Testing Success Lights-Up Burton’s Charlotte Optimism

May 15, 2014

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Confidence is no problem for Jeb Burton, and even in his short stay so far at ThorSport Racing he’s shown he’s in position to contend for a win Friday night in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in his No. 13 Carolina Nut Co. Toyota Tundra.

Burton has just two career starts at Charlotte — but his career only consists of 30 Truck Series races. And one of those CMS starts was one of seven Keystone Light Pole Awards he captured in 2013. Burton’s best Charlotte finish is eighth, but he’s been consistent on the fast mile-and-half.

Perking up the Virginia native’s spirits was his performance a month ago in a test at Charlotte in which he and ThorSport Racing teammates Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter were among a handful of trucks that tested for two days. Burton was right on pace, which made him nonplussed when all of Thursday’s practice was wiped-out by rain.

Friday’s schedule was adjusted to include a single, two-hour practice session from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET. The final hour is scheduled to be televised on FOX Sports 1.

Burton’s not concerned, but at the same time, with the affinity he and crew chief Jeriod Prince displayed in their first start together last weekend at Kansas — a sixth-place come-from-behind finish after a mid-race flat tire — accentuates his heady progress.

“We’ve come a long way in a short period of time,” Burton said of his three-race 2014 stint with ThorSport. “We went to Daytona and had a good (sixth-place) run and then went to Martinsville (21st) and found out some of our weaknesses.

“We’ve made strides and made that better and I think our results showed that at Kansas. Without that flat tire I really feel like we had a Carolina Nut Tundra to contend for a top-five — and with the way we tested I feel like that isn’t unreasonable here at Charlotte, either.”

It’s notable that Burton’s first three races with ThorSport have been significantly better than either of his more veteran teammates achieved for owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson — though there’s no question Crafton and Sauter’s skills have consistently shown well over time.

But Burton’s aware his new team-building exercise is a work in progress, and the progress to this point has him smiling a lot.

“I’m excited,” Burton said. “We had a really good test (here) a couple weeks ago, the team is clicking, our pit stops have gotten better and I think we can have a top-five run at Charlotte.”

ThorSport’s ongoing sponsorship search to keep running Burton hasn’t been a distraction for either the team or its driver, who’s exhibiting focus beyond expectations for his age — 21.

“It’s definitely not too much fun but you’ve got to perform,” Burton said. “I’m under the same pressure I had last year — I knew if I didn’t perform I wouldn’t be out here this year.

“So when you put your helmet on you try not to think about it and you just go and do your deal.”

Friday afternoon the 33 entered trucks will have the Truck Series’ second multi-segment, elimination-style group Keystone Light Pole Qualifying session to set the up-to 36-truck starting lineup at 5:40 p.m., with live coverage on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 5:30.

Friday evening’s 134-lap, 201-mile main event will be telecast live on FOX Sports 1 at 8:30 p.m. ET, preceded by The Setup pre-race show at 8. The live broadcast on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio begins with pre-race coverage at 8. Live timing & scoring for the weekend’s events will be at www.nascar.com.

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ThorSport Racing, based in a state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot facility in Sandusky, Ohio, is the longest-tenured NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team. ThorSport, which has run in the Truck Series since 1996, in 2014 will run the No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra driven by 2013 drivers’ champion Matt Crafton, the No. 98 Nextant Aerospace/Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff/Carolina Nut Co./Curb Records Toyota Tundra driven by Johnny Sauter and the No. 13 Carolina Nut Co. Toyota Tundra driven by Jeb Burton in the Truck Series and the No. 13 Toyota Camry in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.