Saturday, July 30, 2022

XFINITY: Freak mechanical issue keeps Jeb Burton from taking the green at Indy

PHOTO: @OurMotorsports

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Jeb Burton picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit when his #27 Ergodyne Work Gear Chevrolet fell out with track bar issues without completing any of the 62 laps.

The finish came in Burton’s 96th series start. In the XFINITY Series rankings, it was the 1st due to a track bar, the 20th for the #27, and the 600th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 2nd from a track bar, the 58th for the #27, and the 1,851st for Chevrolet.

The finish also came in Burton’s 186th combined Cup, XFINITY, and Truck Series start. With now one last-place finish in each series, Burton has become the 39th driver to complete the LASTCAR Triple Crown. His Truck Series last-place finish came on April 21, 2012 when his #27 State Water Heaters Chevrolet crashed after 2 laps at Kansas. His Cup last-place finish came on October 4, 2015, when his #23 Dr. Pepper / Estes Express Lines Toyota crashed after 186 laps at Dover.

Last Saturday in Pocono, it was Burton whose car was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Coming off Turn 3, he was caught between a wrecking Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and the outer pit wall, sending the #27 onto its roof as it slid across the starting line. Burton was uninjured, but his rollercoaster first season with Our Motorsports continued. 

The offer to drive for Chris Our’s new third team came after Burton’s release from Kaulig Racing, which brought on Landon Cassill in his place. Last year’s Talladega winner joined Brett Moffitt (#02) and Anthony Alfredo (#23). While still without a top-ten finish – something both Moffitt and Alfredo have done in multiple races in 2021 – Burton showed consistency early on, scoring just two finishes worse than 19th in the first 13 races. It’s only in the six races since that he’s struggled, racking up four DNFs including Pocono’s – all due to crashes.

At Indy, Burton joined a stacked entry list of 42 drivers to contest the 38-car starting grid, including no fewer than six full-time Cup Series regulars. All six made the show in qualifying, bumping out four lesser-funded entries including Motorsports Business Management teammates J.J. Yeley in the #66 Elliott’s Trailers & Carts Toyota and Brad Perez, attempting his first XFINITY race in the #13 APEX Coffee Roasters Toyota. Mason Filippi missed the cut in the #90 / Motorized Shade Chevrolet after he and a friend drove to the track from San Francisco in three days. Josh Williams DNQ’d in the #78 Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet, but would return to make his second Cup start for Live Fast Motorsports on Sunday.

Burton ran 22nd in practice and secured 21st on the starting grid with a speed of 95.763mph (1 minute, 31.689 seconds). He’d also have an on-board camera for the race, and would be featured in the lead-up to the green flag to discuss the Pocono accident. In the lead-up to the race, he also handed out signed flags and hats to fans in the infield.

Securing the 38th and final starting spot was Brandon Brown, who due to sponsorship issues ceded his ride in his family’s own team to Cup regular Austin Dillon, who brought Maestro’s Classic as sponsor of the #68 Chevrolet. Brown took the wheel of Mike Harmon Racing’s #47 Chevrolet, replacing Brennan Poole. Both Jones and 20th-place Dillon were among the seven drivers sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments, joining 26th-place Anthony Alfredo in the #23 K&L Ready Mix Chevrolet, 24th-place Kaz Grala in the #48 Chevrolet for Big Machine Racing, 34th-place Bayley Currey in the #4 Hy-Vee Chevrolet, 36th-place Brandon Jones in the #19 Menards / DuPont Air Filter Toyota, and 37th-place Parker Kligerman in the #35 ProMaster Chevrolet. Kligerman was the only driver to not clock in a time on qualifying as he struggled with power steering issues. Also sent to the rear was 19th-place Miguel Paludo for a tire change on his #88 BRANDT Chevrolet.

Before the race even started, two more teams had issues. Chase Briscoe was set to start 6th in the #07 Production Alliance Group Ford for SS-Green Light Racing, and was also reported to have changed tires, incurring a tail-end penalty of his own. But after the first pace lap, Briscoe was on pit road with the hood up, complaining that his car had a “high idle” in the engine due to a possible throttle issue. Briscoe returned to the track, but another car was still sitting in its pit stall. This was Jeb Burton, who reported an issue with the rear track bar. A spotter reported the bar may have come loose on the left-rear. As Briscoe returned to the track, Burton’s car was pushed behind the wall, the driver visibly upset from the on-board camera.

When the green flag dropped, Burton was shown 12.391 seconds back of the lead, but already in the garage with his issue. Brandon Brown held the 37th spot, 4.926 back of the leader with Kligerman 36th and Briscoe already up to 35th after his own pace lap issues. Burton remained in the garage on Lap 5, when Parker Kligerman now had engine issues on the #35, forcing an unscheduled stop that dropped him to 37th. The Emerling-Gase team called for a replacement battery as the gauges shut off, and also removed the rev limiter chip. When Kligerman rebooted the system, the car re-fired and returned to the track laps down on the sixth circuit – only to incur a pass-through penalty for too many crew members over the wall.

On Lap 9, a member of Burton’s crew came over the team radio, saying “We are gonna put it in the trailer,” also saying “Sorry to waste you guy’s time.” On Lap 13, NASCAR declared him out due to a track bar issue, though Burton would later tweet a truck arm had been the culprit. The next time by, Kligerman’s race ended when he lost all brake pressure heading into Turn 7 and collided with Ryan Ellis in the #44 Chevrolet, drawing the caution flag. With heavy damage to the rear clip of his car, Ellis still managed to log another few laps before he had to call it a day, continuing a terrible streak of races for the lead Alpha Prime entry.

Taking 35th was Bubba Wallace, whose #18 Door Dash Toyota made an early stop for overheating issues, then was ultimately retired with a blown engine. Brandon Brown was visibly off the pace in the closing laps, and dropped out with suspension issues just before the finish.

On a combined weekend with the IndyCar Series, A.J. Allmendinger took the victory with two other open-wheelers earning strong runs. After the struggles of his teammate, Sage Karam turned in a career-best 13th-place finish in only his 10th series start. Karam’s #45 Market Rebellion Chevrolet took the checkers four spots ahead of Santino Ferrucci, who had a couple close calls en route to a 17th-place showing in Sam Hunt Racing’s #26 Screamin’ Sicilian / Kroger Toyota. While not a career-best, Ferrucci has now finished 17th or better in six of his nine career starts.

*The only other time a driver finished last in a NASCAR points-paying race due to a track bar issue was on June 30, 2019, when Quin Houff’s #77 Sleep6 Chevrolet fell out after 100 laps at Chicagoland.
*This is the second-straight year a driver failed complete the opening lap of the XFINITY race at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, following a 2021 race where six drivers ran over a rogue “turtle” speed bump off Turn 6. It’s also the first time the last-place finisher didn’t take the green flag on track since Bayley Currey’s #74 Electric Fence Reel Chevrolet found trouble at Texas on June 12, 2021.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #27 in a XFINITY Series race since March 16, 2013, when Michael McDowell’s #27 Team Boom Toyota had handling issues after 2 laps at Bristol.

38) #27-Jeb Burton / 0 laps / track bar
37) #35-Parker Kligerman / 11 laps / crash
36) #44-Ryan Ellis / 17 laps / crash
35) #18-Bubba Wallace / 28 laps / engine
34) #47-Brandon Brown / 58 laps / suspension

1st) Alpha Prime Racing (4)
2nd) JD Motorsports, JR Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Motorsports Business Management (2)
3rd) Big Machine Racing, Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, Our Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Sam Hunt Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Toyota (3)
3rd) Ford (2)


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