Over the past handful of years, Jeb Burton has been put through the NASCAR ringer. But that hasn’t stopped his persistence of finding an elite ride at the NASCAR Xfinity Series level.
Burton, 27, has been around racing his entire life, with father Ward Burton racing full-time at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series level for 11 years, winning the 2002 Daytona 500. His uncle Jeff Burton won 48 national touring races. But Jeb is still trying to find his footing in NASCAR.
Flashback to 2013, Burton had instant success in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, winning a race and scoring seven poles with Turner Scott Motorsports. That year, he finished fifth in the championship standings.
But moving up the ranks has been a challenge for Burton. In 2014, he again competed in Trucks, ranking eighth. With limited opportunities for 2015, he was rocket-strapped to the Cup Series to compete in 28 races with BK Racing. Since then, he hasn’t ran more than 14 races in a single series in the same year.
This year, though, Burton made the move to JR Motorsports for seven Xfinity Series events. Through the first four races, he has three top-10 finishes with a best outing of fifth at Texas Motor Speedway, as well as a seventh at Charlotte Motor Speedway and a ninth at Michigan International Speedway. In his last race at Bristol Motor Speedway, he was running inside the top 10 when the right front hub burnt, causing his No. 8 car’s brake to fail.
Regardless, it’s been a solid season, though the driver believes there is room for improvement.
“I want to run a little bit better than we’ve been running,” Burton recently told Fronstretch. “We’ve been finishing in the single digits every time, and I’m happy about that. It’s definitely not easy when you’re not running all the time. Hopefully, we can get more top fives to close out the year.”
Coming out of the gates strong at Texas was the confidence boost Burton needed. At times, the No. 8 car was scored as high as second, though fading to fifth at the checkered flag, only behind Kyle Busch, two of the Xfinity Series’ “Big Three” (Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell) and Chase Briscoe.
The finish proved to Burton the potential was there for a successful run this season.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything more in the first race than finishing in the top five,” Burton said. “It’s definitely been a boost in my career and my racing efforts. I’ve got a bunch of partners behind me for next year, too. [Just] plugging away.”
While Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett and Noah Gragson are chasing the drivers championship at JRM, the No. 8 car has been a joint effort. Nine drivers, including boss-man Dale Earnhardt Jr., have made starts in the No. 8 car, with Ryan Truex having its best finish of second at ISM Raceway. Zane Smith has made the most starts with seven, posting four top-10 finishes.
But for Burton, it’s been a struggle of starting and stopping, though he’s grown accustom to it in his young NASCAR career.
“It’s definitely not easy when you’re running like that and popping in and out with driver feedback and stuff like that,” Burton stated. “I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job at it, and hopefully, we can run more next year.
“I’m just looking at it as another race car, trying to go do the best I can. That’s all we’re doing, just trying to win races.”
Ultimately, Burton’s goal is to have fun and keep his name relevant, believing he has something to prove.
“Every time I get in the race car, I feel like I have something to prove,” Burton said. “I feel like if you lose that, it’s not going to be good. I try to do the best that my equipment will do, and if that’s winning the race, then let’s go win the race. I just do the best I can with what I have and keep trying to turn heads. The biggest thing I’m trying to do is build my partners, try to win races and have fun.
“The sport is in a tough place right now. You’ve either got to be really lucky to make it or have a bunch of sponsors behind [you]. I’ve been lucky to have a bunch of partners behind me and really just want to re-energize my career. I know I can run with the best of them, I’ve just got to be out there more so I can show people.”
Burton believes winning is realistic for him this year should the team get the handling perfect on the No. 8 car. Over six months into the season, JRM has just one victory, with Annett winning the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
The biggest challenge away from the track — which is much of the reason why Burton hasn’t been able to put a full-time deal together in recent years — is finding the funding to race. This season, the Virginia native has added LS Tractor to his partners, and he works on finding additional partners daily.
“I do it every day,” Burton said of cold-calling companies. “It’s me. That’s who does it. I’ve had a lot of success this year and, hopefully, will have more sponsorship next year. All they can say is no, that’s my motto. That’s what I’ve got to do to survive.”
Finding sponsorship in present-day NASCAR is difficult, simply because it costs an extraordinary amount to be with a competitive organization. That’s been one of the biggest struggles in putting more partners together for Burton.
“It just costs too much,” he said. “NASCAR costs too much. Racing costs too much. That’s the hardest thing, it just costs too much. The teams have to do what they can to be competitive. It’s where the sport is at now.”
Burton will make his fifth start of 2019 this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he has a best finish of 12th (2016) in two Xfinity starts.
- The Xfinity Series heads to the famed yard of bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend, and it is the last race Cup regulars can compete in. Kyle Busch will make his final start of the season in the No. 18 car, while Austin Dillon will run a second Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.
- Despite being signed through 2020, it was reported last week that Shane Lee was released from H2 Motorsports. In the Eyes on Xfinity column two weeks ago, Lee and team owner Matt Hurley said they were happy with the early stages of the team, noting they knew the results were going to get better. Frontstretch reached out to H2M for comment, but have not heard back as of press time.
- With two races to go in the regular season, it’s highly unlikely that anyone outside the top 12 will race, rather win, their way into the playoffs. Currently, Ryan Sieg holds onto the final spot, 119 points above Gray Gaulding in 13th.