Amid Uncertainty, Jeb Burton Racing for an Xfinity Series Championship

Jeb Burton’s racing each XFINITY Series race like it’s his last. (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Jeb Burton is familiar with uncertainty.

Since breaking out on the NASCAR scene nine years ago, the 29-year-old Burton hasn’t maintained much ride stability. He ran a full-time schedule in the 2015 Cup Series with underfunded BK Racing and ran the two seasons prior on a full-time basis with Turner Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series.

Ever since then, Burton only raced part-time. He spent the five seasons following his one-year stint with BK Racing by driving for just about any team who offered him. Burton raced 53 times across all three premier series between 2016 and 2020, many coming in the XFINITY Series with JR Motorsports. In 11 races last season, Burton picked up three top-fives in Dale Jr.’s No. 8 car, a ride split amongst many drivers.

He was part-time, at least, until Kaulig Racing came around. Matt Kaulig and Chris Rice came to Burton with the opportunity he desired for many years — a full-time ride. Burton accepted an offer to wheel Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 car, a ride previously held by Ross Chastain.

And he took advantage of it. Burton has an opportunity to do what Kaulig and Rice preach best — go trophy hunting. However, this time, it’s for a series championship.

Behind 15 top-10 finishes, Burton sits in seventh place, four points above the Round of 8 cutline and well within championship reach. Although he only has a rain-shortened Talladega victory to show for it, Burton’s consistently put himself in position to win races.

However, Burton’s strong season might not matter for him. He signed a one-year deal with Kaulig Racing before the 2021 season, meaning his future with the team is in jeopardy. The organization has discussed scaling back to a two-car XFINITY Series operation amid running two Cup Series cars next season.

Jeb Burton stands on the grid ahead of the 2021 BL Transport 170 at Mid-Ohio (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

“My back has always been against the wall,” Burton said on XFINITY Series Playoff Media Day. “It’s hard on my family, that’s for certain. It’s been an emotional roller coaster these last couple weeks. I try and not let my emotions get to me know, but it’s been a hell of a ride here at Kaulig Racing and want to keep it going.

“[I’m] trying to prove my worth and say I belong here, and to go and win another race right now would do that, and that’s what we are focused on. My team’s 100% behind me, I love working with my crew chief Bruce [Schlicker] and all my guys. That pressure has always been there of uncertainty of the funding and those things, but this year has been a great year for me and I’ll never forget it.

“It is a bunch of uncertainty. I’m not sure what I’m doing next year. I don’t have anything right now. I don’t have a contract of anything, so I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing”.

Although Burton may have plenty of skill and the results keep an XFINITY Series ride next season, he doesn’t have funding to back it up. Nutiren Ag Soultions, Burton’s primary sponsor in 19 races this season, announced it wouldn’t return to Kaulig Racing in 2022.

“It’s definitely a difficult situation with the things that have gone on with Nutrien Ag Solutions,” Burton said. “I felt like we’ve done a good job for them, [but] sometimes in corporate America, things happen that are out of your control. We are still going to have a relationship with Nutrien Ag Solutions, I believe, and we are working on that. But without them, I wouldn’t be in this position”.

With his future in jeopardy, Burton can only do one thing — look at the present. That, of course, means focusing on an XFINITY Series title run.

“We’re building momentum at the right time,” Burton said. “We can get to Phoenix, and if we get to Phoenix, I feel like we can win it all there.

“I’m not sure what my future holds right now, but we’re working hard on it every day. Right now, we’re focused on the playoffs. [We] need to go win some races, and that’s not going to hurt anything, and try and win the championship. These could be my last seven races for now”.

It starts for Burton on Saturday in the Alsco Uniforms 302 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Although he does not have previous success at the track, Burton is confident about the car his team is bringing for the race.

“I think [that] this weekend at Vegas, I will be really good,” Burton said. “I feel like we’ll run top seven, top eight all day and have a shot there at the end. I’m pumped up about this weekend”.

Nathan Solomon

I'm Nathan Solomon, a sophomore in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. I serve as the Sports Editor for our campus newspaper, The BonaVenture, and as the programming director for our campus radio station, WSBU 88.3FM. Our station is rated the No. 4 college radio station in the country by Princeton Review.

My journey as a motorsports writer may have only started in 2020, but I've written since 2018. I started as a beat writer for IvyHoopsOnline in my junior year of high school, covering my hometown Cornell Basketball. In 2019, I began contributing New York Yankees content for Empire Sports Media. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, I began contributing NASCAR content for Empire Sports Media and covered two races in 2021 with the website. I came over to The Podium Finish in September of 2021 ready to continue writing original motorsports content on a page specific to racing.

You can follow me on Twitter @NSolly02.

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