A promising start to the Daytona 500 came to a premature end for Harrison Burton and the No. 21 Motorcraft Quick Lane/DEX Imaging team.
While racing at the head of the pack in the closing laps of the opening stage, Burton lost control after a push from Brad Keselowski, and wound up flipping over before coming to rest on his wheels. The Motorcraft/DEX Mustang was too damaged to continue, but Burton was uninjured.
He was credited with a 39th-place finish.
In his first Daytona 500 week as a Cup Series driver, Burton qualified 10th fastest then finished third in his Duel qualifying race but had damage from a last-lap crash. His Motorcraft/DEX crew made repairs to the No 21 Mustang, and he went out and ran the fastest lap in Saturday’s final practice session.
In the 500, he started eighth, dropped back to the midpack early but after a flawless pit stop at lap 39, he rejoined the race in the top five and maintained his position there until the lap 64 crash. Officially he led two times for a total of three laps.
Burton told reporters afterward that he was fine after the wreck.
“I’ve hit a lot harder before, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate. I hate it for the Wood Brothers group. They brought a really fast Ford Mustang down here and ended up on our lid, so that’s never good.”
He said the push from Keselowski, which was intended to help both drivers, didn’t work out that way.
“The car didn’t take it the right way or got pushed in the wrong spot; I’m not sure,” Burton said. “I was looking out front to see what I had to do next to side draft the next guy that was on me, so just a bummer.”
“I don’t really know what we could have done differently, but we’ll move on and get better from it.”
Burton said being upside down in a race car for the first time wasn’t as bad as it could have been. “Once I got backwards I just blew right over. The cockpit and everything is safe. I didn’t get hit hard at all. Luckily, all good there and we’ll move on.”
He said despite his early exit from the race, he and the Motorcraft/DEX team head to Auto Club Speedway with the confidence that comes from having a fast car in the season opener.
“At the end of the day everyone knew we were here,” he said. “We were leading when we crashed.”
“Our Wood Brothers group brought a fast Ford down here, and we were showing it.”
Burton made no apologies for racing hard as the first stage was coming to a close.
“Stage points really matter, and as a rookie it’s big to get them, so I felt like I wanted to push for those,” he said. “I don’t know what I could have done differently.
“It’s kind of hard to be in the lead and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be up here.’ You feel like that’s the safest spot.”
Burton said he will study the incident that ended his run and learn from it.
“I feel like the people that always get better are ones that can look at themselves and learn from it, so that’s what I’m going to do, try and get better,” he said.
While the Wood Brothers team was disappointed with their own result, Eddie Wood and the rest of the team were among those celebrating Austin Cindric’s Daytona 500 win.
“We’re really happy for Austin, and for [crew chief] Jeremy Bullins and the entire Team Penske organization,” Wood said. “And what a great 85th birthday present for Roger Penske.
“It’s a great day for all of us in the Ford Racing family.”