Monday, Sep 25

Ford Performance - Harrison Burton Transcript

HARRISON BURTON, No. 21 DEX Imaging Ford Mustang – MUSTANG HAS ACCOUNTED FOR THREE CONSECUTIVE WINS IN THE CUP SERIES MOST RECENTLY. IS THIS A FEAT THAT PROVIDES SOME ADDED CONFIDENCE HEADED INTO WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL? “It’s definitely good to see – I always root for Ford, obviously, because you get to know these guys. [Michael] McDowell winning is pretty cool. It’s like, someone told me that he’s the Kirk Cousins of NASCAR. I’d say that’s pretty accurate. So, everyone was pretty happy to see him win, I think, and just [Chris] Buescher doing what he did two weekends prior was pretty impressive. So, we know it’s out there for us to go get it. The Fords are capable. Now it’s up to our own groups to go figure out and try to figure out how to do it and what direction we need to go in to be able to do that. I already feel like we’ve made steps on our oval program. Last weekend was not necessarily what we wanted for the road course, but we did learn a lot. I feel like we have kind of a direction to go in after last weekend. So yeah, I’m excited to get to Watkins Glen to try and tap into and test our theories on the racetrack, which is always kind of the fun of racing, right? You go, have all these theories in the shop, have all these meetings, and you take a setup to go with and then hope for the best, right? So, it’s a bit of that ‘try it and find out,’ and I enjoy that, for sure.”



THERE WAS A LOT OF EARLY AGGRESSION AT INDIANAPOLIS, AND IT WILL ONLY INCREASE HEADING INTO THE GLEN. HAVE YOU TAKEN NOTE OF THE PLAYOFF BUBBLE DRIVERS WHO MAY BE MORE AGGRESSIVE? “Yes and no. I mean, the Cup Series in my opinion has been much more aggressive than honestly any other series that I’ve ever raced in. I always heard the opposite. I heard that, ‘Man, when you get to come, those guys don’t like to race hard and they have all these rules.’ And then I got here and, ‘Man, these guys race harder than anyone I’ve ever raced with.’ I kind of go about that same sort of mindset every weekend, where you try to avoid situations that are coming. I picked on my buddy Todd [Gilliland] – on the first restart, I saw him kind of drive in way too deep and lock the rear tires, and I saw… I think it was the No. 1… on his outside and I was like, ‘Yeah, ok. So, Todd’s getting ready to move him out of the way so I can go to the right.’ Pass them both, right? So that’s kind of how it went down. You see those in the moment, and you try to take advantage of it. But, I think if you get kind of too worked up, trying to overthink it… I think sometimes you can be too passive. You just need to stay aggressive, be the aggressor, and then if you kind of get handed these moments and get all this momentum, you have to take advantage of it. So, that was definitely one of those, and I feel like it worked out for me. We’ll try to stay on the good side of that as well.” 


DO YOU VIEW DAYTONA AS A FEASIBLE “WIN AND YOU’RE IN” SCENARIO FOR YOU? “You know, I think it’s pretty feasible. I feel like, honestly, this year we’ve had two legit chances to win. That’s like, honestly and in general, my whole Cup career – I’ve only had two legit chances to win. It was this year’s [Daytona] 500, where we were leading with like 12 or 13 [laps] to go. I categorized that as a legit chance to win that race, and I kind of got ping-ponged out of the lead. I think that was a legit chance. We could have had the win. Then, Darlington: Those last two restarts. Even with all the chaos, we had a good chance to win. Those two I think were good races for us. Obviously, Darlington is in the playoffs, so that’s too late. But, I think Daytona is obviously one anyone can win. We’ve obviously seen crazy Daytona 500s, yes, and then the last race trying to get in. It’s always chaos. So, trying to navigate that and understand that there are going to be a lot of other guys in the same boat. I see it as a legit, feasible chance. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t even show up. I feel like it’s part of what makes race car drivers tick.”


COULD YOU EVEN COMPREHEND THAT “WALK-OFF,” PLAYOFF-CLINCHING SCENARIO IF YOU WERE ABLE TO WIN AT DAYTONA? “No, not really. I mean, I’ve won races in the past, and it’s always been pretty special. But, I’ve never won a race that was kind of like a ‘must win’ scenario – like needing to win to make it into the next round or to make the playoffs. I’ve never had that feeling. I think that’s something the playoffs kind of create and it’s pretty special that wasn’t quite there before because of how the points structure was. There weren’t really that many ‘must win’ scenarios, and now we go through these rounds, and you know, at the end of the regular season there are ‘must win’ races. That feels different. So, I think that’s cool and you do see a lot more of those. Man, that would be special. Any Cup win is special, but anything like that has to be an amazing feeling, that’s for sure.”


DO YOU DEDICATE MORE TIME TO THE SIMULATOR WHEN YOU HAVE CONSECUTIVE ROAD RACES ON THE SCHEDULE, AS COMPARED TO A NORMAL OVAL WEEKEND? “I think it depends team to team. For us, it’s the same every weekend. I get four hours a week in the Ford simulator, and I’m always in there kind of doing last week’s racetrack. I was actually in there this morning – 7 a.m. was our start time, so I was in there 7-11 a.m. – and I was able to kind of work on last week and kind of ran Indy some to make that more accurate. Also worked a lot on Watkins Glen trying to get the setup accurate and all that. That process gets kind of ‘rinse-and-repeated’ for me throughout the whole year. There’s some other drivers that don’t do it at all. There are some that do it only for the road courses. For me, I kind of do the same for every weekend, and for us it’s a good tool to use to compare, especially for our engineers to build a notebook and setups off of. It’s so hard to get track time now to be able to build that notebook and try things. The better your simulation program is, the more accurate you can touch things up at the racetrack, fire off the truck and be fast. With 20 minutes of practice and right into qualifying – and all the changes you can make are very limited as well in that practice. It’s really, really important to show up with your stuff sorted out the way it needs to be. For us, the only way we can do that is with the simulator, in our eyes, so we try to really focus on that every weekend.”


YOU HAD A TOP-FIVE AT THE GLEN DURING THE 2021 XFINITY SERIES SEASON. WHAT PARTS OF THE TRACK ARE IMPORTANT, AND WHICH SECTORS SUIT YOU THE MOST TO HELP IMPROVE FROM LAST YEAR’S CUP RESULT? “Yeah, last year wasn’t very good in the Cup car. For me, it’s just experience, right? I think this Cup car is very different and to understand how hard it is to drive this car, and what it can and cannot do. Especially, through the bus stop. I think the bus stop is probably the most important lap-time corner at Watkins Glen. It’s where you’re going to kind of make your most or lose your most lap-time, well at least for me in the past. When I get to the bus stop, I’m usually really good there in general. So, I think for me, it’s all about understanding that. Last year at the bus stop, we were bottoming out the race car so violently – everyone was. It was really a handful. So, I think prioritizing that and understanding that before we get there, and just having a notebook of an actual race in this car. It allows me to kind of compare better. It allows me to be able to look back and see what we did well, did poorly. We can see that on data comparisons: Where we were fast and where we were slow. We just focus really hard on trying to make our weaknesses better and turn them into strengths. That’s been the process through last weekend and then this weekend as well. I think we made some gains. We didn’t put the whole picture together last weekend, but with the knowledge we gained from last weekend, I think we have a good chance to have a good setup and run really well.”


HOW WILL YOUR EXPERIENCES IN THE IMSA MICHELIN PILOT CHALLENGE HELP YOU THIS WEEKEND? “For me, it was just good to get a win and get confidence on a road course. That was my first road course win other than racing Renault go-karts with my buddies. For me to win, in a high-level series like that, and do it with my friend Zane [Smith], it was really cool. But it was good for me because I gained some confidence there. I learned something about road course racing. I think what those cars do well is that they isolate your problems. There are two things that you really don’t have control over in the Cup cars that you do in that. Those cars have traction control and ABS. So your braking lock-up is kind of taken care of for you, and then a lot of your rear-tire slip is taken care of for you. What that allows you to do is focus on everything else. And a lot of times, the only thing that – before I did that – I really found is how to get the brakes down deeper, not lock up the brakes and how can I get power on exit. So those things were kind of taken care of for me, and I could focus on other stuff. I feel like that helped me in that way.”


HOW DO YOU FILTER ANY OFF-SEASON SPECULATION? “A lot of the silly season stuff, for me, has been interesting for sure to hear about. I don’t know where rumors come from for a lot of those. I see it and get surprised sometimes. I haven’t seen one yet that’s been right, because I don’t even know what’s going on for next year yet. It’s fairly easy for me because I’m happy where I am, and I hope to continue to race where I am. It’s fairly easy for me to just go to work with the guys that I’ve worked with over the last year and a half or so. It’s not super distracting at this point.”


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