By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Jeb Burton made his second NASCAR Xfinity Series start of 2020 in Saturday’s Unhinged 300 at Talladega Superspeedway and it was a career day for the part-time competitor, scoring a career-best third-place finish after leading 8 of 113 laps.
The 27-year-old Virginian was in prime position of putting his No. 8 LS Tractor Chevrolet Camaro into victory lane as the race came down to the final three laps between him and Justin Haley, who was also hungry of capturing that long elusive series victory.
Coming to the white flag, it was Burton who was winning the battle, but the war was far from over.
As the field hit the backstretch for the final time, Burton continued leading but would be outnumbered by Kaulig Racing’s triple teamwork as Haley received tremendous help by teammates Ross Chastain and A.J. Allmendinger, who were on the preferred top lane.
On the other hand, Burton only had Austin Cindric on the bottom as Chastain pushed Haley to the front, clearing the JR Motorsports driver and went on to score his maiden series win by 0.299 seconds.
The battle shifted to the runner-up spot as Burton and Chastain battled hard for that spot, but it would be the latter who crossed the line in second by inches, capping off a 1-2 effort for the Matt Kaulig owned team.
“I was waving the 22 (Cindric) with my hand and he never got to my bumper like I wanted him to. It actually worked out, but if he could’ve got to my bumper, we would’ve cleared those guys even more and maybe would’ve won the race,” Burton on Cindric’s lack of drafting help on the final lap.
Cindric said with the inside row being more broken up, it was going to be tough for him to move towards the front. He would’ve liked to work with Burton and stop the Kaulig train, but would’ve required extra assistance from other drivers to make it possible.
“You had three teammates when we came to two to go, so that was gonna be hard to beat from the start,” said Cindric. “I just wish I would have been able to have some more help behind me to be able to push the 8 to the lead and maybe try to race with him for the win.”
In addition of losing on the last lap, Burton commented why blocking the Kaulig cars wouldn’t bode well, fearing it would’ve led to another wrecked car like at Daytona where he finished 23rd.
“I had the lead on the white flag and was leading coming off (turn) 2. I maybe could’ve jumped up in front of the 11 (Haley), but (Chastain and Allmendinger) had such ahead of steam,” said Burton. “I think would’ve crashed everybody if I did that.”
“I’m frustrated and definitely going to look at it and try to do better next time,” Burton added.
Burton’s first top-five of 2020 did have a positive and that’s keeping the No. 8 team in the top-1o in the Xfinity Series owner points battle as Saturday marked the team’s fourth top-five in the last six races.
The shared car driven by Burton, Daniel Hemric and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sits eighth in points, 54 points above the cutoff line going into the Pocono Green 225 at Pocono Raceway June 28. Live coverage of the 90-lap race begins at 12:30 p.m. on FS1.