Harrison Burton has endured a rough start to his sophomore season in the NASCAR Cup Series. On Sunday (May 14) at Darlington Raceway, the 22-year-old had a promising run in the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford that could be the jumpstart the team needs.
Burton avoided multiple wrecks at the end of the Goodyear 400 to collect his first top 10 finish of the 2023 season, finishing in the sixth position.
It is Burton’s first top 10 finish since his career-best third-place finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in July 2022. Interestingly, his three career top 10s have come at three different racetracks: the superspeedway-style Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Indy road course and now Darlington.
Some might say a sixth-place finish was lucky for Burton. However, Burton finished 18th and 11th in stages one and two, respectively, making this his best run in 2023. Comparatively, his third-place showing at the Indy road course came from a chaotic ending that featured two late-race cautions as well as a jumbled finishing order via the tight turn 1.
“For us it was kind of a bit of a combination of a lot of things. We had the lap time all day.” Burton told Frontstretch junior podcast manager Trey Lyle post-race. “And that was exciting, I feel like we’ve been building that way where we have these runs like oh my gosh, I’m really fast.
“Last week in particular, didn’t have but felt that way where early in the race there was a lot of discussion about date codes. We had an old set of date codes, fell a lap down. Put on the new set, drove to like 13th but a lap down. So we’ve had these runs where we’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, we have potential here.’ We found some things that I like as a driver and it seems to be working.”
In his 50th career start, Burton wasn’t perfect, but he notched his third career top 10.
“So I feel like this was a complete day for us as far as that goes and we made some mistakes along the way whether it was me or the pit crew or whatever,” he continued. “It was a few things that we didn’t clean up that we normally would have to do to get a good finish. We would have to be perfect but with our speed, we were able to overcome those mistakes. For us, that’s a big deal. I hate that I made it but you now know that we’re much better off and were able to recover. That’s a good thing for us.”
After a rough rookie season finishing 27th in the Cup Series points, Burton entered the Darlington race 31st in points and he understands that he has not produced the expected results. His Mother’s Day performance moved him up one spot in the standings to 30th.
“There’s no denying it’s been a long road and results haven’t been there and the way we need them to be,” he added. “I don’t think anyone on our team will argue that, but we know that we can do it, and we have confidence in our group. Today was a good step towards it, not a final destination, but a good step.”
Burton will look to keep the momentum going next week when the Cup Series runs the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Burton will have to run in the All-Star Open to qualify for the main event. However, after his top 10 at Darlington, he could be a sneaky favorite to win the open and get into the big show.
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