Harrison Burton knows that the 14th-place finish at Darlington Raceway as a season-high for Wood Brothers Racing can’t really be described as a good thing, but he sees it as a small achievement.
“And over the end, I think we speed up in that race,” Burton said. “There was a part of that race where we came out after a pit stop and didn’t start the race very well, and then the car woke up. We made the right changes to the pit road. Joey and Denny were second. and third, and I ran them and caught up. I think Joey had a lap of older tires, so we were nice even with them. I caught them and was like, ‘OK, now we’re rolling.’
“If you look at the lap time data, that’s our strongest race for sure compared to the leaders and that particular segment, we matched the leader’s lap time. So, it’s like, ‘OK, we’re going in the right direction. there. ‘ We have speed sometimes to be a top five car, we just have to go and do a whole race now.We had a segment where we were really good, and then we organized ourselves from it.I think that was a big victory to run with those guys – catch Denny, catch Joey. ”
Burton was not on the same lap as Logano or Hamlin when he caught them because he was racing Brad Keselowski for the free pass. But the rookie still felt it was still the biggest success today to show that No. 21 Ford has speed.
“So the end is actually worse than what we had in lap time wise,” Burton said. “It’s not representative of our best run. We had flat-spotted tires after the big crash, had to peat and lost some track position there. So the finish count wasn’t that exciting, but I think the speed we have is more exciting.
To say this was a difficult start to the year for Burton’s team might be a small statement. In a moment, he went from leading the Daytona 500 to flipping the backstretch. There were mistakes from the team and the driver and the misfortune of being caught in other people’s incidents.
Darlington was Burton’s first top-15 finish and his fifth top-20 finish in 12 races. He has three DNFs.
Each week is a new opportunity to learn, and Burton keeps his head high while committing himself to improvement. Crew chief Brian Wilson, who is new to the Cup Series itself in this position, preached the importance of scoring points and giving Burton a car he can trust in the pack.
“I told Brian, when we ran into Darlington that I mentioned earlier, that I was comfortable,” Burton said. “That was the first time where I wasn’t comfortable with racing this car, which was pretty wild when you think about it. It was a hard racing car to drive, which is great for our sport, I think. But when you hit it right, it’s really great.
“We have some notes to build now of things that I want, especially based on that run. Some changes that I want. Hopefully that will continue. For me, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can finally go. be aggressive with this car. ‘ I didn’t feel that, and now I feel that we can imitate that and chase it more. ”
Burton also learned something about himself through growing pain and appreciating small successes.
“I’m not going to stop,” Burton said. “I will never give up. I think some of the great things about this startup are that you build confidence in your work ethic and desire. When things are bad, that’s where you know who you are. You go through hardship in life – everyone has it – and I feel it improves you.
“The difficulty of the schedule as it has ever been for me personally. The Cup schedule is pretty tedious. So, I learn about myself in a work ethic capacity. My love of the sport is as high as ever because I appreciate what the Cup is all about, and I’m already preparing to hopefully start succeeding there. That’s exciting. “