|TSM's Harry Scott, Jr.|
It’s been a tumultuous week at Turner Scott Motorsports, with the signing of talented youngster Dylan Kwasniewski to a full-time NASCAR Nationwide Series contract, and the loss of a full-time sponsor expected to back sophomore driver Jeb Burton in the Camping World Truck Series.
TSM co-owner Harry Scott, Jr., commented on the team’s status this week, telling Sirius XM NASCAR Radio's Sirius XM Speedway that he looks forward to seeing last year’s K&N Pro Series East champion tackle the Nationwide Series in 2014.
“Dylan is a fantastic kid, a great talent and we’re excited to have him on board,” said Scott. “He got us a championship last year in our K&N operation and we really enjoyed getting to know him. We look forward to working together with him again this year in the Nationwide Series, running for Rookie of the Year and for the championship.”
Scott said he understands the challenges facing a young driver like Kwasniewski, but said his sponsor – Rockstar Energy Drink -- preferred a jump directly from the K&N Pro ranks to Nationwide Series competition.
|Burton: Still hopeful|
“There were sponsor considerations,” said Scott. “Rockstar Energy was interested in getting him directly into the Nationwide Series. Steve (Turner) and I sat down and had a heart-to-heart talk with Dylan about what he would face if he did skip over the Truck Series, and how big a jump that was. We wanted to make sure his expectations – and the sponsor’s – were (realistically) set. It basically came down to the fact that Dylan really wanted to race in the Nationwide Series and that’s where his sponsor support was. We think he has the talent and ability to make an excellent run, and we think he’ll get his feet underneath him quite quickly.
“It definitely is a big step,” admitted Scott, “but I think Dylan is capable of making the jump. I’m sure there will be some rough patches. It’s not all going to be roses, but he’s the type of kid that can handle it. Steve and I have a lot of confidence in him, and if we didn’t, we would not have allowed him to do this.”
On the topic of Burton’s lost sponsorship, Scott said the team was blindsided by Arrowhead e-cigarettes’ decision not to honor the deal for 2014.
“I first got wind of a problem on the Monday we tested in Daytona with the Trucks,” he said. “It felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach by a bull. It was horrible. It’s devastating to Jeb and his whole family. We’ve been working non-stop since then to figure out exactly what position we’re in with that sponsor, and also to determine what other options might be there for Jeb.
|Piquet will not return|
“This could not have come at a worse time for Jeb or the race team,” Scott said. “To have a company renew their sponsorship in November, then tell you in the middle of January that they’re not going to be able to fulfill their obligation, it really puts you behind the eight-ball. Not just for Jeb’s 2014 season, but for all the guys at the shop. It’s definitely been a rollercoaster month.”
Scott said he would not rule out the possibility of running Burton in the season-opener at Daytona this month if another backer can be found, adding, “We’ve even been in talks with other teams and other manufacturers (on Burton’s behalf). The important thing is that Jeb gets on track. He had one heck of a season last year, winning his first race at Texas without having more than a handful of races under his belt.
“I feel a responsibility to Jeb to make sure that I find some way to help him continue his career. There may be options out there with other manufacturers, other teams, or even with us. We’re open to anything right now that will put Jeb on the track.”
Scott stopped short of saying that Burton is free to seek a new ride with another team, however, saying, “No, not quite yet. We’re considering everything, and we won’t take anything out of consideration. But if it came to a situation where he had another opportunity elsewhere and we weren’t able to provide him with an opportunity, we would certainly allow him to continue his career.
“I don’t know exactly what’s going on with that sponsor, or why they’re unable to fulfill their obligation for 2014,” said Scott. “On one hand, Jeb is fortunate that he’s been able to prove what he can do, prove that he has the talent to be successful in this sport. Hopefully, that will open a door somewhere, or keep our door open for him in 2014.”
He said there is virtually no chance of salvaging the team’s relationship with Arrowhead, adding. “I don’t think that can be resurrected. It wasn’t immediately clear (what their situation was), which is frustrating when time is of the essence. When we found out initially that there was a problem, it took us a little while to determine how serious the problem was. We have been assured that it has nothing to do with anything the team has done, or anything Jeb has done. It’s related to business conditions – whatever those may be – and I know that sometimes you have unexpected problems (in business) that trickle down to the race team. I don’t want to denigrate the sponsor any more than necessary.”
Scott also shed light on the status of 2013 TSM drivers Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Miguel Paludo, saying Piquet “is currently not in our stable of drivers.
|Hornaday: In the mix?|
“We weren’t able to put sponsorship together for him in time to make a commitment for 2014. I think he may have a partial deal somewhere else, but I haven’t spoken to Nelson. From what I understand, he’s been out of the country lately, so I haven’t seen him or spoken to him. I’m not sure exactly what his plans are.
“It’s a very similar situation with Miguel Paludo,” he said. “Miguel’s sponsor notified us probably in September that they were not going to have a full season for him (in 2014). We held out hope that we could put him in some Truck races with limited sponsorship, but we don’t have anything concrete for him at this point.
“If something were to come around, we’d love to have Miguel back in our trucks.”
Scott confirmed that Tayler Malsam could fill a Truck Series seat with the team this season, saying, “We’ve had discussions with Tayler. We don’t have anything final yet, but I have pretty good confidence that we’ll get something done with him to do a number of Truck races in a second truck.”
He also revealed that talks are underway with former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday, Jr., to put Hornaday in a TSM entry this season, perhaps splitting time with youngster Brandon Jones.
“We put Ron in one of our trucks at Homestead last year, and it was great to have him,” said Scott. “We would be more than happy to have him in any of our vehicles going forward, but again, it’s a consideration of sponsorship and timing. He is definitely welcome at Turner Scott Motorsports, anytime.”
He said he has also spoken with former series champion Todd Bodine, who drove for the team at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last fall.
“To be honest, we’ve gone down a list of all our former drivers -- and some of our K&N drivers -- who might be interested in doing some truck racing, to fill out a second truck, full-time,” he said. “Just like there’s nothing off the table for Jeb Burton, there’s nothing off the table for that second truck, either.”
He declined to speculate on the likelihood of any of those deals coming to pass, saying, “Until something is signed, sealed and delivered, I don’t want to jinx anything. I don’t have enough rabbit’s feet for that, but I do feel good about it.
“I hope you’ll hear something about that in the next week or 10 days.”