Hometown: Huntersville, NC
Current Level: ARCA/NASCAR K&N Pro Series East/Super Late Models
Last Year’s Pick: 2nd
Each year, NFL Draft experts take their best shot at predicting the order in which names will be called onto the stage. On some occasions, there is a consensus number-one pick. On other occasions, you might as well just draw straws out of a hat. The same can be said for the Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes on Speed51.com.
Unlike the 2018 NFL Draft being held in Arlington, TX, there was a clear-cut favorite for the first pick in the 2018 Short Track Draft.
Harrison Burton received 27 first-place votes in this year's draft, tying him with 2015 number-one pick Christopher Bell for the most in the history of the Short Track Draft. No other driver in this year's draft received double-digit first-place votes. Burton also scored 52 top-five votes and 54 top-10 votes among the 55 ballots he appeared on.
In 2017, Burton fell just short of his good friend, Todd Gilliland, for the first overall selection. That gave the second-generation driver some motivation heading into this year’s Short Track Draft.
“I know that last year I wanted to be number one and I didn’t get it. That’s something you put in the back of your mind,” Burton said. “When I wasn’t number one, it definitely was frustrating. Now that I am number one I want to prove them right.”
So far, Burton has been proving everybody right. In 2017 he scored five NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victories and the series championship. He also scored an ARCA Racing Series win, five Super Late Model victories, and the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing Super Late Model championship at New Smyrna Speedway (FL).
He’s followed that performance up with four victories already in 2018 with wins at New Smyrna Speedway and the Rattler 250 in a Super Late Model.
“It feels really good. I feel like that coming off of a good year and starting this year off with four wins is really good. I feel like continued success is really good for me. It shows a lot of hard work and I think it’s cool to get this gratification.”
He also added that being selected first overall in the Short Track Draft has added meaning because of the list of experts who are behind the selection.
“It means a lot because those are the people that really know what’s going on in the industry. I think this means more as a driver that it’s people inside the sport that are choosing this. That makes it really cool.”
Amazingly, even at just 17 years old, this is the fifth time Burton has been selected as part of the top 51 in the Short Track Draft. In his first year, Burton was taken 40th overall in 2013. He improved the following year by jumping up to 22nd in 2014. In 2015 and 2016, Burton was selected fourth overall before finally being selected second overall in 2017.
Even though Burton has made a steady progression to the top, which reflects his improvements as a driver, Burton said there’s still plenty of things at which he needs to get better if he wants to continue to climb the racing ladder.
“There’s a long list of things I can be better at and I’m well aware of those things and I try to work on them every day," he admitted. "I think that’s what keeps the really good ones good. You have guys like Kyle Busch that aren’t afraid to look at themselves. They know that they’re not perfect and they make mistakes. I’m the same way. I’m really critical when I make a mistake. I don’t necessarily get too down on myself, but I get disappointed in myself and I just work harder to get better the next time.”
Burton highlighted two areas in which he feels he needs to improve. One area is off the track. He said he believes he needs to improve the way he prepares for a race.
“I prepare pretty hard but I think there’s guys that do it a little bit better in different ways. Not necessarily in how hard they do it but how they do it. There’s some smart things that people have implemented that I should probably implement.”
The other area is during a race, specifically at the end of races when the win is on the line.
“That’s something that I’ve really focused on in the last year especially. That was cool because I got to see some of that work pay off at the Rattler. It was a race where it was kind of one versus the other with similar handling cars. Whoever got it got it. That was really cool. I lost a race there last year like that. So that scenario I need to keep getting better at.”
Since the 2009 Short Track Draft, every number-one selection has gone on to compete in one of NASCAR’s top three national touring series. By being selected with the top overall pick, Burton has continued that streak as he has already made eight starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports dating back to 2016. Burton has made one start so far this year with more on his schedule.
Currently, Burton is too young to be a full-time driver in one of NASCAR’s top-three series, but he said he’s hoping that becomes a possibility in the future.
“Every driver wants to go full time I think and wants to compete for a championship. Honestly, I don’t have anything done yet, and that’s not really a surprise to me,” Burton explained. “I have to prove myself for a whole other year and continue to better myself as a race car driver. I think as a driver, that’s more motivation in itself. I don’t have anything sealed up yet. I have to prove to companies and race teams and fans alike that I can do it. I’ve got to keep winning races and keep getting better and better hopefully just end up in victory lane more often.”
Burton joins a list of 15 drivers who can call themselves number-one picks in the Short Track Draft. He joins a list of names including Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Chase Elliott, NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers Daniel Hemric and Christopher Bell, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Todd Gilliland, and short track ace Bubba Pollard, among others.
Want to find out who Burton beat out to become the overall top pick in this year’s draft? The #2 pick will be announced Friday morning at 9 a.m. ET. Picks 3-10 will be announced on Friday at 5 p.m. ET.
After a weekend to digest and analyze the top 10, the remainder of the top 25 will be announced next Monday at 5 p.m. ET. The remainder of the top 51 in the 2018 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes will be announced Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET.
-Text by Speed51.com Staff