Harrison Burton and the No. 21 Motorcraft/DEX Imaging team were among the challengers for the win in the latter stages of Sunday’s 65th-annual Daytona 500, but unfortunately they wound up among a host of drivers and teams that were knocked out of contention in a series of late-race crashes.
He was scored in 26th place after a caution flag on the final lap of the second attempt at an overtime finish finally ended the race at 212 laps or 530 miles, the longest distance ever for a Daytona 500.
After starting the Great American Race from 19th place, Burton rode near the rear of the lead pack for much of the early going in an effort to avoid damage to the Motorcraft/DEX Imaging Mustang. Then, just after the conclusion of Stage Two, he began to take his place among the lead pack.
He ran in and around the top 10 until a cycle of pit stops began with about 25 of the scheduled 200 laps left to run.
Burton assumed the lead just before making his stop with 20 laps remaining. Crew chief Brian Wilson’s pit strategy of pitting later than most others worked out just right and Burton, after taking just a few seconds of fuel, returned to the track still in the top spot.
Burton led a total of nine laps, and the Motorcraft/DEX Imaging Mustang was out front for a restart with 13 laps scheduled to run. He lost the top spot just after the restart but raced among the top five for a couple of laps before being shuffled back.
Burton was running 16th when the caution flag was displayed for a wreck with three laps to go and sent the race into Overtime.
On the first attempt at an Overtime finish, Burton was swept up in a multi-car melee.
The Motorcraft/DEX Imaging crew patched up the No. 21 Mustang, including the replacement of a toe link, and got Burton back on track in 26th place with only two laps lost.
The second attempt at Overtime saw the caution flag fly just after the white flag was displayed, ending the race with Burton still in 26th place.
“I am just disappointed,” Burton told reporters after the race. “We were leading with 18 to go, and I feel like we had a shot. It just didn’t go our way.”
He said the outside lane just didn’t get rolling on the restart where he held the lead initially.
“We didn’t get organized very well, and by the time we did it was just a little too late,” he said. “I feel like when the 22 [Joey Logano] pulled up in front of me I tried to slow down to engage him and I got hit by the 8 [Kyle Busch] really hard and sent the 22 three-wide and we lost momentum again.
“I don't know why I got out of shape off of [Turn] Four, but I about wrecked off of Four. Then you’re buried in the back trying to make moves to get back up there and when they wreck you are just right in the way.”
He said that while he was frustrated by the finish, it was otherwise a strong performance for him and the Motorcraft/DEX Imaging team.
“I felt like we executed our race well,” he said.
Burton and the No. 21 team return to the track next week for the Palo Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway on Feb. 26.