Shutdown 'devastating' to Truck contender Burton
January 31, 2014, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
Defaulted payment from sponsor forces 'especially painful' decision
Jeb Burton figured he'd be spending the last few weeks before Daytona preparing for the Camping World Truck Series opener. He had no idea he'd instead be making telephone calls, searching for a sponsor just to get him there.
Yet that was the cruel reality Friday, when Turner Scott Motorsports announced that the sponsor of its No. 4 truck had defaulted on payments, and as a result Burton's program would not be fielded full-time. Turner Scott said the default by Arrowhead electronic cigarettes would also force the team to lay off as much as 20 percent of its staff.
The news was crushing to Burton, the 21-year-old son of former Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton. The younger Burton finished fifth in Truck Series points last season, and was positioned to be a leading contender for the championship in 2014.
"It's just hard for my family and I," Burton told NASCAR.com by telephone Friday evening. "Racing is kind of my whole life, and to have it kind of taken from me because of something I don’t have any control over is devastating to my family and I. We've just got to keep going forward, and hopefully I'll get an opportunity to get back on the race track."
Toward that end, Burton said he and his father have been "calling and calling" potential sponsors. "We've been close to some things, but nothing's come together," he added. "We've just got to keep digging there."
The loss of the No. 4 team leaves rookie Ben Kennedy as the lone full-time Truck Series driver in the Turner Scott stable. The organization will also field a part-time team with Brandon Jones and other drivers to be named later, as well as two full-time Nationwide Series programs involving Kyle Larson and another driver still to be announced.
"The breakout success of Jeb Burton and the entire No. 4 team in 2013 makes these decisions especially painful," team co-owner Harry Scott Jr. said in a statement. "However, we will do everything we can to put Jeb on the race track with our organization going forward. He is a great talent and has a great career ahead of him. Despite this setback, Turner Scott Motorsports remains strong overall and will compete for championships in both the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. We are extremely proud of the talent of our workforce here at TSM, and it is very difficult for us to lose anyone within our organization. We understand the way that this affects the lives of everyone involved, and we will do our best to assist in placement elsewhere in the sport."
Friday, Burton said he wasn't certain what Turner Scott had in mind as far as a potential part-time schedule, or whether he'd be in the season opener Feb. 21 at Daytona if his current situation remains unchanged. "Right now I feel like something has to come together, because I have not been told if I will be in Daytona or not," Burton said. "I need to find a sponsor."
According to Turner Scott, the situation stems from Arrowhead's "unfortunate and untimely failure to make a critical payment" to the team. Burton, who won one race and earned seven poles in his rookie campaign of 2013, received the bad news earlier this week and has been working the phones ever since.
"I just hate it for my race team and my family," he said. "I thought we had a great team, and I thought we could go win the championship this year. Maybe something will come together and we can still do it, but as of right now, it's not looking too good."
Burton's plight met with plenty of sympathy on Twitter, where the likes of Larson, Brad Keselowski, and JR Motorsports co-owner Kelley Earnhardt Miller all voiced their support. And yet, the disappointment was evident in the driver's voice. "I just want to race," Burton said, and over the next few weeks he plans to prepare as if he's still going to Daytona -- even though right now, he's not certain if he is or not.
"Our sport sometimes isn't fair, like any sport isn't," he said. "We've got to find those sponsor dollars to get on the race track, that's what it seems to me right now. I feel like my family and I can represent a company really well, and I think I can do a good job on the race track and off the race track for a company. I've just got to find a company that wants to sponsor me, so I can try to do a good job for them."