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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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”