Jeb Burton scored his first career Camping World Truck Series victory back in June at Texas Motor Speedway. He hasn’t won since.
Perhaps a return to the fast 1.5-mile track is all that Burton needs to change that. He’ll get a chance in Friday night’s WinStar World Casino 350.
"I’m a little disappointed that we haven’t won again," said the son of 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton and nephew of Sprint Cup Series veteran Jeff Burton. "We’ve done some things that I wish we wouldn’t have done, setup-wise and with stuff on the racetrack. They’ve hurt us and we’ve made some mistakes, so that’s a little bit of it. And then my inexperience going to places I’ve never been to before is a little bit of it, too."
Compared to most of his Truck Series peers — including others who are relative newcomers — 21-year-old Burton falls on the low end of the experience pendulum. Before landing a fulltime ride for 2013 with Turner Scott Motorsports, the second-generation driver had logged only five truck starts — all coming last season with Hillman Racing.
Prior to his truck debut, Burton’s only meaningful racing experience had come in Late Models at Saturday night short tracks in North Carolina and his home state of Virginia. So when Burton hopped in a truck this season for one of the series’ top organizations, he faced a significant learning curve.
"The biggest challenge has been not having that experience," Burton said. "I never ran in ARCA (full-time) or the NASCAR K&N Series or any of that stuff like all these other guys have, so I’ve just jumped out of Late Model and started racing trucks, so that’s been a big adjustment."
Adjustment or not, Burton has impressed as a Truck Series rookie. With three races to go, the native of Halifax, Va., is fourth in the standings but only 17 points behind second-place James Buescher.
Burton, who is 68 points adrift of championship leader Matt Crafton, has big goals before the season concludes in two weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"We want to be top three the next three races and try to win at least two of them. That’d be nice," said Burton, who will be back in a truck for Turner Scott in 2014. "If Matt messes up, we’ll be right there and try to take advantage of it, but if not, second is pretty good my rookie year."
Burton won’t be satisfied finishing second on Friday night at Texas, a track where he had turned nary a lap before showing up for the June race. Race Burton did that night — right to the front — where he spent the final 25 laps en route to his first win in just his 12th truck start.
Burton took the lead for good when he passed Ty Dillon on the first lap after restarting second on the final restart. Burton hopes to find himself in a similar spot in the late stages of Friday night’s race.
"You can run the high line at Texas, and we got that working for us early in the June race, and that paid off," he said. "So we’ve definitely got to get that going again, and get our truck handling good. We didn’t lead the thing until 25 to go last time, and we’ve just got to put our self in position this time to be in contention on that last restart, and make something happen."
There to watch Burton, as he was in June, will be his father and mentor. Ward, a winner of five races in 375 Sprint Cup Series starts, has become more hands-off as his son has progressed this season.
"Anything he can do to help me, he does," Jeb said. "Most of the time he just backs away and lets me do my own thing now. That’s kind of the way I want it. He can’t turn the wheel for me."
But he will undoubtedly be around to celebrate with Jeb if the young Burton backs up his June victory with a season sweep.
"To have a good opportunity this year and to win that race was really cool," Burton said. "And, then, to win at Texas was big, and just to win one of the truck races was big, also. It took a couple days to sink in, but after that, it was on to the next one. And we want to win another one before the year’s out."