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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Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.