Harrison Burton has become one of NASCAR’s brightest young prospects over the last few years. His success on the short tracks earned him a full-time ride with Kyle Busch Motorsports for the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series season. But before he gets to Daytona in February, the now 18-year-old driver will return to the site of one of his first major Late Model victories.
Burton, the son of former NASCAR star Jeff Burton, will be behind the wheel of the No. 12 DEX Imaging Super Late Model with Wimmer Motorsports for CRA SpeedFest at Crisp Motorsports Park on January 25-26.
Although he’s competed in Late Models since 2013, Burton’s breakout season came in 2017, a season which included a win at SpeedFest, an ARCA Racing Series victory at Toledo and a championship at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna. He topped it off with five victories on his way to the 2017 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship.
The 2018 season saw more success for Burton. He won the Rattler 250 with a last-lap pass on Jeff Choquette. He also won in his superspeedway debut in the June ARCA race at Pocono and scored three top fives in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM).
Fast forward to 2019 and Burton will be competing full-time in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series with KBM, replacing Noah Gragson. But before he gets behind the wheel of a KBM truck, he will strap into his Super Late Model for 200 laps of racing in Cordele, Georgia.
Winning this year’s edition of SpeedFest will be a tough task, with some of Super Late Model racing’s best and even Burton’s boss, 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, entered for the ARCA/CRA Super Series’ traditional non-points season opening event.
Burton knows the competition will be fierce at SpeedFest, but he is confident his team will have what it takes to win his second SpeedFest in three years.
“It’s going to be tough, there’s a lot of great competitors coming down,” Burton told Speed51.com. “We’ve been really fast at Cordele recently, which makes me really excited to get down there and get to work. But I think a lot of times it’s going to take getting outside the box and making sure your car’s even better than it was when you won there in the past, which is tough to do sometimes. It’s tough to force yourself to say okay, I won with this setup, let’s change it. But I think the way to success is to never stop reinventing and never stop getting better. I think that’s the plan going into it; start where we were really good and continue to only make ourselves better.”
The last time a high-profile NASCAR driver competed at SpeedFest, it was Burton who dominated the day and won his first major Super Late Model race over current NASCAR Cup Series driver Erik Jones. Burton says a win this year would help propel him into the 2019 season, just like how his 2017 win jumpstarted a season that saw him win the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship.
“I think it will be really big. Not last year, but the year before that I won SpeedFest and we took off and ran really good in the beginning of the year. If I don’t win SpeedFest, I don’t think we’re not going to run good, but winning never hurts,” Burton stated. “It pumps up your morale and makes you have a physical representation of what you can do. A big race like that, especially with big names like Kyle Busch, would be huge for me.”
The number-one overall pick in the 2018 Short Track Draft had another solid season last year, but the wins did not come in the numbers that they came in 2017. He told Speed51.com that last year’s results have no bearing on him as he goes into the 2019 season.
“I’m in a really great place this coming year with a lot of great opportunities coming our way,” Burton said. “I had a tougher season than I did two years ago, but at the end of the day I still won five or six races last year, which is pretty good. I’m never satisfied, don’t get me wrong, I want to win twenty-five races if I could obviously, but sometimes it just doesn’t pan out. You can’t always ask for a perfect season. That’s what makes you good, being able to come back from a season that was good, but not as good as you wanted it to be to become better than that.”
As he embarks on his rookie campaign in the NASCAR Truck Series, Burton believes that he is expected to win big races that he competes in. However, he welcomes the expectations that is set upon himself and others in the racing world.
“I’d say that recently, the standard has been for me that I have to win,” Burton said. “In my eyes, that I have to win to prove myself and prove to others that I am who I think I am. I think I have a gift in racing and I want to prove to myself that I have that gift when I have the opportunity to use it and race for a living. I’ve set a really high standard for myself. Running good isn’t really getting it done for me anymore.”
“Back when I was younger, maybe running good at the Derby would’ve boosted my confidence, but now it’s all about wins and success and all that, and learning while I’m doing it,” he continued. “The standards have kind of changed over the years and that’s a good thing. That means I’m improving and getting better. I think that’s good. It’s definitely better than not running good but it’s not quite the win. There’s always room to be better and room to improve.”
Burton will look to be better than the rest of the Super Late Model field when the green flag waves at Crisp Motorsports Park on Saturday, January 26.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI)
-Photo credit: Speed51.com