Harrison Burton brought home a fourth place finish in last year’s Allen Turner Snowflake 100, but failed to make the starting field for the Snowball Derby. The young driver was disappointed, but turned his first experience into a learning experience that’s helped fuel a successful 2015 season.
“I think it was really humbling not to make the race,” Burton told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I had a lot of confidence going into the week and we just kinda got punched in the face when we didn’t make the race, so I think it was really humbling. It changed my mindset as a driver and what I need to focus on to be better and just try to improve. I think not making the Snowball (Derby) was a big mindset changer in a way and I think we’re better from it.”
With his 2014 Snowball Derby experience in tow, Burton embarked on a stout Super Late Model scheduled, competing in everything from Southern Super Series and CARS Tour events to the Winchester 400.
“You need to race with the best, to beat the best to be the best,” said Burton. “I think to race with the best is a confidence builder. To go wheel to wheel with Bubba Pollard and all those guys, it’s a really big confidence booster.”
And wheel to wheel with the best in the country was exactly was the 15 year old driver did. In 11 SSS starts, he picked up one win and seven top-10 finishes and never finished outside of the top-five in the CARS Tour when going the complete race distance. The ability to compete and find success against tough competition this year gives Burton more confidence than ever heading to the 48th Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway this December.
“It’s kind of nerve racking in a way, you see the entry list come out and I try not to be intimidated by that,” said Burton, “I feel like I’ve raced against the best drivers that I possible can in the SSS and CARS Tour, we’ve shown we’ve been competitive in that and I don’t think that will change come Derby weekend.”
In three starts at Five Flags Speedway this year Burton has finished in the top seven twice; most recently his race was cut short due to a wreck. The driver of the No. 12 machine and his Dex Imaging crew will head down to Pensacola, Florida the Saturday before Thanksgiving for an open test and work to make his Toyota even faster.
“I think the plan is to see if we can make any gains on our set up,” said Burton. “I think we were pretty strong at Five Flags with Chris’ set-up so far, but we’ll throw some stuff at it at that test and see if we can make it even better, and then fine tune once we get down there Derby week.”
As Burton preps for the biggest race of the year, his main focus is on qualifying, because once you’re in the Snowball Derby field anything can happen.
I’m really focused on qualifying because that’s kind of been one of our weak spots throughout the year,” said Burton. “We’re really focused on that and to be better in that and how to make me a better qualifier, because that’s not my strong suit. I think my strength comes out when I‘m racing. I feel like qualifying is huge for the snowball because as long as you are in the race you have a chance to win it. So many things can happen over 300 laps, especially at that race track that once you’re in the race you have a shot to win.”
When the time come to lay down a lap on WXBM 102.7 Pole Night on Friday night, December 4, there’s no doubt the young driver will carry some motivation from last years’ experience.
“I think it’s a little extra motivation to come back and see if we can make the race this year and try to prove to everyone that you can do what you weren’t able to do last time,” said Burton. “I think I’ll have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder come qualifying time, but so does every other driver. If you walk down pit road come qualifying time and everyone face is all white and they’re all nervous, it’s a really crazy experience.”
While Burton has his sights set on making the starting field of the 48th Annual Snowball Derby, he thinks that is just the beginning of what can be accomplished that first week of December at Five Flags Speedway.
“You always to win, no matter what race, that’s why, you’re down there to win,” said Burton. “It’d be great to even make the race, I’d be happy with that, but I think the goal is to go down there and have a good race, a top five Snowball Derby would be great, but a win would be even better and I think that’s what we are going to go for.”
The 48th Annual Snowball Derby weekend kicks off with the Cat Country/WEAR-TV3 Green Flag Party on Wednesday, December 2. On-track activities start Thursday, December 3, for the opening practice rounds for the Snowball Derby Super Late Models and Snowflake 100 Pro Late Models. The Five Flags Butler U-Pull-It Bombers and Beef ‘O’Brady’s Sportsman divisions will also have feature events on Snowball Derby Thursday.
The top Snowball Derby starting spots will be set on Friday, December 4 during WXBM 102.7 Pole Night at Five Flags. The Five Flags Faith Chapel Super Stocks and Modifieds will also battle in their Snowball Derby features after Super Late Model qualifying.
The Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 takes center stage on Saturday, December 5 as the top Pro Late Model racers in the country qualify and battle for 100 laps at Five Flags. In addition, Saturday’s action features the final 50-lap qualifying event for Snowball Derby drivers to make one last effort to qualify for the 300-lap Super Late Model race. The Better Built Tool Box Pro Trucks will also have a 50-lap feature on Snowball Derby Saturday.
Then on Sunday, December 6, the green flag will drop on the 48th Annual Snowball Derby at 2 p.m. CT at Pensacola, Florida’s Five Flags Speedway.
For more information on the 48th Annual Snowball Derby weekend at Five Flags Speedway, visit www.snowballderby.com. All media credential requests and inquiries for the Snowball Derby can be sent to Matt Kentfield at [email protected] and/or Pat Bryant at [email protected]
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