With his confidence boosted by the speed he and the No. 21 DEX Imaging team found at Darlington, Harrison Burton is headed to Kansas Speedway with renewed determination to step up his and the team’s performance.
“I think there’s been some growing pains there, and I feel like now we’re getting rolling in the right direction,” Burton said on a call with reporters Wednesday morning. “So I’m excited to get back to the race track 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.”
He said last Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway, which saw him have his best Cup run to date, leads him to believe he and the DEX Imaging team are on the verge of a significant improvement in performance.
“It’s like the first time where I wasn’t uncomfortable in this race car, which is pretty wild when you think about it,” he said. “This [Next Gen] 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…and hopefully that can carry over.
“For me, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can finally get be aggressive in this car.’ 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.”
Burton said that having been to several different kinds of race tracks this season gives him and crew chief Brian Wilson some notes to use in preparing for upcoming events.
“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,” he said. “Every time we went there it was kind of a guess."
“Now we have a notebook of every kind of race track 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.”
And he said that he, Wilson and the rest of his team members, who are rookies at their positions in the Cup series are trying to start to benefit from the experiences they’ve had so far.
“I think the first few weeks were pretty eye-opening for us about what was so different about Cup from Xfinity,” he said. “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.”
He also said it’s been good to know for the team to know that their car owners, the Wood Brothers, have had their backs through the early season struggles.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Practice for the AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway is is set for Saturday at 3 p.m. (4 p.m. Eastern Time) to be followed by qualifying at 3:35 (4:35 Eastern).
Sunday’s 267-lap, 400-mile race is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. (3 p.m. Eastern Time) with TV coverage on FOX Sports 1.
Stage breaks are planned for Laps 80 and 165.