- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Joe Chandler
Jeb Burton will be taking another big step in his young racing career this season, having landed a full-time ride in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series with Hillman Racing. Along with that, Burton’s father, former Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, will drive for the team in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway.
State Water Heaters, which sponsored Ward Burton in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and has sponsored Jeb Burton in the Limited Sportsman and Late Model Stock Car Division ranks, will be the primary sponsor for the No. 27 Chevrolet Silverado truck that the younger Burton will drive this season.
“I’m excited for the opportunity,” the younger Burton said.
“I feel confident that I can do it. I’ve been working out a lot to physically get ready for the Truck. I just need a little time in the truck before we go racing.”
The younger Burton added he is also excited about being able to continue to work with everyone associated with State Water Heaters.
“I’m really excited for this opportunity to work with State Water Heaters and have them as our sponsor,” he said.
“They have been really loyal to us over the years and we appreciate all that they have done.”
Because the younger Burton is not eligible to compete at Daytona as a result of not having previously raced on a superspeedway, Ward Burton will be behind the wheel.
Hillman acquired last season’s points from one of the Germain Racing entries, and, as a result, Ward Burton will have a guaranteed starting spot in the Daytona race and Jeb Burton will be guaranteed starting spots in his first four starts in the truck.
“This is something that I can do to help Jeb move forward in his career,” Ward Burton explained.
“I’m excited. I haven’t driven in awhile, but I’m getting my head back into the game. I want to be a resource for Jeb. I’ve been around long enough to know it’s 25 percent driver, 25 percent equipment and 50 percent luck at Daytona. The main thing at Daytona is to finish the race. If we finish (the race), I think we will have a great run.”
Jeb Burton’s debut in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will come in late March at Martinsville Speedway. He has had success at the half-mile oval and it will be a good starting point for the young driver.
“Martinsville is a good track for me,” the young driver said.
“I ran really fast there in the fall with my Late Model program. I’m excited about it.”
The younger Burton will get his feet wet in the Hillman Racing entry with a test prior to the Daytona race and two or three additional tests after Daytona.
“I’m glad we will be able to test three or four times before Martinsville,” he remarked.
“I will be able to get comfortable with what I’m driving before we go racing. I just want to get the testing done so I will know what I’m looking for in the Truck and what needs to be done before we go racing.”
Team owner Mike Hillman has been a longtime figure in NASCAR racing. He served as crew chief for Tommy Ellis when Ellis won what was then the NASCAR Busch Series championship.
Hillman, who owned 25 percent of Germain Racing, acquired all of the Truck assets from Germain Racing at the end of last season. He won two NASCAR Truck championships with Todd Bodine, the last in 2010, and was a key figure in Germain Racing’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team.
He says Jeb Burton has what it takes to be successful in the sport.
“I think Jeb has shown a great desire,” Hillman said.
“I’m excited from looking at his stats and talking to him about what he has accomplished in Late Models. I think his talent level is good enough that we’ve already taught him the things he needs to know to go and race hard.”
As far as Burton’s leaning curve goes, Hillman said “I think his learning curve is going to be pretty fast, pretty furious. I think he will jump right in there and run real competitively. I think if we give Jeb the equipment I know we can deliver and get all of the pieces in place, his success will come pretty rapidly.”
Hillman said he is looking forward to working with Ward Burton as well.
“Ward wanted to do all he could to help his career,” Hillman explained.
“I think he’s really excited about getting the opportunity to go back down there.
“Our speedway program has always been super strong,” Hillman added.
“We won four restrictor-plate races in a row with Todd Bodine. The truck we will use at Daytona is the same truck that we’ve had all of that success with. We’re really looking forward to getting down there and letting Ward have some fun.”
Hillman said there is a possibility that Ward Burton may run some additional races with the team.
“Hopefully we can entice enough sponsorship to run Ward in more races and have him and Jeb racing together as teammates,” he pointed out.
“If we don’t have to take anything away from what we’re doing with Jeb, our next goal is to run a partial schedule with a second driver, and, hopefully, that will be Ward. Hopefully we can put the sponsorship packages together to make that happen. But, that’s on the back burner.”
While the deal with Jeb Burton is a one-year deal, Hillman said he hopes he and Burton can be together for some time to come.
“I want to look at this as Mike Hillman and Hillman Racing building Jeb’s career and Mike Hillman’s race team together so that five years from now we can take this thing to the Cup level,” Hillman explained.
“I want a guy that wants to succeed and wants to have a great career in this sport. It can only be a one-year commitment because we have to prove to State Waters and the racing fraternity we’re serious. But, we’ve never looked at it as a one-year program. It’s about building for a long-term future.”