Burton fights back at Martinsville; Still in top 10 in points
Jeb Burton had perhaps the most frustrating weekend of his career at his home track, Martinsville Speedway, but both Burton and his ThorSport Racing crew showed great resolve to make up two laps in their No. 13 VAMP / VaporBrands International, Inc. Toyota Tundra, which finished 21st in Sunday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250.
The race, originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon but postponed by rain until Sunday following the NASCAR Sprint Cup STP 500, took the green flag just after 5:30 p.m. ET and finished almost two hours later at dusk.
Saturday's rainout also resulted in the second consecutive cancellation of the Truck Series' group-style, elimination qualifying.
No one wanted more track time than Burton, who finished third at the short, .526-mile oval twice last season -- including finishing behind a ThorSport one-two in the spring -- but only made his ThorSport debut in the No. 13 VAMP/VaporBrands Tundra at Daytona last month.
"I don't think I've ever struggled so hard at this racetrack in anything I've driven here," Burton said. "But on the positive side, Dennis (Connor, crew chief) and my guys never gave up, never stopped trying and what we made up in the race proved that."
That perseverance enabled Burton to remain in the top-10 in the NCWTS standings, in ninth.
His two ThorSport Racing teammates moved ahead of him. Johnny Sauter's 22 points ahead, tied for the lead after his No. 98 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff / Curb Records Tundra finished fourth and Matt Crafton's third after his No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Tundra won the race -- giving ThorSport Martinsville wins in three of the last four years.
Burton's up-and-down weekend began in Friday's practice, when his Tundra for the most part was too loose. As a result of that, when qualifying was rained-out Burton lined up 22nd based on his speed in the opening practice.
As the race opened his teammates moved forward but mired back in the pack, Burton struggled to get much inside the top 20 while battling traffic and some "robust" short-track racing. He lost a lap while making his first pit stop but kept his head down and kept himself in position to gain a free pass on one of 10 cautions to get back on the lead lap.
Burton's worst break of the race came when his left-rear tire deflated after contact with another truck, which brought out the event's fifth caution a little more than two-thirds of the way through the race. In the process of limping back to Martinsville's pit road, which covers more than half the racetrack, Burton lost two more laps.
But with the encouragement of Connor and spotter Kevin Hamlin and his crew's work Burton never fell outside the top 25 and twice more raced into position to gain a free pass to get back on the lead lap at the finish. He wasn't able to make up the final lap and finished 21st, the second truck one lap down.
"It's a real disappointment but the team never stopped trying -- never stopped digging," Burton said. "I can't thank them enough for that."
"With everything we were dealing with all weekend and the challenges we faced with the weather I felt like Jeb didn't do a bad job," Connor said. "That's Martinsville, it can be a tough place to get a hold of and I was happy that we never stopped trying."
The sponsorship search to keep Burton racing with ThorSport is ongoing.
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