Jeb Burton had the lead coming to the white flag on Saturday afternoon in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Unhinged 300 at Talladega Superspeedway, but as he came out of turn two on the final lap Kaulig Racing teammates Justin Haley and Ross Chastain had a head of steam as they used that momentum to get by Burton on the bottom to finish one-two, and Burton finished third.
While it was a solid day for Burton, a Halifax County native, in only his second Xfinity Series start this season for Jr. Motorsports, Burton was left frustrated knowing if one or two things went different he would have gotten the win on Saturday.
Burton led eight total laps during the race, most of them coming in the final 10 laps of the race. With eight laps remaining, a big wreck behind Burton caused the race to be red-flagged with Burton in the lead. When the race restarted with four laps to go, Burton thought that Chastain was behind Anthony Alfredo, so he chose the bottom line to put Austin Cindric behind him.
“I thought that the 21 (Alfredo) car was in front of the 10 (Chastain) car, they were on the red flag and when we came back around I took the bottom because I was like ‘Alright I will just put the 22 (Cindric) behind me’ and then the teammates were lined up so somehow they switched positions,” Burton said in his post race press conference. “So that was a little frustrating to see that because I would have definitely put Ross (Chastain) behind me, and I think he would have probably pushed me to the win, but hindsight’s 20/20, we just have to keep getting more information next time,” Burton added.
Even though he was leading on the final lap — and finished in third position — Burton was frustrated that he didn’t finish the day in victory lane.
“I was slamming the steering wheel when I crossed the start/finish line if that tells you anything,” Burton told one reporter after they asked if he was happy with the third place finish. “I really want to win, but at the same time we survived today and it was a good day for our partners,” he added.
On the last restart after the red flag with four laps to go, Cindric was behind Burton on the bottom line as they took the green flag. Cindric was never able to hook up to Burton’s rear bumper to push him in front of the Kaulig teammates, Haley and Chastain. Burton had the lead for half of the final lap, but the momentum from the Kaulig teammates and the lack of a push from Cindric left Burton watching as Haley and Chastain took the checkered flag in front of him.
“If he (Cindric) could have got to my bumper like I wanted him to we would have cleared those guys even more and maybe would have won the race. I had the lead on the white flag, I was leading coming off of two,” Burton said. “I maybe could have jumped up in front of the 11 (Haley) but they had such a head of steam that I probably would have crashed everybody if I would have done that,” he added.
Burton also was asked about if his father, Ward Burton, has given him any advice about restrictor plate races because he had so much success with them in his career.
“Dad’s gave me some good advice, really just be smart, use your mirrors, know what is around you and when you see runs coming if you can get in front of them do it,” Burton said. “Dad lets me do my own thing, he is really good at telling me what he sees and what I am doing wrong so he will speak up, but that is good. I need someone in my corner to tell me when I am doing things wrong,” he added.
As a part-time driver for Jr. Motorsports, this was only Burton’s second race of the season. His first race was in the season opener at Daytona back in February. Burton led the most laps in that race and was in prime position to win before he was caught up in a late race wreck that ended his chances.
Burton is scheduled to run races at Indianapolis, Kentucky and Texas in the coming weeks. With his finish Saturday, Burton qualified for the Dash for Cash next week at Pocono, where if he is the highest finisher out of the four drivers participating he would win $100,000. As of right now Burton is not scheduled to run next weekend, and the next driver in line would take his spot if he does not run the race.
Burton said it was nice to get behind the wheel a couple of times a week instead of the way it has been when it has been over one hundred days since his last Xfinity Series race.
“Every time I get behind the wheel I treat it as my last one. Without the partners I have I wouldn’t be at Jr. Motorsports, I am lucky to be there. I am really blessed for this opportunity,” Burton said.
Burton’s cousin, Harrison Burton, ended his streak of top ten finishes after being involved in a wreck with 18 laps remaining.
Harrison, who has two wins on the year and had finished in the top ten of every race this season finished in 32 place after the wreck.