After sponsorship fell through, Jeb Burton lands new NASCAR Trucks ride for Daytona

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Less than a week ago, Jeb Burton experienced one of the harshest realities of NASCAR.

Just as he was preparing for his second full season on the Camping World Truck Series, Burton learned that primary sponsorship for his ride had fallen through.

Bye bye sponsorship, bye bye season, bye bye Turner Scott Motorsports.

Burton took to Twitter to express his emotion: “Really hard time for my team and my family. My future is unclear right now, but we’re doing everything we can to be on the track in 2014.”

But on Thursday, Burton also experienced some of the largesse within the NASCAR family when it was announced that ThorSport Racing had stepped up and offered Burton a ride in both the season-opening Camping World Truck Series and ARCA races in two weeks at Daytona International Speedway.

Burton, 21, the son of 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton and nephew of soon-to-be NASCAR on NBC TV analyst Jeff Burton, will drive the No. 13 Toyota for ThorSport in the trucks race.

And if things go well and additional sponsorship steps forward, Burton may wind up doing additional races for ThorSport, which won championships last season in both the trucks series (Matt Crafton) and ARCA (Frank Kimmel).

“The opportunity to come to ThorSport is a big deal for me, my career and my family,” Burton said. “It’s an honor to me that (team owners) Duke and Rhonda Thorson would make the call to put me in their vehicles — the best there is in both series.

“Mr. Thorson has proven his commitment to the Truck Series — he’s a racer, that’s what it’s all about and it feels good to be here. I feel like it’s a place where I can race, and win for many years.”

Burton, who finished fifth in the trucks standings for Turner Scott Motorsports last season, will be part of a three-driver ThorSport juggernaut including returning champ Crafton and Johnny Sauter, who finished one point and one spot ahead of Burton in last year’s standings.

Burton has been looked upon as one of the most promising young drivers in NASCAR today. He won his first race last June at Texas in only his 12th career start and earned an outstanding seven pole positions during the season. He also finished eighth in a one-off Nationwide Series start at Kentucky.

“I can’t tell you how great it is to get this deal done in a very short amount of time,” ThorSport team manager David Pepper said. “This gives us a great driver that can win both the Truck and ARCA races over the next couple weeks.

“We’ve had our eyes on Jeb the last few years and one thing that really stands out is how well he gets along with Matt and Johnny and the respect they have for each other. To have the opportunity to get Jeb into our ThorSport family of drivers is a great move for both parties.”

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‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”