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Jeb Burton to race in Kroger 250 at Martinsville

Jeb Burton’s anxious wait is almost over. It was over a month and a half ago when it was announced Burton will be competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season. Because he lacked superspeedway experience, Burton had to stay on the sidelines and watched as his father, former Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, drove his truck to a top-ten finish in the season opener at Daytona.

On Friday, the younger Burton’s wait will finally end.

That is when he will climb behind the wheel of the No. 27 State Water Heaters sponsored truck for a series of practice sessions at Martinsville Speedway that will lead up to Saturday’s qualifying, and ultimately, the start of the Kroger 250 Saturday afternoon.

“Finally, the time is here,” Burton remarked.

“I’ve waited and waited, and it seems like this time would never get here.”

Burton has tested the truck with the Hillman Racing Team led by well-known veteran crew chief Mike Hillman. He said the test several weeks ago at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C. went well.

“We ran really fast,” Burton pointed out.

“The team was real impressed. They’re pumped up and ready to go just like I am. I’m really excited to be able to work with the people at State Water Heaters, and I think they’re excited to work with us. They have worked with my father for awhile, and they’ve helped me a lot since I’ve come into the picture.”

Martinsville Speedway, which this weekend hosts the season’s second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, is the best possible place for Burton to get his feet wet in the Truck Series.

Burton has experience competing at the paper clip-like half-mile oval in the NASCAR Late Model Stock Car Division, and has a good idea of what to expect there.

“I know how to get around that place,” Burton pointed out.

“I had a little bad luck last fall when we raced our Late Model Stock Car at Martinsville. I was running in the top five with six laps to go and had a little bad luck and finished 28th. The team put a good car under me and I showed that day what we can do.”

The goal this weekend, Burton said, is to bring home a top-15 finish.

“The first goal is to keep my nose clean, stay out of trouble and bring the truck home in one piece,” he pointed out.

“The next goal is to finish in the top 15. I really feel like I can do that. I would be kind of disappointed with that in a way, because I want to be in the top ten. But, really, to finish anywhere between 15th and first would be like a win for me. If I can finish somewhere in that range, I won’t hold my head down.”

Saturday’s Kroger 250 will feature a tough field of drivers that will include long-time series veterans as well as several young drivers like Burton who will be looking to start making a name for themselves in the series.

“Nobody intimidates me,” Burton said.

“The big thing for me is keeping my nose clean, earning some respect and logging laps. Mike Hillman and his team are great to work with, They have a Cup car that they are working on as well as my truck. I’ve just got to go out there Saturday and take care of my truck. They’ve worked hard on it, and I want to give the team a good finish they deserve.”

Burton said he plans to race the other drivers around him the way they race him.

“If they root me out of the way, I’ll root them right back,” he pointed out.

“I have a lot of respect for all of the drivers in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. I just hope they will show me some respect.”

After Saturday’s race at Martinsville, the next two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races will be at Rockingham, N.C. and Kansas Motor Speedway respectively. That is a good progression for Burton in terms of experience as the Rockingham, N.C. oval is a one-mile track and the track at Kansas is a high-speed mile-and-a-half track.

“It’s good that NASCAR has the races scheduled like that,” Burton pointed out.

“I wouldn’t get a chance to race if the next race was Kansas because I don’t have superspeedway experience. But, this way, I will have raced at Martinsville, and Dad ran really well at Rockingham when he was racing Cup, and he can help me there.

“I’ve talked to Peyton Sellers a lot and he says I’ll really like Kansas,” Burton continued.

“I’ve never been there, but it looks fun on the video game. From what I’ve seen on in-car cameras and stuff it looks like fun. It’s going to take some getting used to, but I’m excited about it.”

If Burton’s first three races are good outings, and he can prove to NASCAR officials that he is capable of handling things, he can be cleared after the Kansas race to compete on other superspeedways including Talladega and Daytona.

“After Kansas, I will be able to run anywhere in any series,” Burton pointed out.

“Once we go out and prove we can run well, we’ll be ready to take the next step.”