Brotherly love goes only so far. The Burtons of NASCAR are a perfect example.

Long before they became stars on the Winston Cup circuit, they learned the pitfalls of racing against each other.

"I got him by the throat and was picking him up in the air," Ward said, recalling the night in 1987 when the brothers crashed while battling for position right behind the leader in the closing laps of a late model stock car race.

It was the first time they sent each other the message that brothers aren't kin on the racetrack. Jeff, fresh off his victory over Ward on Sunday in the Southern 500, also won't forget that post-race fight 12 years ago in their native South Boston, Va.

"Our stories are still a little different to this day," Jeff said, noting each thought he had position on the other entering a turn. "But we learned one valuable lesson: Don't wreck your brother."

And, Ward recalls, it didn't take much persuasion to let go of his brother's throat.

"I saw my dad coming, so I knew I needed to get back to my pit," he said.

Ward never touched Jeff again in anger, and they can laugh about it now. But Jeff didn't think it was funny at the time.

"It was one of those moments in life when you do things you're not real proud of," he said. "We've had a lot more respect for each other since that accident, and we learned that if your brother gets under you, back out and let him have that position."

But don't get the idea there are any freebies here, that family considerations will take the place of competition. Ward and Jeff are on the track to win.

"It's not a question of me beating Jeff," Ward said. "It's a question of beating whoever is in front of us."

He insists he works just as hard to pass a car driven by his brother as he does to get by any of the others.

Twice this year--in the Southern 500 and the Las Vegas 400--they finished 1-2. Each time, Jeff came out on top, something Ward accepts with mixed emotions.

"I'd rather get beat by him," Ward said. "Then again, I'd just as soon not get beat by anybody."

Jeff's victory Sunday was the 10th of his career and fifth this season. Ward, whose only win was in 1995, will be on a more level playing field next year, when Bill Davis Racing adds Dave Blaney to become a multicar team.

Multicar teams have accounted for all 24 victories this season.

Jeff, 32, wants the 38-year-old Ward to win more races. But any suggestion that he would let him have one is answered with one word: integrity.

"He wouldn't want me to let him win, and I wouldn't want it either," Jeff said. "And if I was running for the championship, and he has a chance to beat me . . . Ward needs to win that race."

Both say they must try their best to win, in part because of commitments to crew members, car owners, sponsors and fans.

"Anything short of that and you're really getting into a touchy subject," Jeff said. "If it came down to me needing one position to win a championship, well, it's something I should have earned earlier in the year."

Neither has to worry about that scenario in 1999. Jeff is sixth in the series standings, Ward 10th.

Asked how it felt to finish second to Jeff, Ward replied: "Do you have a brother? If you do, then you know how I feel, and you probably know how he feels, too."

Ward expresses disappointment at losing both showdowns with his brother. Sunday, they never got to settle their battle on the track because the remnants of Hurricane Dennis forced NASCAR to curtail the Southern 500 with Jeff in front and 97 laps to be run.

Six months ago, in Las Vegas, Jeff passed Ward in the waning laps and held on to win the 24th 1-2 finish of brothers in NASCAR history.

"I just wanted to win really bad," Ward said. "But we'll just keep going and stay focused. We'll get there."

But he won't get any help from his brother.

CAPTION: Jeff Burton takes the high side to pass brother Ward (22) en route to winning the Las Vegas 400 in March. The brothers have finished 1-2 in a NASCAR Winston Cup event twice this season.