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Jeb Burton Earns First Xfinity Series Victory

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 25 2021

Jeb Burton celebrates his victory at Talladega on Saturday. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.om

Jeb Burton’s career road has been a rough one, often so full of potholes that the second-generation driver sometimes considered quitting, but Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway a rain storm washed away years of frustration.  

After Burton maneuvered his way into the lead with 31 laps remaining in the Ag-Pro 300, a caution flag for a multi-car crash on the track’s backstretch, followed by a rainstorm provided the 28-year-old with his first-ever NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in 51 races.

When informed the race had been called 22 laps shy of the scheduled distance, Burton was in disbelief that NASCAR’s decision had occurred so quickly. Even though he executed a burnout on the wet pavement, the reality of his victory didn’t really set in until he climbed from his Kaulig Racing Chevrolet in the makeshift victory lane inside the garage. That’s when he choked back tears during his post-race TV interview.

“I try not to cry,” Burton said during his post-race zoom conference. “(But) I have put every ounce of energy into trying to make it in this sport. Those tears that you see are just from all of the hours and hours and late nights of not sleeping to doing everything I could off the track to be a better driver, to finding sponsorship … doing everything I could do to get this opportunity.

“I definitely broke down talking to my mom and dad on the phone. They were crying, too. We have wanted this for so long and it’s been a tough road.”  

For Burton, the victory was redemption for last year’s loss that came on the race’s final lap. Burton possessed the lead as the field entered the last lap, but the Virginia native’s split-second decision during that circuit on the 2.66-mile track left him with a third-place finish. 

“I should have blocked the lap before that (white flag lap),” said Burton, who led three times for 21 laps in this year’s race. “I regretted that and I still regret not doing that. Today when I got out front I wasn’t going to let that happen again.”  

This season marks the first time since 2014 that Burton has possessed a full-time ride. That year he drove for ThorSport Racing in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series. Prior to Saturday, his only victory in one of NASCAR’S national touring series was in 2013 when he won a Truck race at Texas driving for Turner Motorsports.

“We were lights out that year and I didn’t even really know what I was doing,” Burton said about his season with Turner. “I was going to race tracks for the first time, leading laps, setting on poles. We should have won a lot more races that year.”   

Since then, obtaining sponsorship has been an exasperating venture for Burton. He put together a 28-race package in NASCAR’s Cup Series in 2015 and a 14-race deal in 2016. However, since then his only other double digit season in any of NASCAR’s top three series was last year when he competed in 11 Xfinity races for JR Motorsports, producing three top-five and six top-10 finishes.

“There were a couple of years there when I was running three or four races,” Burton said. “I couldn’t find sponsorship. My confidence was low just because I wasn’t in the right stuff. Man, it was frustrating! Racing can tear you apart and I want it so bad. It’s been a tough road, but it’s made me a better person.”    

When Burton walked into the Kaulig Racing shop during the off-season he again thought he was looking at a limited schedule. To him and his family’s surprise, he was told he would be the full-time driver for the No. 10 car, which was driven by Ross Chastain last year.

“I told him to just come in and do the work,” said Kaulig teammate A.J. Allmendinger, who rebuilt his career after overcoming adversity nearly a decade ago. 

“Nobody is going to feel sorry for you, whether it’s your own mistakes or just the sport being what it is. It’s not like shut-up and do the work. It’s, man, just put your head down and let’s do this together. We’re all going to benefit because myself and Justin Haley believe the same thing. When one of us wins, we all win. Jeb has that mentality. 

“Motorsports, in general, are the toughest sport to be a part of when it comes to trying to make it and stay in the sport. It’s not just solely based on talent. There are a lot of drivers, young and old, that have a lot of talent, but it’s not just based on that, unfortunately. It’s less important about talent than it is the sponsorship that comes with you. It’s just a difficult challenge to be a part of it. Jeb and that whole Burton family have fought hard to stay in the sport and be a part of it. He drove his ass off to get that win!”

  Burton, who received 300 text messages before completing his post-race obligations, noted the culture at Kaulig Racing was different from other race teams.

“It’s family there,” Burton explained. “Everybody works on everybody’s cars. Everybody has the same stuff.”  

With Saturday’s victory, Burton has secured a berth in the Xfinity Series playoffs and a spot in the third segment of the Dash 4 Cash at Darlington. The other three drivers who qualified for the $100,000 bonus at Darlington May 8 were Austin Cindric, Allmendinger and Riley Herbst. The Xfinity Series is off next weekend.  

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 25 2021
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