To most people, the number thirteen is synonymous with bad luck. But for up-and-coming driver Harrison Burton, it’s the number eight that haunts him most.
That’s how many laps separated Burton from his first-ever Winchester 400 victory last year at Indiana’s famous half-mile when a wheel stud failed on his machine, costing the then 16-year-old a huge milestone in his young racing career.
“Whenever you’re so close to winning a race and it kind of gets ripped out from under you in the last laps with a mechanical failure, it’s pretty devastating,” Burton recalled of his run in the 46th Annual Winchester 400.
Each year, Winchester’s steep banks blanketed by aged asphalt make for 400 unpredictable laps, even for the best-equipped Super Late Model teams. A flawless driver, crew and strategy won’t guarantee a trip to victory lane.
“Winchester is a place that’s really hard on equipment, especially over 400 laps,” Burton told Speed51.com. “It’s definitely a possibility [for last year] to happen again. But as a driver you can only control a certain amount of things, and you just have to make sure that you do all of those things right. At the end of the day that’s all you can ask for.”
A regimen of part-time racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR K&N Pro East Series and ARCA Racing Series— combined with select Super Late Model races throughout the 2018 season— is Burton’s plan for ensuring he holds up his end of the bargain come race day.
It’s an arduous, yet necessary schedule according to Burton, who views mastering crown jewel Late Model races like the Winchester 400 as an important step in his climb up the NASCAR ladder.
“When you go to Winchester there’s a sign on the wall that says ‘through these gates pass the bravest drivers in the world’ and there’s a reason for that,” Burton said. “It’s a fast track and Super Late Models are some of the craziest cars that you’ll drive. They have so much power and they’re so lightweight, you can kind of spin the tires at any time.
“Being really adaptive, being able to hop into anything and drive, let alone be fast, is important because the sport is always evolving. I think diversity, trying to change it up like what I’ve been doing this year is a good thing for my progression.”
The 47th Annual Winchester 400 will be Burton’s 13th Super Late Model start out of four different series and his fifth win, if the No. 12 machine can survive four more miles than last year.
“This is one of my bucket list races to win,” Burton said. “You look at the names that have won it in the past, the guys who won it and go on to do great things in our sport, and you want to submit your name along with theirs. For me, the 400 and the Derby are really similar in that the best seem to always shine. Winning it would mean the world to me.”
Race fans who want to see Burton and over thirty other drivers battle in the 47th Annual Winchester 400 can watch the action live on Speed51.com’s live pay-per-view broadcast. Click here for more information.
-Story by: Melissa Strahley, Gulf Coast Editor
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com