Jeb Burton

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Jeb Burton to compete in Truck Series race at Martinsville with Niece Motorsports

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Jeb Burton will compete for Niece Motorsports in the Oct. 26 Gander Outdoors Trucks Series playoff race at Martinsville Speedway, the team announced Tuesday.

He will drive the No. 44 Chevrolet.

It will be Burton’s second start of the year for the team after he competed at Kentucky Speedway on July 11. He finished ninth.

The son of former Cup driver Ward Burton, it will be his 55th career start in the Truck Series. Martinsville is the home track for the Virginia-native.

“I’m excited to get back behind the wheel of one of these Niece Motorsports Chevrolets again,” Burton said in a press release.  “Martinsville is certainly a very special track to me, and a place that I have a lot of experience, so I’m confident that we can turn that into a strong result.”

Burton has made eight national series starts this year, including five with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series. His best finish was fourth at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in September.

 

Long: Indy success provides emotional lift for Bubba Wallace, Jeb Burton

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INDIANAPOLIS — Amid the weekend’s celebrations at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the most emotional moments came not in Victory Lane but on pit road.

One driver cried. Another beamed.

Jeb Burton and Bubba Wallace have faced various challenges in their careers. The 27-year-old Burton, son of 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, has fought to remain relevant in NASCAR. The 25-year-old Wallace, whose dynamic personality is engaging, has been open about his struggles on the track and off.

In a sport where the focus often shifts to the next young driver, it’s easy to forget how much racing Burton and Wallace both could have left and the impact they could make.

Of course, racing, as in life, isn’t always fair. Short tracks across the country feature drivers who had the talent to race in NASCAR’s premier series but never got the chance whether because they didn’t have the proper funding, right look or were too old when discovered.

So in that sense, Burton and Wallace can be considered among the fortunate to have climbed NASCAR’s ladder. That isn’t satisfying for either, though. They want more.

Burton has not had a full-time ride in any of NASCAR’s top three national series since a 2015 Cup effort with BK Racing, a team that no longer exists after going through bankruptcy court a year ago. Burton has pieced together rides with whatever sponsorship he can find. He’s run three Cup, 14 Xfinity and four Truck races since 2017.

He will drive two more Xfinity races this season (Texas and Miami) for JR Motorsports, giving him seven starts in the team’s No. 8 car this season.

Burton finished fourth in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Indianapolis, tying his career-best result. He could not contain the tears after exiting his car.

Asked where the emotion was coming from, Burton said in a quivering voice: “Two years ago I didn’t know if I was going to drive again. That’s where it comes from.”

Burton later said: “Every time I get into a race car I feel like I’ve got something to prove. You don’t know, this could be the last time out there. You don’t know. I cried like a baby in my TV interview because it means so much. You don’t know when this could be your last day. You’ve just got to cherish every moment.”

That’s not been easy for Wallace at times this season. He tweeted in early May that he had not “been (in) a good place for some time now.” A few days later at Kansas Speedway, Wallace said how “you try to be the best you can and sometimes it ain’t good enough.”

The session with reporters ended with Wallace later burying his head in his hands.

He won a segment in the Monster Energy Open in May, received a heartfelt embrace from Ryan Blaney and was emotional in his interview with FS1, saying “Damn, I’ve been feeling like a failure for a really long time.”

His struggles on the track haven’t helped. Richard Petty Motorsports struggled to find proper funding for nearly the first six months of the year. The results showed.

Until Sunday’s Brickyard 400, Wallace had not finished better than 14th this season and had only four top-20 results.

After he finished third Sunday, Wallace screamed on his radio: “Yeah! That ain’t supposed to happen! That is not supposed to happen! We did it! Nice job!”

Wallace could not stop smiling after climbing from his car. Richard Petty hugged him.

“We needed this,” Wallace said. “We needed this weekend. We unloaded with speed and I was bragging to everybody.”

Wallace called Sunday “an unforgettable day at Indy.”

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There are many places one can find points gained or lost over a 26-race regular season that can determine who makes the playoffs. Such is the case for Daniel Suarez, who finished four points behind Ryan Newman for the final playoff spot Sunday.

Here are a couple of key moments this season that had they gone differently could have given Suarez the chance to race for a championship instead of Newman:

# Suarez won the pole at Kentucky in July but did not score any stage points.

Suarez led the opening 49 laps at Kentucky but when a caution came out, the team decided to change four tires. Two cars took no tires and 10 cars took two tires during that caution. Suarez restarted 13th, the first car on four tires. He finished the opening stage in 14th and scored no stage points.

In the second stage, Suarez had a flat tire and had to pit under green and then was called for speeding. He fell three laps down at one point and never had a chance to score any stage points.

That was one of three times this season that the driver who started on the pole failed to score any stage points. Austin Dillon did not tally any stage points after starting on the pole at Auto Club Speedway in March, and Denny Hamlin failed to do so after starting on the pole at Bristol in August.

Drivers who started on the pole scored an average of 10.2 stage points per race in the regular season this year. Suarez could have used those 10 points Sunday.

# Newman’s extra pit stop at Michigan in August.

Twenty-seven cars, including Newman, pitted for fuel on Lap 150 at Michigan, putting them all on the edge of making it the rest of the race on fuel. Newman and teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came back to pit road the next lap to top off on fuel.

With no caution the rest of the way, fuel mileage was critical. Newman went from 18th to 12th in the final three laps as cars ahead of him had to pit for fuel or ran out on the track.

Newman ran out of fuel on Turn 4 of the last lap but easily made it across the finish line. Had he not stopped on Lap 151 to top off, he wouldn’t have made it to the end and would have lost several positions.

Instead, those six points gained by others running out fuel helped Newman secure the last playoff spot.

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Ryan Newman helped snap the playoff drought for Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 6 car.

The car once piloted by Hall of Famer Mark Martin last made the playoffs in 2006 — the year Jimmie Johnson won the first of his record-tying seven Cup titles.

Newman’s team has gone through key changes since last season’s finale in Miami. Scott Graves became the team’s crew chief for this season. The team also has a different engineer and car chief from last year’s Miami race.

“Our team is so new,” Newman said. “It is newer than I have ever experienced. That is huge. With all the changes we had in our sport in the offseason, I think it was underestimated by me and a huge change to tackle.

“I feel like we have done a good job but to answer your question, we just need to continue to progress to make our cars go faster. I think we have had some good strategy and pit stops and good moves on the race track. All those types of things. Good things need to turn into great things and keep progressing as a team.”

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Leaders crashing late in a race can can create ill will and lead to spicy exchange between competitors. Not for Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis.

Instead, fans saw sportsmanship after the two drivers wrecked with seven laps left.

Reddick approached Bell on the track and gave him a tap on the back.

Reddick told NBCSN after leaving the infield care center: “No one in this garage or in NASCAR racing in general should ever question Christopher’s driving ability. That wasn’t the issue there.

“His car just simply got loose, and we just got together and we didn’t really have a lot of race track. It’s (the) end of the race, we’re going for it type deal. Nothing against Christopher. He did nothing wrong. His car just got loose. Just part of racing at the end at this place.”

Refreshing to see how this situation was handled.

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Shortly after celebrating Kevin Harvick‘s victory at Indianapolis, crew chief Rodney Childers was focused on the challenge of the playoffs, which begin Sunday (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I think this season is just tough,”  he said. “I think it’s going to be tougher the next 10 races than it’s ever been. You’ve got 550 (horsepower) races that you have to be good at. You’ve got 750 races you’ve got to be good at. You’ve got road course cars you’ve got to be good at. You’ve got to have a good Martinsville car. There’s so many different things in the playoffs this year that it’s going to be so important to have great race cars every week.”

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The quote of the weekend belonged to Kevin Harvick’s son Keelan.

Asked what it was like to kiss the bricks after his father’s win, Keelan said: “They don’t taste great, but it was fun kissing the bricks.”

Indianapolis winners and losers

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WINNERS

Kevin HarvickScored his third win in the last seven races. And got car owner Tony Stewart to climb the fence once again at Indy. Win also helps Harvick and his Stewart-Haas Racing team build momentum just in time for the playoffs.

Bubba WallaceFinished a season-best third on Sunday. His two career top-five finishes are a second in the 2018 Daytona 500 and a third at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Clint BowyerOvercame bubble pressure to post top-10 finishes in each of the last three regular-season races. Could he go from one of the last in to one of the last remaining in the playoffs?

Ryan NewmanSnapped a five-race streak of finishes outside the top 10 with an eighth-place finish to secure the final playoff spot.

Jeb Burton Matched his career high with a fourth-place finish in Saturday’s Xfinity race and was overcome with emotion afterward. Burton is running a part-time schedule and seeks to run full-time again. He’ll be back with JR Motorsports at Texas and Miami.

LOSERS

Daniel SuarezHit the wall, hit a car and had other misfortune in failing to make the playoffs after entering Sunday’s race at Indianapolis in the final playoff spot.

Jimmie JohnsonHis remarkable streak of 15 consecutive years in the postseason ends after a year of struggles. His wreck while racing Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron for sixth place kept Johnson from having a chance to make the playoffs Sunday.

Cup car owners — Eight cars were eliminated by accidents in Sunday’s race. That’s more cars eliminated by crashes in the last four Cup races combined. Sunday proved expensive to some teams.

Race results, point standings after Xfinity’s Indiana 250

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Kyle Busch beat Justin Allgaier to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Busch won from the pole and claimed his fourth series win of the year.

The top five was completed by Jeb Burton, Noah Gragson and Justin Haley.

Click here for race results

Points

After he wrecked out of Saturday’s race, Tyler Reddick will clinch the regular-season title next weekend at Las Vegas if he earns 11 points, regardless of where Christopher Bell finishes.

Justin Haley is the latest driver to clinch a playoff spot on points with his fifth-place finish.

There are three spots left to fill in the playoff field next week at Las Vegas.

Brandon Jones (+40 points above cutline), John Hunter Nemechek (+12) and Ryan Sieg currently fill those spots.

Gray Gaulding is the first driver outside the top 12. He trails Sieg by 124 points.

Click here for the point standings.

Kyle Busch wins Xfinity Series Indiana 250

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Kyle Busch won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, fending off Justin Allgaier in a four-lap shootout around the 2.5-mile track.

Busch earned his 96th career Xfinity Series win and his fourth career win at IMS. He has four wins in seven series starts this year.

Making his last Xfinity start of the year, Busch led 46 of 100 laps from the pole.

“Really tough to pass, even when you had a run on guys,” Busch told NBCSN. “You could pass some of the guys that were built more for long-run longevity, (Allgaier) was. You could pass him on the straightaways. … Overall, we got back in traffic and just really fought the handling of this thing, even from fourth place.”

Allgaier, who led 24 laps, finished second after winning this race last year. He has not won a race since then. He has four runner-up finishes this season.

“Kyle’s great, especially on late-race restarts,” Allgaier told NBCSN. “Our Suave Men Camaro was on rails, especially on the long run. We were able to really push though guys. … We had a couple of late-race restarts that didn’t go our way and unfortunately put us behind.”

The top five was completed by Noah Gragson, Jeb Burton and Justin Haley.

The final run to the checkered flag was set up by a wreck between Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick on a restart with eight laps to go. Restarting on the front row, Bell got loose in Turn 2 and washed up into Reddick, which sent them both into the wall.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brandon Jones

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

More: Race results and point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: JR Motorsports is the first team to put three drivers in the top five of an Xfinity race at Indy … Justin Haley earned his third top five of the year and locked himself into the playoffs on points … Austin Hill placed ninth in his Xfinity Series debut … Brandon Jones bounced back from a mid-race wreck to finish sixth.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Austin Dillon finished 34th after he suffered a fuel pressure issue and stalled on the pit access road on Lap 15 … Brandon Brown wrecked on a Lap 36 restart. He finished 28th … David Starr finished 37th after his engine expired mid-race … John Hunter Nemechek finished 31st after he wrecked in Turn 1 with 22 laps left in the race.

WHAT’S NEXT: Rhino Pro 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 14 on NBCSN