Burton’s NASCAR career has been filled with a roller coaster ride of high and lows, from losing rides to running part-time seasons to earning the opportunity this year to compete with Kaulig Racing, one of Xfinity’s top organizations.
With a strong debut season at Kaulig featuring his first series win, Burton, 29, is seeded seventh in the 12-driver field entering the playoff opener Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Losing a major backer
But a recent decision by his primary sponsor Nutrien Ag Solutions to pull out of NASCAR at season’s end has left Burton fighting for both a championship and a fulltime ride at the same time.
Nutrien AG funded 19 of the schedule’s 33 races and without that income Burton will not be able to retain his fulltime ride.
“It’s definitely been a difficult situation with everything that’s gone on with Nutrien Ag Solutions,” Burton said Tuesday during Xfinity Series playoffs media day. “I’ve enjoyed my time with them and felt like we’ve done a good job for them. Sometimes, in corporate America, things happen that are out of your control.
“We’re still going to have a relationship with Nutrien AG Solutions, I believe, and we’re working hard on that, see where that goes. But without them, I wouldn’t be in this position or with Kaulig Racing. I appreciate that.”
Burton, the son of NASCAR standout Ward Burton, has competed in national series competition since 2012, but including this year, has only been able to run three fulltime seasons.
In two full seasons in Trucks in 2013 and 2014, Burton amassed a win, seven top-five and 18 top-10 finishes in 44 races. His win and best finish in the series standings – fifth – both came in 2013 with Turner Motorsports.
In every other season, Burton has worked tirelessly to put together part-time deals that would give him the best opportunity to showcase his talent to earn a fulltime ride.
Auditioning while fighting for a title
His 11-race Xfinity deal in 2020 with JR Motorsports featuring three top-five finishes (including a second at Richmond, Va.) is what helped him land the ride at Kaulig.
“Right now, we’re focused on the playoffs. Need to go win some races – that’s not going to hurt anything – and try to win a championship,” Burton said. “This has been a great year for me at Kaulig Racing. I’ve won a race, I’ve got a bunch of top-fives; a bunch of top-10s. I know I can get the job done.
“I feel like these next several weeks I’m auditioning for my career.”
That’s not a new situation for Burton.
“When it comes to my career you know my back has always been kind of against the wall, right? It definitely hasn’t been easy by any means,” he said.
“The pressure has always been there with uncertainty. We just need to try to get it done.”