Life is all about change, and 14-year-old Harrison Burton is finding out how to adapt to that change early on in his racing career. Since entering the Late Model scene just two years ago at the age of 12, the son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Jeff Burton has been under the guidance of veteran Super Late Model crew chief Freddie Query. Despite experiencing some success with Query, there will be a new voice calling the shots for Burton’s No. 12 moving forward.
Beginning next Friday night during the Southern Super Series event at Five Flags Speedway (FL), Chris Wimmer, winner of the 2014 Slinger Nationals, will be taking over the duties as crew chief for the Burton machine.
“We were just kind of looking around and Chris just happened to show up as a really great candidate,” Harrison Burton told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “When we decided to separate from Freddie, Chris just seemed to be the best fit for us and he’s doing a really great job so far.
“He’s a really good thinker and a hard worker. He’s always thinking about ways to make things better and you can’t go wrong with that. I’m just really excited about it.”
Wimmer, a native of Wisconsin, made the trip south to North Carolina two weeks ago and has been working with Burton in the team’s race shop ever since. Although the move south and the move into a full-time shop is a big change for him, he’s very excited to have the opportunity to work with one of the sport’s rising stars. After watching Burton on the race track and recently getting to know him better, Wimmer is astonished to think that Burton is still just 14 years old.
“He’s way beyond his years,” Wimmer said. “Jeff (Burton) says that he is a kid when he’s away from the race track, but I’ve never seen that side of him. When he’s here at the shop, he’s definitely a lot more mature than your normal 14-year-old. I think he has a good future in the sport. It’s neat to see someone that young be that good already.”
At any level of racing, in order to be successful there needs to be a superb level of communication between the driver behind the wheel and the crew chief calling the shots. In conversations, both Burton and Wimmer agreed that the communication between the two will be one of the first things that they will need to master in order to find success.
“The biggest thing is just communication,” said Wimmer. “When everybody is new it’s tough to get to know everybody right away. It’s hard to just jump in and expect to set the world on fire.”
Having worked with multiple crew chiefs over the course of his 22-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, Jeff Burton offered up some great advice to his son as he transitions to a new crew chief for the first time in his young career.
“One of the best things that he told me was just to be myself,” Harrison stated. “If you’re someone else, they’re going to expect different things from you. When we went to see Chris, we actually ate at a Cracker Barrel for breakfast and then we went to Orange County after that. Just be yourself and be natural, hopefully it will all work out.”
Wimmer, who has made starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series throughout the course of his own racing career, began transitioning more into the crew chief role over the course of the past two years. The biggest difference between what he’s accustomed to and what lies ahead is the amount of resources he’ll have while attempting to make it to victory lane with Burton.
“It’s something definitely different, a lot different than driving but I’m really excited about it,” Wimmer said. “I’ve always done everything myself and have never had full-time guys working on the car. It’s a little bit of an adjustment, but it will actually be kind of nice.”
Two weeks into their new relationship, Burton and Wimmer have yet to set any type of goals for the season. Right now they’re simply focusing on getting better and they believe if they do that then the strong results will follow.
“Number one you want to win more races and that’s the obvious answer,” Burton said when asked about his goals. “But I feel like I need to get better as a driver and always be learning and always be adjusting to things that happen and be adaptive to my situations like this situation with a new crew chief. I really think this will help me in the future with being adaptive and not being with one guy always. My main goal is to just become a better driver through all of this and win some races, and be really consistent as well.”
During a time when more and more resources are becoming available at the Super Late Model level, Burton feels like the addition of Wimmer will help his team stay on top of the constantly evolving technology in the sport.
“Freddie was a really great crew chief for us. He was really awesome and a hard worker,” Burton explained. “We had a lot of fun with him. But it just got to the point where we decided to go our separate ways and Chris came in. He’s young, he’s on top of technology and I believe he’s able to keep up with the teams like KBM, which are really pretty much dominating everywhere they go right now. I think he’ll be able to keep up with them and I feel like we will be a better team.”
Although Wimmer admits he hasn’t always had access to the same type of technology used by the big teams in the Charlotte area, he says that he’s always been willing to give the new technology a shot. He says he’s looking forward to being closer to that technology and learning more about it each day.
“I’m not real familiar with all of the technology down here,” said Wimmer. “I’ve been kind of far away from it, but I see stuff and I try it. Being down here, though, it’s going to help me a lot understanding what exactly is going on. It’s definitely neat having all of the resources down here. You can have whatever you want made and at your shop within a day or so.”
Having the latest technology and best resources at his fingertips will certainly make the already knowledgeable crew chief dangerous moving forward. Add in the 14-year-old Burton who is wise beyond his years and you have a duo that could be a potent threat in the Super Late Model ranks.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com