A career-defining run for Jeb Burton at Talladega

It was a near-perfect day for Jeb Burton, the son of the 2002 Daytona 500 champion, Ward, who rallied from the rear of the field to lead in the closing laps of Saturday’s Unhinged 300 at Talladega Superspeedway. While the Halifax, Virginia, native did not leave Talladega with his first NASCAR Xfinity Series career win, he crossed the line in third for his career-best finish in an afternoon where the cards fell in his favors in the final laps and he nearly capped off an upset story of his own.

Based on a random draw, Burton was due to start in eighth, but was dropped to the rear of the field when his No. 8 LS Tractor Chevrolet Camaro failed pre-race inspection five times. 

When the green flag waved, Burton methodically worked his way through the field and was in 21st when the competition caution flew on the 10th lap. He made an early pit stop for fuel under the caution, where he lined up in 25th when the race restarted five laps later. Ten laps later, when the first stage concluded, Burton had worked his way up to 15th as he continued to demonstrate patience early in the race while preserving his car to the end.

Restarting 13th for the start of the second stage, Burton was able to crack the top 10 by Lap 35 and five laps later, he moved into the top five, running third. By Lap 45, he dropped back to 15th, but was running in a single-file line with his JR Motorsports’ teammates led by Justin Allgaier followed by Michael Annett and Noah Gragson. In the closing laps of the second stage, Burton was able to race his way back into the top 10 and conclude the stage in seventh, earning valuable owner points for JRM’s No. 8 Chevrolet team led by crew chief Taylor Moyer.

Under the stage break, Burton pitted for fuel and restarted in sixth with 56 laps remaining for the start of the final stage. Three laps later, Burton and his JR Motorsports’ teammates occupied the top-four positions on track. With Jeb Burton settling in third, his cousin/rookie, Harrison, was running in fifth.

Seventeen laps later, the caution flew following a four-car wreck on the fronstretch and Burton pitted under yellow for fuel to make it to the end. Restarting in fifth with 33 laps remaining, he moved into third a lap later behind Kaulig Racing’s Ross Chastain and AJ Allmendinger. He then raced on the outside lane and as the lead JR Motorsports’ competitor until the caution returned with 17 laps remaining for a six-car wreck in Turn 3 that involved his cousin, Harrison. The wreck halted the race for nearly 11 minutes.

When the race restarted with 14 laps remaining, Burton dropped the hammer and made a bold move below Allmendinger to move into second as he went to work in challenging Chastain for the lead. Despite falling back to fifth, he worked his way back to the front two laps later after drafting Austin Cindric to the lead. With 11 laps remaining, Burton led his first lap of the day before Cindric reassumed the lead. Two laps later, Burton was back ahead of the field. Just after he took the lead, the caution returned with eight laps remaining for an 11-car pileup on the frontstretch, a wreck that involved Burton’s teammates Gragson and Allgaier while his other teammate, Annett, barely escaped.

Following a second red-flag period spanning six and a half minutes, Burton restarted with the lead with three laps remaining. From there, he was pressured by Justin Haley for the lead and the first win. Despite having no teammates lined up behind him in the final shootout, Burton was able to maintain the lead on the inside lane and by a hair on the penultimate lap. He was, however, overtaken by Haley for the lead in Turn 2 when Haley received a push from teammates Chastain and Allmendinger. With Haley clearing the field and powering to the win, Burton would take the checkered flag in third behind Chastain after leading eight laps.

While it was not a day where he walked away with his first Xfinity win at a track where the Burtons have never won at, the third-place result was Jeb’s best of his career along with his fourth top-five career finish in his 34th series start. It also marked his third top-five result in his ninth race with JR Motorsports, a part-time deal that started last season. His only other start this season came in the season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway, where he led a race-high 26 of the 120-scheduled laps and won the first stage until he was eliminated in a late multi-car wreck and finished 23rd.

“Looking back on it, I should’ve picked another lane,” Burton said. “I didn’t know Ross was behind [Haley]. I probably should’ve done something a little different there, split those teammates up. I probably should’ve jumped up high with [Haley], but I think they had such a head of steam. I thought [Cindric] was close enough to me and we would’ve had a run, but those [Kaulig Racing] teammates got hooked up and it was nothing. Nothing we can do. The guys did a good job. They brought a fast racecar. Daytona, we almost won and we almost won here. Just appreciate the effort. We’re gonna go to Indy in a couple of weeks, so I get to race again soon, and then, we’ll go to Kentucky and Texas. So, I got a couple coming up.”

In addition to pursuing his first Xfinity win, a feat accomplished by his father, Ward; uncle, Jeff; and cousin, Harrison; Burton also continues to pursue his first NASCAR national division series win since winning his lone Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in June 2013 and a possibility of returning as a full-time competitor in the sport.

Burton will return on July 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval-road course venue for his next scheduled series start of the season while Daniel Hemric will compete in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet next weekend at Pocono Raceway on June 28, which will air at 12:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com


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