Jeb Burton's NASCAR career has been 'a tough road'
For more than nine years, Jeb Burton has toiled away at trying to establish a career as a NASCAR driver.
Very rarely, though, has he had the opportunity to compete fulltime in a series. Until this season, he had run two full seasons in Trucks (2013 and 2014) and one in Cup (2015) with an underfunded team.
Most of the remainder of the years, Burton scraped together what sponsorship he could to fund as many races he could in the best equipment he could. It was a frustrating and often disappointing experience.
His lone highlight season came in 2013 when he won a race in the Truck Series and finished fifth in the series standings driving for Turner Scott Motorsports.
Burton, 28, admits there were times after that when he thought about quitting but his victory in Sunday’s rain-shortened Xfinity Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway reminded him the journey has been worthwhile.
“It’s been a tough road ever since that Truck win with Turner. We were lights out that year and I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was going to race tracks for the first time, leading laps, winning poles,” he said.
“We should have won a lot more races that year. Ever since then it’s just been really tough to stay in a place and getting a rhythm. It’s been an up-and-down roller coaster career for sure on the sponsorship side.”
The pressure to perform likely was compounded by the fact Burton came from a successful racing family. His father, Ward, was a former Daytona 500 winner, while his uncle, Jeff, won 21 Cup races in his career, including the Southern 500 and a pair of victories in the Coca-Cola 600.
Even Jeb’s cousin, Harrison, is off to a strong start to his NASCAR career, with four Xfinity wins, three in ARCA and the 2017 K&N Pro Series East (now ARCA East) championship.
“There were a couple years there when I was running three or four races, couldn’t find the sponsorship, my confidence was low, it was frustrating. Racing can tear you apart,” Jeb said. “I want it so bad. I want to win races for myself and my family.
“I know I can do it.”
This past offseason, Burton got the opportunity to join Kaulig Racing, a relatively new but very successful NASCAR organization that primarily has been fielding teams in the Xfinity Series.
Burton got off to a good start this year with five consecutive top-10 finishes. He then struggled at Atlanta and finished 11th at Martinsville, Va. – a race he thought he might have a shot to win.
But Saturday, Burton and Austin Cindric appeared to have the two fastest cars, as they combined to lead 45 of the 90 laps completed before rain cut short the race in the final stage. Burton was leading when a multi-car wreck put the race under caution on Lap 86 and it would not restart.
“The win definitely wasn’t a fluke. We led a lot of laps and it was a blast to drive,” Burton said. “This is an amazing race team. We needed that win – for all of us.
“Nutrien Ag Solutions took a leap of faith in me and gave me this opportunity and the partners that I built over the years came along with me and helped make this dream happen. I have all the tools at Kaulig Racing to try to win a championship. This win couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Saturday’s win all-but ensures Burton will advance to the Xfinity Series playoffs this season with the chance to win a NASCAR title and add to his family’s legacy.
“It just means a lot to me. I’ve put every ounce of energy into trying to make it in this sport,” he said. “It’s been a tough road, but it’s made me a better person and I really appreciate the opportunity that I have now.”
Jeb Burton wins rain-shortened Xfinity race at Talladega
Former NASCAR driver Eric McClure dies at 42