Sponsorship woes leave Jeb Burton scrambling again for a NASCAR ride

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CHARLOTTE – For the second consecutive January, a sponsorship implosion suddenly has Jeb Burton scrambling for a NASCAR ride with only two weeks before the season.

A deal to keep him in a ThorSport Racing Toyota recently fell through for the Camping World Truck Series driver, who finished eighth in the 2014 points standings.

“We worked hard trying to return at ThorSport, and we just couldn’t get the details worked out,” Burton told MotorsportsTalk in a phone interview Wednesday morning. “So the result of that is I don’t have a ride right now for this race season. I have no clue what I’m going to do to get back on the racetrack.

The news comes exactly a year after sponsorship trouble knocked Burton from a ride with Turner Scott Motorsports.

“I looked on my calendar, and it’s actually the same day I was released (last year),” he said. “It’s been like a nightmare all over again.”

Burton landed with ThorSport a week later, and the part-time ride eventually grew into full time. His prospects seem bleaker this season.

“We’ve got a couple of people we’re talking to, trying to get something worked out so I can get on the racetrack, but at this time, I don’t have anything,” he said. “It’s so late in the game.”

The son of 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton and nephew of NASCAR winner/NBC Sports analyst Jeff Burton brings cachet with a well-known surname, and the South Boston, Va., native has produced results, too. He won at Texas Motor Speedway in April 2013 in the 12th start of his truck career, and he also captured seven pole positions in his rookie season.

He overcame a slow start last year and posted top fives in two of the final eight races.

I appreciate everything ThorSport did,” he said. “Last year in the same situation, they called and gave me an opportunity and a ride. … We got better throughout the year. I felt like if we’d had one more year, we could have been a top five-team every week.

“Hopefully everything happens for a reason. That’s what I keep telling myself. Hopefully a door will open up.”

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.