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Jeb Burton Seeks Return To Winning Ways At TMS

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 5 2014

Camping World Truck Series driver Jeb Burton was joined by his father, Ward, in Victory Lane at Texas a year ago. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Sharon Ellman)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas – It didn’t take long for the buzz generated by Jeb Burton’s first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win to wear off.

“Right when I left this chair last year, I knew I needed to win some more,” Burton said Thursday afternoon from a seat in the Media Center at Texas Motor Speedway, site of his breakthrough victory in last June’s WinStar World Casino 400.

Then 20 and making his 12th start, Burton became the youngest Truck Series winner on TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval when he passed Ty Dillon on the final restart and led the last 24 laps en route to a margin of victory of 0.139-seconds.

It was an emotional moment for Jeb, son of 2002 Daytona 500 champion and former Sprint Cup Series regular Ward Burton and nephew of Jeff Burton, winner of the inaugural Cup race at TMS in April 1997.

Contrary to conventional wisdom that first win didn’t magically open doors for Jeb, who remains stuck on one-and-done in the NCWTS win column. Additionally, he has changed teams. Originally signed to a two-year deal by Turner Scott Motorsports in November 2012, the team announced prior to the start of the 2014 season that Jeb’s primary sponsor, Arrowhead Cigarettes, had defaulted on its payments. That forced TSM to close down Jeb’s No. 4 Chevrolet Silverado team.

Free-agent Jeb rebounded by signing with ThorSport Racing in early February to drive in the season-opening Truck Series and ARCA Series events at Daytona International Speedway on a part-time basis. The Truck Series ride became a fulltime deal on May 27, when ThorSport secured sponsorship from Estes Express Lines.

“I’m with a totally different team now,” said Burton, anticipating Friday night’s 18th annual edition of the event. “But I’m excited for this year and to be back here as the champion is really cool. And hopefully I can repeat. It’s a special feeling to come back to Texas. And when I came back in November I won the pole (for the WinStar World Casino 350) so I’ve been in Victory Lane for both of my Texas races, one way or the other.

“Texas has been a good track for me and hopefully we can carry some of the momentum we’ve been building this season and maybe get a win. We had a great truck at Charlotte (Motor Speedway) before it got wrecked on the last lap while we were racing for third, so there’s no reason we can’t contend on Friday because we only have five races together and we’ve been getting better every week.”

Burton admittedly was frustrated by the loss of last year’s e-cigarette sponsor, located in his hometown of South Boston, Va., and his subsequent exit from Turner Scott. “But the way I look at that is everything happens for a reason,” said Burton, driver of the No. 13 Estes Toyota Tundra. “If that would have never happened I wouldn’t be with this new sponsor; Estes Express Lines is a great company and I’m excited for the future with them. But winning one time doesn’t get the job done. I need to keep getting better as a driver and win some more races.”

Ward Burton said he celebrated “the most special moment in motorsports I’ve ever experienced” when Jeb won last June 7 at TMS, the track where Ward made nine career Cup starts between 1997 and 2006 with a best finish of seventh in ’97. Even with his son’s win, Ward knew that John Edward Burton IV – and hence, “Jeb” – was likely headed for an emotional rollercoaster.

“He didn’t have to warn me really because I saw the things that happened with him and his racing career,” Jeb said of his dad. Ward Burton posted five Cup victories during a 17-year career, including two of NASCAR’s premier events – the 2001 Southern 500 and the ‘02 Daytona 500 for Bill Davis Racing.

“He was with some good teams and was really loyal to some car-owners and he didn’t get the same thing back,” Jeb said, diplomatically. “So I know how the sport is. It can eat you up and spit you out. I know kind of what the deal is and I just try to treat people like I want to be treated.”

Burton placed 13th during Thursday evening’s final 90-minute practice session here with a best lap of 174.081 mph. German Quiroga, driver of the No. 77 Net 10 Wireless Toyota, stood atop the speed chart with a lap in 30.599-seconds/176.476 mph.

Ninth in the current driver standings, Burton is teamed at ThorSport with reigning series champion Matt Crafton and veteran Johnny Sauter. Based in Sandusky, Ohio, ThorSport is the longest-tenured NCWTS organization.

Crafton placed third on Thursday’s final speed chart at 175.747 mph in his No. 88 Slim Jim/Menards Toyota while Sauter was fourth at 175.490 mph in his No. 98 Nextant/Curb Records Tundra. A field of only 27 trucks – down from the usual 36 – are scheduled to qualify Friday at 4:10 p.m. (CDT).

“I feel like we have a really good three-driver package at ThorSport Racing right now,” said Burton, who has logged a pair of top-10 finishes in five starts this season. “My team is still getting better every week, just like the other two. But our deal came together really late and some of the results haven’t shown that. We’ve had crazy things happen to us this year like last week (at Dover International Speedway). But going to Matt and Johnny is big for me and my race team – two good guys that can win and win championships are right there. I’ve never had that before.

“Last year me Matt and Johnny raced like we were teammates – never had a fender touch each other. We got respect for each other. We get along great. Our personalities are a little bit different off-track but on-track we have the same goals – to race each other clean, share notes and be good teammates. Hopefully we keep getting better every week we can start winning some races.”

Burton’s weekend in Dover, Del., started going south when a broken wheel 21 minutes into Happy Hour practice on the all-concrete “Monster Mile” wiped-out his primary Tundra.

“And we had two (rims) go bad in the race,” said Burton, who finished 18th. “So it was nothing to do with our race team. We just had some crazy things happen to us and I think we were a sixth/seventh-place truck in practice with that primary truck. We’re getting better every week. I felt like the guys are getting pumped-up and they worked their tails off because we messed-up a truck.

“Jeriod (Prince, crew chief) and the guys have been bringing great Toyota Tundras to the racetrack. It was a tough break at Dover that a wheel failure cost us our primary truck and we had to race our Texas Tundra , but we know it’s a good piece.”

Meanwhile, a major consideration was checked-off last week when, prior to Jeb’s fifth race with ThorSport, the team announced full-season primary sponsorship with Estes Express Lines, a full-service freight transportation provider located in Richmond, Va. Minus a fulltime sponsor, Burton’s season was in flux. The deal with Estes guaranteed his return to Fort Worth as defending event champion.

“It means a lot for ThorSport Racing to sign the deal with Estes Express Lines, a Virginia company with an international reach,” Burton said, “and for my team not to have to worry about being able to get to the racetrack every week. I really appreciate the commitment Mr. and Mrs. Thorson (ThorSport owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson) made to me and my family.

“It’s nice to have that side of the program worked-out. We’re excited for the future and the potential of winning our first race, with Estes.”

Friday night’s 167-lap/250.5-mile event will be telecast live on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. (CDT), preceded by The Setup pre-race show at 7:30. The live broadcast on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio begins with pre-race coverage at 7:30.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 5 2014
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