By: Ashley McCubbin
While the focus has been on Austin Cindric winning the first two races, Harrison Burton is also leaving his mark in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season with finishes of second and sixth.
The sixth in the Super Start Batteries 188 marks an improvement over last season, where an eighth at Daytona was his only top-10 in road course events. It comes after working hard to be better over the winter.
“I’ve been working really hard on it,” he told NEWS FROM THE PITS prior to the event. “I think last year I was fast. I was kind of in contention for the best of the rest of last year. You had your road racing ringers and then there was the guys like me and I’d put Riley Herbst was there, I’d put Noah Gragson in there – the guys that were not quite as fast as Chase (Briscoe) and Austin (Cindric), but guys that were close and pretty quick on lap time and were able to contend in the end. I put myself in there as of last year, but hopefully this year I made that jump to be that much better and contend for wins and lead laps.”
Recognizing good performance is important for playoff points and having the goal of winning the championship, Burton spent some time during the off-season running a Trans-Am car with his Toyota teammates at the Circuit of the Americas.
“That was a good time,” he admitted. “We didn’t race, but we tried to race and practiced. That was good. My dad (Jeff Burton) and I both got go-karts. We are both ripping around road courses in go-karts all the time. I’m trying to get better and he’s trying to stay in shape and have fun. I’m trying to be fast, so it’s a good combination of father-son rivalry. We have a good time with that. Lot of it has been in person seat time, and a lot of it has been watching film and trying to get better that way as well.”
Knowing there’s more speed still to be found, Burton says ability in the brake zones is what separates those who are good at road racing, and those whom are great, and being aggressively without locking the wheels up.
“If you look at the data, I’m just as fast as anyone from center to exit, but those guys that have that braking technique and have dialed that down over years and years are very good,” he commented. “They are very hard to beat, and they are always getting better like you are. So if you show up to the racetrack and you think that I’m better now, I’m going to come in here and whoop everyone’s tail – everyone else got better too, so you’ve got to be almost doubling their rate of growth. It’s a big challenge but it’s fun.”
While he would have hoped to score a win on Saturday, it was already a fun experience in getting to run the course.
“It’s a fun race track,” he commented. “It’s a place that was really, really cool to run at. Just because you never thought you would. You’ve always seen the Rolex race there and you always dreamed of racing at Daytona, but you never were dreaming about racing the road course at Daytona as a little kid, or at least I wasn’t. To do that was a cool experience and something that I never thought I would do.
“The race track in and of itself is so fun. It’s a low grip infield with a high grip outside of the track. It leads to a lot of great passing zones, a lot of great opportunity for good racing. We saw that in the Clash. The Clash this year was a crazy finish at the end and I expect more of that this year.”