Burton rides great support to Daytona Truck Series opener
If support equaled race wins, it wouldn't be necessary for Jeb Burton to even take the green flag Friday night in his No. 13 VAMP / VaporBrands International, Inc. Toyota Tundra in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.
The support -- from fans, sponsors and the media alike -- for the second-year Truck Series wheelman who signed to drive for ThorSport Racing in 2014 less than two weeks ago, has been pleasantly stunning.
But since the actual competition IS the proof of the equally obvious potential ThorSport Racing in 2014 brings to the track -- three times over with the addition of Burton to the roster -- that puts the 21-year-old son of 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton in a rare mood.
"I'm on edge but it's more anticipation than it is nerves or anything like that," Burton said recently. "The credentials of the ThorSport organization are impressive and I will say over and over -- I can't thank Mr. and Mrs. (owners Duke and Rhonda) Thorson enough for this opportunity.
"I'm looking forward to working with Matt (Crafton, 2013 NCWTS drivers' champion) and Johnny (Sauter, defending Daytona race winner) and I really hope and believe we can work together and be a part of making this whole organization even more competitive."
Indeed, Crafton won the Thorson's first NASCAR championship little more than a month after the organization -- with the team that Burton's working with in 2014 -- won the drivers' and owners' titles in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.
Sauter won three races in 2013, the most by a Truck Series regular, and finished fourth in the championship. That was one position ahead of Burton, who as a rookie won the series' season-long Keystone Light Pole Award by winning seven poles and also won his first truck race, in his 12th career start, at Texas Motor Speedway last June.
If that wasn't enough to make Burton a legitimate triple-threat in his ThorSport Tundra, Burton posted the fastest speed in the Truck Series' pre-season Daytona test, held in January at "The World Center of Racing," when he was driving for Turner Scott Motorsports. TSM shut down Burton's team in January when its sponsor left.
It gives the youngster plenty of insight into how his 2014 Tundra will work at Daytona, where the draft is critical. And his vehicle has impressive credentials, which gain steam with the addition of three-time NCWTS champion crew chief Dennis Connor, who guided Sauter's late-season rush to fourth in the standings a year ago.
In 2013, Todd Bodine used it to push Sauter to the front of the field at Daytona, and when Bodine got shuffled to the back of the pack on a late restart, he hooked up with Crafton and enabled the eventual series champion to finish ninth, while Bodine settled for 11th.
The truck didn't race at Talladega in the fall, where race-winner Sauter and Crafton were heading for a one-two finish before Crafton got hooked from behind less than a half-mile from the finish and crossed the finish line backwards, still in the top 10.
"These 2014 trucks suck-up in the draft really well because they punch such a big hole in the air," Burton said. "Racing at this speedway in a truck is just a lot of fun, and having two teammates to work with, with the experience that Matt and Johnny have -- man, it just doesn't get any better.
"We feel like we can make this VAMP / VaporBrands International Tundra competitive pretty quickly, we're looking forward to this new (group) qualifying format and more than anything, I just can't wait for the green flag."
Equally exciting is VaporBrands International's first step into motorsports. With the e-cigarette market in a significant state of growth, VaporBrands and the new VAMP brand look to this primary sponsorship as an opportunity to tap into a market of proven brand-loyal NASCAR fans, making the program with ThorSport and Burton an easy step for the Los Angeles-based company.
"VaporBrands International, Inc. is a marketing and development company striving to achieve commercial success for our partners in various markets across the globe," Wendy Haviland, president of VaporBrands International, Inc. said. "We were looking to connect our e-cigarette brand, VAMP, with highly-engaged and brand-loyal consumers and NASCAR, specifically Jeb Burton and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series were a natural fit for the promotion of our company and the launch of our brand."
Daytona has the most extended format the series will see all season. The opening practice is Wednesday afternoon from 2:30-3:50 p.m. ET, with live TV coverage on FOX Sports 1.
On Thursday, two additional practices are scheduled, from 1:30-2:50 p.m. ET and 4:40-6 p.m., again with live coverage on FOX Sports 1.
The second multi-segment, elimination-style group qualifying for a NASCAR national series will happen Friday at 4:10 p.m. ET with Keystone Light Pole Qualifying setting the 36-truck starting lineup, again with live coverage on FOX Sports 1.
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