Thursday, Dec 08

Ford Performance NASCAR: Harrison Burton Kansas Advance

HARRISON BURTON, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang – A LOT OF TALK AFTER THE LOGANO-BYRON THING IS KIDS SEE THAT AND THEY KIND OF LEARN HOW TO RACE.  AS A YOUNG DRIVER, DO YOU KNOW HOW FAR YOU’RE WILLING TO GO OR WHEN YOU SEE THINGS LIKE THAT DOES IT INFLUENCE HOW YOU REACT TO THINGS IN THE FUTURE?  “I would say that a lot of people probably, you have your mindset about how you race kind of made up.  It’s a personal thing and I think, for me, it is definitely predicated on how I’ve been raced by that person, or how I’ve been raced by people around me.  Think about the Clash Last Chance race I was in, turned into I took the lead, got spun out and all kinds of stuff.  I just kind of got ping-pong balled there and so in that race my aggression level was turned up really high.  I started laying the bumper to people because I felt like I had been wronged in that race multiple times, and so then I got more aggressive and kind of matched that level.  Obviously, in the Joey and William thing I think Joey feels that he got put in the wall beforehand and that changed how he would race, and William probably sees it another way.  Every incident is pretty personal, I would say, but I don’t think I let other people’s racing influence how I would race.”

 

IF YOU DO GET IN A POSITION WHERE YOU ARE BATTLING FOR THE WIN, AND YOU KNOW A WIN CAN POTENTIALLY PUT YOU IN THE PLAYOFFS, HOW DOES THAT CARROT SERVE AS AN INFLUENCE ABOUT HOW YOU WOULD GO ABOUT RACING AT THAT POINT?  “It’s been a rough start to say the least.  Fourteenth place is our best finish, so that’s not good.  There’s no hiding that.  I think there’s been some growing pains there and I feel like now we’re getting rolling in the right direction, so I’m excited to get back to the racetrack and hopefully be in that spot to try and contend for wins and just take it one step at a time and get some top 10s, get some top fives and build there.  But it does definitely change it.  I think if I get in a spot where I’m racing for a win, I’m gonna be pretty aggressive for a multiple amount of reasons.  Obviously, it would really change my whole life.  I think it would be amazing for the Wood Brothers to get their 100th win.  I think there’s some pressure to that, especially with the start we’ve had, that if I do get there, I’m certainly gonna be aggressive and go try and take it from those guys, and I think also we saw at Darlington that it’s hard to pass.  It’s really challenging to complete passes.  I think the side-by-side racing has been good because the outside guy can’t really get you too loose anymore, so you can go side-by-side, but it’s really hard to complete passes.  If you get a chance to make a pass, you better take it.”

 

CAN YOU LOOK AT LAST WEEKEND AS A SMALL VICTORY OR AS A SIGN THAT THINGS ARE GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION?  “Absolutely, and more than the finish I think the speed we had in that race, there was a part of that race where we came out and had a pit stop and had been really not very good to start the race, and then the car woke up.  We made the right changes on pit road and Joey and Denny I think were second and third and I ran them down and caught them.  I think Joey had one lap older tires, so pretty even to him there and I caught them, and I was like, ‘OK, now we’re rolling.’  Looking at the lap time data, that was our strongest race, for sure, compared to the leaders and in that particular segment we matched the leader’s lap time, so it’s like, ‘OK, we’re going in the right direction there.’  We had the speed at times to be a top-five car.  We just have to go and execute a whole race now.  We had one segment where we were kind of really good, and then tuned ourselves out of it some, so I think that was a big victory was to run with those guys, catch Denny, catch Joey.  Obviously, I was in a different track position scenario, where I was racing with Brad for the lucky dog, but to be able to catch them and show that we had that speed was the biggest victory of that day, and then the finish was actually probably worse than what we had for lap times.  That probably wasn’t representative of our best runs.  We had the flat spotted tires after the big crash and had to pit and lose some track position there.  The finish number is not that exciting, but I think the speed we had was more exciting.”

 

DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE A GOOD FEEL FOR WHAT YOU NEED BEHIND THE WHEEL NOW AND YOU’RE LIMITING ANY MISTAKES?  “Yeah, I told my crew chief Brian that when we ran that run I was talking about earlier that was the most like, ‘OK, I feel comfortable.’  It’s like the first time where I wasn’t uncomfortable in this race car, which is pretty wild when you think about it.  This is a hard race car to drive, which is great for our sport, I think.  When you hit it right, it drives really well, so we had some notes to build off of now – things that I like, especially based off of that run, some changes that I like – and hopefully that can carry over.  For me, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can finally go be aggressive in this car.’  And I hadn’t felt that yet and now I kind of feel like we’ll be able to replicate that and go get after it more.”

 

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF AS A DRIVER THROUGH THE START OF THIS SEASON?  “I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that I won’t quit.  There’s nothing that I will never quit.  I think some of the good things about this start is you build confidence in your work ethic, you build confidence in your desire.  When things are bad that’s when you find out who you are.  You go through adversity in life.  Everyone has it and feel like it makes you better.  It’s just something that, for me, is exciting that I’ve gone through this rough spot and some really hard moments – been in things that were really disappointing, leaving the racetrack with your head hanging low and Monday morning rolls around and I’m as excited and motivated as ever to go to work and work harder than I ever have, and the schedule is as hard as it’s ever been for me personally.  The Cup schedule is pretty grueling, so I’m learning a lot about myself in a work ethic capacity.  My love for this sport is higher than I think it’s ever been because I appreciate what Cup is all about.  I’m getting ready to try and hopefully start succeeding in that and that’s exciting, so I like to take those things out of it and I think that’s what’s really gonna help me grow in the future.  I can never guarantee results, but I can guarantee what I will do before the race to try and be ready and our whole team is dedicated as ever to being good and we know that means work.  We can’t do what we’ve been doing and expect to just pop off a win.  We have to go to work and that’s what we’ve been doing and I’m really proud of that.”

 

IN WHAT WAYS HAS THE DIVERSIFICATION OF THE SCHEDULE TO THIS POINT HELPED AND DOES THIS UPCOMING THREE-RACE STRETCH ON 1.5-MILE TRACKS HELP?  “I think it’s really beneficial to get all of these different track types not out of the way, but you get a notebook on every single type of racetrack.  Now we’re going to places that you can relate to other places and when we first started with the car it was Daytona, California, Vegas, Phoenix, all different tracks and every time we went there it was kind of a guess, and now we’ve hit a lot of tracks that, quite frankly, I think race teams were worried about.  They were really worried about Dover being really hard to kind of get set up right and maybe it was for some guys, I think us included.  I crashed in lap two of practice, so I guess some of those fears were right, but then we got through it and got better throughout the weekend, so the diversity of the schedule early has been, I think, good for the fans because they get to see a lot of different things and see how the Next Gen car performs, and it’s been really good for the teams because now we have a notebook of kind of every kind of racetrack that you could think of and we can go try to build off of that and show up off the truck closer than what we have been in the past.”

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST POSITIVE FROM THIS EARLY PART OF THE SEASON?  “I think just the growth and me as a driver and our race team as a whole.  It’s kind of all of our first year in Cup at our jobs.  My crew chief, Brian, had been a race engineer in Cup before, but hadn’t crew chiefed.  I have never raced in Cup, obviously.  Our race engineer was on the 22 Xfinity car, so I think the first few weeks were pretty eye-opening for us about what was so different about Cup from Xfinity and then you look at us now and we feel like we’re in a rhythm of we know our jobs, we know what we’re responsible for, we know what the other person is kind of thinking before they say it now, and so that’s really good.  As a team, I think we’ve really grown.  And then the biggest positive for me has just been getting to know the Wood family and learning about their history and trying to represent them well has been really cool – something that I’ll always remember is their support in us and belief in us as a group has never wavered, and the same with our relationship with the Penske organization as an alliance team.  That group has been really helpful for us and believes in us, so it’s really cool to go to work and have people that believe in you, especially when you have a bad day to have a group that believes in you.  We’ve learned a lot about each other and we know that our bosses have our back, which is really cool.”

 

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE ALL-STAR RACE IN TEXAS.  WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IT MOVE AROUND OR DO YOU WISH IT WAS STILL IN CHARLOTTE ALL THE TIME?  “It’s definitely a hike.  I think the fans in Texas are really awesome, so that’s fun to go see them.  I agree that it should move around.  I like that idea.  Charlotte was always really neat for me because I could leave school and then I’d go watch my dad qualify for the All-Star Race.  I think that was like at 5 o’clock on a Thursday, so just stuff like that was neat as a kid growing up.  I enjoyed that, so I’m always kind of partial to Charlotte, but I think moving it around is really cool for the fans of each racetrack.  You see other sports kind of do that, where the All-Star Game will be here and there and kind of all over.  The NBA had one in Charlotte recently, so just kind of roaming around and doing different things, I think, is cool and I’m enjoying that idea.  We’ll see.  I think Texas has been a pretty good spot for it too with the fan base that’s out there.”

 

ARE YOU GUYS DOING ANY EXPERIMENTAL STUFF FOR PENSKE WITH THE NEXT GEN CAR CONSIDERING WHERE YOU ARE IN POINTS?  “Yeah, we’ve done some of that and our group is learning what I like and we’re still trying to build as a group, so a lot of times every weekend is kind of an experiment, but we’ve differed on some things that worked and didn’t work.  I wouldn’t say we’re full experimental mode, just kind of swinging for the fences.  I still think that we’re trying to build off our notes that we’re learning and trying to just learn about the car and learn about what I like in what car.  The whole throwing caution to the wind thing is probably not our position quite yet.  There’s still a lot of season left and we feel like we can get things rolling in the right direction, just kind of taking the steps that we are.  I think Darlington was a big swing for that direction.  We had some changes in our setup that I thought was really positive and kind of came to light in the race that I thought was better than what we had performed, so we’ll try and build off of that and get better and better.”

 

IS THERE ANYONE YOU HAVE RELIED ON FOR FEEDBACK THROUGHOUT THESE FIRST 12 RACES?  “Certainly, Joey and Ryan have been really helpful.  Both guys have kind of been through everything you could think of.  I think back to when Joey started in Cup.  I think his experience is kind of been one where he struggled out of the gate and then turned into one of the best to do it, so I think that’s motivating for me to have a guy that, hey, let’s be honest, I’ve struggled out of the gate, right?  Joey, I think, he would say that he did too and now he’s a champion and a guy that when you think of the most talented drivers he’s pretty high up on that list.  That’s pretty awesome to see that and learn from his experiences and try and understand that it’s possible with turning this thing around.  It’s not inevitable that it will turn around.  You have to earn it turning around and I think that’s something I’ve learned and something that’s cool for me.  And then, obviously, my dad – just leaning on him a lot.  He’s an experience guy who has been through it all as well and obviously I have a great relationship with him, so it’s good to learn from him, for sure.”

 

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