Confirmed: Jeb Burton to drive No. 26 Sprint Cup car for BK Racing

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Less than two weeks after he was released from his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ride by ThorSport Racing, Jeb Burton confirmed to NBCSports.com Sunday afternoon that he has accepted an offer to drive the No. 26 Toyota Camry for BK Racing in the Sprint Cup Series.

An announcement will be made Monday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte, N.C.

“It’s really exciting for me and my family,” Burton said. “I didn’t even know if I was going to race and then for BK Racing to give me a call and give me an opportunity and to believe in me to further my career and get me to the top of the racing world, it’s a dream come true.

“I’ve wanted to be in Cup ever since I was a little kid. Now I have an opportunity to do it, set some goals to win Rookie of the Year, try to finish top-25 in points and go to Daytona (500) and make the field, have a good day and keep my nose clean throughout the season.”

Instead of entering his second season with ThorSport Racing, Burton was released from his Truck ride on Jan. 28 when an agreement could not be reached on a new sponsorship deal for this season.

MORE: Sponsorship woes leave Jeb Burton scrambling again for a NASCAR ride

“I lost my Truck ride, and the next day I got a call asking if I’d be willing to drive a Cup car,” Burton said. “It’s pretty neat. It just shows everything happens for a reason. One door closed and another one opened. I think where I fell on the racetrack and off the racetrack, BK Racing saw something in me and it’s a great opportunity.”

Burton has never raced a Sprint Cup car before, and while Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway begins later this week, he’s prepared for a quick learning curve.

The first Sprint Cup practice session Burton will participate is this Saturday.

“I’ve just got to get up on the wheel and make things happen,” Burton said. “I’m excited, I want to learn as much this year as I can. I’m being thrown right into it, so I hopefully go out and impress some people.”

Burton’s racing experience impressed BK Racing’s owners.

“Ron Devine and I discussed a short list of potential drivers for our No. 26 entry,” BK Racing co-owner Anthony Marlowe told NBCSports.com. “I made initial contact with Jeb with the help of friend James Buescher. Ron, as our majority owner, handled the deal.”With mentorship from JJ Yeley and and Daytona 500 Champion Ward Burton, we believe his learning curve will be reasonable. Fifty-five percent of the time, in major NASCAR series races, Jeb has finished in the top 10. He has finished an insane percentage (more than 92 percent) of his races running. He’s very talented, marketable, and committed to be loyal for years to come. We also believe the crew chief we have paired Jeb with, Patrick Donahue, is very talented.”

Everything has happened so quickly, but Burton says he’s ready for the next chapter of his racing career.

“You have to go in with the mindset knowing you have to have some goals,” he said. “Our goals right now are to make the (Daytona) 500, keep our nose clean and run our laps. If we can do that, we’ll have a successful Daytona trip, and that’s what we’re going down there to do. We’re going down there to make the race and do our job.

“My guys back at the shop are working their butts off right now so we can be really prepared. All through practices and in the new qualifying format and in the Duels, we have to stay out of trouble and miss those wrecks. We can’t be tearing up race cars and that’s our goal.”

Jeb Burton is the son of 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton and nephew of former driver and now NBC NASCAR analyst Jeff Burton.

Jeb Burton finished fifth in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie season in 2013 with Turner Scott Motorsports (including earning his first career win at Texas). A payment dispute with the sponsor forced the team to fold before the 2014 season.

Shortly thereafter, Burton was thrown a lifeline by ThorSport Racing to drive the No. 13 for the full season, eventually finishing eighth, only to be released once again due to a sponsorship issue.

“I had a great year in 2013, had a great team and felt in 2014 I was going to win the championship with that team – and then I lose that ride,” Burton said. “Mr. Thorson at ThorSport gives me a call to drive that truck and we get better for the rest of the year.

“This year, I’m thinking if we can get better and go run for the championship – and then lost that ride. Then I didn’t have anything and now I’m rebuilding with another team.

“Hopefully, I can have a home at BK Racing … (and) this can be something good for BK Racing and myself, get things like they ought to be and get to the next level.”

Burton would not reveal sponsors for the No. 26 Toyota, but USA Today’s Jeff Gluck is reporting that primary sponsors will be Dr. Pepper and the Maxim magazine’s fantasy sports app.

Burton, 22, has 49 career Truck Series starts with one win, seven top-five and 19 top-10 finishes, He also has two Xfinity Series starts with one top-10 finish.

“People have seen that I can drive, they believe in me and that means a lot to me,” Burton said. “Hopefully, I won’t disappoint them. We’re looking forward to this season, and I definitely think we’re going to turn some heads.”

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Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

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Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”