“A dream come true.”
Those were the words that an emotional Jeb Burton used in a Monday morning press conference where he was announced as a full time driver for the Nutrien Ag Solutions car for Kaulig Racing in next seasons NASCAR Xfinity Series. Coming off of a solid season running 11 races for JR Motorsports, Burton was hoping to land a full time ride for the 2021 season and his dream came true with the announcement on Monday.
Kaulig Racing shared a video on their social media accounts to announce Burton’s signing with the team and showed how Burton found out that he was getting the chance to drive full time. The meeting occurred back on Oct. 14 and Burton, along with his father Ward sat down with Chris Rice, president of Kaulig Racing and Brett Griffin and spoke over video to Brent Smith, vice president of marketing, sustainability and proprietary products at Nutrien Ag Solutions. Rice, who is also a native of Halifax County, announced that they were offering Burton a 33-race schedule for the 2021 season.
It took Burton a second to realize what had just happened as he paused for a second and had to ask Rice again if it was true. “I didn’t think it was real at first,” Burton said in his press conference Monday. Burton said that Rice had him and his father come down to the shop to meet everyone from Nutrien Ag Solutions on a Zoom call, but when he went down there he had no idea they were going to offer him the spot.
“I had went and talked to Chris (Rice), my dad and I did, for about 30 minutes before the Zoom call and Chris had me going pretty good. He wasn’t the most positive about what was about to happen in that meeting and Chris is normally a positive guy. So when he was down I was like well this isn’t good,” Burton said.
But it was only a few minutes later that Rice offered Burton the opportunity he has been working toward his entire life.
“This is unbelievable,” Burton said. “It is something we have been working on for a long time and to have an opportunity like this and to be partnered with a great organization like Kaulig Racing and a great brand with Nutrien Ag Solutions, it is just a dream come true and to be in the car every week is going to be great for me as well.”
Burton has been working towards this opportunity to race full time in the Xfinity Series since he started racing go-karts at the age of 12. Burton has had a full time ride in the truck series before, but this is the first time he will run a full schedule in NASCAR’s second division. 2021 will also be the first time since 2015 that he has run more than 20 races in a season, something that will help Burton become more consistent on the track.
“It has been really tough not racing but every once in a while, and to get in that rhythm and have that chemistry with the crew chief,” Burton said. “I think that has been part of my struggle the last few years is just not having that consistency and every race is a life or death moment for me so now I can really focus on my race craft. I can work with my team and they can kind of build notes to help me and know what I like as well and I will become a better race car driver,” he added.
Burton isn’t heading into next season looking to ride around and enjoy the opportunity; he has his eyes set on a championship when he gets on the track beginning at Daytona in February.
“To be able to run for a championship is a dream come true,” Burton said. “We will definitely have a shot at that and that is our goal coming into the season is to have a shot at that championship and to make that final four. I know that I can do it and I know that Kaulig Racing can as well.”
Burton got emotional talking about the road to get to where he is now and how there were times when he wasn’t sure if his racing career was going to pan out. “It was so many times that I didn’t know what I was going to do. I am getting kind of emotional thinking about it. It has been a whirlwind,” he said.
Burton’s father Ward, who is a NASCAR legend and Daytona 500 winner, commented in Kaulig Racing’s video about his son’s drive and dedication to getting this opportunity.
“There is nobody that you will ever meet that has worked harder for this opportunity than my son,” Ward said.
As Burton prepares for Daytona in February, Kaulig Racing is building a team that has consistently improved over the last several years. Burton is replacing Ross Chastain who is headed to Chip Gannasi Racing in the Cup Series. Justin Haley is coming off of a final four finish in the Xfinity Series this season and AJ Allmendinger races part time for the team.
“Matt Kaulig and Chris Rice have done a great job building that race team. They are really passionate about winning and you can see that this past year, they have won a lot of races and made the final four and I couldn’t be more happy to be at Kaulig Racing with Nutrien Ag Solutions. I think it is going to be a great partnership,” said Burton.