach educator for the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation’s Next Generation Outreach Program.

SOUTH BOSTON — Five individuals from four states received a thrill of a lifetime last week as former NASCAR Cup Series star and Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton and his son, NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Truck Series competitor Jeb Burton, treated them to high-speed laps around South Boston Speedway (SBS).

Casey and Shawn Mesler of Damascus, Ohio, Jason Carey of Idaho, Robert Bartholomew of New Mexico and Richmond, Virginia resident Stephen Werkmeister won a ride-along with the Burtons in a NASCAR Truck through a promotion that was part of a fundraising effort for the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation.

Jeb Burton said the ride-along was a fun event.

“I’m glad to be here and glad to have the winners here,” he said.

“Those guys are having fun. It gives them a first-hand experience behind the wheel of a truck. It’s a lot of fun. Hopefully we will get to do this next year, too.”

Proceeds raised from the fundraising effort went to the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation’s Next Generation Outreach Program.

The Next Generation Outreach initiative is geared to young people and brings classroom presentations to students across Virginia that combine science with resource conservation and stewardship.

Mike Roberts serves as naturalist and outreach educator for the Next Generation Outreach Program. Prior to working for the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, Roberts was the executive director and outreach educator for Return To Nature Inc.

That organization conducted classroom programs for over 300,000 students in Virginia and Indiana and included limited visits to seven other surrounding states from 2000 until 2010.

Randy Johnson, the founder of God’s Pit Crew, a non-profit, faith-based crisis response team from Danville donated the use of the organization’s two-seat NASCAR race truck.

The organization has over 700 volunteers participating on the crisis response team founded by Johnson in 1999.

Among the attendees were Ray Page representing LS Tractor and Brandon Divers representing Alsco. The two firms are among sponsors for the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation’s Next Generation Outreach Program.

Ward Burton said the fundraising effort with the ride-along promotion was made possible by his son and Johnson.

“I thank my son, Jeb,” Ward Burton said,

“This was his idea and Randy’s idea. We were able to collect some good money for our outreach program. I want to thank Randy Johnson and all of the people with God’s Pit Crew.

“(Johnson) is such a fabulous individual and the organization does so many great things for not only the people locally, but for people around the country. Randy, Jeb and I are talking about doing this same thing solely for God’s Pit Crew.

“I want to thank all of the participants,” he said.

“I also thank Cathy Rice and everybody at South Boston Speedway for letting us be here.”

Jeb Burton said he was appreciative of the support received for the fundraising effort as well.

“I thank God’s Pit Crew for allowing us to use the truck, along with State Water Heaters, Alsco, LS Tractor and Yamaha. They all help the Next Generation Youth Outreach Program,” he said.

“The program is very important. It’s important to teach kids about wildlife, conservation and the outdoors. The program, the truck and trailer, the gas needed to go up and down the road, and a full-time employee gets expensive.

“To have all of the support we have from our partners is great and we appreciate their help very much. It’s benefitting a good cause,’’ Jeb Burton said.

“We’re still looking for partners to get the program fully funded.”

“Maybe we can branch out and do more schools than just in Virginia.”

Roberts said The Next Generation Outreach Program reached more than 20,000 students last year and had reached almost 9,000 this year before the program halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The coronavirus has kind of got us halted, but we’re still doing some programs,” Ward Burton said.

“We did a program for The Virginia Cooperative Extension Service and did a part of it at The Cove last Friday. Mike’s got another program with the Ag Extension Office in Halifax on Thursday.”

Burton said programs have been held across Virginia.

“We’ve done programs in every Halifax County school,” he said.

The Burtons were raised in the Halifax County/South Boston area and both have competed at SBS.

“We did programs in District 8 (which includes Halifax County) three semesters ago. We went to Southwest Virginia, started in Tidewater last December, and then the virus hit around March and kind of shut us down,’’ Burton said.

“We’re still dedicated to the program and know that anytime we can make a difference in a child’s life and help the teacher reinforce their mandated material about natural resources that’s a great opportunity to take advantage of.”

Joe Chandler is South Boston Speedway’s Public Relations Director.

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