NASCAR: Two drivers to make historic Cup Series debuts at Talladega

Harrison Burton and Jennifer Jo Cobb will make their NASCAR Cup Series debut on April 25 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Harrison Burton and Jennifer Jo Cobb will make their NASCAR Cup Series debuts at the GEICO 500 on April 25 at Talladega Superspeedway, their respective teams announced this week. Each brings their own unique brand of history into the Cup Series, which will first run at Richmond Raceway this coming Sunday (3 p.m. ET, Fox).

Burton will pilot the No. 96 Toyota for Gaunt Bros. Racing. The 20-year-old currently races full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in the No. 20 Toyota, previously piloted by current Cup regulars Erik Jones (2015-17) and Christopher Bell (2018-19). Burton burst onto the Xfinity Series scene last season with top ten finishes in each of his first ten races, a stretch that included wins at Fontana and Homestead. Though he failed to reach the Xfinity Series’ championship quartet at the end of the year, he would earn triumphs in the penultimate races of the season at Texas and Martinsville. Prior to his arrival at Gibbs, Burton won the 2017 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East regional stock car championship.

The No. 20 currently ranks third in the modern Xfinity Series standings. Burton has tallied five top ten finishes over the first seven races.

With his entry, Burton will become the fourth member of his family to partake in a Cup Series event. His father Jeff, now a NASCAR analyst for NBC Sports, won 21 Cup events in a career spent mostly with owners Jack Roush and Richard Childress. That tally includes two victories in the Coca-Cola 600. Harrison’s uncle and Jeff’s brother Ward won the 2002 Daytona 500 and has since gained viral attention for his sporting and conservation efforts. Ward’s son Jeb currently races alongside cousin Harrison in the Xfinity Series, driving the No. 10 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing. Harrison will also become the first driver born in the 21st century to partake in a Cup Series event upon his entry.

Gaunt Bros. Racing entered the Cup Series last season with Daniel Suarez behind the wheel. The team reverted to a part-time schedule this year, as team ran the Daytona road course and the Bristol dirt race with Ty Dillon behind the wheel. DEX Imaging, Burton’s primary sponsor in the Xfinity Series, will grace the No. 96 for the Talladega event.

Meanwhile, Cobb will make her NASCAR Cup Series debut in the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet. Though Cobb has run in subpar equipment throughout her career, she has been a staple in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since 2011, fielding her own vehicles through her team, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing. Her best career finish was a sixth-place posting at the season opening race at Daytona in 2011, with her best placement in the standings being 16th in 2014.

Cobb is perhaps best known on the Truck Series for her refusal to partake in the “start-and-park” phenomena that was prevalent in the last decade, refusing to drive an Xfinity (then Nationwide) car for 2nd Chance Motorsports when owner Rick Russell ordered to bring the car to the garage area shortly after the start to collect prize money for a list place finish.

She will be the 21st female driver to partake in Cup Series racing and the first since Danica Patrick in the 2018 Daytona 500. Her 216 starts in the Truck Series are the most among female drivers in NASCAR’s three national series. Cobb has had some recent success at Talladega, as her No. 10 Chevrolet Silverado led a career-best 16 laps at the Truck Series’ visit to the track last October. The Truck Series will run its own event, the ToyotaCare 250, at Richmond on Saturday (1:30 p.m. ET, FS1). Cobb’s No. 10 will start 33rd.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags