Long: Even as Jeb Burton moves to Sprint Cup, his mother will not be far away

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The realization struck Tabitha Burton on Monday’s drive from the family’s Halifax, Va., home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Her “little boy” Jeb will drive a Sprint Cup car for the first time Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.

A whirlwind couple of weeks saw Ward Burton’s son lose his Camping World Truck Series ride because of sponsorship issues and then land a Cup seat with BK Racing. It happened so fast that it wasn’t until Monday’s trip for Jeb’s press conference that Tabitha realized she needed to make plans to be in Daytona this weekend to watch her son practice and qualifying.

Some will question if Jeb is ready for Cup or if BK Racing can provide a good enough car for Jeb to be competitive. Jeb has raced only two full seasons in the Camping World Truck Series and two races in what is now the Xfinity Series. He has a three-year contract with an organization that failed to have any of its four cars finish in the top 30 in owner points last year.

Jeb’s parents understand the challenges he faces. While this moment arrived sooner than expected, it has been quite a journey to get to this point.

Tabitha was there when Ward, the 2002 Daytona 500 champion, couldn’t be because he was racing. Tabitha accompanied Jeb to races, shared late-night drives, and cheered him on each lap.

When Ward’s career slowed, he had more time to train his son. Jeb always wanted to race and had success in go-karts, so the family got him a Late Model stock car for Christmas when Jeb was 14 years old.

Tabitha soon saw Jeb’s desire to race, by surviving his father’s taxing test sessions.

“They went everywhere and practiced,’’ Tabitha said of her son and Ward. “(Jeb) made almost 3,000 laps before Ward would let him race. He just said, ‘If you want to do this, you’ve got to prove to me that you can do it.’

“His dad was really hard on him. Really hard on him. He just expects perfection, and if Jeb would make a mistake like anybody would, he would let him have it. He’s just really, really tough on him. He’s doing it for his own good.’’

Ward, who won five races in NASCAR’s top series including a Southern 500, admits he can be “kind of overbearing sometimes’’ but he had a purpose. He knew how tough it is to get to NASCAR’s top series and being soft wasn’t going to be helpful.

“What I was wanting to do is to get him to understand two things,’’ Ward said. “Once you learn how to drive a car properly, that’s one of the steps, but there’s a lot of learning that is taking place. It’s not all about driving. It’s communication, telling your team what the car is doing, it’s all the work and dedication that goes into it. I about jerked that car away from him and others twice. You either are going to do it 100 percent or don’t do it at all.’’

It was during those tests that Ward saw his son had the ability. He noted that Jeb drove a car like a go-kart. A driver doesn’t need to turn the wheel much in the corners in a go-kart but does in a stock car. Jeb was not turning the wheel enough when he first started driving a Late Model.

“I saw the right side of the number on that (dang) car … how many times I can’t tell you,’’ Ward said. “It finally got to the point where I started realizing what he was doing to make that happen. How he saved it every time. He never overcorrected or spun the thing one time. I saw the right-side number, I’m talking about it was a common occurrence. So just having that raw ability to have that car control was unbelievable to me. You can’t teach that.’’

The more Ward talks, the wider his smile grows, a father’s pride resonating with each word. Even today, Ward recalls that number – 27 – on the side of the car.

Still, Ward needed convincing that his son was focused on racing. Ward said that he spent more time in the garage with the car that first year than Jeb.

“That was kind of getting under my goat a little bit,’’ Ward said. “The second year I stopped going to the shop. A dad just needs to step back at some time and let the kid either do it or not.’’

Jeb began showing up at the shop more.

“I didn’t realize the dedication it takes to make it work,’’ Jeb said. “Once I got really dedicated to it, I started to having success. It’s been a tough road, and it’s still going to be tough.’’

It might be tougher on his mom even after watching her husband race for years.

“It’s emotional,’’ Tabitha said. “It’s a different level of anxiety being your child out there. I think it’s hard because I’ve always been there.’’

She will be again with him this weekend at Daytona.

“I can’t imagine not being there,’’ she said.

Saturday Las Vegas Xfinity race: Start time, TV channel

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs get underway with the Saturday Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The race is the first of seven to determine the champion.

Chase Briscoe is on the pole after his win last weekend at Bristol

Here is all the info for the Saturday Las Vegas Xfinity race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 7:38 p.m by Cup driver Bubba Wallace. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:47 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 1 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 7:20 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:30 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Mackenzie Mackey at 7:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

TV/RADIO: Coverage begins on NBCSN with Countdown to Green at 7 p.m. Race broadcast begins at 7:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 7 p.m.. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the link.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for clear skies with a high of 98 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Chase Briscoe beat Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric at Bristol.

LAST RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Chase Briscoe beat Austin Cindric and Ryan Sieg for the win in February.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Xfinity starting lineup

Results, point standings after Truck race at Las Vegas

race results
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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for his second win of 2020.

He beat Sheldon Creed for the victory.

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly finished 18th and Travis Pastrana was 21st.

Click here for the race results.

Point Standings

With his win, Austin Hill is the first driver to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Todd Gilliland is last in the playoff standings with 2,050 points. He is 13 points behind Ben Rhodes.

Click here for the standings.

Austin Hill wins Las Vegas Truck race

Austin Hill
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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading the final 39 laps to score the victory.

Hill took the lead on a restart and held off charges from Sheldon Creed over the final 20 laps.

Creed’s progress was slowed with 11 laps to go when he got loose and scraped the wall in Turn 1. He was never able to get close enough to Hill to make a challenge.

Creed dominated the early portion of the race, leading 89 laps before he struggled to get going on the final restart and briefly fell to seventh.

The win is the second of the year for Hill. He’s the first playoff driver to win in the postseason and it come after he finished 25th at Bristol.

“We didn’t have the best truck tonight by no means,” Hill told FS1. “Pit crew did a hell of job on that last pit stop getting me into the position I needed to. I just had to go out there and get it. … Sheldon was definitely way faster than me. … I was probably looking in my mirror more than I was our front. I knew he was better than we were.”

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

More: Race results and point standings

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith all matched their best results of the season … While he was the first driver to finish one lap down, IndyCar driver Conor Daly placed 18th in his first career Truck Series start … Travis Pastrana placed 21st in his second start of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Rachael Lessard finished 20th after he had to pit early in the race following contact with the wall … Ben Rhodes finished 23rd after he spun from contact with Stewart Friesen and hit the inside wall on Lap 84 … Jordan Anderson’s engine expired on the ensuing restart. He finished 32nd.

NOTABLE: Natalie Decker, who was not medically cleared to compete Friday night, was treated and released from the infield care center.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Talladega Superspeedway, 1 p.m. ET Oct. 3 on FS1

 

Natalie Decker not medically cleared for Las Vegas Truck race

Natalie Decker
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NASCAR announced right before Friday night’s Truck Series race that Natalie Decker hadn’t been medically cleared to compete.

No details were provided about the issue that prevented Decker from being cleared. During the final stage of the race, NASCAR announced she had been treated and released from the infield medical center.

The Niece Motorsports driver would have started 23rd. Due to her No. 44 truck having cleared inspection and having been placed on the starting grid she was credited with a last-place finish.

Decker has made 11 starts this year. She missed the June 28 race at Pocono after she was hospitalized due to bile duct complications related to her gallbladder removal in December.

Decker provided this update Saturday morning.