Saturday evening, Kaulig Racing’s Jeb Burton secured his first career Xfinity Series win when rain brought the AG-Pro 300 at Talladega Superspeedway to an early end. The 28-year-old NASCAR driver became the fourth Xfinity driver to win his first race in the 2021 season and put himself into the playoff picture. His victory also served as an inspiration for racing fans and other drivers.
Prior to the 2021 season, his first with Kaulig, Burton was a part-time driver in NASCAR’s top three series who struggled to land seats and sponsors. He spent seven years running part-time races for multiple teams, including Richard Petty Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing. However, he only posted double-digit starts once.
In addition to competing part-time in the Xfinity Series, Burton also made starts in the Cup Series with an underfunded BK Racing team and in the Truck Series with multiple teams. He won his first race in the Truck Series in 2013 while driving for Turner Scott Motorsports.
An early win did not lead to opportunities
Burton grew up with racing in his genes as the son of five-time Cup Series winner Wade Burton. He learned to drive trucks on the family farm and then moved on to go-karts, motocross, and Limited Late Model. Burton made his NASCAR debut in 2012 in what was the Gander Outdoors & RV Truck Series before joining Turner Scott Motorsports in 2013.
According to NASCAR, the problems for Burton began when a sponsor defaulted on a payment to Turner Scott Motorsports. The young driver began bouncing from team to team across multiple series. He competed in 33 Cup Series races but struggled to post a top-10 finish. He also continued to make limited appearances across multiple series while trying to create business partnerships.
Wade joined his son in pursuing this NASCAR dream, taking time away from his personal pursuits to help build partnerships. He said that everything else in his life went on the backburner as they “exhausted every resource.” Although their hard work and dedication ultimately led to the desired results.
Burton’s “big break” occurred in 2019. He joined JR Motorsports for seven races, finishing top-10 in six of them. These performances led to him rejoining JR for the 2020 season and another 11 races. Burton delivered three more top-five finishes and second place at Richmond Raceway.
A major turning point in Burton’s career took place in October 2020
With Ross Chastain departing for Chip Ganassi Racing and the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro, Kaulig Racing needed to find a new driver for the No. 10 Chevrolet. Burton became that man, but the team did not simply reveal the news to him. They brought him and Ward to the Kaulig offices for a special conference with Nutrien AG Solutions, an agricultural company from Colorado.
It was during this sitdown that Kaulig president Chris Rice broke the news. He said that Burton would be the driver of the No. 10 for a full, 33-race schedule. “Really?” the driver asked while shaking Rice’s hand. He then broke down in tears while the Kaulig execs applauded. Ward used the opportunity to explain that there is nobody that will work harder than his son.
“It’s just, those things don’t happen. And they haven’t happened,” Burton told NASCAR when discussing his move to a full-time car. “Every time something did happen for me, it kind of blew up in my face. Either somebody defaulted on a payment or didn’t do what they said they were going to do on a contract, so it’s been a struggle. … It’s just been a tough road and that’s where all of that emotion came from.”
Since joining the Kaulig Racing stable as a full-time driver, Burton has continued to turn in solid performances. He has four top-five finishes in 2021, including fourth place in the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. Although Saturday’s victory at Talladega served as his strongest performance considering that Burton led 21 of the 90 laps and put himself in position to win the race.
Now that Burton has his first career win in the Xfinity Series, he will have the opportunity to compete for a $100,000 bonus. He is one of four drivers now eligible for the third Dash 4 Cash race, which will take place at Darlington on May 8. He will join Noah Gragson — the winner of the first two Dash 4 Cash races — as well as Austin Cindric, and AJ Allmendinger.